Soundbars are an excellent way to create fuller, richer sound in your home theater. They’re great for both music as well as movies and shows, and with features like active voice amplifiers, Dolby Atmos, and Bluetooth connectivity, you’ll never miss a single line of your favorite movies and set up is a breeze.
If you’re shopping for your first soundbar, there can be a lot of information that is unfamiliar or confusing. So here are a few questions we can answer to help you be better informed:
What’s the difference between 2.1CH, 5.1CH, and 7.1CH?
How many “channels” a soundbar supports simply refers to how many speakers there are. A single soundbar can have any number of speakers, but many basic models are 2.1CH. This means that they have a left, right, and center speaker which is perfect for basic things like casual music listening or streaming movies and shows. If you’re an audiophile, you may want to spring for a 5.1 or 7.1CH setup. These often include satellite speakers and/or subwoofers, which allows you to create a surround sound configuration and add punchy bass to music and movies.
What is Dolby Atmos?
Short Answer: It creates virtual surround sound.
Long Answer: Dolby Atmos is an audio processing software that recreates true surround sound with fewer speakers. This means you can get an immersive, cinematic experience with just a soundbar. This is great news for anyone who is working with a limited budget or small space since you don’t have to worry about spending money on extra equipment or finding room for satellite speakers and dedicated subwoofers.
Do I need extra speakers?
That depends on what you want your soundbar to do. If you just want an extra boost for your 65-inch TV’s audio, then buying a soundbar on its own will suit your needs just fine. However, if you’re looking to create a home theater, you may want to invest in at least two satellite speakers as well as a subwoofer. The downside is that you need more space for multi-speaker configurations, so if you’re in an apartment or dorm, you won’t be able to do that. The good news is that many soundbars are capable of connecting to satellite speakers via Bluetooth, meaning that if you move into a bigger space or have a bit of extra money, you can get satellite speakers later on.
So we’ve answered some of the big questions you may have about how to go about buying a soundbar, but there are still a few factors to keep in mind while shopping:
- Price – You’ll want to determine how much you want to spend on a soundbar before you do anything else. Not only does this prevent you from overspending, but it also gives you an idea of what brands and features you can afford. The days of “budget” meaning “terrible audio quality” are long gone, which means that you can pick up a super affordable soundbar and still get great sound. Having a budget in mind also helps you to narrow down your choices: it’s much easier to choose from a list of about a dozen than it is from a list of several hundred.
- Connectivity – You need to know how your soundbar will connect to your TV and other playback devices before you buy one. Many models feature Bluetooth connectivity, which makes it easy to connect to multiple devices as well as keeping your space organized by eliminating cords and wires. You could also use an HDMI ARC cable for a more reliable connection to your TV, or if you’re old-school, an AUX or optical cable. Knowing how to connect your TV to your soundbar ahead of time will save a lot of headaches during setup.
- Size – It may seem silly to point out, but you definitely need to make sure that your new soundbar is actually going to fit in your space. If you want it to sit under your TV, you’ll need to measure the distance between the feet (if it uses foot stands) and between the bottom of the TV and the surface it sits on. If you’re wall mounting, make sure the soundbar is big enough to place on wall studs for stability. You’ll also want to make sure that power cables, HDMI cords, and other connections will actually be able to reach where they need to go. There is no bigger hassle than having to return a soundbar because it was too big or too small.
We want you to be able to find the best soundbar for your home theater, so we picked the top 14 models from brands like Vizio, Samsung, and Bose and have broken down their features below. We’ve looked at everything from prices and audio channels to audio processing and connectivity to help you decide which soundbar is the perfect fit for your home theater.
