Today’s soundbars are jack-of-all-trades devices that make a fantastic addition to any entertainment system. Here are a few benefits you’ll experience after setting up a quality soundbar:
- Soundbars can vastly improve the sound of any standard TV.
- They can also achieve a surround sound feeling with just a single speaker.
- They work in perfect harmony with gaming systems for an immersive experience.
- Soundbars can also act as a separate Bluetooth speaker for your music.
- Many soundbars even offer smart speaker and voice assistant features (depending on which model you get).
Soundbars are incredibly popular, and your options are plentiful; but which model should you buy? Note that we may earn a commission from products you purchase using our links.
We’re going to go over several of our favorite soundbars and why they could be a great choice for your individual entertainment needs.
The Sonos Playbase is big – and at first, you might be surprised that it’s called a soundbar at all. The reason, as the name indicates, is that this soundbar is designed to fit under your TV as a base, while still providing sound through 10 separate drivers for excellent sound – and a slightly higher perch for your TV, which some buyers may be looking for. It’s also pretty friendly with Apple products, compatible with Apple Music and AirPlay 2 for direct streaming from your iPhone or iPad. Note that it’s over a Wi-Fi connection, not Bluetooth, so you will see the speaker show up on your wireless network. You can also build out the system in the future by adding more Sonos wireless speakers that can easily connect with the soundbar wirelessly. Get it here.
It might be easier to list what this soundbar system doesn’t do. It’s a 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar with kits for both a subwoofer and a pair of wireless rear speakers. There’s Bluetooth compatibility for playing music from your mobile devices, and software that improves audio quality based on the sounds that are playing. Altogether, you get an astonishing 17 built-in speakers, aimed in different directions so that the soundbar sounds as environmental and immersive as possible.
But wait! We’re not done yet. There’s 4K passthrough tech, which allows you to route your 4K video through the speaker to make sure that the sound is perfectly synced with the video. There’s an alternative DTS:X sound compatibility if your audio uses that format instead of Dolby Atmos. There’s an automatic game mode that switches on when you’re playing a game for richer sound. And Alexa voice compatibility is included for voice commands (you need an Echo device for this work)!
Of course, such an expensive and complete speaker system isn’t for everyone, but it is one of the best of the best. Note that you can find this speaker without the subwoofer and rear speaker kits, but this is a common addition. Get it here.
Sony’s excellent soundbar offers 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos/DTS:X sound with an integrated subwoofer, a cool feature that we’re seeing more often in soundbars these days, making them a more “complete” alternative for surround sound in small spaces. This soundbar uses a mixture of LED lights and a tiny remote to switch between modes and adjust the sound. There’s also Sony technology at work called the “Vertical Sound/Surround Engine,” which aims sound in the right directions for the most immersive feeling possible no matter the sound source.
One of the best things about this soundbar is that these features are usually only found on rather expensive soundbars, but you can get this Sony model for around $500, an amazingly low price for topline quality. On the downside, the speaker doesn’t come with extra smart features or additional usability. Get it here.
If you’re looking for a thinner Sonos bar, the Beam is a slim soundbar with lots of smart features. Alexa is built in, no additional devices required, so the Beam can essentially act as an Echo device – but with better sound. That includes checking the news, settings alarms, asking general questions, getting weather updates, and any other Alexa skills that you may be interested in. It’s an excellent choice for those who want to add a voice assistant while still receiving a great sound. Several sound modes exist, including a “late night” setting that increases voice audio and lowers loud noises. However, advanced audio support is a little limited with Dolby Digital and not much else. Get it here.
Yes, this soundbar is on the bulky side, but that’s because it’s housing a sizable built-in subwoofer for those rumbling sounds you may not be able to get any other way. This model is also interesting in that it comes with a wall mounting option – something not every soundbar has – to give you more placement options. The drivers are designed to project sound over larger areas, making this model a good choice for larger rooms where the sound still needs to stand out. The bar comes with Bluetooth compatibility for playing music from your mobile devices, too. It’s primarily designed to connect with a digital optical connection that needs to be supported by your TV/receiver to work completely, so make sure that you’re compatible. Get it here.
So far, our picks for great soundbars have been a few hundred dollars or more, which may not be very friendly to more limited budgets. This JBL model is much more affordable and still comes with great sound for its price. Features include Bluetooth streaming and dual bass ports to emphasize bass as much as possible. There’s not a lot of extra features here, but what you get works well, and it’s a good pairing for a simpler setup for those who don’t already have a Bluetooth speaker and would want one – think smaller apartments, dorms, and bedroom TV setups. Get it here.
On the complete opposite end of the JBL, we have Sennheiser’s Ambeo soundbar. If you want the best sound possible, no matter what, from a soundbar, this is your choice. It uses 13 exceptional drivers and 30Hz bass to pump out the highest-quality audio possible, plus 3D virtualization of your entertainment room so the sound can automatically modify to fit your space. It supports all the latest audio codecs and has access to smart features via its app. The key here is that you’ll have to pay up for the best audio in the world, which is why the Ambeo bar goes for $2,500. Get it here.