The speakers built into your TV may not be enough to wrap you in sound like a good soundbar. If you don’t have the space for a home theater surround sound system, a soundbar is a slender, low-profile bar filled with speakers that gives you another sound option. The best soundbars make dialogue crisper, music more powerful, and movies more exciting.
This guide breaks down the key shopping considerations for choosing the best soundbar for your home and extra features to look out for to upgrade your entertainment center. Out of numerous options, the following products are among the top-rated soundbars available.
- BEST OVERALL: Sonos Beam – Smart TV Sound Bar with Amazon Alexa
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: VMAI Sound Bar with Subwoofer
- BEST BUDGET: WOhome S89 28-Inch Sound Bar
- BEST FOR SURROUND SOUND: JBL Bar 5.1 – Channel 4K Ultra HD Soundbar
- BEST 3.1 SOUNDBAR: Sony HT-G700 3.1 Channel Sound Bar
- BEST COMBO: Polk Audio Signa S2 Ultra-Slim TV Sound Bar
- BEST STAND-ALONE: Vizio M-Series Sound Bar
- HONORABLE MENTION: Samsung – HW-S40T 2.0 ch All-in-One Soundbar
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Soundbar
Every soundbar is different, and soundbar reviews illustrate that not all of these speakers are created equal. Soundbars vary by product and come in various sizes, have different installation options, connect to your TV in distinct ways, and possess specific features.
Audiophiles have a different standard than those looking to purchase their first soundbar, and knowing what your needs are can help you avoid paying for features you won’t use. Here are some of the top features to look at when choosing a good soundbar for your TV.
Take a look at your entertainment space. If you’re in a small bedroom or tiny apartment, a smaller soundbar may fit better in your home. A smaller size doesn’t necessarily mean less sound; quality speakers and channels can fit in soundbars that are about 17 inches long. Don’t dismiss a product because of its size, always read the specs for more information.
A general rule of thumb is that a soundbar shouldn’t be wider than your TV. If you have a big-screen TV, consider investing in a wider model soundbar. This offers wider stereo imaging, giving the viewer the impression that the sound isn’t coming from a speaker box, but from whoever is making the sound on the TV.
Channels simulate the surround sound effect without having to purchase surround sound. They give depth by increasing the number of places where sound can be delivered. In soundbars, you’ll likely find two- or three-channel soundbars.
- Two-channel soundbars have a left and right channel to augment the sound of your TV.
- Three-channel soundbars can better imitate surround sound with channels on the right, left, and center of the bar.
- Five-channel soundbars are only necessary if you plan on implementing surround sound with additional speakers in the front and back.
Channels are written with a decimal, such as 3.1. The number before the decimal refers to the number of channels within the soundbar (in this example, that would be three). The number after tells you whether or not there’s a subwoofer, which delivers more bass. The number 1 means it has a subwoofer, but 0 means it doesn’t. A soundbar can claim .1 status if it has a low-frequency driver. Read the specs of the soundbar to confirm whether or not it has a subwoofer.
Active vs. Passive
Both active and passive soundbars have multi-speaker channels and can create high-resolution sound. Though similar overall, there are a few differences between active and passive soundbars.
- Active soundbars come with built-in amplifiers. These soundbars are easy to install and use. They’re suited for those who want to save space, don’t plan on upgrading their sound system, and only want one component for audio, instead of complex connections between several components. One downside: if your soundbar breaks, you’ll need to replace the entire model instead of only the broken parts.
- Passive soundbars need an amplifier for their channels to work. They have a more complicated installation process but produce better quality audio. You may need to do your homework when purchasing a passive soundbar. There are more purchase decisions to make, including the choice between a device to enhance the sound quality or extra speakers to create more complex sounds and high-definition audio.
Many modern soundbars come with Wi-Fi and are Bluetooth-enabled, allowing you to play your music or watch movies within minutes. With wireless devices, you can easily stream content, including subscription services like Spotify from your computer, phone, tablet, or smart home system.
If you opt for a wired device, you typically only need one cable to connect the soundbar to your TV. It will be an optical cable, RCA cable, or HDMI. For HDMI connections, your TV needs to support HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC) to function properly. HDMI supports more audio formats and only needs a single connection from the soundbar to the TV, making it a good option for connectivity.
For movie buffs who want the home theater audio experience without investing in a surround sound system, you may want to choose a soundbar with a subwoofer. Subwoofers are speaker drivers dedicated to the reproduction of low-frequency audio, which augments the sounds occurring at this level.
Subwoofers give the sounds you hear in the background, such as a squadron of planes approaching, more depth, adding to your movie experience. This punch and rumble gives a fuller sound and keeps you on the edge of your seat, especially with action movies or movies with an epic soundtrack.
