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Thoughts on Downsizing and Convenience

Pretorious

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Due to "life events" I may have to reduce the footprint and amount of gear that I have. Currently I have of a pair of Revel M16s that sound fantastic and are serving me well. Unfortunately, I will have to replace these with something that takes up less space.

I'm looking into higher end soundbars to do this duty for me, and it seems like those within a similar price range as my M16s (~$1000) measure quite well. Indeed, they measure much better than I expected, at least according to the measurements on Rtings.

As I'm mostly a music lover, I would care how a soundbar of this caliber would perform for it. I don't care about the sound quality or features for movies, but would probably use it for such connected to the TV, for the rare times that the significant other and I watch something demanding.

It looks like most of the soundbars in this range actually extend lower than my M16s, but I have no idea if this would be true in practice in my room. I don't run a subwoofer as is, so maybe this would be adequate? I am happy with the bass of my current system. So, given that these measurements are accurate, and are similar, what can I expect if I were to make this change? What would I lose or gain in terms of imaging, soundstage, and all the other intangibles and tangibles? I'm a classical listener, but I also prize convenience alongside sound quality. The former I would gain a lot of by going to a system like this.

Any input from those of you with similar experiences or thoughts would go a long ways towards helping me make my decision.
 

Slyman

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I just sold my whole setup and i'm buying 2x Apple Homepod 2 as soon as they get available in my country. this happens after i bought the airpod pro and was incredibly surprised by both the technology in the ANC as well as the music quality.

It made me thinking that theres being made progress in the audio world these days that makes older and bigger sized setups redundant.

Sure you can't beat the laws of physics, but these new speakers has scientifically optimized designs, including lots of tweeters and differents directions, internal DAC and music player built in to them. Its not just towers with a tweeter and woofers anymore. Its much more sophisticated and technologically advanced.

For me this was the cue to leave the old audio world behind and embrace the new technology. And my ears haven't been disappointed so far.

Also as a psychologist i'm becoming increasingly skeptical about the """subjective""" value of when a speaker sounds good. Most of the times such phenomena arises from either your mood/ear fatigue/other bias on the current day rather than an objective perception of soundwaves from a speaker. The reality is that lots of speakers measures well and sound natural. And that most deviation arises from room interactions and low frequency extention.

I dont know much about sound bars tho. But i'm sure (and this might be controversial to some) that you'll find plenty of audiophiles defending their expensively bought and curated stereo systems by calling soundbars unmusical/incompareable etc.
 
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Peterinvan

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When I downsized to a one bed condo, I bought a pair of KEF LS50W. These (or similar 2 channel powered speakers) will serve as a much better TV solution than a soundbar. Plus you can still enjoy your music with good 2 channel setup.

I have also aquired several pairs of headphones so I don’t disturb the neighbours (or sleeping wife). :)
 

AM88

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I heard the latest soundbar offering from B&O. I just listened to music, but the plain vanilla setting for stereo wasn’t very good compared to 2 separate bookshelf speakers or the B&O equivalents. It did however sound much better than the spatial/ enhanced 3d?setting. That sounded very unnatural to me. I’ve read the Sennheiser sound bar is the best there is.
 
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Pretorious

Pretorious

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I just sold my whole setup and i'm buying 2x Apple Homepod 2 as soon as they get available in my country. this happens after i bought the airpod pro and was incredibly surprised by both the technology in the ANC as well as the music quality.

It made me thinking that theres being made progress in the audio world these days that makes older and bigger sized setups redundant.

Sure you can't beat the laws of physics, but these new speakers has scientifically optimized designs, including lots of tweeters and differents directions, internal DAC and music player built in to them. Its not just towers with a tweeter and woofers anymore. Its much more sophisticated and technologically advanced.

For me this was the cue to leave the old audio world behind and embrace the new technology. And my ears haven't been disappointed so far.

Also as a psychologist i'm becoming increasingly skeptical about the """subjective""" value of when a speaker sounds good. Most of the times such phenomena arises from either your mood/ear fatigue/other bias on the current day rather than an objective perception of soundwaves from a speaker. The reality is that lots of speakers measures well and sound natural. And that most deviation arises from room interactions and low frequency extention.

