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Best soundbars of 2024: a sound upgrade for your TV

SAMSUNG HW-Q990C 11.1.4ch Soundbar w/Wireless Dolby Audio
Samsung HW-Q990C wireless Dolby Atmos Soundbar
The best soundbar for most people
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Sonos Arc
Sonos Arc
Best expandable Dolby Atmos soundbar
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Vizio Elevate Soundbar
Vizio Elevate 5.1.4 Home Theater Soundbar
The best Dolby Atmos for under $1,000
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Nakamichi DRAGON 11.4.6 Home Surround Sound System
Nakamichi Dragon 11.4.6 surround sound system
Best no-holds-barred, money-is-no-object soundbar
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VIZIO M-Series All-in-One 2.1 (M213ad-K8)
Vizio M-Series AiO
Best soundbar under $200
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Bose Smart Soundbar 600
Bose Smart Soundbar 600
The best small soundbar
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Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Plus
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus
Best Dolby Atmos sound from a single speaker
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Sony HT-A5000 Dolby Atmos Soundbar
Sony HT-A5000
The best for music and gaming
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Vizio M-Series 5.1 soundbar (M51a-H6)
Vizio M-Series 5.1 soundbar (M51a-H6/M51ax-J6)
The best budget soundbar
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Klipsch Flexus CORE 200
Klipsch Flexus Core 200
Best single-speaker soundbar under $800
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Zvox AV157 TV Speaker
Zvox AV157 TV Speaker
The best for dialog enhancement
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Sonos Ray
Sonos Ray
Most versatile budget soundbar
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Apple HomePod 2023
Apple HomePod (2nd Gen)
Best soundbar alternative for Apple TV fans
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Sony HT-A9 7.1.4-Channel High-Performance Home Theater Speaker System
Sony HT-A9
Best soundbar alternative for everyone
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The best TVs can do a litany of wonderful things, from stunning picture quality at huge sizes to built-in smart features. But one thing we know, almost universally, that isn't wonderful about most TVs is their built-in sound.

This is why we often recommend adding a separate soundbar system because it's one of the best and most affordable ways to drastically improve your TV's audio situation, especially if you can't afford a set of speakers or a full surround sound configuration.

Fortunately, most TV companies and several noteworthy audio brands also make soundbars.

Designed as a quick plug-and-play solution for TVs of all sizes, soundbars contain multiple speaker drivers. While most models are great at delivering an enhanced stereo experience, there are some soundbars that will actually simulate 5.1 and 7.1 systems. Heck, some can even provide Dolby Atmos virtualizations.

Whether it’s your first time buying an audio component for your TV or you want to upgrade an existing soundbar or speaker system you already own, we’ve put together this roundup of the best soundbars for 2024.

The Samsung Q-Series 11.1.4-channel surround sound system set up in a luxurious living room.
Samsung

Samsung HW-Q990C wireless Dolby Atmos Soundbar

The best soundbar for most people

Pros
  • Great sound for movies and music
  • Impressive volume capabilities
  • Clear dialog
  • Immersive Dolby Atmos experience
Cons
  • No support for HDMI 2.1
  • A bit expensive

Talk about a soundbar kit that ticks all the boxes, the Q990C is Samsung's premium 2023 flagship, replacing the also great Samsung HW-990B, which we have reviewed and love, too. Its price tag may be north of $1,000, but we think it's worth it.

The Q990C is some top-of-the-line tech right here. It's an out-of-the-box, wireless Dolby Atmos/DTS:X surround sound solution that comes with the soundbar, two wireless surround speakers, and a wireless subwoofer. The 11.1.4 channel system includes four up-firing channels for a real Atmos sound comparable to a receiver-and-speaker-based system. Not only does the Q990C pump out some serious volume for movies and TV, but it's no slouch with music either, with big, balanced and clear sound.

Clear sound is also one of its calling cards for movie watching, especially if you're fed up with not being able to hear dialog clearly. The soundbar's Adaptive Voice Amplifier feature "breaks down room noise," Samsung says, to optimize dialog, while its Adaptive Sound feature scans each scene in real time to enhance dialog from movies, sports, and other programming. Its Built-in SpaceFit Sound Pro room correction feature also ensures the Q990C sound its best no matter your room's shape or size.

Just as with the HW-Q990B, you get two HDMI inputs (sadly, no HDMI 2.1, though) with 4K/HDR10+ passthrough (though notably, not Dolby Vision), so even if your TV's HDMI ports are full or it doesn't support Dolby Atmos, you're covered — just plug a streaming device or game console into the soundbar and you've got the best sound and video on tap.

