Bookshelf Speakers vs Soundbar. Best Detailed Comparison 2021!

Bookshelf Speakers vs Soundbar. Best Detailed Comparison 2021!

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We can all agree that music and tunes are an eternal part of our lives. From our grandparents listening to old classics on FM Radios to us vibing to pop songs and EDM’s on Bluetooth speakers, we millennials have seen technology rise up from nothing to everything.

Also Read : Bose Soundbar 500 vs 700

Be it home or car or anywhere, having a fine-tuned music system is a requirement nowadays. People always tend to fall into the dilemma while purchasing a sound system. If you plan on buying a home audio setup, Bookshelf Speakers vs Soundbar is one of the comparisons you should look up to before investing your hard-earned cash.

There are several factors that come into the picture while differentiating two types of audio systems. In this article, we are going to try our best to let you know all the necessary things that should be considered before buying that perfect add-on for your home theater system.

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What is a Bookshelf Speaker?

Back then, large floor standing or tower speakers were considered superior sound-producing devices and were preferred for home audio instead of small cabinet speakers as they were considered cheap and low quality.

But with time, these small cabinet speakers were improvised to offer high-quality audio, woofer and drivers were enclosed in them separately, they were so designed to eliminate sound distortion, occupying small space, and hence called as Bookshelf speakers.

In today’s date, brands like Klipsch, Edifier, and Polk Audio are leading manufacturers of Bookshelf speakers and other home audio systems. Modern shelf speakers are also compatible with advanced features like wireless connection via Bluetooth.

Klipsch RP-600M in Bookshelf speakers vs Soundbar
Klipsch RP-600M

What is a Soundbar?

A Soundbar is a lengthy audio system that acts as a type of loudspeaker with multiple speakers enclosed in a single cabinet. Soundbars are usually used as additional sound systems placed below the TV display.

Previously, the Soundbar had separate Left, Center, and Right speakers wrapped in a small cabinet, also called as “LCR Soundbar”. Later in 1998, Altec Lansing (a USA-based audio brand) introduced a multichannel Soundbar that was powered and offered stereo and Dolby surround sound with an independent subwoofer.

Nowadays, Soundbar Hybrids are present in the market as well. And there are various brands that produce great quality Soundbars for as low as 150 bucks. So don’t you worry and enhance your TV watching experience with one of the bars.

Bose Soundbar 500
Bose Soundbar 500

Bookshelf speakers vs Soundbar. How are they different?

Multiple factors are taken into consideration while comparing these two audio systems. We are going to distinguish 9 prime factors that are –

  1. Purpose
  2. Sound Quality
  3. Power Output
  4. Frequency Response
  5. Sensitivity Rating
  6. Inputs Available
  7. Position & Placement
  8. Dimensions & Weight
  9. Design

1. Purpose

If you want to enhance your home theater and feel the surround sound, straightaway shoot for bookshelf speakers. With a pair of bookshelf speakers, you can complete your 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system setup and increase the overall experience of watching late-night movies and shows, or even your favorite songs for that matter.

Also Read : Bose Home Speaker 300 vs Sonos One (Gen 2)

On the other hand, if you want your TV to perform at its exceptional volume, just add a Soundbar to your audio system collection. And if you want to take your music experience on cloud 9, connected a subwoofer to the Soundbar, and boom!

2. Sound Quality

Speaking of audio output between Bookshelf speakers vs Soundbar, both of the devices are unique in their ways.

Klipsch RP-600M, one of the best bookshelf speakers out there, manufactured by Klipsch, comes with a 1” Linear Travel Suspension (LTS) tweeter and dual 6.5” Spun Copper Cerametallic woofers never fails to offer exceptional audio quality and powerful bass.

Speaking of the soundbar, let’s take Sonos Beam for reference. It’s a 3-channel bar and comes with 4 full-range drivers, one tweeter, and three passive radiators that give the soundbar an ability to perform surprisingly too well, a real surround sound experience for movie nights. But as we said earlier, adding a subwoofer will also boost the performance of the bar.

Also Read : Battle! Bose Solo 5 vs Sonos Beam

3. Power Output

Power output is one of the most important comparison factors when it comes to audio devices.

Total Power Output comprises of two terms, Root Mean Square (RMS) or Nominal power output value, and Peak value. Know more here. These values are important and are taken into consideration when the audio devices are powered by an external amplifier.

