Your TV's picture is great, but the sound quality? Much less so. You have to turn the volume way up to hear anything, and even then, you have to use subtitles on shows to understand what anyone is saying. Speakers or a soundbar can solve that problem and even enhance your listening experience. 


Both options produce sound, but are they really all that different? Is a soundbar or a set of speakers best for you? 


By the end of this article, you'll understand the similarities and differences between the two and the pros and cons of each, so you can confidently pick the perfect equipment.


Hive specializes in home automation, including audio equipment like soundbars and speakers. But regardless of whether you’re near us in Tampa Bay or not, this blog applies to anyone wanting to get more out of their TV-watching experience. 


But before we can compare the two, we have to understand what soundbars and speakers are.


What’s a soundbar?

Soundbars sit underneath your TV and have multiple speakers. Many have three – one left, one right, and one center – but others, like soundbars equipped with Dolby Atmos technology, have more. This formation gives you better sound because rather than the speakers being on the back or bottom vent of the TV, they face the viewer to project sound into the room.


They can be split into two groups – active soundbars and passive soundbars. Active soundbars have a built-in amplifier so you don’t need a separate amplifier or receiver to power it.


Passive soundbars, on the other hand, don't have a built-in amp or receiver, so you have the added cost of buying one on top of buying the soundbar. You'll also have more components to plug in if excess wires concern you.


Some soundbars can have smart technology, like the Roku soundbar, which allows you to stream from your favorite services or control it with voice commands through Amazon Alexa or Google Home.


What are speakers?

Speakers are a versatile way to enjoy movies, TVs, or music, and come in a wide range of options. If you want a big speaker that sits on the ground next to your TV, you can get one. But if you want a small one that can sit on your TV stand, you can do that too.


In general, the bigger the speaker, the better the sound quality. Speakers have diaphragms –  flexible material that vibrates to produce sound – so the bigger the surface area, the more sound they can produce. 


Speakers can come in several configurations, from 2.0 speakers (two speakers in a set, as they’re typically sold) to surround sound with multiple speakers. Most require an amplifier or receiver to drive them.


How are speakers and soundbars similar?

You’ll get better sound from either a speaker set or a soundbar than you would from a TV’s speakers alone. Because TVs are so thin, there isn’t much power behind them, and because they’re often mounted pointing away from the viewer, they don’t project into the room the way they should.


Both options can have built-in amplifiers or smart technology to contain everything you need in just a set of devices. 


How are speakers and soundbars different?

Speakers and soundbars differ in several important ways:


Ease of installation

Most soundbars, especially active soundbars, are very easy to install – you just have to plug them into your TV and follow any additional directions to set them up. You’ll also have to contend with a receiver if you’re installing a passive soundbar; however, it’s easy to avoid that problem by going with an active one.


Speakers, on the other hand, can require much more set-up depending on how you’d like to install them and which ones you choose. 


If you choose to have them hardwired, you’ll likely have to hire a professional to run the wiring. But if you decide to have wireless ones, you may have to deal with the frustration of your wifi not being strong enough to work them.


Also, if you choose speakers that don't have an amplifier or receiver included, you'll have to program those, something that can get complicated for someone who isn't familiar with the technology.


Though installing speakers isn’t always easy, speakers come with a lot of benefits when it comes to their sound.


Sound experience

Both options easily provide better sound than your TV alone, and both can offer a rich, powerful sound. But speakers win out.


While a soundbar might have three speakers to give you a more rounded sound, you can’t put them in three separate locations like speakers can. For instance, the diagram below shows how Dolby 5.1 virtual surround sound is set up. The speakers immerse you in sound from every angle.

Dolby 5.1 surround sound set-up

Even if you choose two-channel speakers that sit on your TV stand, you’ll likely get better sound just from the size of the speakers in comparison to the soundbar. 



While both speakers and soundbars are sold at various price points, soundbars are generally at a lower price point. On the low end, they can be around $200, though they can go up to nearly ten thousand dollars. 


Surround sound speakers include not only the speakers but the necessary receiver to drive those speakers, an additional cost. Systems can start at approximately $2500 and can go up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. So while you're getting a better sound experience, you'll have to invest more upfront to get it. 


Is a soundbar or set of speakers best for you?

If you want to improve the sound quality of your TV-watching experience, then you can’t go wrong with either – they’re a massive step up from the tiny speakers that come with your TV.


But as we've discussed, they each have their drawbacks and benefits. Let's summarize those differences:


Pros of soundbars:


Cons of soundbars:


Pros of speakers:


Cons of speakers:


If you still aren’t sure, think about how you tend to watch TV. Are you a movie buff? You might want to invest in surround sound, even if the price is on the high end of your budget; you’ll get so much more out of what you’re watching.


But if you just like watching TV and hearing it without trouble, a soundbar might be all you need.


Of course, you can choose either, no matter how you watch TV. All that matters is that it works for you and fits in your budget.

