Sonos Beam vs Sonos Playbar
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Full Comparison

- Ratings
Mixed Usage
What it is: This is for when you want to see how a soundbar performs well in multiples every day use cases such as watching movies or TV shows and to listen to music.
Score components:
  • 45% Movies
  • 30% Dialog / TV Shows
  • 25% Music
Dialog / TV Shows
What it is: How good the soundbar is in reproducing dialog and dialog-heavy content like TV shows, podcasts, and the news. This usage rating prioritizes mid and treble range performance, loudness achieved by the soundbar gets, and its auto-volume and dialog enhancement features. However, it excludes bass, soundstage, and surround performance. It can also be considered as the soundbar's performance for 1.0 content.
Score components:
Music
What it is: How good the soundbar is in reproducing music and and other full-range stereo content. This usage rating prioritizes the full-range frequency response, soundstage, and dynamics performance of the soundbar. However, it excludes surround and height channels performance. It can also be considered as the soundbar's performance for 2.1 content.
Score components:
Movies
What it is: How good the soundbar is in reproducing movies and other surround and immersive content. This usage rating prioritizes the full-range stereo performance of the soundbar as well as its surround and height capabilities. It can also be considered as the soundbar's performance for 5.1.2 content.
Score components:
- Main
Channels
What it is: The channel configuration of the soundbar. This indicates how many discrete audio channels the soundbar has. The first number refers to the number of channels at the ear level. The second number indicates the number of subwoofer channels (Low Frequency Effect or LFE). And the third number indicates the number of height channels (e.g. Atmos). As a rule of thumb, the higher the number of channels, the more immersive the sound will be.
When it matters: It's best to get a soundbar that has the same number of channels (or more) as your audio content. Most music content is stereo and therefore a 2.0/2.1 configuration will be adequate. However, most movies and video games are 5.1 (and less often 7.1) and for these, a multi-channel soundbar is recommended. Certain recent movies and video games also include height channels (like the Atmos format) which would require at least a 5.1.2 channel configuration.
- Design
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Design photo
- Style - Bar
Style photo - bar
- Style - Subwoofer
Style photo - sub
- Style - Satellites
Style photo - satellites
- Dimensions - Bar
Dimensions photo - bar
Bar Width
Bar Height
Bar Depth
- Dimensions - Subwoofer
Dimensions photo - sub
Sub Width
Sub Height
Sub Depth
- Dimensions - Satellites
Dimensions photo - satellites
Sat Width
Sat Height
Sat Depth
- Back - Bar
Back photo - bar
Bar Mounting Type
What it is: Whether the soundbar has mounting holes that can be used with a universal mount, or if it can only be mounted with a proprietary mount.
When it matters: When you don't want to place the soundbar on a table, and you want to know whether you can use a universal mount or not.
- Back - Subwoofer
Back photo - sub
Enclosure
What it is: The subwoofer's enclosure type. This has effects on the subwoofer's performance.
When it matters: For a given size, subwoofers with a sealed enclosure or a passive radiator tend to have a tighter and clear bass, but at the expense of low-frequency extension. Conversely, making the enclosure ported improves the low-frequency extension but tends to make the bass a bit looser and more distorted.
- Back - Satellites
Back photo - satellites
Sat Mounting Type
What it is: Whether the satellites have mounting holes that can be used with a universal mount, or if they can only be mounted with a proprietary mount.
When it matters: When you don't want to place the satellites on a flat stand, and you want to know whether you can use a universal mount or not.
- Build Quality
What it is: It represents our perception of the quality of the construction of the soundbar, of the materials used, and how they all blend.
When it matters: For the lifetime of the soundbar. Poor build quality might lessen the expected lifetime or make it more prone to faults due to mishandling.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Build quality photo
- In The Box
What it is: Everything that's included in the product's box (or boxes), except the product itself. This includes the boxes of the subwoofer and satellites.
When it matters: When setting up the product for the first time.
In The Box photo
HDMI Cable Length
What it is: The length of the included HDMI cable.
When it matters: When playing the TV's sound through the soundbar, when the TV supports HDMI ARC. ARC has more features than optical.
Good value: 5 feet (60 inches)
Digital Optical Cable Length
What it is: The length of the included optical cable.
When it matters: When playing the TV's sound through the soundbar, when the TV doesn't support HDMI ARC.
Good value: 5 feet (60 inches)
- Sound
What it is: How accurately the soundbar reproduces audio. When possible, soundbars are tested using a direct HDMI connection to the test PC. Otherwise, a direct optical connection or HDMI ARC through a TV is used for testing.
When it matters: When you want a deep and powerful bass, clear dialog/instruments, a large soundstage, and a loud and artifact-free sound for movies, video games, music, and TV shows.
Score components:
Frequency Response Large
- Stereo Frequency Response
What it is: The average, compensated, in-room frequency response (spectral balance) of the soundbar. This shows how extended the bass is, and how well-balanced and accurately dialog and instruments are reproduced by the soundbar.
