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 90 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 Samsung HW-Q950T is the best soundbar that we've tested. This premium and well-built 9.1.4 setup consists of a long bar, a wireless subwoofer, and two satellite speakers. If you're a film fan, this bar also supports Atmos, so you can get an immersive surround sound experience.
It has a neutral and well-balanced sound profile suitable for a variety of audio content. It can produce a boomy bass, which is especially good for sound effects. If you prefer a different sound, you can tweak it to your liking by using its graphic EQ and presets. It also supports eARC, so you can play high-quality lossless formats as well as object-based surround signals. It can pass through the highest quality signals, resulting in crisp and clear text on your screen. If you like to stream audio wirelessly, it's also Bluetooth and Wi-Fi compatible.
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. It's quite wide and most likely won't fit between the legs of a 55 inch TV. That said, if you don't necessarily need satellite speakers, the Samsung HW-Q900T offers a similar performance, although it doesn't sound as immersive. However, if you want a sound experience closer to a traditional home theater setup, it's a versatile choice.
If you want more than one subwoofer in your setup, check out the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch. While its sound profile isn't as neutral as the Samsung HW-Q950T, the Nakamichi comes with two wireless subwoofers and four satellite speakers. Thanks to this 9.2.4 setup, it can create an immersive audio experience that fans of Atmos content can really enjoy. While it doesn't come with a comprehensive EQ, there are presets as well as other features like dialogue enhancement, which can help improve the vocal clarity of your favorite TV shows or podcasts. Unfortunately, it doesn't support eARC, and you can't wirelessly stream content from your phone to the bar using Wi-Fi. That said, there's a variety of physical inputs, including three Full HDMI In ports and an AUX port to help you connect to the bar.
If you're looking for a setup with a balanced sound profile out-of-the-box, or if you like having a graphic EQ to help fine-tune its sound, go for the Samsung. However, if you want an even more immersive sound experience that comes with having an additional subwoofer, try the Nakamichi.
The best 5.1 soundbar that we've tested is the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers. This well-built 5.1.2 has a premium feel and comes with a dedicated subwoofer and two satellite speakers, which help immerse you in your audio content. It also has an impressive surround performance and supports Dolby Atmos content.
It comes with a room correction feature that automatically adjusts the sound profile based on the acoustic characteristics of the room it's in. With this feature turned on, it has a very neutral sound profile that's suitable for listening to a variety of audio content. It has a dedicated center channel and a dialogue enhancement feature, which help make voices sound clear and accurate. Its soundstage is perceived as open and spacious, and it can get quite loud, though there are some compression artifacts present at max volume.
Unfortunately, it lacks a graphic EQ and doesn't have many sound enhancement features, though it does offer bass and treble adjustments. Also, it may be difficult to find the full package in stock at the moment, though you can purchase the bar, sub, and satellites separately and pair them together yourself. That said, this well-built soundbar offers versatile performance and a great surround feel.
If you're looking for a more customizable 5.1 alternative, consider the Vizio Elevate. Although its surround performance isn't as good as the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers, it has EQ presets and bass and treble adjustments, letting you customize its sound profile to your liking. This 5.1.4 setup also comes with a height level adjustment and a Virtual Surround feature, which uses psychoacoustic principles to help create a sound that feels immersive. Out-of-the-box, its sound profile is bass-heavy, but with some calibration it can be well balanced, making it suitable for playing a variety of audio content. It also has an amazing center performance, so dialogue sounds clear and present in the mix. There are a lot of input options as well, including two Full HDMI In ports, two AUX ports, and a USB port.
If you want a better-built soundbar with a better surrounds performance, go for the Sonos. If you prefer a speaker with more sound enhancement features and multiple inputs, consider the Vizio instead.
The best standalone soundbar that we've tested is the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. This 5.1.4 model comes with 13 built-in speakers that help deliver an impressively immersive listening experience for a standalone bar. It can get really loud without a lot of compression, so it's a solid choice for listening to audio at parties.
Out-of-the-box, it reproduces clear and accurate vocals and lead instruments thanks to its balanced mid and treble ranges. With its AMBEO 3D mode turned on, it delivers a good surround performance, so sound seems to come from all around you. It also has a room correction feature that optimizes audio reproduction based on the unique acoustic characteristics of your room, and there's a parametric EQ to help you customize its sound to your liking.
