The soothing tones of your favorite song or the intense moments of a video game – a good set of speakers make all the difference.
However, deciding between a soundbar or a dedicated desktop speaker setup can be a difficult choice.
Most desktops and laptops come with low-quality audio that doesn’t do music or movies any justice.
While both soundbars and speakers will enhance your listening experience, speakers tend to offer a higher quality of stereo audio and a wider soundstage, while a soundbar saves space and still offers enhanced audio.
By the end of this soundbar vs speakers article, you will understand the key differences to decide which better suits your needs for a quality audio upgrade.
|Sound Quality||Good for casual listening||Superior, especially in stereo|
|Size & Space||Can be lackluster without a subwoofer||Requires more space|
|Setup||Seamless, plug-and-play||Can be complicated|
|Stereo Separation||Limited due to design||Excellent separation|
|Soundstage||Confined, less immersive||Wide and immersive|
|Bass Quality||Can be lackluster without subwoofer||Better, but varies by model|
|Music||Adequate, but lacks fidelity||Superior, especially with subwoofer|
|Movies||Good for dialogue, lacks immersion||Fully immersive|
|Gaming||Good for casual games||Superior for competitive gaming|
|Video Calls||Clear dialogue||Overkill but clear|
|Price||Affordable options available||Typically cost more|
|Connectivity & Setup||Easier, often supports Bluetooth||Can be complex, varies by model|
|Aesthetics||Sleek and minimalist||Can be bulkier|
|Customizability||Limited||More options, especially with amps|
|Recommendation||VIZIO 2.0||Bose Companion 2|
As someone who cares about getting the best audio experience from your PC, whether that’s for gaming, music or just watching YouTube, sound quality matters when making your decision between a soundbar vs desktop speakers.
The main convenience of a soundbar is that they are compact and save on space, which can be crucial for small desktop spaces.
However, when everything is packed in one small rectangle, it sacrifices some quality.
While sufficient for casual listening, soundbars have some limitations that audio heads will find concerning.
On a positive note the compact design projects voices and dialog very clearly.
A soundbar works like a center channel speaker, ideal for watching TV shows and movies.
The setup is also seamless with soundbars.
All you do is plug it into your monitor or PC and you are good to go.
However, because it’s one narrow bar, stereo separation suffers given the close left, center, and right channel configuration.
You don’t get the same panning of audio that you get on even budget speakers.
Soundbars also project in a confined direction, resulting in a smaller and less immersive soundstage.
At high volumes, sound can get muddy and distorted, often due to the lack of power they have to power the drivers.
And without a subwoofer, the bass driver works overtime resulting in lackluster bass.
It’s why so many soundbars are sold with a subwoofer as a package.
Having said all that, they still offer a great listening experience for a casual listener who just wants to save on space and upgrade their current audio.
And they do that certainly.
In contrast, desktop speakers truly shine when it comes to creating an immersive sound experience.
When optimally placed, you get perfect stereo separation between the left and right channels, which isn’t possible with soundbars.
Unless they start making 3-meter wide soundbars!
Having the stereo separation is a must for not just avid music listeners, but also for gamers where hearing footsteps or enemies can be crucial.
Most desktop speakers can also create high-fidelity clarity across the mid to high-range frequencies with ease compared to subwoofers.
Even at high volumes.
It’s not all good though, as similar to soundbars, the bass more often than not is disappointing.
For example, even something powerful like the Edifier R1700BT and the Edifier R1850DB can only go down to 60Hz – while most home theater subs can go down to 15-25Hz.
Having a dedicated subwoofer can help take some of the pressure off the speakers though – if you have the room.
Overall, the sound quality for speakers for PC is always going to be better than a soundbar, but it depends on what your main priority is.
Do you want the best sound quality?
Then go for a PC speaker.
Performance For Different Use Cases
Another thing to consider when making your decision is what are you buying a soundbar or speaker for.
You need to consider how each performs for common activities such as listening to music, watching movies, gaming, or video calls.
With optimally spaced speakers, desktop audio allows you to distinguish each instrument and beat it with ease.
The soundstage envelopes you for a truly immersive music experience.
This paired with a subwoofer can offer a truly unique listening experience and the ultimate upgrade to a standard monitor speaker.
Soundbars lack this fidelity as we previously discussed, the channels are too close together.
