Are you feeling robbed of a perfect home theater experience because your expensive high-resolution TV doesn’t seem to provide you with the same quality sound as the picture you can see on its screen? A soundbar is a simplest, easiest, and least expensive way to resolve this problem once and for all.
The slimmer today’s beautiful flat TVs are becoming, the “slimmer” their audio has become as well.
With panel technology becoming predominant in the manufacture of TVs, the manufacturers are putting all of their efforts into making the TVs slimmer, larger and pushing the pixels to a maximum resolution.
Unfortunately, because of this, the speakers of the TVs are getting smaller and less powerful too.
This is the main reason why these devices have become so popular in the last decade or so. Today, there are soundbars that offer features such as Dolby Atmos support, virtual surround sound, and multi-room audio functionality, music streaming via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and others.
Since they have become so popular, the choice of the perfect soundbar is becoming more difficult due to the growing assortment being offered on the market right now.
After months of research, talking to audio and tech experts, as well as hours of testing, we have come up with the ultimate list of the greatest soundbars money can buy in 2021.
Our top overall pick is the Sonos Playbar, but make sure you read on to find out more about all of our top picks for the year. We are pretty sure we have added a soundbar fit for all needs – from a simple and budget-friendly option to several ones made for serious audiophiles.
At the end of the article, you will find some useful information about the different features of these devices, as well as tips for making it easier for you to pick the right one for you.
The Playbar is compatible with Alexa devices, and you can use your voice to ask for your favorite song or playlist via one of the Alexa enabled devices such as Echo or others synchronized with it. You can use it to stream all of your preferred audio content wirelessly from all synchronized devices.
The setup of this excellent audio system is very easy. You just need to plug it in a power outlet and connect it to the TV, and you can control it remotely via the Sonos app on your smartphone or tablet or the remote control of your TV.
This is a great soundbar to add to your TV, as it will replace the built-in speakers of the set with its nine amplified speaker drivers, six of which are mid-range and three are tweeters. As a result, you can enjoy perfectly clear dialogue thanks to the dialogue enhancement feature and immersive sound waves accompanied by rumbling lows.
The speakers are positioned directionally for a much wider soundstage when you are watching a movie, a show, sports, or playing a video game, or streaming music to it from any of your devices.
The Playbar has a nifty night mode, which will enhance the sounds at lower volumes but reduce the intensity of the high ones, so the rest of the family can sleep undisturbed.
This unit can also play music, audiobooks, on-demand radio, podcasts from over 30 streaming services that come pre-loaded in the device, or from any other device connected to the Sonos network at home, including iOS, Android devices, PCs, and Macs.
The 9-speaker Sonos Playbar is the perfect smart and versatile soundbar for all purposes – watching movies, sports, playing games, or listening to music or any other audio content.
The greatest part about the Playbar is that it is expandable, and you can add speakers, subwoofers, or other Sonos audio devices to any room in the house and control them all with one Sonos Controller App.
Best budget choice
If you are not ready to splurge out for a high-end audio system, we suggest that you take a closer look at the very reasonably priced Vizio SB3621n-F8M.
It costs a fraction of what most other soundbars cost and still is an amazing addition to any home entertainment center.
The 2.1 channel Vizio soundbar features the DTS Virtual X Dolby Audio technology, which will deliver an overhead sound for an even more immersive experience when you are watching TV, playing a game, or enjoying any other audio content.
This affordable soundbar comes with a wireless subwoofer, which you can place just about anywhere in the room for a deeper bass as low as 50Hz.
You can easily pair the soundbar with your smartphone or another compatible device via Bluetooth to share your preferred content directly to the Vizio soundbar system.
The audio capacity is 100dB and is crystal clear with less than one percent harmonic distortion.
This soundbar is very easy to set up, and all the cables you will need are included in the package.
You can place it in front of the TV or mount it on the wall with the wall mount brackets provided. It also comes with an easy to use remote control with included batteries.
This inexpensive unit is sized 36 x 3.2 x 2.1 inches and is the perfect choice for a 40 inch or larger TV if you want a room-filling sound, a deep thumping bass, and a crystal clear sound with nearly no distortion.
At this price, there is no soundbar on the market that can beat this one.
Best for a complete home movie theater setup
If you are looking for an entire audio system for your home movie theater, you can’t go wrong with the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2 channel soundbar.
The system includes a DTS:X 45 inch soundbar, which after an upcoming free firmware update in December 2018, will become an Atmos/DTS-X one. Also, in the package, you will receive two 10 inch subwoofers and four 2-way rear satellite speakers. All of these add up to a stunning 1000 Watts.
This stunning set of audio equipment has turned the Nakamichi soundbar into the first one in the world, which can deliver a 360 degree 3D surround sound.
The upcoming upgrade will include Dolby Atmos, TrueHD, DD+, Dolby Vision, as well as Nakamichi’s spatial surround elevation processing technology (SSE).
You can further expand this system to a 9.2.4 channel one.
