Have you gone all out buying yourself one of the best 4K TVs on the market only to find you're not too crash hot on the sound pumping out of it? You're not alone: almost all modern sets, regardless of size, have lacklustre speakers hidden away in increasingly thinner frames. So instead of straining to hear the dialogue in your favourite show why not get yourself a sonic boost by adding a soundbar?
Soundbars offer the best bang-for-buck middle ground between the audio that your TV outputs and going all-in on a home cinema surround setup, but perhaps the most appealing aspect of soundbars is just how sleek and unobtrusive they are when placed with your TV.
Naturally, you'll want to consider the dimensions of your existing TV so that the soundbar can fit neatly beneath and/or in front of it, depending on your needs. You also won't want it to be too much larger or smaller than the width of your screen, so that it sits harmoniously in your setup.
Once you've considered how your new soundbar will gel with your current TV, you'll need to consider the unit's specs – some bars come with a subwoofer (some of which are wireless) and does it have the right kinds of connections for your TV? How about Bluetooth streaming, so you can turn it into your main living room sound source?
With all these considerations in mind, we've rounded up the best soundbars on offer in today's market. They're all easy enough to install and will help keep your setup minimal, tidy, and relatively free of unnecessary cabling
See all our soundbar reviews
Sony has excellent form with soundbars, and the 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award-wining HT-A7000 soundbar is no different. A 7.1.2 slab of sound, this Dolby Atmos soundbar packs in two up-firing speakers, two beam tweeters, five front-facing drivers and a built-in dual subwoofer into a single chassis. Using a combination of driver placement and psychoacoustic techniques, the Sony HT-A700 delivers a broad and high soundstage, whether you’re watching immersive content or not, while retaining musicality, presence and detail.
In terms of height and precision, the performance is similar to that of the Sonos Arc, but the width of the soundstage and its forward projection is more convincing. It’s not the same as having direct audio from the speaker above or the side, but it’s effective and dramatically enticing, enriching the viewing experience. The integrated sub is also particularly impressive with a taut, controlled and powerful performance.
The A7000 is as packed with streaming smarts as it is stuffed with speakers with Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast all on board and integration into a multi-room system – with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Home all supported.
Alongside two HDMI 2.1 pass-through sockets capable of handling 8K@60Hz, 4K@120Hz, and Dolby Vision HDR, there are ports for eARC, analogue and optical audio inputs and USB type-A. There’s also an analogue output for Sony’s Acoustic Center Sync, which lets a compatible Bravia TV become part of the soundbar’s centre channel when the two are connected using the supplied cable.
The Sony HT-A7000 is an outstanding, future-proofed, all-in-one performer with excellent integration if you have a newer Sony Bravia TV.
Read the full review: Sony HT-A7000
Delivering Dolby Atmos from a small chassis is no mean feat but the 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award winning Sonos Beam Gen 2 achieves a convincing, immersive performance without so much as a vertical speaker in sight. Instead, when watching Atmos content, two of the soundbars five front-facing arrays are dedicated to reproducing overhead and surround sounds. With its hefty processing power, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 uses psychoacoustic HRTF (head-related transfer function) technology to give the impression of height without needing to get vertical.
While genuine overhead sounds are perhaps a stretch too far for this petite performer, its virtual delivery of the Atmos format outstrips any similarly priced soundbar and even a few that are more expensive. The Beam Gen 2 offers an enveloping, spatial soundscape with rich, detailed audio as well as tangible motion and depth.
Not that many soundbars at this price point come with networking capabilities, but this being a Sonos product, the Beam Gen 2’s ability to integrate into a wireless multiroom system is fundamental to its design. This means you can stream to the Beam Gen 2 from a handheld device using Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect is built-in too. There will also be a forthcoming upgrade to add support for Amazon Music Ultra HD audio, which will give access to lossless 24-bit/48kHz tracks as well as Dolby Atmos Music.
