Still listening on tinny TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars  08/26/2019 21:36:54  20  Ryan Waniata

As TVs get thinner and thinner, their speakers seem to just keep getting worse. For all that’s been done to improve TV audio systems and squeeze more sound into smaller spaces, TV sound simply pales in comparison to even the more basic soundbars you can buy.

Soundbars are the sleekest, least obtrusive way to get sound that’s as impactful as the premium picture on your TV. The best soundbars offer minimalist style, thrilling surround sound, and the ability to stream audio from your phone with no need to carve out room for a receiver or tower speakers. Read on below for our top soundbar picks, and if you’re still in need of guidance, make sure and check out our guide to picking the right soundbar.

Looking for a TV to go along with your newfangled soundbar? Check out our list of the best TVs available.

At a glance

Product Category Rating
Yamaha YAS-207 Best soundbar overall 4.5 out of 5
Samsung HW-N950 Best Dolby Atmos soundbar 4.5 out of 5
Vizio 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar Best affordable Atmos system 4 out of 5
Sonos Beam Best smart soundbar 4 out of 5
Bose Soundtouch 300  Best soundbar for aesthetics 3.5 out of 5
Yamaha YSP-5600 Best virtual Dolby Atmos soundbar 3.5 out of 5
Samsung HW-MS650 Sound+ Best minimalist soundbar 4 out of 5
Vizio SB3621 Best budget soundbar Not yet rated
Polk Magnifi Mini Best mini soundbar 4 out of 5

Yamaha YAS-207

The best soundbar

Why should you buy it? The feature-laden YAS-207 offers excellent sound quality, Dolby, and DTS decoding for an unbelievably low price.

The Yamaha YAS-207 impresses across the audio spectrum, balancing detail against power and boasting a slew of useful features.

Who’s it for? Those who seek the best sound and the most diverse feature set while saving some dough.

How much will it cost? $299

Why we picked the Yamaha YAS-207:

Yamaha’s YAS-207 is the total package, offering unmatched value in a soundbar. At less than $300, it’s the perfect complement to a reasonably priced 4K television, featuring two dedicated virtual surround modes that emulate a taller, wider surround sound image, and plenty of other useful features. The bar itself measures nearly 37 inches across, and the included wireless subwoofer is about the size of a gasoline canister at about 17 inches tall and 16 inches deep.

When it comes to actual sound quality, the YAS-207 is extremely impressive for the money, boasting clear treble and deep, growling bass with warm mids to boot. Throw on an action movie and the sound effects will fill your living room, or utilize the Clear Voice mode for slower, more dialogue-heavy affairs — it doesn’t matter, because this soundbar will deliver excellent performance no matter what you throw its way.

Read our full Yamaha YAS-207 review

Samsung HW-N950

The best Dolby Atmos soundbar

Samsung HW-N950
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Why should you buy it? You’ll get detailed and powerful Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround sound in a simple package.

The Samsung HW-N950 is a low-profile, yet powerful way to harness excellent 3D surround sound immersion.

Who’s it for? Those who want the thrill of true Dolby Atmos and DTS:X without remodeling the living room.

How much will it cost? $1,600 to $1,700.

Why we picked the Samsung HW-N950:

Samsung’s investment in 3D surround sound is paying off handsomely. In fact, as our new choice for the best Dolby Atmos bar you can buy, the HW-N950 actually replaces the previous Samsung soundbar in this slot, the 5.1.4 HW-K950 Dolby Atmos bar. A 7.1.4-channel bar with new side-firing drivers, the N950 is even more immersive than its predecessor — and that’s just the beginning. In fact, with crystal clear detail, heart-pumping bass, and laser-tight overhead Atmos and DTS:X effects, the N950 bests the K950 in almost every way. Even our primary complaints about the K950, including a lack of DTS surround decoding and connection hum in the wireless surround sounds have been addressed in the N950 — what more can you ask?

As teased above, the N950 boasts not only a wireless subwoofer, but also wireless satellite speakers (though they must be plugged into an outlet for power), each of which boasts its own up-firing driver, which melds with dual up-firing drivers on top of the bar to bounce sound off your ceiling for thrilling surround sound immersion. The new side-firing drivers help to create an even bigger soundstage, and with new tuning, and features like 4K HDR passthrough at up to 60 frames per second, the N950 simply offers fantastic performance across the board. Add in Samsung’s dead simple Soundbar+ interface, and the N950 makes an easy case as the Dolby Atmos bar to beat.

With a shocking sticker price of up to $1,700, the N950 is definitely a major investment. But if you’ve got to have real Dolby Atmos (and DTS:X) surround sound in a low-profile package, the HW-N950 is our bar of choice.

Read our full Samsung HW-N950 review

Vizio 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar

The best affordable Atmos system

vizio dolby atmos home theater sound systems 5 1 4 system

Why should you buy it? Thrilling, powerful Dolby Atmos sound at a bargain.

Vizio's 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos system offers cinematic sound to match pricier contemporaries at a much lower cost.

Who’s it for? Those who want to get killer Dolby Atmos sound, and save a few hundred bucks to boot.