With the Shockwafe Ultra, your room will be filled with moving and uncompromising audio of up to 110dB of amazing room-filling sound.
The two 10 inch wireless subwoofers are something we haven’t seen in any other soundbar yet. They will ensure that your room turns into a true movie theater when you watch your favorite action movies. Together the two subwoofers distribute the boom evenly throughout the entire room.
The audio will have zero distortion and will replicate the perfect movie theater experience.
The added four rear 2-way surround speakers are another element that is missing from all other soundbars we have seen. They each have tweeters for the reproduction of the high frequencies with stunning clarity, as well as a full-range driver, which will help deliver all of the surround sound effects with absolute precision.
The speakers have modular form and can be placed in six different ways for an optimal surround sound, so it doesn’t matter what size or shape your room is – they will do the job and turn your movie nights into a true movie theater experience.
The Shockwafe Ultra has a Dolby Vision pass-through, a 4k Ultra HD pass-through, HDR, HDCP 2.2, and ARC HDMI connectivity options. You can easily connect up to 6 different devices through the available 3 HDMI, an HDMI ARC, an optical, and coaxial input.
The remote control is backlit and provides seamless control of the input sources, the DSP settings, room size optimization, individual channel optimizing, and many other settings.
The Bluetooth aptX helps deliver a wireless sound that sounds like a wired one.
This is Nakamichi’s 2018 flagship soundbar audio system, which was designed and made specifically to bridge the existing gap between the regular 2.1 channel soundbars with a high-performance home theater system with multiple channels (up to 9.2.4).
It may sound like a complicated system to set up, but quite frankly, it is not. It is more of a plug and play system.
But what you will get after installing the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch soundbar, along with the two subwoofers and four rear surround speakers, cannot be described with words!
It comes as no surprise that exactly this particular device won the ”Best Soundbar in the World” title at the CES 2018.
Add this amazing home theater system to your living room, and you will never need to go to the movies again to experience the full movie theater effect!
This is LG’s flagship soundbar with Dolby Atmos and is on the high end price-wise, but it will please you with its immersive, expansive sound, the perfectly clear dialogue when watching a movie, show, or other, as well as Atmos speakers which work brilliantly and will provide good details in the highs and mids no matter what you are watching, playing or listening to.
One thing to keep in mind when considering buying the SK10Y is that it is quite ginormous when compared to most others. It is 57.7 inches wide, 2.4 inches high, and 5.8 inches deep. So, you may want to measure your TV table or placement to ensure that you can fit this rather wide and yet slender soundbar into your home entertainment system.
If you have an LG TV from 2018, too, there is a special Perfect Fit TK10 stand that can be used to attach the soundbar to the TV itself for a more integrated and neat look.
The wireless subwoofer is 8.7 (W) x 15.4 (H) x 12.3 (D).
With this soundbar from LG, you will get everything you can expect from such a device. It is a 5.1.2 channel soundbar for a perfect surround sound and immersive viewing and listening experience. It also is a Dolby Atmos capable device that supports high-resolution audio, has a built-in Chromecast, and can be controlled via Google Assistant.
The bar contains left, right, and center channel speakers, two top-mounted ones, as well as side-firing channels and uses LG’s Acoustic Phase Matching tech, which creates a highly effective illusion of a surround sound instead of bouncing off of the walls of the room.
The LG SK10Y was built in partnership with the British high-fi engineers from Meridian Audio, so you can be certain that the sound you will be getting is absolutely unmatched.
It has multiple connectivity options, including LAN, Potable, Optical HDMI TV ARC out, and 2 HDMI inputs.
You can stream audio from any compatible device thanks to the built-in Chromecast once you connect it to your home network via the wireless router. You can also connect it to any Bluetooth enabled device.
The soundbar comes with a number of audio preset modes, including adaptive sound control, bass blast, movie, standard, and music.
This bundle also includes a $50 Hulu Plus gift card, a 23-55 inch bracket, a 6ft. HDMI cable and a 6-outlet surge adapter with a night light.
With a width of 57 inches and a total output of 550W, this bar is a true beast that you won’t have to crank up to maximum volume to get the greatest sound because it is really loud.
Best with Dolby Atmos
The LG SK9Y soundbar is a high-resolution, 5.1.2 channel soundbar with Dolby Atmos, which will turn your living room into a movie theater.
It comes with a wireless subwoofer for a very deep and satisfying bass.
The LG SK9Y is compatible with Google Assistant and has a built-in Chromecast, so you can control what you are listening to, search for content, and get all the information you need on it by using only your voice and a compatible speaker.
Thanks to the 4k pass-through, this LG audio unit will make watching Ultra HD content, playing games, and watching Blu-Ray movies the most satisfying experience ever.
The Dolby Atmos technology will ensure that every single sound soars around you rather than stay in place or bounce off of the walls. This will make you feel like you are part of the action in your favorite movie, video game or sports event.
The total output of this sound system is a whopping 500 W, with 300W from the bar and 200W from the subwoofer. you can purchase separately and add to it rear speakers for an added 2 channels and 140W.
