What’s the Best Soundbar Option for an Apartment?

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Q After reading soundbar reviews in Sound & Vision, one thing seems clear: to get the best sound, you need to combine a soundbar with a subwoofer. My problem is that I will soon be moving from a house to an apartment. As I’m sure you’re aware, the tenant with a subwoofer in an apartment building is usually the least favorite neighbor.  

My current 5.1 setup includes Definitive Technology ProMonitor 800s, a ProCenter 1000 and ProSub 1000. Everything is hooked up to a Marantz 7701 preamp/processor and matching amp. Do you have any suggestions for replacing my system with a standalone soundbar that won't compromise on bass? I would ideally like to continue using the Marantz amp and preamp. —Brian Morgan

A The solution to your problem that immediately comes to mind is to buy a passive soundbar — one that delivers enough bass to eliminate any need for a subwoofer.

Of the passive soundbars Sound & Vision has reviewed over the past few years, the one that seems best-suited to your needs is Atlantic Technology’s 3.1 HSB Soundbase ($799). The 3.1 HSB is a base rather than a bar; you install it under your TV as opposed to on a wall or shelf. But the company’s unique H-PAS cabinet design allows it to deliver solid bass down to 35 Hz — a spec that some powered subwoofers with a 10-inch driver like your ProSub 1000 would be happy to hit. Since the 3.1 HSB reproduces the left, right, and center channel information in movie soundtracks, you simply connect surround speakers to your amp and you’ll be in business.

Another option for a soon-to-be apartment dweller like yourself to consider: lose the amp and preamp and instead buy a powered soundbar. Like soundbars in general, powered models that deliver good bass are difficult to come by. Of the ones Sound & Vision has reviewed, the Paradigm Soundscape ($1500) comes closest to plumbing the low-end depths that Atlantic Tech’s passive model achieves. With a measured -3dB point of 43 Hz, the Soundscape won’t rattle your world, but it should give you a similar bass performance to what you’d get in a system that uses a typical 8-inch subwoofer.

Is $1500 more than you wanted to spend? How about $500? That’s how much Zvox charges for its SB500, a powered soundbar that S&V editor-in-chief Rob Sabin singled out for its “surprisingly powerful, deep bass” in a recent group review of budget soundbars . While the soundbar options I’ve mentioned above probably won’t be a perfect replacement for your existing component-based system, they should strike a good compromise between your desire for bass and your need to be a good neighbor.

Tangential's picture

The problem with bass and neighbours is that the lower frequencies have much longer wavelengths. The lower you go the more chance that sound is going to reach beyond your apartment. So in and of itself, having a subwoofer or not having a subwoofer isn't necessarily the solution. The base suggested in the article goes down to 35HZ. My subwoofer in my apartment only goes down to 45HZ. The subwoofer would be more beneficial to the neighbours as the soundwaves wouldn't travel as far as the soundbar.

If your apartment walls are adequately built you should never have issues with neighbours.

Tangential's picture

you can mitigate against neighbour complaints by having the subwoofer near your main listening position. This will allow you to have the subwoofer on at a lowel gain level but still having the same impact as it is nearer to you.