When it matters: When an accurate sound reproduction with a deep bass and clear dialog/instruments is desired. Frequency response has the biggest impact on the perceived accuracy and quality of sound, but doesn't show how loud or large/wide the sound is.
Frequency Response Small
ST Slope
What it is: The derivative of the logarithmic fit (regression line) of the frequency response. This value shows the overall tonal balance (tilt) of the sound as opposed to the std. err. value which shows the overall deviation. Negative values translate to a bass-heavy sound and positive values represent a treble-heavy sound. 0 (a flat slope) represents a balanced tone.
When it matters: When the overall balance between bass and treble is important to you.
Good value: -0.7> <0.3
Noticeable difference: 0.2
ST Std. Err.
What it is: The average deviation of the soundbar's in-room frequency response from the in-room target response. This shows the amount of error in frequency response, as opposed to the slope which shows the tonal balance of the sound. Higher errors represent a less accurate frequency response and lower values represent a more accurate sound.
When it matters: When you care about accurate sound reproduction in a fine-detailed view.
Good value: <2.5 dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
What it is: The lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response. This shows how extended the bass of the soundbar is.
When it matters: When you want to experience the deep thump, punch, and rumble of electronic music, film scores, movies, and games. Dialog and vocals don't need an extended bass to be reproduced accurately.
Good value: <35 Hz
Noticeable difference: 5 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
What it is: The highest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response. This shows how extended the treble of the soundbar is.
When it matters: When you want to experience the brightness, presence, and sparkle of dialog, cymbals, and other sounds with very high-frequency content.
Good value: 15kHz
Noticeable difference: 1kHz
- Stereo Raw Frequency Response
What it is: The uncompensated (raw) in-room frequency response of the soundbar measured with a 2-channel stereo signal at a moderate volume at 80 different positions in the room. The blue line is the average response, and the gray lines represent each of the 80 measurements.
When it matters: This is for the more advanced users who can read and evaluate an in-room frequency response without compensation and want to analyze its accuracy and positional variance.
Raw Frequency Response
- Stereo Soundstage
What it is: Soundstage is the perceived size and width of the sound created by the soundbar. This score is given subjectively and the evaluation is performed by a team of three testers. A soundstage that is too small, diffuse, unnatural, or exaggerated will be penalized.
When it matters: When you want to feel immersed in a large, wide and natural soundstage with good instrument separation. Having a good soundstage is critical for music, movies, and video games, but not for speech/dialog like watching the news.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Crosstalk
Crosstalk Error
What it is: The average deviation of the soundbar's crosstalk from the target crosstalk. This measurement is performed with a dummy head and can be considered to be partially responsible for the perceived instrument separation and width of the soundstage. A low amount of crosstalk error tends to represent a wide soundstage with good instrument separation. This value isn't scored.
When it matters: If you want your soundbar to have a naturally wide and speaker-like soundstage, crosstalk is an important metric to consider.
- Stereo Dynamics
What it is: How loud the soundbar gets and whether its sound quality degrades at loud volumes.
When it matters: If you tend to listen at loud volumes or if your environment is large, crowded, or noisy, it's important to have a soundbar that can get loud.
Score components:
Dynamic Range Compression
ST SPL @ Max Volume
What it is: The SPL (sound pressure level) produced by the soundbar with its volume set to maximum.
When it matters: When you want a soundbar for a large, crowded, or noisy environment, so it needs to get loud, but you don't necessarily care about how much the frequency response is degraded in the process.
Good value: >92 dB SPL
Noticeable difference: 1dB SPL
ST DRC @ Max Volume
What it is: The amount of difference between the soundbar's frequency response at 80dB SPL and at Max Volume. Too much compression will result in pumping and compression artifacts in the sound.
When it matters: If you enjoy loud music or if your environment is large and crowded, you may need to set your soundbar to its maximum volume. Too much dynamic range compression at this setting will introduce pumping and compression artifacts which will mostly be noticeable on music and sound effects, but not as much on dialog.
Good value: <2 dB
Noticeable difference: 0.5 dB
- Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
What it is: The amount of subtle, unwanted frequencies (harmonics) produced alongside the intended frequencies by the soundbar.
When it matters: When clean and pure sound reproduction is desired. Harmonic distortion is relatively difficult to hear, so it should only matter to those who care about the fidelity of sound reproduction.
THD
ST Weighted THD @ 80
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion produced by the soundbar at 80dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: When a pure and clean sound is desired at moderate listening levels. Harmonic distortion is relatively difficult to hear, so it should only matter to those who really care about the fidelity of sound reproduction.
Good value: <0.7
Noticeable difference: 0.1
ST Weighted THD @ Max Volume
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion produced by the soundbar at its maximum volume. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: When a pure and clean sound is desired with the soundbar set to is maximum volume. Harmonic distortion is relatively difficult to hear, so it should only matter to those who care about the fidelity of sound reproduction.
Good value: <1
Noticeable difference: 0.1
- Center
What it is: How accurately the soundbar reproduces audio with a 6-channel file that has signal only on the 3rd (Center) channel. When possible, soundbars are tested using a direct HDMI connection to the test PC. Otherwise, a direct optical connection or HDMI ARC through a TV is used for testing.
