Sound Bars vs. Component Audio: Which Is Right for You?

Should you buy a sound bar, or stick with component audio systems? Here’s how they compare.

Across the audiophile community, one question resounds: How do sound bars compare with traditional component speaker systems? If you’re a tried and true audiophile with a record collection that would impress someone like, Zero Freitas, for example, then a component arrangement is probably the better option.

But, sound bars have undergone several enhancements over the years that make them a worthy contender for your system selection. What you pick depends greatly on your needs. Are you a cinema buff? Looking to jam to classic records only? Just need something to replace the embarrassingly small speakers inside your TV?

Decide what your sonic goal is, and then read on to see how we break down the pros and cons of sleek, modern sound bars and high-powered component systems.

Sound bars: Space savers that still pack an audio punch

Supplying you with robust sound in a compact system, sound bars are sleek and modern, made to fit beneath your TV and fill a small to medium-sized room with sound. Some even include a subwoofer and may come with wireless rear speakers for a true surround sound experience with fewer pieces of equipment than you’d find in a component system.

And setup can be a lot simpler than traditional component audio, often requiring no more than plugging in the bar, subwoofer and optional wireless surrounds into a power source, then connecting the bar to your TV via HDMI or Optical cable.

Polk’s MagniFi Max SR sound bar, for example, pairs with the included sub and wireless surrounds automatically, consolidating the setup process to roughly five minutes. Depending on your budget and needs, you may opt for a sound bar that includes Google Chromecast and Bluetooth technologies built-in for easy music streaming. Many sound bars focus solely on home theater, but there are a few — like those in the MagniFi Series — that were built to support musical depth and clarity as well.

Component Audio

For years, component audio has been the setup of choice for hardcore audiophiles. There is something to be said for the sonic quality provided by exceptional bookshelves, towers, center channels and subwoofers. Though some of today’s sound bars can achieve a 5.1 surround experience, component audio can go a step further to support the latest audio codecs, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Discrete in-ceiling speakers or upward-firing towers work in conjunction with the other audio components to create 3D sound. Component audio works best in large listening or viewing rooms, where you’ll have the space to place each of your speakers. There are more wires needed with component audio setups versus a sound bar, and installation tends to be a more involved process.

It’s also worth mentioning that this setup is more expensive. However, the quality you achieve by investing in a component speaker arrangement really is phenomenal. And, quality speakers can last for years of enjoyment, whether that means watching movies with your family or rocking out to some classic albums (or both). If you’re just getting started with a component system, the T-Series is a great jumping off point. Folks looking to upgrade should take a look at our Signature Series or enthusiast-quality LSiMs.

If you still need help deciding which audio setup is best for you, try out our interactive virtual system builder to help narrow the search or ask an expert at one of our Polk Authorized Dealers