Moving has a way of forcing you to prioritize; prioritize and cleanse. I’m no hoarder, but packing up my Southern California abode showcased just how much stuff I had acquired in the pursuit of “cinematic truth.” No joke, I packed up nearly a dozen amplifiers, four preamps (AV and stereo), four complete multi-channel speaker setups, four subwoofers, five projection screens, two projectors and five displays. Throw in two large moving boxes of cables and another two of miscellaneous AV goodness and in no time flat, my POD was half full of just AV equipment.

It took a bit longer than a week for my stuff to arrive to my new home outside of Franklin, Tennessee. In that time I lived, largely, on a Wal-Mart air mattress, eating take-out and watching movies on a 39 inch Vizio E-Series display. About half way into my first week in Tennessee -still no equipment or household goods in hand -I ventured to Best Buy to acquire a low cost soundbar. I demoed a variety of “bars” ranging from the pseudo high-end offerings from Bose to the ultra-affordable solutions from Insignia. Ultimately I settled upon Vizio’s new 2.1 solution that retails for $249. This post isn’t meant as an endorsement of the Vizio, but rather a hopefully interesting look into my resulting experience.

As many of you know by now I’m not shy when it comes to sharing my general excitement towards soundbars. I think they’re great -or at least I think the idea of a soundbar is great. That being said, like all loudspeakers, you cannot simply place a soundbar where ever and achieve the best sound -you have to use a bit of finesse. However, once properly setup, it is my belief that a soundbar can provide you with a wealth of enjoyment and, in some instances, cause one to question the need for more. Yeah, I said it.

Over the weekend I caught up on a few new releases, two of which were big-budget, Hollywood action films by way of Pacific Rim and Iron Man 3. With only a 39-inch display and a 2.1 soundbar at my disposal -oh and my Google TV of course -I sat down and watched these otherwise tailor-made for home theater films with modest expectations. By the end of it all, I was surprised that not only had I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the films, I never once -not one time -during any of it did I feel “robbed” of anything. In fact it proved to be one of the purer movie going experiences I’d had in a long while.

I’ve spoken about our need to get out of our own way when it comes to home theater and two-channel music enjoyment. By this I mean removing distractions from both our physical space as well as our mind’s eye. In past articles I’ve discussed how best to go about doing this, though it’s never been through the lens of doing away with, but rather hiding from view. What the soundbar showcased was how effective doing away with and simplicity, as an overall approach, was towards actually improving the overall experience. I’m not suggesting that this weekend’s foray into absolute zen movie watching matched that of my old reference screening room. But then again, when the show was over, I didn’t immediately think to myself; God, I miss my theater.

Quite the opposite really.

I began going over my designs and equipment for my new reference theater and thinking of ways of pairing it down. That’s right, captain IMAX-inspired experience began looking for ways with which to scale back his reference home theater. Note I said scale back, not sacrifice. Rarely in life has the adage less is more proven untrue -apart from maybe size, distance, time and currency. But stop and think for a moment, in a downtrodden economy, which we’re in (not trying to be political), many of us have downsized (I have), live on an even stricter budget (raising my hand again) and are just trying to balance our time between family, work and our hobbies (three for three). This is why I believe soundbars excel in today’s modern economic times, they still provide for a level of performance that in many instances can be viewed as exceptional. They’re relatively inexpensive, and once setup demand almost zero additional attention. Meaning you can simply get on with the show -whether the show be a show or your life.

And I think the same can be said for even our “reference” setups. In truth, many who patronize this hobby insist on items such as pure signal paths and simplicity, yet it’s not uncommon to find multiples of everything connected multiple ways for “best performance.” Not that there is anything wrong with taking things to 11, but is it sustainable? Signs point to no. It’s an intriguing paradox when you think about it, and a challenge. A challenge everyone in this industry is well aware of and talking about, yet few do anything about -apart from maybe those who are vested in solutions like soundbars etc.

Maybe it’s because we don’t want to admit to ourselves that times are a changin’. That eventually we’ll have to give in and adapt to new ways of thinking. Or maybe it’s because our mountain of what have you also serves as a distraction from what we’ve had to part with due to circumstances outside of our control. Still, for what it’s worth, the notion of a full-fledged, high-performing home theater or two-channel system built on the platform of less is exciting to me and is something I plan on exploring further, thanks in no small part to a “lowly” soundbar.

As always I thank you so much for reading and for sticking with me through this laborious move. Regularly scheduled programming will return soon. Until then, thanks for reading and stay tuned…

Andrew