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 TVs, regardless of size and, often, price, have lacklustre speakers crammed into increasingly thinner frames. So instead of straining to hear the dialogue in your favourite show and failing to be thrilled by the sound of blockbusters, 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.
Some of the best soundbars listed below are compact, single-bar units whereas others are bigger and as wide as a 65-inch TV. Some come with an external (often wireless) subwoofer, while an increasing number now support Dolby Atmos surround sound formats. But all of them share at least one thing in common: excellent value sound quality.
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 its 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
The Ray marks something of a departure for Sonos. It can form part of a wireless multi-room system using Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect and the Sonos S2 app (though users should note there’s no Bluetooth streaming onboard). Similarly, it can be partnered with other Sonos speakers for a complete 5.1 surround system.
However, this is a speaker with practicality and affordability in mind. Its ultra-compact dimensions, tapered build and forward-facing speakers mean it takes up little space and removes any need for a clear line of sight for upward- and side-firing drivers, making it a practical choice for small rooms and even desktops.
The Ray has been conceived to slot into cabinets without its sonic dispersion being impacted. However, it doesn’t feature the virtual Dolby Atmos decoding of Sonos’ more premium soundbars – the Beam Gen 2 and Arc. So, pragmatically, Sonos also decided to ditch the HDMI eARC connections of its pricier products in favour of a classic optical input, which almost every TV will have, but monitors and consoles may not.
It may not be the warmest or most cinematic sounding speaker, but the Sonos Ray is very capable and, most importantly, is an accessible way to boost your TV audio, competently addressing the biggest concern most users have: dialogue intelligibility. It is a talented budget soundbar and delivers clear, punchy sound without the frills.
In our initial review of the Ray, we felt that its bass handling, which resulted in an unusual low-frequency resonant buzz across various movies and music, hampered its overall performance. However, since an update in July 2022, that problem has now been widely alleviated, and as such, we have upped our initial verdict from three to four stars.
Read the full Sonos Ray review
Ok, so it’s not a soundbar, but we think that anyone considering a soundbar should also consider this. Sony’s HT-A9 offers the same compact, plug and play convenience and streaming features of a top-quality soundbar but has the integration and immersive sound of a traditional surround package.
Consisting of four identical-looking grey wireless speakers and a hub that connects to your TV, the Sony HT-A9 is a flexible, complete Dolby Atmos cinema in one box. Each of the four speakers contains a 19mm front-facing tweeter and full range X-balanced driver, as well as an upward-firing X-balanced driver that bounces sound off the ceiling.
Sony stresses that the speakers don’t need to be placed at the same height or in a regulated formation and encourages users to position the speakers arbitrarily, promising an even, uniform and immersive soundfield regardless of the symmetry of your set-up.
In terms of supported audio codecs, the A9 is well specced, with Dolby Atmos (in the Digital+ and TrueHD formats), DTS:X, LPCM, hi-res wireless audio and Sony 360 Reality Audio. The latter is a spatial technology intended to surround the listener, with compatible content available from Tidal, Amazon Music HD, Nugs and Deezer. When watching or listening to more standard stereo fare, the ‘Immersive AE’ setting on the remote can be engaged to up-mix content to create a 3D version that uses the height speakers and the rears.
The HT-A9’s Atmos performance is better than any soundbar we’ve tested. Having four equally sized, capable and wide-ranging speakers means that sounds from off-screen are as well conveyed as those from the front. And there’s a refined precision and texture, and, while not infallible, it is incredibly forgiving with placement. This is an accessible and generous set-up for people who want to add entertaining audio to their living room without being precious and would well suit those with large families or who live in awkward spaces.
Read the full review: Sony HT-A9
First things first: at 14cm high, the Bluesound Pulse Soundbar+ is a fair bit taller than your average soundbar and, when placed on the same surface as a TV, will almost certainly block part of the screen. Although it comes with detachable kickstand legs, Bluesound really intends for the Soundbar+ to be wall-mounted. There’s a bracket included in the box for this purpose and, to keep the installation tidy, the soundbar can be orientated with the cable cove at either the bottom or the top, with an internal accelerometer automatically sensing which way up the bar is.