I dont know much about sound bars tho. But i'm sure (and this might be controversial to some) that you'll find plenty of audiophiles defending their expensively bought and curated stereo systems by calling soundbars unmusical/incompareable etc.
This is an excellent post, and all of it has been my thinking lately while researching the basis of my topic. It just seems the engineering is too good in many of these convenient “smart” or “lifestyle” speakers to ignore any longer. It has been making me think how much I really gain from a traditional setup. As I considered these things I began to wonder if downsizing was, in fact, the right way to go. It certainly is the practical way.

Your point on mood and fatigue struck me as well. I’m often too tired or am collecting my thoughts to critically focus on music for very long; indeed, I find music often as an outlet for critical thought. So I care less about picking out instruments in a soundstage; I mostly want the sound to be accurate and big enough to fill my listening space.
I heard the latest soundbar offering from B&O. I just listened to music, but the plain vanilla setting for stereo wasn’t very good compared to 2 separate bookshelf speakers or the B&O equivalents. It did however sound much better than the spatial/ enhanced 3d?setting. That sounded very unnatural to me. I’ve read the Sennheiser sound bar is the best there is.
This has me curious. Do all or some soundbars try and upmix to multichannel audio? If so, are there any that have a convincing effect?
 

Avp1

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Due to "life events" I may have to reduce the footprint and amount of gear that I have. Currently I have of a pair of Revel M16s that sound fantastic and are serving me well. Unfortunately, I will have to replace these with something that takes up less space.

I'm looking into higher end soundbars to do this duty for me, and it seems like those within a similar price range as my M16s (~$1000) measure quite well. Indeed, they measure much better than I expected, at least according to the measurements on Rtings.

As I'm mostly a music lover, I would care how a soundbar of this caliber would perform for it. I don't care about the sound quality or features for movies, but would probably use it for such connected to the TV, for the rare times that the significant other and I watch something demanding.

It looks like most of the soundbars in this range actually extend lower than my M16s, but I have no idea if this would be true in practice in my room. I don't run a subwoofer as is, so maybe this would be adequate? I am happy with the bass of my current system. So, given that these measurements are accurate, and are similar, what can I expect if I were to make this change? What would I lose or gain in terms of imaging, soundstage, and all the other intangibles and tangibles? I'm a classical listener, but I also prize convenience alongside sound quality. The former I would gain a lot of by going to a system like this.

Any input from those of you with similar experiences or thoughts would go a long ways towards helping me make my decision.

M16 are small already (9x15x11). I do not see how can you downsize from that. Are you changing to boombox on a kitchen table? Soundbar is Ok solution for bedroom TV, but not for playing music in living room.
 

Ellebob

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Is a subwoofer out of the question?
What are you using for sources of music?
Would smaller speakers with a sub work for your situation?

I work in this industry although not in sales. I install a lot of sound bars and get asked about them a lot. Typically, I'm telling people to go with a nice 2.0 or 2.1 system instead of a sound bar, especially if they value music. Sound bars in my expeience are for getting better sound than the TV speakers. They are very limited with what they can do using 2-3" drivers placed 3-4 feet apart. Yes, some of them by the specs may go lower than your M16 speakers but that is because they are boosting the crap out of the bass as natively those 2-3" woofers can't go that low. With that much boost you have to limit volume and it increases distortion. If you are not playing loud it will be just OK. I'm sure your M16s sound a ton better. That being said sound bars have some small advantages. They often boost bass at lower volumes so if you are not doing that in whatever receiver/processor you use the M16s with the sound bar might have a slight advantage with its DSP and being able to adjust that DSP based on volume levels. THey can use some sount tricksto create a wider sound stage but these sound tricks come at the epense of sound quality. But, algorithms have greatly improved.

There are some decent sound bars the Ambeo models by Sennheiser come to mind but I would definitely recommend a sub with them as I would most sound bars to take some stress off those woofers. It uses 4" drivers so it is taller than a typical sound bar but those larger drivers help it crossover to a sub without boosting the bass to the sound bar. But these are over $1k especially with a sub.

Some possible solutions fo music lovers.

Sonos Amp or Bluesound Powernode edge with pair of smaller speakers and a sub. These are nice solutions because the amps have HDMI ARC which will work well with your TVs remote. So cleans up some remotes for ease of use. Not sure if tht is a factor but many of our customers aren't enthusiasts and ease of use has value. However these solutions will probably be over $1000.

