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 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. The best soundbars for TV reproduce dialogue in your favorite shows with clarity and detail.
The top soundbar we've tested is the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module. This soundbar has a very versatile performance overall, and you can plug it right into your TV for a great listening experience right out of the box. It offers a really impressive performance with surround sound, like Dolby Digital content, as well as object-based formats like Dolby Atmos, so you feel like the action in your favorite movies is taking place all around you.
Like most premium soundbars, it has a room correction feature that automatically adjusts audio reproduction based on your room's acoustics - Bose calls it ADAPTiQ. With this feature on, it has a very neutral and balanced sound, so dialogue is present and detailed in the mix, and action-packed scenes are filled with thump and rumble in the bass. Its amazing soundstage performance helps it stand out from the crowd - sounds extend well past the edges of the bar itself, wrapping you in your audio from all angles for an immersive listening experience.
Unfortunately, no soundbar is perfect. Aside from its bass and treble adjustments, there aren't a lot of customization features available. It also doesn't support DTS content, and while this format isn't very common on its own, it's the fallback for higher-quality DTS-HD MA formatted content that you find on lots of Blu-rays. If you mostly watch on streaming platforms, you're less likely to come across DTS content.
If you want a setup that supports DTS content, check out the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers. Its soundstage performance isn't as impressive as the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module and doesn't support Bluetooth, but a recent update to the Sonos S2 app finally added support for DTS. It's exciting news, especially if you watch a lot of content from Blu-rays since DTS is the fallback for DTS-HD MA formatted discs. The bar offers a wide, immersive soundstage with a clear and real sound that makes it seem like sound objects are coming from an accurate point in the soundstage. For example, helicopters seem to fly overhead from a pinpoint location, making it feel like you're in the center of the action. Like the Bose, it has a room correction feature called TruePlay, but its default sound is a bit bright and lacking in low-bass. Fortunately, you can easily customize it for a more neutral sound by setting its bass to '1' and its treble to '-1'.
You can't go wrong with either of these premium setups. If you want a setup with better soundstage and Bluetooth capabilities, check out the Bose. For a similar bar with DTS support, consider the Sonos instead.
If you want to have a lot of control over how your setup sounds, consider the Samsung HW-Q950A instead. It comes with some additional features that the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module lacks, like a 7-band graphic EQ. It's ideal if you want more ability to customize its sound profile, especially in the mid-range where most voices reproduce.
Overall, this setup has a very versatile performance. It supports Dolby Atmos and DTS content, offering a pretty immersive listening experience with movies. Dialogue in movies and TV shows is reproduced clearly thanks to its balanced and neutral sound, especially in the mids, and its dedicated sub offers a fairly present and thumpy bass for music genres like hip-hop and EDM. There's even a Full HDMI In port that supports video passthrough, which the Bose lacks.
So why isn't it the top pick? When you break down the overall score, you can see that it doesn't perform as well as the Bose when it comes to some key sound tests - and the difference is noticeable when you compare them back-to-back with real-life content. The Samsung's soundstage isn't as wide or immersive-sounding as the Bose, and it doesn't reproduce as much bass out-of-the-box, so you feel less thump and rumble in action movies. It's a great setup, but if you're just looking for a plug-and-play bar, the extra customization features aren't worth it.
Since the acoustic characteristics of your listening space can impact the way you perceive sound, it can be hard to find a soundbar setup that's suitable for larger, more open living rooms. Fortunately, some options on the market come with two subwoofers, like the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch. The additional subwoofer helps even out the bass response throughout larger spaces, filling any possible holes in your soundstage with clear and present bass.
This setup also comes with four satellite speakers, which is more than you'll find with most setups. They help create an impressive sound with surround sound and Dolby Atmos content, so you feel like you're in the center of the action with your favorite movies. Dialogue reproduces fairly clearly and accurately, and its deep, rumbling bass helps you feel the action in intense scenes. If you want more bass, you can use the 'Bass' button on the remote to control the subwoofer volume.
