Soundbars can be a good upgrade from your TV speakers, especially if you have trouble understanding voices in TV shows and movies. It’s also a great way to enhance your listening experience when listening to podcasts or audiobooks, especially when you want to cast that content wirelessly. Some soundbars make dialogue clearer and easier to understand, while others can make voices sound more muddy and cluttered. So how do you know what's the best soundbar for voice clarity? You'll need something with a well-balanced stereo frequency response, and having a dialogue enhancement feature can help.
We’ve tested over 80 soundbars, and below are our recommendations for the best soundbars for dialogue. Also, make sure to check out our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best Dolby Atmos soundbars if you watch a lot of movies, and the best budget soundbars if you’re on an even tighter budget.
The best soundbar for dialogue we’ve tested is the Sony HT-Z9F. This well-built 3.1 setup reproduces clear and accurate dialogue thanks to its dedicated center channel. There's even a dialogue enhancement feature, which can make dialogue in TV shows and podcasts sound more crisp and clear.
Overall, it has a pretty neutral sound profile that can reproduce vocals and dialogue clearly, though some upper harmonics can be a bit hard to hear. It gets loud, too, and there isn't a lot of compression present when you play it at max volume. There are also a few EQ presets available to help you customize its sound and an auto-volume mode to help balance the volume level across different programs like your TV shows and commercials.
Unfortunately, it lacks some of the premium sound customization features like bass and treble adjustments or a graphic EQ, which can be disappointing if you like to have a lot of control over how the bar sounds. Also, while it can play surround and Dolby Atmos content, it doesn't provide the most immersive listening experience. That said, if you love watching dialogue-centric content like TV shows, it's an amazing choice.
If you prefer watching Dolby Atmos movies, consider the Samsung HW-Q950T instead. While this soundbar doesn't come with an auto-volume mode to help balance the volume level across programs like the Sony HT-Z9F, its 9.1.4 setup helps to offer a more immersive listening experience that makes it a very good choice for watching movies. It has a neutral, balanced sound profile that's suitable for lots of different audio content, and its balanced mid-range ensures that voices are clear and present. It also has a full graphic EQ and presets to help you customize its sound, as well as bass and treble adjustments. It can get really loud, and there isn't a lot of compressions when you play it at max volume.
If you like watching TV shows and want an auto-volume feature, consider the Sony. However, if you want a bigger setup that's better suited to watching surround and Atmos content, consider the Samsung instead.
The Sonos Beam is the best standalone soundbar for dialogue that we've tested. This compact 3.0 channel model packs a punch for its small size. It has a well-balanced sound profile, and its dedicated center channel helps to provide clear dialogue for your favorite TV shows or podcasts.
It has a lot of sound enhancement features that can help immerse you in your audio. Its room correction feature allows it to adapt to your room setup so that it can reproduce audio that sounds more accurate. There's also a night mode and a dialogue enhancement feature that can help make voices clearer and easier to understand at any volume. If you want to upgrade this setup down the line, it's easy as Sonos also sells wireless subwoofers or rear speakers separately.
Unfortunately, it lacks connectivity options like a full HDMI In port. You won't be able to stream podcasts from your mobile device using Bluetooth, and there's no DTS support. If an HDMI input is a necessity, the JBL Link Bar has three HDMI inputs as well as an HDMI ARC port. It can also support Bluetooth as well as Chromecast built-in, and it can play DTS files. However, it's much bigger than the Sonos, and its reproduction of voices isn't as clear.
The best soundbar for dialogue in the budget range that we've tested is the Yamaha YAS-209. It's currently priced a bit higher than this price point; however, it's recently been lower. This 2.1 speaker setup has a well-balanced sound profile that does a good job of making voices sound clear and accurate.
For a budget option, there are still a decent amount of sound enhancement features to improve your listening experience. It comes with a dialogue enhancement feature, and you can even choose between six different EQ presets to better suit your needs. Its dedicated subwoofer also provides a bit of extra bass for action-packed scenes. It may not get as loud as some of the other soundbars we've tested, but it should still satisfy most listeners.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have the best build quality, and the mesh-like fabric covering it tends to attract dust and dirt. Also, there isn't a dedicated center channel, so it doesn't reproduce center sound as clearly as some other options. However, as an upgrade over the now-discontinued Yamaha YAS-207, it comes with some new features, including Wi-Fi wireless playback capabilities that make it easy to play audio from your phone, tablet, and TV.
If you're looking for an affordable soundbar with an HDMI In port for your vocal-centric content, consider the Samsung HW-T550. While its sound profile isn't as balanced as the Vizio V Series V51-H6, and it doesn't come with satellite speakers, the Samsung has an HDMI In port. Using this connection, you can play Dolby Digital and DTS content, which are commonly found on Blu-ray discs as well as on streaming platforms. This soundbar also has a good build quality and offers a graphic EQ as well as presets so that you can tweak its sound to your liking. Unfortunately, it doesn't get as loud as the Vizio. Its center channel performance isn't as good either as it uses phantom localization, which doesn't sound as clear as a discrete center channel.
Try the Vizio if you're looking for a budget-friendly soundbar that offers a more well-balanced sound profile and versatile overall performance. However, check out the Samsung if you prefer your soundbar to feel better-built and have an HDMI port.
Feb 02, 2021: Removed the Samsung HW-R650 from Notable Mentions, as it's no longer available. No changes to product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
Nov 27, 2020: Replaced the Yamaha YAS-209 with the Vizio V Series V51-H6 for 'Best Budget Soundbar for Dialogue' and moved the Yamaha to 'Notable Mentions'.
Sep 29, 2020: Added the Samsung HW-Q950T, the Roku Smart Soundbar, the Bose TV Speaker, and the Sony HT-S200F as 'Notable Mentions'.
Jul 31, 2020: Changed some of our recommendations based on availability.
Apr 07, 2020: Slight restructure to highlight products that provide better value for this use.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best soundbars for dialogue for most people to buy. We factor in the price (a cheaper soundbar wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no soundbars that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our soundbar reviews. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. No soundbar is perfect. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.