Soundbars are continuously rising in popularity as additional enhancements to many home AV Systems.
They provide a potentially inexpensive, less labor-intensive upgrade to a television’s sound when compared to a display’s internal speakers. But this easy upgrade can also become a stranglehold in your system, limiting control, resolutions, and even audio formats.
Today’s soundbars can vary slightly in the number of different kinds of inputs featured. Ultimately leaving us with a mashup of different capabilities of both audio and control.
The Toslink Input
Let it be noted that both Toslink and HDMI ARC can support Dolby Atmos within the compressed Dolby Digital+ Container. This audio format may be found within the internal app of some displays.
Additionally, just because a soundbar has a certain input does not mean that it accepts all formats of audio. For example, many soundbars can only take in up to Dolby Digital (Not DD+) and may produce distorted audio or no audio when an unsupported format has been used. Fortunately, many displays can limit the audio that is being sent to a soundbar.
Lastly, soundbars that use HDMI ARC or eARC require the use of a singular HDMI Input to send digital audio, reducing the overall number of devices that can physically be connected to a display. However, many soundbar devices feature an HDMI Passthrough Port to make up for the loss of an input.
This HDMI passthrough port can be one of the largest constraints when a soundbar is added to the system. Some soundbars feature inadequate HDMI ports to reduce cost, forcing the user to either sacrifice HDR, and at times 4K resolutions, or lose use of said input for anything but audio.
Ultimately, crisis can be avoided by understanding the whole use case of an AV Zone as well as the video and audio formats supported by the sources; then pairing a display and soundbar based upon those specifications.
So, are soundbars a convenience, a constraint, or both? That is for you to decide.
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