I'm not looking for the most amazing sounding equipment. I'm happy with decent. I know you guys have spoken out against the soundbar, but for what I'm trying to accomplish, they are really ideal. I have a Bose Mini Soundlink that sounds unbelievable for its size. I imagine a Bose soundbar with a subwoofer would be decent enough.
The big problem I have with soundbars is the video "volume war" issue that I mentioned above. If you are watching an old movie (mid-'90s or before), it can sound fantastic on a sound bar. But not long after that, in an effort to make movies sound more dynamic and push the envelope in sound, studios added so many layers and made sound effects and scores more prevalent and just flat-out louder. In a theater, that's fine. But your lower-end home systems, including even "high end" sound bars can't handle that. I mean, they can
in terms of giving you a loud, wall of sound experience. But for a small room experience, they just don't separate all those layers of sound well enough, and, as I've said, what suffers is the center-channel dialog. So when you just have characters speaking in conversational tone or speaking softly during non-emotional parts of a movie where the score is not loud, you have to crank the volume to hear them, and then you get your eardrums blown out and you have the dialog drowned out when there are loud sound effects or where the score crescendos. Sound bars just are not equipped to handle that and separate out the center channel. You have to have a 5.1 system or better to accomplish that. The fortunate thing is, you can get a theater-in-a-box pretty cheap these days, and they don't take up much space.