If your TV is also a recent Samsung model, you get the benefit of wireless Dolby Atmos (no need to run an HDMI cable to the TV) and Q-Symphony, which lets the TV's speakers augment the soundbar instead of sitting there unused.

With Wi-Fi connectivity, Apple AirPlay 2, and Alexa built-in (plus Bluetooth, naturally), there are plenty of ways to stream music to this system.

As we said, the Samsung HW-Q990C is the full package, out of the box, and is a great choice for most people. However, if the $1,400 price tag is a bit hard to swallow, take a look at its slightly less feature and driver rich sibling, the sub $1,000 Samsung HW-Q930C instead.

SAMSUNG HW-Q990C 11.1.4ch Soundbar w/Wireless Dolby Audio
Samsung HW-Q990C wireless Dolby Atmos Soundbar
The best soundbar for most people
sonos arc review dolby atmos soundbar 3
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Sonos Arc

Best expandable Dolby Atmos soundbar

Pros
  • Excellent surround sound
  • Easy and simple setup
  • Decent Dolby Atmos from a single speaker
  • Choice of Alexa or Google Assistant
Cons
  • No HDMI inputs
  • Not ideal for all music genres

Apart from Sonos' recent headaches on account of a not-so-great update to its once-bulletproof Sonos app, the Sonos Arc is still one of the best soundbars you can buy.

It's incredibly easy to set up and use, it provides great sound, and it seamlessly incorporates itself into your larger network of whole-home Sonos sound. With all of that packed in, it would have been easy for Dolby Atmos to be an afterthought.

Quite the contrary, as it turns out. The Arc uses up-firing drivers to re-create Dolby Atmos sound, adding a solid sense of 3D space to action films, sports, and more. On its own the Arc is impressive, but you can easily expand its home theater capabilities by adding other Sonos speakers as surround satellites, such as a pair of Play Ones, the excellent Era 300 or, now, a pair of Sonos' just-released Sonos Ace headphones that work exclusively with the Arc (for now) to pipe Dolby Atmos spatial audio sound from the Arc to them.

Plus, you can also grow the system later by adding a sub, like the magnificent — if very expensive — Sonos Sub and the new, smaller Sub Mini. HDMI eARC connectivity makes the Arc a breeze to add to your TV and set up.

The Sonos Arc is also a smart speaker, with three choices of voice assistant: the bare-bones but super useful Sonos Voice Control for Sonos-only functions, plus Alexa and Google Assistant, which can control Sonos products and much more, too.

Additionally, the Sonos Arc is terrific for listening to music. The Sonos app gives you an incredible amount of control over the Arc (and any other Sonos speakers in your home), with access to all kinds of music streaming services, including Dolby Atmos Music tracks, which sound unreal on the Arc, especially if you were to add those Era 100s or Era 300s to the mix.

All around, the Sonos Arc will take your TV to the next level and deliver a fantastic music-listening setup as well.

Honorable mention: If the Sonos ecosystem isn't your thing, Bose's latest flagship, the Smart Ultra Soundbar, is a great alternative from a company with more years of top-tier audio excellence than most. It's the same price as the Sonos Arc, sports Dolby Atmos, has up-firing drivers for that immersive all-arounfd effect, and features an AI-driven dialogue mode. The Bose SimpleSync feature also lets you connect to other Bose speakers and headphones you have in your house.

Sonos Arc
Sonos Arc
Best expandable Dolby Atmos soundbar
vizio elevate soundbar review
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Vizio Elevate 5.1.4 Home Theater Soundbar

The best Dolby Atmos for under $1,000

Pros
  • Simple setup, clear chart showing connections
  • Wonderfully unique design
  • Deep control over sound output levels
  • Exceptionally clear dialogue
Cons
  • Effects dependent on room
  • Costly

Vizio appears several times on this list, and for good reason. The company has a huge (though sometimes confusing) array of soundbars at a variety of prices for every budget and room size. The Elevate is the company's flagship and it deserves serious consideration by anyone who wants an elegantly designed and powerful sound system for their TV.

The Elevate's signature feature is its rotating speaker modules. They sit at the ends of the soundbar and rotate from front-firing to up-firing whenever Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content is being played. When combined with the up-firing drivers embedded in the surround speakers, you get four height channels, for overhead sound effects that get surprisingly close to the more expensive Samsung HW-Q990B. Better yet, all of those 5.1.4 channels are individually controllable, so you can easily tune the speakers to your space.

The included wireless subwoofer has a generous eight-inch driver and can reach as low as 30Hz, and has enough power to rattle your windows, even if it can't quite compare to the dedicated powered subs you'll find on more expensive component systems.

