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 want something you can plug your MP3 player into, there's a model out there for you. However, not all soundbars are created equal, 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 over 65 soundbars, 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 that we've tested is the Samsung HW-Q90R. This premium and well-built soundbar has a 7.1.4 setup consisting of a large bar, 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.
Thanks to its neutral and well-balanced sound profile, it's 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, bringing 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.
Unfortunately, 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 inches or smaller. Still, this impressive model can deliver a sound experience closer to a traditional home theater setup without too many components or wires.
If you want a more immersive listening experience, consider the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers. While it doesn't reproduce deep bass quite as well as the Samsung HW-Q90R, it still offers a very well-balanced sound profile out-of-the-box, and it even has a room correction feature that can analyze your space and adjust the sound profile based on the room you're listening in. This premium-looking 5.1.2 setup comes with two satellite speakers and a separate subwoofer to help provide an excellent surround performance. It supports Atmos content, and it's wide, and focused soundstage helps create an immersive listening experience for your favorite movies. On the downside, it doesn't support DTS content, and it isn't Bluetooth-compatible.
If you want a soundbar with a deep bass that can play DTS content, go with the Samsung, but if you love surround content and want an immersive sound, go with the Sonos instead.
If you're looking to have more than one subwoofer in your setup, consider the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch. While it doesn't sound as neutral as the Samsung HW-Q90R, this well-built 9.2.4 setup has two wireless subwoofers and four dedicated rear speakers. Together, these speakers help create an immersive audio experience that's especially well-suited for Atmos content. It also comes with a fair amount of sound enhancement features, including an auto-volume/night mode which some users may especially appreciate when watching TV. On the downside, it doesn't support eARC. You also won't be able to wirelessly stream audio to it using Wi-Fi. However, it offers three Full HDMI In ports, as well as an AUX and USB port, so you have a variety of other ways to connect to your bar.
If you prefer a soundbar with a better-balanced sound profile right out-of-the-box, check out the Samsung. However, if you're looking for an immersive setup with an additional subwoofer, go for the Nakamichi.
The JBL Bar 9.1 is the best 5.1 soundbar that we've tested. This impressive and well-built setup has a wireless subwoofer plus two wireless satellite speakers that can detach from the main bar and be placed around the room. The satellites are also advertised to have up to 10 hours of continuous playtime, although we don't currently test for this.
Thanks to its well-balanced sound profile, it's suitable for a variety of audio content. Since it has a bit of extra thump, it's especially great for reproducing sound effects in your favorite action flicks. If you like to listen to podcasts or audiobooks, it also has an outstanding dedicated center channel that helps reproduce voices clearly and accurately. It has a full array of physical inputs too, and it supports eARC as well as Dolby Atmos. It even supports 4k passthrough, and you can play your audio using one of several wireless options such as Bluetooth or Chromecast built-in.
Unfortunately, its sound enhancement features are quite disappointing, and it lacks a dialogue enhancement feature. There isn't a graphic EQ either, and while there's three EQ presets available, some may still find this selection a little limiting. That said, if you're looking for a unique 5.1 setup with a balanced sound right out-of-the-box, this impressive soundbar is a great choice.
If your budget is a bit more limited, but you still prefer a 5.1 setup, check out the Vizio SB36512-F6. While its surround performance falls short of that of the JBL 9.1, and it doesn't feel as well-built, the Vizio still delivers a good overall performance but at a lower price point. It has a great stereo frequency response, and its sound profile is neutral enough to suit most kinds of audio content. However, it can be a little more tricky to set this soundbar up as it uses wired speakers that need to be connected to the sub in order to play audio. If you tend to listen to a lot of Atmos content, you may want to also consider the Vizio SB46514-F6. It's a bit wider and more expensive, but it has two additional up-firing speakers to give you an even more immersive audio experience.
If you're looking for a 5.1 setup with truly wireless satellite speakers and price isn't a major factor, consider the JBL. However, if you're shopping within a budget and don't mind having wired satellite speakers, check out the Vizio.
The best small soundbar we've tested is the Sonos Beam. It has a very short design that should easily fit inside the legs of a 55 inch 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 a 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 a 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 Samsung HW-T550 is the best budget soundbar that we've tested. This well-built 2.1 setup comes with a wireless subwoofer that delivers deep and powerful bass. Overall, this entry-level model delivers a good performance for its more affordable price point.
It has a well-balanced sound profile that does a decent job of reproducing most audio content. With its dialogue enhancement feature, dialogue-heavy content like podcasts and TV shows will sound great on this bar. There's an impressive amount of customization options that allow you to adjust the sound based on your preferences, including night mode and a 7-band EQ. The extra kick of bass will please fans of bass-heavy music like EDM and hip-hop. This is one of the best soundbars for music that we've tested.
Unfortunately, like most entry-level models, this bar doesn't support Atmos content, which may be disappointing for fans of movies and video games. It also doesn't have the best surround performance, so it may sound like movies are happening in front of you instead of all around you. If you're looking for a budget soundbar with a deeper bass that supports 5.1 lossless content, you may prefer the Yamaha YAS-209. However, the Samsung is an upgrade over your TV speakers.
10/02/2020: Minor updates to the text; verification for accuracy. Added the Samsung HW-Q950T to 'Notable Mentions'.
09/02/2020: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q80R with the JBL Bar 9.1 as the 'Best 5.1 Soundbar'. Added the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers as 'More Immersive Alternative' and moved the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch to 'Two-Sub Alternative' to the 'Best Soundbar'.
08/03/2020: Minor updates to the text. Added the Sonos Arc and the LG SN11RG as 'Notable Mentions'.
07/09/2020: Replaced the Yamaha-YAS 207 with the Samsung HW-T550 as 'Best Budget Soundbar'. Removed Samsung HW-R550 from 'Notable Mentions'.
01/22/2020: Added the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch as 'More Immersive 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.