Best soundbar: enhance audio quality for a home cinema experience

The best soundbar will instantly enhance audio quality without the need for a full set of home cinema speakers

the best soundbar: pulse soundbar 2i
(Image credit: Bluesound)

The best soundbars are designed to enhance your TV's sound quality, creating an immersive, cinematic experience without the need for a full set of home cinema speakers. This is perfect if you're working with a smaller living room, or are looking for a streamlined solution that will slot underneath your television, while offering a significantly improved sonic experience.

As with all things audio, it's certainly possible to spend a lot of money on a soundbar. But, that doesn't have to be the case. If you choose carefully, it's impossible to enhance your audio experience without spending more than you did on your television, to begin with.

Not sure where to start? We have plenty of tips to help you choose the best soundbar. Then, 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 is the best soundbar?

The best soundbar is the Samsung HW-MS650, thanks to its impressive price-to-performance ratio. With three channels of audio, all of which are remarkably clear and controlled, it's a great starting point for those looking to create a cinematic experience in their living room. Plus, it's possible to expand your set-up at a later date for full surround sound.

Find our complete list of the best soundbars below. Or, scroll down for individual product reviews:

  • The best soundbar: Samsung HW-MS650
  • The best wireless multi-room soundbar: Pulse Soundbar 2i
  • The best soundbar with Dolby Atmos: Sony HT-ST5000
  • The best soundbar for simplicity: Dali Kubik One
  • The best budget soundbar: Q Acoustics M4
  • The best Sonos soundbar: Sonos Playbar

The best soundbars

the best soundbar: Samsung HW-MS650

1. Samsung HW-MS650

Best soundbar: an audio upgrade that won't cost the earth

Specifications
Channels: 3.0
Dolby Atmos: No
Wired inputs: HDMI, HDMI-ARC, Optical, Analogue
Wireless inputs: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Reasons to buy
+Amazing sound+Good range of inputs+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-No Dolby Atmos support-Stereo effect could be more pronounced

The best soundbar is the Samsung HW-MS650, thanks to its impressive price-to-performance ratio. Despite it not offering more advanced features, like Dolby Atmos support or a separate subwoofer, it's still our favourite. Features include:

Three channels of audio

This model comes with three channels of audio, achieving similar effects to a surround sound system. Plus, it offers a fantastic amount of bass in spite of its lack of a dedicated subwoofer, and attacks the rest of an audio mix with a similar amount of clarity and control. 

Wide range

With a wider range than most other models on the market, you can expect to experience surround sound from a range of angles, not just when you're set directly in front of your sound bar.

Expand your sound system over time

With Samsung's Wireless Surround Kit, it's easier than ever to build a surround sound system over time and without the mess of wires. The soundbar is a great starting point.

Wireless

There's no need to fear that adding a soundbar to your audio visual set-up will mean having to trail wires from device to device, as this model connects wirelessly to you TV. Plus, it can be mounted, wirelessly, on your wall if that suits your better.

Shop more soundbars available at Amazon

the best soundbar: pulse soundbar 2i

(Image credit: Bluesound)

2. Pulse Soundbar 2i

Best wireless multi-room soundbar: create an unrivalled audio experience using this luxury piece of kit

Specifications
Channels: 7.1.2
Dolby Atmos: No
Wired inputs: 1x Type-A port, 1x Type B port, Optical, RCA Link In, HDMI
Wireless inputs: Bluetooth
Reasons to buy
+Stylish design+Luxury piece of kit+Easy to integrate into a larger sound system+Available in black and white
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive price point

Our favourite luxury pick has to be the Pulse Soundbar 2i thanks to its stylish design, seamless integration and multi-room functions. Discover everything you need to know about it, below:

Immersive sonic experience

Designed with six integrated, high performance speakers and two advanced passive radiators, the Pulse Soundbar 2i creates a fully immersive, sonic experience which is perfect for real music enthusiasts. That means heightening ever layer of acoustic detail, as well as enhancing the experience of films, sports, video games and more.

Expand your sound system over time

Seamless integrate this model into an existing sound system, or build your dream set-up over time. This an option worth considering if you can't afford to splash out on an extensive sound system in one go.

Voice control

This model is also smart enabled and compatible with Alexa and Siri, which is perfect for those with a wider smart home set up. Work through your music library and stream your favourite films and TV shows using nothing but your voice.

the best soundbar: Sony HT-ST5000

3. Sony HT-ST5000

Best soundbar with Dolby Atmos: a high-end set-up that does everything you could wish for (and more)

Specifications
Channels: 7.1.2
Dolby Atmos: Yes
Wired inputs: 3x HDMI, HDMI-ARC, Optical, Analogue, Ethernet
Wireless inputs: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Reasons to buy
+Dolby Atmos support+Lovely build and sound quality
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks DTS:X support-That price

The best high-end option, and a close second place, the Sony's HT-ST5000 proves that you really do get what you pay for (if you're prepared to pay it).

Dolby Atmos

The headline feature here is support for Dolby Atmos, which means that this model offers the best audio quality going. Get ready to be transported directly into the action with second-to-none sound quality.

Range

A truly high-end setup would literally use ceiling mounted speakers to create the Atmos effect of sound coming from above you, but since the ST5000 is a self-contained unit it has to be a little smarter. 

