Soundbars are the best option for those looking to boost their home theater’s audio setup. They are ideal for TV viewing with their impressive sound quality and relatively small footprints. So if there’s someone you know that you want to treat to immersive and high-quality audio, these are the soundbars to buy.
What to Look for in a Soundbar
There are a few general things that you should look out for when considering a soundbar:
- Sound Quality: There’s little point to a poor-quality soundbar, so we made sure all the ones we picked for this list sound great. While it’s impossible to fully know how well a soundbar sounds without hearing it for yourself, there is one thing to keep in mind: the channels. Basically, the more channels a soundbar has, the clearer certain types of audio will be, with two being the minimum (one on the left, one on the right). Three-channel soundbars have the bonus of a central channel that helps make dialogue or spoken audio clearer.
- Size: Soundbars can get pretty big, especially at the high end. It’s definitely worth taking into consideration the size of the entertainment stand or surface the soundbar will be put on.
- Subwoofer: A soundbar on its own is already a significant improvement to someone’s audio setup, but you know what could make it even better? A subwoofer. Many soundbars come with their own wireless subwoofers that help enhance the bass. It’s a great bonus that should definitely be taken into account when comparing soundbars.
- Connectivity: Most soundbars you find today will offer you the option of wired and wireless connectivity. Some may offer additional stuff like Chromecast support, which is useful, but the main thing you want to look out for are the standard wired and wireless options.
- Mounting: We’ve already covered how soundbars can take up a lot of space, but what if instead of surface area it was solely on the wall? Many people mount their soundbars to the wall to save some space on their entertainment stands. You need specific mounting hardware for this though, and fortunately, all except the Roku Smart Soundbar on this list comes with mounting hardware right out of the box. We’ll cover your options for that one when we get to it.
Best Overall: TCL Alto 9
As a general option, the Alto 9 should cover most people’s audio needs. It features Dolby Atmos for great surround sound compatibility, can be connected via Bluetooth or wired, has a 3.1 channel system, and comes with a wall mounting kit to make your life that much easier. It also comes with a wireless subwoofer to pump up the bass and measures at a length of 41.3 inches. Unless you or the person you’re shopping for has specific needs, this is the soundbar to get.
Best Budget: Roku Smart Soundbar
The Roku Smart Soundbar not only provides good audio quality for the price, but it also has a Roku streaming box built in. That means after simply connecting this bar to your TV and connecting it to the internet, you have a two-channel soundbar and central streaming box set up. It’s a unique feature to this soundbar, and while some more attuned to audio quality may be disappointed at the lack of a subwoofer, the low price makes should make that bearable.
You can connect to the soundbar through a wired connection or via Bluetooth and even use voice assistants with it (either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant). A separate wireless subwoofer is also available separately if you need that functionality, but it’s not cheap. (It’s about as expensive as the soundbar itself.) There’s no official wall mount for this soundbar, but Roku recommends this setup from EXCEL LIFE. The soundbar also measures at a length of 32.2 inches.
Best with Dolby Atmos: SAMSUNG HW-Q70T
For a soundbar that specializes in Dolby Atmos (which is a high-end surround sound system, it also works with DTS:X) and general surround sound, the Samsung HW-Q70R is a great-sounding option. This 3.1 channel speaker features management through Samsung’s SmartThings app (Android/iOS), Bluetooth and wired connectivity, easy wireless support for the wireless surround sound kit (which bumps up the price by about $170), and a great wireless subwoofer right out of the box. It also has some smart audio features like adjusting itself automatically to every scene of a movie or show.
The HW-Q70R grants an immersive sound experience like no other, and if the person you’re shopping for will appreciate that to the fullest, then it’s a great soundbar to get them. Wall mounts are also included for easy setup.
Best Compact Option: Polk MagniFi Mini
For the sake of providing better sound, most soundbars are extremely long—too long some may say. So if the person you’re shopping for is looking to use a soundbar on their desk with their computer or just doesn’t want that much space taken up, the Polk MagniFi Mini is the best option.
This impressive speaker measures at 13.4 inches long and packs in a 3.1 channel arrangement to provide sound that doesn’t compromise on immersion. The included wireless subwoofer is also built to be as compact as possible at 14.4 x 7.4 inches. You can connect to this soundbar with Bluetooth or standard wires and has Chromecast support,which makes it easy to play music from your devices.
Best Smart Option: Sonos Beam
The Sonos Beam offers a smarter experience than other soundbars as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are built in into the soundbar out the box. This means you can use voice commands to manage your music or the useful Sonos S2 app, which allows you to pool all your music services in one place. As you’d expect by this point, the Beam connects via Bluetooth or wire, and delivers on some excellent sound quality to support its price tag. While it may not come with a subwoofer, it’s easy to connect the Beam over Wi-Fi to other Sonos speakers for a surround sound experience.
With a 5.4 channel array, it delivers impressive sound on its own though, and at only 25.3 inches long it won’t even take up that much space on the entertainment stand. The Sonos Beam is available in black or white.