(Pocket-lint) - Looking for a soundbar to boost your TV audio and want a single-box solution without the fuss of a receiver and a million different wires? Then you've come to the right place: our soundbar round-up where we've gathered together the latest and greatest soundbars we've reviewed.
Whatever your budget and goal, we've collated a selection of options to help boost your TV's audio. Simple, quick, and in many cases offering good value for money, there's plenty of choice when it comes to boosting your TV sounds.
Sonos gave its soundbar offering a refresh in the form of the Arc, a massive but unbelievably high-fidelity soundbar.
It blew us away on testing, and is also nice and smart, with Alexa and Google Assistant both on board. Sound is excellent, especially if you have a Dolby Atmos-compliant TV. This is a soundbar to buy and forget about - it'll be giving you superb performance for years to come.
The Samsung HW-Q800T gives you an immersive wall-of-sound that makes anything sound better especially with Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.
It is a little front-heavy though, but a separate rear speaker package is available if that bothers you unduly.
You also get built-in Amazon Alexa voice control plus eARC and full HDR support but unfortunately only one HDMI input.
The Sonos Beam is a compact soundbar that not only delivers an expansive performance for its small size, but it offers multiple voice assistant support - Alexa and Google Assistant are both present. It also supports the Sonos multi-room platform, making it a perfect addition if you have Sonos speakers already, doubling up as an excellent speaker and soundbar in one.
There is no Dolby Atmos support and it's expensive if you consider adding additional speakers or the Sonos Sub, but the Sonos Beam sounds great for both music and movies and it's a great soundbar to consider if you not only want to boost your TV audio, but you want to make your living room or bedroom smarter too. If you need a bigger Sonos soundbar, you could consider the Arc instead of the Beam.
The Samsung HW-Q800A is a well put together combo that's a capable all-rounder.
As well as all the basics there's HDMI eARC, AirPlay 2, integrated Amazon Alexa plus Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, this soundbar gives you a genuinely immersive experience and deep bass sound.
The only criticism is that it gives you a front-heavy soundstage. This can be addressed by picking up the optional wireless rear speakers.
Yamaha MusicCast Bar 400
The Yamaha MusicCast Bar 400 is a 2.1-channel soundbar with an included active wireless subwoofer and it performs well with both movies and music. Its discreet and well-made design offers the company's MusicCast built-in, as well as good bass.
There's no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support and you'll only find one HDMI input, but there is voice control via Alexa and there is also the option to buy this soundbar without the wireless subwoofer if you're on a budget.
The Sony HT-ZF9 is a compact and very well made 3.1-channel soundbar that not only supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but it offers 7.1.2 surround sound through effective virtual sound processing. Other features include 4K HDR and Hi-Res audio support, as well as built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Chromecast.
Its interface can be confusing and while the HT-ZF9 can't compete with soundbars that deliver immersive audio in a more traditional fashion, the HT-ZF9 has a lot to recommend. Movies and music both sound good, while Sony's application of digital signal processing to create a virtual immersive experience is often very successful.
This newer model delivers a genuine object-based audio experience. It boasts rear channels, four upward-firing drivers and a beefed-up subwoofer – making it ideal for Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio. It's a complete surround sound package that's hard to beat.
Quite frankly it has no equal. It produces the kind of genuinely immersive experience that single-unit bar and sub combos claim to but never really can.
JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam
If you're after a neat all-in-one soundbar that's well-balanced and can pass through 4K HDR via eARC, then look no further.
There's no separate sub here, but that's the point - it's not designed for those who have the room or inclination.
It's not got true surround sound but it does its best to give you a great sound if the source is good enough.
The Denon DHT-S516H is an accomplished soundbar. It's not a full surround experience, but it is a high-quality two-channel sound that's wide and deep. The sub also produces some excellent depth, too.
However, at this price it's a shame that there's no support for Dolby Atmos and that there's no control either. We're big fans of Denon's Heos app, but sometimes that isn't enough.
How to buy a soundbar
A good soundbar will improve your TV audio hugely, while a great soundbar will provide audio strong enough to work as a hifi speaker for your music as well, So, what should you be thinking about when you’re choosing a soundbar?
How big is your room?
This is the main concern when choosing the size of soundbar that will work best. The bigger the room, the more power you’ll need to fill it. Sonos makes two soundbars, for instance, the Sonos Beam and Sonos Arc. The bigger Arc is enough to work well in the largest room. Though some smaller bars are enough for bigger rooms, a general rule of thumb is you’ll get more oomph from a bigger speaker.
How big is your TV?
A huge soundbar above or below a small TV can look almost comical, though a small soundbar can still look fine when paired with a bigger screen. As a rule of thumb, providing the soundbar isn’t actually wider than the TV, it’ll look good. Note that a TV stand is rarely the friend of a soundbar as it can constrain the directions the speaker sends the audio.
Remember that as an alternative, you could choose a soundbase, where the speaker sits underneath the TV’s legs – though getting just the right size can be a challenge there, too, if the legs stand precariously near the soundbase’s edges, for instance.
Do you want Dolby Atmos?
Atmos is a neat system that directs audio upwards so that it bounces off the ceiling to create a surround sound effect. It is usually accompanied by a noticeably higher price tag, so you may not feel it’s worth the extra (though it is very cool). Dolby Atmos can affect placement as well – it needs to be in a spot where the upward firing speakers can reach the ceiling, so sitting in a TV stand won’t cut it.
Can the soundbar adjust to the room it’s in?
Soundbars are all about creating the best audio possible, and every room has different acoustics. Some manufacturers have created tuning systems that adjust sound output according to the room around them. These include the excellent Trueplay from Sonos, a feature which after a couple of minutes’ set-up can be transformational for audio in awkwardly shaped rooms, for instance.
How does it connect to your TV?
Most soundbars use an optical connection on the back of the TV, but some, like the Sonos ARC use the Audio Return Channel (ARC) to connect via HDMI. Only some HDMI sockets work with ARC and this method, though it can result in better sound, does mean that’s an HDMI socket you can’t use for something else.
What about a sub-woofer?
Many soundbars come with their own sub-woofer to amplify the bass. Is it wired to the main speaker or does it connect wirelessly? The thing about bass is it is non-directional so you will hear the same sound from the sub-woofer wherever you place it. In practice, though, as near to the TV as possible works best.
Some soundbars have separate satellite speakers which connect to the main unit and can be placed behind you so that sound can come from every direction. Again, these might be wired to the soundbar or connect wirelessly.
How tall is the soundbar?
Finally, if you plan to plonk it right in front of the TV, make sure the soundbar isn’t so tall that it obscures the infra-red receptor on the screen, let alone the picture itself.
Additional reporting by David Phelan