When it matters: When a deep and powerful bass, clear dialog/instruments, a large soundstage, and a loud and artifact-free sound is desired from the center channel. This only matters when the content is multi-channel (e.g. 5.1), like most movies and video games, but won't matter for stereo content (like most music) since they don't have a discrete center channel.
Frequency Response
C Localization
What it is: Whether the soundbar has a dedicated center speaker (discrete) or uses the left/right speakers to create a sound in the front center of the soundstage (phantom center).
When it matters: When your content is multi-channel (e.g. 5.1), like most movies and video games, and you care about an accurate and clear representation of objects in the front center of the soundstage. A phantom center won't sound as clear and real as a discrete center. This won't matter for stereo content (most music) since they don't have a discrete center channel.
C Slope
What it is: The derivative of the logarithmic fit (regression line) of the frequency response. This value shows the overall tonal balance (tilt) of the sound as opposed to the std. err. value which shows the overall deviation. Negative values translate to a bass-heavy sound and positive values represent a treble-heavy sound. 0 (a flat slope) represents a balanced tone.
When it matters: When the overall balance between bass and treble is important to you.
Good value: -0.7> <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.2
C Std. Err.
What it is: The average deviation of the soundbar's in-room frequency response from the in-room target response. This shows the amount of error in frequency response, as opposed to the slope which shows the tonal balance of the sound. Higher errors represent a less accurate frequency response and lower values represent a more accurate sound.
When it matters: When you care about accurate sound reproduction in a fine-detailed view.
Good value: <2.5 dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1 dB
C SPL @ Max Volume
What it is: The SPL (sound pressure level) produced by the soundbar with its volume set to maximum. This value is measured and reported at 2.5 meters.
When it matters: When you want a soundbar for a large, crowded, or noisy environment, so it needs to get loud, but you don't necessarily care about how much the frequency response is degraded in the process.
Good value: >92 dB SPL
Noticeable difference: 1dB SPL
C Weighted THD @ 80
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion produced by the soundbar at 80dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies. This value is measured and reported at 2.5 meters.
When it matters: When a pure and clean sound is desired at moderate listening levels. Harmonic distortion is relatively difficult to hear, so it should only matter to those who care about the fidelity of sound reproduction.
Good value: <0.7
Noticeable difference: 0.1
C Weighted THD @ Max Volume
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion produced by the soundbar at its maximum volume. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: When a pure and clean sound is desired with the soundbar set to is maximum volume. Harmonic distortion is relatively difficult to hear, so it should only matter to those who care about the fidelity of sound reproduction.
Good value: <1
Noticeable difference: 0.1
- Surrounds
What it is: How accurately the soundbar reproduces audio with a 6-channel file that has signal only on the 5th and 6th (Left Surround/Right Surround) channels. When possible, soundbars are tested using a direct HDMI connection to the test PC. Otherwise, a direct optical connection or HDMI ARC through a TV is used for testing.
When it matters: When a deep and powerful bass, clear dialog/instruments, a large soundstage, and a loud and artifact-free sound is desired from the surround channels. This only matters when the content is multi-channel (e.g. 5.1), like most movies and video games, but won't matter for stereo content (like most music) since they don't have discrete surround channels.
Frequency Response
Sr Localization
What it is: Whether the soundbar has dedicated surround speakers (discrete), or uses side-firing speakers on the soundbar to represent a surround object in the soundstage (phantom). The soundbar may also lack any surround capabilities and play the surround content through the left/right speakers of the soundbar (downmix).
When it matters: When your content is multi-channel (e.g. 5.1), like most movies and video games, and you care about an accurate and clear representation of surround objects in the soundstage. A phantom surround won't sound as clear and real as a discrete surround, and the objects may not feel as if they are located in the surround area. This won't matter for stereo content (most music) since they don't have discrete surround channels.
Rears
What it is: Whether the soundbar comes with additional rear speakers to support a 7.1 speaker configuration.
When it matters: When you want to get the full advantage of the more immersive 7.1 speaker configuration which certain movies and games support. But this doesn't matter very often since most multi-channel content (like movies and video games) is in 5.1.
Sr Slope
What it is: The derivative of the logarithmic fit (regression line) of the frequency response. This value shows the overall tonal balance (tilt) of the sound as opposed to the std. err. value which shows the overall deviation. Negative values translate to a bass-heavy sound and positive values represent a treble-heavy sound. 0 (a flat slope) represents a balanced tone.
When it matters: When the overall balance between bass and treble is important to you.
Good value: -0.7> <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.2
Sr Std. Err.
What it is: The average deviation of the soundbar's in-room frequency response from the in-room target response. This shows the amount of error in frequency response, as opposed to the slope which shows the tonal balance of the sound. Higher errors represent a less accurate frequency response and lower values represent a more accurate sound.
When it matters: When you care about accurate sound reproduction in a fine-detailed view.
