If you’ve got a good TV, it deserves to be paired with one of the best soundbars. With multiple drivers covering a wider area in front of your screen, even a relatively affordable soundbar can outperform the integrated speakers on most TVs.
The issue is that as TVs become more compact, their speakers shrink, becoming quieter and losing they dynamism. Even the best TVs aren’t exempt from this, so a soundbar makes a great upgrade — and could even form the basis of a much more ambitious surround sound system. To make sure you’re choosing the right ‘bar for the job, simply read on: we’ve ranked the best soundbars according to our own in-house testing.
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Editor's Note: The Tom's Guide Awards 2021 for audio have been announced, and the Creative Stage V2 has won the Best soundbar award! Head to the audio awards page to see all the winners and recommended runners-up.
The best soundbars: News and upcoming releases (updated July 21)
- Sony has announced the HT-A7000, its latest flagship soundbar, will start shipping from September. This $1,299, 7.1.2 system could be a particularly good partner for the PS5 and Xbox Series X, as it features HDMI 2.1 passthrough ports that can handle gaming at 120Hz.
- The LG Éclair, first revealed during CES 2021, is coming soon — though there’s still no official pricing or release date This is LG’s most compact soundbar ever, at a mere 11.7 inches wide, and nonetheless promises Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support.
- The Sennheiser Ambeo has been updated with support for Sony 360 Reality Audio, enabling 3D music playback from the all-in-one speaker.
What are the best soundbars?
Our top all-round pick is the Yamaha YAS-209. With its excellent sound, bundled subwoofer and built-in Alexa assistant, the YAS-209 is a superb deal that will happily serve most users.
If you want a more premium option, we’re also big fans of the Sonos Arc, though this Dolby Atmos-supposrting soundbar is going through a stock shortage at the moment. Those on tighter budgets, meanwhile, should consider the Creative Stage V2: a simple yet very capable soundbar/subwoofer combo that won’t take up too much space.
Here's our full list of the best soundbars on sale right now.
The best soundbars you can buy today
The Yamaha YAS-209 is an excellent package for the price, getting you great overall sound, a wireless subwoofer for beefy bass and Alexa support for handy voice controls. The soundbar itself is one of the sleeker models we've tested, with a 36-inch design that should look great under most TVs.
The soundbar's four 1.75-inch drivers deliver immersive sound for movies and shows. What's more, the built in Alexa functionality makes it easy to control any smart device in your home — even when the soundbar is off. We wish there was more than just one HDMI port on the back, but even despite that nitpick, the YAS-209 offers a lot to like.
Read our full Yamaha YAS-209 review.
The Sonos Arc is the best soundbar you can buy if you’re willing to splurge. This $799 premium speaker stands out with its gorgeous curved design, which is designed 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 a large budget, the Sonos Arc is the top premium soundbar out there.
Read our full Sonos Arc 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.
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 shows. Factor in a handy remote and 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.
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.
It also delivers big on the audio front for its price, 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 still 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.
Bargains don't come much bigger than the Vizio M-Series M512a-H6. For well under $500 it delivers true surround sound through satellite speakers and a Dolby Atmos through the soundbar's upfiring drivers. This is the genuine article: no digital spoofing of the Atmos effect, just truly immersive sound.
Only a few luxuries like Wi-Fi and auto calibration are missing, and Vizio is particularly generous with the range of options for customizing the overall sound output, so you can get the M512a-H6 sounding just how you like it. If you're using an even cheaper soundbar like the Vizio V-Series V21-H8, this is a great upgrade.
Read our full Vizio M-Series M512a-H6 review.
To get the convenience of built-in Alexa voice controls, you'd normally need to spend a lot more than what the Polk React is asking. This is a highly affordable smart soundbar, with good looks and a substantial, bass-rich sound that won't give away how little you spent on it.
There are some cut corners, like the narrow soundstage — you may get Alexa but surround sound is another story, unless you want to splash out on the separate surrounds. Still, the React sounds rich and detailed for the most part, and it's effective for music as much it is movies.
Read our full Polk React review.
As a higher-spec alternative to the Roku Streambar, the Streambar Pro offers virtual surround sound delivered through a wider (but still subtle) design. It also comes with an improved remote, with which you can pick and choose video content to play through the built-in 4K streamer.
As with all Roku devices this serves up loads of content, though performance is sluggish. Still, once the content is actually playing, you can enjoy good sound quality with a nicely widened soundstage. The Streambar Pro is also one of the easiest soundbars to set up and use, so is ideal for home theater newcomers.
Read our full Roku Streambar Pro 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 the most immediately 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.
Ports and 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 and 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. For more on the technology, check out our complete guide to Dolby Atmos.
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.