The device supports all of the popular compressed audio file formats which you can stream directly to or play via USB connectivity.
The LG SK9Y has HDMI 2.0 with ARC, optical, HDMI, Ethernet inputs and outputs and also has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can use it to listen to absolutely any device you feel like, apart from your TV.
It comes with remote control with batteries, an optical cable, a subwoofer, and a wall mount. Plus, you will get a 1-year extended warranty for it.
The size of the bar is 2.28 x 47.24 x 5.71 inches, and it is recommended for TVs which are 55 inches or larger.
Overall, this is our top choice for an audio bar when it comes to Dolby Atmos and it will definitely not let you down.
Best for small living rooms or home theaters
This 120W 2.0 channels soundbar by Haman Kardon comes with a 100W wireless subwoofer and will deliver a very rich, room-filling and dynamic sound which makes it perfect for smaller spaces. The bar itself has 4 woofer and 2 tweeters which paired with the subwoofer will offer an incredibly immersive listening experience.
The SB26 has a very modern and sleek design and the sound you will get is as detailed, dynamic and big as you can imagine.
It is 49.3 x 18.2 x 13 inches in size and is the perfect audio system for a flat TV sized 32 to 44 inches.
It has 2 HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI TV output which you should connect to your TV’s ARC input, an optical digital and AUX inputs. All of the cables you will need come in the package (optical, HDMI, IR repeater and a 3.5mm connector), as well as a nifty remote control and wall mount brackets.
You can pair it with your smartphone or another device via Bluetooth to stream your favorite content from there. You can also download the free Harman Kardon mobile app and control it via your phone.
The Hartman Display virtual surround sound technology will bring your movie watching or game playing experience to a whole new level.
This is a device that is very easy to setup and is very easy to use, and for its price, it has the greatest sound quality in the range.
Best smart soundbar
Why should you buy it? Sonos Beam does everything a smart soundbar should, and it sounds pretty good too.
It looks great like all other Sonos audio devices and is very easy to set up. Just place it on the stand of your TV or mount it to the wall next to the mounted TV.
With a built-in Alexa assistance, this bar is perfect for those of you who want hands-free control via voice assistance and a very good sound too.
With the help of Alexa, you can stream all types of audio content from Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM and others and control it via the easy to use and feature-packed Sonos mobile app on your phone.
If you a pair the Beam to a Fire TV or other Alex enabled device for streaming, you can choose shows, stream them and listen and watch whatever you want by asking.
The Sonos Beam can connect to your home Wi-Fi router (802.11 b/g/n) and also works with Airplay on iOS devices with iOS 11.4 and higher and can be voice-controlled via Siri as well.
So, you can connect the Beam to just about any device at home as well as of course with all other Sonos speakers and audio devices you have to create a perfect Sonos network which can be controlled via voice or mobile app for a functional multi-room audio solution.
The sound is great and the dialogues from the screen will be crystal clear always, so you never miss a word from your favorite show or movie again.
The size of the Beam bar is 2.70 x 25.625 x 3.94 inches which is quite compact and makes it easier to set up anywhere you like. It comes with an HDMI ARC and optical input for high-quality connectivity.
The company promises that the Sonos Beam will soon be compatible with Google assistant too, which makes it a clear winner in our smart audio bar category for this year.
Best with 4k pass-through
The Sony HT-Z9F is the first Dolby Atmos soundbar to snub the use of front-firing drivers with built-in Dolby up-firers, and instead offers an excellent virtual Dolby Atmos and DTS:X listening experience.
Its vertical surround engine has a maximum 7.1.2 channel sound will provide you with an unbelievably realistic and immersive experience when watching and listening to high-resolution content. The sound will seem like it is coming from just about everywhere.
The 3.1 channel audio device is quite compact at a size of just 39.37 x 2.62 x 4 inches. It comes with a subwoofer which is 7.5 x 15.12 x 15.25 inches.
The HT-Z9F features a 4k HDR 18 Gbps pass-through which will preserve the top quality of ultra-high definition content and what you see on your 4k TV will be what you hear from this amazing audio system by Sony. You can stream all kinds of hi-res audio via Chromecast or the Sony Music Center app on your phone on this soundbar. The device is also compatible with Alexa, so you can control it with voice commands via a compatible device. With its built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, this bar can connect to all other devices in your home network, and can play audio from each of them.
The unit has HDMI ARC, eARC, optical, analog and USB connectivity options.
It also comes with a wall mount, a remote control, and an HDMI cable.
As for music listening, we must say that HT-Z9F is perfect for audiophiles. With this soundbar, you will be able to hear all the subtle details and the music as the performer intended you to hear it.
Thanks to the Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, you will hear any music upscaled to near high-resolution quality.
The soundbar comes with preset sound modes for every viewing and listening experience including cinema, game studio mode, sport, news, and music. All of these modes emphasize the exact sounds and dialogues you want to hear in different cases.
So for the ultimate 4k, high-resolution Dolby Atmos and DTS:X listening and viewing experience, we strongly recommend that you add the HT-ZDF to your home audio-visual entertainment system.
