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 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 50 soundbars so far, 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 we've tested so far is the Samsung HW-Q90R. This premium and well-built soundbar has a 7.1.4 setup consisting of a large soundbar, 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 so far.
Thanks to its neutral and well-balanced sound profile, this soundbar is 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 which can bring 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.
On the downside, 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" or smaller. Still, this is an impressive soundbar that can deliver a sound experience closer to a traditional home theater setup without too many components or wires.
If you have a large room and can fit in even more speakers and even two subwoofers, then grab the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch for an immersive listening experience. It might take a bit more time to set up 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 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.
The Samsung HW-Q80R is the best 5.1 soundbar that we've tested so far. This well-built setup includes a large soundbar with two up-firing speakers and a wireless sub. With such a good overall performance, it makes for an excellent upgrade over your TV speakers.
Thanks to its neutral and accurate sound, this soundbar performs well with a variety of content like music, movies, and TV shows. Its bass is extended enough to accurately reproduce the deep thump and rumble found in bass-heavy music, action-packed scenes, and movie scores. It also gets very loud and has little compression at max volume, so it's great for parties or crowded rooms. If you like to customize the sound of your bar based on your preferences, you'll appreciate the graphic EQ and dialogue enhancement feature.
On the downside, this soundbar's surround performance is disappointing. There are no dedicated surround speakers. Instead, it uses side-firing speakers to bounce sound off the walls and create the impression of surround speakers, but this doesn't sound as clear and accurate as a discrete surround setup. However, the bar's up-firing speakers do a decent job creating a wide and immersive listening experience for Atmos content.
If you're shopping for a 5.1 setup on a tight budget, consider the Vizio SB36512-F6 instead. This soundbar doesn't get as loud nor look as premium and sleek as the Samsung HW-Q80R, but it's still a good overall soundbar setup that offers an immersive listening experience. Thanks to its dedicated surround speakers, it also has a slightly better surround performance, which is good for watching movies. However, some users may find it challenging to get the setup they want as these speakers are not wireless and must be connected to the sub with cables. Overall, with its neutral sound profile, this soundbar can perform well with most audio content. Love listening to Atmos content? You may prefer the Vizio SB46514-F6, which is wider than the other Vizio and comes with two additional up-firing speakers for an even more immersive listening experience, but it's noticeably more expensive.
If you want a more premium-looking soundbar that can get loud, go with the Samsung. But if you're on a budget, the Vizio may be the better option for you.
The best small soundbar we've tested so far is the Sonos Beam. It has a very short design that should easily fit inside the legs of a 55" 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 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 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 to date. This well-built 2.1 setup comes with a wireless subwoofer that delivers deep and powerful bass. Overall, this entry-level soundbar delivers a good performance for its more affordable price point.
This soundbar 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 so far.
On the downside, like most entry-level soundbars, 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, this soundbar is an upgrade over your TV speakers.
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'.
10/31/2019: Changed the Yamaha YAS-408 for the Vizio SB36512-F6 as 'More Affordable 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.