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 up to £300
Five Stars, Best soundbar up to £300, Awards 2014
Tested at £270
If we had one criticism of Philips’s brilliant debut soundbar - the HTL5120 - when we reviewed it earlier this year, it was its slightly screen-blocking height.
There’s no such problem with its brand-new successor, the HTL5140. At only 5cm tall (a third less than its predecessor), it’s one of the least obtrusive designs we’ve laid eyes on. And it has a subwoofer boosting its efforts.
This is a wonderfully slimline soundbar that will suit almost any set-up, with an unobtrusive design and a precise, wide-open soundfield.
MORE: Philips HTL5140 review
ALSO CONSIDER: LG NB3520A review
Best soundbars up to £400
Five stars, Product of the Year, Awards 2014
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 £1000
Five stars, Best soundbar £600+ Awards, 2014
Tested at £800
The YSP-2500 takes over from 2012’s Award-winning YSP-2200, and remains one of the best solutions for those who don’t want the clutter of a traditional 5.1 speaker package and AV receiver.
It’s a sleek, slim bar and the impeccable build and finish quality is worth every penny of its £800 asking price. Its 16 speakers are hidden under a grille, each driver powered by 2W of amplification.
The YSP-2500’s expansive soundfield, punch and scale are impressive, and it’s the most appealing solution for those that want plug'n'play cinema-style sound.MORE: Yamaha YSP-2500 review
Best soundbase up to £300
Five stars, Best soundbase up to £300, Awards 2014
Tested at £200
We loved the Cambridge Audio Minx TV soundbase when we reviewed it in February, so we’re sad to hear that the British company has said goodbye to its debut model.
The fact that it makes way for an equally impressive successor somewhat softens the blow, though. Meet the TV2 soundbase (or ‘TV Speaker Base’ as Cambridge Audio calls it).
The design has had a makeover, and Bluetooth now supports aptX.
What's more, performance is even better – its predecessor’s punchy, agile and balanced sound is still present, but if anything the TV2 sounds a little clearer in comparison.
The TV2 is an affordable product that ticks all the criteria of a good TV sound-booster: a full-bodied, detailed sound, smart style, and practical build.
MORE: Best tech products 2014
Best soundbase £300+
Five stars, Best soundbase £300+, Awards 2014
Tested at £450
If you fancied Canton’s brilliant debut soundbase - the DM 50 - but thought your large TV would dwarf the small black box, the DM 75 could be for you.
The big brother to the DM 50 has been sensibly designed with a larger chassis to accommodate bigger TVs. It promises more powerful sound through four (next to the DM 50’s two) downward-firing bass drivers.
And it delivers big-time with a rich, balanced sound, dynamic aptitude and insightful expression. As its size might suggest, the DM 75’s sound is bigger and more open than that of the smaller DM 50. The DM 75 is fast and attacking, too – made for action movies. There’s a blistering sense of pace to the pulsating, beat-driven score, and startling pop to gunfire.We said it would “take one hell of a soundbase to better the Canton DM 50”. Canton has come up trumps with the DM 75. Clearer, bigger and more powerful sounding - it’s surely worth the £50 price hike if you can justify it. MORE: Canton DM 75 review