Captivating 3D Dolby Atmos sound. Premium movie theater quality. Easily streams audio content from a mobile device. Integrated voice controls. Available in black and white.
The Arc is a fairly pricy soundbar.
Small footprint. Inexpensive. Deep bass. Engaging surround sound. Slim design. Optimized for Bluetooth and mobile music streaming. Low power usage. Easy to set up.
The JBL Bar 2.0 only features 1 HDMI input.
Theater-like 3D Dolby Atmos audio. Includes wireless subwoofer. Supports Bluetooth and mobile device streaming. Voice controls. Simple setup process.
This premium soundbar has a large price tag.
Crystal-clear and perfectly balanced audio. Deep and distortion-free bass. Stylish. Backlit universal remote. Streams audio from Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and mobile devices. Integrated voice controls.
Setting up this soundbar is not as simple as it should be.
TVs have evolved and improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, delivering more pixels and better image quality with each new generation. However, one thing hasn’t changed, even in the midst of the 4K revolution: the built-in speakers on modern TVs still sound as thin as they always did.
Thankfully, there’s a solution for that: soundbars. Soundbars are thin, rectangular speakers that connect to your TV and your content source, delivering much-improved audio. Soundbars easily blend with any home decor, and most can even be wall-mounted.
The soundbar market itself is pretty diverse. Models range from small units that are perfect for a dorm room all the way through massive speakers that create virtual surround sound environments. Picking the one that’s right for you will be a matter of balancing your own needs with the right feature set, so read on for our best advice on finding your perfect soundbar.
Before you start looking at specific features, consider how and where you’ll use your soundbar. Start with these questions.
You’ll want to make sure the soundbar you buy is loud enough for the room where you watch TV. Smaller, less-powerful soundbars typically only have two stereo speakers. Larger, louder soundbars have more speakers and usually include a subwoofer. The number of speakers is usually noted in the product description, followed by a “.1” if it has a subwoofer. For example, a 5.1 or 7.1 soundbar will have five or seven speakers inside and will include a subwoofer.
If you’re a home theater buff, chances are you’re going to want a soundbar that’s compatible with surround sound formats. If that’s the case, make sure the one you buy supports virtual surround sound. Many even include up-firing speakers, which can bounce sound all around your TV room.
Most soundbars include a subwoofer so they can produce rich audio with enough bass. Some subwoofers require a wired connection to the soundbar, which can limit your placement options. Therefore, if you can afford it, we recommend getting a soundbar with a wireless subwoofer.
As you compare soundbars, keep your eyes peeled for these features. These are the functionalities that set the top performers apart from the crowd.
Bluetooth support: Most people buy soundbars to make their TV sound better, but a good soundbar can be great for listening to music, too. If you’ve got a lot of music on your phone — or just a good streaming service or two — get a soundbar that supports wireless streaming of your music via Bluetooth.
Virtual surround sound: Just because you’re getting a soundbar doesn’t mean you have to give up on surround sound! Many soundbars support TV audio in surround sound, using additional built-in speakers to create virtual surround sound by bouncing audio off walls to make it sound like it’s coming from different directions. Virtual surround isn’t quite as immersive as traditional multi-speaker surround sound, but for most people, it’s close enough.
Don’t forget to pick up the right cables with your soundbar, along with a cable management kit to keep everything tidy. Here are our favorites.
HDMI cable: AmazonBasics Braided HDMI Cable
One of the big secrets of the home theater industry is that most HDMI cables are the same—they all carry audio and video signals between your components. That said, it’s always a good idea to get braided cable so you’ve got an extra layer of protection keeping your cable from fraying or getting damaged. AmazonBasics’ braided HDMI cables are our go-to option because they’re affordable, reliable, and they come in all different lengths.
If your soundbar doesn’t have an HDMI port, you’ll need to get an optical cable instead. Optical cables are easy to use, but quality can vary, so it’s important to stick with a brand you trust. For us, that’s AmazonBasics; they get cables right and build them to high quality standards so they last forever.
