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 when you want to cast that content wirelessly. Some soundbars will make dialogue clear and easy to understand, while some might sound a bit muddier and more cluttered when it comes to voices. Some even have a dialogue enhancement feature to make voices clearer, even at a lower volume.
We’ve tested nearly 30 soundbars and below are our recommendations for the best soundbars for dialogue in 2020. 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 Samsung HW-Q90R. This 7.1.4 setup comes with a fairly large soundbar, a wireless subwoofer, and two wireless satellite rear speakers. The entire system feels very premium and quite well-built and has lots of features and connectivity options, including two HDMI inputs. It has a fairly wide soundstage for a soundbar, which excels with Atmos content.
The sound reproduction of this soundbar is great, and it works well with a wide variety of content, from action movies to most genres of music and podcasts. Dialogue produced from this soundbar is clear and easy to make out, thanks to its dedicated center-channel speaker, and there's even a dialogue-enhance feature to make speech even clearer. While the subwoofer provides a lot of extra thump and rumble, the sound profile of this soundbar is fully customizable, so you can turn down the bass and turn up the treble to help you hear the dialogue of your favorite movies or TV shows even easier.
Unfortunately, that bar itself is quite wide and likely won't fit between the feet of any TV 55" or smaller. It also doesn't support Chromecast audio or Apple AirPlay, though it does have wi-fi connectivity by using Samsung's app; it also supports Bluetooth, though this will have poorer quality and range than a wi-fi connection. Overall, this soundbar setup is great for most uses and is the best soundbar we've tested so far.
If you don't want to spend too much but still want a good soundbar setup that's able to properly reproduce dialogue for your TV shows or podcasts, get the Vizio SB36512-F6. It's a 5.1.2 soundbar, as opposed to 7.1.4 like the Samsung HW-Q90R, and it doesn't feel quite as premium or well-built, but it's significantly cheaper and offers similarly high-quality sound reproduction. Like the Samsung, it has a dedicated center channel for dialogue, something that's rare at this price point. It also has an even wider array of connectivity options and supports Chromecast, as well as wi-fi and Bluetooth. Unfortunately, while the subwoofer is wireless, the rear satellites must be plugged into the sub, limiting where you can place it in your room.
If you want a full-featured 7.1.4 soundbar setup that feels and looks extremely premium, go for the Samsung, but if you want to spend a fraction of the price and still have a great soundbar that does an impressive job at separating speech from background music or sound effects, get the Vizio.
The best 3.1 soundbar system for dialogue that we’ve reviewed is the Samsung HW-R650. If you don’t have the room for dedicated rear speakers, a 3.1 system is great for dialogue in movies. It has a good overall performance with a very accurate reproduction of voices in TV shows and movies. The bar can get loud enough for most people and it also has a dialogue enhancement feature to make voices clearer, even at a lower volume.
This Samsung soundbar will be great for listening to audiobooks and podcasts as well, especially since you can easily cast from your smart device to the bar via Bluetooth. It's also a well-built and fairly stylish bar, but won’t feel as premium as the Samsung HW-Q90R.
However, this soundbar doesn’t have a height channel, so although its dedicated channel will be good for dialogue in movies, you won’t get the height illusion that you would get with a more immersive setup. On the upside, it's quite cheap for the great performance that you get out of it and can be a great option if you don’t have room for surround speakers.
The best standalone soundbar for dialogue we’ve tested so far is the Sonos Beam. This soundbar can easily be upgraded with a wireless subwoofer and rear speakers, but performs quite well by itself too. It has a good sound quality and it's quite small, meaning it’s easy to fit in your setup. This 3.0 soundbar has a dedicated center channel for clearer dialogue and has a well-balanced sound profile.
Sonos has a cool room correction feature that applies a small correction to the soundbar audio reproduction according to your room layout, which makes it easier to make the soundbar sound as it was intended. It also has a night mode and a dialogue enhancement feature, which makes voices easier to understand regardless of the volume you’re listening at.
Unfortunately, this soundbar lacks some inputs as it doesn’t have any Full HDMI In ports and doesn’t support DTS. You also can’t stream content via Bluetooth as Sonos believes in better audio quality over Wi-Fi, meaning you’ll have to download the Sonos app. Nevertheless, this is a good sounding soundbar and can be a great option if you prefer a simpler setup without a sub and satellite speakers.
The best budget soundbar for dialogue that we’ve reviewed so far is the Yamaha YAS-207. This 2.1 system comes with a wireless subwoofer and doesn’t have a dedicated center channel for clearer dialogue. However, it performs quite well and has a great stereo performance, which is surprising at its price point.
This soundbar does a good job of creating a phantom center channel, which translates into good and clear voices in movies and TV shows, without a dedicated driver. This soundbar sounds great and even has a dialogue enhancement feature thanks to its ‘Clear Voice’ setting. It has a neutral sound signature and should satisfy most users.
However, this soundbar is covered by fabric, which doesn’t look and feel very high-end. It also only supports wireless playback via Bluetooth, which can be sufficient for some. Its app is quite barebones and doesn’t allow you to do much, meaning you’re better off controlling it with the remote. On the upside, this soundbar is a great bang for your buck, especially if you mainly want a soundbar to listen to stereo music, podcasts, audiobooks, or even the news.
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.
12/11/2019: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.