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When Should You Replace Your Old Soundbar?

Close of the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus' logo
Justin Duino / Review Geek

In terms of visuals and design, TVs have come a long way. But a TV’s built-in sound still can’t compete with dedicated speakers. Soundbars offer clearer and more immersive sound for less than the price of an extensive home theater system. However, they don’t last forever, so how do you know when it’s time to replace yours?

There are plenty of signs that can help you determine whether it’s time for a new soundbar. We’re highlighting some of these indicators and offering tips to help you pick out a new soundbar for your TV.

How Long Does a Soundbar Last?

When it comes to soundbars, there is a lot of variation in longevity. Some users report that certain budget brands and models last only a little over a year. In contrast, higher-quality soundbars can last as long as 15 years or more. However, you can generally expect your soundbar to last for six years to over a decade.

It’s important to note that your soundbar’s brand and model aren’t the only factors that influence how long it will last. The way you use your soundbar, including how often you use it and how loud you keep it, also affects the lifespan of your device.

When Should You Replace Your Soundbar?

Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus under a TV
Justin Duino / Review Geek

As with all pieces of technology, soundbars eventually become outdated or stop working. Sometimes, it’s very clear that it’s time to get a new soundbar, but in other cases, you might be on the fence about whether it’s time for an upgrade.

Rather than try to guess, look for certain issues to determine whether your soundbar has reached the end of its life.

  • Audio Problems: Maybe your soundbar still powers up, but it might not be working as well as it once did. For example, do you notice that the sound drops in and out? Or does it seem like the audio doesn’t match the speakers’ lips on the screen? If so, you might be able to solve these issues by consulting our guide to common soundbar problems. But in some cases, these problems are a clear sign that you need a new soundbar.
  • Compatibility Issues: Few purchases are more exciting than a new television. However, the sleek profile of modern TVs means that their built-in speakers leave something to be desired, which means you’ll need a soundbar. When you try to connect your old soundbar to your new TV, you may discover that it doesn’t have an HDMI connection. Or, if you buy a 4K TV, you may notice that the HDMI-ARC ports in your old soundbar only support 1080p video. These are signs that it’s time to upgrade.
  • Outdated Technology and Design: Yes, some soundbars can last more than a decade, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a new one. When you think about how quickly consumer technology advances, 10 years is a long time. To enjoy the best audio and features (Dolby Atmos, Bluetooth/Wi-Fi audio streaming, HDMI eARC, wireless subwoofers, and voice control), you simply need to buy a new sound bar.
  • Lack of Surround Sound: Surround sound can make it feel like you’re in the middle of your favorite shows and movies, but what if your soundbar can’t provide it? Whether it’s because your soundbar never included it or can no longer deliver it, you’ll want to consider an upgrade that offers the surround sound you want and deserve.

Once you’ve decided to buy a new soundbar, it’s time to go shopping. Just make sure you buy a soundbar that fits in your home and offers the features you care about.

What Should You Look For in a New Soundbar?

Sonos Ray with Packaging
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

If your old soundbar is on its way out, you need to find a good replacement that offers all the features and functionality you care about. But it can be hard to pin down exactly what you’re looking for. So, to ensure that your new soundbar will keep you happy for years to come, check out the following tips.

  • Soundbar Shape and Size: It might seem like an obvious consideration, but it’s easy to get swept up when you’re shopping. Before you fall in love with a soundbar, think about the size of your TV and the space where your soundbar will sit or be mounted. Remember, your soundbar needs to fit where you place it, and you will need to deal with some cables.
  • Surround Sound: Most new soundbars offer surround sound (5.1 or 7.1-channel) audio, either through virtualization or a set of included external speakers. If you really care about surround sound, external speakers are ideal, though they aren’t always necessary in small rooms. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using a stereo soundbar (2.0, 2.1, or 3.1-channel).
  • Included Subwoofer: Because soundbars are relatively thin, they can’t offer deep cinematic bass without the help of a subwoofer. Buy a soundbar that comes with a wireless subwoofer if this is something you care about.
  • Wireless Functionality: With so many wireless devices in our homes today, it can be hard to go back to wires. Features like Bluetooth and AirPlay let you play music through your soundbar from any device. And most soundbars now come with a wireless subwoofer or external surround speakers.
  • Voice Control: Some soundbars offer voice control through Alexa, Google Assistant, and other protocols. This provides smart home control, though it also allows you to stream music, adjust volume level, or change your video input source using voice commands.
  • Multi-Room Audio: Select soundbars from Sonos and Bose offer support for wireless multi-room or whole-home audio, provided that you buy compatible speakers from these brands.

With these considerations in mind, you’re ready to start shopping for a soundbar. Wondering where to get started? We’ve rounded up some of our favorite soundbars to help you find the best model for you.

The Best Soundbars of 2023

Sonos ARC
Best Overall
Sonos ARC
Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra
Another Great Choice
Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra
Samsung HW-Q950A
Best Dolby Atmos Experience
Samsung HW-Q950A
VIZIO M Series M51ax-J6
Split The Difference
VIZIO M Series M51ax-J6
VIZIO V Series V51-H6
Best Budget Option
VIZIO V Series V51-H6
Shannon Flynn Shannon Flynn
Shannon Flynn is a freelance writer for Review Geek. This attorney turned writer has been creating content ranging from blogs to eBooks for nearly a decade. She has written on topics in several industries, including healthcare, retail, and law. However, she has a special interest in writing about tech products, including smart home devices, e-readers, Apple products, and Nintendo gaming. She also has a passion for trying out different apps and all things LEGO. Read Full Bio »