Despite the lack of upward drivers, if space and budget are limited there isn't a better Dolby Atmos soundbar that we'd recommend.
Read the full review: Sonos Beam Gen 2
Soundbars aren't new territory for Sonos, but the 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Arc is the only soundbar from the brand to deliver Dolby Atmos with verticle speakers. It sits above the Beam (Gen 2) in terms of pricing and is suited to 55in TVs and above, with optional wall mounting fixings available for AU$99.
There are touch-sensitive play/pause and volume controls on the bar with LEDs that indicate status and when you're talking to the built-in Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Connectivity includes AirPlay 2, ethernet and eARC for Dolby Atmos from compatible TVs.
The Sonos Arc uses 11 drivers to create your soundfield, several of which are upfiring and angled into your room to bounce sound off your walls and ceiling. It all adds up to one of the most convincing Atmos performances you can get from a soundbar.
You're transported to the heart of the action. Surround effects are expertly placed, and there's great dynamism and good weight to the sound too. Tonally, it's nicely balanced if you just want to listen to music, although it could sound a tiny bit more direct. But, there's no doubt this is a hugely impressive soundbar for the money.
Read the full Sonos Arc review
Yamaha's smallest soundbar to date is also it's most affordable, and despite both these considerations, the sound it produces is rather stunning. It boasts tremendous capabilities for watching shows and movies, with stunningly clear dialogue and rich, immersive sounds.
While it lacks a little in the bass department (a necessity at this size, really) and shouldn't be your go-to for listening to music, its quick and painless setup, diminutive size and unassuming sound make it a worthy intro into the soundbar world.
If you're considering the Sonos Beam and its value-packed offering but aren't so desperate for the smarts that comes with it (or the doubled cost), this is one of the best ways to boost your TVs audio game without breaking the bank.
Read the full review: Yamaha SR-C20A
The Ambeo Soundbar is Sennheiser's first consumer speaker, and it's quite the proposition – a premium soundbar crammed full of features including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, 4K HDR pass-through (all of which are useful if Netflix and/or Amazon are your main movie and TV show source). You also get auto-calibration and four HDMI inputs, plus Bluetooth and support for Chromecast.
Measuring 127cm wide and 14cm tall, it’s certainly a beast. The result is that the Sennheiser delivers a sound big enough not to need its own subwoofer, with clear, direct dialogue and detail and subtlety in spades. The way it stretches the sound around you creates a great atmosphere and really draws you into the action.
To get the full Dolby Atmos effect, you'll need to wall-mount or position the soundbar on the top shelf of your rack, so the upward-firing speakers aren't obstructed. It's well worth the effort, though.
For those who want convincing 3D sound without the speakers, this the best soundbar with a premium price tag that we've ever tested. It's certainly not cheap or small, but for those that want convincing 3D sound without the speakers, this is the go.
Read the full review: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
Missing the cinema? We certainly are. But JBL's soundbar is the closest you can get to the big-screen sound experience without crowding your lounge with separates.
The 5.0 MultiBeam is affordable without feeling cheap, which is quite an achievement. It's small enough to fit under almost any TV, yet feels solid and well built. And it packs a lot into its modest dimensions: there are five 48 x 80mm racetrack drivers complemented by four 75mm passive radiators, and a grille that runs from ear to ear with two more drivers on the hood to deliver height effects.
It uses Dolby Virtual Atmos, rather than the full-fledged real deal, but still manages to fill a room with sound. Sound quality is very good indeed, with no rough edges at all, even when you turn it right the way up. We could ask for a little more clarity and detail, especially in the considerable bass frequencies, and a more open treble response, but this is a full-bodied presentation that’s unlikely to fatigue you, even when listening at high volume.
If you have a large room to fill, but only enough space for a soundbar instead of separates, this could be the ideal solution.