Best with hearing aid technology
A suitable soundbar can do wonders for people who have impaired hearing, as well as for improving the listening experience and making the dialogues in movies, shows, news and others crystal clear and easy to understand.
The ZVOX AccuVoice AV203 is the leading audio system with a hearing aid technology that we have tested this year.
It has six voice boost levels, so you can adjust it in order to be able to hear what is being said comfortably.
The AV203 is 17 (W) x 3.1(D) x 2.9 (H) inches and weighs 3.1 lbs. with the power cord. You can place it on top of the stand of the TV, on your furniture, or you can mount it on the wall.
The unit has three high output 2 inch full-range speakers placed in an extruded aluminum cabinet. It has a digital amplifier which is class D, as well as can provide Dolby Digital decoding for a better quality of the sound.
Thanks to its PhaseCue virtual surround, your entire room will be filled with 3D sound.
The remote control for the device features large buttons that are easy to see even if your vision is not so good.
It has a 3.5mm analog, an optical digital inputs and a headphone or subwoofer jack.
But no doubt, the most fascinating feature of this ZVOX sound system is its highly efficient hearing aid technology, which emphasizes on the dialogue rather than the other non-vocal sounds. This makes all voices much clearer and easier to understand. With this soundbar you can hear every single word even when watching low quality and poorly mixed programs or programs from other countries.
But don’t think that the AV203 will simply increase the volume of the audio from your TV or other device. No, it will enhance its clarity by separating voices from other audio content, and manipulating them just like a regular hearing aid would do.
This compact soundbar is very easy to set up – you just need to connect it to your TV and to a power outlet.
It also has a feature that you will truly appreciate called Output Leveling. When you press the OL button, the soundbar will increase the volume of soft sounds and will decrease the volume of loud sounds, which is very useful if you want to avoid the jarring sound which comes when the commercials come on or when you are switching channels. The OL system also helps improve the sound volume from your DVD or Blu-ray player.
This nifty soundbar can easily be set to work with your TV or other remote control as well.
The four-digit display on the soundbar will show your current setting, but will automatically disappear just a few seconds after you have stopped using the remote, so you won’t be distracted by it while enjoying your TV viewing experience.
It is offered with a 30-day trial, so you can get it, try it out and keep it only if you are happy with the results.
Overall, we must admit that this is quite an ingenious device for elderly people or for those having problems hearing what is being said on TV, and we strongly recommend it to everyone who wants to hear every single word in your favorite movie, show or other content.
Best surround sound
Although many of the devices on our list have great surround, we picked the Vizio SB3651-F6 as the top one in this category based on the combination of its price, build and surround capabilities.
The SB3651-F6 is a 5.1 channel audio system that will bring joy to your ears and will make you feel like you are part of the action in your favorite sports, movie or game.
It comes with a wireless subwoofer and two rear surround sound speakers.
Thanks to its DTS virtual:X technology, you will experience an overhead sound and feel like you are in an actual movie theater.
The bar connects to the home Wi-Fi network, so it won’t be interrupted in case of calls or text messages or others like with a Bluetooth connection.
Thanks to its built-in Chromecast, you can stream your favorite tracks, podcasts or any other audio content directly through the soundbar via a smartphone or other device in your home network.
This soundbar enhances the voices in a soundtrack for crystal clear dialogue and the sound reaches as high as 101dB which is more than Total harmonic Distortion by 1%. It also has a booming deep bass as low as 50Hz.
The dimensions of the unit are 36 x 2.1 x 3.2 inches and its weight is 5 lbs., which makes it one of the smallest on the market.
This compact audio system which will turn your home theater into a true movie theater is sold at a reasonable price and is sold with a remote control, HDMI cable, optical cable, digital coaxial cable, a 3.5mm audio cable, RCA cables for the speakers, an RCA to 3.5mm cable, power cables for the soundbar and subwoofer as well as an optional wall mount bracket kit.
Best for gaming
If you have hearing problems or could do with some help for hearing the dialogues on screen more clearly, then this excellent ZVOX AccuVoice AV200 Soundbar could be a perfect option for you to add to your home entertainment center.
Thanks to its built-in AccuVoice hearing aid technology, you will be able to distinguish what is being said on the TV screen, without having to increase the volume too much. You can say goodbye to having to pause and return to a scene in order to make out what the people in the show or movie are saying with this soundbar.
You will enjoy state-of-the-art voice clarity thanks to this ingenious technology.
In addition, the added Output Level feature of this soundbar will help soften the loud sounds of the commercials, or boost the audio if it is not loud enough automatically.
The ZVOX AV200 soundbar itself has a sleek aluminum cabinet and an impressive room-filling sound with its built-in 3 3×2 inch full-range speakers. You can also connect headphones or a subwoofer to the soundbar via the mini-jack output.
It is only 17 inches long, 3.1 inches deep and 2.9 inches high, and will easily fit underneath just about any flat TV. It weighs only 3 lbs.