With two HDMI inputs and an HDMI ARC/eARC output, there's no problem with being able to attach external media sources, and Bluetooth is on tap for streaming music from your phone. The only thing missing is Wi-Fi, so there's no support for high-quality audio streaming from music services, no compatibility with AirPlay, Chromecast, or Amazon Alexa, and no multi-room audio.

Still, for the price, it's very hard to beat the Elevate for pure TV and movie immersion. The only thing that comes close is Vizio's own M-Series Elevate, which is $200 cheaper and lacks the flagship Elevate's rear up-firing drivers.

Vizio Elevate Soundbar
Vizio Elevate 5.1.4 Home Theater Soundbar
The best Dolby Atmos for under $1,000
nakamichi dragon surround system review reviewnakamichi
Zeke Jones/Digital Trends

Nakamichi Dragon 11.4.6 surround sound system

Best no-holds-barred, money-is-no-object soundbar

Pros
  • Supremely clean highs
  • Crystal-clear dialogue
  • Massively powerful
  • Seamless surround effects/object placement
  • Ridiculously fun
Cons
  • Lack of separate LFE and bass control
  • OSD could use better integration

Call it the dragon's egg at the end of this best soundbars list, call it the beast that'll burn a hole right through your wallet, call it what you want but whatever you do, don't call the Nakamichi Dragon surround sound system for the faint of heart. We'll try our best to describe it here, but it's worth taking a few minutes for Caleb's Denison's video review, or watch him put it head to head with a Sonos Arc system to get the bigger picture about this $3,900 11.4.6 surround sound system.

First, though, the basics: the Nakamichi Dragon consists of a massive 58-inch soundbar unit that weighs around 40 pounds and features 14 speakers and seven digital amplifiers. There are two 9-pound wireless surround sound speakers each with five drivers (side, rear, and up-firing), and two wireless subwoofers, each with two 8-inch drivers in them. Yeah, the total system output is 3,000 watts peaking at 125 decibels. Translation: loud.

The Nakamichi Dragon excels in volume, clarity, precision, soundstage, and just about every other audio-related term used to say "it sounds incredible" for both music and movies. But where it shines is in its abilities as a surround system, with support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Through auditioning several surround sound examples, Denison noted the Dragon's ability to immerse him in cavernous reverbs and pinpoint-accurate object placement around the room — sounds even seem to originate from places in the room where there are no speakers. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand (depending on the sound mix, of course), and explosive rumble comes with ease form the Dragon's woofers.

Setup and calibration, while not for newbies, is pretty straightforward and id guided by a well-designed on-screen display that lets you select room size, EQing for games, movies, and more, as well as advanced calibration tools to get the system perfectly tuned for your uses.

Could you assemble a comparable system for less money? Of course you could. The $2,600 Sonos system (Arc soundbar, two Era 300s, one Sonos Sub), Denison compares the Dragon to in his video is roughly the same price (if you add a second Sub like the Dragon has, it's $3,400), and there are obviously full Atmos receiver/speaker setups you could get into for less. But if you've got the money and are a little more serious about your home theater audio, few can compete with the impact and clarity of the Dragon at this price.

Nakamichi DRAGON 11.4.6 Home Surround Sound System
Nakamichi Dragon 11.4.6 surround sound system
Best no-holds-barred, money-is-no-object soundbar
vizio m series all in one soundbar review 2022 m213ad k8 aio sound bar
Riley Young / Digital Trends

Vizio M-Series AiO

Best soundbar under $200

Pros
  • Great fidelity for the price
  • Excellent dialogue clarity
  • Wide soundstage
  • Ample bass
  • Good dynamics
Cons
  • No perceived Dolby Atmos effects

When you get right down to it, people buy soundbars because they want better sound from their TV, but they're not interested in all of the convoluted wiring, settings, or the expense involved in going with a full home theater system. And when it comes to delivering on that goal for the least amount of money, Vizio's 2023 M-Series AiO is a slam-dunk.

It starts with a single speaker, which is compact and understated — no flashy metal finishes or exposed drivers — just an elegant trapezoid wrapped in dark gray fabric. Getting it connected is a cinch — just plug it into your TV using the included HDMI cable, or you can use your own optical cable. That's it.

The included remote makes it easy to control (or thanks to HDMI eARC, you can control it with your TV remote), and if you own a Vizio TV, all of the key settings will be merged into your TV's on-screen menus, which is a great addition, and something you rarely see on any soundbar regardless of price.

