Best soundbars Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best TV soundbars you can buy in 2022.
Have you found that no matter how thin and colourful smart TVs become, there's always a notable contrast between a new flat screen's sparkling picture quality and its lacklustre sound performance? That's because almost all modern sets, regardless of size, have subpar speakers hidden away in increasingly scant frames. But fortunately, simply adding a soundbar (or sound bar if you prefer) to your set-up is an easy way to get a more engaging, clear and enjoyable viewing experience.
Most soundbars pack impressive audio into a self-contained package small enough to sit in front of or below your screen. The best TV soundbars are single, capable speakers that don't need additional surrounds or subwoofers to crowd out the room. But there are usually options to expand to a more extensive surround set-up if desired, or there are complete multi-box systems that connect wirelessly, so there are no snaking cables to act as trip hazards.
The models that make it onto this list are only the very best soundbars for TV that we have tested, so if you’re wondering why a particular model isn’t featured, that's because it’s not good enough to recommend. We constantly update our buying guide with recent models and revise our reviews to reflect new software releases, so you can rest assured we've rounded up a list of the best sound bars for TV that are currently available.
Sony has excellent form with making some of the best soundbars for TV, and the 2021 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 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 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 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 £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
Ok, so it’s not a TV soundbar, but we think that anyone contemplating 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 TV 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
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
Bowers & Wilkins's first Dolby Atmos soundbar is designed as a stand-alone system that delivers 3.1.2 channels of audio from a single unit, with no optional upgrades for surrounds and sub. Instead, it has dedicated subwoofer drivers on the top face alongside its verticle height drivers.
With an ultra-low low profile build the Panorama 3 stands at only 6.5cm tall, meaning it should sneak under most TVs, but if you prefer wall mounting then a bracket is included in the box.
Connectivity is via a single HDMI eARC port an optical digital input for older TVs. If you use the latter, Bowers & Wilkins has included technology for the soundbar to ‘learn’ key TV remote control commands so that all users can enjoy the same unified experience as those with eARC connections. The Panorama 3 doesn’t have its own dedicated remote, relying on app control, while there’s also Amazon Alexa onboard for hands-free voice commands.
Streaming is well catered for with AirPlay 2, aptX Adaptive Bluetooth and Spotify Connect, while high-resolution listening is supported via the Bowers & Wilkins Music App, which gives listeners access to streaming services including Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz, with the number of supported platforms set to expand later this year.
Despite audio format support including Dolby Atmos in both its Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus versions, this doesn't (at launch) extend to rival immersive codec DTS:X. However, Bowers & Wilkins stress that the Panorama 3 has been designed to be upgraded over time, suggesting that DTS:X support may one day be added. Additionally, multi-room capability is planned for introduction shortly after launch to make it compatible with other Panorama soundbars, Zeppelins and Formation products, though not as part of a multichannel system.
Sonically it has a dynamic and detailed, if not particularly expansive, Dolby Atmos presentation and its built-in low-end, unusual at this price point, adds welcome weight to lively action films and scores.
It can struggle to maintain coherence and clarity when things get busy, and musically, like most soundbars, it puts in only a decent performance.
Read the full Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 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 2021 What Hi-Fi Awards.
Read the full Sennheiser Ambeo 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 for connecting to older TVs and Bluetooth for easy music streaming from a handheld device.
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 an entertaining addition to any TV set-up.
Read the full Dali Katch One review
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. The sound quality is outstanding, 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
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
If you really value the low end of the sonic spectrum, then a soundbar with a separate sub is a must. However, very few soundbar subs perform as well as Samsung's Q800A with a muscular, room-filling sound and a gut-busting bass, all contained within a relatively small package.
So what's hidden under the grille? Across the front edge of the main soundbar are three forward-facing channels, and on the top are two upward-facing tweeters that provide height channels for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats, while the modestly sized sub has a side-firing 20cm driver and rear port, for a capable 3.2.1 channels with an articulate, cinematic sound.