1. Vizio M-Series Home Theater Sound Bar
The M-Series Home Theater system from Vizio is one of the best soundbars and audio bundles you can buy. It includes a 40-inch soundbar, two satellite speakers, and a 6-inch wireless subwoofer. This allows you to create a custom home audio configuration for true surround sound. The system works with both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio technology for clean, rich, room-filling sound while streaming movies, music, and even while gaming. It also has a 4K HDMI passthrough with support for Dolby Vision HDR for better detailing and color. You can connect the main soundbar to your TV via HDMI ARC or Bluetooth for a truly wireless home theater.
2. Vizio SB362An-F6
If you’ve been looking for an affordable soundbar that still delivers clean, clear audio, this model from Vizio is an excellent option. It retails under $150 while still giving you great features like Dolby audio and DTS Virtual: X support. You can simply place this soundbar under your TV for a super fast setup or mount it to the wall for a custom configuration. It connects to your TV via optic cable, aux cord, or Bluetooth for a wireless connection. It also features 2 different equalizer settings, letting you get the most out of both movie and TV dialogue and music.
3. JBL BAR 5.0
The BAR 5.0 from JBL is a great mid-range option for anyone looking to upgrade their current home theater setup or purchase their first soundbar. It features 5 speakers and 4 passive bass radiators that work with Dolby Atmos virtual surround sound for excellent audio that fills the whole room. It also has a 4K video passthrough that works with Dolby Vision HDR.
And if you want to share media from your mobile devices, you can connect via AirPlay or Chromecast to instantly stream music from your smartphone or tablet. It also works with Alexa for hands-free voice controls as well as multi-room streaming via compatible Alexa devices like the Echo Dot so you can enjoy your favorite music in every room of your house.
4. Sennheiser Ambeo
Sennheiser is one of the top brands in audio equipment, and their Ambeo soundbar is no exception. It’s packed to the brim with premium features like a Dolby Vision 4K passthrough, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio processing, built-in Chromecast, and Bluetooth connectivity. It also includes a microphone for monitoring ambient noise and automatic calibration so you’ll get the best listening experience day after day.
The 13 speakers are divided between 30Hz subwoofers, 5 tweeters, and mid-range units to create rich, balanced audio that is perfect for both dialogue and music. All of this comes at a hefty price, though, so be prepared to dig deep if you want this to be a part of your home theater.
5. Harman Kardon KHTS 16BQ
While many soundbars can connect to wireless satellite speakers, the HKTS 16BQ from Harman Kardon gives you everything you need for a full surround sound configuration. The 10-inch subwoofer gives you 200W of deep, bone-rattling bass that is perfect for action. And the four satellite speakers have voice-matched tweeters and mid-range drivers for the cleanest, clearest audio possible. The compact center speaker is great for tucking under your TV for discrete placement while still providing great front-firing audio. The base bundle is 5.1CH, but you can upgrade to a 7.1CH setup by connecting an additional pair of satellite speakers.
6. LG SK8Y
Not every living room or home theater needs a super powerful audio setup, and that’s where the LG SK8Y comes in. This 2.1CH soundbar comes paired with a subwoofer for richer audio while streaming movies, TV, and music. It uses Dolby Atmos for virtual surround sound, and an adaptive control feature automatically detects what is being played and adjusts sound settings to get the most out of music and dialogue.
It has both Chromecast and Google Assistant built in for hands-free controls and streaming from your smartphone or tablet. You can connect this soundbar to your TV via Bluetooth or LG Sound Sync for compatible TVS. It even works with your TV’s remote so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of multiple controls.
7. Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite
This soundbar gives you all of the premium features you’ve come to expect from a 7.1CH system while still being somewhat affordable. It includes a soundbar, two satellite speakers, and two subwoofers so you can create a custom surround sound configuration. The entire system gives you 800W of output and reaches up to 106dB, letting you rattle your windows and the neighbor’s windows for good measure.
The entire system works with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio processing as well as Dolby Vision HDR for the 4K passthrough. You can connect it to your TV via HDMI ARC or Bluetooth for a wireless home theater. It also has 3 additional HDMI inputs so you can connect playback devices and game consoles to get the best audio for all of your entertainment.
