47 Soundbar for holidays bA reader has asked about buying a soundbar for the weekender that can also be used in the rumpus room at home. It has to sound good, but not be expensive. It needs to be simple to operate, hook up, unhook again and move. It will be used by multiple people including occasional Airbnb-ers and no one is about to read an instruction manual. Ideally it will work in with the existing television’s remote at the weekender. And it needs to stream music from multiple devices operated by multiple people.

Amazingly there are such soundbars, it just depends on your definition of expensive.

First, don’t buy one with a separate subwoofer. This is not about sound, it’s about portability; subs are usually big, heavy lumps.

If the existing telly is reasonably recent a soundbar from the same brand will very possibly operate with the television’s remote, or the soundbar’s remote will operate the television (perhaps basic functions only, but probably everything you need). Take your television’s remote with you when shopping soundbars.

If not, you don’t have to buy a new television/soundbar combo, get an aftermarket remote that operates both devices. You can spend a little or a lot on such devices, I’d buy one of the supermarket specials that can be set up to operate just about anything, and they’re so cheap you could get a second for the rumpus room. These will likely handle basic functions only so don’t throw the other remotes away, you’ll need them for detailed work such as accessing set-up menus.

47 Soundbar for holidays cMost soundbars are easy to set up and connect, it’s usually just a matter of plugging them in and running an audio cable to the telly. If your telly is old it will probably have RCA connections, newer ones have HDMI plugs as well. The simplest and best connection is optical, a single strand of light gauge cable.

Plenty of soundbars come with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and/or AirPlay and thus can play music from multiple sources wirelessly. Some Bluetooth soundbars can be connected to multiple sources at once and play from whichever one is selected, others have to be paired from scratch every time the sending device is altered. You may also prefer to get a device with Bluetooth aptX and the ability to handle high definition files if you want quality listening time.

Basic soundbars start under $200 and Sony’s Bluetooth HT100S is $180. Spend a bit extra for better sound and features and you’ll find the $400 Bose Solo 5, with Bluetooth and a universal remote, and Samsung’s Bluetooth HWK450 at around $500. Get up to $1000 and you’re in amongst some very fine, fully featured performers.

Your decision will likely be based on two things, first how good it sounds and secondly compatibility with your existing television aesthetically and electronically. Only you have your ears and thus you should listen to multiple units before you decide how much to spend. The first one will sound terrific, by number three or four you’ll be hearing the weaknesses and strengths that you weren’t hearing first up. Stream some music you know well from your phone or player. When listening to movies close your eyes so the vision won’t distract you from the sound quality.

A specialist audio shop will give you the time, advice and patience it takes to find the right soundbar. Check the inputs of both televisions before you go and if you don’t know what they’re called take a picture.

Finally, don’t throw the box away. It’s excellent packaging for each move.

First published on smh.com.au December 2018.


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