An ideal bookshelf speaker comes with an output power rating of 50-80 watt RMS value and >120 watt Peak value. Ensure to power the speakers with a compatible external amp and you are in for a treat. However, owners of Active/Powered bookshelf speaker (which comes with in-built amp) don’t have to worry more about this.

Also Read : Best Center Channel Speakers Under 500

Since most of the modern soundbars are featured with an in-built amplifier, hence power output of the soundbar itself is 20-50 watts. Power output is much of a concern when the device is passive (which means that it needs an external amp to get started).

4. Frequency Response

Frequency range means the audio frequencies that are audible to human beings. It is measured in Hertz. In any sound-producing device, there are two frequency response ranges, one is the lowest (the sound that is barely audible to human) and another one is the highest (loud for human hearing).

For instance, Edifier R2000DB, a powered bookshelf speaker by Edifier has a frequency response of 55 Hz to 20 kHz which means clear and desirable audio quality even at low-frequency levels.

About soundbars, they offer a frequency response of approximately the same as bookshelf speakers, i.e. ranging from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

Nowadays, the speakers used in bookshelf and soundbars are already fine-tuned to produce amazing audio quality. Hence, you will be able to hear every detail clearly in both the audio devices. Go for anyone you wish to.

5. Sensitivity Rating

Sensitivity Rating is a few of the most important factors measured in Decibels (dB) to look for when purchasing any audio system. Especially, when we speak of the home theater system, sensitivity rating matters because the sound system has to produce a sound loud enough to be heard in any corner of the house.

It’s all about power and sound relation. Say the sensitivity rating of an audio device is 75 dB at 1-watt power. Now the rating can be increased to 78 dB and to do that, you have to add 1-watt power more because double power is required for an extra 3 dB of volume level. Learn more about Sensitivity Rating.

Debut B6.2 bookshelf speakers by Elac has a sensitivity rating of 87 dB and almost all the soundbars have more or less the same sensitivity rating as that of bookshelf speakers because they both come under the home audio system.

6. Inputs Available

The input options available in modern powered bookshelf speakers are Bluetooth connection (to wirelessly connect your devices to the speakers), Optical input (for digitally connecting the speakers to your TV or gaming consoles like Xbox), and two AUX inputs which can be used as 3.5 mm jack for attaching your headphones or dual RCA output for connecting speakers to multiple sound devices simultaneously.

Inputs in Bookshelf speakers
Inputs available in Bookshelf speakers

If you buy a soundbar as a single device (without a subwoofer), then it is probably a wireless smart soundbar. Such soundbars have HDMI and Optical audio input slots for connecting the bar to the TV. It’s always a great choice to pair a wireless subwoofer with a wireless soundbar.

Inputs available in a soundbar
Inputs available in Soundbar

7. Position & Placement

Position and placement are extremely important factors that contribute to the overall performance of the speakers.

If speakers are positioned in a place where there’s no free space behind them, the sound produced will not flow fluently. Likewise, placing them in an appropriate position will boost the speaker’s performance to a great level. The image below will help you understand it better.

Placement of bookshelf speakers
Placement of Bookshelf Speakers

As for the soundbar, depending on the design, size, and model, it can be placed where it offers full performance and looks aesthetically appealing as well. But most of the soundbars are usually placed below the TV as the sound reaches directly to you, avoiding scattering and echo caused by any obstacles.

Placement of a soundbar
Placement of a Soundbar

8. Dimensions & Weight

In Bookshelf speakers vs Soundbar, we know that soundbars are handier. But how about taking a look at their size and dimensions?

The dimensions of an average bookshelf speaker are 6.9 (L) x 10.5 (W) x 11.9 (H) inches and a pair of them weigh approximately 10 to 20 pounds.

A soundbar is usually 2.21 (H) x 26.5 (W) x 4 (D) inches in size and weighs around 8 to 10 pounds.

Since the soundbar has smaller dimensions, they are easily wall-mounted. Whereas bookshelf speakers are not recommended for wall-mounting because of their heavyweight.

9. Design

Bookshelf speakers come in a unique box-type design with tweeters and woofers placed inside the cabinet. They also have gorgeous finishing touch and modern shape that looks good no matter where to place them.