Read the full JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam review
If you're on a tight budget, the Sony HT-G700 could be the soundbar for you. It's not the smallest, but it's big on sound, value and comes with a wireless subwoofer, HDMI input and support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Sony’s Vertical Surround Engine and S-Force Pro Front Surround technologies combine to produce convincing Dolby Atmos soundscape while a chunky subwoofer adds plenty of heft to big explosions. Sonos's Arc delivers an even more convincing Atoms experience, but it is more expensive.
The only things in the against column are a slight lack of clarity and crispness and the absence of any real music streaming features.
So, if you're after a dedicated bit of home cinema kit on a budget, the powerful-sounding HT-700 serves up a seriously-cinematic performance at a nice price.
Read the full review: Sony HT-G700
If you already own smart speakers from Harman Kardon's Citation range, this soundbar will slip in effortlessly. And even if you don't, the Citation MultiBeam 700 is still a fine soundbar in its own right.
It uses front- and side-firing speakers to try and achieve a 5.1 effect, or you can turn some of them off to listen in stereo. It's streaming credentials include Bluetooth, Chromecast and Apple AirPlay over Wi-Fi. It's not awash with physical connections but there's enough here to get by on, including an HDMI ARC socket.
It's an attractive, clean, neutral design and the Citation MultiBeam 700's looks are mirrored in the sound quality on offer. It's very easy on the ear but this soundbar is also entertaining with it. There are no rough edges and the Harman Kardon delivers a satisfying amount of bass. You even get a decent sense of immersion when watching movies.
If your budget can't stretch to the class-leaders such as the Sonos Arc, then the Harman Kardon is a solid alternative.
Read the full review: Harman Kardon Citation MultiBeam 700
Up until recently, LG's soundbars have proven to be a bit of a mixed bag, but the company has redeemed itself with its 2021 line-up and the SP8YA is no exception.
This Dolby Atmos soundbar with a wireless sub is bang smack in the middle of the range in terms of price and size but retains the connectivity features of the higher-end models. There's eARC, plus another HDMI 2.1 input with 4K Dolby Vision and HDR10 pass-through as well as an optical input and a USB port. Streaming is well catered for too. Alongside Bluetooth and wi-fi, there’s Chromecast and Apple Airplay 2, and if you have access to hi-res content, you’ll be pleased to know the soundbar can handle audio of up to 24-bit/192kHz quality.
Sonically this 3.1.2 package also punches above its weight with a broad, vibrant soundstage that can easily match the cinematic scale of larger screens. It can also be easily upgraded to 5.1.2 by the addition of the SPK8 2.0 surround kit for around £130 ($180, AU$249).
There are better performers in terms of height available, like the Sonos Arc, and the low end is a little loose and undefined but for those looking for a reasonably priced Dolby Atmos soundbar with a high tech spec and a detailed, room-filling sound, the SP8YA is worth considering.
Read the full review: LG SP8YA
Make no mistake; the SP11RA is a big investment in terms of both money and space. The main unit clocks in at a hefty 144cm long, and the package includes a separate sub and two surround speakers. However, you'd be hard pushed to build a true home cinema system that could match the LG's 7.1.4 channels of excellent Dolby Atmos action for price and convenience.
Underneath all that black brushed metal, the main bar houses three front-facing channels, two ‘surround’ channels at either end of the bar and on the top surface are a pair of upward-firing height speakers. The wireless sub houses an 18cm driver and rear port, while the rears each have a front and upward-firing driver.
We can confirm that all those drivers aren't going to waste; the SP11RA is a big improvement from previous LG models, which up until recently have proven to be a bit of a mixed bag. It’s easy to listen to, creating an even, immersive listening experience and, while you may have to give up some space to house it, its connectivity spec is one of the most comprehensive we’ve seen. For streaming, alongside Bluetooth and wi-fi, there’s Chromecast built-in and, if you have access to hi-res content, you’ll be pleased to know the soundbar can handle audio of up to 24-bit/192kHz quality.
Read the full review: LG SP11RA
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