Bookshelf Speakers vs. Soundbar – What You Need to Know

Choosing the right type of speakers to bring into your home theater can be a bit of a daunting task. With so many advantages to each type, it can be tough to choose the right option for your space. Take bookshelf speakers and soundbars for example. Is one better than the other?

Bookshelf speakers will inevitably produce a higher quality of audio compared to a Soundbar, but they will need to be paired with a center channel speaker and a subwoofer to stream a full-range audio experience. Soundbars can provide a high-quality sound with multiple channels and include a sub.

Bookshelf Speakers vs. Soundbars

What it really comes down to is which type of speaker is going to work best in your unique home theater room with your specific room dynamics, budget, audio preferences, and vision for the entire sound system.

If you are looking to keep it simple, you can find really high-quality Soundbar options. But, if you are looking for a more cinema-like experience, then consider investing in bookshelf speakers and an amp along with other speakers for your sound system. Let’s take a closer look.

Also read: Tower Speakers vs. Soundbar for Home Theater

Bookshelf Speakers vs. Soundbar – Which is Better?

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Gathering your closest friends and family, enjoying snacks and drinks, and preparing to stream a newly released film in your home theater can sound dreamy.

But, this experience is heightened when you have top-notch audio and video equipment that can make the experience all the more real. Truly, using a high-quality sound system can drastically change the experience of movie-viewing within your home.

But, when choosing which type of speakers you should incorporate into your home theater’s sound system, is there one type that is better than the other? Specifically, if you are looking for front speakers, should you use bookshelf speakers or a soundbar?

Saying that bookshelf speakers are better than a Soundbar can be a bold statement- especially when a Soundbar is capable of producing high-quality audio within small- to mid-sized home theater rooms. However, bookshelf speakers are capable of yielding higher-quality audio when they stand alone but especially when paired with an external sub and amplifier.

Perhaps, the question that you should be asking yourself is which type of speaker is better for me, personally, and for my unique space?

There are several categories that might lead you to one conclusion or the other, but these factors should all be considered from a non-bias perspective when making the decision on which type of speaker to incorporate into your home.

After all, this is a big decision worthy of investing time to research your best option if you are going to drop some cash to bring this vision to life.

In comparing a few categories, hopefully, you can see why one option might be better for you than the other. It comes down to personal preference and what you are willing to invest in for your long-term home theater sound system goals. So, bookshelf speakers vs. a Soundbar- here we go.

Are Bookshelf Speakers Better than a Soundbar_


Cost is almost always going to be one of the top factors when it comes to choosing which type of speaker to incorporate into your home theater.

While we likely all wished that our budgets could have no end, this is just not the reality for most of us- even those who are using a higher budget range in the first place.

Because of this, you will need to consider not only the cost of the individual type of speaker (like the bookshelf speaker or the Soundbar) but also the additional costs that will come with having to purchase additional equipment to accomplish the goals that you have for the audio that you stream within your home theater.

Since bookshelf speakers and Soundbars can both cost relatively similar (of course with variances depending on the quality of each type), you should consider that the cost of bookshelf speakers could end up being higher when you consider that you will need a subwoofer and an amplifier to achieve the high-quality sound that you are going for.

Along with this, you will also need a center speaker to be added so that the dialogue is not lost in the lack of a center channel with your bookshelf speakers. On the other hand, with a soundbar, you might not come across all of the additional costs.

Of course, you can choose to add on additional channels, but going with a Soundbar might mean that you are comfortable with the lower quality of audio that it can provide considering it can host multiple channels including a subwoofer for low-frequency audio signal emission.

Finally, be sure to consider how you will connect each of these devices and any additional cables, transmitters, or receivers that will need to be added to your sound system setup. These might not be the most costly, but they can still add up when considering your overall budget.

Specific Room Dynamics

Another component that will be central to making a decision on whether bookshelf speakers or a Soundbar is the best option for you will be the specific room dynamics in your home theater space. While online advice is helpful to some degree, advice can only go so far considering the varying nature of home theater rooms.

For example, if you have a larger home theater room, you might want to use bookshelf speakers paired with an amplifier to bolster the sound. This will create a more robust sound experience.

In a smaller or mid-sized home theater room, though, you might be comfortable using a Soundbar that has multiple channels and a subwoofer.

Along with that, the placement of the speakers is something that will come up in your home theater room dynamics, too. Consider, if you have a more selective range of space to utilize for your speaker setup, then a Soundbar that is sleeker and requires less setup equipment might be the best choice for your purposes.

Alternatively, if you have the space for your bookshelf speakers to be mounted or sit with sufficient space from their porting, then using bookshelf speakers could be the way to go.

Number of Channels

While most bookshelf speaker options available are going to have a higher quality audio sound compared to a Soundbar at relatively the same cost, the number of auditory channels might be something you should more strongly consider.

Bookshelf speakers are more compact compare to tower speakers, for example, that have more drivers. Because of this, bookshelf speakers are often 2-channeled and do not have the ability to be used as a center channel (but are, instead, used for a left and right speaker option).

In a home theater sound system setup that has multiple speakers including surrounds and a subwoofer, you might not be as concerned about the lack of channels that your bookshelf speakers will offer. In this case, you likely have other speakers dedicated to this sole purpose.

However, if you do not have an entire sound system setup, then you might consider going with a Soundbar that comes with 5 or more channels to accommodate more speaker channels.

This will allow you to experience a more full range of audio frequencies with clarity to enhance dialogue and other sound effects on the movies and shows you stream within your home.

Sound Quality

Finally, but likely one of the most important areas of comparison between bookshelf speakers and a Soundbar is the sound quality that each piece of equipment will yield.

Again you need to consider the entire sound system that you are dreaming of because the audio experience will not be limited to these individual speakers if you plan to add more to your system.

Still, while Soundbars sometimes get a bad wrap from audiophiles who are accustomed to high-quality pieces of sound equipment, the average user will be highly impressed by the audio experience that these can provide.

Additionally, since a Soundbar will be a considerable step up from the TV’s internal speakers, and Soundbars are so easy to install, they can make a very enticing option for your home theater.

However, when doing a side-by-side comparison of the individual speakers, you are likely going to see way higher-quality (in terms of clarity, robust sound, etc.) from a set of bookshelf speakers than you will from a Soundbar.

With the physical components of the bookshelf speaker aiding in the natural emission of audio signals, they simply beat out Soundbars at similar costs.

This is why many audiophiles prefer to use bookshelf speakers over Soundbars- they are able to be worked into a sound system with other pieces of sound equipment, and they can make a robust difference in the audio experience within your home theater.

Nevertheless, be sure to select the option that is right for you, your budget, and your home theater dynamics as this is where the real difference in enjoyment comes in.

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