Good value: <2.5 dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1 dB
Sr SPL @ Max Volume
What it is: The SPL (sound pressure level) produced by the soundbar with its volume set to maximum. This value is measured and reported at 2.5 meters.
When it matters: When you want a soundbar for a large, crowded, or noisy environment, so it needs to get loud, but you don't necessarily care about how much the frequency response is degraded in the process.
Good value: >92 dB SPL
Noticeable difference: 1dB SPL
Sr Weighted THD @ 80
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion produced by the soundbar at 80dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies. This value is measured and reported at 2.5 meters.
When it matters: When a pure and clean sound is desired at moderate listening levels. Harmonic distortion is relatively difficult to hear, so it should only matter to those who really care about the fidelity of sound reproduction.
Good value: <0.7
Noticeable difference: 0.1
Sr Weighted THD @ Max Volume
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion produced by the soundbar at its maximum volume. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: When a pure and clean sound is desired with the soundbar set to is maximum volume. Harmonic distortion is relatively difficult to hear, so it should only matter to those who care about the fidelity of sound reproduction.
Good value: <1
Noticeable difference: 0.1
- Height (Atmos)
What it is: How accurately the soundbar reproduces audio with an Atmos file that has one object placed in the middle of the ceiling. When possible, soundbars are tested using a direct HDMI connection to the test PC. Otherwise, HDMI ARC through a TV is used for testing.
When it matters: When a deep and powerful bass, clear dialog/instruments, a large soundstage, and a loud and artifact-free sound is desired from the height (Atmos) channels. This only matters when the content is Atmos (like most recent movies and video games), but won't matter for stereo or surround content (older music and movies) since they don't have discrete height (Atmos) channels.
H Frequency Response
H Localization
What it is: Whether the soundbar has dedicated height (Atmos) speakers (discrete), or uses up-firing speakers on the soundbar and/or satellites to represent an Atmos object in the soundstage (phantom). The soundbar may also lack any Atmos capabilities and play the Atmos content through the left/right surround speakers of the soundbar (downmix).
When it matters: When you care about an accurate and clear representation of Atmos objects in the soundstage. A phantom representation won't sound as clear and real as a discrete Atmos, and the objects may not feel as if they are located in the intended area. This won't matter for stereo or surround content (older music and movies) since they don't have height (Atmos) channels. However, most recent movies and video games have Atmos content.
H Slope
What it is: The derivative of the logarithmic fit (regression line) of the frequency response. This value shows the overall tonal balance (tilt) of the sound as opposed to the std. err. value which shows the overall deviation. Negative values translate to a bass-heavy sound and positive values represent a treble-heavy sound. 0 (a flat slope) represents a balanced tone.
When it matters: When the overall balance between bass and treble is important to you.
Good value: -0.7> <0.5
Noticeable difference: 0.2
H Std. Err.
What it is: The average deviation of the soundbar's in-room frequency response from the in-room target response. This shows the amount of error in frequency response, as opposed to the slope which shows the tonal balance of the sound. Higher errors represent a less accurate frequency response and lower values represent a more accurate sound.
When it matters: When you care about accurate sound reproduction in a fine-detailed view.
Good value: <2.5 dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1 dB
H SPL @ Max Volume
What it is: The SPL (sound pressure level) produced by the soundbar with its volume set to maximum. This value is measured and reported at 2.5 meters.
When it matters: When you want a soundbar for a large, crowded, or noisy environment, so it needs to get loud, but you don't necessarily care about how much the frequency response is degraded in the process.
Good value: >92 dB SPL
Noticeable difference: 1dB SPL
H Weighted THD @ 80
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion produced by the soundbar at 80dB SPL. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies. This value is measured and reported at 2.5 meters.
When it matters: When a pure and clean sound is desired at moderate listening levels. Harmonic distortion is relatively difficult to hear, so it should only matter to those who really care about the fidelity of sound reproduction.
Good value: <0.7
Noticeable difference: 0.1
H Weighted THD @ Max Volume
What it is: The overall amount of harmonic distortion produced by the soundbar at its maximum volume. To make the score more perceptually relevant, more weight is given to the higher frequencies.
When it matters: When a pure and clean sound is desired with the soundbar set to its maximum volume. Harmonic distortion is relatively difficult to hear, so it should only matter to those who care about the fidelity of sound reproduction.
Good value: <1
Noticeable difference: 0.1
- Sound Enhancement Features
What it is: Digital features and effects that will allow you to customize and modify the sound of the soundbar to some extent. This may include room correction, dialog enhancement, EQ, and bass/treble adjustment.
When it matters: When you want to adjust and customize certain aspects of the sound of the soundbar to make it more to your liking.
Score components:
  • 20% Room Correction
  • 16% Dialog Enhancement
  • 16% Auto-Volume/Night Mode
  • 20% Subwoofer Level Adjustment
  • 5% Bass Adjustment
  • 5% Treble Adjustment
  • 4% EQ
  • 4% Surround Level Adjustment
  • 4% Rear Level Adjustment
  • 4% Height Level Adjustment
  • 2% Virtual Surround
Room Correction
What it is: A digital processor that uses a microphone to analyze the acoustic characteristics of your room, and will apply corrections based on that to improve the sound quality of the soundbar.
