The best soundbars for 2019

    Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

    Of the many models we’ve reviewed, the Yamaha YAS-207 is the best soundbar available. Why? Because it’s well-rounded, with superb sound, a diverse feature set, and a price tag that won’t require you to sell a kidney on the black market — making it the ideal companion for an affordable 4K TV.

    That’s not to say it’s the only bar out there worth your hard-earned cash. We’ve stocked this list with five other recommendations for you to check out, separated by the areas in which they excel, so you’ll have plenty of options to find the right soundbar for your setup and preferred media.

    Best Soundbars At a glance

    The best soundbar: Yamaha YAS-207

    best soundbars speakers atmos systems for your tv yamaha yas 207 upsold audio

    Why should you buy it? The YAS-207 offers excellent sound quality and tons of features for an unbelievably low price.

    Who’s it for? Those who seek the best sound and the most diverse feature set for a reasonable price.

    Why we picked the Yamaha YAS-207:

    We came away from our time with the Yamaha YAS-207 convinced it is the total package. The bar offers unmatched value in a soundbar in its price range, making it the perfect complement to a reasonably priced 4K television.

    When it comes to sound quality, the YAS-207 is extremely impressive for the money, boasting clear treble and deep, growling bass, with a warm midrange to boot. It also features two dedicated virtual surround modes that emulate taller, wider surround sound images. That means a bigger, more comprehensive surround sound speaker experience from a simple soundbar setup. 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 scenes — it doesn’t matter, because this soundbar will deliver excellent performance no matter what you send its way.

    It supports both Dolby Digital and DTS Virtual:X (though the latter tends to add an icy touch to the sound), and it can, of course, double as a Bluetooth speaker for streaming music from your smartphone.

    The YAS-207’s big sound profile comes from surprisingly compact components, with the soundbar itself measuring nearly 37 inches across for a wide stereo image, but under 3 inches tall. The included wireless subwoofer is about 17 inches tall and 16 inches deep. There are certainly much smaller soundbars out there — and we even highlight a few on this list — but the YAS-207 won’t be difficult to fit into most home theater rooms. Best of all, it’s a stylish-yet-subtle device that will provide a handsome accent to your setup.

    Read our full Yamaha YAS-207 review

    The best soundbar with Dolby Atmos: Samsung HW-N950

    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.

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

    Why we picked the Samsung HW-N950:

    Samsung’s investment in 3D surround sound is paying off handsomely. In fact, as our choice for the best Dolby Atmos bar you can buy, the HW-N950 actually replaces the Samsung 5.1.4 HW-K950 Dolby Atmos bar in this slot.

    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 both a wireless subwoofer and wireless satellite speakers (though they must be plugged into an outlet for power), each of which boasts its own up-firing driver. They meld 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 pass-through 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.

    These features command a price, and 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

    The best soundbar for gaming: Vizio 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar

    vizio dolby atmos home theater sound systems 5 1 4 system

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

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

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

    The Vizio Home Theater Sound System with Dolby Atmos (whew) is a powerful and surprisingly affordable 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos system with a name that’s not only ridiculously long but also confusing given 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 Dolby Atmos sound that’s comparable to the Samsung bar mentioned above, but at a more affordable price — so you can take the cash you saved on the bar and put it toward your next gaming purchase.

    Saving you a few extra bucks on your gaming budget isn’t the only reason this bar is our pick for gaming, though. The Vizio 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar offers discrete Dolby Atmos sound for impressive 3D immersion. 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 that can complement any game you play.

    Unlike the HW-N950 above, the Vizio won’t decode DTS:X. It instead uses Dolby processing to create height channels, but it will decode just about any other surround signal you throw at it. The bar also offers expected features like HDMI ARC 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. Gamers eyeing epic Atmos on the cheap need look no further.

    Read our full Vizio 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar review

    The best soundbar with Alexa/Google Assistant: Sonos Beam

    Sonos Beam sound bar deal

    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.

    Why we picked the Sonos Beam:

    This is our leading pick in a segment we think is going to be monstrous in the coming 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 smart home devices and basic TV functions with your voice. But the Beam does much more than just that.

    As part of the Sonos line, Beam is controllable via Sonos’ intuitive app, which lets you integrate the soundbar with virtually any streaming service, as well as with any other speakers in the Sonos lineup or even the new Sonos Amp device, to create an intuitive, multiroom sound solution. The bar looks great on the mantel, 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

    The best budget soundbar: Vizio SB3621

    Vizio SB3621n-GB review
    Riley Young/Digital Trends

    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.