Unfortunately, out-of-the-box, it struggles to reproduce low-bass, so you don't feel the deep thump and rumble in action-packed movie scenes. Also, it's tall and very heavy, so it may block the bottom of your TV screen. However, if you don't have the space for satellite speakers or a subwoofer, this standalone bar delivers a decently versatile performance overall.
If you're low on space and want a small standalone soundbar, consider the Sonos Beam instead. While this 3.0 model doesn't support Dolby Atmos content or offer as impressive a surrounds performance as the more customizable Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar, it has a very compact design and, as a result, you can easily add it to your existing setup without taking up a lot of space or blocking your TV screen. Its sound profile is very neutral and balanced, though it also lacks a touch of low-bass. It also has a room correction feature to help adjust audio reproduction based on the acoustic characteristics of your room, and it has bass and treble adjustments to help you customize its sound. Despite its small size, it has an impressive stereo soundstage performance, and it ranks among the best small soundbars we've tested.
If you want a larger standalone soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos and offers a better surround performance and more sound customization features, check out the Sennheiser. However, if you prefer a small standalone bar that doesn't take up much space, consider the Sonos instead.
The Vizio M Series M51a-H6 is the best soundbar under $500 that we've tested. This 5.1 setup comes with a dedicated subwoofer that adds a little extra kick in the bass range, as well as two satellite speakers that offer a great surrounds performance. It also gets pretty loud, so it's a solid choice for listening to music at parties or in large rooms.
Out-of-the-box, it has a very neutral, balanced sound profile suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content, and the extra punch in the bass range can even please fans of bass-heavy music like EDM. If you prefer a different sound, there are a few EQ presets as well as bass and treble adjustments to help you customize it. It also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, and its Full HDMI In port lets you use it as a hub between different devices.
Unfortunately, it lacks some more premium sound enhancement features, like room correction or a graphic EQ for greater sound customization. Also, its soundstage performance isn't as impressive as more premium 5.1 soundbars like the Vizio Elevate or the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers, which can be disappointing if you love to feel immersed in your audio. That said, if you're looking for a more affordable 5.1 soundbar, it offers a very versatile performance that can please many different types of listeners.
The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is the best budget soundbar that we've tested. This versatile 5.1 setup gets loud without a lot of compression, making it ideal for listening to audio in large rooms or at crowded parties. It comes with a dedicated subwoofer and two surround speakers that help immerse you in your favorite movies.
Out-of-the-box, it offers a balanced, neutral sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content. There are also a few EQ presets as well as bass and treble adjustments available to help you customize its sound more to your liking. You can also use the dialogue enhancement feature to make voices sound more clear and crisp.
Unfortunately, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, which can be disappointing for some movie lovers. It also lacks more premium sound enhancement features like a graphic EQ or a room correction feature. However, it's still a very versatile bar for its affordable price.
Mar 26, 2021: Replaced the Vizio SB36512-F6 with the Vizio Elevate as the alternative in the 'Best 5.1' category, and changed the category name to 'More Customizable Alternative'. Moved the Vizio SB36512-F6 to Notable Mentions.
Feb 26, 2021: Replaced the JBL Bar 9.1 with the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers as the JBL isn't widely available. Added the Vizio Elevate and the JBL Bar 9.1 to Notable Mentions. Removed the Bose Soundbar 500 from Notable Mentions as it isn't widely available.
Jan 28, 2021: Removed the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers as 'More Immersive Alt' due to lack of availability. Removed the Samsung HW-R650 from 'Notable Mentions' as it's no longer available. Added the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar as 'Best Standalone Soundbar' and moved the Sonos Beam from 'Best Small Soundbar' to 'Smaller Alternative' for more clarity.
Dec 23, 2020: Minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy.
Nov 27, 2020: Replaced the Samsung HW-T550 with the Vizio V Series V51-H6 as 'Best Budget Soundbar'. Added the Samsung HW-T550 to Notable Mentions.
Oct 30, 2020: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q90R with the Samsung HW-Q950T for 'Best Soundbar'.
Oct 02, 2020: Added the Samsung HW-Q950T to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best soundbars 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.