But with the added height, the Pulse Soundbar+ can accommodate forward-facing drivers larger in diameter than those in most competing models. So despite only offering virtual Dolby Atmos, the resulting performance is impressively detailed, solid and satisfying.
The Pulse Soundbar+ includes inputs for HDMI eARC, optical, 3.5mm analogue and USB A, as well as an ethernet port and RCA output for an external sub. There’s support for hi-res audio file formats and streaming onboard courtesy of Apple AirPlay, two-way aptX HD Bluetooth (for headphone listening) and the BluOS wireless system that integrates with services including Tidal and Spotify.
If you want a more enveloping surround set-up, it can also connect wirelessly, via a dedicated wi-fi module, to a pair of Pulse Flex 2i speakers for surround sound and/or a Pulse Sub+ for extra bass, available for purchase separately.
Available in black or white (though the latter is more expensive), the Bluesound Pulse Soundbar+ is a design-friendly choice with excellent multiroom integration with the Bluesound ecosystem.
Read the full Bluesound Pulse Soundbar+ review
There's plenty to talk about with the Dali Katch One, a soundbar that offers five different audio inputs, three ways to mount it and ten drivers all working together to deliver an immersive sound experience. It is quite tall, so you really have to mount it on a wall, but that will only aid bass performance from the rear-firing drivers.
The Katch One is also a good looking bar and comes in three different finishes: Iron Black, Ivory White and Mountain White. There's an ARC-enabled HDMI socket for getting the audio from your TV, plus a pair of optical inputs and Bluetooth.
The Danish company has crammed in four mid/bass drivers, four passive radiators and two tweeters inside the soundbar, and it serves a great dynamic performance with a broad, clear soundstage that works well for movies. It also boasts the ability to sound fun with music too.
Provided you have space to wall mount it, this bar will be a delightful addition to any TV set-up.
Read the full Dali Katch One review
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
Bose's aesthetic sensibilities mean that the Smart Soundbar 900 has a more modern and refined appearance than most of its competition, with a wraparound metal grille and polished, impact-resistant tempered glass top.
Underneath the bodywork, Bose's first Dolby Atmos soundbar sports has nine channels of amplification. As well as the pair of height drivers, there's one centre tweeter flanked by four racetrack transducers. Despite the appearance of its completely wrap-around grille, there are no side-firing drivers. Instead, two further transducers are positioned at the far left and right that use Bose's PhaseGuide technology, which gives the impression of placing certain sounds at either side of the listening position.
As you'd expect from Bose, there are plenty of connectivity options and features on board with a single HDMI eARC port, an optical in, ethernet and a USB socket. For streaming, there's wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.2, Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2. Moreover, from January 2022, there will also be Chromecast onboard by way of a retroactive firmware update. There's also support for both Amazon’s Alexa and Google assistants. The onboard Alexa lets users make and receive intercom calls to other Bose smart products and Amazon Echo devices or make hands-free calls to anyone from within your contacts list.
The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is an entertaining, feature-packed, sophisticated-looking Dolby Atmos soundbar. With an impressively wide soundfield, clear forward projection and bright character, many listeners will likely be very pleased with its responsive and cinematic performance. However, it can be inconsistent in its effectiveness and occasionally adds its own organisational structure and tonal colour to content, particularly noticeable when listening to music.
While it doesn't have the height, transparency, musicality, and dynamics of the similarly priced Sonos Arc, for those already invested in the Bose ecosystem, the Smart Soundbar 900 would be a smart choice.
Read the full Bose Smart Soundbar 900 review
With a generous 22 drivers delivering 11.1.4 surround sound, the HW-Q950A offers the greatest number of channels of any soundbar on the market right now, as well as 3D audio format support from both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
The Q950A has two HDMI inputs and one output (with support for eARC), an optical-in and the power socket while the soundbar’s microphone allows for commands to the built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistant and can also be used to monitor background levels, as the Q950A has a nifty feature to boost the centre channel for more transparent dialogue if ambient noise increases - though we doubt you’ll feel the need to use it.
