What’s the best soundbar?
Best soundbar: You’ve bought a TV but it sounds so thin and meak, making your favourite TV shows and films sound less engaging. What do you do? Well, you get a soundbar, of course.
A TV’s slim form means it’s hard to find space for beefy audio components, and the result is that the sound quality has suffered. A speaker package would help, but not everyone has enough space for a traditional speaker package. The solution is a soundbar or soundbase.
They lend your TV some much-needed sonic support, and are often a simple and cost-effective way to improve sound quality without the hassle of cables that come with a more traditional home cinema system.
There are options available so you can a solution that fits your needs. There’s the basic standalone soundbar; or you could for a bar and sub combo to beef up the bass. And getting a soundbar can open the potential of adding satellite speakers for a more convenient and neater wireless surround system. Another option is a soundbase on which your TV sits on, saving space in the process.
Here’s our list of the best soundbar on the market, from budget efforts to premium 3D sound soundbars.
- Best compact soundbar: Sonos Beam
- Best budget soundbar: Wharfedale Vista 200S
- Best sounding soundbar: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
- Best all-in-one soundbar: Samsung HW-Q90R
- Best smart soundbar: Polk Command Bar
- Best featured soundbar: Samsung HW-Q800T
- Best 7.1.4 Atmos soundbar: LG SN11RG
- Best soundbar design: DALI Katch One
- Best soundbar for high-res music: Sony HT-ST500
- Best multi-room soundbar: Bluesound Pulse Soundbar 2i
- Best connected soundbar: Denon HEOS bar
- Best HEOS soundbar: Denon DHT-S516H
- Best Sky soundbar: Sky Soundbox
The best compact soundbar
- Excellent sound
- Integrated Alexa works a charm
- Controls TV
- Lovely design
- Not the last word in bass output
If you’re tight on space and have cash to spare, the Sonos Beam is a fine choice. It’s a soundbar for your TV, a multiroom speaker that plays nicely with other Sonos products – and it’s a voice-activated smart speaker armed with Amazon Alexa.
The Beam’s soundstage is so wide and tall it’s hard to believe there aren’t other speakers in the room. An engaging and entertaining sound is complemented by a smooth and direct mid-range, giving a convincing weight to voices. Everything is controlled through the brilliant Sonos app, and there’s even support for Apple AirPlay 2 (with Siri) and Google Assistant.
Pair it with Sonos Play:1 speakers and a Sonos sub, and you’ve got yourself a formidable surround sound system.
Wharfedale Vista 200S
- Great with movies and music
- Well-integrated bass
- Low-profile and well-made cabinet
- Exceptional value
- Easy to setup
The Vista 200s is a 2.1-channel effort that’s affordable, attractive and puts in a stonking performance for the price.
It’s a fairly wide unit that’s suited for TVs 65-inches and up. An HDMI ARC, optical and coaxial digital inputs and a 3.5mm jack are your lot for physical connections. Bluetooth comes built-in for streaming wirelessly from a mobile device.
Simple to set-up and use, the Vista 200s puts in a great performance across movies and TV shows. The wireless subwoofer delivers punchy, deep bass; dialogue is rendered with clarity and it can cope well with busy soundtracks, sifting through the detail on offer.
For under £250, the Wharfedale Vista 200S offers exceptional value.
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
The best-sounding soundbar
- Superb 3D audio performance
- As good with music as it is movies
- Eye-wateringly expensive
- Big and not exactly pretty
Sennheiser’s long-awaited Ambeo Soundbar is a big, bulky effort that’s the most expensive on this list. It’s always one of the best sounding units we’ve heard.
With support for Atmos, DTS:X, Sennheiser’s Ambeo processing and MPEG-H format, this hefty bar produces a muscular and hard-hitting performance, with excellent effects steering, clarity and a superbly immersive soundscape. A phenomenal sounding bar that convincingly apes a 5.1/object-based speaker packages.
The best all-in-one solution
- Superb sound quality
- Genuinely immersive performance
- Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
- Simple to set up and discreet
- Attractively designed and well made
- Audio calibration very basic
- Not exactly cheap
The Q90R is an all-in-one package that offers genuine immersive audio with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. There’s good bass integration with the subwoofer, even better stereo separation and with the rear speakers the Q90R is able to unleash an enjoyable surround sound experience.
It can be had for cheaper, and you’d be remiss not to take advantage of its superb sound quality.
Polk Command Bar
Built-in Alexa support
- Amazon Alexa built in
- Excellent sound quality
Polk’s Command Bar provides all the benefits of a soundbar plus the convenience of voice control operation. Want to order a Dominos pizza? Ask Alexa. Fancy turning down the lighting for that perfect cinema feel? Alexa will oblige.
The Command Bar’s audio delivery is refined with excellent voice clarity, adding up to a very enjoyable sonic experience indeed.
An accomplished all-rounder
- Expansive soundstage
- Powerful subwoofer
- Sleek design
- Solid build quality
- Simple to setup
- Front-heavy delivery
- Single HDMI input
- No Chromecast/AirPlay
The HW-Q800T is another accomplished all-rounder from Samsung.
It delivers an expansive and compelling soundstage, with a sound that’s detailed, dynamic and exciting. The support for both Atmos and DTS:X allows it to create an immersive wall of sound that gives anything you’re watching a boost.
Throw in eARC support, Q Symphony functionality with compatible Samsung QLED TVs and built-in Alexa, and this is a soundbar that covers pretty much all the bases apart from offering a true surround experience.