If you'd like to work with Hive to enhance your audio experience, feel free to call us at (813) 575-HIVE or reach out to us here.

The football game is on in the living room, but the grill is outside. You can’t leave the grill completely unmanned, so you feel like you’re missing out on the fun. What’s the point of decking out your home with the best Multi-Room Audio Systems if you can’t use it everywhere?

A multi-room audio system (also called distributed audio) can help you get the most out of your home audio.

You don’t need to rely on switching from one system to another whenever you enter a different room in your house – one hub controls everything. But you have two options when it comes to how you install your multi-room audio system – hardwired or wireless. How do they differ beyond the installation method, and is one better for you than the other? 

Hive has helped people install hardwired multi-room audio throughout Tampa Bay. By the end of this article, we hope that anyone interested in multi-room audio – whether they work with us or not - will be able to determine the best solution for them. 

Let’s start with the basics – what is multi-room audio anyway?


What is a multi-room audio systems?

A multi-room audio system is a sound system that spans multiple rooms. That can mean one system can play the same thing in various rooms or that you can play multiple things in different spaces from one hub without moving speakers around.

Multi-room audio can be composed of wireless or hardwired speakers, and you can customize your system any way you’d like. If you want your system to be made of multiple bookshelf speakers throughout your home, you can do that. Or if you want your speakers hardwired and placed in the walls, you can do that also.

Wireless multi-room audio typically consists of individual speakers placed in different rooms, while hardwired audio can typically be stereo audio – one left and one right speaker. 


Wireless vs. hardwired multi-room audio systems

Both forms of multi-room audio will get you what you want – audio in multiple rooms of your house. But obviously, there are quite a few differences between the two that could affect your decision. 

We’ll compare them on the following criteria:

Ease of installation

Wireless audio is incredibly easy to install yourself. You just have to put the speakers in the rooms and connect them through your wireless network. 

On the other hand, hardwired multi-room audio’s installation process is much more involved. Unless you want all the wiring visible from room to room (which we highly doubt you do), you’ll need someone to install the wiring from your speakers through the walls. 

Unless your home has been prewired for it, a professional is more suited to do this because of the potential complexities involved in running wire from room to room. Another factor to consider is that you won’t be able to move the speakers around as easily as you can move a wireless speaker.

Additionally, you’ll need to program your hardwired speakers to connect them to your smart home hub – something else that a professional may be a better fit for. 


Once properly installed, both options are fairly easy to use. All you need is an app associated with your wireless device or a smart home control system like Control4 to listen.

However, they differ when it comes to how stable that usage is. Because wireless speakers are on your wifi network, they’re susceptible to the same connectivity issues as your other devices. In other words, if your wifi signal is weak, your speakers may not play, especially in rooms far from your router.

Hardwired distributed audio avoids this issue because it’s a stable connection that can work well regardless of the number of devices connected to that same connection.

Sound quality

You can get great sound from both hardwired and wireless distributed audio – a lot of that relies on the speakers’ quality.

However, hardwired speakers have a natural advantage. Instead of individual wireless speakers placed in different rooms, hardwired speakers are in sets of two, creating a more encompassing sound. They can also be connected to an amplifier that can make much more powerful sound than a speaker with an integrated amplifier that many wireless distributed audio speakers have.


While wireless options can be beautiful, they still need to sit somewhere you can see them, something that not everyone will like. The possibilities are numerous enough that you can find a speaker that fits your style, but it’s still something to consider.

Hardwired speakers can also be visually appealing, but unlike wireless speakers, they can also be put into walls to create a seamless look. 


Wireless multi-room audio is the clear winner when it comes to cost. Not only is the installation free since you can do it yourself with minimal effort, but they’re typically priced lower than hardwired speakers; they usually come in sets that still come out to be less than two-channel speakers.

Hardwired speakers not only include the costs of the speakers and associated amps, but there’s also the cost of installation (including labor and materials) and wiring. While you can buy less expensive speakers for hardwiring, you don’t want to skimp on quality. After all, you’ll have to go into the walls and pull out the speakers if they fail, which is another expense and hassle.

Hardwired or wireless multi-room audio systems – which is best for you?

Multi-room audio is a great addition to your home media system, and ensuring you get the right installation method is key. Let’s break everything down so you can be sure of what you’re getting:

The pros of wireless multi-room audio are:


The cons of wireless multi-room audio are:


The pros of hardwired multi-room are:


The cons of hardwired multi-room audio are:


If you still aren’t sure which option is for you after weighing these pros and cons, it might help to think about the type of audio you typically listen to and how you’d like to do it. Once you know that, you’ll know the sound experience you’d like and what installation method can get you there.

No matter how you install multi-room audio, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite music, shows, or movie everywhere in your home without skipping a beat.

If you feel that Hive would be a good fit to install your multi-room audio system, please call us at (813) 575-HIVE or reach out to us via our contact form here for a free in-home consultation.