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 which is 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 150 soundbars, and below are our recommendations for the best soundbars for speech. Also, make sure to check out our picks 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 that we've tested is the Samsung HW-Q990B. It's a premium 11.1.4 setup released in 2022 with a versatile performance that makes dialogue stand out in everything from TV shows to movies. This bar stands out from the pack thanks to its wide array of sound enhancement features, which you can also use to customize its dialogue performance. For example, its 'Voice Enhance' mode enhances dialogue, and its Night Mode feature balances the volume level between different programs and commercials. There are standard bass and treble adjustments, and its 7-band graphic EQ means that you can customize it across the range, including in the mids, where most voices reproduce.
It's also great for TV shows, but if you mostly watch dialogue-focused TV shows like sitcoms, it's probably a bit much. Ultimately, this bar shines when it comes to movies. It includes two rear satellites that provide an immersive listening experience, making it seem like you've been dropped right into the middle of the action onscreen. Sound effects come from all around you, and its dedicated sub makes your seat shake with the rumble in action-packed scenes. Since it has a discrete center channel, dialogue remains clear and easy to follow amidst all the action, meaning you won't have trouble following the plot.
If you're looking for another premium bar, you can also check out the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module or the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers. These have better stereo soundstage performances and fit into existing Bose and Sonos ecosystems with ease. However, you don't get as many sound enhancement features with these bars as you do with the Samsung soundbar.
If you're looking for a premium bar for dialogue at a slightly more affordable price, check out the Samsung HW-Q930B. It's a 9.1.4 setup, meaning it has two fewer surround channels than the Samsung HW-Q990B. Still, it's a versatile soundbar, and its performance ensures that dialogue is clear and present in your favorite movies and TV shows. You still get the discrete center channel to improve its vocal reproduction, and the subwoofer and satellites bring an immersive feel to your favorite movies. Whether you're watching the latest Dolby Atmos flick or a more vocal-centric documentary, you'll have no issue hearing the voices of the characters on screen.
That said, for the price, you get fewer features than you do with the Q990B. While there's a SpaceFit Sound room correction feature to automatically optimize audio reproduction of the bar based on the unique acoustics of your space, you don't get the Auto EQ feature, which performs the same correction with the sub. Its sub is a little smaller, too, so it reproduces a little less bass. However, if you don't need these extra features, it offers pretty similar performance at a cheaper price, and you may find it's a better value overall.
The Vizio Elevate is a more wallet-friendly option that still does a great job with dialogue-centric content, including movies and TV shows. It's a 5.1.4 setup, so it has fewer surround channels than our top options. However, with its discrete center, dialogue doesn't get lost in the action, and you have no problem making out voices in the mix. It comes with some dialogue-focused tools, like a voice enhancement feature as well as a night mode to balance its volume level between different programs. There's no room correction tool, meaning it can sound a little different depending on your room's layout, but at least there are bass and treble adjustments to make up for this a bit.
Overall, this soundbar's unique design makes it stand out from the crowd. Its sides rotate upwards when you watch Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content, and you can program it to perform the same with other formats. As a result, it offers a really wide, immersive-sounding soundstage that makes it feel like you're sitting right in the middle of your favorite flicks. Its subwoofer brings plenty of rumble in the bass, and its rear speakers stretch sound effects to the space around your living room. With its balanced mids, voices remain clear and present in the mix, making it a solid pick for lovers of more intense movies. Unfortunately, you have to wire the satellites to the sub, which isn't ideal for every layout. Still, it's a versatile bar for its price, and you have no trouble with dialogue.
If you're shopping on a budget, the best soundbar for vocal clarity we've tested for under $500 is the Vizio M Series M512a-H6. It's a 5.1.2 setup with versatile performance, meaning you can enjoy clear and detailed dialogue in both movies and TV shows. Right out of the box, you get clear and detailed vocal reproduction, and its center channel improves the clarity in the mix. Even at its more affordable price point, you still get the standard selection of enhancement tools, including a night mode and a dialogue enhancement feature, though there's no graphic EQ.
