Let's face it, even the best TVs are often let down by their poor built-in speakers. They often sound thin, shallow and lack dynamics, with a few of the very best TVs narrowly avoiding this; but even then they rarely impress us. Even five-star TVs like the LG G3 OLED feature lacklustre built-in sound systems, which is why we always recommend factoring in the price of a soundbar when you purchase a TV.
To be fair to manufacturers, this is often at least partly due to the space limitations inherent to the slim designs of modern TVs. The problem is particularly acute when dealing with smaller sets, where the space limitations are even more problematic, but even with large TVs, all too often we find in our testing that the audio is passable at best.
Soundbars are an easy, fuss-free and (in some cases) fairly affordable way to upgrade your TV's sound. However, not all soundbars are created equally, as some offer more powerful sound, better features and even Dolby Atmos.
But which to get? Here to help answer that question we’ve created this guide detailing the best soundbars we’ve personally tried and tested. We’ve made sure to cover a variety of different prices and sizes to make sure there’s an option for every type of user.
Our expert team has tested each soundbar in our viewing and listening rooms to ensure they deliver good value and immersive audio. So you can trust our buying advice.
Sony has excellent form with making some of the best soundbars for TV, and the 2022 What Hi-Fi? award-winning HT-A7000 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.
With its wide range of supported audio formats, the A7000 excels itself and includes Dolby Atmos (in both the Digital+ and TrueHD formats), DTS:X, LPCM, hi-res wireless audio and Sony 360 Reality Audio.
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 2022 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 soundbar's 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, this is the best TV soundbar that we'd recommend.
Read the full review: Sonos Beam Gen 2
Soundbars for TV aren't new territory for Sonos, but the 2022 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 £79 ($79/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 TV soundbar for the money.
Read the full Sonos Arc review
The Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus is the little brother to the audio giant’s larger, more premium Ambeo Soundbar Max.
Featuring a slimmer, lighter design, while it doesn’t have all the atypical features of its larger sibling it still seriously impressed our testers.
For starters, its 105cm length and 8cm height make the Ambeo Plus much shorter and narrower than most of its direct rivals, such as the Sony HT-A7000 and Sonos Arc, which is a boon for people with less space or a smaller TV stand.
The size is particularly impressive considering how much hardware Senheisser’s packed into it. The Plus features nine speakers – seven full-range aluminium drivers and dual 10cm subwoofers. For immersive overhead audio, two of the full-range drivers and both subwoofers face upwards to reflect sound. Two of its drivers are also pointed diagonally outward on the corners of the soundbar to create a wider spread of sound.
The end results were very impressive during our listening tests, though there were very big differences in the audio delivered with the Ambeo setting on and off. This setting is designed to help the soundbar deliver even more immersive spatial audio when playing Dolby Atmos content, but we found that while the Ambeo mode delivers a much broader soundstage, it can come at the expense of its otherwise brilliant precision when playing certain content. Despite this minor shortcoming, the Ambeo Soundbar Plus otherwise delivers the spacious and grand presentation we’ve come to expect from Sennheiser’s soundbars, making it a fantastic option for movie fans who want a reliably immersive Dolby Atmos experience.
The only other frustration we experienced is that despite featuring eARC, the Plus’ HDMI inputs are limited to the 2.0 certification which means they can't pass through 4K/120Hz or VRR gaming signals. This means you’ll only be able to take full advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S’ next-generation features if you connect them directly to your TV to then be output to the soundbar. If that’s a sticking point for you, the Sony HT-A7000 is a better option.
Read the full Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus review
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 is the best soundbar with a premium price tag that we've ever tested, which is why it retained its title once again at the 2022 What Hi-Fi? Awards.
Read the full Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar review
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
If you're looking for a simple, constructive step up in sound from your TV's in-built speakers, Sony's SF150 offers a significant sonic enhancement for little outlay. Indeed there's almost no other competition worth considering for under £100 ($100, AU$200).
Despite its low price point, the SF150 is a well-built speaker and wouldn’t look out of place perched beneath a TV that costs several times its price. Alongside HDMI ARC, it has an optical input supporting Dolby Digital, Dolby Dual mono and LPCM 2ch. There's also a USB port and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity for music playback from an external source too.
The SF150 also features Sony's S-Force Front Surround technology, which applies processing to give the acoustic impression of a more encompassing sound stage. While there is no replacement for surround sound, it adds a dramatic sense of weight and separation.