Monitor Series II by Polk Audio is featured with a wood grain finish and titanium cover faces that enhance the aesthetics of the living room.

The soundbar is more than just a long audio-producing device. With its sleek design and different shapes depending on brands, it not only improves the way we watch TV but also brushes up the overall interior of the living room area.

Our Verdict

We appreciate you for sticking with us throughout the whole content.

Bookshelf speakers vs Soundbar is a must-read comparison if you are planning to gift your home theater an additional companion. Both of the sound systems perform a vital role in improving the overall music and movie night experience.

All the important factors are discussed above that will help you choose the right speakers for your home. And investing few bucks will even complete your 5.1 surround sound system.

Notable Mentions

Top 5 Bookshelf Speakers

1. Klipsch RP-600M (Our Pick)

What We Liked

  • Exceptional sound quality.
  • Prominent build quality.
  • Appealing aesthetics.
  • Great value for money speakers.

What We Didn’t Like

  • They need an external amp to power them.

2. Polk Audio Monitor 40 Series II

What We Liked

  • Sturdy build.
  • Superb audio quality.
  • Best ones for a given price point.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Bass fade away at low frequency.
  • These speakers are not powered (external amp needed).

3. Edifier R1700BT

What We Liked

  • Compact and durable.
  • These are active/powered speakers.
  • Prominent finish and appearance.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Bluetooth cannot be disabled.

4. Klipsch R-15M

What We Liked

  • Super compact and robust.
  • Prominent sound quality.
  • Removable grille.

What We Didn’t Like

  • They are passive speakers. This means an external amp is required to power them.

5. Sony SSCS5

What We Liked

  • High-Resolution audio.
  • Compact and durable.
  • Best in-budget.

What We Didn’t Like

  • They are passive speakers.

Top 5 Soundbars (Without Subwoofer)

1. Bose Soundbar 700 (Our Pick)

What We Liked

  • Mesmerizing sound and deep bass.
  • Smart and easy controls.
  • Custom 8-mic microphone system for clear calls.
  • Built-in virtual assistants.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Configuration is a bit infeasible.

2. Sonos Playbar

What We Liked

  • Easy mounting and setup.
  • Superb audio and bass quality.
  • Unique design.
  • Smart control with Sonos app.

What We Didn’t Like

  • No built-in virtual assistant.

3. Samsung HW-S60T

What We Liked

  • Great and appealing aesthetics.
  • 3D Surround Sound can be experienced.
  • Built-in virtual assistant.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Controller don’t work as expected.

4. Sonos Beam

What We Liked

  • Easy setup and compact size.
  • Rich and detailed sound output.
  • Built-in virtual assistants.
  • Smart and easy controls.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Doesn’t support modern audio codecs like Dolby.

5. YAMAHA SR-B20A

What We Liked

  • Desirable sound and bass output.
  • Smooth control with remote and app.
  • Easy setup and connection.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Virtual assistants are not supported.
  • No Wi-Fi.

Top 5 Soundbars (With Subwoofer)

1. Samsung HW-Q900T (Our Pick)

What We Liked

  • Modern audio codec like Dolby and DTS:X are supported.
  • Rich, Detailed, and Solid audio quality.
  • Cool design and built-in virtual assistants.
  • Smart and easy controls.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Bass is not that rumbling.

2. Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite 9.2 SSE

What We Liked

  • Dual subwoofers and 4 surround speakers are included.
  • Deep and powerful bass.
  • Prominent build quality.
  • Unique design.

What We Didn’t Like

  • No Wi-Fi. Hence, doesn’t have built-in virtual assistant.

3. Sony HT-S350

What We Liked

  • Subwoofer included offers powerful bass.
  • Prominent and gorgeous build.
  • Worth the money.

What We Didn’t Like

  • No built-in virtual assistant.

4. Polk Audio Signa S3

What We Liked

  • Works with HD, 4K, or 8K TVs.
  • Desirable sound quality with Dolby Digital technology.
  • Easy to setup.

What We Didn’t Like

  • No built-in virtual assistants.

5. JBL Bar 2.1

What We Liked

  • JBL SoundShift is a great feature.
  • Amazing surround sound.
  • Durable and great value for money.

What We Didn’t Like

  • Virtual assistants are not compatible.

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