The range of audible sound vibrations produced by a soundbar is measured in hertz (Hz) and kilohertz (KHz). This is the frequency of sound we hear from low bass rumbles at 20Hz that are barely perceptible to high-pitched jarring sounds that are 20KHz, the highest pitch. The fluctuating frequencies throughout a movie make the difference between average and incredible.
Most soundbars come with a compatible remote control to customize your audio settings. In many instances, the remote enables you to change the volume, treble, bass, mode, and more on the soundbar to optimize the audio.
If you find a soundbar that integrates with your TV or universal remote, it simplifies adding sound to your shows and movies by eliminating the need to juggle two remotes. Read the specs of the soundbar before you make a purchase, as some of them do not enable other remote devices.
Newer wireless soundbar models let you use Bluetooth from your handheld devices. This allows you to stream music from your phone to your soundbar over the internet without requiring the remote. However, some devices may still require the remote to adjust sound settings, so be sure to read the manufacturer’s specs if this is a feature you’d like to have.
Mounted vs. Unmounted
The difference between mounting your soundbar on the wall or placing it on your TV stand largely comes down to personal preference. The best sound seems to come from just below the TV, with the best distance being 4 to 6 inches beneath the screen. Distance may impact sound quality, so if the soundbar is too far from the television, there may be a bit of user disconnect when watching movies or shows.
- Many wall-mounted soundbars come with mounting hardware that withstands the weight of the device. This looks clean and stylish with a wall-mounted TV and it doesn’t block the screen if mounted a few inches below it. Follow instructions carefully to make sure you mount it properly so that the soundbar stays securely in place.
- For unmounted soundbars, make sure there is enough room in front of the TV so the bar doesn’t obstruct the screen or block the remote sensors. If you choose to store your soundbar on a shelf within the TV stand or entertainment center, bring it forward as much as possible to ensure the sound isn’t blocked on the sides.
Our Top Picks
This list of recommendations for top-rated soundbars considers the above criteria, and the best soundbar for you depends on your unique circumstances and preferences. First-time buyers may be inclined to purchase something simple to use out of the box. Audiophiles and those with a keen interest in tech may lean toward systems with more specialized features.
Enhance your entertainment experience with the smart, compact Sonos Beam. This soundbar was specially tuned by Oscar-winning sound engineers to emphasize the sound of the human voice, offering rich and clear dialogue for movie watching. With built-in Amazon Alexa and Apple AirPlay 2, operate the soundbar using voice control to play music, watch movies, check news, set alarms, and more.
The Sonos Beam features side-firing speakers, creating a wide soundstage to immerse you in audio. Although the soundbar lacks a sub-bass, you can improve its performance by adding a wireless subwoofer, which is sold separately. This system allows you to build on it by connecting additional speakers using WiFi.
The Sonos Beam offers an incredibly easy setup: simply unbox, plug into power, and connect the system to your TV by following instructions from the Sonos app. For TVs that don’t have an HDMI-ARC port, you can use the included optical audio adapter to connect the Sonos Beam to the optical port on the TV. The 25.6-inch system can rest on a TV stand or be mounted to the wall.
- Dimensions: 2.72 inches tall by 25.63 inches wide by 3.94 inches deep
- Number of internal speakers: 5
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, HDMI eARC/ARC, Ethernet
- Side-firing speakers
- Voice control capability
- Incorporates with additional speakers and wireless subwoofers
- Tuned by Oscar-winning sound engineers
Get the Sonos Beam Gen 1 soundbar on Amazon or the Gen 2 soundbar at Best Buy.
The VMAI Sound Bar with Subwoofer gives audio enthusiasts the bass, midrange, treble, and crispness of pricier systems that come with more speakers. This 2.1-channel soundbar with four 15W full-range frequency speakers gives listeners a dynamic sound experience that’s easy to adjust with the included remote or control panel. Pairing the soundbar with a subwoofer adds depth to music and movies, offering a surround experience for a lower price point.
The 34-inch soundbar is 120W and, when used with the subwoofer, delivers 110dB of crystal clear sound quality compatible with multiple input options from TVs to projectors, computers, tablets, phones, and more. This budget surround sound system pick can be optimized for specific types of content, with four sound modes for movies, music, news, and 3D mode.
- Dimensions: 2.7 inches tall by 34 inches wide by 2.5 inches deep
- Number of internal speakers: 4
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, AUX, HDMI ARC, optical, USB
- Multiple input options
- Intuitive remote and touch pad
- 110dB of sound
- 4 sound optimization modes
- Package does not include rear speakers
- Soundbar is wireless, but the subwoofer is not
Get the VMAI soundbar with subwoofer on Amazon.
Immersive sound doesn’t have to come with a large price tag. The reasonably sized 28-inch-wide WOhome soundbar may seem compact, but is full of many features. It’s quite similar to more expensive 2.0-channel soundbars, as it includes four full-range speakers and two bass reflex tubes. This soundbar is just right for a bedroom or smaller living room.
