Home Audio Buying Guide

Fed up with the terrible warbling noise your flat-screen TV makes? You've come to the right place.

Upgrading your TV sound can be as easy as plugging in a sound bar, but first you'll need to buy the right one. In this guide we'll look at the different types of home audio systems available, from sound bars to stereo speakers to full-blown, amped-up, surround-sound speaker packages. Here's what you should be looking for to best suit your needs.

Sound bars are a great place to start

The sound bar is the most popular way to improve sound quality beyond your TV's build-in speakers. It's not only convenient -- it usually involves plugging in just a single cable -- but also affordable: decent sound can be had from $200.

They fit into three broad types:

  • Single sound bar (with or without a separate sub)

  • Sound bar with wireless subwoofer and separate surround speakers

  • Pedestal sound bar or sound base

In general, sound bars are better for wall-mounted TVs and sound bases are better suited for housing smaller TVs while sitting on an AV unit. Of these two, sound bars are overwhelmingly the most popular option as sound bases can have issues with TVs that have legs at each end rather than in the middle.

Step up to a surround-sound system

If you're looking for something that sounds better than a sound bar, the best option is to put together your own system with an AV receiver and surround-sound speakers.

AV receivers can be complex, intimidating devices, but choosing one doesn't have to be. It has standard AV receiver features such as 7.1 channels and six HDMI inputs, but it's also packed with wireless connectivity, including built-in Wi-Fi, Chromecast, Bluetooth and AirPlay.

Most people have a limited budget to spend on their home audio system, so the question is: How am I going to get the biggest bang for my buck? The answer, unequivocally, is speakers.

Speakers, like sound bars, come down to sound quality and design, and it's generally a trade-off between those two factors.