    Why we picked the Vizio SB3621:

    We’re all for finding the perfect balance between features, performance, and price when shopping for a soundbar. Despite our enthusiasm for pricier models, we also know it’s easy to find a great soundbar that doesn’t break the bank, and for us there’s none better than the Vizio SB3621 in this category.

    Vizio’s SB3621 soundbar boasts performance and features that rival — and, in some cases, exceed — those of other, more expensive, models. First off, it can decode basic DTS and Dolby surround sound formats, which means you’ll be able to get the best possible audio experience from a large swath of media. There is also a wireless subwoofer included — something you often don’t get with a soundbar at this price point. It also offers easy connections for your components via Bluetooth, 3.5mm Aux-in, USB, and optical digital inputs, so just about any other devices you own will be compatible with the Vizio SB3621. Frankly, you’d be hard-pressed to find such a long list of supported formats and devices on other soundbars that cost much more than the Vizio SB3621.

    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. Even though it can sometimes feel confusing, the idiosyncratic LED display doesn’t affect the sound performance and is not an issue that should detract from the overall experience. You simply won’t find a better-performing soundbar at this price, period.

    Read our full Vizio SB3621n-G8 review

    The best soundbar for dialogue: ZVOX AV200

    ZVOX's AccuVoice AV205
    ZVOX Audio

    Why should you buy it? The ZVOX AV200 is specifically designed to make voices clearer

    Who’s it for? Those who normally find it difficult to hear voices on TV, especially those with hearing impairments

     Why we picked the ZVOX AV200:

    The ZVOX AV200 takes this category for a simple reason: It’s designed to help you hear dialogue better. Sure, some soundbars flaunt their dialogue modes or adjustable EQs that supposedly make voices easier to hear, but the ZVOX AV200 is the only one we’ve come across that specifically targets hearing-impaired listeners.

    ZVOX’s patented AccuVoice technology is able to take spoken dialogue from a scene you’re watching, manipulate the digital signal to enhance the voices, and make it easier to hear — all without affecting the background sound. That’s the key difference: Other soundbars have dialogue-boosting options, but most of them do so by changing the entire sound mix. The ZVOX AV200 doesn’t, and it makes a huge difference — even those without hearing impairments will notice an improvement in voice clarity. It’s so effective that ZVOX even offers hearing aids and headphones equipped with AccuVoice.

    Admittedly, the ZVOX AV200 is a pretty simple soundbar beyond the inclusion of AccuVoice modes. It’s on the smaller side at just 17 inches across and 2.9 inches tall, and doesn’t ship with extra speakers or giant external subwoofer. You won’t get big sound, but setup should be a breeze. The AV200 is also lighter on the connection inputs, with only a single optical audio input and one 3.5mm Aux jack, so your options are pretty limited. These limitations make it hard to recommend the AV200 beyond this category, but until AccuVoice or similar tech makes its way onto more fully featured devices, it’s the best you’ll find.

    Read more about the AccuVoice and the ZVOX AV200

    Research and buying tips

    Why are soundbars so popular?

    They offer a small footprint, they’re affordable and easy to set up, and they sound much better than TVs alone.

    Are soundbars any good?

    Some of them are, some of them aren’t. That’s why we recommend reading reviews and best-of lists like this one.

    How do soundbars work?

    Virtually all modern soundbars connect via digital connection either with an Optical cable or HDMI ARC. The latter is generally preferred for TVs with HDMI ARC, as it often allows for better sound and control of basic functionality with your TV remote.

    Can soundbars be controlled by a TV remote?

    Some of them can be, yes. See the above for information about HDMI ARC.

    Can soundbars be mounted on a wall?

    Yes, most come with mounting brackets.

    Can soundbars be mounted above a tv?

    Technically yes, but we usually recommend mounting them below the TV. In general, we recommend you get them as close to ear level as possible for the best sound.

    Are soundbars wireless?

    Some are, but they generally come with brand restrictions. The vast majority connect via HDMI or Optical input.

    Do soundbars always have a subwoofer?

    No, not always. Some are built without them purposefully to save space, but most rely on a subwoofer for low-frequency sound.

    Do soundbars support Alexa? Google Assistant? Siri?

    None support Siri that we’re aware of. The Sonos Beam supports Google Assistant and Alexa, while other brands/models offer general support of the latter two assistants sparingly.

    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 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.

    If you’re still in need of guidance after perusing all the above picks, check out our expert guide to picking the right soundbar.

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