A soundbar brings multiple speakers together side-by-side in one cabinet as a portable device. They are popular for their rich sound and ease of use. You’ve likely seen them accompanying a TV or computer, but could you also put a soundbar in a car?
You can put a soundbar in a car if you want to enhance your built-in audio but you must consider how you’re connecting it. If you have a plan for connecting it to power and audio, you can enjoy enhanced sound in your vehicle with this type of external loudspeaker.
In this article, we’ll discuss all the specifications you need to consider for a successful soundbar system in your car. We’ll also play devil’s advocate to get you thinking about if a soundbar is the right solution depending on what you’re looking for.
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Capabilities of a Soundbar
A soundbar, also known as a media bar or speaker bar, is a long, flat, skinny-shaped speaker and is quite common and well-liked for various applications. There are countless options on the market. In general, they offer a handful of universal benefits.
Generally speaking, a soundbar increases audio output over what typically comes “built-in” in your device. An extra external speaker that points out towards the listener is better than no extra speaker, so you’ll experience more sound at a better quality.
There’s a reason soundbars are short and wide. They can play either stereo or surround sound, and their shape plays specifically to the acoustics in a standard rectangular room.
Complex Audio Quality
While it’s not necessarily a complete audio system, a soundbar offers a less expensive and much easier to use option compared to a full multi-piece system.
A soundbar is usually considered an all-in-one solution capable of producing rich, full, enhanced sound, even putting out a decent amount of bass. Most styles have separate tweeters and woofers to handle the high and low sound output adeptly.
To make the most of a soundbar, some people pair a soundbar with an additional separate subwoofer for even richer bass.
Ease of Use
Soundbars are known for their horizontally slender appearance.
They typically accompany a device like a television or a computer by tucking in neatly on a shelf or wall-mount just above or below the device. Whether it’s wall-mounted or sitting on a shelf or console, soundbars are sleek, powerful components.
Will a Soundbar Help Enhance the Audio in Your Car?
It’s important to compare what exactly you’re seeking to accomplish with the audio in your car and what a soundbar can provide.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re looking to up the audio game in your vehicle. You want something a little louder and a little richer than what your car’s standard system provides.
The Grass Isn’t Always Greener
Keep in mind that your car’s built-in audio system may be better than what you think a soundbar can provide in your car.
Most newer vehicles put a great deal of emphasis on the audio system since most people expect a complete all-in-one system without having to add extra to it.
While a soundbar might bring the audio quality up a level in your car, keep in mind that traditional soundbars are usually intended for the following:
- In a standard sized and shaped room
- In a stable temperature
- Where they can plug into a power source
- Where they can receive audio input via Bluetooth, a standard cord, or hardwiring
So is a soundbar the best option for your car? Maybe yes, but perhaps not.
There are countless soundbars on the market, and of course, some bring better sound quality than others. Their options range from big to small, black to white, expensive to cheap, and for an ATV or a living room.
Before you decide on putting one in your car, make sure you do your research to ensure it’ll really be an upgrade compared to your standard car audio.
Let’s just say if you are driving a Volvo with a Harman Kardon stereo system, a soundbar won’t do you any favors compared to what’s built-in. But if you’re rolling in a 2002 Honda Civic, sure, a soundbar will probably bring the audio up a notch.
How to Connect a Soundbar for Your Car
If you’ve decided a soundbar is the direction you’d like to go in your vehicle, you must consider how you’ll connect it to power and sound inputs.
Soundbars require power. They expect to be plugged in. When used in your living room, you’d usually plug it right into a wall outlet. In your car, this may or may not be an option.
If your vehicle is newer and has an AC outlet, you’re going to be all set. If not, you can purchase an AC power inverter like the Foval 200W Car Power Inverter (Amazon link), that will do the trick.
Keep in mind that depending on how robust your soundbar is, it can potentially put a great deal of strain onto your car’s system when drawing power from it.
Next, your soundbar needs to know what audio to play. A soundbar is usually equipped to handle audio input from one or more of the following options:
- Bluetooth connection
- USB cord
- 3.5 mm line out or RCA
- Headphone jack
- HDMI cable
- Digital optical audio or coaxial cable
If you’re thinking about one of the above connectors, “Great, my car has that!” — think again. Your car’s stereo system is equipped to take input via Bluetooth, USB, or headphone jack.
It looks at whatever is plugged in as something to read and playback on its internal speaker system. Therefore, it will not know to push the sound out to the speaker.
To play audio on the soundbar in your car, we suggest connecting your smartphone or another device via Bluetooth. This way, you can pull up your music library or open a radio app like Pandora or Spotify to play through your car’s soundbar.
To set this up, complete the following steps:
- Consult your soundbar’s manual for any device-specific steps.
- Place both devices in pairing mode.
- Search for the soundbar to connect to.
- Set your soundbar to the correct input setting (Bluetooth). Without this important step, your soundbar won’t know where to pull the sound from, so you’ll hear nothing.
One final, more permanent option for installing a soundbar and connecting it in your car is to hardwire it right into your audio system.
This requires some definite know-how in the car and electrical world, so don’t be afraid to consult tutorials, your car’s manual, or your trusted mechanic.
Physical Connection – Mounting to the Vehicle
Once you’ve committed to using a soundbar in your car, you’ll want to make sure it’s in a good physical location. You may or may not choose to attach it to a part of your car physically.
For some vehicles, the soundbar can sit safely and logically behind the back seat. For others, you might consider a strong adhesive strip to mount it on your dash.
Whatever you choose, make sure your soundbar doesn’t slide around – or worse, come flying into you – in case of a sudden press on the brakes.
Soundbar Alternative in Your Car
As you consider the above factors, perhaps you’re leaning towards another option to boost your car’s sound quality.
Truth be told, you may be better served by enhancing the audio in your car with a designated care stereo system upgrade. It’s possible you’ll spend the same amount of money and get a better quality of sound than a soundbar can provide.
Systems designed specifically for cars are known to provide the best audio for that type of space, and you won’t have to deal with external devices for audio input. Do your research, and you might find that a car audio system will meet your needs better than a soundbar.
What if the Soundbar Doesn’t Work Well in My Car?
If you try a soundbar in your car and later decide you don’t like it, all’s not lost. Whether the quality isn’t great, it won’t stay put in the spot you want it, or it’s too tiresome to connect to your smartphone audio each time you want to use it, you can always return or repurpose your soundbar.
Chances are you have a computer or TV in your home that may benefit from it, so relocate it and enjoy it.
As you consider options for beefing up the sound in your car, consider yourself informed about the pros and cons of using a soundbar. While it may not be the best solution for all, it could be just what you need for a little sound boost.