Soundbars offer a few advantages over more traditional home theater speaker setups: they tend to take up less space, are easier to set up, and are often more affordable. Whether you're looking for a soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos or just want something you can plug your MP3 player into, there's a model out there that'll do what you need. Not all soundbars are created equal, though, and some provide a better listening experience than others. If you watch a lot of TV or often listen to music at home, you'll want something that sounds good and is compatible with your existing devices, whether you want to hook it up to your smart TV or prefer streaming directly from your smartphone.
We've tested nearly 40 soundbars so far, and below you'll find the best soundbars to buy. See our recommendations for the best budget soundbars, the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, the best soundbars for music, and the best soundbars 5.1.
The best soundbar we've tested so far is the Samsung HW-Q90R. This premium and well-built soundbar has a 7.1.4 setup consisting of a large soundbar, a wireless subwoofer, and two wireless satellite speakers. It's capable of delivering a fully immersive surround sound experience and is also one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars that we've tested so far.
Thanks to its neutral and well-balanced sound profile, this soundbar is versatile enough for all kinds of audio genres including TV shows, movies, and most audio genres. It's also capable of producing a lot of low-bass which can really bring out the thump and rumble of your favorite action movies or video games. If you like to tweak your sound, you can even EQ it using its app, which is a nice touch. It can act as a hub for your TV and other devices, too, and its three HDMI ports can support most high-end audio formats.
On the downside, even though it can create an immersive experience for Atmos content, its soundstage still sounds smaller than that of a traditional home theater that uses ceiling and tower speakers. The bar is quite large and you may have a difficult time fitting it between your TV's legs if you have a TV that's 55" or smaller. Still, this is an impressive soundbar that can deliver a sound experience closer to a traditional home theater setup without too many components or wires.
If you have a large room and can fit in even more speakers and even two subwoofers, then grab the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch for an immersive listening experience. It might take a bit more time to set up than the Samsung HW-Q90R, but once you get every setting right for your usage, this soundbar has one of the best surround sound performance we've tested so far. It also has four up-firing speakers, which helps to create even better height effects with Atmos content, which really shines when watching movies. This system is very well-built, although some might not like the futuristic design of the bar. If you can get over the unusual style, you shouldn't be disappointed by the performance of this high-end soundbar.
The Samsung is a better option for most people, but if you have extra room and watch a lot of Atmos movies, then the Nakamichi's extra channels will help create a more immersive experience.
The Samsung HW-Q80R is the best 5.1 soundbar setup we've tested so far. It has a similarly sleek design and solid build as the Samsung HW-Q90R, but its setup doesn't include rear satellite speakers.
This soundbar allows you to enjoy almost any kind of audio content, such as audiobooks or movies, as its sound profile is well-balanced and neutral while its subwoofer delivers satisfying rumble and thump. It can get loud enough for house parties or large rooms, and if you like to play around with your sound, there's also a built-in graphic EQ. It can even support Dolby Atmos by using the soundbar's side and up-firing speakers, which help create a more immersive experience.
Still, without dedicated rear satellite speakers, you won't get as immersive of an experience as the HW-Q90R, and since it's wider than most 55" TVs, it can be more difficult to find the right spot to put it. However, if you don't have the room for a 7.1.4 setup and you don't want to compromise too much on sound, then this soundbar is a solid choice.
If you want a great soundbar setup but don't want to break the bank, get the Vizio SB36512-F6. It might not get as loud and doesn't feel as premium as the Samsung HW-Q80R, but its overall surround experience is better thanks to its dedicated satellite speakers. It provides great performance for its affordable price point, although its stereo soundstage isn't the largest we've tested. It even supports Atmos content, which can make movie-listening a lot more immersive. Unfortunately, it can't be EQ'ed like the Samsung soundbar and it has fewer inputs, so it might be the best option if you have a lot of devices. On the upside, the Vizio has Chromecast built-in.
If you want a sleeker-looking setup and care about a large stereo soundstage for music, get the Samsung, but if you watch a lot of movies, then a setup with dedicated rear speakers like the Vizio might be a better option.
The best small soundbar we've tested so far is the Sonos Beam. It has a very short design that should easily fit inside the legs of a 55" TV. It's a very well-built system that packs a powerful sound and can also be easily upgraded by purchasing a separate wireless subwoofer and rear satellites.
The bar by itself has decent performance, although some might feel like it lacks a punchy bass due to the lack of subwoofer. It's still an amazing choice to upgrade from your TV speakers. It has a very large stereo soundstage and a well-balanced overall sound profile. It also has an excellent center channel performance thanks to its dedicated center speaker. This results in clearer and more accurate dialogue, especially in movies.
Unfortunately, the bar doesn't have a lot of inputs and won't be able to be used as a hub for all your devices. It also doesn't support Bluetooth, so you'll have to use Wi-Fi and the Sonos app to stream content wirelessly. On the upside, this soundbar has a room correction feature that applies adjustments to its sound delivery based on your room, for optimal performance.
The best budget soundbar we've reviewed so far is the Yamaha YAS-207. If you're looking for a soundbar to simply upgrade from your TV speakers and aren't looking for all the bells and whistles for Atmos content, this soundbar has a great stereo performance at a very affordable price.
This soundbar comes with a dedicated wireless subwoofer that offers good overall bass performance. It performs very well with music or TV shows as it has a very well-balanced sound profile and can get very loud. It has a few sound enhancement features like dialogue enhancement to help you make voices sound clearer. It also supports Dolby Digital and DTS content thanks to its wide array of different inputs. You can also stream content wirelessly via Bluetooth to the bar.
Unfortunately, the build quality is only decent as the bar and sub have some mesh fabric covering them, which can easily get damaged and dirty. Its soundstage also isn't the widest and there's a bit of bass compression at max volume. Nevertheless, this is a great option for people who are looking to purchase their first soundbar without paying too much.
05/22/2020: Minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy.
01/22/2020: Added the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch as 'More Immersive Alternative' to the 'Best Soundbar'.
10/31/2019: Changed the Yamaha YAS-408 for the Vizio SB36512-F6 as 'More Affordable Alternative' to the 'Best Soundbar'.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best soundbars for TV 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.