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 40 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 Samsung HW-R650. This 3.1 speaker setup does a very good job of making voices sound clear and accurate, even with surround content thanks to the dedicated center channel. It has a well-balanced, versatile sound profile overall and the subwoofer helps give you a bit extra bass during action-packed scenes of your favorite shows.
This soundbar has lots of different sound customization options for you to get the right balance of detail and smoothness in dialogue and voices. There's not only a dialogue enhancement feature but a 7-band EQ which lets you tweak the way it reproduces sound in different frequency ranges to your liking. There's even dynamic range control which normalizes volume levels so commercials don't sound louder than the TV show you're watching.
On the downside, this soundbar might not be ideal if you need a very crisp and bright sound right out-of-the-box. This shouldn't be a problem for most people, though, since a sound that's too sharp can be fatiguing to listen to over time. Even if you do find voices a bit too smooth, you can always adjust the amount of detail with its various sound customization options.
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 Samsung HW-R650 and is significantly 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 HT-Z9F 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 R650, but for movies, the Q90R 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 voice clarity in the budget range that we've tested so far is the Yamaha YAS-207. Although this 2.1 channel soundbar doesn't have a dedicated center channel, it still provides a decently well-balanced stereo performance. It also comes with a wireless subwoofer which can help provide more thump and rumble to your favorite action flicks.
Thanks to its neutral sound profile, this soundbar can accurately reproduce voices found in dialogue-centric content like audiobooks or TV shows. Its phantom center channel also helps to make voices in TV shows or podcasts sound clear and, when used, its Clear Voice dialogue enhancement feature can provide an even better experience. It's still versatile enough for a variety of different content such as movies or music.
Unfortunately, it only supports Bluetooth wireless playback, which can be a bit disappointing if you normally use Chromecast built-in or Apple AirPlay to stream your podcasts. The fabric wrap in the bar also tends to be a magnet for dirt and it can look a little bit grungy if you forget to dust it. Still, for its price point, this soundbar has a great performance for dialogue, making it an excellent choice for those on a budget.
If you're looking for an affordable soundbar that will help make voices sound clearer than your TV speakers but don't have a lot of room to spare, then get the Vizio SB3220n-F6. It doesn't come with a subwoofer like the Yamaha YAS-207, so it doesn't get as much bass, but it's a lot more compact and even has a wider soundstage. It makes voices sound clear and detailed thanks to its slightly bright sound profile, and its phantom center performance is quite alright, especially for such a small bar. Unfortunately, it tends to compress and distort a fair bit at higher volumes, so it might not be ideal if you need to listen very loudly.
Get the Yamaha if you'd rather have a subwoofer for added bass during movies or action-packed TV shows, but if you're tight on space, the Vizio is the way to go.
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.