Bluesound Node with pair of active/powered speakers and hopefully sub. You may get under $1000 with this combo.

Another nice Solution is the Genelec F1 sub with 2 Genelec G1 speakers. Not too obtrusive. These except an optical input from your TV and their system can learn your TV remote. unfortunately over $1000 even if discounted a bit.

If only using your TV as a source and everything goes through the TV you can connect some active/powered speakers with or without a sub to your TV headphone or analog output jacks. This will also work well with the TV remote. So no extra remotes and good ease of use. The downside is the TV has to be on all the time even if just listening to music. The upside is $1000 goes a lot further if you are only looking for speakers and possibly a sub, so you could definitely get some better speakers which will make a bigger difference in sound quality.

Also, some speakers could be mounted along the sides of the TV for aesthetic purposes. If you are not going to have a stand to put speakers on might be a good solution.

Sound bars there are a ton of them. You might consider a smaller sound bar with a sub instead of just a sound bar. For instance I would rather the Sonos Beam sound bar with their small sub instead of justting their bigger sound bar called Sonos ARC without a sub. Of course the ARC sound bar is better but if you add a sub it will be over $1k. We use Sonos quite a bit but this hold true with some other brands as well.

Curious to see what direction you go with this system.
 
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Inner Space

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Any input from those of you with similar experiences or thoughts would go a long ways towards helping me make my decision.
This is a great question. My experience is that the best soundbars today are way, way better than you could imagine, yet not quite good enough. Not if you look back at the great systems you had or heard, and you value that type of full-on listening.

But ... if you have to downsize, a great soundbar is a very small sacrifice. There's so much to admire in the software and hardware that it's possible to enjoy it that way. Which is different than before, but not at all unattractive.
 
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Pretorious

Pretorious

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Is a subwoofer out of the question?
What are you using for sources of music?
Would smaller speakers with a sub work for your situation?

I work in this industry although not in sales. I install a lot of sound bars and get asked about them a lot. Typically, I'm telling people to go with a nice 2.0 or 2.1 system instead of a sound bar, especially if they value music. Sound bars in my expeience are for getting better sound than the TV speakers. They are very limited with what they can do using 2-3" drivers placed 3-4 feet apart. Yes, some of them by the specs may go lower than your M16 speakers but that is because they are boosting the crap out of the bass as natively those 2-3" woofers can't go that low. With that much boost you have to limit volume and it increases distortion. If you are not playing loud it will be just OK. I'm sure your M16s sound a ton better. That being said sound bars have some small advantages. They often boost bass at lower volumes so if you are not doing that in whatever receiver/processor you use the M16s with the sound bar might have a slight advantage with its DSP and being able to adjust that DSP based on volume levels. THey can use some sount tricksto create a wider sound stage but these sound tricks come at the epense of sound quality. But, algorithms have greatly improved.

There are some decent sound bars the Ambeo models by Sennheiser come to mind but I would definitely recommend a sub with them as I would most sound bars to take some stress off those woofers. It uses 4" drivers so it is taller than a typical sound bar but those larger drivers help it crossover to a sub without boosting the bass to the sound bar. But these are over $1k especially with a sub.

Some possible solutions fo music lovers.

Sonos Amp or Bluesound Powernode edge with pair of smaller speakers and a sub. These are nice solutions because the amps have HDMI ARC which will work well with your TVs remote. So cleans up some remotes for ease of use. Not sure if tht is a factor but many of our customers aren't enthusiasts and ease of use has value. However these solutions will probably be over $1000.

Bluesound Node with pair of active/powered speakers and hopefully sub. You may get under $1000 with this combo.

Another nice Solution is the Genelec F1 sub with 2 Genelec G1 speakers. Not too obtrusive. These except an optical input from your TV and their system can learn your TV remote. unfortunately over $1000 even if discounted a bit.

If only using your TV as a source and everything goes through the TV you can connect some active/powered speakers with or without a sub to your TV headphone or analog output jacks. This will also work well with the TV remote. So no extra remotes and good ease of use. The downside is the TV has to be on all the time even if just listening to music. The upside is $1000 goes a lot further if you are only looking for speakers and possibly a sub, so you could definitely get some better speakers which will make a bigger difference in sound quality.