If you like to watch movies, you'll appreciate the included satellite speakers, which enhance surround sound by making it seem like the action is taking place all around you. There are two up-firing drivers built into the bar, which ricochet sound off the ceiling to create the illusion of height with Dolby Atmos movies. That said, compared to the Vizio Elevate, the bar lacks additional up-firing drivers on its rears, and its sides can't rotate for a more immersive sound. As a result, it doesn't sound quite as cinematic with multi-channel content like Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital. Still, it remains a really good pick for its price, and it ensures you don't have any issues following the dialogue on screen.
The best soundbar for vocal clarity in the budget range that we tested is the Vizio V Series V51-H6. This 5.1 setup is even more affordable than the Vizio M Series M512a-H6, and it's still a good choice overall. It's a fairly simple setup with a dedicated subwoofer and two discrete satellite speakers. With its neutral sound, voices are clear and present in the mix. You can use its dialogue enhancement feature to make voices more clear and crisp, as well as its night mode to enhance vocal clarity when you're listening at night and don't want to bother anyone around you.
Like most bars in its price range, there's no Dolby Atmos support to help you take advantage of more immersive object-based formats. That said, its discrete surround speakers help it stand out in comparison to other budget-friendly picks, especially if you watch a lot of 5.1 surround sound content like Dolby Digital. If you don't have room for satellites, or if you don't watch a lot of movies, consider the Samsung HW-B450, which doesn't come with satellites. However, its surround sound isn't as good as the Vizio, which remains the most versatile pick in the budget range.
If you don't have a lot of space for your setup, a standalone bar like the Sonos Arc is a good option since it doesn't come with a subwoofer that takes up more room. It's a premium bar with a wide and immersive soundstage that makes it seem like your favorite movies are happening all around you, and it's a great choice for everything from TV shows to Dolby Atmos movies found on lots of streaming services. The bar's sound profile is slightly bright, with balanced mids that ensure dialogue is clear and present, and higher-pitched voices sparkle in the mix. You can use its bass and treble adjustments to get a more neutral sound.
Naturally, without a dedicated subwoofer, the bar struggles to reproduce the deep thump and rumble in the low-bass found during action-packed movies. If you change your mind down the line, you can always add a subwoofer and satellites that you can buy separately. Or, if you have the space, you can look at the larger, heavier Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar with an integrated subwoofer, though its size isn't ideal for smaller living spaces, and it costs a bit more. Even with all the add-ons, the Sennheiser still doesn't have as many customization options as the similarly-priced Samsung HW-Q990B.
If you live in a smaller space, there are lots of compact soundbars that can meet the needs of your space. The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is the best we've tested. It has the same design as the original Sonos Beam, and at under 26 inches in width, it easily fits your existing setup without taking up a lot of space. Vocals reproduce accurately, thanks to the soundbar's balanced mids, and its discrete center channel improves dialogue clarity overall. You can enhance the dialogue and use the night mode to reduce the dynamic range, so you hear voices clearly at night without bothering those around you.
Unlike the original Sonos Beam, the next generation adds support for Dolby Atmos content, which is great if you like to watch lots of movies. You can enjoy clear dialogue in your favorite movies, though its performance isn't quite as impressive as the Sonos Arc, which does a better job localizing sound effects in the soundstage. It doesn't get as loud, either, meaning it's not suitable if you want to fill up a large room with sound. If you're low on space, it's still a versatile soundbar that you can upgrade with a sub and satellites down the line.
Sep 02, 2022: Restructured article to include picks aimed at dialogue in movies. Added the Samsung HW-Q990B as 'Best Soundbar', the Samsung HW-Q930B as 'Best Upper Mid-Range', and the Vizio Elevate as 'Best Mid-Range'.
Jul 22, 2022: No changes in product picks. Minor updates to the text for accuracy.
May 24, 2022: No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
Mar 25, 2022: Minor updates to the text. The Vizio M Series M51a-H6 is no longer widely available, so we replaced it with the Vizio M Series M512a-H6.
Jan 25, 2022: Restructured the article for greater clarity and consistency.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best soundbars for voice clarity 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.