If you've spent time choosing the right big-screen TV for you, you may wonder why you need one of our best soundbars. The truth is that after carefully unboxing your screen, you may be less than impressed by the mediocre sound quality from the built-in speakers compared to its bold and punchy pictures.
The issue is that as TVs get thinner, the built-in speakers often have to shrink to fit inside the tiniest of cabinet spaces, and the sound lacks the kind of impact to match today's big screens. There's plenty of sophisticated digital signal processing (DSP) tech onboard to help get the best TV sound output possible, but even the best TVs aren’t exempt from sounding thin and weedy.
How to improve your TV sound
A big TV screen deserves to be partnered with a great-sounding speaker and many new soundbars now come with Dolby Atmos support for a more immersive sound experience. With multiple drivers covering a wide sound area in front of your screen, even a relatively affordable soundbar can outperform the integrated speakers on most TVs.
A soundbar makes an effective sound upgrade for most screens — and in many cases could even form the basis of a much more ambitious surround sound setup, incorporating wireless surround speakers and a wired or wireless subwoofer, for example.
We’ve reviewed the best soundbars in real-world domestic situations just as they would be used at home, and ranked each based on their performance, features and value. To make sure you’re choosing the right soundbar for your TV sound needs, read on...
The best soundbars: News and upcoming releases (updated May 13)
- Sonos just announced the Sonos Ray soundbar, a $279 small space-friendly device that has been designed to sound strong even when placed in a cubby or cabinet. It's coming in June.
- Costing $2,400 in the U.S. and £1,990 in the U.K., Devialet's Dione is an upmarket soundbar that's expected to go on sale in April. Equipped with Dolby Atmos support and room-scale audio calibration, the high-end Devialet looks to have all the right home cinema smarts to be a contender. Watch this space to see whether it joins our best soundbars list next month.
- Sony unveiled its HT-S400 2.1ch soundbar earlier this year, which is expected to cost £260 when it goes on sale in the U.K. this month. Rated at 330W total power output it uses S-Force PRO Front Surround technology for immersive listening and comes with a wireless subwoofer. Look out for our review coming soon.
- Denon has announced the introduction of the DHT-S517 soundbar earlier this year, priced at $449. A 3.1.2 configuration, it utilizes a seven-driver array comprised of left/right tweeters and midrange drivers, a dedicated center-channel, plus two up-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos 3D surround sound. It comes packaged with a wireless subwoofer.
- LG unveiled plans to introduce three new models to its soundbar lineup scheduled for later this year. The new additions include the S95QY, S90QY and S80QY, and will introduce new built-in speaker arrangements with upward-firing center drivers to improve speech clarity. The new models will also support wireless Dolby Atmos compatible with the company's add-on wireless surround speaker packages. Prices are yet to be confirmed.
- Phillips recently launched the B8905 Soundbar, a model that comes with 3.1.2 channels to fill any room with loud, crystal-clear sound. It also offers the full Dolby Atmos experience and DTS Play-Fi compatibility for $599.99.
- Hisense announced its new soundbar lineup, highlighted by the flagship HS312 3.1 Channel Soundbar, which combines six 30W speakers and a 240W subwoofer with Dolby Atmos. An HDMI (eARC) cable is also included to easily connect to HDTVs.
What are the best soundbars?
This month the top spot goes to the recently reviewed Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 soundbar for its brilliantly immersive handling of TV and movie soundtracks. Music is part of B&W's DNA, so it's not surprising that the Panorama 3 also doubles as an effective music system, making it one of the most versatile movie and music speaker systems at the price.
Second place goes to the Sonos Arc for its impressive auto-tuning capabilities that tailor the sound to your room, and voice control support via Alexa and Google Assistant. The price may be high but this really is one of the best sounding and smartest soundbars you can buy right now.
Among the options for a smart soundbar in the $300 to $400 range, Yamaha's YAS-209 delivers good overall sound — especially for music — and has responsive voice controls via Alexa.
Those on tighter budgets, meanwhile, should consider our regularly maintained best cheap soundbars list. And a new budget soundbar could be on its way in the form of the Sonos Ray.
We test dozens of soundbars in our own homes every year, so read on to find out which of our top-rated models are likely to deliver the very best big-screen sound for you.
The best soundbars you can buy today
Although the most expensive model in this buying guide, the Panorama 3 is Bowers & Wilkins' most affordable soundbar to date. It's more costly than the Sonos Arc but if it’s sound quality you prize, the Panorama 3 is worth every penny. The 3.1.2 speaker configuration integrates forward-firing left, right and center channels and for cinematic rumble and punch there a two built-in subwoofer drivers along with Dolby Atmos Elevation drive units.