Unfortunately, the bar's sound profile lacks some treble, resulting in a dark sound overall that can make it hard to hear higher-frequency voices from characters in your movies. Although there's a treble adjustment feature, it's still difficult to improve its response in this range. If you're a movie lover looking to fill a large room with an even and accurate bass response, it's still a solid choice.
Similarly, if you have a small living room, you'll want to find a soundbar setup that fits easily into your space. There are many compact options on the market, and the best one that we've tested is the Sonos Beam (Gen 2). It's the upgraded version of the original Sonos Beam with the same small design. However, it comes with some new features, including support for Dolby Atmos content often found on Blu-rays and streaming platforms.
While the bar is small, it still has a really impressive soundstage performance. Like many bars on the market, it uses psychoacoustic principles to widen its perceived soundstage, resulting in an immersive sound that stands out in comparison to other small bars we've tested. There's a room correction feature called TruePlay available to optimize audio reproduction based on the unique acoustics of your living room.
Unfortunately, without a dedicated subwoofer, you don't feel the deep thump in the low-bass with bass-heavy music and action-packed movies. It's especially noticeable when watching Dolby Atmos content, which takes away from the immersive feel. You can easily upgrade the bar with a dedicated subwoofer, improving its bass performance, as well as satellite speakers to enhance its performance with surround sound, but it'll take up a little more space in your room.
Looking for something more wallet-friendly? The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is the best soundbar we've tested for under $500. This 5.1.2 setup has a versatile performance that makes it a great choice for listening to music, movies, and TV shows without breaking the bank. It supports Dolby Atmos content, and it even comes with a dedicated subwoofer and two satellite speakers for a more immersive sound.
Out-of-the-box, this bar has a pretty neutral sound profile that makes it suitable for listening to most types of audio content. Its balanced mids ensure a detailed and accurate reproduction of voices and lead instruments, and there's a touch of extra brightness due to a peak in the treble range. Thanks to its sub, you feel the deep thump and rumble in action-packed movie scenes.
The bar doesn't offer as many features as the more premium models on the market. You won't find a room correction feature, meaning it can sound a bit different depending on the space you're in. There's no graphic EQ, either, so audiophiles are a bit limited when it comes to tweaking the bar's sound. Its bass and treble adjustments still give you some control, though, which is handy.
The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is the best budget soundbar we've tested. This 5.1 setup is an even more affordable alternative to the Vizio M Series M512a-H6 with a great price-to-performance ratio. It comes with two satellite speakers, which helps to enhance the bar's performance with surround sound.
Right out of the box, the bar has a neutral sound profile, and its balanced mid-range means that dialogue in your favorite movies and TV shows is clear and detailed in the mix. Its dedicated subwoofer reproduces a deep and powerful bass, so there's a little extra boom. It has a decent selection of sound enhancement features on hand, especially for its price, including bass and treble adjustments, as well as a dialogue enhancement feature so you can change its sound as you wish.
Unfortunately, its budget-friendly price means that you'll have to sacrifice some features. There's no Dolby Atmos support, which is disappointing if you watch lots of movies on 4k Blu-rays and streaming platforms with Atmos content. You won't find a Full HDMI In port, either, so you can't use it for video passthrough. That said, if you're on a tight budget, it's still suitable for surround sound as well as listening to music and TV shows.
May 12, 2022: No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability. Minor updates to the text for clarity.
Apr 15, 2022: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q950A with the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module as 'Best Soundbar'. While the Samsung scores better overall, the Bose performs better with some key sound tests, including stereo soundstage and stereo frequency response. The Samsung's extra features are handy, but they aren't necessary if you just want a plug-and-play bar.
Mar 18, 2022: Added the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6 to Notable Mentions. Minor updates to the text for accuracy.
Feb 18, 2022: Added the Klipsch Cinema 1200 to Notable Mentions. Minor updates to the text.
Jan 21, 2022: No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the top 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, including the best soundbars for TV and the best Bluetooth soundbars. 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.