8. Samsung HW-Q950A
Dolby Atmos gives this soundbar the boost it needs to create incredible audio. With this audio processing technology, a single soundbar can produce virtual surround sound, letting you get 3D audio without having to mess around with setting up extra equipment. This soundbar also uses Samsung’s SpaceFit+ software to monitor ambient sound and automatically adjust settings to give you the best listening experience for your space. There is also an Active Voice Amplifier that boosts dialogue so you never miss a line of your favorite movies.
9. Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage
The Beosound Stage from Bang & Olufsen is a soundbar that looks like it would fit in just as well at an art gallery as it would your living room. It comes in six color schemes, using both metal accents and fabric to create an ultra-modern, minimalist piece that will take your home theater to the next level; the laser-etched on-board controls help maintain sleek lines for an eye-catching home theater.
It uses 11 speakers to layer high, mid, and bass tones for rich, room filling sound. You can also create custom equalizer settings to get the most out of movies, shows, and music. Third-party HDMI ARC support gives you plug-and-play setup with just about any TV, and Bluetooth connectivity lets you stream music from your mobile devices and computers. It also supports AirPlay, Chromecast, and Spotify link for streaming over WiFi.
10. Sony HT-A7000
BEST WITH PASSTHROUGH
This soundbar from Sony is the best choice for anyone who is looking for a model that can seamlessly integrate into an existing setup. It not only has great sound with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X processing, but it also allows for both 4K and 8K video passthroughs. This allows you to connect to an existing receiver as well as future-proof your home theater when 8K content becomes more mainstream.
11. Bose TV Speaker
BEST FOR SMALL SPACES
If your living room or home theater is on the smaller side, the Bose TV Speaker is a great option. This soundbar measures just 24 inches long, making it perfect for tucking under a smaller TV or on a shelf; you can also wall-mount it if surface area is at a premium in your home. It connects to your TV via Bluetooth, further freeing up space that would be taken up by tangled wires. And just because it’s small, that doesn’t mean it skimps out on sound. You’ll still get Bose’s signature, rich audio with two dedicated drivers while streaming movies, music, or shows.
12. Sony HT-A5000
BEST WITH VOICE CONTROLS
If you’ve set up a smart home network and use a virtual assistant, the Sony HT-A5000 is the perfect soundbar to add to your home theater. It works with both Google Assistant and Alexa for hands-free controls; this allows you to also connect the soundbar to other devices like receivers, game consoles, and Blu-Ray players and control everything with your voice, meaning you won’t drive yourself crazy looking for lost remotes or trying to remember which remote works with which device.
13. Bose Smart Soundbar 300
BEST FOR MUSIC
The Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is the ultimate piece of audio equipment for music lovers. This soundbar uses 4 mid-range drivers, a center dome tweeter, and passive bass radiators to layer audio for that signature Bose clarity and richness. The radiators also have Bose’s QuietPort screens which help to reduce distortions for cleaner audio. It works with the Bose Music App, letting you create custom equalizer profiles and keep all of your playlists, music apps, and podcasts in one place for easier browsing.
With Alexa and Google Assistant, you can control volume settings and search thousands of songs. You can also pair this soundbar with compatible Bose headsets for private listening, and when you’re ready for an upgrade, you can connect the Smart Soundbar 300 to Bose subwoofers and satellite speakers for a custom configuration.
14. Razer Leviathan
BEST FOR GAMING
With the Razer Leviathan, console and PC gamers can take their raids and solo missions to the next level. The soundbar uses dual drivers as well as a host of Dolby Audio technology like Virtual Speaker and Pro Logic II to deliver clean, rich audio. It also comes with a compact, dedicated subwoofer to add bone-shaking bass to important cinematic scenes and battles. The soundbar has wall mounting brackets if your desk is short on space, and onboard controls make it easy to change volume and sound settings on the fly.