Best soundbar: enhance your TV set-up with this easy upgrade

Invest in the best soundbar for enhanced home audio, without the need for trailing wires and large, unattractive speaker units

Best soundbar: get more from your TV in one easy upgrade
(Image credit: LG)

Investing in the best soundbar is a great option if you're serious about achieving quality audio in your home. Or if you're aiming for a home cinema experience, but don't want the trailing wires and large, unattractive units that often accompany a 5.1 speaker system.

Soundbars offer a convenient and capable compromise, delivering impressive sound quality and creating an immersive, cinematic experience by bouncing audio off the walls, successfully giving the impression that they're bigger than they are.

Of course, it's more than possible to spend a lot of money on a soundbar. But that doesn't mean that you have to. In order to benefit from more internal speakers, power, connections and smart features, you'll likely have to pay more. But it's up to you how essential those extras are.

Not sure where to start? We have plenty of tips to help you choose the best soundbar. The, scroll down to browse our top picks. We've covered a ranged of needs (and budgets) so you're sure to find something that suits.

  • Head over to our television hub page for more advice on designing the best audio visual set up
  • Then, check out The Hub, for more buying guides, expert advice and honest reviews

What's the best soundbar?

The best soundbar is the the Sennheiser Ambeo. It sounds superb, has tonnes of speakers inside, supports Dolby Atmos and does everything you could want from a soundbar. It also happens to be really quite big and very, very expensive as these things go. For that reason, we've included plenty of others.

The list below has a few highlights but scroll down for all full rundown of all our favourite soundbars.

  • The best soundbar: Sennheiser Ambeo
  • The best multi-room soundbar: Sonos Beam
  • The best soundbar for simplicity: Dali Katch One
  • The best budget soundbar: JBL Bar Studio
  • The best soundbar and sub: Yamaha YAS-207
  • The best smart two piecer: Sony HT-ST5000
  • The best soundbase: Q Acoustics M2
  • The best home cinema soundbar: Samsung HW-N950

The best soundbars

Discover our round-up of the best soundbars below. We've ranked them according to performance, design and cost, so you're sure to find something that suits.

Sennheiser Ambeo

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

1. Sennheiser Ambeo

Big, pricey but simply the best soundbar around

Specifications
Type: Single bar
Channels: 5.1.4
Dolby Atmos: Yes
HDMI: Yes **
Reasons to buy
+Amazing sound+Full range of inputs+One piece
Reasons to avoid
-Big-Expensive

If money is no object, then it’s the Sennheiser Ambeo all the way. It’s big but that’s because it’s packed with 13 large, high quality speakers in a 5.1.4 arrangement. That’s five tweeters, six woofers and two top-firing speakers. Better still is the way the processor inside controls them to give you the best possible soundstage to make you feel like you’re right in the action.

Once calibrated, it bounces the sounds off the wall and to the sofa to offer you a brilliant sweet spot and some seriously impressive Atmos and surround effects. There are enough HDMI sockets to connect it to all sorts of devices and it’s Chromecast-enabled meaning that you can stream any media to it direct from a Google-powered device.

Sonos Beam

(Image credit: Sonos)

2. Sonos Beam

Best multi-room features and very strong, affordable performance

Specifications
Type: Single bar
Channels: 3.1
Dolby Atmos: No
HDMI: Yes **
Reasons to buy
+Good sound for the money+Easy to integrate into a household system+Available in black and white
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing

Sonos does other speakers for your TV sound but the Beam is the one to go for. It’s the best balance of price, performance and that superb Sonos feature set. You can voice control it, use it as part of your Sonos multi-room set-up and it’s just the right size for most homes.

Soundwise, it’s surprisingly wide and full bodied. Sonos has ensured it produces a weight and depth that you’ll feel from the sofa. It leaves you without a doubt that a soundbar was a worthy investment.

JBL Bar Studio

(Image credit: JBL)

3. JBL Bar Studio

The best budget soundbar you'll find

Specifications
Type: Single bar
Channels: 2.0
Dolby Atmos: No
HDMI: Yes **
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Lots of bass+Good feature set
Reasons to avoid
-Not so good for music

The JBL Bar Studio is the go-to soundbar for those on a budget. You’ll struggle to find better at even twice the price. It’s as fully-featured as one could expect – HDMI and Bluetooth inputs – but doesn’t scrimp on the audio either despite its fairly slight build.

There’s no dedicated internal subwoofer but the two full range speakers inside do a very good job. There’s still lots of bass. Dialogue comes out nice and clear, and music and effects have plenty of punch. Can’t go wrong with this one.

Dali Katch One

(Image credit: Dali)

4. Dali Katch One

A great all rounder so long as you can fit it in

Specifications
Type: Single bar
Channels: 4.1
Dolby Atmos: No
HDMI: Yes **
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant sound+Easy to use+Looks good
Reasons to avoid
-No Atmos-Won't fit under most TVs

Very stylish as soundbars go but the Dali Katch One is a bit of a cheat. Big speakers mean big sound but soundbars generally have to compromise there because they can’t be too big. Dali has decided ‘to hell with that’ and made a bar that really needs to be wall-mounted or put on a shelf or it will get in the way of your screen.

If you can accommodate it, though, you’ll have just made home for a terrific-sounding piece of home cinema kit. It’s musical, movie-loving and provides all the sense of weight and power you could hope for at this price and beyond.