The M-Series' audio chops are impressive, especially the bass response, which surprised our reviewer Caleb Denison with its power. In his estimation, it's better than what many cheaply-built wireless subwoofers offer, so you won't miss that extra black box at all. Dialog in movies is crisp and clear, so you won't be leaning across to your friends and family to whisper, "What did she just say?"

You get an HDMI input, and the M-Series has a special trick up its sleeve for folks who want to wall-mount it. Sensors inside automatically reconfigure the tuning of the drivers to ensure you get the best sound, even when the speaker is oriented with its top facing you.

There's only one real caveat with the M-Series AiO: Despite being labeled as Dolby Atmos-capable, our reviewer wasn't able to discern much in the way of a 3D sound experience when listening to Atmos content. Is it a deal-breaker? No — at this price, we don't expect any Dolby Atmos soundbar will perform significantly better. If Dolby Atmos on a budget is your goal, check out the Vizio M-Series 5.1 soundbar (M51a-H6/M51ax-J6) farther down on this list.

VIZIO M-Series All-in-One 2.1 (M213ad-K8)
Vizio M-Series AiO
Best soundbar under $200
bose smart soundbar 600 review 00006
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Bose Smart Soundbar 600

The best small soundbar

Pros
  • Easy setup
  • Excellent Atmos for its size
  • Clear and engaging dialog
  • AirPlay and Chromecast
  • Good music quality
Cons
  • No HDMI inputs
  • Smart speaker is Alexa-only
  • Limited in-app music services

When compared to Sonos, Bose still has a ways to go when it comes to multiroom sound and streaming music service integration, but thanks to the 600's built-in up-firing height drivers, it's the best small speaker for movies and TV — especially if Dolby Atmos is involved.

Bass and dialog clarity are two especially bright spots for the Smart Soundbar 600, but it's the sheer size of the speaker's soundstage that you notice the most. It projects sound upward, outward, and to the sides so effectively, you'll swear there are additional speakers in your room. If the effect isn't powerful enough, you can add the real deal — the 600 is compatible with two models of wireless Bose subwoofers and two models of wireless Bose surround speakers.

Like its predecessor, the Smart Soundbar 300, and the Sonos Beam Gen 2, the 600 can act as a smart speaker, but only using Amazon's Alexa AI. Google Assistant is still compatible, but it's no longer built-in. However, you do get Chromecast in addition to AirPlay and Bluetooth, making the Smart Soundbar 600 a better streaming choice for Android users than Sonos (AirPlay only).

The Smart Soundbar 600 also has a feature that's custom-tailored to bedrooms: You can connect any compatible Bose headphones over Bluetooth for private listening.

Honorable mentions: If keeping things tight and tidy under your TV is a priority, we can suggest a few more soundbars on the smaller side, including the Sonos Beam Gen 2, a Dolby Atmos-capable soundbar thats's great if you're looking to build or expand a multiroom wireless audio system; the Sony HT-S2000, which excels at Dolby Atmos sound for around the same price; and the Polk MagniFi Mini AX, a tiny Dolby Atmos/DTS:X soundbar the deliver clear dialogue and comes with a powerful subwoofer for under $500.

Bose Smart Soundbar 600
Bose Smart Soundbar 600
The best small soundbar
sennheiser ambeo soundbar plus review 00019
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus

Best Dolby Atmos sound from a single speaker

Pros
  • Fantastic 3D sound
  • Lots of connections
  • Built-in room tuning
  • Up to 4 wireless subs/1 wired sub
  • AirPlay/Chromecast/Tidal Connect
  • Alexa built-in
  • Dolby Atmos/DTS:X
  • Sony 360/MPEG-H
Cons
  • Still expensive
  • Only HDMI 2.0a
  • Relies heavily on mobile app
  • Weird Alexa integration

If you want to get the most immersive and powerful sound possible from a soundbar — with no subwoofers or extra surround speakers — the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus is without equal. Its secret sauce is the Ambeo digital signal processing that Sennheiser pioneered with its first soundbar, the recently renamed Ambeo Soundbar Max.

You can think of Ambeo as a turbo-charger for immersive, 3D audio. Using the Soundbar Plus' nine drivers and amps, it projects sound around even large rooms in such a way that you become convinced there must be speakers hiding behind your furniture or in your ceiling. It truly brings Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and even two-channel stereo to life in a way that is nothing short of mesmerizing. To get even close to this effect, most soundbars need to add additional surround speakers, and even then, they don't always succeed.