Sonically the SF150 paints with fairly broad brushstrokes, meaning dialogue can sometimes feel a touch muffled, and transients lack impact, but that should come as little surprise at this almost ridiculously low price. Anyone wanting a musical, finely detailed speaker should aim for a more sophisticated model. Still, this budget bar is ideal for those looking for a quick and easy improvement to their TV.
Read the full Sony HT-SF150 review
The LG S95QR is LG’s flagship Dolby Atmos soundbar for 2022, boasting a massive 17 drivers in a 9.1.5 configuration; it’s a multi-speaker package comprising a primary soundbar, wireless subwoofer and two wireless rear speakers. It ups the ante on the brand’s previous models with the addition of side-firing drivers on the rears and an upward-firing centre channel that LG claims is a world first.
The main soundbar contains ten drivers, with left and right channels handled by two 20mm silk dome tweeters and two 52 x 99mm woofers. A pair of 50mm drivers on either end of the soundbar deliver surround side effects, while two 63mm units on the top surface supply height effects for immersive sound formats.
A 63mm driver faces forward in the centre, coupled with a 20mm silk dome tweeter on the top surface. Unlike the system’s other height drivers, this tweeter does not produce Atmos effects. Instead, it supplements the traditional front-facing driver for better dispersion and increased dialogue clarity. In a change from previous models, the wireless sub has an upgraded cabinet and a larger 20cm driver, while the rear speakers have a new apex design to distribute sound from its front, side and overhead driver more evenly across a claimed 135-degree space for more forgiving placement.
LG is as ever generous with the connectivity options on its flagship soundbars. The S95QR offers Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2 and Chromecast onboard. You can control your streaming service, adjust the volume and change sound modes with your voice, thanks to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support. There are eARC, optical and USB inputs for hardwired connections and two additional HDMI passthrough ports that support gaming features such as (VRR) and (ALLM). However, 4K HDR signals are only handled at up to 60Hz.
The S95QA not only handles Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive sound formats, but it’s LG’s first soundbar to include IMAX Enhanced support, which uses a modified version of DTS: X. If you hate unsightly cables running between your TV and soundbar, you can pair it with the new LG WOWCAST audio dongle (sold separately) to enjoy lossless multi-channel audio wirelessly.
Sonically the LG 95QR isn't musical or strong at delivering overhead effects, but for home theatre, it has a broadly balanced, spacious soundstage that is detailed, cinematic and engaging.
Read the full LG S95QR review
Think of the Roku Streambar as an upgrade on your TV rather than an entry into proper home cinema, and it ticks pretty much every box. While it doesn’t quite ascend to five-star status, it easily nails the aspects for which it is most commonly required: projection and clarity. The Streambar will work with any television with an HDMI input, outputting 4K HDR at up to 60fps for compatible sets. Everyone else will get 1080p Full HD, with lower resolution signals upscaled.
The bundled remote is splendid, and for an out-of-the-box boost to TV audio and older sets’ smart features, the Roku Streambar is extremely low risk for this price. In that sense, it’s something we can wholeheartedly recommend.
Read the full Roku Streambar 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 a 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
How to choose the best TV soundbar for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
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 TV 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 in-depth 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), or if a Dolby Atmos soundbar is more your thing, we have a page dedicated to that too. Whether you spend a little or a lot, we think that all the models recommended will up your audio game with a fuss-free setup.
What is a soundbar?
Are soundbars better than TV speakers?
Soundbars are slim, often rectangular, speaker systems with drivers positioned side by side that are designed to slot underneath your TV or to be fitted neatly to the wall. With front-facing drivers, even basic, budget soundbars typically offer more direct and clear audio than a TV.
This is because as TVs have become slimmer, their in-built speakers have shrunk and are often positioned at the rear or underneath the screen - hardly the ideal position as large speakers that face forward will always be clearer and louder than tiny speakers pointing in another direction.
Manufacturers have tried, with varying success, to enhance the audio coming from their televisions. But, if you want to improve TV audio, you need a separate speaker designed for that purpose.
There are a few options to improve your TV sound that range from the budget to the expensive, but a soundbar is one of the simplest ways as they are typically compact and require minimal cabling. They often also have added benefits, such as wireless streaming over Bluetooth or WiFi.
How do I connect a soundbar to my TV?
Can you add a soundbar to any TV?
Almost every soundbar and TV, no matter its age, will have an optical connection, while ARC and particularly eARC, which was first introduced with HDMI 2.1 in 2017, and has recently become more common. Before you decide how to connect your equipment to your TV, you should be aware of the pros and cons of each and also check that the cable you need is included in the box with your soundbar.
Is ARC or Optical better for a soundbar?
