Best soundbars to buy in 2013
What is a soundbar? A soundbar is the simplest way to improve your TV sound without adding a full 5.1 surround sound cinema system. Here we review the best soundbars to buy in 2013, from budget soundbars to more premium options.
if you don't have the space or inclination for a home cinema system, then the good news is a sound bar provides an excellent alternative, is easy to set-up and can work with pretty much any TV on the market. With wireless subwoofers, wireless Bluetooth streaming and HDMI connections all on board, there's something for everyone.
We've rounded-up the best TV soundbars in 2013 from our most recent reviews, and we'll be keeping this page updated as and when we review new soundbars...
Best soundbar under £300
Tested at £250
£250 for a soundbar and wireless subwoofer is great value before you even get it out of the box, but thankfully the LG NB3520A looks and sounds the part, too.
It's a doddle to set up, though it's worth noting there are no HDMI connections here so you'll need to use the digital optical or analogue inputs to connect to your TV. There's also a USB port and on-board Bluetooth meaning you can stream wireless music from a Bluetooth laptop, phone or tablet.
When it comes to sound quality, this LG soundbar is precise and detailed, and capable of good subtlety when required. It's a proper upgrade to any TV speakers and even manages to make a decent stab at sending sound around your room. A bargain.
MORE: LG NB3520A full review
ALSO CONSIDER: Orbitsound M9
Best soundbar under £400
Tested at £350 Compare Prices
Just 35mm deep, the LG NB4530A is so unfeasibly slim for a TV soundbar we couldn't help but wonder whether the sound it produced might be equally unassuming. Not so, this is another brilliant little LG soundbar for 2013.
LG crams in an HDMI input, complete with Audio Return Channel, ensuring you can run all your sound via your TV's HDMI input, and there's a wireless sub, Bluetooth audio and surround sound modes, too (though these don't match the more expensive soundbars for a true surround sound effect).
Despite the size, the soundstage is broad, there's good punch and weight and no hint of brightness. For svelte dimensions and the added HDMI connection, this LG soundbar is well worth the outlay.
MORE: LG NB4530A full review + video
ALSO CONSIDER: Yamaha YAS-201
Best soundbar under £500
Tested at £450 Compare Prices
The JBL Cinema SB400 walked-away with top honours in our most recent soundbar Supertest, and it's the combination of big, beefy dynamics and added attention to detail that makes the difference. Three HDMI inputs is handy, too, as is Bluetooth streaming.
You need a little more room with this soundbar and sub combo, the wireless subwoofer is pretty hefty and the bar itself is a little thicker than the LG soundbar. The trade-off is a spacious sound, especially with Harman's Display Surround technology (though we prefer the music mode for a more solid sound).
We're not sure about the remote control and it's a shame there's no lip-sync adjustment but for connectivity and sound quality, the JBL Cinema SB400 is a winner.
MORE: JBL Cinema SB400 full review
ALSO CONSIDER: Samsung HW-E551
Best soundbar under £700
Tested at £600
What makes the Philips HTL9100, our 2013 Product of the Year, so special, is not only its great looks, but the fact that each end of the soundbar detaches to provide a pair of portable, wireless rear speakers.
The battery-powered speakers are rechargeable (and should last for up to 10 hours/charge) and when you’ve finished watching a film or programme in 5.1, they just snap back on to the ends of the soundbar and will automatically recharge.
There’s a wireless subwoofer for extra bass duties, and Bluetooth compatibility for wireless streaming from a smartphone or tablet. It’s a really neat, out-of-the-box solution.
MORE: Philips HTL9100 full review + video
Best wireless music soundbar
Tested at £600 Compare Prices
The Sonos soundbar is a soundbar with a twist – and then some. Not just a way to boost your TV sound, it also hooks in to the Sonos wireless music system, bringing you a whole world of streaming wireless music in to the bargain.
Sonos is a wireless music system built around wireless speakers such as the Play:3 and Play:5, which can stream your own music from a NAS device, smartphone or tablet, or access the likes of Rdio and Spotify. Add multiple speakers to create a multiroom music system to play the same music or different tracks in multiple rooms. We're big fans.
And it's for this reason that the Playbar is a must for your shortlist. For simple soundbar sound, especially surround sound effects, you can do better. And the lack of HDMI inputs (there's only an optical digital connection) is a shame. But for good quality TV sound and a whole world of Sonos music, the Playbar makes a huge amount of sense.
MORE: Sonos Playbar full review
ALSO CONSIDER: Harman-Kardon SB30
Best surround sound soundbar
Tested at £800 Compare Prices
The Yamaha YSP-2200 is arguably the finest example of surround sound cinema from a soundbar and subwoofer that we've heard. This Yamaha soundbar – or 'digital sound projector', as Yamaha prefers – delivers proper surround sound for any room, is easy to accomodate and easy to install. No wonder soundbars are selling like hot cakes.
The soundbar has a shallow profile, the sub can stand horizontally or vertically, there are HDMI inputs, an auto-set-up, support for HD and 3D and even iPod connectivity.
But it's all about the 7.1-channel audio processing and the brilliant sound that reflects around any room to superb effect. Staggeringly effective at steering sound, it's detailed, dynamic and immersive. It may not be as confident in stereo but for surround sound from a compact system, the Yamaha YSP-2200 excels.
MORE: Yamaha YSP-2200 full review
ALSO CONSIDER: Yamaha YSP-4300
Best soundbar £1000
Tested at £1000 Compare Prices
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. But it does come fitted with AirPlay and DLNA cmpatibility.
It's big too: 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.
But feed a Blu-ray through one of the three HDMI inputs and the ASB-2 displays an abundance of power and weight, as well as digging out a superb level of detail. It even sounds good with music.
You can buy a decent 5.1 speaker package for £1000, but the reality is that people looking for a soundbar often just can’t (or don’t want to) accommodate all those speakers and boxes. If you are one of them, and have this kind of budget, the Monitor Audio ASB-2 is well worth the investment.
MORE: Monitor Audio ASB-2 full review + video
ALSO CONSIDER: B&W Panorama 2
Keep an eye on this page if you're in the market for a soundbar as we'll be updating our list as and when we review new soundbars that make the grade...
MORE: Best TVs 2013
MORE: Best tech products 2013
by Joe Cox