Yamaha YAS-207

(Image credit: Yamaha)

5. Yamaha YAS-207

An easy to live with set-up and a great home cinema feel

Specifications
Type: Soundbar & sub
Channels: 2.1
Dolby Atmos: No
HDMI: Yes **
Reasons to buy
+Practical size+Good soundstage
Reasons to avoid
-Audio could be better

Slightly further up the food chain than the JBL is the this two-piece soundbar from Yamaha. The slim profile of the main unit is particularly good for fitting under most TVs. Inside are six speakers which create a good crisp audio and, using some clever software, make a passable attempt at simulating a 7.1.4 system.

The bottom-end beef comes from the dedicated subwoofer unit. It connects wireless with the man bar which means you can squirrel it away somewhere unseen. All it needs is a nearby power outlet.

Sony HT-ST5000

6. Sony HT-ST5000

A high-end set-up that does everything you could wish for

Specifications
Type: Soundbar & sub
Channels: 7.1.2
Dolby Atmos: Yes
HDMI: Yes**
Reasons to buy
+Dolby Atmos support+Lovely build+Chromecast support
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

This Sony is another two-piecer only with a far bigger sub and lots more besides. It’s a 7.1.2 channel arrangement of speakers, meaning that there are drivers dedicated to dialogue in the centre, among others, which make sure that everything said on-screen comes out nice and clear.

There are built-in music services so that you can access Spotify more easily plus Bluetooth and USB connectivity for playing your own tracks from your mobile or other device. You can stream direct through Google Chromecast from Android kit too. Best of all, there are also speakers on the top-side for Dolby Atmos effects. Pricey but a fine purchase.

Q Acoustics M2

(Image credit: Q Acoustics)

7. Q Acoustics M2

A great budget soundbase to fit with almost any TV

Specifications
Type: Soundbase
Channels: 2.1
Dolby Atmos: No
HDMI: Yes**
Reasons to buy
+Handy form factor+Great price+Plenty of volume
Reasons to avoid
-Audio could be better-Cheap remote control 

This is a soundbase, rather than a soundbar. It’s designed so that your TV actually sits right on top of it, and that’s handy if space is an issue. There’s room inside the box for a dedicated woofer alongside a set of speakers which bounce the sound out wide into a very decent home cinema image.

The remote control is on the poxy side but all the sockets and connections are there. There are special modes for movie watching and video games.

Samsung HW-N950

(Image credit: Samsung)

8. Samsung HW-N950

As close to full home cinema as a soundbar gets

Specifications
Type: Soundbar, subwoofer, 2 x rear speakers
Channels: 7.1.4
Dolby Atmos: Yes
HDMI: Yes**
Reasons to buy
+Excellent soundstage+Good Atmos production
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey-Audio should be better

Another luxury buy, this Samsung has, not one, but four speaker units. It’s as close to full surround sound as you can get without going all the way, and comes with the bonus of not needing speaker cable.

The impressive main bar includes top speakers for Dolby Atmos. The subwoofer and rear speaker modules are all wireless too. Maybe not quite as stellar on the audio front as its price hints at but still a very nice system.

How to choose the best soundbar

Below you’ll see our favourite soundbars, but the list is by no means exhaustive. What’s important is that you find the soundbar which is right for you. To do that, it’s worth bearing in mind a few things to look out for.

HDMI

You’ll need to consider how you’re planning on connecting your soundbar to your TV and one of the easiest ways to do that is with an HDMI cable. Look out for TVs and soundbars which support HDMI ARC or eARC. It will often have this written next to one of the HDMI sockets on your TV. Plug your soundbar into this port and you’ll be able to use your TV remote to control your audio too.

Apps

One interesting differentiator with soundbars is that some are smart – i.e. Wi-Fi-connectable – and come with their own selection of apps for your TV. Usually music or video based, these could well fill some important gaps that your TV doesn’t already manage on its own. No access to Google Play Movies & TV or Spotify? It’s worth looking out for a soundbar with some smarts, then.

Channels

The specs of some soundbars will describe how many channels it has, e.g. 2.0, 2.1, 3.1, etc. These numbers refer to the divisions of speakers inside it. A 2.0  soundbar has two channels – one for the left side and one for right. A 3.0 set-up will be left and right plus a centre channel as well. The 0.1 after most often refers to a bass channel.

Are soundbars worth the investment?

Sound needs space and the trouble with modern, flat panel TVs is that space is exactly what they don't have. There’s no room for nice, big speaker cabinets to create room-shaking audio. Instead, the best way to get that is for your TV to outsource to an external box and the easiest and most convenient is the soundbar – a boxed speaker array which sits underneath or near your TV and pumps out the audio.  

Dolby Atmos

There is another channel which is popular at the moment and it represents height. So, if you want your soundbar to produce effects of objects flying overhead, then be on the lookout for one which supports Dolby Atmos. These will often have speakers on their top surface as well as their front or rear, and you may see them described in the specs as having 2.1.2 channels, for example, where the final '2' represents two Atmos speakers.

Dimensions

Arguably the most important piece of research to do is sizing. Take a look at the dimensions of a soundbar and check it’s going to fit where you want to put it. The classic position is at the feet of your TV but some TV stands don’t offer much clearance and there are plenty of soundbars which are taller than they should be. You don’t want to end up with the soundbar blocking your view. If this looks like it’s going to be a problem, it’s worth considering wall-mounting either your TV or your soundbar, or possibly both.

Multi-room

A soundbar offers more than just audio potential for your viewing. It can act as a music speaker for your lounge listening even when your telly is off. For that reason, you might decide that you want one that fits into your home’s multi-room audio system so that you can stream all of your favourite tunes just as you would elsewhere in the house. The best for functionality on this front is, of course, Sonos. Fortunately, Sonos do a rather good line in soundbars.

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