Best Sound Bar
Sound Bars are by far the easiest way to add volume and clarity to any TV or home theater system. Most TVs come with downward or rear firing speakers that have especially poor bass response, and often unsatisfactory volume. This generally makes for awful sound quality, and most don’t reach below 300 hz or above 10,000; human hearing extends between 20-20,000 hz, meaning that over half the spectrum is missing!
Obviously TV sound is usable, especially in smaller rooms, but let’s face it: everyone wants their TV to sound more like a movie theater. Well, it really doesn’t cost a whole lot to get much, much closer to the real thing. Around $100 will net you a unit that can drastically improve sound quality over built-in speakers, lowering bass response down past 100hz to put some good thump in your music and movies, and offering a much more spacious, realistic presentation that will leave you wondering how you ever got by with the bare minimum.
Take your budget up to $300-$500, and you’re looking at extreme improvements, wireless subwoofers, and digital sound processing technology that can even emulate 5.1 surround sound systems. And if you’re really a big spender and can make it into the $700-$2000 range, you will find options that give real surround sound systems a run for their money, and offer features and connectivity options that we could only dream of a few years ago. Soundbars are easily the fastest growing market in the home audio business, and they are only getting better, so have a look around, pick a budget you are comfortable with, and explore all of the ways to make your TV sound as good as it looks!
Best Mid Range Sound Bar:
Most people interested in purchasing a sound bar are after a substantial jump in volume and clarity from their onboard TV speakers, something that can be done one of two ways: the cheap way, and the right way. For under $100, you will get enough volume to fill a bigger room, and if volume is all you are looking for, the picks listed in the Budget section should do just fine. But there is one thing sure to be lacking from cheaper units: bass. To do bass right, you need a subwoofer, and quite frankly a quality sound bar with a subwoofer is hard to find for under $300-$500, so if it's quality you're after, you've come to the right place.
The units listed here, with the exception of one, all come at the quoted price with a wireless subwoofer; the point of sound bars is to be simple and provide a hassle-free, wire-free setup, which is exactly what these will do. They have been chosen for this list and ranked based on overall sound quality, price-performance ratio, ease of setup and use, and extra features.
Harmon's midrange sound bar offers perhaps the closest audio experience to a true surround sound system that I could find for under $500. The audio giants live up to their reputation one more time with room adjustment including a modifiable crossover for the subwoofer simply the most realistic sound in its segment. Read Full Review
Based on their Andrew Jones line of speakers, Pioneer's midrange wireless soundbar setup delivers a full, balanced sound and a truly premium feel. While lacking DSP features that some enjoy, it delivers more natural, realistic sound that most sound bars in the price range without needing any special effects.
Read Full Review
Delivering sound comparable to many more expensive sound bars, the Surroundbar 6000 represents Polk's second best offering and easily the best value of their lineup. It features an impressive sonic image that comes second only to the SB16, making it a good option for those not interested in shelingout the extra bit of mula on the Harmon Kardon name.
Read Full Review
If you're looking to stay under $500 and want a truly minimalist setup, the ZVOX 580 is your friend. While it will never match the bass provided by a dedicated sub, this little guy is incredibly convenient, easy to setup, and sounds much more spacious and realistic than most bar-only units in its price range. Read Full Review
Sonys midrange wireless offering offers the convenience of a wire-free setup along with the bass power and definition of a fully optimized dedicated subwoofer; bass lovers, take note. HDMI inputs and some of the best bass in the business make it a solid choice, especially for the price. Read Full Review
Best Budget Sound Bar:
Sound bars were originally intended as a simple, budget-minded alternative to serious speaker setups, and that is exactly what you will find here. The soundbars I've chosen for this list will offer substantial improvements over built-in TV speakers, but won't give the same sense of power and dimensionality produced by more expensive bars or mutli-speaker surround setups. I recommend these sound bars primarily as a way to improve the volume, vocal clarity, and power of sound compared to wimpy onboard systems, but if you want to make a serious jump in detail, spacial qualities, and overall realism of sound, you should be prepared to spend at least triple the prices you see here on a true speaker system. However if your goal is simply to increase volume, add a little bass, and get a basic increase in overall quality, anything listed here will easily show up whatever LG or Sony squeezed onto your LCD panel as an afterthought. They have been chosen for this list on their merits of price to performance ratio, extra features, build quality, and overall consumer satisfaction.
