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Compare the best soundbars

Enhance your home theater experience.

Updated

Fact checked

If you want the best sound quality when watching TV and movies at home, a home theater system with multiple speakers will produce the best results. But if you don’t want too much clutter, you might prefer a soundbar.

Compare the most popular soundbars

NameAvg. price
(USD)
Speaker configuration/channelDimensions (W x H x D)Weight (Kg)Supported play formatsPurchase
Sony HT-S100F
Sony HT-S100F
$982900 x 64 x 88 mm2.4Dolby, LPCMBuy now
Philips HTL3160B
Philips HTL3160B
$2503.1950 x 51 x 69 mm1.62Dolby, Dolby pro-logic 2Buy now
Bose SoundTouch 300
Bose SoundTouch 300
$7005.1977.9 x 57.15 x 107.95 mm4.72Dolby, DTSBuy now
Samsung HW-MS650 Sound+
Samsung HW-MS650 Sound+
$34031060 x 78.0 x 130.5 mm6.2LPCM, Dolby, DTSBuy now
Sonos Playbar
Sonos Playbar
$7005.1899.92 x 139.95 x 85.09 mm5.4DolbyBuy now
Data obtained January 2020. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

What is a soundbar?

A soundbar is a compact speaker system designed to provide an alternative to a multi-speaker sound system. These long, narrow boxes sit underneath your TV screen and enhance the TV’s sound quality.

While they can’t produce the same results as a dedicated home theater set-up, they can greatly improve your home viewing experience without the hassle and clutter.

Pros

Why buy a soundbar instead of just relying on the sound from your TV or using a big home theatre system? There are several reasons:

  • TV sound quality is poor. Modern TVs may produce crystal-clear pictures and outstanding image quality, but their streamline design doesn’t leave a lot of room for quality speakers.
  • Home theater systems are inconvenient. While dedicated surround sound systems produce the best results, they have several drawbacks. Not only can they be complicated to set up and use, they can also clutter up a room and require more wires and cables.
  • Soundbars are a simple solution. Soundbars pack several speakers and the electronics that power them into an unobtrusive, streamline box. They’re easy to set up and can mimic the effect of a home theatre system to greatly improve the sound from your TV.
  • Soundbars are more affordable. Soundbars are cheaper than surround sound systems, allowing you to vastly improve your home viewing experience without breaking the bank.

Cons

There are two main reasons why a soundbar might be a waste of money for you:

  • You’re not all that worried about sound quality. For many, the sound produced by TV speakers is more than enough to watch TV and movies without a problem. If you don’t need the full surround sound experience and you’re happy with the noise quality of your TV’s built-in speakers, save your dough and spend it on something else.
  • You’re very worried about sound quality. If you want nothing but the best sound quality for your movies, TV and music, a dedicated home theater system will be the way to go. While these setups cost more than soundbars, they offer superior performance.

What types are available?

One way to distinguish between soundbars is to consider whether or not they have a subwoofer. The subwoofer is designed to boost the bass, providing better quality low-frequency sounds and adding an extra punch to your viewing experience.

  • Soundbars without subwoofers. Some soundbars, often cheaper models, don’t feature a subwoofer at all. While they likely offer a noticeable step up in quality from your TV’s sound, chances are you’ll prefer a model with a subwoofer if you want superior sound quality or watch a lot of action movies.
  • Soundbars with built-in subwoofers. These models provide improved bass performance but incorporate the woofer into the soundbar to save space.
  • Soundbars with separate subwoofers. For best results, you may want to consider a model with an external subwoofer. These are usually wireless and just need to be plugged into a power outlet.

There’s also a fourth option to consider: a soundbase. A soundbase is a large, flat base that your TV sits on top of and that has room for bigger speakers. While they can generally produce better sound than soundbars, they’re not widely available.

Soundbar speaker configuration: By the numbers

One of the major points of confusion for anyone unfamiliar with soundbars and speaker systems is the numbers used to describe different products — 2.1, 5.0, 7.1.2 and so on. What do these numbers mean?

They’re used to indicate how many built-in speakers and channels a soundbar has. Speakers are assigned to specific channels, allowing different frequencies to be isolated and directed to different speakers and make it seem like the sound is coming from all around you.

Back to the numbers:

  • The first number in the sequence refers to how many channels a soundbar has. The more channels it has, the better it can mimic the surround sound experience.
  • The second number specifies whether it has a subwoofer to provide better low-frequency sound quality.
  • The third number is used to indicate the number of upward-firing speakers, which are used to bounce sound off the roof and create a sense of height. The inclusion of the third number indicates that a soundbar supports Dolby Atmos.

So, generally speaking, the higher the numbers, the better a soundbar should be able to imitate surround sound.

How to compare soundbars

When choosing a soundbar, you’ll need to consider your budget, the size of your living room and the sound quality you want. This will allow you to buy a soundbar that’s the perfect fit for your needs.

Make sure you consider the following factors when comparing products:

  • Sound quality. If you’re planning on spending a decent amount of money, it’s worth checking out soundbars in-store and asking for a demonstration of their sound quality.
  • Number of channels and speakers. If you simply want to improve the sound from your TV, a soundbar with 2.1 channels might be all you need. However, for even better performance when watching TV and movies and listening to audio a 5.1 or 7.1 model might be a better choice.
  • Wireless speakers. Many soundbars come with a wireless subwoofer and some also come with wireless satellite speakers to create a more authentic surround sound experience.
  • Remote control. Some soundbars come with their own remote but others can be controlled via your TV remote. If a remote is included, make sure it has an intuitive layout and is easy to use.
  • App. Many soundbars can also be controlled using a smartphone app. Research what this app allows you to do and how easy it is to use.
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Bluetooth functionality is a common soundbar feature and allows you to stream music to your soundbar from a compatible phone, tablet or computer.
  • Price. Soundbar prices vary substantially between models and brands. You could spend a few hundred dollars and achieve a dramatic improvement in sound quality over what your TV offers, but top-spec models run to well over $1,000.

Which soundbar is best for me?

The best soundbar for you depends on where you’ll be using it, what you’ll be using it for and your personal preferences. We’ve outlined a few of the pros and cons of some of the most popular soundbar options currently available to help you decide.

The goodThe bad
Samsung HW-MS650 Sound+
  • Great sound quality
  • Impressive bass performance
  • No external subwoofer
Sony HT-S100F
  • Slim design
  • Good sound quality for the price
  • Some connectivity issues reported
Philips HTL3160B
  • Comes with wireless subwoofer
  • Dolby Digital and Pro Logic II surround sound
  • Bluetooth connectivity issues reported
Sonos Playbar
  • Impressive performance
  • Easy to integrate with other Sonos devices
  • Software update issues
Bose SoundTouch 300
  • Beautiful sound
  • Great mobile app
  • Complicated setup process

Bottom line

If you want better sound quality from your TV but you don’t want the hassle of a full surround sound system, a soundbar could be a wise investment.

How did we choose these products?

We considered overall features, sound quality, device integration and price when choosing are list of the best soundbars. We also conducted independent research and factored in online reviews.

Frequently asked questions

Can you use any soundbar with any TV?

Yes, for the most part. Even if your soundbar doesn’t have an HDMI port, you should be able to connect it directly to your TV’s audio output.

Can I place my soundbar behind my TV?

Your soundbar will work best if it’s placed in front of your TV without anything in front of it that may obstruct the sound.

What size soundbar do I need?

The size that’s best for you and your space will depend on several different factors, the largest of which is the size of your TV. Generally, the larger your TV screen, the longer the soundbar you’ll want.

Image: Shutterstock

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