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 speakers 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. You can plug multiple devices into this bar thanks to the three HDMI ports, which support most high-end audio formats. You can even cast content wirelessly via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which is very useful.
The sound signature of this soundbar is very neutral and well-balanced, which makes it quite versatile for movies, TV shows, and most music genres. It also has a very good low-frequency extension and packs a lot of bass. The soundbar also has an EQ included inside its app, which is easy to use and navigate. You'll be able to customize the sound to your preference.
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 have a large room and can fit in even more speakers and even two subwoofer, then grab the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch for an immersive listening experience. The Nakamichi might take a bit more time to setup 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.
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 or even a 9.2.4 setup with the Nakamichi, but if you're fine with 5.1.2 and want to save a significant chunk of change, go for the Vizio. There's also the bigger Vizio SB46514-F6, which has two more up firing speakers, which can help with Atmos content, but it's a bit more expensive than the 36 inch version.
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 the room to fit in multiple speakers but would like to still get an immersive experience, then get the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. It's a 5.1.4 system in a single bar. It's rather large and heavy, but if you have the room for it under your TV, it can be a good option. Its integrated subwoofer might not create an as good bass as the wireless sub from the Samsung HW-Q80R, but the Sennheiser features a unique 3D mode that helps to create an immersive surround sound experience. It supports most high-end audio formats and is one of the best standalone soundbars for Dolby Atmos content that we've tested. You can even cast music via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and it has Chromecast built-in. Due to its size, you might need to wall-mount your TV in order to fit it under.
Get the Samsung if you want better bass, but if you prefer a brighter sound and don't have the room for a full setup, the Sennheiser is a decent standalone 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 prefer the ease-of-use of plug-and-play devices, then go for the Bose Solo 5. It might not have the sound customization features that the Sonos Beam has, and it does feel a bit cheaper, but you can play content via Bluetooth, which you can't do with the Sonos. Its sound profile is a bit bright, as it lacks bass, but it can be a good option if you want to upgrade from your computer's speakers to binge watch TV shows with improved sound quality. However, you won't be able to upgrade its setup like you can do with the Sonos sub and rear speakers. Nevertheless, it's a great option for people who have limited space and don't want to manage a lot of cables.
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 an easier-to-use design, you'll want to go for the Bose.
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 a 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 is also not 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.
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.
02/20/2020: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; added the JBL Link Bar to notable mentions.
01/22/2020: Added the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch as 'More Immersive Alternative' to the 'Best Soundbar'. Minor text updates.
10/31/2019: Changed the Yamaha YAS-408 for the Vizio SB36512-F6 as 'More Affordable Alternative' to the 'Best Soundbar'.