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 listen to music often 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 30 soundbars so far, and below you'll find the best soundbars to buy in 2020. 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 7.1.4 soundbar setup feels very premium and well-built and consists of a large soundbar, a wireless subwoofer, and two wireless satellite speakers. There are side and up-firing speaking on its bar and satellites, meaning it can create a fully immersive surround-sound experience up to 7.1.4 if you're watching Atmos content. It also has plenty of connectivity options, including multiple HDMI ports, allowing you to use the bar as a hub for all your devices. If you like to listen to music, you can also pair your mobile device to it via Bluetooth or wi-fi, which gives you an uninterrupted listening experience even if you move your phone or receive a phone call.
The sound reproduction is great and is one of the most neutral and well-balanced that we've tested to date, making it suitable for a wide variety of content. It also does a great job separating speech from background music or sound effects, like explosions, so you should be able to clearly make out the dialogue in your favorite movies or TV shows. The dedicated subwoofer produces a good amount of thump and rumble, and there's also a customizable EQ so you can fine-tune the sound to better suit your needs, or adjust the bass level if you have easily-disturbed neighbors.
Unfortunately, even though this is one of the better-performing soundbars we've tested for Atmos movies, its soundstage still won't sound as wide as a traditional home theater Atmos setups with ceiling and tower speakers. The soundbar itself is also quite large and if you have a 55" or smaller TV, you'll likely have a difficult time fitting it between the legs of your television. Overall, however, this is a very impressive soundbar that gets as close as you can get to a traditional home theater setup without the need for a ton of components and wires.
If you want a great soundbar setup but don't want to break the bank, get the Vizio SB36512-F6. It's a 5.1.2 setup, unlike the 7.1.4 Samsung HW-Q90R, and it doesn't feel as premium and well-made, but it's considerably cheaper and offers a great price-to-performance ratio. The bar itself is a foot shorter than the Samsung and should fit between the legs of most larger TV sets. While the dedicated subwoofer connects to the soundbar wirelessly, unfortunately the rear satellites need to be plugged into the sub, which limits where you can place it in your space. The sound quality is very impressive for the price, though it won't get quite as loud as the Samsung. On the upside, it has Chromecast built-in, meaning you can control it via your Google Home and add it to a pre-existing multi-room Chromecast setup.
If you don't mind spending more for the best performing option, or want full 7.1.4 Atmos, get the Samsung, but if you're fine with 5.1.2 and want to save a significant chunk of change, go for the Vizio.
The best 5.1 soundbar setup we've tested so far is the Samsung HW-Q80R. It's very similar to the Samsung HW-Q90R, except it doesn't come with satellite speakers. It shares the same great design, with a sturdy build and lots of connectivity options, at a lower price. It also supports Dolby Atmos and has side and up-firing speakers on the soundbar, but no rear speakers, which might affect your perception of objects around you.
Like the other Samsung, this soundbar has a great neutral and well-balanced sound profile. The subwoofer performs well and there's no compression, even when pushing the bar to its max volume. If you like playing around with the sound, you should be satisfied with the built-in EQ. It also has multiple connection options and can be a hub for your devices.
While its side-firing speakers help create a fairly wide soundstage, the lack of discreet rear speakers results in a slightly less immersive experience than what the other Samsung provides. That said, it takes up less space in your living room and is a bit less expensive as well. Overall, if you're looking for a great 5.1 soundbar setup with a subwoofer, this is a solid choice.
If you don't have room for a separate subwoofer and would have rather have all channels built directly into one standalone bar, then get the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. Its integrated subwoofer struggles with bass compared to the discreet wireless sub of the Samsung HW-Q80R, but it has a unique 3D mode that helps it sound surprisingly immersive. It supports virtually every audio format available and is one of the best standalone soundbars for Dolby Atmos content that we've tested. While you won't have to worry about where to place a subwoofer with this soundbar, it's very big, so you'll need to plan out where to set it up ahead of time, especially since it's very expensive.
Get the Samsung if you want better bass, but if you prefer a brighter sound and would rather have a standalone bar, the Sennheiser is a decent option.