The soundbar doesn’t require complicated installations and connections. All you need to do is connect it to the TV and plug it in a wall socket. It comes with an optical signal cable as well as an analog signal cable, so you will have everything you need to set it up and start using it straight out of the box.
It can be controlled with the included remote control or with the remote control of your TV.
This soundbar is reasonably priced and is sold with a 30-day home trial, so you can try it before deciding whether you would like to keep it!
If what you are looking for is a booming bass, then the Klipsch R-20B could be the perfect soundbar for you.
This Bluetooth enabled soundbar has a 10 inch, side-firing wireless subwoofer which is built with an MDF solid cabinet for the deepest and most powerful bass we have heard while testing all of the soundbars this year.
The device itself is a 2-way audio system featuring the patented Klipsch 90 x 90 Tractix Horn technology for stunningly precise acoustics and crisp highs, as well as our mid-range 3-inch drivers for an overall effortless sound.
This amazing sound system made by the German masters of speakers and audio tech Klipsch offers Dolby Digital decoding.
It can be paired with any of your Bluetooth enabled devices for direct streaming of your preferred content. Its aptX audio coding technology allows for the highest quality lossless streaming of music and audio.
This audio system has a very elegant design and will complement your home movie theater perfectly. Its complete black color, and clean lines, as well as the transparent cover for the speakers, make it look absolutely brilliant, and you will want to show it off to your guests.
With a size of 2.8 x 40 x 4.1 inches, and a weight of 8 lbs., it may be relatively compact but the sound it produces can be compared to a large audio system, especially the deep bass.
The Klipsch R-20B has a full set of controls on the front, so you can choose your settings even when the remote control is out of sight. The bass can be adjusted via the dial on its front.
This is definitely one of the prime soundbars for audiophiles who specifically love bass.
Best 3D sound
This reasonably priced soundbar from Samsung will reward you with an amazing 3D audio depth with its 2 x 30-watt speakers and the 60-watt subwoofer. The 2.1 channel audio system has a 3D Sound Plus technology which allows for one of the most and truly immersive 3D viewing and listening experiences. It will synchronize its sound with the depth and the motion of the picture.
The device has six preset modes for optimal sound quality including movies, drama, news, game, and sports.
The active audio monitoring Smart Volume feature of this soundbar will prevent the annoying and disturbing spikes in volume when the commercials start or when you are switching channels. This will keep your ears happy, make other people in the house happy and will also ensure a longer life for the audio system as well.
The Samsung 2.1 has 120 watts together with the subwoofer. Its dimensions are 2.6 x 37.1 x 2.3 inches.
Overall, it will enhance your viewing, gaming and listening experience immensely, and you can use it to stream your preferred content via Bluetooth from any paired phone, tablet, music player, computer or another device as well. This is done easily by following the directions for wireless connectivity after you plug the soundbar in a power outlet.
If you prefer, you can listen to chosen content via the USB port with an external hard drive, a PMP, an MP3 player, a flash drive or other device.
You can connect it to some Samsung TVs via Bluetooth as well which will allow you to control it via the TV remote control.
The 2.1 channel 120Watt sound system by Samsung has an Aux, an optical digital and a USB port. It can be mounted to the wall with the mounting brackets which are sold with it.
So, for a truly immersive and realistic 3D experience, you should add this device to your home audio-visual entertainment center.
So, what is a soundbar exactly?
Soundbars became a thing after flat TVs started to get thinner and thinner. The reason is that the manufacturers often need to compromise the audio in order to make the TV as thin as possible.
A soundbar is usually a one, two or more piece speaker system which has the main purpose of bringing better audio quality to the modern flat TVs. It is designed and made for people who either cannot afford, don’t have the space or are restricted by the connectivity options of their TV to add a whole audio system with freestanding speakers to their home theater.
Today’s soundbars offer an audio performance which surpasses that of any modern flat TV, and at the same time take up very little space, are easy to set up, and in most cases are much more affordable than the traditional home theater audio systems.
They are designed to be able to fit on the TV stand, in front of the TV on a piece of furniture, or mounted on the wall beneath the TV in a way that does not interfere with the viewing experience or with the remote control access to the TV.
There are some soundbars that are referred to as sound bases and are meant to act like a base on which the TV stands as well.
Many TV manufacturers make soundbars that aesthetically and size-wise fit their TVs.
Since most of the content available on TV or from other sources has been recorded in surround sound, many of them have the ability to decode Dolby Digital and playback the sound in the center, left and right channels and the low-frequency effects for an immersive surround effect. Many of the soundbars including those from our list come with an included separate subwoofer which handles the low-frequency effects.
Some of them even come with rear speakers and others support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X which support object-oriented codecs and deliver a sensation of the sound coming from above the viewer and listener.
What is the difference between a sound base and a soundbar?
The two have similar functions and often have the same features but sound bases are specifically designed to be able to act as bases of the TV, which is placed directly on top of them, while as the soundbars are made to be placed on the TV stand, in front of the TV or wall-mounted below a hanging TV.