With two HDMI 2.0a inputs (plus optical and analog ports) and an HDMI 2.1 ARC/eARC input/output, there's no need to give up ports on your TV. And with the option to use Sennheiser's wireless Ambeo subs (up to four) or your own wired subwoofer, you're not locked in to a specific accessory for low-end power. Its support for AirPlay, Chromecast, and Bluetooth means you're free to stream music to the bar from any device you own. And if you want to use it as a smart speaker, Amazon Alexa is built-in and can be turned on at any time.

At $1,500, it's one of the more expensive soundbars. And despite being able to add it to Google Home or Amazon Alexa, it's not a great choice for multiroom sound. But when you take into account its remarkable performance as an Atmos speaker, it's worth every penny.

Honorable mentions: If you're looking specifically for a Sennheiser, a more powerful (but considerably larger and more expensive) option is the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Max. Alternately, we can recommend the Sony HT-A7000, another one of Sony's capable soundbars that, for the same price range as the Ambeo, features Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, sounds great for music as well as movies and TV (with clear dialogue), and support for Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and Alexa.

Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar Plus
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus
Best Dolby Atmos sound from a single speaker
sony ht a5000 review 00022
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Sony HT-A5000

The best for music and gaming

Pros
  • 8K-ready HDMI input
  • Excellent movie and music sound
  • Easy on-screen setup
  • Tons of connection options
  • Hi-res, Sony 360RA, and DTS:X
Cons
  • No EQ adjustments
  • Some settings are buried
  • Poor integration of music services

If you're looking for a soundbar that can do a terrific job with movie and TV audio as well as advanced music playback, we think the Sony HT-A5000 is the speaker to beat.

It starts with a very well-appointed (if somewhat plainly styled) soundbar, that packs its own built-in subwoofer. That driver is powerful enough that unless you're looking to shake your fillings loose, you probably don't need a dedicated sub. Sony's virtual surround technology does a very good job creating an immersive sound field when listening to Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content, but it does a surprisingly good job upscaling regular two-channel content too. But the A5000's secret sauce lies in its connections and audio compatibility.

With Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in, and Bluetooth (send and receive), it doesn't matter what kind of device you're holding in your hand — you'll be able to stream its audio content in the highest possible quality to the A5000. Better yet, Sony has included support for a huge variety of audio formats and qualities, from the lowliest MP3 files all the way up to hi-res 24-bit/96kHz FLAC and DSD tracks. You can play these files from a USB storage device, your home network, or virtually any streaming service that supports HD audio like Tidal, Amazon Music, or Apple Music. Want to explore the worlds of Dolby Atmos Music and Sony 360 Reality Audio (360RA)? The A5000 has you covered there too.

Even Bluetooth — normally the lowest-quality wireless audio link — has received an upgrade in the form of LDAC codec support. When connected to an LDAC-capable phone (mostly Android handsets), you'll get audio fidelity that almost rivals Wi-Fi.

That support for high-quality audio extends to the A5000's HDMI input. It can passthrough 8K and Dolby Vision, which is awesome for future-proofing, and with 4K @120Hz it's a good choice for gaming too. But it's even better news for those whose TVs don't support HDMI eARC: You'll still be able to get the very best, lossless version of Dolby Atmos by plugging your Blu-ray player or Nvidia Shield TV into the soundbar directly, thereby avoiding the down-conversion that some older TVs will do to Dolby Atmos content.

Add to this Sony's excellent on-screen menus and setup process, auto-room calibration, and tight integration with Sony Bravia TVs and you've got a soundbar that easily justifies its admittedly high $1,000 price. The only thing we wish Sony had included is the ability to adjust the HT-A5000's sound EQ parameters.

Sony HT-A5000 Dolby Atmos Soundbar
Sony HT-A5000
The best for music and gaming
vizio m series 51 soundbar review m51a h6 5 1
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Vizio M-Series 5.1 soundbar (M51a-H6/M51ax-J6)

The best budget soundbar

Pros
  • eARC, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X support
  • Impressive subwoofer
  • Seamless surround effects
  • Comprehensive control
  • Excellent fidelity
Cons
  • One HDMI input
  • Less suitable for larger rooms

The Vizio M-Series looks like a typical soundbar at 36 inches in length, and its 6-inch wireless subwoofer looks like many others. But what helps this model stand apart is its more reasonable price and its versatility.

If you have a medium-to-large room, you can place the subwoofer toward the rear of the space which lets you position the wired surround modules behind the viewing area. But if you've got a smaller space, you can put the sub near the front — the M-Series will automatically calibrate the system to give you the best sound possible.