Also, some speakers could be mounted along the sides of the TV for aesthetic purposes. If you are not going to have a stand to put speakers on might be a good solution.

Sound bars there are a ton of them. You might consider a smaller sound bar with a sub instead of just a sound bar. For instance I would rather the Sonos Beam sound bar with their small sub instead of justting their bigger sound bar called Sonos ARC without a sub. Of course the ARC sound bar is better but if you add a sub it will be over $1k. We use Sonos quite a bit but this hold true with some other brands as well.

Curious to see what direction you go with this system.
Thanks for the detailed response, very helpful!

I think, with a top-of-the-line soundbar, that I could fit one of their matched subs with it. In your opinion, do these sound convincing with a sub?

For the M16s I did not have the floorspace to add a sub, nor did I want to mess around with attempting to integrate it. As I mentioned before, I value convenience too much and did not want the hassle of having to fiddle with a sub for any amount of time. However, with all the DSP and calibration that are offered nowadays, I'd almost certainly be inclined to add a sub to a simple soundbar system.

I primarily play music via AirPlay from either my iPad to my MacBook which is connected to the receiver. Yes my system is that old. This is why I would value being able to wireless stream my music (ALAC) from either my iPad or MacBook without anymore fuss. I was at first looking to simply upgrade to a receiver that could do AirPlay, or one of the Sonos amps as you mentioned, but that wouldn't really help my space constraints right now. I would still need to take up room with speaker stands and speakers.
But ... if you have to downsize, a great soundbar is a very small sacrifice. There's so much to admire in the software and hardware that it's possible to enjoy it that way. Which is different than before, but not at all unattractive.
Thank you for the reassurance! If I have to go through with this, this is my hope. I think I can be quite pleased with it. Some of my fondest listening memories come from an old PC media center I had setup with those ubiquitous Klipsch 2.1 computer speakers. As @Slyman mentioned above, simplicity sometimes goes a long way to listening enjoyment.
 
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I had to downsize similarly from a 2.0 system with tower speakers in my living room recently due to a living room redesign. I bought both the Polk MagniFi Mini AX, which was recommended by Brent Butterworth in The Wirecutter, and a pair of HomePods 2. Both systems were physically compact, and allowed me to only have to run HDMI ARC instead of having to deal with an AVR.

I kept the Polk soundbar and returned the HomePods due to how hollow vocals were on the HomePods. The HomePods also didn't do automatic room correction like I thought they would. The Polk's subwoofer is very compact, and voices sounded much more natural on the Polk.

I still preferred the HomePods for music. You're just losing so much information from not having a real stereo image, especially for classical. Atmos for music is no substitute either due to Atmos mixes in most cases destroying the artist's original vision.

Consider investing into headphones and IEMs these days with the money you'd save by not spending the whole budget on a soundbar. While I still prefer open-back headphones for classical, IEMs in the last 3-5 years have gotten incredibly good.
 

eyedrop

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Would a sattelite system with small cubes work for you, where the sound bar is just a small center channel? Those tend to have better soundstage and imaging vs. a big soundbar in my experience. I heard some decent satellite systems from Samsung, Bose, and even Vizio and they have a nice small footprint. Despite the rtings curves, I cant say I've ever heard a soundbar that doesn't sound like DSP
 

Penelinfi

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Perhaps wall mount speakers or tiny bookshelves (eg Dali minuet ) that you can easily wall mount or use on a cabinet with short stands?
 

JktHifi

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Just buy cheapest soundbar that have capabilities of latest Dolby, DTS, etc because that’s the only reason compared to Stereo amp. And have to had sub woofer because for movies effects.

But sometimes Shazam can not recognize the title of song come from the soundbar. Still needs Stereo amp for Music, like Lionel Richie said: “Let the music play. Play it loud and make it clear.’
 

Ellebob

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I think, with a top-of-the-line soundbar, that I could fit one of their matched subs with it. In your opinion, do these sound convincing with a sub?

What I think is you you miss out on is soundstage with the sound bars and often the lower midrange and upper bass is boosted to try and do what a larger speaker does naturally. They try to create a soundstage by adjusting the phase between speaker drivers on the fly. If you don't know what this is, it means if you play the same sound through two speakers the sound will be in the center between the two speakers. If you delay the sound to one speaker you can make the sound seem like it is coming from further left or right of the speakers to simulate a wider soundstage. However, when you do this it does change the naturalness of the sound. So it is a tradeoff. Some of the new agorithms are pretty good. Here are some suggestions.