Powered by a total of 400 watts of Class D amplification, means the Panorama 3 can deal with those big dynamic shifts so beloved of cinema the world over without breaking sweat and is expressive and articulate where music is concerned too. It's extremely well judged and coherent with all kinds of music and movie content, while Dolby Atmos content projects well beyond the confines of the speaker cabinet, and in all directions. There’s real width to the soundstage the Bowers & Wilkins establishes, and there’s a proper sensation of movement as effects pan from one side of the stage to the other as soundtrack are served up with plenty of confidence and no little style.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 review.
The Sonos Arc is the best soundbar you can buy if you’re able to splurge. This premium speaker stands out with its gorgeous curved design, which is built to be a centerpiece of your living room as much as it’s meant to enhance your TV’s sound. And it certainly doesn’t skimp on sound performance, delivering deep bass and clear treble for your favorite movies and TV shows complete with Dolby Atmos support.
Thanks to Sonos’ TruePlay technology, the Arc can automatically tune itself to whatever room it’s in to deliver the crispest, most accurate audio possible. It also supports voice controls via Alexa and Google Assistant, making it one of the smartest soundbars you can buy. If you have a larger entertainment area — and big budget, the Sonos Arc is the top premium soundbar out there.
Read our full Sonos Arc review.
Launched in 2019 and still going strong, the YAS-209 soundbars is aimed at delivering great features at an affordable price. This excellent package comes with a wireless subwoofer to boost low-end frequencies and has Alexa integration onboard. The smart and versatile combo brings movie soundtracks to life with a rich and powerful sound, and has an impressively wide soundstage when 3D Surround mode is enabled. Movie dialog is easy to understand and has excellent depth and gravitas, and the Yamaha doubles as a great-sounding music system, too.
We just wish there was more than one HDMI port on the back, but even so, the YAS-209 has a lot to like.
Read our full Yamaha YAS-209 review.
Cheap and compact but deceptively rich-sounding, the Creative Stage V2 is another fantastic choice for those on tight budgets. The dedicated subwoofer treats lower frequencies much better than the majority of cut-price standalone soundbars, and the clearness of dialog impressed in our testing.
There's also a "Surround" mode that widens the soundstage beyond the Stage V2's modest dimensions, and you can tweak the sound even further with bass and treble boost settings. Connectivity is very good for the money, too — in addition to the expected optical and 3.5mm inputs, there's HDMI ARC, USB and Bluetooth to play with too.
Read our full Creative Stage V2 review.
Bose’s first soundbar to support immersive surround sound technology through Dolby Atmos, also offers multiroom audio, integrated voice assistants and thesre even room for expansion via wireless Bose surrounds and a wired subwoofer. Like the Sonos Arc it's priced at $899, but the Bose separates itself with a smaller and more sleek design, but while it sounds good overall, it can’t match the Arc when it comes to bass and virtual surround sound.
Easy to setup with plenty of options to help you tune the sound to your own surroundings, the Bose performs well with movies, although the addition of a subwoofer would give movie soundtracks a useful further boost. Dolby Atmos effects come across well, but bass levels can get a bet overzealous when playing music. All-in-all, the Bose is well-featured and a good choice for those already signed up to its ecosystem but ultimately is outperformed by the Sonos Arc at the same price.
Read our full Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review
No soundbar packs huge audio into a tiny package quite like the Polk MagniFi Mini does. This unassuming speaker will fit seamlessly into any setup, and delivers crisp dialogue and deep bass with the help of its included wireless subwoofer. Plus, with Google Cast support, the MagniFi Mini doubles as a great home music speaker.
The MagniFi Mini gets loud enough to fill most bedrooms and small apartments, and we found it reliable for getting immersed in movies and TV shows. Factor in a handy remote and an easy setup process, and you've got the best soundbar out there for folks short on space. And at $300, it won't set you back much, either.
Read our full Polk MagniFi Mini review.
An upgrade to one of the best soundbars available, the second-gen Sonos Beam brings a new CPU, tweaked profiles, more audio formats, and HDMI eArc support into the mix. The drivers have been re-tuned, resulting in a crisper central channel that emphasizes vocal clarity and dialog. Dolby Atmos and other home-theater sound formats grant you numerous ways to experience wide 3D sound in your living room. Other unique features like NFC for seamless setup, as well as TruePlay to curate sound to your space and optimal couch position, bring more value to this small speaker system. It also pairs perfectly with 55-inch (or smaller) HDTVs.
You should know that Sonos products don’t come cheap and the price tag on this beauty might be a bit steep for the average consumer. Those who can afford it will find this to be a welcome addition to their ecosystem of Sonos products.
Read our full Sonos Beam (Gen 2) review.