How much will it cost? $1,000.

Why we picked the Vizio Home Theater Sound System with Dolby Atmos:

Vizio’s powerful and surprisingly affordable 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos system has a name that’s not only ridiculously long (as written out in full just above), but also confusing seeing that Vizio has more than one Dolby Atmos soundbar. It’s worth sifting through the confusion, though, as this 5.1.4 setup is shockingly engaging and fun to use, offering comparable Dolby Atmos sound to the Samsung bar above it at serious savings.

We know what you’re saying: $1,000 isn’t exactly “affordable” for a soundbar. But when you’re talking about discrete Dolby Atmos sound — including surround sound satellites and a total of four up-firing drivers for impressive 3D immersion — it’s a steal. Vizio’s surround speakers aren’t wireless (they wire into the wireless subwoofer instead), and its interface is decidedly old-school, but what it lacks in fancy features it makes up for in sheer surround sound thrills. Not only is the system able to offer fluid object-based audio immersion, but its 10-inch subwoofer brings the thunder from down under to fill your room with barreling, cinematic punch.

Unlike the HW-N950, the Vizio won’t decode DTS:X, instead using Dolby processing to create height channels, but it will decode just about any other surround signal you throw at it, and also offers expected features like ARC HDMI and Google Chromecast streaming, all in a package that allows more room in your home theater budget than any comparable system we’ve come across. Those eyeing epic Atmos on the cheap need look no further.

Read our full Vizio 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar

Sonos Beam

The best smart soundbar

Sonos Beam Speaker

Why should you buy it? The Sonos Beam does everything a smart soundbar should, and it sounds pretty good too.

Who’s it for? Users who want good sound, voice assistance, and hands-free control of basic TV functions in a singular package.

How much will it cost? $399.

Why we picked the Sonos Beam:

This is our lead-off pick in a segment we think is going to be monstrous in the coming months and years. Sonos Beam easily gets the win for smart soundbars, not just because it’s one of the first in its class, but also because — as we’ve come to expect from Sonos — it does smart right, straight out of the gate. Working directly with Alexa, the Beam combines our favorite voice assistant with ARC HDMI and CEC control, allowing you to control not only smart home devices, but also basic TV functions like volume and (most important) power with your voice. But the Beam does much more than just that.

As part of the Sonos lineup, Beam is controllable via Sonos’ intuitive app, allowing you to integrate it with virtually any streaming service, as well as with any other speakers in the lineup, or even the new Sonos Amp device, to create an intuitive, multiroom sound solution. In addition, the bar looks great on the mantle, and even without an accompanying subwoofer, it sounds pretty good too. The sound is a little boxier than we’d like when it comes to music, but it’s still no slouch there, and the Beam does a fine job with cinema and TV sound, offering powerful bass for its size to go along with crystal-clear dialogue.

Add in a ton of functionality, easy setup, and the promise of Google Assistant in the future for dual voice assistant control, and you’ve got a clear winner on your hands.

Read our full Sonos Beam review

Bose Soundtouch 300

The best soundbar for aesthetics

Why should you buy it? Not only does the Soundtouch 300 sound great, it’s one of the best-looking soundbars, too.

Who’s it for? Those who want a high-end soundbar with pleasing design.

How much will it cost? $700.

Why we picked the Bose Soundtouch 300:

The Bose Soundtouch 300 may be on the older side, but it’s still an excellent choice. This bar can pump out impressively powerful sound, especially in the low-end range, thanks to the included subwoofer, yet keeps dialogue clear and intelligible. You’ll also find that the soundstage is wide and immersive, and the bar offers Dolby and DTS surround decoding as well as the ability to add in rear surround speakers. In the interest of fairness, however, it’s worth pointing out this model doesn’t perform too well as a purely music-listening solution. Luckily, though, there are other recommendations on this list that can easily fill that gap. But for cinematic sound, the Soundtouch 300 is a great choice.

In addition, the Soundtouch 300 is both aesthetically pleasing and surprisingly svelte. While not a mini soundbar by any means, the 300 nonetheless sports an unobtrusive profile, and you shouldn’t have trouble fitting it under a TV. The soundbar features a smooth and perforated metal grille, a black glass top face, and recognizable yet simple icons with LEDs as an on-bar interface.

Read our full Bose Soundtouch 300 review

Yamaha YSP-5600

The best virtual Dolby Atmos soundbar

Yamaha YSP-5600 soundbar
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy it? The Yamaha YSP-5600 is a big, powerful virtual soundbar that is well-equipped to give your home theater jaw-dropping 3D sound immersion.

The Yamaha YSP-5600 is a beefy soundbar that could replace your virtual surround sound setup.

Who’s it for? Those who want top-notch virtual surround sound for both DTS and Dolby Atmos, and don’t want to clutter the house with a bunch of speakers and wires.

How much will it cost? $1,600.

