Best Soundbar Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's overview of the best soundbars (also spelled soundbars) that you can buy in 2018.
In all those years in which we have tested TV's, we have found very few that sound as good as they look.
Unfortunately, while panel technology has improved over the years, less and less space has become available for powerful speakers, leading to poor performance that often sounds weak and tinny. This can make it difficult to hear a dialogue and makes cinematic moments less impressive than they should be.
The easiest way to solve this problem is with a soundbar. These speakers are nice and neat under your TV and often offer a great sound without taking up much more space in your living room.
Buy one of the best soundbars and you get not only a better sound, but also more advanced features such as virtual surround sound, Dolby Atmos support and possibly multiroom audio functionality that allows you to stream the same song to different rooms in your home. However, choose badly, and you could end up with a sound bar that is almost no better than the built-in speakers of your TV.
What is the best soundbar?
Sound bars come in many shapes and sizes and range in price from less than £ 100 / $ 100 to more than £ 1,000 / $ 1,500. Cheaper models have standard connections, more expensive models add superior HDMI inputs (including 4K / HDR passthrough), wireless audio streaming (eg Bluetooth and AirPlay), better power, more sophisticated speaker driver & # 39; s and decoding of Blu-ray sound formats.
A complete surround setup is the best solution for bad sounding televisions, but if you have limited space (not to mention the budget), a soundbar offers a pretty decent compromise. Moreover, contemporary soundbars contain the newest and best audio technologies such as Dolby Atmos and DTS: X.
Design is also important, with some models able to sit on a stand in front of your TV, while others may need a separate shelf or need to be mounted on the wall. But whatever your budget, there are some great good acoustic upgrades that can give your TV the sound it deserves.
1. Samsung HW-MS650 Soundbar
Be afraid, traditional hi-fi speakers. Be very scared.
Dimensions: 1060 x 78 x 130 mm (W x H x D) Speaker configuration: 3.0 Claimed audio power: 9 x 20 W | connections: Single 4K / HDR HDMI pass, one optical audio input, 3.5 mm audio port, 2-way Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Fantastic powerful sound
Physics-defying bass handling
Supports many sources
Slightly limited stereo effect
Not content with dominating the TV world, Samsung now also plans to become the number one brand for home entertainment audio. All these efforts have yielded excellent results in the form of both the HW-K850 and especially HW-K950 Dolby Atmos soundbars, as well as a range of ground-breaking multiroom wireless speakers.
But above all is the HW-MS650 from the South Korean manufacturer. No one-body soundbar combines so much raw power with so much clarity, scale and especially bass, or it excels consistently with both movies and music. It is the kind of performance that only real audio innovation can offer, and with that in mind it is well worth the price tag of $ 450 / £ 599.
Read the full review: Samsung HW-MS650 Soundbar
2. Sony HT-ST5000 Soundbar
An impudent luxury soundbar that justifies the price tag
Dimensions: 1180 x 80 x 145 mm (W x H x D) Speaker configuration: 7.1.2 Claimed audio power: N / A | connections: 3 x HDMI inputs, 1 HDMI Out (ARC), analog audio in / out, Ethernet, optical audio input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Nice build quality
Dolby Atmos support
Hi-res audio compatible
No DTS: X
The Sony HT-ST5000 is the most expensive soundbar on this list, but for the money you get an exceptional device that supports Dolby's spacious Atmos technology and works exceptionally well with conventional surround sound.
The build quality and design of the soundbar is exceptional and the overall audio performance impresses with its clarity and spatial presentation.
With that said, its high price means that it will not be for everyone, and most people will get everything they need from the Samsung HW-MS650 above. But if you want the best high-end soundbar, the HT-ST5000 is the perfect choice.
Read the full review: Sony HT-ST5000
3. Q Acoustics M4 Sound Bar
& # 39; If there is a better sounding bar on the market for less than £ 400 / $ 400, we have not heard this & # 39;
Power: 100W | speakers: 2 | Dimensions: 1,000 x 90 x 142 mm Weight: 4.9 kg inputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x digital optical, 1 x 3.5 mm outputs: N / A | Wireless: Bluetooth aptX | Subwoofer included?: Yes Special features: N / A
Easy to use
No HDMI input
The Q Acoustics M4 soundbar does not immediately trigger pulsations with its slightly prosaic appearance, & # 39; mere & # 39; 2.1 channel sound and lack of HDMI support. However, you only need to hear what the M4 can do with both music and movies, because your doubts about it evaporate almost immediately. In fact, it sounds so good that it starts to look like trying to deliver more channels from an affordable soundbar that looks a little crazy.
In fact, however, it sounds so much better than almost every rival soundbar in the same price range that it is actually ridiculously good, especially if you care about music as much as film.