What it does instead is use upward firing speakers to bounce sound off the ceiling and into your ears. It sounds crazy, but the effect is really impressive, and creates a real impression of verticality. 

Powerfully clear sound

Outside of its Atmos support, the ST5000 is a great performer in its own right with a presentation that deftly combines a powerful sound with delicious clarity. 

Browse more soundbars available from John Lewis & Partners

the best soundbar: Dali Kubik One

4. Dali Kubik One

Best soundbar for simplicity: a well specced bar with a beastly sound

Specifications
Channels: 2
Dolby Atmos: No
Wired inputs: 2x Optical
Wireless inputs: Bluetooth
Reasons to buy
+Natural, engaging sound+Great choice of colours
Reasons to avoid
-No HDMI ports-Could use a subwoofer

If you want a soundbar that offers raw sound quality rather than an expansive feature-list then the Dali Kubik One is a great choice. 

Despite the absence of an external subwoofer, it's got a fairly limited two channel speaker configuration (let alone support for Atmos), and it also doesn't support the industry standard HDMI connector. 

But hook up your equipment with the required optical audio cable and you'll soon see (or rather, hear) what makes the Kubik One so special. Here are some of our favourite features:

Impressive sound

While it might only support two channels of audio, this model creates such an amazingly spacious sound with them that it's hard to care. It might not have an external subwoofer, but that doesn't stop it from offering ample amounts of well-controlled bass. 

Connect devices via Bluetooth

The audio quality means it's also perfectly possible to enjoy listening to music through the soundbar, which you can do through connecting up a device via Bluetooth. 

Design

With its simple and contemporary design, this model makes a stylish addition to any modern home. Plus, it comes with a removable grille, which means you can choose between a black, red, white, purple or green finish, depending on your preference. 

Try AO for more soundbars

the best soundbar: Q Acoustics M4

5. Q Acoustics M4

Best budget soundbar: a great value option that does the job

Specifications
Channels: 2.1
Dolby Atmos: No
Wired inputs: Optical, Analogue
Wireless inputs: Bluetooth
Reasons to buy
+Easy to setup and use+Compact
Reasons to avoid
-Limited inputs-Only stereo

Perfect for those on a budget, the Q Acoustics M4 is slightly more stripped back, features wise, but still offers an impressive audio experience. Top rated features include:

Compact design

This is a wonderfully compact soundbar that's perfectly content to sit within a TV cabinet. Perfect for small living spaces, it proves it's possible to enjoy impressive sound without having to invest in a huge piece of kit. 

Range

Power it up and you'll discover that this offering from Q Acoustics has a fantastic amount of musicality, combined with a driver configuration that spreads sound much more widely than its 2.1 channel speaker configuration suggests.

Build a larger sound system over time 

If you want to upgrade the sound at a later date then the soundbar also has a line-out for connecting it to an external subwoofer, although there's no option to add a pair of rear speakers to boost it to a surround sound configuration. 

Shop the full range of soundbars available from Currys PC World

the best soundbar: Sonos PlayBar

6. Sonos PlayBar

Best Sonos soundbar: stick with Sonos if you're looking to link a sound system throughout your home

Specifications
Channels: 3
Dolby Atmos: No
Wired inputs: Optical, Ethernet
Wireless inputs: Wi-Fi
Reasons to buy
+Expandable to 5.1+Integrates into existing Sonos multi-room setup
Reasons to avoid
-Limited inputs-Same level of sound quality can be had cheaper

If you've already invested in the Sonos eco-system, or like the idea of building a reliable sound system over time, we'd recommend investing in the Sonos PlayBar. All this functionality commands a pretty hefty price premium, but if you want a versatile system then this premium could be entirely justified. 

Integration

By integrating the PlayBar into the Sonos ecosystem, you can easily use the soundbar as a capable multi-room speaker in its own right, playing all the same music streaming services that the company has integrated with over the years. 

But this integration also goes a step further, and allows you to use additional Sonos speakers to build out a very capable 5.1 surround sound system in its own right with the addition of a Sonos Play:1 and a Sonos Sub. 

Doing so will land you with a system that's much more expensive than many other out-of-the-box 5.1 competitors, but equally you'll be left with a versatile set of speakers that you can rearrange into other configurations as you see fit. 

Automatic tuning

Whether you intend on placing your soundbar on a TV stand, or mounting it on a wall, this offering from Sonos is designed to auto-tune itself to provide the best audio quality possible.

Speech enhancement

Designed by Oscar-winning sound engineers, this model prioritises speech enhancement, meaning you'll feel like you're part of the on-screen conversation, not simply observing it.

Browse more soundbars available from Argos

How to buy the best soundbar

When it comes to buying the best soundbar to suit your needs and successfully boost your audio experience, there are a few factors worth considering. These include:

Dolby Atmos

The latest generation of soundbars can even offer access to high-end technologies, like Dolby Atmos, which creates the impression of sound coming from above you as well as behind you (as with a standard surround sound mix).

Number of audio channels

The number of audio channels available will determine the number of directions your sound appears to be coming from. So, the more channels, the more immersive and cinematic the experience.

Design

Most soundbars are designed to sit, smartly, in front of your TV. If this doesn't appeal, ensure you opt for a model that can be wall mounted.

Range 

You'll also need to think about how your soundbar will work with the size, and layout, of your space. Some models will only allow you to experience their full effects while you're sat directly in front of them, others offer a wider range.

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