With up to 110 decibels (dB) of clear hi-fi sound, the soundbar offers a high-end audio experience for essentially any device. This soundbar was built with six connection methods, enabling users to hook up their devices through Bluetooth, HDMI ARC, AUX, coaxial, optical, and USB. It’s simple to connect and listen to movies, music, podcasts, and more with built-in 3D surround sound and four equalizer modes to enhance what’s playing.
Included is a simple push-button remote; however, it’s simple enough to connect the soundbar to a TV or universal remote through the HDMI connection.
- Dimensions: 2.9 inches tall by 28 inches wide by 4 inches deep
- Number of internal speakers: 4
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI ARC, AUX, coaxial, optical, USB
- Multi-inputs compatible with most devices
- Adjustable bass and treble
- Slim and compact design
- Four equalizer modes
- Only 2.0 channel
- Limitations to bass
Get the WOhome S89 soundbar on Amazon.
This wireless surround sound system has 510 watts of power to produce remarkable volume out of a single subwoofer and a five-speaker soundbar. For a 5.1 configuration surround sound setup, disconnect the speakers on either end of the soundbar and mount them at the sides or rear of the room. Featuring Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS, this surround sound system offers incredible sound for movies, music, and video games.
Connect your devices through Bluetooth and use the three HDMI inputs to link to your television or other high-definition 4K devices. The detachable speakers are completely wireless, allowing you to mount them wherever you want. They’re powered with rechargeable batteries that last up to 10 hours before needing to be recharged.
- Dimensions: 2.28 inches tall by 40 inches wide by 3.94 inches deep
- Number of internal speakers: 5 racetrack drivers and 2 tweeters
- Connectivity: Wireless, HDMI, optical, Ethernet
- JBL has provided sound to movie theaters for over 75 years
- Entirely wireless
- Upgradable to ultra-HD by pairing with 4K devices
- 510W of system power
- Wireless speakers have 10 hours of playtime on batteries
Get the JBL 5.1 soundbar on Amazon.
Sony is a well-known and reputable brand in the home entertainment industry. The company’s HT-G700 wireless soundbar is a testament to the brand. As this is the best 3.1 soundbar, it comes with a wireless sub, adding a rich bass and bigger sound to the already impeccable soundbar audio.
A dedicated center speaker in the modern soundbar delivers enhanced dialogue for television or movie-watchers, while the interior speakers do an excellent job of sending audio in all directions. This is accomplished by Dolby Atmos, which creates virtual height channels for 3D surround sound. Sound modes include standard, DTS Virtual:X, and Immerse AE, for a whopping 400W output and 7.1.2 surround sound.
- Dimensions: 2.5 inches tall by 38.5 inches wide by 4.2 inches deep
- Number of internal speakers: 5
- Connectivity: Optical, USB, Bluetooth, HDMI
- Wireless subwoofer and center speaker
- Dolby Atmos integrated
- 3D surround sound
- 400W output and 7.1.2 surround sound quality
- TV must be Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or HDMI compatible to use
Get the Sony HT-G700 soundbar at Best Buy, Lowe’s, or Target.
Polk’s been a speaker company since 1972, and in the past 50 years it has developed some incredible technology that is leaps and bounds better than TV-quality sound. Their Signa S2 consists of a four-speaker soundbar and wireless deep bass subwoofer to bring the crash and rumble sounds that bring audio to life, with each device offering 40W of output. Though this soundbar and subwoofer combo create visceral audio, it’s not quite the level of more advanced home theater systems.
Dolby Digital decoding creates performance-tuned surround sound that fills a room. There are preset equalizer settings for movies and music, leading to less adjustment for the listener—but with any remote adjustments, users need to have a clear line to the sensor. When it’s time for lights out, the system’s night mode lowers the base and increases Polk’s VoiceAdjust function, so users can still hear clear dialogue without disturbing others who have gone to bed.
- Dimensions: 2.15 inches tall by 35.43 inches wide by 3.22 inches deep
- Number of internal speakers: 4
- Connectivity: HDMI ARC, Wi-Fi, optical, AUX
- VoiceAdjust technology and nighttime settings
- Works with 4K and HD TVs
- Sets up in mere minutes with uncomplicated instructions
- Subwoofer and soundbar have 40W of output each
- Remote needs clear line of sight to sensor
- Not quite home theater sound
Get the Polk Signa S2 soundbar on Amazon or at Best Buy.
Vizio is a technology brand seeking to provide immersive products and amazing experiences. It accomplishes just that with its M-Series soundbar—a device that fares impeccably without needing a separate subwoofer or rear speakers. In a shape that’s different from typical boxy soundbars, the sleek and modern design creates expansive audio for a room or home theater.