The fact is that sound bases are not as good as providing stereo as soundbars. They also are becoming skinnier just like the TVs which means that their audio quality is deteriorating as well.
What are the advantages of buying a soundbar?
There are many advantages of buying and installing a soundbar in your home theater. Here are the main ones:
- It will provide an easy and effortless upgrade to your TV’s audio and will provide you with a more immersive audiovisual experience
- Most of them offer quite wide listening angles and have a high listening volume which allows for a great listening experience no matter where you are sitting or standing in the room
- The soundbar is compact and slim and won’t take up too much space
- It is easy to put together – just plug it in a power outlet and to the TV, and you are done
- There is no complicated wiring and much fewer cables than in a traditional home theater audio system
- They have amplification and sound processing which your own speakers don’t have
- A good soundbar can reproduce 4k surround sound, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X which you can’t get out of even the most expensive 4K TV
- You get the choice to place the soundbar flat in front of the TV, on the TV stand or mount in on the wall. Either way, it doesn’t take up too much space and is not too intrusive
- It offers much more power than the speakers of your TV
- Most soundbars have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and can be connected to each and every one of your devices in the home network, or those paired with it so you can stream any kind of audio content at any time
- They are generally less expensive than buying and setting up individual components of a home theater audio system
- A soundbar with Dialogue enhancement will let you hear clearly and comprehend every single word being said. This is great for those of you having trouble picking up the voices amidst the background music, sounds, and It is also superb for the elderly and for people with impaired hearing
- Some of them have an option to even the sound levels, so you won’t get the annoying and jarring peaks in the volumes of the sound when a commercial comes on, or when you are switching from one program to another
- You can use your soundbar as a convenient music player as well
- Some are expandable so you can add additional speakers or subwoofers. You can also set up a multi-room audio system and your soundbar can become the star component
- Soundbars look good and will fit in your décor without being distracting or interfering with your viewing experience
Where to place the soundbar
There are basically three options for the placement of your soundbar so that you can get the optimal sound out of it.
One is placing it in front of the TV on the TV stand or another piece of furniture. In this case, you need to measure the stand to ensure that the soundbar will fit, and also measure the height of the TV with the stand or wall-mounted TV to ensure that the soundbar will not get in the way when you are watching something or when you are trying to use your remote control.
The other option is placing it under the TV. This is an option if you choose a sound base, or if you want to place it on the TV’s stand. Once again, measure the height available, or if placing a sound base, ensure that the footprint of the TV will fit and that it has the weight capacity to hold it safely.
The third option is wall mounting. This is the perfect option if your TV is wall-mounted. But you need to consider how to deal with cable management to ensure there are no unsightly cables running along the wall in between both units. Most of these audio devices come with mounting brackets or with keyhole slots for easy mounting.
If your TV is mounted on an articulated bracket, you should check for an option for a soundbar bracket that can move in the same direction and in the same plane as the TV.
What size soundbar do you need
The most important factor to consider when choosing the size of the soundbar is its height if you are planning on placing it in front of the TV or directly below it on the TV stand. You need a soundbar that doesn’t block your view, as well as doesn’t block the infrared receiver for the remote control, even though most of them have IR repeaters which will ensure that your infrared signal passes through.
Also, the length is important if you have limited space on the TV stand or the TV cabinet.
When choosing a sound base, choose one which has the size and capacity of holding your TV and fit its stand or legs.
Keep in mind that the smaller the soundbar is the less space it will have for all speakers, tweeters, and woofers, as well as for more inputs and connectivity options. So, a compact soundbar may look nice, but check out all of the features to see whether you will be satisfied with your audio-visual experience. But, don’t think that bigger soundbars are always better. Just check out all specifications when choosing the right one for you.
What are the soundbar channels
The channels are the sound source or the individual speakers of an audio system. Most movies and TV shows offer 5 channels – center, right, left, left rear and left-right. The soundbar contains all or most of the channels in the unit itself. Some come with subwoofers, satellite speakers, or offer possibilities for expansion. The first digit is for the number of speakers, the second one is for the subwoofer, and if there is a third digit – it is for upward-firing speakers.
Here is what the channels mean:
2 channel – one with a left and right speaker
3 channel – one with a right, left and center speakers
5 channel – left, right and center speakers as well as two rear speakers
7 channel – in this case, the surround and rear channels are split in 4 and along with the main left, right and center, the speakers are 7
Dolby Atmos soundbars – when you see a model which has a third digit in the channel number, like 5.1.2 to 7.1.2, you should know that the third digit represents Dolby Atmos upwards firing speakers
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
If you want to have a complete and immersive home theater experience, look for a soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or both.
Normal soundbars rely on the right-left and center speakers and offer two-channel stereo, but for the ability to fill the room and surround you from all sides, including from above some of these audio systems are fitted with top-notch digital signal processing, psychoacoustics and rely on the shape of your room to deliver this effect.
Others offer the option of adding additional surround speakers for a more immersive 5.1 surround sound.