Why we picked the Yamaha YSP-5600:

With a hulking presence that stands over 8 inches tall, the Yamaha Sound Projector 5600 (YSP-5600) isn’t your average soundbar — and it isn’t supposed to be. Loaded into this behemoth are 44 beam drivers, including a 12-pack of them pointed right at the ceiling to deliver the sense of height required by Dolby Atmos and DTS:X technologies. The system is flush with inputs, including four HDMI ins and an ARC-enabled HDMI out, one coax and two optical digital inputs, infrared in/out, RCA analog input, and a subwoofer out. Most importantly, though, Yamaha has loaded some truly brilliant sound performance into its magic box. The beam drivers use your walls to bounce sound at the listening position for strikingly realistic surround sound immersion. If you’re looking for a singular home sound solution without the need for all those extra wires, speakers, and mess, the 5600 is an enticing way to go big for your home theater. If you can get it rigged up right, Yamaha’s YSP-5600 is the simplest way to plunge into the ear-opening world of 3D surround sound.

Read our full Yamaha YSP-5600 review

Samsung HW-MS650 Sound+

The best minimalist soundbar

Why should you buy it? The Samsung HW-MS650 Sound+ delivers big sound in a bar-only setup — no sub required.

Who’s it for? Those who want the simplest possible setup.

How much will it cost? $400.

Why we picked the Samsung HW-MS650 Sound +:

While soundbars, in general, are simpler and smaller than a multi-speaker configuration, they tend to involve multiple components. Whether that be a dedicated subwoofer or the rarer extra satellite speakers, soundbar setups are seldom just a soundbar, which can be frustrating for those who want the least intrusive package. Luckily, Samsung’s HW-MS650 Sound+ is exactly that — a sleek soundbar that doesn’t need extra components, but still packs auditory oomph to enhance your home theater.

That design simplicity also extends to the minimalist remote, which is simple and intuitive to use, and the Smart Sound EQ system, which is one of the few push-button DSP features we think really does enhance the sound performance across formats and genres. There are tradeoffs for the MS650’s simplicity, such as diminished bass performance when compared to models with dedicated subs, and a lack of ability to fine-tune as much as we’d like due to the remote’s sparse controls. However, the HW-MS650 Sound+ is the perfect bar for those who want great sound from a simple setup, and no futzing about with remotes or peripherals.

Read our full Samsung HW-MS650 Sound+ review

Vizio SB3621

The best budget soundbar

Why you should you buy it? The Vizio SB3621 provides good sound at a crazy-low price.

Who’s it for? The budget home theater buyer looking for solid performance and minimalist design.

How much will it cost? Less than $150.

Why we picked the Vizio SB3621:

Vizio’s SB3621 soundbar boasts performance and features that rival — and, in some cases, exceed — those of other, pricier models. It can decode basic DTS and Dolby formats, and offers easy connection for your components via Bluetooth, 3.5mm Aux-in, USB, coaxial, and optical digital inputs. There is also a wireless subwoofer included — something you often don’t get with a soundbar under the $200 price point.

Not everything is gravy here, of course. Vizio’s convoluted display on the side consists of a row of lights that change to indicate … well, something, but it can be difficult to discern what exactly. At just $150, though, that’s not an issue that should detract from the overall experience. Most importantly, you simply won’t find a better-performing soundbar at this price point, period.

Polk MagniFi Mini

The best mini soundbar

Why should you buy it? Small, sleek, and simple, this Mighty Mouse soundbar harbors a powerhouse of great sound within.

Small size, a minimalist aesthetic, and affordability make the Polk MagniFi Mini a fantastic entry-level bar.

Who’s it for? Those who need something small and demure, or newcomers to the soundbar market who don’t want to spend a mint.

How much will it cost? $239.

Why we picked the Polk MagniFi Mini:

No, really, this little guy is a soundbar. Despite its tiny frame and minimalist design, the Polk MagniFi Mini is a fully capable soundbar that won’t crowd your TV stand or your living room. Due to the size and angle of its six drivers, the MagniFi Mini produces a much bigger soundstage than its appearance would imply. We’re big fans of the included sub on this unit, too. Despite its lightweight design, it handles bass-heavy moments with power and musicality.

All this isn’t to say that this bar is a viable alternative to a fully capable 5.1 surround system; despite Polk claiming the MagniFi can deliver 5.1 surround, the experience is much closer to a 3.1 setup. The midrange also isn’t quite as clear or present as we’d like in quieter moments. However, don’t let these caveats turn you off to the MagniFi Mini — it’s an impressive piece of tiny tech that barely dents your wallet.

Read our full Polk MagniFi Mini review 

How we test

After giving a soundbar a thorough break-in period, we put it through a rigorous testing process that includes playing all relevant sources of content, including the latest Blu-rays with the highest-resolution codecs from the likes of Dolby and DTS, as well as audio straight from a TV via HDMI and/or Optical Toslink output, including streaming services, broadcast TV, and audio apps. When relevant, we test wireless connections for stability and audio quality. We also place a high degree of importance on the musicality of any speaker, so plenty of music is played to gauge its finer performance aspects. Finally, we compare each soundbar with others at, above, and below its price/features class, and with similarly priced alternative sound solutions.

Editors' Recommendations

« Go back