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 too.
We’ve tested over 50 soundbars and below are our recommendations for the best soundbars for dialogue. See also 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 so far is the Sony HT-Z9F. This 3.1 setup has a well-balanced sound profile, and its wireless subwoofer provides a bit of extra bass for action-heavy TV shows. Thanks to its dedicated center channel, this soundbar is excellent at clearly and accurately reproducing dialogue-heavy content like podcasts and TV shows.
This soundbar has many sound enhancement features that can help improve your listening experience. There's a dialogue enhancement feature that brings more clarity to your listening experience, as well as a night mode feature that helps keep commercials from sounding louder than your show. Six different EQ presets allow you to customize the bar's sound profile to match your audio content. You can also use this soundbar for surround sound and Atmos content, but without dedicated surround speakers, the sound isn't nearly as immersive as other setups.
On the other hand, this soundbar faces steep competition. The Samsung HW-R650 may offer better value, but it was discontinued after the 2020 launch of the Samsung HW-T650 and may be hard to find. We plan on reviewing the new model, but since we haven't tested it yet, we can't confirm that it performs as well as the older Samsung.
If you're looking for a soundbar that does a great job at reproducing dialogue but also delivers impressive performance for movies, then you'll want to consider the Samsung HW-Q90R. It takes up a lot more space than the Sony HT-Z9F and is more expensive, but is one of the best soundbars we've ever reviewed, especially if you need clear vocals when watching movies with Dolby Atmos. The 3.1 Sony soundbar takes up less space and isn't quite as expensive, but it doesn't perform as well with Atmos content.
If you want something just for watching your favorite shows, you can't go wrong with the Sony, but for movies, the Samsung is worth the investment.
The Sonos Beam is the best standalone soundbar for dialogue that we've tested to date. This compact 3.0 channel soundbar 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.
This soundbar 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.
On the downside, this soundbar 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 so far is the Yamaha YAS-209. It's currently priced at over $300; however, it's been seen under that price point recently. This 2.1 speaker setup has a well-balanced sound profile that does a good job making voices sound clear and accurate.
For a budget soundbar, there are still a decent amount of sound enhancement features to improve your listening experience. This soundbar 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.
On the downside, this soundbar doesn't have the best build quality, and the mesh-like fabric covering the soundbar 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 soundbars. However, as an upgrade over the now-discontinued Yamaha YAS-207, this soundbar 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 a soundbar that allows you to change the sound profile, you'll want to check out the Samsung HW-T550. While it lacks the deep bass of the Yamaha YAS-209, this soundbar comes with more sound enhancement features. There's a 7-band EQ that allows you to adjust the bar's sound profile to match your audio content, as well as a night mode feature. Its well-balanced sound profile does a good job with podcasts and TV shows, but unlike the Yamaha, it doesn't support Wi-Fi wireless playback.
If you're looking for deeper bass, go with the Yamaha, but if you like to customize your listening experience, consider the Samsung instead.
07/31/2020: Changed some of our recommendations based on availability.
06/05/2020: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.
04/07/2020: Slight restructure to highlight products that provide better value for this use.
02/07/2020: Added the Sony HT-Z9F as the 'Best 3.1 Soundbar for Dialogue'.
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.