The best small soundbar we've tested so far is the Sonos Beam. It's more versatile than most of the other small soundbars we've tested since you can purchase a separate wireless subwoofer or satellite speakers, which is nice if you ever want to expand your setup. It has tons of sound enhancement features, including room correction, and feels like a premium product overall.
Sonos has a great room correction feature that makes adjustments to your soundbar audio delivery depending on your room. Unfortunately, it's only available on iOS for now. While the soundbar by itself might lack a bit of bass, it has a great overall audio quality and shines thanks to a well-balanced sound profile, which is great for various voice-oriented content like TV shows. It's also quite easy to improve its performance if you upgrade your setup.
Unfortunately, this soundbar can be a bit of a hassle to set up. You need to download the Sonos app on your phone for it to work, but it doesn't support Bluetooth, so you have to either connect it to your home's Wi-Fi network or plug in a wired Internet connection. It also only has an HDMI ARC port, so if your TV only supports optical audio you'll need to use the provided adapter. If the limited connectivity options aren't a problem for you, though, it's a well-rounded, upgradeable choice.
If you would prefer a very straightforward soundbar with the least amount of cables possible, then get the Bose Solo 5. You can simply connect it via a 3.5mm AUX cable or optical as it doesn't have any modern inputs like HDMI ports. It also doesn't provide any sound enhancement features like the Sonos Beam has. On the other hand, if you like casting content via Bluetooth, this soundbar can do it, which the Beam can't, and it still offers pretty decent performance, although it's a bit light on bass. This means this soundbar might be better-suited for voice-oriented content such as podcasts, audiobooks, or TV shows with lots of dialogue.
Get the Sonos if you want a small soundbar that you can eventually upgrade into a bigger setup, but if you want something less expensive with a simpler design, you'll want to go for the Bose.
The best budget soundbar we've reviewed so far is the Yamaha YAS-207. It has a pretty good audio reproduction for a budget soundbar, has a few settings to help improve its overall performance, and has plenty of connection options, whether you want to plug the soundbar to your TV or stream content wirelessly via a smart device. Overall, it provides surprising performance for its price, providing great value to users.
Its sound profile is fairly neutral and well-balanced and its subwoofer provides an adequate amount of bass. It's a fairly versatile soundbar that can be used for pretty much any type of content. Some may feel like it's a bit light on sub-bass, but most people should still be satisfied with it, especially since you're not paying a premium price point. Like most soundbars in this price range, it doesn't support Atmos. That said, you can enjoy Dolby Digital or DTS content over an HDMI or optical connection, but note that content will be downmixed due to the speaker configuration and won't offer an as immersive experience as more high-end surround soundbars.
Unfortunately, while this soundbar can get pretty loud, it tends to compress and distort at higher volumes, especially in the bass range. This shouldn't be a problem for most people, though, unless you're watching a movie at full blast. The soundbar doesn't feel too cheaply made, but it's covered in a mesh-like fabric that collects a lot of dust and is prone to tearing, so if you have pets you might need to keep an eye on it. Otherwise, it's a steal for the price and is very easy to recommend overall.
If you're looking for something even cheaper, then get the Sony HT-S100F. It sounds less balanced than the Yamaha YAS-207, but costs even less and is a solid choice if you're looking for something to enhance your TV's sound without spending lots of money. Since it doesn't come with a subwoofer, it lacks quite a bit of bass. It sounds fairly neutral in the mid and treble ranges, though, so it's well-suited to TV shows, especially since it has a dialogue enhancing feature. Its connectivity options are pretty limited and it only supports Dolby Digital, but if all you need is HDMI ARC or optical and you don't watch lots of surround sound content, then you shouldn't have a problem.
Get the Yamaha if you want a more versatile soundbar with a dedicated subwoofer and more connection options, but if you're looking to spend as little as possible while still getting something decent, then go for the Sony.
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.
12/23/2019: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in picks.
11/21/2019: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; added the JBL Link Bar to notable mentions.
10/31/2019: Changed the Yamaha YAS-408 for the Vizio SB36512-F6 as 'More Affordable Alternative' to the Samsung HW-Q90R.