But that's putting the cart before the horse. The M-Series sounds amazing, with clear highs and mids for dialog, and precise bass response. With support for both virtualized Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual:X, you may not get quite the jaw-dropping overhead sounds that you'll find with up-firing soundbars like the Arc or the Ambeo, but it's a much more immersive experience than a traditional 5.1 setup.

Because of its HDMI eARC port, the M-Series can support much higher bandwidth, lossless hi-res audio when connected to a compatible TV. An extra HDMI input means that you're not forced to give up an input on your TV.

There's also the usual complement of connections, including Bluetooth, optical in, and a USB port for removable drive-based audio files.

The only real caveat with the M-Series is the lack of Wi-Fi. This means you can't stream music to it via AirPlay or Chromecast, and it can't be controlled via voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. But that one aspect notwithstanding, the Vizio M-Series is an outstanding choice for anyone who wants fun, room-filling surround sound without breaking the bank.

Vizio M-Series 5.1 soundbar (M51a-H6)
Vizio M-Series 5.1 soundbar (M51a-H6/M51ax-J6)
The best budget soundbar
klipsch flexus core 200 review 00021
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Klipsch Flexus Core 200

Best single-speaker soundbar under $800

Pros
  • Fabulous sound
  • Striking levels of bass
  • Easy setup
  • Wired subwoofer output
  • Backlit remote
Cons
  • No Wi-Fi
  • Slightly tame height channels
  • Can't save settings per input

If you’re looking for a great Dolby Atmos soundbar that won’t cost you more than $1,000, your sights should be set on the Klipsch Flexus Core 200. Not only is this a phenomenal soundbar on its own but when you add a Flexus Sub 100 and Flexus Surr 100 rear speakers to your setup, you’ll have a complete Flexus surround system. Of course, these are optional add-ons.

What we’d really like to rave about is how much power the Flexus Core 200 packs. Rated at 185 watts, we were blown away by how large of the soundbar is for the price. Even without a subwoofer, the Flexus Core 200 delivers a ridiculous amount of bass, on top of excellent dialogue clarity and decent height-channel virtualization. No, it doesn’t touch the output of a true Atmos system, but it’s far more than just a traditional stereo sound enhancer.

The Klipsch Connect app is another great addition to the Flexus Core 200 package. Intuitive from one screen to the next, you’ll be able to do everything from EQ customization to volume controls and surround speaker configuration. And while the Flexus Core 200 is equipped with an HDMI eARC port and digital optical, there’s no way to connect the Flexus to the internet. This just means that you’ll need to do all your wireless music streaming via Bluetooth.

Klipsch Flexus CORE 200
Klipsch Flexus Core 200
Best single-speaker soundbar under $800
zvox accuvoice av157 tv speaker review featured
Zvox

Zvox AV157 TV Speaker

The best for dialog enhancement

Pros
  • Small footprint
  • Easy connections and setup
  • Super-clear and adjustable dialog
Cons
  • Expensive for a small speaker
  • No wireless connections for music

The AV157 packs six levels of Zvox's AccuVoice technology for speech enhancement and an additional six levels of its SuperVoice tech for a huge range of assistance for those who are hearing-impaired or who just struggle to separate speech from other sounds.

The 12 levels of AccuVoice and SuperVoice determine how pronounced this effect is. At its most powerful, the AV157 can deliver speech so clear and precise, it's almost painful. But for those who suffer from hearing loss, it will be a pleasure.

But better dialog is only the beginning. The AV157 is also a surprisingly capable movie and music speaker too. Turn on the surround sound mode and it does a decent job with all kinds of immersive soundtracks.

Bass performance doesn't quite measure up to full-size soundbars, but it's solid and well-balanced. Should you want to get a bit more rumble, you can add an external wired subwoofer using the analog sub-woofer output.

Connections are modest: You can use an optical cable or an analog cable to connect the AV157 to your TV, and there's no Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. But this keeps things simple and you won't have to give up an HDMI port just to get better sound from your TV.

The included remote is also a simple but effective device, with large, easy-to-press, and clearly labeled buttons.

If you're tired of relying on subtitles to understand what your favorite actors are saying, the Zvox AV157 is a perfect TV companion.

Zvox AV157 TV Speaker
Zvox AV157 TV Speaker
The best for dialog enhancement
sonos ray review 00005
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Sonos Ray

Most versatile budget soundbar

Pros
  • Compact for versatile placement
  • Impressive sound for its size
  • Expandable to a full 5.1 system
  • Easy setup and control
Cons
  • Pricey for a small soundbar
  • Lacks a bit of midrange detail

So you've wanted to get into Sonos for your TV room, but your room's a bit too small for the big sound and bigger price of its flagship Sonos Arc (on our list above) or even the middle-tier Beam (2nd gen). In 2022 Sonos finally addressed this need and launched the Sonos Ray, and while it's still more pricey than some of the choices on our list, this is Sonos we're talking about, and should you choose, the Ray can either add to your existing multi-room Sonos system or be the beginning of one.