When it matters: When you care about the sound, especially bass and dialog performance, of your soundbar. All rooms will benefit from a certain amount of correction, but rooms without any acoustic treatment will gain more benefit from digital room correction.
Dialog Enhancement
What it is: It emphasizes dialog clarity and volume without noticeably changing the background level.
When it matters: When you have difficulty understanding dialog in general, or when you want a clear sound at a low volume. This way you can hear the dialog clearly even at a low level.
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
What it is: It applies a dynamic range compressor to the sound to reduce the volume change between different programs (like the difference in level between a TV show and commercials) or within a program (like the difference between dialog and an explosion). In other words, it makes the volume more steady.
When it matters: It matters when dramatic changes in volume within or between programs bothers you. This can also be useful when you want to lower the volume and still be able to hear all the sounds in a program.
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
What it is: Allows you to adjust the level of the subwoofer. This differs from bass level adjustment in that it won't change the amount of bass produced by the soundbar or the satellites.
When it matters: When you want to adjust the amount of bass the subwoofer is producing without changing the bass amount globally.
Bass Adjustment
What it is: Allows you to adjust the amount of bass (thump and punch) in the sound. This will mostly affect kick drums and bass instruments.
When it matters: When you want more or less bass (thump and punch) from your soundbar.
Treble Adjustment
What it is: Allows you to adjust the amount of treble (brightness and clarity) in the sound. This will mostly affect vocals and lead instruments.
When it matters: When you want more or less treble (brightness and clarity) from your soundbar.
EQ
What it is: It allows you to adjust the balance between the frequencies of sound. Depending on the type of the EQ, you may have control over a broad band (like adjusting bass/treble), be able to adjust individual frequencies (like boosting only 60Hz), or get presets (like movie mode).
When it matters: When you want to manually customize the sound of your soundbar.
Surround Level Adjustment
What it is: It adjusts the level of the surround channels without changing the level of the other channels.
When it matters: Increasing the surround level tends to increase the size of the soundstage and makes the sound more immersive.
Rear Level Adjustment
What it is: It adjusts the level of the rear channels, without changing the level of the other channels.
When it matters: When looking for more immersive sound. Increasing the rear level tends to increase the size of the soundstage.
Height Level Adjustment
What it is: It adjusts the level of the overhead/height channels, without changing the level of the other channels.
When it matters: When looking for a more immersive sound. Increasing the overhead/height level tends to increase the size of the soundstage, making it more immersive.
Virtual Surround
What it is: A series of digital processes that use psychoacoustic principles to create an immersive sound from conventional non-immersive content.
When it matters: When you want an immersive sound from a regular mono or stereo audio content. However, depending on the implementation, a virtual surround feature may or may not sound very natural.
- Connectivity
Score components:
  • 25% Audio Format Support - ARC
  • 25% Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
  • 25% Audio Format Support - Optical
  • 25% Wireless Playback
- Physical Inputs - Bar
What it is: All the physical inputs on the soundbar, except the power cable and service ports.
When it matters: When playing sound through the soundbar using a high quality wired connection.
Physical inputs bar photo 1
Physical inputs bar photo 2
Optical Audio In
What it is: Whether the soundbar has a digital optical audio input (also called Toslink). This can be used for surround sound, but HDMI ARC has more features.
When it matters: When playing the TV's sound through the soundbar, when the TV doesn't support HDMI ARC.
HDMI ARC
What it is: Whether the soundbar has an HDMI ARC port (this includes eARC ports). ARC has more features than optical. The signal can go both ways (in and out) between the soundbar and the TV (if both products have HDMI ARC).
When it matters: When playing the TV's sound through the soundbar, when the TV supports HDMI ARC. This input should be used if you want to have only one remote to control both the soundbar and the TV or you want to take advantage of some functions that use the communication between the two like power on/off with the TV.
Full HDMI In
What it is: Whether the soundbar has an HDMI input port that can receive sound. This is different from an HDMI ARC port because an ARC port is actually an HDMI output port.
When it matters: When connecting a sound source (such as a game console) directly to the soundbar. This sometimes enables higher quality sound formats to be used but makes it harder to play sound from the TV's apps through the soundbar.
HDMI Out
What it is: Whether the soundbar has an HDMI out port that can send video or audio.
When it matters: When connecting the soundbar between two devices, and using it to pass through content. A common example is connecting a Blu-ray player to the soundbar, then connecting the soundbar to a TV. This allows you to use the soundbar's Full HDMI In port for sound.
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
What it is: Whether the soundbar has a 3.5mm analog audio input.
When it matters: When you want a high quality wired connection, but your source only has a 3.5mm audio jack, such as the headphone jack on a smartphone.
USB for Files
What it is: Whether the soundbar has a USB port that can be used to play audio files on the soundbar.
When it matters: When playing audio files on the soundbar using a USB device, such as a flash drive.
Ethernet
What it is: Whether the soundbar has an ethernet jack that can connect it to a network.