Cable management kit: Bestfy Cord Organizer System
After you’ve finished hooking up your soundbar, TV, and video source, you’ll probably be left with a lot of messy wires, so for the sake of keeping everything tidy, we recommend getting a cord organizer system. Cord organizers are basically thin plastic sleeves that group cables together so they’re less of an eyesore and easier to keep out of the way. Bestfy’s Cord Organizer System is an easy choice, because it includes four sleeves, and each one includes a zipper so you don’t have to struggle to thread your cables through.
Inexpensive: In the $50 to $100 price range, you’ll find basic soundbars that are great for small spaces like a studio apartment but not much else. Soundbars in this price range cut a lot of corners: they often skip including a subwoofer, or they’re simply not loud enough for the average TV room. If you need a soundbar for a temporary situation like a college dorm, or for a small-scale space like a waiting room, you don’t have to spend very much. If you’re serious about improving your TV’s audio, you’ll need to spend a little more.
Mid-range: In the $100 to $200 price range, you’ll find the best values in soundbars. Soundbars in this range have wireless subwoofers, include key connectivity options like Bluetooth, and have enough power to fill a room with sound without rattling the windows. If you’re looking for a soundbar for a TV in a shared space, or you just want a soundbar that will last for a long time, this is the price range to focus on. If you’re looking for the absolute best sound quality in soundbars, however, you’ll need to spend even more.
Expensive: Between $200 and $700, you’ll encounter high-end soundbars from brand names. Soundbars in this price range can be a tough sell because you can find a traditional surround sound system for roughly the same cost. That said, the priciest soundbars are also the most impressive: they can get incredibly loud, they support high-end audio formats, and they come in slick finishes. If you’re an audiophile, or if you’re looking for a soundbar that looks good enough to be a conversation piece on its own, it’ll cost you.
If you intend to mount your soundbar to a wall, make sure to drill into the studs. Soundbars typically include mounting hardware, so you can mount yours to the wall underneath your TV. Mounting a soundbar is great for keeping everything out of the way, but soundbars are heavy, so you’ll need to make sure yours is properly secured to the wall. When you’re first drilling into the wall, make sure at least one of the drill points is on a stud so your soundbar never falls down on its own.
Consider buying a soundbar made by the same company that manufactures your TV — in most cases, the TV remote will be able to control the soundbar. We’re big fans of reducing remote clutter, and using the same remote to control both your TV and your soundbar is pretty convenient. If you’ve got a TV made by LG or Samsung, take a close look at their soundbars; it’s worth it for the luxury of changing channels and the volume from the same remote.
If you’re willing to spend a decent amount on your soundbar, the Yamaha YAS-207BL is one of our favorite options. It’s one of the few soundbars that support DTS:X, an audio format that competes with Dolby Atmos. It supports Bluetooth, it’s got a wireless subwoofer, and you can even use Yamaha’s smartphone app as a remote or to customize the sound. At 35 inches long, it’s definitely not for small spaces, but if want a soundbar that doesn’t compromise on quality, this is an excellent choice.
We’re also big fans of Sonos brand speakers, and the new Sonos Beam brings everything we like about the company to an ultra-compact soundbar. It supports multi-room audio, so you can connect it to your other Sonos speakers to play music throughout your home, but the real selling point is that it’s got Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, inside, so you can control it with voice commands or use Alexa to stream music to it. The Sonos Beam is a solid option for anyone who needs a soundbar for a smaller TV — or anyone who wants the smartest soundbar on the block.
Q. Can I connect a soundbar to more than one device?
A. Yes, so long as it has enough inputs. Most soundbars have multiple physical inputs, so you can connect different devices. For example, they usually include an HDMI port for connecting a video source (like a streaming box or cable set top box), as well as a 3.5mm standard audio input jack for connecting a phone or tablet. Keep in mind that some soundbars have wireless connectivity options as well, like Bluetooth or WiFi.
Q. Do I need to buy a receiver to use a soundbar?
A. No. Receivers are for amplifying a sound signal for passive speakers. Soundbars are based on an all-in-one design, so they contain both the speaker and built-in amplification.
Q. Is it OK to get a soundbar that’s wider than my TV?
A. Yes. While many experts advise getting a soundbar that’s the same approximate width as your TV, that’s a cosmetic choice. Get a soundbar that fits under your TV, but focus more on finding one that has the right features rather than trying to find one that matches your TV.
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