Read the full review: Q Acoustics M4 Sound Bar
4. Samsung HW-N950
This combination of soundbar, two wireless sats and Dolby Atmos is game-changing
Power: 500W | speakers: 9 | Dimensions: 47.6 x 3.2 x 5.1 inches Weight: 14.7lbs | inputs: 1 x digital optical, 1 x HDMI outputs: 1 x HDMI | Wireless: Bluetooth and WiFi Subwoofer included?: Yes Special features: Dolby Atmos
Dolby Atmos and DTS: X
Wireless satellites and sub
Standard audio calibration
The Samsung HW-N950 is something special. It is the company's latest flagship soundbar, but the first to take advantage of Samsung's acquisition of Harman Kardon – a partnership that is already profitable.
The HW-N950 is a complete upgrade from our previous winner, Samsung & # 39; s HW-K950 – who had the # 6 spot on this list for a long time. Most importantly, the N950 now supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS: X, compared to the K950 that was disappointing until now.
With that in mind, the Samsung HW-N950 is just one of the best soundbars we've heard so far – and one of the few soundbars that really offers a 7.1.4-channel immersive audio experience. Thanks to the use of wireless rear speakers and a subwoofer, the N950 is easy to install and adjust and the N950 can deliver object-based audio as intended by the creators of content without resorting to psychoacoustic tricks.
Read the full review: Samsung HW-N950
5. Philips Fidelio B5
Surround sound or portable Bluetooth – the choice is yours
Power: 120W | speakers: 4 | Dimensions: 1.035 x 70 x 156 mm Weight: 16kg inputs: Digital coaxial in, Digital optical in, HDMI 1.4 (ARC) output, HDMI IN 1, HDMI IN 2, Audio in 3.5 mm jack | Wireless: Bluetooth APT-X and AAC | Subwoofer included?: Yes Special features: N / A
Direct surround sound
Versatile Bluetooth speakers
Massive as a single bar
Weak stereo sound
The Philips Fidelio B5 is an impressive package, and it is the perfect soundbar for anyone who appreciates good cinema sound but is not interested in tearing up their living room to install a 5.1 surround sound system to occasionally use. With the B5 you can choose your movie moments and choose on a spur of the moment. And it also creates a pretty decent surround sound experience, using both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround decoding.
The combination of convenience and good audio – the raison d & # 39; être of the soundbar – with its transformative surround sound capabilities, makes the Fidelio B5 a great option for the film fan who can not handle the annoyance of a good 5.1 installation.
Read the full review: Philips Fidelio B5
6. Sonos playback bar
Changes your multi-room audio system into wireless surround sound
Power: Not specified speakers: 9 | Dimensions: 900 x 85 x 140 mm Weight: 5.4kg | inputs: 1 x digital optical, 2 x Ethernet LAN outputs: N / A | Wireless: WiFi Special features: Sonos Play: 1 speakers can be connected as wireless rear speakers
Integrates with Sonos systems
Smart audio modes
Requires certain TV's
Only one entry
The Sonos playback bar is a non-HDMI device that is optically used to connect to a TV. It is easy to use on its own and provides a huge sonic boost for listening to your TV, but a smartphone or tablet app must be used for operation. The advantage is that it can be seamlessly segmented to a wireless Sonos system and can even act as the front three speakers in a 5.1 setup with two Play: acting as a rears.
Unfortunately, although the optical-only setup is great for most users, TV owners that do not have this connector are excluded, pushing it a bit further in this list.
Read the full review: Sonos playback bar
7. Sonos Beam
This is the smart soundbar we've been waiting for
Power: N / A | speakers: 3 channels Dimensions: 2.70 x 25.625 x 3.94 inches (68.5 x 651 x 100 mm) Weight: 6.2 lbs (2.8 kg) inputs: 1 x digital optical input, 1 x HDMI input Wireless: Sonos | Subwoofer included?: No Special features: Amazon Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2
Great compact design
Suitable for HDMI ARC
No Dolby Atmos
The Sonos Beam is a fantastic soundbar for its price, one that makes the most of the Sonos ecosystem and is a joy to use (and set if your television has HDMI ARC). The smaller form factor makes it a device that can comfortably be placed next to a 32-inch TV, but it has enough of a footprint to not be overshadowed by a much larger set.
The Sonos Beam does not offer earth-shaking bass and the lack of it Dolby Atmos support will cause some irritation, but at this price it would be more of a surprise if it had been recorded. The voice control is perhaps only for Alexa for the time being, but it works well and if you have adopted a number of Amazon's TV toys, it's really worth experimenting with it.
