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 2014, from budget soundbars to more premium options – and take a look at the best soundbases (and explain what a soundbase is).
If you don't have the space or inclination for a home cinema system, then the good news is a sound bar or soundbase 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 2014 from our most recent reviews, and we'll be keeping this page updated as and when we review new soundbars and soundbases...
Best soundbar under £300
Philips HTL5120 soundbar
Tested at £250
£250 for a soundbar is great value before you even get it out of the box, but thankfully the Philips HTL5120 looks and sounds the part, too.
Philips, it seems, is on a roll – at least when it comes to soundbars. We had a few concerns about this model being an oversimplified version of its pricier sibling, the HTL9100, but those were unfounded.
The HTL5120 is the best in class at this budget price. Whether you want bags of features or a simply to improve your TV sound, this is a superb choice.
MORE: Philips HTL5120 review
ALSO CONSIDER: LG NB3520A review
Best soundbars under £400
Tested at £400
Q Acoustics has taken the plunge and carried its speaker expertise in to the soundbar category. And the result is a success.
The ‘QM4’ should be a good fit for 40in TVs and larger – it looks reasonably compact from the front, but the trapezoidal cabinet actually extends back around 14cm. A large elliptical subwoofer sits in the back of the cabinet and a couple of 65mm BMR drivers (Balanced Mode Radiators) complete this 2.1 soundbar.
It’s a huge step up from conventional flatscreen sound, bringing the full-bodied, nicely rounded character we’ve come to expect from the company’s stereo speakers into a soundbar setting. It’s sensibly priced and sounds fantastic.
ALSO CONSIDER: LG NB4530A review + video
Tested at £400
Yamaha’s soundbars have led the way in this market for some time, dominating the high-end and now making its mark further down the price range. The £1000-plus YSP-5100 and YSP-4100 brought home five stars respectively, while the £800 YSP-2200 and the £600 YSP-900 have also delivered the goods.
The YSP-1400 keeps up the good work, bringing a big, enveloping sound that isn’t trumped until you spend quite a lot more or opt for speakers all around your room. There's Bluetooth, too, but no HDMI inputs, so you're left with optical, coaxial and analogue connections. And there's the option to add a sub.
Provided the connectivity isn't an issue, and at £400 it's no great surprise, this is an excellent midrange soundbar.
More after the break
Best soundbar under £500
Tested at £450
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.
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.
Best soundbar under £1000
Tested at £1000
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.
ALSO CONSIDER: B&W Panorama 2
Best surround sound soundbar
Tested at £800
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.
ALSO CONSIDER: Yamaha YSP-4300
Best soundbase 2014
Tested at £200
What's a soundbase? It's a TV speaker that sits directly underneath your TV – yep, you put your TV on top of the speaker. So, it doesn't block your screen, doesn't (theoretically) need a separate subwoofer and is bigger but flatter compared to soundbars.
Our first eight-way test of new soundbars in the February issue of the magazine saw the Cambridge Audio Minx TV come out on top thanks to a fantastic, exciting sound at a great price.
ALSO CONSIDER: Canton DM 50
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...
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