Despite its low price, the CT150 is a high performing sound bar that is typically bundled with a subwoofer which catapults this soundbars performance above most of the usual suspects. While retailing at around $300, it is a slightly older model that can easily be found for $150 or so with a little searching: a real bargain. Read Full Review
Sporting extra inputs in the form of female USB and SD slots, as well as a built-in mini subwoofer, the NHS-2005 is easily one of the best values out of all sound bars. It sounds exceptional for the price, and with features like extra inputs and a digital clock, it is a solid choice for an all-around media solution to match your TV. Read Full Review
The S2920 sits on the nicer end of budget sound bars, offering bluetooth connectivity, optical inputs, and very respectable sound with much better bass than TV speakers. For under $100, its hard to do better for an all-in-one unit. Read Full Review
The SB201C doesnt do anything particularly special, but its a well-built unit that sounds good, and wont break the bank. If youre looking for a basic upgrade from TV sound, the SB201C will deliver. Read Full Review
Designed to match oCOSMOs 32 LED TVs, their 2.1 sound bar delivers noticeably more volume and bass than the speakers accompanying the companys panels. With a super slim design and built-in subwoofer, its not the cream of the crop, even for its price point, but it will get the job done and has no serious flaws. Read Full Review
Best High End Sound Bar:
High-End sound bars are definitely a niche market. For the price of entry here, you could easily have yourself a true 5.1 midrange full surround sound system or better, which is likely a better buy from an audio standpoint alone. But high-end 5.1 and 8.1 systems require seriously time-consuming, and possibly expensive, setups, including room treatments, professional speaker placement, and in some cases even tearing up walls and ceilings to run cables out of sight. Even the best sound bars may not make this process obsolete for true cinephiles and audiophiles, or those who are simply accustomed to true surround sound.
But if you don't have the time, expertise, or patience for all of the madness involved in achieving such a setup, and really want the best quality audio possible, then these top-of-the-range alternatives offer extreme increases in sound quality over built-in TV speakers, and some may even wind up being preferable to a real surround system, depending on your intended use for the system.
The sound bars listed here have been chosen and ranked based on a combination of sound quality, features, and convenience, but every one does at least one thing better than the rest, so be sure to read up and pick the best unit for your purposes and preferences.
While many soundbars in the upper echelon forego a subwoofer in favor of more advanced mini-speaker tech in order to offer convenience befitting the price tag, the SB35 proves that a subwoofer doesn't have to be intrusive. Managing to sound great and remain incredibly slim, while providing the option of smartphone interface, HK's TOTL sound bar proves that the audio giants are serious about pushing home theater and digital sound processing tech into the 21st century, and they do so with a punch. Read Full Review
While lacking the electrostatic tech that the MartinLogan name is best known for, the Motion Vision sound bar packs a different yet similarly impressive sound when form factor is considered. Sporting the second best bass response of any standalone unit reviewed here, it is definitely the simplest setup and overall easiest way to scratch the surface of true HiFi for you home theater. Read Full Review
While it doesn't pull any punches in price, the YSP5100 earns the space in your living room with the closest sound yet to a true 5.1 system in a sound bar. Packing a whallop with its optional wireless subwoofer and offering shockingly convincing 5-channel sound, the YSP5100 isn't the most natural sounding sound bar on the list, but if you're looking to replicate true surround sound in a smaller room, there is no better option. Read Full Review
Outlaw isn't the best known name in audio, but they have a few tricks up their sleeves to make up for lack of brand exposure. Utilization of the innovative H-PAS speaker design tech slots the Outlaw in just ahead of the ML Motion Vision for best single-unit bass performance, and given its relatively attractive price tag, it deserves a fair shake next to the big names. Read Full Review
A marked improvement over the original Panorama sound bar, which did little to improve on soundbars just over half its asking price, the Panorama 2 showcases B&W's serious intent to extend their intended market beyond audiophile and professional crowds. With exceptional control and definition, and a very convenient form factor, the P2 finally earns its price, not to mention its brand name. Read Full Review