A speaker bar is just a speaker, or more than one speaker, in-line which is typically part of a component based surround sound system. On the other hand a sound bar, although it too contains speakers, has a built-in amplifier and in some cases a built in DVD player or iPod dock. Both product types however are designed to install directly beneath a flat panel TV; yet each has a distinct purpose which makes the two products completely different from one another.

Sound Bar

A Sound Bar is usually an affordable option for attempting to recreate the audio field of a true surround sound system. True surround sound systems usually have 5 speakers, two of which are positioned directly behind the viewer. Often with a Sound Bar you might be able to experience only 3 of the 5 speakers with the 3 being the speakers always positioned in front of the viewer. Also, with a Sound Bar system a wireless sub-woofer is typically provided which offers the flexibility of being positioned almost anywhere in the room so long as its close enough to an electrical receptacle for power.

With the Sound Bar you might also get a built in radio and/or DVD player. These features however can be offset by the lack of overall sound quality. Because a Sound Bar is long, thin, and only has a small space to house all these features the quality of the speakers suffers compared to other systems such as those incorporating a Speaker Bar.

Speaker Bar

Speaker Bar

A speaker bar is simply a speaker, part of a complete component based surround sound system. Typically the speaker bar houses the front left, center and front right speakers. Its usually positioned immediately beneath the TV and is wired directly to a surround sound receiver which also known as an AVR.  Because the speaker bar does not house all the other stuff that a sound bar does, the quality of sound is superior.

Comparative Summary

  1. The Sound bar is typically a more affordable solution to a speaker bar and true surround sound system.
  2. Unlike the seaker bar, the Sound bar usually has several extra features such as a built-in DVD, radio and/or iPod dock etc., 
  3. The speaker bar and the sound bar, generally, are of very similar size, shape and appearance.
  4. The quality of sound from a Speaker bar is often superior to a Sound bar.
  5. Although a wireless Sub-woofer can be purchased for any system they are typically included as part of a Sound Bar product.
  6. The Sound Bar is considerably easier to install versus a true Surround Sound system.
  7. Comparing the two, a speaker bar as part of a true surround sound system will typically sound noticeably superior to a sound bar.


If you decide to shop for a Sound Bar think carefully before being seduced by purchasing the same brand as your TV. Sometimes a Sound Bar of the same brand as your TV manufacturer is an attractive option if advertised as having some unique remote control features. It’s been found, in some cases, using the same brand TV and sound Bar that because of the identical remote control codes, using for example the volume button can be frustrating. By using different brands the remote control codes are different and the problem of volume up on the TV and Sound Bar at the same time is eliminated (in other words, test it out, don’t just trust the wording in the advertisement, you might be surprised at what you discover). This is not the case with Speaker Bars so for them you can ignore this tip. But, for Sound Bars, if considering the same brand as your TV manufacturer take a little bit of extra time to understand remote control compatibility; a different brand won’t make it sound any better or any worse unless you buy the cheapest price product on the shelf.