The soundstage is confined because of this.
Treble also gets harsh at high volumes.
Winner: Desktop Speakers
When watching movies or a TV show, both soundbars and speakers for your PC do a great job.
The soundbar centers clear, anchored dialogue directly to your ears – almost like a center channel speaker.
This makes it easy to catch every line and detail in dialogue.
However, surround speakers fully immerse you in the action by filling the room with sound.
Explosions and car chases are all the more real, and it’s very hard for a soundbar to replicate that experience.
On top of that, soundbars can distort at high volumes.
Winner: Desktop Speakers
For gaming, again desktop speakers provide a more immersive experience.
The precise stereo separation means you know if an enemy is on your left or right.
In some games, this can be the meaning between life and death!
Even in chaotic scenes, highs and mids remain clear so you can hear every subtle detail and effect.
Unfortunately, a soundbar can’t provide the same dimensional immersion that is needed for competitive games.
Having said that, for very casual gaming such as indie games or sandbox games, a soundbar can do the job fine.
Winner: Soundbar or Desktop Speakers
When it comes to video conferencing, both desktop speakers and soundbars can produce clear enough audio.
We know that soundbars excel when it comes to dialogue, so there is no trouble here.
Of course, desktop speakers don’t struggle here either.
In fact, they are overkill if video calls are all you need speakers for.
And with noise cancellation features in software and built into most webcams, you shouldn’t pick up any interference or echoes.
Winner: Soundbar or Desktop Speakers
Of course, pricing is going to come into consideration one way or another.
Here is how the cost compares between the two options.
Cost of Soundbars
One major advantage of soundbars is they provide improved audio quality over your default speakers for a very affordable price.
For those simply seeking a basic upgrade on a budget, a soundbar can go for as little as 20$-100$.
However, I’d recommend something in the middle of that price range such as the VIZIO 2.0.
This soundbar is super compact at only 20 inches wide and excels at enhancing dialogue. It’s perfect for those just wanting to watch casual TV, YouTube, or do some simple gaming.
It’s a clear upgrade over a built-in monitor or TV speakers.
If you spend any more, you could be better off looking at a pair of dedicated desktop speakers.
In contrast, desktop speakers typically cost a bit more money, especially if you want good quality.
However, what you get is a huge improvement over a soundbar in every regard, and they are still small enough that they don’t take up too much space.
One of the most popular desktop speakers ever is the Bose Companion 2 Series 3 Speakers.
And for good reason.
These speakers have been around for years and provide a superb listening experience.
They are loud, produce pitch-perfect mids and highs, and even perform well with lower frequencies.
The bass is tight and when angled correctly has a truly immersive soundstage.
You can of course spend a lot more money on desktop speakers, but I don’t think it’s needed.
These will do exactly what you want – and then some.
If you’re looking to spend more, then a pair of bookshelf speakers would be the better option.
Connectivity & Setup
One of the biggest advantages of soundbars is the seamless, clutter-free setup.
- Designed for a simple plug-and-play connection that can go above or below your TV or monitor.
- A single soundbar unit minimizes any complicated wiring that is often found with speaker setups.
- Many soundbars support HDMI ARC to route TV audio directly through one single cable.
- Most soundbars have Bluetooth, meaning you can connect to multiple devices.
- The compact design saves a tonne of space and is often more aesthetically pleasing.
So in summary, a soundbar is simple to set up and keeps things minimalist.
Desktop speakers are a bit more complicated to set up and require optimal placement to get perfect audio.
- Stereo desktop speakers need mounts or speaker wire connections to each other.
- You may need a DAC or amplifier for connecting to your PC as most have bad sound cards.
- Bluetooth support is not as universal as in soundbars.
- Ideal placement requires trial and error and can be frustrating for beginners to get right.
So while it may be more complicated than a soundbar to set up, the payoff in sound quality can be immense.
Soundbars Or Speakers For PC?
Soundbars and speakers both have their positives and negatives when it comes to improving the sound quality of your PC.
For a more immersive, premium listening experience – PC speakers such as the Bose Companion will be your best bet.
But if you want something more compact, convenient, and affordable while still having an upgraded sound, a soundbar such as the VIZIO 2.0 will suffice.
I hope this article helped make your decision that bit easier.