Soundbar question. Lag issues?

Hi, I've been thinking about getting a Yamaha soundbar that's on sale at Costco right now. It would be replacing a thirteen year old 7.1 channel Onkyo home theater setup with haphazardly placed speakers and too many wires going everywhere.

Does anyone have any suggestions or perspectives? How good a job do soundbars do at replicating surround sound?

The model I'm looking at has a separate wireless subwoofer.

Clear sound is way more important to me than really loud sound. I'd probably be fairly content with a decent facsimile of surround sound.

The thing I'm most worried about is output lag, especially with gaming. Have any of you with soundbars had notably bad experiences with output lag? I currently run my Onkyo receiver in "direct" mode to bypass most audio processing and minimize output lag.

I'm just adding a reply here so that your thread has a clickable number in the Replies column, which may improve visibility a little.

Sadly, I can't give you an educated opinion myself. Sorry.

A little bit of info that might help. I haven't reviewed the yamaha specs, but look for a digital in on the sound bar and run a cable out from your digital out on the tv. Basically, you are bypassing your receiver and directly going from the tv sound that way. Eliminates the potential for lag by reduced technology. Just a direct way to get sound rather than it being impacted by receiver processing.

Another option is to use ARC (or e-ARC, which is better). With those techs, you connect the console to the TV directly, and then route a cable back from the TV to the soundbar or receiver. This reduces video lag to the minimum possible, and helps keep the audio more perfectly synced with the TV, as most receivers are quite low-latency themselves. You end up using the TV as the input switcher, instead of the receiver. Many TVs these days have a ton of inputs, so this is actually a pretty good solution.

ARC is pretty limited in what formats it can send, and can give you problems with more advanced source signals. e-ARC can basically take any audio input and shovel it back out the TV again, untouched. With either protocol, I think, you need a sound device that supports it. I don't think it's just daisy-chaining to the receiver, it's using a special circuit in the cable.

Thanks. Currently, I'm running the optical output directly from the console to the receiver - circumventing the TV. I don't use the receiver as an input switcher. That's just a total disaster, especially with older hardware. Current set up is cable box -> xbox -> tv and receiver through separate outputs. With this setup, I pretty much never have to change any of the source inputs on any of the pieces of hardware in the chain and lag is minimal.

Per some of the info I've found, lower end soundbars are pretty much just better stereo speakers than the ones in most flat panel tvs. Higher end soundbars ($500 and up) replicate surround sound through an array of upward and side firing speakers and a lot of advanced signal processing. But, even a high end soundbar may not work for me because the room has a vaulted ceiling and the processing algorithms anticipate a flat ceiling to bounce reflections off of. Still, I'm curious about whether there is any kind of perceptible lag introduced in the signal processing step.

Answering my own question here. I hope it will be useful to somebody.

I bought an LG SN7R soundbar to replace a 13 year old wired 7.1 channel home theater audio set up. The SN7R has a wireless subwoofer AND wireless rear speakers (both rear speakers are wired to a small central amplifier/receiver). The reduction in wires and bulky speakers is really nice.

With both audio systems running simultaneously, I could clearly hear that the new LG soundbar had LESS lag than the older receiver, even with all the wireless transmission overhead.

I also ran some tests on the Xbox's different surround output formats. Using an audio sync test video on youtube and capturing the results on iPhone slo-mo video, it looked as though DTS had a lag of around a tenth of a second. Dolby Digital was a little longer, maybe 2 to 2.5 tenths of a second. Lag on the old receiver was a little bit worse in each format.

Lag in stereo mode was pretty much non existent in both systems.

The overall sound quality is a little thinner and tinnier than the old system, but also much sharper and crisper. I can hear and understand spoken dialog much more easily. The sweet spot (the physical area of the room where it works best) for surround sound seems smaller.

Right now, the system is running with the console directly plugged to the TV and an optical out running from the console to the soundbar. I haven't yet tried daisy chaining with HDMI ARC, so I don't know if that will affect lag or not. If I get a new Xbox, I'll have to find out because the new consoles don't have audio out ports.

Overall, it's been a better purchase than I expected. I'm pretty satisfied.