Similar in size and look to the Beam, the Ray comes in black and white finishes and looks sharp anywhere, and it can also be wall-mounted with a bracket you can get from Sonos.

Setup is signature Sonos simple, and once it is it's easy to control with the excellent Sonos app, which you can use to control volume, EQing, and grouping with other Sonos speakers. There are also touch controls on the top of the soundbar, too.

While the Sonos Ray isn't a Dolby Atmos soundbar like its Beam (2nd gen) and Arc siblings, optical connectivity to your TV allows for Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Digital Surround, if and when you want to expand your system with, for example, a Sonos Sub Mini and a pair of Sonos Era 100s or Sonos Ones as rear surrounds.

And it kind of goes without saying that it sounds good, too, with our reviewer Simon Cohen praising its ability to deliver big low-end and mids, as well as clear highs, perfect for sound effects in movies such as whizzing bullets, screeching tires, and barking dogs. Music, Cohen says, sounds equally good, and, as per all Sonos speakers, you get access to all your streaming services like Tidal, Spotify, Apple Music, and more.

Sonos Ray
Sonos Ray
Most versatile budget soundbar
apple homepod 2 review 2023
Zeke Jones / Digital Trends

Apple HomePod (2nd Gen)

Best soundbar alternative for Apple TV fans

Pros
  • Great sound quality
  • Incredible bass performance
  • Dazzling Spatial Audio surround
  • Plug and Play wireless
  • Slick design
Cons
  • Limited connection options
  • No direct Spotify playback

HomePod, the little Apple smart-speaker-that-could, made its triumphant return to store shelves early this year after the Cupertino company discontinued the original in 2021. It's an excellent-sounding speaker that has improved upon the original in a number of ways, it's packed with room-sensing tech that adapt the sound to basically anywhere you put it, and it's a top-notch smart speaker with Matter supportso it can work with and control all your home's connected smart devices, such as lights, thermostats, and more.

So why, you might ask, is a smart speaker included on our list of the best soundbars? Because, as our intrepid Editor-at-Large, Caleb Denison, discovered in his review, when you pair two 2nd-gen HomePods together and add a new Apple TV 4K, the combination easily competes with soundbars, including the Sonos Beam. So much so that Denison called the experience "downright magical."

And while there are definitely some differences between the more expensive HomePods + Apple TV 4K setup (roughly $750) and a $500 Sonos Beam (HDMI eARC is the big one missing from the HomePod), pairing a set of HomePods together offer not only excellent stereo sound separation when listening to movies (something that is harder to achieve with a soundbar), but Spatial Audio for movies and TV is amazing. "Dialogue is crystal clear and perfectly centered, sound effects are spacious and enveloping — I definitely got the impression there were more speakers in the room," Denison gushed. Even the bass surprised him for a two-channel system, and if you want for a system that also does music just as well (or maybe you want to explore Dolby Atmos Music tracks, too), a set of HomePods might be worth a look.

Apple HomePod 2023
Apple HomePod (2nd Gen)
Best soundbar alternative for Apple TV fans
The Sony HT-A9 home theater system set up on a counter.
Sony

Sony HT-A9

Best soundbar alternative for everyone

Pros
  • Incredible 360-degree Dolby Atmos sound
  • Spatial Sound Mapping auto-tunes to the room
  • Can place the speakers anywhere
  • "Phantom" sound can simulate up to 12 speakers
Cons
  • Doesn't come with the subwoofer
  • Expensive

As we mentioned, the Sony HT-A9 isn't a soundbar system at all, and its full name is the 360 Spatial Sound Mapping Dolby Atmos / DTS:X Home Theatre System. That's a mouthful, so let's break down why this $1,800 system is an extremely adaptive alternative to the traditional soundbar that you should consider if you can stomach the price.

First, the HT-A9 is kind of a new concept home theater system that consists of a set of four bookshelf-sized wireless speakers that each feature a mid driver, a dome tweeter, bass duct, an up-firing driver, and dual microphones. The brains of the system is a control box you place near the TV and connect using HDMI/HDMI eARC that then communicates wirelessly with the four speakers.

The magic happens when the speakers, using Sony's Sound Field Optimization, measure the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the room to optimize the sound, regardless of the furniture or other objects in the room. Spatial Sound Mapping then creates an incredible sounding 360-degree bubble of sound that can simulate up to 12 "phantom" speakers that Caleb Denison says "will have you swearing that you have speakers where speakers do not exist."