When it matters: When you want a reliable wired connection to the internet, instead of a Wi-Fi connection.
- Audio Format Support - ARC
What it is: Whether the soundbar can decode and play audio sent in each specific format, over an HDMI ARC connection. Note that in many cases, if the TV detects that the soundbar doesn't support a specific audio format, it will transform it into something that the soundbar does support.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from the TV, when the TV supports HDMI ARC. ARC has more features than optical (more possible formats, power on and off with the TV, etc).
Score components:
  • 5% eARC
  • 8% ARC Dolby Atmos
  • 1% ARC DTS:X
  • 61% ARC Dolby Digital
  • 5% ARC Dolby Digital Plus
  • 10% ARC DTS
  • 1% ARC Dolby TrueHD
  • 1% ARC DTS-HD MA
  • 8% ARC 5.1 PCM
eARC
What it is: Whether the soundbar's HDMI ARC connection supports the eARC standard, which has more features than normal ARC (more possible formats, etc).
When it matters: When using a TV that supports eARC.
ARC Dolby Atmos
What it is: Dolby Atmos is an object-based surround sound format. Its main benefit is support for height channels, allowing sound to come from above your head. Some streaming services like Netflix and many 4k Blu-rays support Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos uses a carrier signal for its audio, either Dolby Digital Plus or Dolby TrueHD. Therefore the soundbar must support one of these two for it to support Dolby Atmos.
When it matters: When you want more immersive surround sound, and the content you're watching supports Dolby Atmos.
ARC DTS:X
What it is: DTS:X is an object-based surround sound format and a competitor to Dolby Atmos. Its main benefit is support for height channels, allowing sound to come from above your head. DTS:X is less common than Dolby Atmos, but some Blu-rays support DTS:X. DTS:X uses a DTS-HD MA carrier signal, so to support DTS:X the soundbar must also support DTS-HD MA. DTS:X is different from DTS Virtual:X, which is a post-processing effect that upmixes normal audio. See the Sound Enhancement Features section.
When it matters: When you want more immersive surround sound, and the content you're watching supports DTS:X.
ARC Dolby Digital
What it is: Dolby Digital is the most common surround sound format and is found in many streaming services and Blu-ray discs. It's also the fallback for the higher quality Dolby formats like Dolby Atmos and TrueHD, when a device in the signal path doesn't support them. Dolby Digital is limited to 5.1 channels, whereas Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD can carry 7.1 channels or more.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from the TV, from one of the many sources that support Dolby Digital.
ARC Dolby Digital Plus
What it is: Dolby Digital Plus is an improved version of Dolby Digital, adding support for 7.1 or more channels, and it can be used as the carrier signal for Dolby Atmos. It's less common than Dolby Digital, but it's used by some streaming services like Netflix, and as a fallback from Dolby TrueHD on Blu-rays.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from the TV, from a source that supports Dolby Digital Plus, such as Netflix.
ARC DTS
What it is: DTS is a competitor to Dolby Digital, and is similar in many respects. It's not very common on its own, but it's the fallback for the higher quality DTS-HD MA format when a device in the signal path doesn't support it. DTS-HD MA, in turn, is very common on Blu-ray discs.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from the TV, from a source such as a Blu-ray disc that has DTS-HD MA as its main audio track.
ARC Dolby TrueHD
What it is: Dolby TrueHD is a high-quality lossless surround sound format. It can also be used as the carrier signal for Dolby Atmos. It's most commonly found on Blu-ray discs that support Dolby Atmos; even if the soundbar doesn't support Atmos, it may still be able to play the high-quality Dolby TrueHD audio.
When it matters: When playing high-quality surround sound from the TV, from a Blu-ray disc that supports Dolby TrueHD / Dolby Atmos.
ARC DTS-HD MA
What it is: DTS-HD Master Audio is a high-quality, lossless surround sound format, and a competitor to Dolby TrueHD. It is found on the majority of Blu-ray discs that don't support Dolby Atmos.
When it matters: When playing high-quality surround sound from the TV, from a Blu-ray disc that supports DTS-HD MA.
ARC 5.1 PCM
What it is: PCM is an uncompressed digital audio signal. 2.0 stereo PCM is supported on nearly all soundbars; however, 5.1 surround PCM is more rare.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from the TV, from a source that doesn't encode its sound, such as a game console or PC.
- Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
What it is: Whether the soundbar can decode and play audio sent in each specific format, over a direct connection to its 'HDMI In' port.
When it matters: When playing surround sound with the soundbar, using its 'HDMI In' input.
Score components:
  • 9% HDMI Dolby Atmos
  • 1% HDMI DTS:X
  • 64% HDMI Dolby Digital
  • 5% HDMI Dolby Digital Plus
  • 11% HDMI DTS
  • 1% HDMI Dolby TrueHD
  • 1% HDMI DTS-HD MA
  • 8% HDMI 5.1 PCM
HDMI Dolby Atmos
What it is: Dolby Atmos is an object-based surround sound format. Its main benefit is support for height channels, allowing sound to come from above your head. Some streaming services like Netflix and many 4k Blu-rays support Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos uses a carrier signal for its audio, either Dolby Digital Plus or Dolby TrueHD. Therefore the soundbar must support one of these two for it to support Dolby Atmos.
