As TV displays get slimmer and slimmer, their built-in speakers tend to be lacking. Let's face it, even the best Samsung TV could use an external speaker system – and that's why we've round up the very best soundbars on the market in one handy guide.
If you admire the slim aesthetic of your new 4K TV over everything else, then a good soundbar is your best option. The top soundbars available to buy right now won't stick out next to your shiny new slim screen like a normal stereo system would. Instead, they are built to be just as pleasing to the eye as they are to the ear. They're also a good solution for smaller homes and rooms with little space that wouldn't be able to squeeze a 7.1 channel speaker system in.
One great example of this is Bang and Olufsen's first soundbar, the Beosound Stage. While we haven't had a chance to see the recently announced model in person yet, it looks to be one of the prettiest soundbars we've ever seen.
The majority of soundbars on this list are made to sit in front of your screen, but they can also be wall-mounted above or to the side of it as well, providing you with ultimate choice as to how your home entertainment set-up looks.
Despite most only featuring front-facing speakers, many soundbars are able to confidently project sound in a way that makes it seem as though there's booming audio coming from every direction.
The main problem with soundbars? There's so many to choose from. If you don't find the right one for you, you can end up with a soundbar that doesn't fit with your home theater setup – or barely sounds better than your TV's built-in speakers. That, unfortunately, is what gives soundbars a bad name and is exactly the kind of thing that we want to help you avoid.
So, without further ado, read on below for the best soundbars available to buy in 2019, whether you're after Dolby Atmos support, multi-room audio, sleek design, or any variety of other advanced features alongside your soundbar's premium audio experience.
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What's the best soundbar for around $200/£200?
We can't stress this enough: when it comes to soundbars, there’s a lot of choice. Despite being called soundbars, they tend to come in different shapes and sizes. They also range in price from under £100/$100 to over £1,000/$1,500 (see: Creative X-Fi Sonic Carrier).
The cheaper the model you go for, the more basic the connections are likely to be. Whereas more expensive ones add superior HDMI inputs (including 4K / HDR passthrough), wireless audio streaming (e.g. Bluetooth and AirPlay), better power, more refined speaker drivers, and decoding of Blu-ray sound formats.
Of course a full surround setup is the premium solution to bad-sounding TVs, but if you're short on space (as well as budget) then a soundbar offers a good compromise. So what is the best soundbar for around £200/$200?
The Samsung HW-Q90R is the company’s new all-singing, all-dancing flagship soundbar. It not only supports object-based audio in the shape of both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, it’s also the only 2019 model to achieve this with actual rear speakers and four upward-firing drivers.
No other soundbar comes close to producing the full Dolby Atmos and DTS:X experience, and thanks to tuning from Harman Kardon the HW-Q90 even sounds good with music. A decent set of features and fully-specified HDMI connections complete a nearly flawless package… as long as you can afford it.
Given that rival Dolby Atmos compatible soundbars typically sell for twice the price, Sony’s HT-X8500 warrants an easy recommendation. Cost-cutting can be attributed to connectivity and features but what’s genuinely confounding is just how great the HT-X8500 sounds. The key to the HT-X8500’s gutsy performance is Sony’s proprietary Vertical Sound Engine – working with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, it creates a convincing illusion of wraparound sound that allow Dolby Atmos movies to play with a clear sense of expanded height and width.
The build quality and design of the soundbar is exceptional, and its general audio performance impresses with its clarity and spatial presentation.
Overall, if you want a home theatre sound system that won’t dent your budget, it’s probably the best option to come around this year.
The Q Acoustics M4 soundbar doesn’t immediately set pulses racing with its slightly prosaic looks, ‘mere’ 2.1-channel sound and lack of any HDMI support. However, you only have to hear what the M4 can do with both music and movies for your doubts about it to evaporate almost instantly. In fact, it sounds so good that it starts to make the idea of trying to deliver more channels from an affordable soundbar look a bit silly.
In fact, though, it sounds so much better than pretty much any rival soundbar in the same price bracket that it’s actually ridiculously good value – especially if you care about music as much as you care about movies.
Samsung's California-based audio lab has been on a roll. In the last few years, the lab has helped the company put together the award-winning Samsung HW-M650, last year's powerful, Dolby Amtos-ready Samsung HW-N850, and now, the Samsung HW-Q70R, a soundbar designed to keep up with the Korean giant's 2019 QLED TVs.
If you've followed Samsung's naming structure in the past, the Samsung HW-Q70R represents a revised version of last year’s HW-N650 and although the new model costs more at $800 (£800, AU$1,099), the good news is that the Q70R adds support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and still uses Acoustic Beaming technology that widens the soundstage.
The resulting soundstage is big and open, lending itself to larger screen sizes. The overall effect is somewhat front heavy, but that’s to be expected given the lack of rear speakers. However once you take into consideration the looks, build quality, and features, this is a solid midrange combo.
Sennheiser is best known for its range of headphones and professional microphones, but it recently extended its ambitions to home audio as well, with the introduction of its new Ambeo Soundbar.
The bulky soundbar is packed with the latest audio technologies, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for surroundsound audio, as well as Sennheiser’s own Ambeo ‘virtual 3D’ sound system. Sennheiser clearly has its sights set on the home cinema market with the Ambeo, although the bar's Wi-Fi connectivity means that it can double up as a pretty impressive music system as well.
It’s not perfect – Sennheiser’s reliance on Google Home to provide wifi streaming seems like an odd choice – but the sheer sound quality of the Ambeo Soundbar ensures that it justifies its wallet-breaking price tag.
The Sonos Playbar is a non-HDMI device that uses optical to hook up to a TV. Used simply on its own it delivers a massive sonic boost to your TV listening, but operating it does require using a smartphone or tablet app. The benefit is that it can seamlessly segue in to a Sonos wireless system, and can even act as the front three speakers in a 5.1 setup with two Play:1s acting as rears.
Unfortunately although it's optical-only setup will be great for most, it does exclude owners of TVs that lack this connector, which has pushed it a little further down this list.
The Sonos Beam is a fantastic soundbar for its price, one that takes full advantage of the Sonos ecosystem and is a joy to use (and set up, if your television has HDMI ARC). Its smaller form factor means it’s a device that will sit comfortably next to a 32-inch TV but it’s got enough of a footprint to not be dwarfed by a much bigger set.
The Sonos Beam doesn’t offer earth-shattering bass and the lack of Dolby Atmos support will irk some, but at this price point it'd be more of a surprise if it had been included. The voice control may be Alexa-only for now, but it works well and if you have adopted some of Amazon’s TV toys, it really is worth experimenting with.
With its nine drivers are arranged in trios for left, center and right channels and a virtual surround mode to create the illusion of having more speakers around the room, the HEOS Bar is pretty much whatever you want it to be.
Blessed with such a balanced soundscape, the HEOS Bar proved immediately adept with music, and has a consistently warm yet refined sound quality that's all its own. The fact that it lacks the opportunity to tweak the audio settings is not as important as we had feared. Music sounds superb, especially lossless tunes, from which HEOS Bar drags out a lot of detail. However, we did notice on a couple of occasions that the first half-a-second was cut-off songs.
The key feature of the SB362An-F6 – also referred to more helpfully as the “36-inch 2.1 Sound Bar” on most retailer's websites – is really its sheer value for money, costing just £149 in the UK and an even more competitive $139 in the US, where it was launched at the end of last year.
Despite the bargain-basement price, the SB362An-F6 is neatly designed, measuring 36 inches wide, and a streamlined 2 inches high, and 5.2 inches deep (914xx52x133mm). It will sit comfortably underneath the screen of most TVs, and Vizio also includes a pair of wall-mount brackets as well.
The SB362An-F6 isn’t perfect, but its dramatic and imposing sound provides a real audio upgrade for your television’s built-in speakers. The Virtual:X technology works well too, helping to create a more immersive atmosphere while you’re watching. And while it might be missing a few bells and whistles, there’s no doubt that the SB362An-F6 provides excellent value for money.
If $300 is your budget cap for a smart sound bar, then we highly recommend the Polk Audio Command Bar for any small or medium-sized living room.
As you might be able to tell based on the soundbar’s design, the Command Bar comes with Alexa built right into it making it unquestionably smart. It’s also relatively inexpensive too, coming in at $250 (£249, AU$649), and it comes with a subwoofer.
It has defined and powerful low end, some cool smart features, and looks pretty good, too.