In fact, the phantom speakers do such a good job at simulating the center-channel speaker that make the sound feel as though it's coming right out of your TV, with dialogue coming in clear and highly audible. But, an added perk for owners of some Sony TVs is that the HT-A9 can use the TVs speakers as the center speaker channel. But even if you don't have a Sony TV, the sound is still, Caleb says, "magic."

It is a bit pricey, though, and Caleb does recommend adding a Sony subwoofer to the system, but if you want something a little different, and the flexibility of being able to place the four wireless speakers wherever you need or want (like, if you have a weirdly-shaped or challenging room), then the Sony HT-A9 home theater system might be a good option for you.

Sony HT-A9 7.1.4-Channel High-Performance Home Theater Speaker System
Sony HT-A9
Best soundbar alternative for everyone

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are soundbars so popular?

They offer a small footprint, they’re affordable and easy to set up, and they sound much better than the speakers built into most TVs.

How do soundbars work?

Virtually all modern soundbars connect to your TV via digital connection either with an optical or HDMI cable. The latter is generally preferred for TVs with HDMI ARC or eARC, as it allows for better sound and control of basic functionality with your TV remote. For Dolby Atmos, an HDMI connection is a prerequisite.

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, many come with mounting brackets in the box, but almost all have optional wall-mount solutions you can buy later.

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.

What about Wi-Fi and Bluetooth?

Most new soundbars do have this sort of wireless functionality. This typically allows you to stream music from your smartphone or home network directly to the soundbar. If a soundbar is also a smart speaker (e.g. Sonos Arc, Bose Soundbar 700) it will be Wi-Fi equipped.

Wi-Fi is generally preferable to Bluetooth for music streaming as its higher bandwidth supports higher quality formats like lossless FLAC, ALAC, WAV, and others. See the above question for wireless functionality with your TV or receiver.

Do soundbars always have a separate subwoofer?

No, not always. Some are built without them purposefully to save space. If they contain built-in subwoofers they can still deliver surprisingly strong bass, but most rely on a wired (or wireless) subwoofer for low-frequency sound.

Do soundbars support Alexa? Google Assistant? Siri?

Yes, but in slightly different ways. Some soundbars can double as smart speakers. The Sonos and Bose family of soundbars give you a choice of Google Assistant or Alexa, with the former also allowing you to use Sonos' Voice Control.

Soundbars can also be voice assistant-compatible, which means that you'll be able to use one or more voice assistants to control the soundbar if you already own a smart speaker or some other way to issue voice commands. Several soundbars can be added to Apple HomeKit, which lets you control them via Siri.

Still other soundbars, like Vizio's family of products, have dedicated smart speaker inputs so you can wire a Google Nest Mini or Amazon Echo into the soundbar. This lets the soundbar understand when you are trying to talk to your assistant, and it can lower the speaker volume automatically while letting you hear the assistant via the higher-quality soundbar.

Does Apple make a soundbar?

No, but Apple's HomePod Mini its resurrected 2nd Gen HomePod can act as soundbar replacements if you also own an Apple TV 4K. You can set up a set of HomePods as a stereo pair, which sounds amazing and might just be a good soundbar alternative.

Editors' Recommendations

Derek Malcolm

Derek Malcolm is a Toronto-based technology journalist, editor, and content specialist whose work has appeared in publications such as Toronto Life, Canadian Business, The Globe and Mail, Business Insider, Today's Parent, and The Huffington Post. Derek has been covering the worlds of technology and entertainment for more than 20 years and is currently a Contributing Editor for the AV and Home Theater section at Digital Trends. When he's not obsessing over turntables, projectors, speakers, vintage audio gear, or what movies and shows to binge, Derek can be found at home spinning vinyl with his daughter.

Simon Cohen

Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like spatial audio, whole-home music systems, wireless earbuds and headphones, 4K HDR TVs, and soundbars. He has written for Ozy.com, Mobilesyrup, Driving.ca, and VentureBeat, and appeared as a guest tech expert on international TV and radio programs, including BBC Radio, CTV News Channel, and CBC Radio. He is currently a full-time contributor to Digital Trends' Audio/Video section.

Michael Bizzaco

Michael Bizzaco has been writing about and working with consumer tech for well over a decade, writing about everything from A/V components and smart home devices to encryption software, cloud backup platforms, search engine tools, and more. He has written for Digital Trends for over three years, covering entertainment content, A/V, and smart home devices.

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