When it matters: When playing immersive surround sound from a source that supports Dolby Atmos (such as a Blu-ray disc with Atmos), connected directly to the soundbar.
HDMI DTS:X
What it is: DTS:X is an object-based surround sound format, and a competitor to Dolby Atmos. Its main benefit is support for height channels, allowing sound to come from above your head. DTS:X is less common than Dolby Atmos, but some Blu-rays support DTS:X. DTS:X uses a DTS-HD MA carrier signal, so to support DTS:X the soundbar must also support DTS-HD MA. DTS:X is different from DTS Virtual:X, which is a post-processing effect that upmixes normal audio. See the Sound Enhancement Features section.
When it matters: When playing immersive surround sound from a source that supports DTS:X (such as a Blu-ray disc with DTS:X), connected directly to the soundbar.
HDMI Dolby Digital
What it is: Dolby Digital is the most common surround sound format, and is found in many streaming services and Blu-ray discs. It's also the fallback for the higher quality Dolby formats like Dolby Atmos and TrueHD, when a device in the signal path doesn't support them. Dolby Digital is limited to 5.1 channels, whereas Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD can carry 7.1 channels or more.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from a source that supports Dolby Digital (such as a streaming stick or DVD), connected directly to the soundbar.
HDMI Dolby Digital Plus
What it is: Dolby Digital Plus is an improved version of Dolby Digital, adding support for 7.1 or more channels, and it can be used as the carrier signal for Dolby Atmos. It's less common than Dolby Digital, but it's used by some streaming services like Netflix, and as a fallback from Dolby TrueHD on Blu-rays.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from a source that supports Dolby Digital Plus (such as a streaming stick), connected directly to the soundbar.
HDMI DTS
What it is: DTS is a competitor to Dolby Digital and is similar in many respects. It's not very common on its own, but it's the fallback for the higher quality DTS-HD MA format when a device in the signal path doesn't support it. DTS-HD MA, in turn, is very common on Blu-ray discs.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from a source that supports DTS or DTS-HD MA (such as a Blu-ray player), when your soundbar doesn't support DTS-HD MA.
HDMI Dolby TrueHD
What it is: Dolby TrueHD is a high-quality lossless surround sound format. It can also be used as the carrier signal for Dolby Atmos. It's most commonly found on Blu-ray discs that support Dolby Atmos; even if the soundbar doesn't support Atmos, it may still be able to play the high-quality Dolby TrueHD audio.
When it matters: When playing high-quality surround sound from a Blu-ray disc that supports Dolby TrueHD / Dolby Atmos.
HDMI DTS-HD MA
What it is: DTS-HD Master Audio is a high quality, lossless surround sound format, and a competitor to Dolby TrueHD. It is found on the majority of Blu-ray discs that don't support Dolby Atmos.
When it matters: When playing high-quality surround sound from a Blu-ray disc that supports DTS-HD MA.
HDMI 5.1 PCM
What it is: PCM is an uncompressed digital audio signal. 2.0 stereo PCM is supported on nearly all soundbars; however, 5.1 surround PCM is more rare.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from a source that doesn't encode its sound, such as a game console or PC.
- Audio Format Support - Optical
What it is: Whether the soundbar can decode and play audio sent in each specific format, over a digital optical audio connection. Note that in many cases if the TV detects that the soundbar doesn't support a specific audio format, it will transform it into something that the soundbar does support.
When it matters: When playing surround sound with the soundbar, using its optical audio input. Optical has fewer features than HDMI or ARC but is a decent fallback when those two can't be easily used.
Score components:
  • 60% Optical Dolby Digital
  • 40% Optical DTS
Optical Dolby Digital
What it is: Dolby Digital is the most common surround sound format, and is found in many streaming services and Blu-ray discs. It's also the fallback for the higher quality Dolby formats like Dolby Atmos and TrueHD, when a device in the signal path doesn't support them.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from the TV, from one of the many sources that support Dolby Digital.
Optical DTS
What it is: DTS is a competitor to Dolby Digital and is similar in many respects. It's not very common on its own, but it's the fallback for the higher quality DTS-HD MA format when a device in the signal path doesn't support it. DTS-HD MA, in turn, is very common on Blu-ray discs.
When it matters: When playing surround sound from the TV, from a source such as a Blu-ray disc that has DTS-HD MA as its main audio track.
- Wireless Playback
What it is: Whether the soundbar can play content wirelessly from your device.
When it matters: When you want to play content on the soundbar without having a direct cable connection to it, such as when using a smartphone.
Score components:
  • 60% Bluetooth
  • 20% Wi-Fi
  • 10% Chromecast built-in
  • 10% Apple AirPlay
Bluetooth
What it is: Whether the soundbar can play audio over a Bluetooth connection.
When it matters: When playing content through the soundbar wirelessly using Bluetooth, such as when using a smartphone.