The key thing to know about optical is that it's restricted in bandwidth compared to ARC/eARC. So if you have the choice between the two and opt for optical, you might not be making the most of the audio decoding built into your soundbar. The most advanced immersive formats optical can handle are compressed Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 surround sound, so that means no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.
When it comes to ARC/eARC, you need to ensure that your TV has a compatible HDMI socket that supports all the audio formats being sent to your TV. Read our guide to HDMI ARC and HDMI eARC for the full lowdown on this connection, but you need to know that ARC supports Dolby Atmos in its lossy Dolby Digital Plus format (the codec used by streaming services), while eARC can handle high-quality codecs such as Dolby Atmos in Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio or DTS:X. If you are viewing or gaming involves physical media, you will probably want to ensure you have got an eARC connection to get the most from your system.
ARC/eARC also allows your main TV remote to control the basic volume and power functions of your soundbar via HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control). Some soundbars come with their own remotes and/or have app control, but if your connection to your TV uses an optical cable, you may still be able to use your regular controller. Certain models, such as the Sonos Ray and B&W Panorama 3, can 'learn' to recognise the commands of both IR and RF remotes, but the set-up will depend on your TV manufacturer.
Unfortunately, ARC/eARC can sometimes introduce a slight audio lag resulting in lipsynching issues that can vary depending on your TV-soundbar combo. However, many brands include controls to adjust the delay on a soundbar's app, and sometimes there's also an option to modify it on a TV's settings.
If you are using ARC/eARC to connect to a Dolby Atmos soundbar, check whether you are actually receiving Atmos. Most soundbar apps will give you confirmation of the type of audio format that you are currently listening to on the Now Playing page or occasionally on the soundbar's display (if it has one). So if what you are playing should be in Dolby Atmos, but the app says otherwise (likely 'PCM', '5.1' or '2.0'), then it's time to delve into the settings of your TV and Blu-ray player.
To receive Dolby Atmos, any source device must be set to output bitstream audio. You can find this option in the audio settings of TVs, Blu-ray players and streaming sticks. In PCM, you will hear the audio only in stereo, but sending bitstream means your soundbar will be able to receive those lovely Dolby formats, including Atmos.
What are the best equaliser setting for a soundbar?
If your soundbar comes with its own automatic calibration software, then make sure you run it, so the soundbar’s audio output is matched to your room’s layout and characteristics. The Sonos Arc, for example, uses Sonos's Trueplay software in conjunction with your smartphone's microphone to tailor its sound.
While automated optimisation is great, your own ears are even better. If your soundbar also has options to alter individual channel levels, don't be timid with tweaking things to suit your taste/needs. Every room is different, and hearing is subjective, so what sounds great to one person may not to another. The great thing about a soundbar is that it is generally straightforward to make adjustments and swap back if you change your mind.
Some soundbars will come with pre-programmed modes for different types of content. In our experience, soundbars with cinematic modes often use 'spatial' processing that can introduce high-frequency artefacts. In contrast, 'music' modes will usually have a bass and treble-heavy EQ that can sound a little brash. We tend to favour a flat standard mode, if one is available, that we manually adjust to our liking. But there is no one size fits all approach that will work for every room and listener.
There is little more frustrating than not being able to hear dialogue when watching a TV show or movie, but inevitably, varying levels of speech clarity combined with how busy the soundscape is and the overall style of the mix can mean that whispery, mumbly vocals hinder even a top-quality, room-tuned soundbar.
Fortunately, most soundbars have speech enhancement feature settings that will typically raise the volume of the centre channel and crispen up the EQ to help improve dialogue audibility. Not every brand implements this with sophistication, and sometimes these modes can sound thin and harsh, but once again, it's always worth experimenting to find what works for you and your space.
How we test soundbars
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door and allow for plenty of listening time as well as running them in before we begin reviewing.
Each soundbar we test is paired with an appropriate reference TV and is directly compared to the best in its price and features class – whether that's the current What Hi-Fi? award winner or a few of 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 always try to be impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at its very best, so we'll try plenty of different styles of films, and TV shows that show what each soundbar is capable of with both advanced and standard audio formats. For example, if it's a Dolby Atmos soundbar, we'll use Blu-ray discs to hear its Dolby True HD performance, but we'll also check its performance with streaming services that use Dolby Digital Plus too.
Although soundbars are typically designed with film and TV in mind, we also put them through their paces with music too, testing out a range of streaming options with a variety of genres, both classic and modern, enduring that we listen in the highest quality that the soundbar is capable of.
Our reviews are broken into three sections: design, features and sound and all verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than just 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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