If you can stretch the budget go with the Bluesound soundbar and their sub. You don't have to use their sub with it but I think it integrates easier. Ambeo soundbars with sub would be another alternative, the max model is even more expensive. These sound bars all use larger 4" drivers. I like that the Bluesound and Ambeo max the 4" drivers face the listener, The max does have a couple smaller drivers facing up. The Ambeo plus made some compromises to make it thinner and faced the larger drivers up.

A note on sound bars in general. So many of them are trying to include Atmos/spatial audio. If sound bars have drivers on the top of them like both the Ambeo bars, the Sonos ARC, Some of the JBL, Polk and many others you should not mount them to the bottom of the TV if the TV is mounted on a wall. This is a very clean look and I know many customers prefer it. These sound bars need to be on a stand or if mounted on a wall 4-6" below the TV so it doesn't block their uoward firing drivers.

Within budget the Sonos Beam with their Mini sub. Their trueplay calibration can make a significant difference. As with any auto EQ device it will work in some rooms and not others. So it is hit or miss like most room correction systems. If you like it use it, if you don't turn it off. I have found it does make a good improvement in a lot of rooms. The JBL 500 and Polk Magnifi Max I haven't used but seem like good options but not if mounting under a TV.

I'll defnitely be interested in your impressions whichever you choose coming from some nice speakers that you currently use. A sub might help compared to the speakers alone. With your speakers and sub I would think game over, no way to improve with a sound bar.
 

JeremyFife

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It might be worth considering wall-mounted active speaker (it's been suggested above), or even wall-mounting your M16s?
If you do go for a soundbar, or a Sonos-style offering then remember to give yourself time to get used to the different sound ... might take a few days (more?) to adjust but then you'll just be hearing music again.
Good luck :)
 
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Pretorious

Pretorious

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Would a sattelite system with small cubes work for you, where the sound bar is just a small center channel?
It's possible, with the way our room is laid out, that I might be able to do this. Not sure if I want to, but if it improves the stereo image I would seriously consider it.
What I think is you you miss out on is soundstage with the sound bars and often the lower midrange and upper bass is boosted to try and do what a larger speaker does naturally. They try to create a soundstage by adjusting the phase between speaker drivers on the fly. If you don't know what this is, it means if you play the same sound through two speakers the sound will be in the center between the two speakers. If you delay the sound to one speaker you can make the sound seem like it is coming from further left or right of the speakers to simulate a wider soundstage. However, when you do this it does change the naturalness of the sound. So it is a tradeoff. Some of the new agorithms are pretty good. Here are some suggestions.

If you can stretch the budget go with the Bluesound soundbar and their sub. You don't have to use their sub with it but I think it integrates easier. Ambeo soundbars with sub would be another alternative, the max model is even more expensive. These sound bars all use larger 4" drivers. I like that the Bluesound and Ambeo max the 4" drivers face the listener, The max does have a couple smaller drivers facing up. The Ambeo plus made some compromises to make it thinner and faced the larger drivers up.

A note on sound bars in general. So many of them are trying to include Atmos/spatial audio. If sound bars have drivers on the top of them like both the Ambeo bars, the Sonos ARC, Some of the JBL, Polk and many others you should not mount them to the bottom of the TV if the TV is mounted on a wall. This is a very clean look and I know many customers prefer it. These sound bars need to be on a stand or if mounted on a wall 4-6" below the TV so it doesn't block their uoward firing drivers.

Within budget the Sonos Beam with their Mini sub. Their trueplay calibration can make a significant difference. As with any auto EQ device it will work in some rooms and not others. So it is hit or miss like most room correction systems. If you like it use it, if you don't turn it off. I have found it does make a good improvement in a lot of rooms. The JBL 500 and Polk Magnifi Max I haven't used but seem like good options but not if mounting under a TV.

I'll defnitely be interested in your impressions whichever you choose coming from some nice speakers that you currently use. A sub might help compared to the speakers alone. With your speakers and sub I would think game over, no way to improve with a sound bar.
Again, thank you for the excellent reply! This has given me much to think about. I think I might start with just the soundbar and go for the sub at a later date, if I feel it needs it. I'm not too picky; but as you said, I'm also coming from a pair of much better speakers, and it might take some time to adjust and for me to see what I really need. I could stretch for at least the Bluesound soundbar at this time.