And if you happen to own a 2021 Samsung TV, you can enhance the Q800A's sonic performance further using a new feature called ‘Q-Symphony’ that allows the TV's internal speakers to work in conjunction with the soundbar to add more height and space to the soundfield.
Not only does the Q800A offer powerful overall performance, but it also has a broad feature set. Alongside two HDMI ports (one equipped with eARC) and an optical input, there’s Bluetooth and, once connected to wi-fi, you can stream via Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2, all of which can be controlled by the built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistant.
The Q800A is priced to compete directly with the Sonos Arc, and while the latter is crisper and more precise, especially when handling height elements, the Samsung offers a present and compelling listen as well as an epic sense of scale and bass that a solo soundbar couldn’t hope to match.
Read the full review: Samsung HW-Q800A
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
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
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-Symphony’ 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
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
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
Majority might not be a particularly well-known name, but the British brand has been producing affordable AV equipment for a decade and offers a three-year warranty on all of its products, with free shipping to the UK from its website and worldwide via its Amazon storefront.
It's flagship soundbar is the Sierra Plus, handles 2.1.2 channels of sound with Dolby Atmos decoding for less than the price of many standard non-Atmos soundbars.
While it doesn't have wi-fi connectivity this budget bar does feature Bluetooth for music streaming and hard-wired inputs for HDMI ARC, optical, mini-jack and USB. Handily it also gives users two additional HDMI 4K HDR passthrough ports to directly connect external devices such as a games console or Blu-ray player, reducing the number of cables you need to run to your TV.
As the Sierra Plus has ARC, as opposed to eARC, it can only decode Dolby Atmos in its lossy Dolby Digital Plus format. However no streaming service currently offers Dolby Atmos content in lossless True HD, so unless you also plan to connect a 4K Blu-ray player into your TV and then pass the sound out to the soundbar, this should be no great loss.
It’s not the most detailed performer, with a vague separate sub and height effects that won't make you duck and cover, but sonically it delivers an engaging, enjoyable home cinema sound with a broad soundstage and clear dialogue. An easy upgrade to your TVs speakers.
Read the full review: Majority Sierra Plus
Better known for their gaming headsets, Creative's SXFI Carrier Dolby Atmos soundbar has some unique features, including audio processing that simulates 3D surround sound not through the soundbar’s speakers but on a pair of headphones that can be plugged into the Carrier via a mini-jack on the front.
Its gaming credentials extend to its impressive connectivity. In addition to eARC, there are two further HDMI 2.1 ports capable of passing through 4K@120Hz or 8K@30Hz (in 4:2:0 colour format) as well as HDR with Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HDR10+, and support for performance-enhancing gaming features including ALLM and VRR.
There’s also a USB audio output specifically intended for an SXFI Bluetooth transmitter to connect a compatible pair of Creative's own low latency wireless headphones, and in the UK, a pair of SXFI Theater headphones are sometimes included as part of the purchase price.
The soundbar can also receive audio wirelessly through Bluetooth 5.0 but disappointingly, for a soundbar at this price, it doesn't include wi-fi connectivity. However, you could always inexpensively add casting functionality by using a streaming stick in one of the HDMI ports.
Inside, the soundbar comprises seven drivers in a 5.1.2 configuration with three front-facing tweeters, a pair of steeply raked height woofers that disperse sound upwards and forwards, and at the extreme ends sit two side-firing racetrack-style mid-woofers. Each driver has its DSP-controlled amplifier, with a total RMS power of 450W, including the sub.
The Creative Carrier can handle audio up to 24-bit/192kHz and not only supports Dolby Atmos in its lossless True HD format but was developed in association with Dolby itself. Sonically the Creative SXFI Carrier has notable width and does a decent job of producing some sense of height and movement, but its agile low-end extension is its main strength delivering plenty of dramatic weight.
Read the full Creative SXFI Carrier review
How to choose the best TV soundbar for you
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 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 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.
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 are always 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. 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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