At 130cm long, the main unit of the HW-Q950A isn’t tiny, but it’s nevertheless shorter than many other flagship Dolby Atmos models available at the moment. Inside the left, centre and right channels alongside a pair each of upward-firing, surround and wide surround drivers. The separate sub houses a single 8-inch speaker while the wireless surround units each contain three drivers - one facing towards the front of the room, one upwards and the last one towards the listening position.
And if you happen to own a 2021 Samsung TV, you can further enhance the driver count by using a Samsung feature called ‘Q-Sybmphony’ that allows the TV's internal speakers to work in conjunction with the soundbar package to add more height and space to the soundfield.
With plenty of sonic vigour, features and speakers, the Q950A offers a potent listening experience. While it’s not the most nuanced or spacious performer, those looking to splash out on a Dolby Atmos soundbar that can deliver big, punchy audio and supremely clear vocals will likely not be disappointed by the Q950A.
Read the full review Samsung HW-Q950A review
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
How to choose the best soundbar for you
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Before you buy, there are some things to bear in mind. Consider the dimensions of your TV to work out just how big your new soundbar needs to be. You don't want it to be dwarfed by the screen, but then again, it could look strange partnering a massive bar with a small TV – like a tiny head perched atop overly broad shoulders. Look up the dimensions and compare the bar's width with that of your TV. Also, check the height – if you need to place the soundbar in front of your TV, you don't want it obscuring half the picture, and if it has upward-firing drivers, they need a clear line of sight to your ceiling to be effective.
Generally, soundbars are a single long speaker with several drivers inside but some come with external subwoofers for extra low-end extension and rear speakers for surround sound effects whereas others are compatible with other speakers from within the manufacturer's brand. If floor-shaking bass is high on your priority list then these are models you'll want to consider.
Next, features and connectivity. Many modern soundbars boast ARC and eARC-enabled HDMI ports, which can handle high bandwidth multichannel audio formats as well as optical inputs for older TVs. If your TV has ARC/eARC, you'll be able to control the volume of your soundbar with your existing remote control. It's worth considering if having a separate physical remote for the soundbar is important to you or if you're comfortable with controlling settings from a smartphone app.
Most modern soundbars have some options for wireless music playback with wifi streaming via services such as AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and Chromecast, as well as Bluetooth connectivity. Some also have microphones with voice assistant functionality or compatibility. If you have external devices such as games consoles or a 4K Blu-ray player, keep an eye out for additional HDMI passthrough ports that could make your setup more flexible.
Should you be looking beyond just a simple improvement of your TV sound and want to purchase a soundbar that produces an immersive home cinema experience, you'll want to pay attention to models that can handle Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio. Some soundbars do this virtually with processing, and some include up-firing speakers for height effects. If you're interested in the latter, it's important to remember that the result will be more successful if you have low ceilings to bounce the sound off and that the top of the soundbar needs to be uncovered and placed clear of the TV screen.
If high-quality 3D sound is important to you, then you'll want to make sure both your TV and potential soundbar support Dolby TrueHD and eARC. The ARC standard can handle Dolby Atmos, but only in its Dolby Digital Plus form, which is lossy, whereas Dolby TrueHD can deliver full-fat Dolby Atmos in all its lossless glory.
Have a think about the content you'll be viewing and the sources you'll be plugging in. If you are just watching Freeview, many of these technologies will be redundant. But if you're streaming the likes of Netflix, Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video in 4K HDR, you'll want to squeeze out the best possible audio quality to make sure your content sounds as good as it looks. For a complete overview, check out our guide on how to choose and set up a soundbar.
Below, we've rounded up the best soundbars for various budgets (if you're specifically looking for a very affordable model, check out our best budget soundbars page). All of them will up your audio game with a fuss-free setup. Enjoy.
How we test soundbars
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in the UK, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.
Each soundbar we review is paired with an appropriate reference TV and is directly compared to the best soundbars in its price and features class – whether that's the current What Hi-Fi? Award winner or the latest models we've been impressed by in recent reviews. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms so we can easily compare new products to ones we know and love.
We are always impartial and do our best to ensure we're hearing every product at its very best, so we'll test with different genres and formats of films and TV shows that show what each soundbar is capable of with both advanced and standard audio formats. We'll check all the features onboard including music playback with a variety of genres and allow for plenty of listening time as well as running them in before we begin reviewing.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible, too. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.
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