A full-fat Atmos soundbar offering
- Powerful, detailed sound
- Fully realised Dolby Atmos/DTS:X experience, complete with height and side channels
- Good looking main soundbar
- Voices can sound a touch narrow
- The subwoofer can lack finesse
- Impact sound can lack heft
The SN11RG is the LG’s top-end soundbar for 2020 and a full Atmos surround effort.
Full in the sense it includes rear speakers along with upfiring height speakers, which puts it in direct competition with the Samsung HW-Q90R. At £1499 it’s not cheap, but the SN11RG offers space-saving convenience and the simplicity of wireless connectivity that you don’t get from a ‘proper’ surround system
And the performance is a large, room-filling one, producing a convincing 3D soundscape that’s well-balanced and generates plenty of power. There are a few issues – vocals feel slightly dislocated and bass sounds slightly unrefined – but LG’s flagship soundbar delivers on the promise of immersive 3D sound.
Dali Katch One
- Wide, detailed and articulate sound from any source
- Good looks, relatively speaking
- Can be bettered for bass
- Some may hanker after greater audio attack
The Katch One is DALI’s first dedicated soundbar (the Kubik One was an all-in-one system), and continues the Danish brand’s knack for stylish aesthetics and good audio.
It’s another one-box system that saves on space and produces a good hi-fi performance. It’s tone is well judged, giving the whole frequency range full expression with plenty of precision, detail and insight. The lack of a subwoofer means its short of power and punch when it comes to dealing with more bass-heavy soundtracks.
No-compromise 7.1.2 soundbar
- Dynamic, exciting performer
- Excellent clarity with High-Res Audio
- Premium build quality
- Powerful bass
- Dolby Atmos doesn’t surround you
- Short on streaming services
- Very expensive
Headline attractions include Dolby Atmos, High-Res Audio, Bluetooth and Chromecast. It has three HDMI ports for passing through 4K video signals, alongside analogue and digital optical audio options.
And it sounds fantastic. It isn’t quite the full surround effect you get with a proper Atmos setup, but you’ll struggle to find such scale, depth, dynamism or clarity on most alternatives.
Bluesound Pulse Soundbar 2i
A big performer
- Extensive specification
- Multi-room ability
- Full, rich and high calorie sound
- Quite a visual statement
- Short of outright dynamic headroom
- Control app is quite easily confused
Measuring a 1m in length and 14cm high, it’s not the most discrete of efforts. That said, it packs plenty of talents into its robust package. It can play hi-res audio tunes, stream audio via AirPlay 2; has support for several streaming services including Spotify and is compatible with Alexa voice control. You’re not left wanting in this regard.
And in terms of the audio performance, the Pulse delivers a rich, detailed sound with a convincingly deep soundstage. If you want a soundbar that can do more than just ably assist film soundtracks, the Pulse Soundbar 2i is worth auditioning.
Excellent for both movies and music
- Plenty of connections
- Nice design
- Excellent sound
- Easy to use
- Not the last word in effects steering
- Could do with a little more bass depth
The HEOS Bar is an all-singing, all-dancing sound system that excels at music playback as much as it does movie soundtracks. It’s smooth, warm, muscular sound takes notes from Denon’s hi-fi heritage. Factor in the smooth app operation and competitive price, and this is a success in virtually every respect.
If you’re looking for a one-box solution to serve as your home’s sonic centrepiece, there are few packages as versatile.
Useful with music
- Expansive and detailed sound
- Easy to set up
- HEOS multi-room
- Good smart features
- No remote control
- Limited to lossy audio
The DHT-S516H has no aspirations for immersive surround sound, focusing instead on a 2.1 audio.
With HEOS included there’s support for Google Assistant and Alexa, adding a smart dimension to its feature set. AirPlay 2 brings in the iOS platform (plus Siri), and there is HEOS’ integration of several music streaming services that emphasises this soundbar’s musical traits.
Which is useful as the DHT-S516H has been designed with music in mind, putting in a detailed performance with warm vocals. TV benefits from its accuracy and clarity, and though more complex movie soundtracks get lost in a bit of a jumble, the bass from the subwoofer provides plenty of punch.
A decent option for Sky customers
- Weighty bass
- Clear speech
- Sky Q optimisation modes mostly work well
- Large-scale sound from a compact unit
- Sound lacks the subtlety for music
- Awkward form factor makes it difficult to position
- Not worth the higher price to non-Sky customers
The Sky Soundbox is an odd one. The first oddity is the shape, which is more like a soundbase but too small to fit a TV on. It can be tricky to find the right home for it.
The other quirk is that Sky customers can buy it at a truly excellent price. No one should pay the full price, but for £249 to Sky customers, this is a no-brainer.
With help from Devialet, the scale of sound from such a compact unit is super-impressive, while some Sky Q-specific sound modes help to get a better sonic balance during sports, movies, and so on.
It’s a little shouty with music and the bass can be overblown, but with most video content it’s very good – as long as you’ve paid that discounted price for it.
How we test the best soundbar
Soundbars were invented to boost the sound quality of TVs – which means we end up watching a lot of TV. We play everything – news reports for voices, movies for scale and effects steering – to ensure that the soundbars that come through the doors at Trusted Reviews are given a proper challenge. We’ll play different genres of music, too, since a good soundbar should be capable of doubling-up as a great music system.
More complex soundbars feature network functionality for hooking up to other speakers and playing music around the home, so we test for connectivity issues and ease of use. We cover the spectrum of models available, everything from cheap soundbars costing less than £100 to those over £1000, to ensure our reviews benefit from our extensive market knowledge. Every product is compared to similarly priced rivals, too.