And of course, there are soundbars that support the object-oriented Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or both. Usually, these soundbars have more speakers in the device itself – some of them dedicated to the left, right and central channels, and the others dedicated to the height and surround cues.
With Dolby Atmos, the soundbar will simulate the immersive powerful 3D audio which you can experience in a movie theater. Atmos will allow you to perceive the sound up and down, unlike the regular surround which allows for side-to-side hearing.
Within our top picks, we have several soundbars that support Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or both, including the LG SK10Y, LG SK9Y, Sony HT-Z9F, and the Nakamichi Shockwafe.
These high-end soundbars can support 5.1.2 and even 7.1.2 channel speaker setups. The 5.1.2 channel ones have a front left, front right, center, left surround, right surround, left height and right height as well as a subwoofer. The 7.1.2 channel ones have the same consideration but with an added left and right rear surround. From our list, the Sony HT-Z9F has the maximum capacity of a 7.1.2 surround sound set, and the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra is a 9.2 channel soundbar with two subwoofers and four 2-way rear surround speakers.
If you want the sound to match the image quality and ultra-high definition resolution of your 4k TV, you should opt for a 4k soundbar. But if you are buying a soundbar to use for listening to music only, there will be no difference for your listening experience if you buy a 4k one.
We have picked several which have 4k pass-through such as the LG SK9Y, the Sony HT-Z9F, the Yamaha YAS107, the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra, and others.
A 4k pass-through will allow for a direct transfer of the 4k signal from the TV to the soundbar for a lossless listening experience when you are watching 4k content.
What about an A/V receiver?
Soundbars can be active or passive. The active ones are self-contained and include an amplifier, volume control, digital signal processing along with speakers in the cabinet. Some of these soundbars can be connected to multiple HDMI sources simultaneously.
Passive ones, on the other hand, rely on an external amplifier of an A//V receiver just like a traditional standalone loudspeaker. These can be connected to the receiver along with the TV and the other loudspeakers, and then the receiver will amplify the signal and send it to the speaker.
All of our top picks for 2021 are active soundbars, and some have the option to add additional speakers and subwoofers.
Smart soundbars and App control
If your phone or tablet is always next to you and you want to use it to control your soundbar, you should opt for one of the many soundbars which offer app control. Most of the devices on our list offer this option, and the apps for controlling them are free and allow for adjusting all settings via a smartphone or other device in your home network, or paired to the TV via Bluetooth.
We have picked several soundbars with integrated Chromecast, Google Assistant or Alexa, which have the ability to stream your favorite tracks, podcasts, radio, and others on their own or via a compatible device. These units can also connect to the compatible devices in your smart home and be controlled hands-free with voice commands only.
If you saw HDMI ARC in some of our soundbar reviews you may be wondering what this acronym means and how you can benefit from such a feature?
HDMI ARC stands for high definition multimedia interface audio return channel, which means that you can get the full benefit of enjoying the finest video along with the greatest audio via a single HDMI cable connection between your TV and the audio system. This kind of connection supports Dolby Digital and DTS audio which uses an S/PDIF (Sony Philips Digital Interface) output.
In order to benefit from such a connectivity option, you need to make sure that your TV has an ARC output of course.
This feature which is especially prominent in the LG SK10Y, the Sonos Playbar, the Sonos Beam, the Sony HT-Z9F, the Vizio SB3651-F6 and of course in our top pick for a soundbar with a hearing aid technology is especially important for those of you who find that they need to use closed captions in order to get everything that is being said when watching a movie, show or anything else. With this technology, the soundbar uses an algorithm to identify the frequencies of voices and speech and by passing them through a digital signal processor make them highlighted, clearer and easier to distinguish from the background music, sounds, and other effects.
This is an excellent feature that will help you understand every single word being said in a movie, show, sports event or anything else you are watching or listening to.
The Vizio SB3651-F6 is an especially useful dialogue enhancement instrument for people with impaired hearing such as elderly people and others because it uses a technology to enhance and clarify the voices just like a hearing aid does.
Digital audio inputs
Most of the soundbars today have at least one digital audio input (coaxial or optical), as well as the red and white RCA analog stereo and mini-jack inputs. These are great for connecting portable music players, disc players, cable boxes and TVs. But today more and more of the TVs, disc players, and cable boxes come with HDMI connectivity. This is why you should carefully check the outputs of all of the devices you are planning to use with the soundbar before proceeding to buy one.
Most modern TVs, Blu-ray players, cable boxes, consoles, and other devices offer HDMI connectivity. If you are planning on connecting more than one source to your soundbar in order to be able to switch from one input to another without having to unplug the HDMI cable and plug in the other device, go for a soundbar with several HDMI input options.
Even if your TV is not UltraHD 4k, chances are that the next one you buy is going to be and will support high dynamic range (HDR). HDR pumps up the contrast for more vibrant colors and more details of the picture. In order to ensure that your audio system can handle the HDR information and pass it on to the TV, you have to ensure that it supports HDMI 2.0 connectivity.