Wi-Fi
What it is: Whether the soundbar can connect to a network wirelessly.
When it matters: When playing content on the soundbar wirelessly, using a casting feature that requires internet access, such as Chromecast.
Chromecast built-in
What it is: Whether the soundbar has Google's Chomecast built-in functionality.
When it matters: When casting content to the soundbar using Chromecast.
Apple AirPlay
What it is: Whether the soundbar has Apple's AirPlay functionality.
When it matters: When casting content to the soundbar using AirPlay.
- Other Input Specifications
What it is: Any other connectivity specs and features the soundbar has that can impact your usage.
When it matters: When using advanced connectivity features of the soundbar, such as video passthrough.
4k @ 60 Hz Passthrough
What it is: When the soundbar is connected between a source (such as a game console) and a TV, whether the soundbar passes a 4k @ 60 Hz video signal from the source to the TV.
When it matters: When playing 4k video from a game console or streaming device, connected directly to the soundbar.
4k @ 60 Hz @ 10 bit Passthrough
What it is: When the soundbar is connected between a source (such as a game console) and a TV, whether the soundbar passes a 4k @ 60 Hz @ 10-bit video signal from the source to the TV.
When it matters: When playing 4k HDR video from a game console, connected directly to the soundbar.
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 Passthrough
What it is: When the soundbar is connected between a source (such as a PC) and a TV, whether the soundbar passes a 4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 video signal from the source to the TV.
When it matters: When playing 4k video from a PC, connected directly to the soundbar.
HDR10 Passthrough
What it is: When the soundbar is connected between a source (such as a Blu-ray player) and a TV, whether the soundbar passes an HDR video signal from the source to the TV.
When it matters: When playing HDR video from a Blu-ray player, game console, etc, connected directly to the soundbar.
- Connectivity - Subwoofer
What it is: How the subwoofer connects to other devices (usually just the soundbar).
When it matters: When setting up the subwoofer.
Physical inputs subwoofer photo 1
Physical controls subwoofer photo 1
Sub Wireless
What it is: Whether the subwoofer can connect to the soundbar wirelessly.
When it matters: When you want to use the subwoofer without running a cable between it and the soundbar.
- Connectivity - Satellites
What it is: How the satellites connect to other devices (usually just the soundbar).
When it matters: When setting up the satellites.
Physical inputs satellites photo 1
Physical controls satellites photo 1
Sat Wireless
What it is: Whether the satellites can connect to the soundbar wirelessly.
When it matters: When you want to use the satellites without running cables between them and the soundbar.
- Additional Features
- Interface
What it is: How well the soundbar communicates its status and features to the user. Some soundbars have a small display with words, while others only have lights.
When it matters: When first setting up the soundbar, and interacting with its settings without using the app.
Interface photo
Display
What it is: Whether the soundbar uses an alphanumeric display to communicate with the user, or if it only has simple status lights.
When it matters: When changing advanced settings of the soundbar, such as audio sync, without using the app.
- Bar Controls
What it is: How easy it is for the user to control the soundbar's settings and features, without using the remote or app.
When it matters: When first setting up the soundbar, and when changing its settings when the remote is unavailable.
Controls photo
- Remote
What it is: The usefulness of the included remote, and how easy it is to use. This includes things like the quality of its buttons, what buttons it has, and any advanced features it has.
When it matters: When first setting up the soundbar, and when changing its settings during regular use, such as turning up the volume.
Remote photo
Universal Remote
What it is: Whether the included remote can be used to control devices other than the soundbar, such as the TV.
When it matters: When using one remote to control your whole home theater setup, to simplify interaction.
- App
What it is: The functionality and usability of the official companion app for the soundbar.
When it matters: When setting up the soundbar for the first time, and when controlling the soundbar without using the remote.
App image
App Name
iOS
Android
Acts as the Remote
What it is: Whether the app can do everything that the included remote can.
When it matters: When controlling the soundbar when the remote is unavailable.
Controls Soundbar's Settings
What it is: Whether the app can change the soundbar's settings directly, with sliders or direct menu selections.
When it matters: When setting up the soundbar for the first time.
Casts Device Files
What it is: Whether the soundbar can play files that are stored on the device running the app; for example, if a song downloaded on a smartphone can be played on the soundbar.
When it matters: When playing personal files on the soundbar, such as downloaded music.
- Other Features
What it is: How many extra features the soundbar has, such as an auto-off timer and voice assistants.
When it matters: When you want to control the soundbar with your voice or have it turn itself off when it's not playing anything.
Power Saving
What it is: Whether the soundbar can shut itself off or go into a low power state when it hasn't played anything for a long period of time.
When it matters: When you want to save power and have the soundbar turn itself off after you're done with it.
HDMI CEC (TV Remote Control)
What it is: Whether the soundbar's HDMI ARC connection supports HDMI CEC, allowing the TV's remote to control some functions on the soundbar.
When it matters: When using the TV's remote to change the soundbar's volume, power it off, etc.
- Compared to other Soundbars

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