Yet more proof that you don't need to spend big to get quality Dolby Atmos integration, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam defies its standalone form factor with a respectable attempt at digital surround sound — not to mention powerful bass, even without a subwoofer.
Although we'd have liked a few more ways to manually adjust the sound output, the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam also features a handy auto calibration feature that tunes Atmos playback for the dimensions of your living room specifically. This helps contribute to a strong sense of audio positioning, again something you can't always be sure about with single soundbars. Still, it works, and is just another reason the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is one of the best soundbars.
Read our full JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam review.
The Sonos Beam is a small, affordable and great-sounding soundbar that also doubles as a neat smart home gadget. This speaker has full Alexa integration, allowing you to, say, control your Fire TV with just your voice, or ask about the weather or control your smart lights while binging Netflix from the couch. The newer version of the Beam can do these things, too, but at a higher price.
Though several years old, the first-gen Beam still delivers big on the audio front, with a wide soundstage and crisp dialogue that will make your favorite movies and shows sing. We'd really like the Beam to embrace Bluetooth (you'll need the Sonos Move for that), but it's remains an excellent choice if you want an Alexa-ready soundbar with great performance.
Read our full Sonos Beam review.
The Roku Streambar is Roku's second soundbar outing, and just might be the company's best yet. This unique all-in-one device is both a compact soundbar and a 4K Roku streaming player at once, allowing you to enjoy great sound for shows and movies while tapping into your favorite streaming services all from the same hardware.
Don't let its size fool you, though — the Streambar delivers impressive sound for its size and price. Packing four 1.9-inch drivers, this small soundbar can easily fill a living room with crisp audio for your next Netflix or Disney Plus binge. And since you're getting Roku software inside, you'll be able to watch just about every streaming service out there, with an intuitive interface and an included remote for navigation. Better yet, you can pair the Streambar to the Roku TV Wireless Speakers and Roku Wireless Subwoofer if you want even more immersive sound.
Read our full Roku Streambar review.
Take the clean appearance of Harman Kardon’s wireless speakers and combine it with the ultramodern appearance of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin wireless smart speaker and you get the Cleer Crescent. However, this soundbar isn’t just about its striking looks. Underneath the wide, golden wedge design are some serious specs, including eight front-facing, full-range drivers and two larger woofers. The Crescent produces wide sound that is elevated through three distinct playback modes: Room Fill for consistent sound to fill up large spaces, Stereo Widening to expand the soundstage, and 3D to create digital 3D surround sound effects. All of them work well, along with the built-in Google Assistant.
One caveat about 3D Mode is that you need to be in a small spot for the Crescent’s beamforming technology to deliver the desired effects. The speaker doesn’t come cheap either.
Read our full Cleer Crescent review.
How to choose the best soundbar for you
There are a number of factors that play into deciding which soundbar you should buy. Size will likely be prohibitive for most customers; you obviously need a soundbar that will suit your TV and space constraints within your entertainment console. And, because a soundbar is one of the centerpieces of your home theater setup, it has to look good and fit stylistically.
Then you have to factor in the size of the room you're dealing with, and the distance viewers would typically be sitting from the TV. If you're dealing with a larger space, it's probably best to target soundbars that come with a subwoofer — you'll surely appreciate the extra bass.
Connectivity is crucial too, both in terms of wired and wireless access. Not every soundbar comes with an HDMI port; some force you to make do with optical audio. That's perfectly fine if you want to use your TV as a pass-through, but those who are in dire need of more HDMI ports — because their capacity is limited between game consoles, streaming boxes and so on — will need to prioritize options that offer those additional connections.
Finally, more of the best soundbars are embracing Dolby Atmos, which is a surround sound technology designed to simulate the immersive 3D audio you'd get from a movie theater. The big difference between Atmos and traditional surround sound is that you'll hear sound move up and down and not just side-to-side, allowing you to get extra immersed when, say, a car flies overhead in an action movie. There are already lots of soundbars that support Atmos, including the LG SJ9, Sony HT-ST5000, and Yamaha YSP-5600.
How we test the best soundbars
When testing for inclusion in our best soundbars page, we play a range of media — including movies, music and games — in order to evaluate overall sound quality. We also test any companion software that may come with a soundbar, and factor in how easy it is to set up and use each device.
Other features we consider include a soundbar's inputs, outputs and ability to be wall mounted, all of which determine how well it will work with your home entertainment setup. We also take into account each soundbar's wattage, its supported audio channels and whether it includes a subwoofer — all factors that greatly affect how each speaker will sound in your living room.
Once testing is completed, we rate the best soundbars based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Products that hit nearly every mark are awarded an Editor's Choice badge.