The optical patch cord port is probably the most solid and the simplest of the connectivity options for connecting the soundbar to your TV. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have the bandwidth to transfer 5.1signal.
If you want to plug in a USB flash drive, an external hard drive or an MP3 player to the soundbar, then opt for one with a USB port. Keep in mind that some USB ports on these devices are only for software updates, so take a look at the specifications first if you are planning on using the USB port.
What about lossless audio?
For the audiophiles who want the soundbar to be able to decode high-resolution music files in ALAC and FLAC, you need to make sure that the soundbar can handle and decode these types of files, and ensure that you listen to the music in a way in which the creators of the music intended you to hear it.
Multi Room audio
Some of the products on our list such as the Sonos Beam and the Sonos Playbar can be components of an entire home audio system including speakers, wireless satellite speakers and subwoofers, placed in different rooms of the home which can be controlled via the Sonos app
Most of the soundbars on our list have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or both, and can be connected to your home network, which means that they can play music streamed from your smartphone, computer, tablet or any other compatible device. Some of our top picks have built-in Chromecast, Alexa, and Google Assistant and have access to thousands of internet radios and streaming services.
The units which support Bluetooth aptX like the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra and the Klipsch R-20B from our list and can provide CD-quality streaming. As for the audiophiles, you need to check whether the soundbar can decode FLAC, ALAC and other lossless codecs.
Since the size and shape of your room plays a very important part in how the soundbar will perform and sound , you may want to choose one which has an integrated room correction technology. These soundbars are usually in the higher end when it comes to price, so you can expect to pay $1,000 or more for one of these. But then, a well-implemented room correction feature can result in absolutely astounding results for your listening and overall audiovisual experience.
For those of you who love a deep good bass, you should opt for a soundbar that comes with a subwoofer or has an option to connect to one. We have picked a number of soundbars that come with wireless or wired subwoofers for you. The ultimate soundbar for the bass lover is the Klipsch R-20B which comes with a wireless subwoofer. Another superb option for bass oriented audiophiles is the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.1 channel soundbar which comes with two subwoofers and 4 rear satellite speakers.
The wireless subwoofers are better for those of you who don’t want to be restricted by cables, and those who don’t want to deal with cables passing through the room.
Soundbars which have an option of connecting an external subwoofer are perfect for those of you who want to choose the subwoofer to add to your audio system by yourself.
The prices of these products start from less than $100 for the basic devices, and then step up to $200 to $300 for units with added features such as virtual surround, subwoofers and others. The subwoofers in the range of $300 to $500 can offer you some fancier features like Hi-Fi, 4k pass-through and others. As for the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundbars, you can find some which are in the $300 price range, but there are models which will cost you $1,000 and more too.
Some of the products come with wired or wireless surround speakers. They will enhance the surround system to a more lifelike sound and they are generally easier to install than if you are setting up your own home theater audio system.
Although most of the soundbars come with dedicated remote controls, many of them have the option of programming your TV remote to work with the soundbar. There are also a variety of audio systems that can be controlled via an app downloaded on your smartphone, tablet or computer as well. The Alexa and Google Assistant-enabled soundbars can be controlled by voice, so for a hands-free experience, pick one of them.
So can a soundbar beat a home theater audio system?
While setting up a home theater audio system is quite a complex and expensive field which is more or less reserved for audiophiles and for people who feel comfortable choosing and spending money for the setup of all individual components of such a system at home, soundbars have become increasingly popular in the last 10 years due to their relatively inexpensive price and ease of set up and use.
Plus, they take up much less space than an entire home theater audio system with a receiver, amp, large speakers and more.
But when it comes to the flexibility and the power of an audio system, there is no single soundbar that can match the one which you can build from different individual components.
Keep in mind that only the A/V receiver can cost as much as a good quality soundbar, and that is only the beginning. You will need to spend more on good-quality speakers, an amplifier, as well as run all of the wiring by yourself.
As for the bar, usually you will just have to take it out of the box, plug it into a power outlet, connect it to the TV and you are set to go!
We truly hope that we have made things clearer for you and your choice of the perfect soundbar easier for you with this article.
Our belief is that we have done everything that needed to be done to pick out the absolute top soundbars which are being offered on the market right now.
There are soundbars available for any budget as well as for any need in this list, so we are pretty sure that you have managed to single out your favorite too.
Be prepared to hear details and sound effects that you have never previously experienced before when you are watching or listening to your favorite TV or other content with one of these clever devices.
Their set up does not require any complicated wiring and special skills, so you can start enjoying all of the benefits of having a good quality soundbar as soon as you take it out of the box and plug in a couple of cables!
You can have a home movie theater audio system that doesn’t cost a bundle of money and doesn’t require painstaking set up and choice of separate components with any one of these superb soundbars.
We wish you the best of luck with your choice and your purchase, and we truly believe that you will immediately hear and feel the difference when watching a movie, show, a sports game or playing a video game with one of these soundbars switched on.
Finally, you can get the maximum out of your expensive flat TV with one of these simple, compact and yet amazingly efficient audio device.