An awesome upgrade for your home theater.
Your television’s picture might be top of the line, but without a soundbar, you won’t be getting the full experience. There’s one truth about the vast majority of flat-panel televisions: the sound they offer is terrible. One popular solution to this problem is the soundbar. They’re designed to give users dynamic surround sound without the hassle of setting up individual speakers all around their living room.
Since the best soundbars are long and contain multiple speakers, you just set them below your television. As a dedicated audio component, soundbars are almost certain give you a better auditory experience than if you just used your television speakers. Now, there’s a wide variety of soundbars out there from the simple stereo speaker to give your TV an audio boost to those that can simulate a full-on 7.1 surround sound system. Good news is I’ve done all the work researching and testing the best soundbars you can buy and you’ll find them below.
TL;DR – These are the Best Soundbars:
1. Vizio SB3821-C6
Best Budget 2.1 Soundbar
This 38-inch soundbar is a great size to match with a 42-inch television. It includes a subwoofer to add some low-end response that connects to the soundbar wirelessly which helps minimize cabling (it still needs to be plugged in to an outlet for power). You can also stream music to it over Bluetooth from your phone. There are some buttons on the soundbar to turn it on, pair with Bluetooth, and adjust the volume or you can use a small remote that comes with it. The sound is pretty good, although the sub doesn’t do too well below 60 Hz. At $150 it’s an enormous upgrade from your TV speakers.
2. Vizio SB36512-F6
Best Budget Atmos Soundbar
Most Atmos soundbars cost significantly more than the Vizio SB36512-F6. At around $400, this Vizio sounds great and has cool features like a night-mode and built-in audio Chromecast. If you want to take your gaming to the next level, and you have some of the few games supporting Atmos, this is a great pick. There’s a non-Atmos enabled version, too.
3. Klipsch R-10B
A Step Up in Sound
The Klipsch is a little longer than the Vizio at 40 inches but would still pair well with a 42-50 inch television. It has a bit more amp power than the Vizio as well, and its wireless subwoofer has a more robust sound. There’s Bluetooth connectivity and aptX technology for lossless streaming. If you’re looking to pick up something in the $300 range, the sub quality boost is worth the price increase over the Vizio.
4. ZVOX SoundBase 570
The SoundBase Pioneering Soundbar
In the audio world, the term soundbase is practically synonymous with ZVOX. They even hold the trademark on the word SoundBase. The SoundBase 570 is designed to hold up to a 60-inch TV. As mentioned above, one of the benefits of the soundbase design is that it has a built-in subwoofer. The bass extension isn’t as low as you get with a dedicated sub (it goes down to around 50 Hz), but the bass you do get is satisfying. It also includes a proprietary feature called AccuVoice. This boosts dialogue in a way similar to a hearing aid for moments when it might sound buried in the mix. It does cause the high end to get a bit harsh, so it’s really only recommended for those hard-to-hear moments.
5. Sonos PLAYBAR
Best Expandable Soundbar System
Unlike the previous soundbars listed, the Sonos PLAYBAR has dedicated left, right, and center channel speakers. This helps with dialogue clarity as dialogue is sent to the center channel in movie and TV mixes. It also means that it is easily expandable to a full five-channel surround-sound system with the addition of two more Sonos speakers. You can also add a Sonos sub, although it costs as much as the PLAYBAR. Adding speakers to the home ecosystem is one of the bonuses of Sonos, as its intention is to be a whole-home multi-room system for easy access to your music library. If you already have some Sonos products or you’re looking at getting some, a PLAYBAR soundbar for your home theater should be a no-brainer. There’s also the PLAYBASE for the same $700 if you’d rather have a soundbase version.
6. Yamaha YAS-207
The Virtual Surround Soundbar Choice
Sound is cool. And the idea that you can create something that sounds like it’s coming from all around when it’s really all coming from right in front of you is amazing. The Yamaha YAS-207 soundbar won’t completely fool you into thinking there are speakers all around your room, but the DTS Virtual: X processing does an admirable job of increasing the size of the soundscape. If you have no desire or ability to ever place surround speakers in your room, the Yamaha soundbar will still help give you an immersive experience. There’s an included wireless sub, and a HDMI 2.0 input and output that will pass through a 4K signal to your TV.
7. Denon HEOS 3.1 Channel Speaker System
Money Is No Object Soundbar
HEOS is Denon’s version of the Sonos multi-room system, so you have the capability to connect speakers wirelessly to the setup if you want a full 5.1 experience (you’ll need a robust wireless network to run them all at once). There’s plenty of connectivity on the soundbar, with four HDMI inputs that all pass through 4K and HDR, and the subwoofer connects wirelessly (as all HEOS speakers will). A HEOS app is available on Google Play and the Apple App Store that can control the entire system, add new speakers, and stream from a number of different services including Pandora, iHeartRadio, and SiriusXM. If you’re looking to build a multi-room ecosystem and want an alternative to Sonos, the HEOS 3.1 Channel Speaker System is a fantastic way to start.
What to look for in a Soundbar
Below, I’ve gone over a few key features of the best soundbars you need to pay attention to when considering one for your home theater.
The best soundbars come in a variety of lengths so you can match them to the length of your television if aesthetics are important to you. If your television is sitting on a surface, as opposed to being mounted on the wall, keep in mind the height of the soundbar you’re placing in front of it. Some televisions have a relatively low-profile stand, so a tall soundbar might block the bottom of the screen and the IR receiver for the remote. Alternatively you could look into a soundbase, which is significantly deeper than a soundbar, and designed to have your television sit on top of it. This extra cabinet size lets it have larger speakers to enhance the bass response over that of a soundbar.
As with all speakers, there are both passive and active soundbars. A passive speaker doesn’t include any amplification and will require its audio signal to come from an AVR (audio/video receiver). Active soundbars include a built-in amp (and some digital processing/decoding) so you can connect your source – be it a PS4, Xbox One, or stand-alone TV and/or Blu-ray player – directly to it. This also means you won’t need that AVR taking up space adding to the clutter. Because of the convenience afforded by a soundbar with a built-in amplifier, all of our recommendations are active.
There are different sound configurations available with the best soundbars. A LCR soundbar has dedicated left, right, and center channel speakers. If you want bass response an added subwoofer is highly recommended, and many soundbars come with them. With all that out of the way – let’s get right to it. These are the best soundbars at every budget level: