Soundbars now outsell traditional home theater receiver, speaker and subwoofer packages by a large margin, and it’s easy to see why. They’re compact, simple to set up and affordable. And their audio quality is often so much better than a ‘s standard built-in speakers. Basically, a and soundbar go together like peanut butter and jelly. The problem? Too many choices.
This list is one solution. We’ve listened to the soundbars below in our audio lab, testing their sound quality with both music and movies. We also took into account things like the number of HDMI ports, whether they offer high-resolution audio, bluetooth or multi-channel audio. From solid bare-bones bars to Alexa-powered
smart speakers, this is CNET’s lineup of the best soundbars at multiple prices and feature levels. If you’re looking for more audio options check out our full .
If you’re looking to ditch your tv speakers, this is where we suggest you start. The Vizio SB3621n-E8 is hands down the best soundbar for the money. It offers excellent sound quality in a compact package. Its wireless external subwoofer ensures that the sound is balanced, whether you’re watching movies or listening to music. The Vizio SB3621n-E8 is the best budget soundbar we’ve ever heard, period.
If your price range is limited, for less than a C-note, the Creative Stage offers a bunch of previously unheard-of features including HDMI connectivity and a subwoofer. But what’s even more remarkable is that it sounds better than most of its ultrabudget competition, with a soundbar subwoofer that fills the room with sound. A variety of modes makes this a great soundbar for music, concerts and gaming. Great audio quality for gamers and movie fans alike.
With a full-fledged 4K HDR Roku streamer built in and a single voice remote controlling everything, this bar offers a simple all-in-one audio/video solution. This soundbar setup is a breeze; just add to a TV with a simple HDMI connection. Sound quality was very good for a single bar and you can add Roku’s optional wireless subwoofer for more punch. It also comes with a much-loved Roku remote control.
The Vizio SB36512-F6 proves you don’t need to spend a ton to get a high-quality soundbar that can handle the latest Dolby Atmos soundtracks and get multi-room audio. The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a full 5.1.2 immersive audio system for the price of an AV receiver, and its height channels do a solid job of bringing out Atmos effects. You can also stream music from any Google Chromecast-enabled audio app, like Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and Google Play music.
If you’re interested in setting up a multi-room audio system, a Sonos soundbar is still the best option. The Sonos Beam offers not only the most flexible music system available but also a choice of both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built into the bar itself. The sound is built for movies, and adding a pair of Ikea Symphonisk bookshelves will really boost your home theater experience. Since it lacks a sub, it’s not quite as powerful-sounding as its rival full-range speakers, but it’s still a great little package.
The Yamaha YAS-209 offers excellent audio quality in a compact soundbar. The addition of Amazon Alexa is useful, allowing voice control to stream music, and the mics work well in loud environments. The soundbar’s implementation of DTS Virtual:X offers a rich effect reminiscent of surround speakers. The wireless subwoofer is more articulate and offers more headroom than the competing, and also excellent, Polk Command Bar.
The trapezoidal looks may be divisive, but the Vizio SB362An-F6 is the best all-in-one bar for people who want to spend a bare minimum on their living room audio soundbar. It offers elevated audio quality for the money and sounds unexpectedly good with music.
While you could pay $2,500 for the subwooferless Sennheiser Ambeo (below), the Zvox SB500 is a more affordable audio soundbar for people who don’t want to litter their living room with subwoofers or rear speakers yet still prize sound quality. It offers excellent sound modes and tighter bass than every other single-speaker option.
If you simply must have the fewest number of boxes and remotes in your living space and yet demand the best Atmos performance you can get, this Sennheiser speaker is your guy. It’s a single unit, without a subwoofer, but it’s able to conjure up the most realistic overhead and “surround” sound effects we’ve ever heard. It’s also controlled entirely via remote control. It’s not cheap but it’s comparable in price to a full set of surround speakers without the bulk and with 85% of the performance.
Originally published earlier this year, and updated periodically.
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