The M-Series is an all-in-one stand-alone soundbar that hits the highs and lows with precision and depth, giving a richer sound. Precisely designed two-way speakers blast sound into a room, filling it with crisp and clear audio, while its two built-in subwoofers eliminate the need for an external connection. Users still get huge bass but without the clutter. For a 2.1-channel soundbar, this device offers great sound enhancement technology through DTS TruVolume and DTS Virtual:X.
- Dimensions: 2.13 inches tall by 36 inches wide by 5.5 inches deep
- Number of internal speakers: 6
- Connectivity: HDMI ARC, optical, Bluetooth
- Compatible with voice assistant technology, including Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa
- Uses DTS TruVolume and DTS Virtual:X technology
- Separate EQ modes for gaming, movies, music, and more
- Built-in tweeters and subwoofers
- Consumers may need to update firmware occasionally
Get the Vizio M-Series soundbar on Amazon or at Best Buy.
Constructed from premium fabric with a curved design, this reasonably priced pick from Samsung has a sleek and ultramodern appearance. Beyond aesthetics, the technology inside this device enables you to listen to music as the creators intended. It automatically recognizes and optimizes the sound based on what’s playing, which gives a rich depth to vocals and instruments, preserving the recorded sound.
This all-in-one system has two woofers and two tweeters inside the frame. Connect multiple devices to this sound bar with ease via Bluetooth, and start using the system right away. Using Dolby 2 ch/DTS Digital 2.0, you get a pure audio experience. With music and smart mode, the sound quality from this slender speaker is likely to heighten your listening experience with more realistic sound.
- Dimensions: 2.7 inches tall by 26.8 inches wide by 4.5 inches deep
- Number of internal speakers: 4
- Connectivity: Wireless, optical
- Optimized sound for various content
- Connect multiple smart devices simultaneously
- Refined modern design
- Energy Star Certified
- Only 2.0 channel
- No side-firing or up-firing speakers
Get the Samsung All-in-One soundbar on Amazon.
Our pick for best overall soundbar is the Sonos Beam Smart TV Sound Bar with Amazon Alexa, which was designed by sound engineers who create high-quality sound for renowned movies. This soundbar is easy to set up, can be hands-free, and if you’re forgoing the full surround sound system, the speakers fire in different directions, giving the feel that audio is coming from everywhere.
Bass can make or break a listening experience, which is why we have to recommend our pick for the best 3.1 soundbar, the Sony HT-G700 3.1-Channel Sound Bar. Dolby Atmos gives 3D sound to a room, it uses smart connections for fast streaming, and the rich bass from the wireless subwoofer gives more depth to movies, music, or gaming.
How We Chose the Best Soundbars
Selecting home tech can be difficult, especially when the aim is to choose the best soundbar for your home entertainment needs. We do a soundbar comparison to ensure we’re choosing the best of the best soundbars on the market. There are dozens of top-rated soundbars to choose from, and we made our picks based on a few different criteria.
Brand reputation and longevity are important to consider, and we gave preference to speaker and home theater brands that have decades of experience, such as Samsung, JBL, and Polk. Their tenure in the industry has helped them develop better-performing products for their customers. If there is ever an issue with a product or service, reputable brands like these are able to take swift action to help consumers get the listening experience they seek.
Value is a huge part of the decision-making process. We selected soundbars for various needs, from small homes to home theaters. As such, we considered the price, the quality of the soundbars, and the type of audio processing that were used to create clear sound. The budget-friendly speakers help add crispness to dialogue and depth to music, while the higher-end models use internal speakers that help the sound come from all around.
We assessed the different offerings for each speaker, giving preference to those with multiple equalizer modes, better audio processing, distortion rates that were less than 1 percent, and ease of connectivity.
You may still have a few questions about the capabilities of a new soundbar, even after reading various soundbar reviews. Here are some common questions and answers about these bars to help you get started.
Q. Can you add speakers to a soundbar?
Some soundbars, like the Sonos Beam, allow you to add additional speakers. If you purchase a surround sound system with a soundbar, the parts are nicely integrated for easy setup, as opposed to adding speakers that were purchased separately from the soundbar.
Q. Can you add a subwoofer to a soundbar?
Yes. However, it can be complicated to try and get the soundbar and a new subwoofer to work with each other, unless they’re designed to do so. These days, you can find a soundbar with a wireless sub, but you need to make sure it works with your system setup before purchase. Alternatively, look for a soundbar that has a subwoofer built-in.
Q. Do you need a receiver if you have a soundbar?
If you have a passive soundbar, you will need to get a receiver as well.
Q. Can a soundbar be used as a center speaker?
No. A soundbar is meant to have multiple channels for sound. A center speaker has one channel where all sounds blend together.