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(Pocket-lint) - Looking for a soundbar to boost your TV audio? 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 is where we've gathered together the latest and greatest soundbars we've reviewed.

There's a world of choice when it comes to soundbars, but, with all the different feature sets and codecs, it can quickly become quite confusing. That's why we've lined up what we think are the elite options around when it comes to boosting your TV's sound.

In addition, we've put together a handy guide at the bottom to help you separate the features you actually require from the marketing spiel.

Armed with this info, picking your next soundbar should be a breeze - so, let's get into the picks.


What is the best soundbar? Currently, our top recommendation is the Samsung HW-Q950A. However, we also advise checking out the Sony HT-A7000, Sonos Beam (Gen 2), Philips Fidelio B97 and the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam.


Our Top Pick: Best Soundbar

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Samsung HW-Q950A

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For

  • Immersive sound
  • Coherent bass integration
  • Dolby Vision and HDR10+ pass-through

Against

  • SmartThings app could see improvements
  • The display is on the top

The Samsung HW-Q950A is one of the most immersive and rich sounding soundbar systems we have ever tested. Thanks to 16 channel audio the soundstage is seamless in all directions.

With Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, there is pinpoint positional accuracy and the rumble of the subwoofer is enough to put a smile on anyone's face.

We reckon this is as good as it gets without delving into the complex world of HiFi separates - but with that said, you'll still need to find a place for the rear speakers and subwoofer to get the full effect.

Soundbars we also recommend

While the Samsung HW-Q950A is at the peak of this list, it's not necessarily the right soundbar for everyone, and certainly not everyone's budget. That's why we've also selected the following devices for you to consider. 

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Sony HT-A7000

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For

  • Wide and high soundstage
  • Two HDMI inputs
  • 7.1.2 sound output

Against

  • Inbuilt bass can be thumpy
  • The shiny top surface can be distracting

The HT-A7000 is a massive 1.3-meter long soundbar, and it delivers massive sound, too. We were especially impressed with the soundstage, which is much wider and higher than other all-in-one options; making it a perfect pairing with spatial formats like Dolby Atmos.

It's got more connectivity options than most, too, including two HDMI inputs that are capable of 8K60 HDR pass-through. This is as well as an HDMI eARC output that makes setup a breeze.

From our testing, we think most people will want to opt for the optional subwoofer add-on to get that really deep bass. Though, even as a standalone unit, the HT-A7000 offers immersive and dynamic sound.

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Sonos Beam (Gen 2)

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For

  • Small form factor and great sound
  • Virtual Dolby Atmos support
  • HDMI eARC makes setup easy

Against

  • Less impressive at low volumes
  • Surround setup is expensive

The Sonos Beam is a compact soundbar capable of delivering sound that feels like it should be coming from a speaker twice the size. Being a Sonos product it comes with all the niceties we have come to expect, including support for both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

If you already have some Sonos speakers then the Beam is a great option as it can integrate seamlessly into your multiroom setup, doubling up as a great sounding speaker for music.

The updated version of the Sonos Beam makes improvements aesthetically, as well as adding much-needed support for Dolby Atmos. If you decide to go with full surround sound at a later date, you can wirelessly pair two Sonos One speakers as rears and add a subwoofer. It'll get pretty pricey, though.

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Philips Fidelio B97

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For

  • Clever detachable surround speakers
  • Great bass
  • Loads of features

Against

  • Dolby Atmos decoding lacks height
  • Detachable rear surrounds make for extra work

The Philips Fidelio B87 soundbar has a wonderfully clever design. Two rear speakers can be unclipped from the main unit and operate completely wirelessly thanks to their built-in batteries.

This allows you to have a full surround sound system when you want it, and a neat all-in-one solution when you don't. A wireless subwoofer keeps the bass rumbling, and the connectivity options are among the most plentiful on our list.

Decoding features are vast, as well, with full support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X among others. It should be noted, though, that while the surround sound impressed us, we found the Atmos soundstage lacked in height when compared with alternative soundbars.

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JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam

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For

  • All in one solution
  • Sounds great with music
  • Doby Atomos support

Against

  • No true surround
  • Pass-through is slow

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. It's no slouch when it comes to music, either, offering fantastic sound quality and a variety of multi-room integrations, to boot.

A perfect choice for those looking for an unobtrusive way to enhance the sound of a moderately sized TV - the Bar 5.0 keeps things simple and sounds great at an affordable price.

Other products we considered

When trying to figure out what we believe to be the best soundbars currently available, we spent hours testing and researching. We consider a range of factors when it comes to recommending devices - and also when a new device enters our top five selections. This isn't just our own testing, either, but also consumer reviews, brand quality and value.

In all of our roundups, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.

How to choose 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 subwoofer?

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. 

Surround sound?

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.

More about this story

Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use them in your day-to-day life. We test everything from surround sound performance to musicality to arm you with all the details for your buying decision.

When you buy a soundbar, it becomes a huge part of your TV and movie viewing experience, so it's important to make sure you find one that fits your every need - and will continue to do so in the years to come.

With that in mind, we analysed everything, including connectivity options, audio decoding, aesthetics and, of course, audio performance. We know there's a huge variety of soundbars out there, so we try to test as many as we can including all price brackets and size options.

In all of our buyer's guides, including this one, we tend to skip over the spec comparisons and marketing spiel; we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use.

Our verdicts are concise, but this is in the interest of brevity - rest assured all the things on this list have been fully tested. You can also check out our speaker reviews section for more in-depth coverage of all the top audio devices. 

Writing by Luke Baker. Editing by Conor Allison. Originally published on 18 June 2014.