Back when home theater systems with 5.1 speakers (that is two front speakers, one center speaker, two rear speakers and a “.1” subwoofer) became popular, sound bars emerged as a space and clutter-saving alternative.
Not everyone wants to run speaker wire across their living room to hook up rear speakers or pay to have speakers installed more neatly. Sound bars are typically a single wide, short speaker centered above or slightly below an HDTV set that tries to mimic surround sound on its own, sometimes with the help of a subwoofer.
The surround sound effect wasn’t spectacular on early models, but sound bars have evolved. Newer ones, like a recent 42-inch sound bar released by Vizio, offer more options like a wireless subwoofer and additional satellite speakers which also don’t require speaker wiring.
That may defeat the purpose of having it all-in-one speaker, but at least the wiring is minimal.