A soundbar or soundbase is the perfect way to boost the weedy sound of your flatscreen TV if you can't be bothered with – or don't have the room for – speakers and cables all over your lounge. Most will sit comfortably beneath your TV (or on a wall if your TV is so mounted) and some also come with a separate subwoofer to further boost the bass from broadcasts, DVDs, Blu-rays and the like.
Some soundbars come equipped with Bluetooth for wireless streaming of audio from your PC, laptop, smartphone or tablet, and Sonos goes one further by integrating its Playbar with other speakers in your Sonos wireless set-up. Whatever your budget, we've picked the best soundbar for you.
Best soundbar up to £400, Awards 2013. LG deserves the plaudits for squeezing plenty of features into, and excellent sound out of, this remarkably thin soundbar.
Given its waif-like dimensions, this soundbar manages to create a broad soundstage. Leaving out the 3D surround mode, which doesn’t quite deliver, the LG NB4530A still gives effects a decent reach over the horizontal and vertical. (We'd advise you spend more for the Yamaha YSP-5100 if you want the best surround sound we've heard from a soundbar.)
Crank up the volume and the LG soundbar handles things extremely well. It sounds a touch closed in and boxy, but still manages to deliver the punishing climax of the film with gusto.
The bar can decode vanilla Dolby Digital and DTS – any high-definition formats fed through the LG’s HDMI input are simply downsampled, while it can also pass-through a 3D picture should you wish.
The LG NB4530A soundbar looks the part and sounds great. The expert execution makes it a must audition.
MORE: Compare latest prices
OK, it's a soundbase rather than a soundbar, so it's larger and will have to sit under your TV, but the Canton DM 50 is our favourite soundbase to date.
It delivers a hugely thrilling sound and a beautiful design in one simple box. There's plenty of deep, agile bass and oodles of detail as well as soaring dynamics. Build quality and finish are impeccable.
We loved the Canton DM 50 when we first tested it and the months since haven't reduced our affection for it.
It sounds gorgeous, it looks great, and we reckon £400 is a small price to pay for the huge boost in TV sound qulaity it delivers.
The YSP-1400 brings big sound to a smaller budget, delivering great value surround sound.
The central grille hides eight 2.8cm beam drivers. And this is where the magic happens.
Each drive unit is powered by a 2W amplifier; the direction of the sound beams produced is manipulated by delay control and aimed to reflect off walls for an enveloping soundfield.
And it works. If you’re after a big, enveloping sound but don’t have the space for several speakers dotted around your room, the YSP-1400 offers an experience that isn’t trumped until you spend quite a lot more.
Best soundbar £800+, Awards 2013. It’s a brave move making your first soundbar £1000, but Monitor Audio pulls it off
It’s an ambitious feat when you consider not only is this Monitor Audio’s first soundbar, but also that it’s been built from the ground up, and it has a £1000 price tag.
You get a decent spread of sound out to the sides with the soundbar’s 3D Audio mode engaged, but that’s not vital to enjoy movies.
There’s a fantastic sense of scale among all the commotion of Gladiator, and the ASB-2 digs out a superb level of detail. During the calmer, more emotive chapters of the movie, the Monitor Audio simply shifts down a few gears to capture the subtle details and nuances of the soundtrack.
The only thing you really need to be concerned with is how you’re going to accommodate it – the ASB-2 is a solid, chunky-looking unit. Measuring 18cm tall, and more than a metre wide, it’s probably going to have to live on a wall or on a shelf below your TV.
MORE: Compare latest prices