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 as 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.
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.
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?
Best Soundbars 2019: TechRadar’s top picks
Not content with dominating the TV world, Samsung now seems to have its sights set on becoming the number one brand for home entertainment audio, too. All this effort has already delivered outstanding results in the shape of both the HW-K850 and, especially, HW-K950 Dolby Atmos soundbars, as well as a range of ground-breaking multi-room wireless speakers.
But, above everything stands the South Korean manufacturer’s HW-MS650. No other one-body soundbar has combined so much raw power with so much clarity, scale and, especially, bass, or excelled so consistently with both films and music. It’s the sort of performance that only genuine audio innovation can deliver – and with that in mind, it’s well worth its $450/£599 price tag.
The Sony HT-ST5000 is the priciest soundbar you’ll find here, but for the money you’ll get an exceptional piece of equipment that offers support for Dolby’s spatial Atmos tech – on top of dealing exceptionally well with more conventional surround sound.
The build quality and design of the soundbar is exceptional, and its general audio performance impresses with its clarity and spatial presentation.
Still, the lofty price tag might turn some users off, and most people will get everything they need from less expensive units like the Samsung HW-MS650 above. But, if you want to have the best high-end soundbar around, the HT-ST5000 is the best soundbar you can buy today.
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.
The Samsung HW-N950 is something special. It’s the latest flagship soundbar from the company, but the first to benefit from Samsung’s acquisition of Harman Kardon – a partnership that’s already paying dividends.
The HW-N950 is a whole-hearted upgrade on our previous award-winner, Samsung’s HW-K950 – which long held the #6 spot on this list. Most importantly, the N950 now supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, compared to the K950 which was disappointingly limited to the former.
With that in mind, the Samsung HW-N950 is simply one of the best soundbars that we have heard to date – and one of the only soundbars that really delivers a 7.1.4-channel immersive audio experience. The use of wireless rear speakers and a subwoofer, make the N950 easy to install and setup and allow the N950 to deliver object-based audio as the content creators intended, without resorting to psychoacoustic trickery.
The Philips Fidelio B5 is an impressive bit of kit, and it’s the perfect soundbar for someone who appreciates good cinema sound but has no interest in tearing up their living room to install a 5.1 surround sound system to use only every now and then. The B5 enables you to pick and choose your movie moments, and do it on a whim. And it creates a pretty decent surround sound experience too, using both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround decoding.
The combination of convenience and good audio – the raison d’etre of the soundbar – with its transformative surround sound capabilities makes the Fidelio B5 a great option for the movie fan who can’t face all the aggravation of a proper 5.1 installation.
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.
Boasting high-end design, Bose’s slim soundbar looks superb, and sounds above average. At 97.9cm wide, it’s best partnered with larger screen sizes (50-inch+) and priced at £599/$700/AU$999, it offers great sound. There are caveats regarding usability and price, but overall it warrants a cautious two thumbs up.
It’s also worth mentioning that, as this isn’t a 2.1 package, there’s no subwoofer supplied – although Bose will sell you a wireless Acoustimas sub and the ST300 can be partnered with the brand’s Virtually Invisible (i.e. small at 10cm) 300 surround speakers. The system is also compatible with the Bose SoundTouch wireless multiroom system which includes smaller Bluetooth speakers.
If $300 is your budget cap for a smart soundbar, 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.