Current life may have started to look a little more normal lately, but spontaneous trips to the movie theater or music venues are still off the table for many of us. This is why it makes perfect sense that people have started to look at how they can upgrade their own at-home sound systems. The best soundbars are an incredible way to do this, offering convenience and quality that can instantly make watching a movie on the couch into much more of an experience.
But you've already done some shopping around, then you'll know that prices for the best soundbars can vary wildly, and it isn't easy to decide which one to go for. Of course, you'll also find more extensive, often more pricey, systems and, if you're tempted, then check out our guide to the best surround sound systems.
To help with your decision, we've identified some of the top offerings from leading brands at a range of price points to find which soundbars offer the most 'bang for your buck'. In addition, we consider additional features such as internal speakers, smart connectivity, subwoofers, and more.
Scroll down to see what we thought and for more buying advice below.
The best soundbars in 2021
Extremely stylish compared to other soundbars, the Dali Katch One cheats a little by being larger than your average. Bigger speakers mean bigger sound, and soundbars generally have to compromise because of how they're placed. Dali said, 'to hell with that' and made a bar that really needs to be wall-mounted or placed on a shelf to be out of the way of your screen.
All that aside, the Katch One is a terrific-sounding piece of home cinema kit. It's musical, movie-loving, and provides all of the weight and power you would hope for at this price point.
It promises to deliver powerful bass even without a subwoofer, and Bluetooth connectivity means you can play pretty much anything from your mobile device, whether that's your favorite playlist or the latest episode of that true-crime podcast you're addicted to.
This Sony soundbar is a two-piecer that includes a good-size sub and lots more besides. Its 7.1.2 channel arrangement means that there are drivers dedicated to dialog in the center, among other things, which make sure that everything said on-screen comes out nice and clear.
There are also built-in music services through which you can access Spotify more easily, plus Bluetooth and USB connectivity for playing your own tracks from your mobile or another device.
You can stream directly through Google Chromecast from Android kit too, and, best of all, there are also speakers on the top-side for Dolby Atmos effects. It's certainly pricey, but with so much to recommend, it would be a fine investment.
Perhaps the smartest option on our list, the Bose Smart 300 Soundbar includes not just built-in Alexa (more on that in a moment) but also Bose's own Voice4Video technology that allows you to use your voice to control the soundbar, your connected TV, and cable/satellite box.
The Alexa operates how you would expect, allowing you to connect to other smart devices from around the home and control your sound with a simple voice command. You can even do things like calling your mom without so much as unlocking your phone.
Outside of its smarts, the Bose Smart 300 also impresses with its commitment to a good sound experience, with five full-range drivers, QuietPort tech to limit distortion from bass levels, and the ability to activate private listening for when you want to enjoy a movie while the kids are sleeping (though this only appears to work if you have Bose headphones).
Real Homes rating: 4 out of 5 stars
A good upgrade from the Yamaha YAS-207 is the YAS-209, which adds built-in Alexa smart tech and a sleek redesign. The slim profile of the main unit is perfect for fitting under most TVs, and inside is 3D DTS Virtual:X for a surround sound effect for a much more affordable price.
The bottom-end beef comes from the dedicated subwoofer unit. It connects wirelessly with the main bar, which means you can squirrel it away somewhere unseen. All it needs is a nearby power outlet, and you're set.
The controls are now on the top of the bar, rather than the base of the front, like with the YAS-207, which makes it much easier to use and more attractive (in our humble opinion).
This all-in-one soundbar from Samsung is probably the most attractive on our list, with our testing alongside the Samsung Frame TV only enhancing this aspect. The wraparound fabric covering and slightly squashed shape look great, but its drawbacks include a slight blocking of the screen if both are placed on the same stand.
For this reason, we highly recommend mounting the soundbar, and luckily everything you need to do so is included with the purchase.
The speaker also operates as a Bluetooth speaker for playing music, podcasts, or audiobooks from your device, and the built-in subwoofer gives everything the oomph you want. But, of course, it works with Alexa, too, so if you already have an Amazon smart speaker in the home, then connecting them is a doddle.
Real Homes rating: 4 out of 5 stars | read our full review of the Samsung HW-S60 soundbar
How to choose the best soundbar for your home
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 that sits underneath or near your TV and pumps out the audio.
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.
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.
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. For example, a 2.0 soundbar has two channels – one for the left side and one for the right. A 3.0 set-up will be left and right, plus a center channel as well—the 0.1 after most often refers to a bass channel.
There is another channel that 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 and 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.
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 that are taller than they should be. You don’t want to end up with the soundbar blocking your view. If this looks like it will be a problem, it’s worth considering wall-mounting either your TV or your soundbar, or possibly both.
A soundbar offers more than just audio potential for your viewing. For example, it can be 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 favorite tunes just as you would elsewhere in the house. The best for functionality on this front is, of course, Sonos. Fortunately, Sonos does a rather good line in soundbars.