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 75 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" 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're looking for an even more immersive audio experience, check out the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers. Although it doesn't reproduce deep bass as well as the Samsung HW-Q950T, its dedicated rear speakers help create an excellent surround performance so that audio feels like it's coming around you rather than from just in front. This well-built 5.1.2 setup also has a wide and somewhat focused soundstage, and objects sound like they're coming from accurate locations. It has a room correction feature and supports Atmos content. However, it's not Bluetooth-compatible. It doesn't support DTS either, which is a little disappointing.
If you're looking for a soundbar that can play DTS content and has deep bass, consider the Samsung. However, if you're looking for an immersive sound for your surround content, check out the Sonos.
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's able to 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. On the downside, it doesn't support eARC, and you won't be able to 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 finetune 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 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, 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, 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 you're trying to keep your expenses low, but you don't want to sacrifice a 5.1 setup, try the Vizio SB36512-F6. While the JBL has a better surround performance and a more premium build quality, the Vizio still delivers a good overall performance but at a more wallet-friendly price. Its neutral sound profile is suitable for a variety of audio content. It can still produce a thumpy low-bass, which is great for sound effects in movies or EDM and hip-hop music. It can also get loud enough to fill a large or crowded room. However, setting up this soundbar can be a bit challenging since its satellite speakers need to be wired to the subwoofer. That said, if you listen to a lot of Atmos content, you may want to try the similarly designed Vizio SB46514-F6, which has two additional up-firing speakers on its satellites, which can help create an even more immersive experience.
Consider the JBL if the price isn't a concern, and you prefer the look and design of truly wireless satellite speakers. However, take a look at the Vizio if you're looking to save some money here or there and don't mind wired satellite speakers.
The Sonos Beam is the best small soundbar that we've tested. This compact 3.0 setup can easily fit between the legs of most 55" TVs and shouldn't take up too much space on your table. While we don't currently test for it, you can even upgrade this bar down the line by purchasing a separate subwoofer and satellites.
This soundbar is well-built and feels sturdy. It has a decently well-balanced sound profile with a touch of extra brightness, which makes it suitable for a variety of audio content. That said, it has a particularly neutral mid-range, so dialogue in your favorite TV shows or audiobooks sounds clear and accurate. It also comes with a room correction feature, which helps improve its audio delivery to better-suit the acoustics of your room. It can get decently loud too and has a great soundstage, especially for its small size.
On the downside, it struggles to reproduce low bass, especially as it doesn't have a subwoofer, so action-packed sound effects or deep bass lines in EDM music lack thump and rumble. It doesn't have an EQ either, although it does have bass and treble sliders to help you tweak its sound a bit either. Still, this soundbar is a solid choice if you don't have a lot of room at home, or you may want to expand your setup down the line.
The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is the best budget soundbar that we've tested. This versatile 5.1 setup comes with a subwoofer and two dedicated surround speakers that help create a more immersive listening experience. You can also stream audio wirelessly from your phone to the bar using a Bluetooth connection.
Overall, it has a very neutral, balanced sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different audio content, and its subwoofer helps to add a little extra boom and punch to the mix. There are also four EQ presets to help you customize its sound to your liking, as well as bass and treble adjustments. This bar gets pretty loud, too, and it doesn't have a lot of compression at max volume, which is nice.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have any height channels and doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, which may be disappointing for some movie fans. Also, it lacks a Full HDMI In port, so you can't use it as a hub between your devices. However, this versatile soundbar still offers a lot of bang for your buck.
12/23/2020: Minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy.
11/27/2020: Replaced the Samsung HW-T550 with the Vizio V Series V51-H6 as 'Best Budget Soundbar'. Added the Samsung HW-T550 to Notable Mentions.
11/03/2020: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q90R with the Samsung HW-Q950T for 'Best Soundbar'.
10/02/2020: 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'.
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.