I was hoping I would have more room on the stand for even wireless speakers, but space that way is limited in that I can't go any bigger for a stand either. The TV takes up the rest, and I only have room for the bar and would not be mounting it on the wall
It might be worth considering wall-mounted active speaker (it's been suggested above), or even wall-mounting your M16s?
If you do go for a soundbar, or a Sonos-style offering then remember to give yourself time to get used to the different sound ... might take a few days (more?) to adjust but then you'll just be hearing music again.
Good luck :)
Perhaps wall mount speakers or tiny bookshelves (eg Dali minuet ) that you can easily wall mount or use on a cabinet with short stands?
I had not considered this. This might be an option, but I think there may not be enough room as we have decorations and bookshelves along that portion of the wall. I would have to carefully measure.

I will definitely give myself enough time to hear and enjoy it so that I can ensure I'm getting used to the sound and not making a hasty judgement. Just like I'm taking my time before making a decision now, I would do the same for the opposite.

Thanks everyone for the help and suggestions! Much thinking underway...
 

NiagaraPete

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Due to "life events" I may have to reduce the footprint and amount of gear that I have. Currently I have of a pair of Revel M16s that sound fantastic and are serving me well. Unfortunately, I will have to replace these with something that takes up less space.

I'm looking into higher end soundbars to do this duty for me, and it seems like those within a similar price range as my M16s (~$1000) measure quite well. Indeed, they measure much better than I expected, at least according to the measurements on Rtings.

As I'm mostly a music lover, I would care how a soundbar of this caliber would perform for it. I don't care about the sound quality or features for movies, but would probably use it for such connected to the TV, for the rare times that the significant other and I watch something demanding.

It looks like most of the soundbars in this range actually extend lower than my M16s, but I have no idea if this would be true in practice in my room. I don't run a subwoofer as is, so maybe this would be adequate? I am happy with the bass of my current system. So, given that these measurements are accurate, and are similar, what can I expect if I were to make this change? What would I lose or gain in terms of imaging, soundstage, and all the other intangibles and tangibles? I'm a classical listener, but I also prize convenience alongside sound quality. The former I would gain a lot of by going to a system like this.

Any input from those of you with similar experiences or thoughts would go a long ways towards helping me make my decision.
I’m an old guy and I just did a massive downsize and big upgrade and I managed to bank $$$ in the process. I sold all my Linn gear and replaced it with RPI for streamer Topping DAC and headphone amp and a pair of Genelec home speakers which I wall mounted.
 

Battlebeast

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Due to "life events" I may have to reduce the footprint and amount of gear that I have. Currently I have of a pair of Revel M16s that sound fantastic and are serving me well. Unfortunately, I will have to replace these with something that takes up less space.

I'm looking into higher end soundbars to do this duty for me, and it seems like those within a similar price range as my M16s (~$1000) measure quite well. Indeed, they measure much better than I expected, at least according to the measurements on Rtings.

As I'm mostly a music lover, I would care how a soundbar of this caliber would perform for it. I don't care about the sound quality or features for movies, but would probably use it for such connected to the TV, for the rare times that the significant other and I watch something demanding.

It looks like most of the soundbars in this range actually extend lower than my M16s, but I have no idea if this would be true in practice in my room. I don't run a subwoofer as is, so maybe this would be adequate? I am happy with the bass of my current system. So, given that these measurements are accurate, and are similar, what can I expect if I were to make this change? What would I lose or gain in terms of imaging, soundstage, and all the other intangibles and tangibles? I'm a classical listener, but I also prize convenience alongside sound quality. The former I would gain a lot of by going to a system like this.

Any input from those of you with similar experiences or thoughts would go a long ways towards helping me make my decision.
It depends on your expectations and how much of an "audiophile" your are or are not. I'm not. I have a decent 5.2.2 setup, a pair of NHT SuperOnes and polk 8" sub in my bedroom and several BT speakers and a $200 Yamaha soundbar under my TV on my deck. It works very well for watching TV and sounds "good enough" for when I want to listen to music out there.
 
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