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 enhancement 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. You can also check out the bigger 46 inch version, the Vizio SB46514-F6, which has two additional up-firing speakers, but this model won't do a much better job at dialogue reproduction.
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 Sony HT-Z9F. This mid-range soundbar from 2018 has excellent overall dialogue performance thanks to its 3.1 speaker configuration, meaning it has a dedicated center one. This setup also features a wireless subwoofer that helps getting a bit extra thump and punch.
It has a very well-balanced sound profile with stereo content, which is great for music too. Also, its dedicated center speaker does an excellent job at recreating accurate and clear dialogue in movies and TV shows. It even features a night mode and a dialogue enhancement setting to make it even easier to hear voices.
Unfortunately, while it supports Atmos, it doesn't have any up-firing speakers, so it doesn't that much of a good job at playing height effects. It also lacks an EQ to help you customize the sound to your preference. Nevertheless, this soundbar has a premium, durable look and feel, and it supports pretty much all high-end audio formats.
If you'd like a 3.1 soundbar that's more affordable than the Sony HT-Z9F, go for the great Samsung HW-R650. It might not support wireless playback via wi-fi, doesn't have Chromecast built-in, and doesn't support Atmos, but if you're only looking for a great soundbar for dialogue in TV shows, it offers great performance. It's a well-built bar, but might not feel as premium as the Sony. On the upside, it can get very loud and its dedicated center channel performance is excellent. It has a few inputs for your different devices, although the Sony has a bit more.
If you want the best 3.1 setup with tons of connection options and great performance, grab the Sony. However, if you don't care that much about Atmos support and want to save money while still getting amazing dialogue reproduction, go for the Samsung instead.
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.
02/07/2020: Added the Sony HT-Z9F as the 'Best 3.1 Soundbar for Dialogue'. Minor text updates.
12/11/2019: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.