Read the full review: Sonos Beam
8. Denon HEOS Bar
A powerful and well connected Playbar challenger
Power: N / A | speakers: 3.0 Dimensions: 2 7/8 x 43 3/8 x 5 7/8 inches; 72 x 1100 x 148 mm Weight: 10.58 lbs; 4.8 kg inputs: 4K HDMI input and HDMI output Wireless: Bluetooth, 802.11ac Wi-Fi | Special features: Heos Multi-Room Audio
Excellent sound quality
Treats all formats and streams
Incidental switching delay
Inaccessible USB slot
With its nine drivers in trio & # 39; s for left, middle and right channels and a virtual surround mode to create the illusion that there are more speakers in the room, the HEOS Bar is virtually anything you want.
Blessed with such a balanced soundscape, the HEOS Bar immediately proved to be a good music connoisseur and has a consistently warm but refined sound quality that is entirely of its own. The fact that it lacks the ability to adjust the audio settings is not as important as we had feared. Music sounds excellent, especially lossless melodies, from which the HEOS bar drags away many details. However, we noticed a few times that the first half-second were cut-off songs.
Read the full review: Denon HEOS Bar
9. Focal Dimension
An impressive sounding soundbar with a few setup-faux-pa & # 39; s
Power: 450 W | speakers: 5 | Dimensions: 1.155 x 115 x 115 mm Weight: 5.5 kg inputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x digital optical, 1 x 3.5 mm outputs: N / A | Wireless: Bluetooth aptX (via dongle) | Subwoofer included?: No Special features: Suitable for large spaces
Virtual surround sound
Impressive bass without sub
Limited surround experience
Cheap remote control
Focal, best known for its excellent sounding speakers (and the recently released Focal Listen headphones), is late on the soundbar space, but the Focal Dimension was worth the wait. The soundbar of Dimension is simply beautiful, with its piano black accents and aluminum unibody construction.
For $ 1,399 (£ 799, AU $ 1,699) it is not exactly cheap, but you pay for excellent build quality, sound and design.
Read the full review: Focal Dimension
10. Bose SoundTouch 300
A beautifully made, accurate sounding soundbar
Power: N / A | speakers: 1 | Dimensions: 42 x 6.2 x 5 inches Weight: 15,2lbs | inputs: 1 x digital optical, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Ethernet port, 1x 3.5 mm connection for ADAPTiQ system configuration, 1 x 3.5 mm connection to make the bass module solid, 1 x micro-USB connection | outputs: 1 x HDMI output with Audio Return Channel (ARC) | Wireless: Bluetooth Subwoofer included?: No Special features: Multiroom
Broad, articulated sonic presentation
Beautiful design and build quality
Potentially frustratingly set up
Does not come with a subwoofer
With its high-quality design Bose's sleek soundbar looks fantastic and sounds above average. With a width of 97.9 cm you can work best with larger screen sizes (50-inch +) and a price of £ 599 / $ 700 / AU $ 999, it offers great sound. There are some reservations regarding usability and price, but in general a careful two thumbs up is required.
It is also worth noting that since this is not a 2.1 package, no subwoofer is provided – although Bose sells you a wireless Acoustimas sub and the ST300 can work with the virtually invisible (ie small 10 cm) 300 surround speakers of the brand. The system is also compatible with the Bose SoundTouch wireless multiroom system with smaller Bluetooth speakers.
Read the full review: Bose SoundTouch 300
BONUS: Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier
This 11.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos soundbar does not belong to our class
Power: 2.000 watts speakers: 17 | Dimensions: 521 x 151 x 96 mm (59.9 x 5.9 x 3.8 inches, L x W x H) Weight: 35.3 lbs inputs: 2 x digital optical, 3 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x Ethernet port, 1x 3.5 mm jack, two ¼ "microphone jacks, two USB 2.0 type A connectors for USB flash drives and HDDs, one SD card slot and three MicroSD card slots next to | outputs: 1 x HDMI output with Audio Return Channel (ARC) | Wireless: Bluetooth Subwoofer included?: Yes Special features: SuperWide X-Fi
It is a 11.2.4 channel soundbar!
Accurate, almost perfect sound
Unrivaled DSP with SuperWide X-Fi
Your neighbors will hate you
You know, it just did not feel right to compare the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier with other soundbars on this list. It would be the same as comparing jet skis with yachts.
That said, if you have the deep pockets to pay for it, the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier is in a different class of soundbars. It features 17 loudspeakers set in a 11.2.4-channel or 15.2-channel configuration that can distribute over 110 dB sound and supports Dolby Atmos directly out of the box.
Is $ 4,000 too much to spend on a soundbar – even one that is really great as the Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier? Probably. But are a few things worth while to turn your basement or garage into a home cinema with a club / near cinema quality? Yes. It is.
- We have made a list with the best Sci-Fi movies to really put your soundbar to the test.