This could probably go into a number of different forums, but here goes:
Having moved into a just-built home and having jettisoned old equipment such as a 15 year old Onkyo receiver, I would like to do the following:
Using our 46" Samsung LCD TV (LN46A650) hung on the wall, I would like to augment the sound, either with a powered sound bar or with a soundbar powered by an A/V receiver. My present equipment includes no A/V receiver, a cable box, a ReplayTV DVR (analog, I guess... not HD), a Slingbox, and a Roku internet device. The most reasonable approach, I think, would be an A/V receiver so that I could attach my inputs to it and then run just one cable to the TV, as I understand it. I would be delighted for recommendations about what to look for in a mid-range AV receiver. I would like the option of watching TV either with or without the soundbar, but if there is no reason to even consider watching TV without the soundbar, then please take that into consideration. I will be purchasing a higher end AV receiver for the TV in the living room (I will consider future-proofing it with 4K capability), so the bedroom unit doesn't have to be as tricked out.
I have been hanging around the forums here in earnest for the past few weeks and I incompletely remember reading something about HDMI 1.4 with relation to soundbars---perhaps about the taking the sound directly from the TV as opposed to the cable? If that is it, then is either source (cable versus the TV) acceptable or should I prefer one or the other? If there is a recommendation that the AVR always come on along with the TV, then are there some AVRs that are easier to set up to do this over others?
There are two ways to do this: (i) buy a sophisticated soundbar (e.g., a Yamaha Sound Projector) that switches your inputs like a receiver would, or (ii) buy a lesser type that gets its audio from the TV (and the TV switches inputs).
You are correct that the HDMI 1.4 support is required if you want to have a soundbar with HDMI switching and want to get audio back from the TV using Audio Return Channel (ARC).
How much are you looking to spend?
There's also a dedicated soundbar forum--did you ask this question there as well?
There's a few issues to consider. In the most general of terms, and I'm sure there are exceptions, soundbars are designed to be a limited substitute for an A/V Receiver (AVR). They have fewer connections, and as advanced as the sound processing may be, they don't surpass a good AVR with discrete speakers. But do they have to? It depends on what you want for your listening experience, and here's some other factors to consider.
Is your bedroom setup a sitting room area, or for watching in bed?
This determines your component and speaker locations, and what makes sense to use. A soundbar with a wireless subwoofer should be a very simple and clean looking setup. An AVR will require the same setup complexity as your living room, and you may not be able to put the speakers where they need to be.
How much of a WAF (wife acceptance factor) is there?
Are there going to be wires running all over the place? Is that an issue? Are the components exposed, or will they be tucked into a cabinet or rack? Do you want all of the wires running into the TV, then a soundbar, or all of them running to the AVR, then to the TV? Are the speakers pretty? Soundbars can be pretty slick looking.
How big is ease of use?
There are very few soundbars as of today that accept a large number of inputs. Most of them are designed to be an expansion to the TV sound with just an optical connection. So you may need to hook up some components to the soundbar, and others to the TV. Many TVs have a lot of inputs now, but the best of them can only output 5.1 Dolby sound, and usually not from the digital inputs. Many of them only output stereo. That all makes for some complicated remote juggling.
What's your budget?
I'm not going to recommend any system over the other, but a low to midrange AVR and discrete speakers is going to provide as good or better sound than a high end soundbar for a lower price. But consider all of the factors I've mentioned, and price shouldn't be the determining factor. My determining factor was I replaced my living room AVR, and used the perfectly good old AVR for the bedroom. But until then, I was considering a soundbar.
You want the best solution for you. Figure out whether a soundbar or AVR is best suited for your needs, then focus on getting the best deal.