If you spent the last year Pinterest’ing your living room to look more pristine than a prize-winner at the Chelsea flower show, the last thing you want are cables ruining the look. That’s where soundbars come in. A soundbar is the best way to upgrade your audio without downgrading your style.
Soundbars give you a similar audio experience to a surround sound system, minus all the wires that clutter up the place unless you’re willing to put in the major DIY effort of running them under the carpet or behind the skirting board.
Don’t just think of a soundbar as something you only use when watching movies, either. They may hook up with your TV, but almost all models are made for music too. You can stream music from your phone using Bluetooth or directly from a streaming service using Wi-Fi. Some also support digital assistant services like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
The Sonos Beam (opens in new tab) is one of our favourite soundbars. It has a great design and great sound quality. It’s only 65cm wide, too, so you don’t need a mammoth TV to make it look right. And there’s a white version if you find black gadgets dull.
Aside from its direct HDMI connection with your TV, the Sonos Beam behaves just like other Sonos speakers. You get seamless multi-room audio, giving you an easy and slick way to fling tunes around your home using an app on your phone.
And if you want to go big on home audio, you can link up a pair of Sonos One speakers for rear surround sound.
There are plenty of lower-price options too. The JVC TH-W513B (opens in new tab) is a certified bargain at £59.99 and still a huge audio upgrade for most TVs. It can be wall-mounted too if you don’t use a TV stand. It’s a great choice if you want to keep things simple, but it also has Bluetooth for audio streaming from your phone.
If your budget stretches a little further, check out the Sony HT-ZF9 (opens in new tab). Higher-end soundbars like this come with wireless subwoofers. Plug them in somewhere out of sight and you get thrilling bass without the sense you’re living in a hi-fi shop’s demo room.
The Sony HT-ZF9 also uses special Dolby Atmos processing to give the impression of height and space to movies from just a pair of speaker drivers. Guests will wonder where all that sound is coming from. Surely not that little black bar? It sounds that good.
Smart home soundbars
A soundbar like the Bose Soundbar 500 (opens in new tab) takes the convenience factor even further. Its Adaptiq feature calibrates the sound to suit the acoustics of your room.
This kind of high-tech approach is made possible by the Soundbar 500’s microphone array. And it’s not just there to tweak the sound.
The eight far-field microphones let you talk directly to the Amazon Alexa digital assistant through the bar. You can ask for tunes, for reminders and even entertain the kids with voice-based trivia quizzes.
The Bose Soundbar 500 is one of the smartest soundbars around and is a particularly good choice if you already own, and love, one of Amazon’s Echo smart speakers.
The hi-fi choice
If you want a soundbar that has the chops to replace a great h-ifi, consider the Sony HT-ST5000 (opens in new tab). It offers crystal-clear sound and thanks to its top-performing wireless subwoofer, it’s ready to party when you need more oomph.
All the tech you could ask for is packed in too. Bluetooth lets you stream any audio from your phone, while a Wi-Fi connection works with the likes of Spotify. There’s even a built-in Chromecast.
This is a soundbar we’d recommend if you’ve splashed out on a nice, big TV. It’s 118cm long, so roughly the same width as a 55-inch set.
- Brought to you in partnership with Currys PC World. Buy headphones, hi-fi and more at Currys.co.uk (opens in new tab).