This article was last updated by Digital Trends staff writer Nick Woodard on 9/21/2020.
Of the endless waves of soundbars we’ve reviewed, the Sennheiser Ambeo is the best. Why? Because it’s a one-stop shop for incredible sound when playing a wide variety of content, including music, movies, and especially Dolby Atmos content. It’s far from cheap, but it’s one of the few high-end soundbars that’s worth every dollar.
That’s not to say it’s the only soundbar out there worth your hard-earned cash, though. Far from it, in fact. We’ve stocked this list with multiple other recommendations for you to check out, separated by the areas in which they best excel, so you’ll have plenty of options to find the right soundbar for your setup and preferred media.
Best soundbars at a glance
- Best soundbar: Sennheiser Ambeo
- Best value soundbar: Yamaha YAS-209
- Best soundbar for Dolby Atmos: Sonos Arc
- Best soundbar for music: Bose Soundbar 700
- Best soundbar with Alexa/Google Assistant: Sonos Beam
- Best budget soundbar: Vizio V Series 5.1 soundbar
- Best soundbar for dialogue: Zvox AV200
Why should you buy it? It delivers powerful Dolby Atmos surround sound and high-end audio from a single (massive) bar.
Who’s it for? Those with plenty to spend who are looking for virtual Atmos, future-proofing, and high-end audio performance.
Why we picked the Sennheiser Ambeo:
Sitting at the exact opposite of the spectrum from Vizio’s SB36514-G6 is Sennheiser’s massive monstrosity of a bar, which offers incredible performance at a price to match. Sure, it’s got a crazy price tag, but if you’ve got to have the latest in home theater technology — and you want a thrilling Atmos experience without all the speakers and wires — the Ambeo is your new bar of choice.
Using Sennheiser’s acorn-to-oak Ambeo technology, the soundbar creates a vibrant swell of Atmos sound (along with multiple other 3D audio formats) right from your TV console. This isn’t just a bar, it’s a whole-home sound solution, offering three HDMI inputs bearing the latest in eARC technology and supporting all major HDR formats for a future-proofed way to match that marquee TV with a marquee sound unit. One warning — this bar will cover up your TV screen, so you’ll want to mount at least your TV.
When it comes to performance, the Ambeo is an incredible experience for cinematic audio, TV, and music, while auto-calibration and a slick and intuitive interface help you run the show with very few hangups. The system does depend on your room itself for its surround immersion, bouncing sound off walls as well as ceilings, so it’s difficult to hear sound fully behind you in many setups. Still, what this bar does with virtual surround is near-magical, while its high-end speakers and impressive interface (including a loaded app) make for a luxurious experience.
For cheaper, but considerably less effective virtual Atmos sound, the Sony HT-G700 is a good bar to consider on a budget. It’s a good-sounding system, but it doesn’t approach the quality of the Ambeo. For the $2000 difference in cost between the two, that’s to be expected.
Read our in-depth Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar review
Why should you buy it? The YAS-209 offers excellent sound quality and tons of features for an unbelievably low price.
Who’s it for? Those who want the best sound and diverse features, including voice assistance, for a very reasonable price.
Why we picked the Yamaha YAS-209:
It’s hard to beat a bar as versatile and feature-packed as Yamaha’s YAS-207 — it really is the total package. But Yamaha added some impressive upgrades for its latest model, the 209, including Amazon Alexa built-in. These improvements, along with all of the other features we loved about Yamaha’s value-leading soundbar, make it the perfect complement to a reasonably priced 4K television. In fact, one of the only features this bar doesn’t have that we wish it did is Dolby Vision HDR pass-through for its extra HDMI input. It supports only HDR10, but at this price, that’s not unexpected.
When it comes to sound quality, the YAS-209 is just like the 207: Extremely impressive for the money. The bar boasts 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 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 solid performance no matter what you send its way. The bar supports both Dolby Digital and DTS Virtual:X (though the latter tends to add an icy touch to the sound). It can also double as a Bluetooth speaker for streaming music from your smartphone, or get even better sound over Wi-Fi with features like Spotify Connect.
The YAS-209’s big sound profile comes from surprisingly compact components, with the soundbar itself easily disappearing on your TV console. In fact, most people probably won’t notice the soundbar at all. The included wireless subwoofer is equally demure, allowing you to tuck it away behind your screen. Yamaha’s YAS-209 is an excellent upgrade, offering more features in a stylish-yet-subtle device that will provide a handy and handsome accent to your setup.
Read our in-depth Yamaha YAS-209 review
Why should you buy it? It’s a thrilling combination of Sonos functionality and impeccable Dolby Atmos sound.
Who’s it for? Anyone looking for premium home theater sound wrapped in Sonos’ signature simplistic usability.
Why we picked the Sonos Arc
At the risk of sounding too sensational, the Sonos Arc embodies everything Sonos is about. 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 upfiring drivers to recreate Dolby Atmos sound, and while it doesn’t completely blow you away, the execution is incredibly effective. The Arc added a solid sense of 3D space with action-oriented films like Avengers: Endgame and Ford v. Ferrari, bringing the sounds of roaring cars and interplanetary battles to life in stunning form.
For full transparency, the LG SN11RG would be just as excellent of a pick for this category as the Arc, and possibly better for pure Atmos since it includes rear upfiring height channels as well. But we’ve given the Arc the win here for everything else it offers, and the far more affordable price it comes in at. That said, you can’t go wrong with either bar – they’re both going to instantly improve your movie nights, and bring the content you watch to life in remarkable detail.
As an additional option, the Samsung HW-Q800T would be a great alternative for a few bucks less, thanks to its included wireless subwoofer and Amazon Alexa integration.
Read our in-depth Sonos Arc review
Why should you buy it? It’s an elegant soundbar that handles music just as well as TV sound.
Who is it for? Anyone who intends to use their soundbar for streaming music in at least a part-time capacity.
Why we picked the Bose Soundbar 700
For years, Bose has tried to stay neck-and-neck with Sonos in an endless race of wireless smart speaker standouts. The Soundbar 700 is an impressive alternative to the Sonos Arc, making up for its lack of Dolby Atmos capabilities with music reproduction that most other soundbars haven’t come close to touching.
With tracks like Beck’s “Hyperspace” and The Who’s “Pinball Wizard”, the Soundbar 700 displayed its ability to add depth to music, and to project that sound all across the room it’s situated in. It’s such an experience, that the untrained ear might not realize that this kind of sound is only coming from a single speaker. Yeah, it’s that good.
You can stream music to the Soundbar 700 over Wi-Fi, as well as Apple’s AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth for Android devices. It can also be added to a family of wireless speakers for a multiroom music experience, in a very similar fashion to the whole-house system that first shot Sonos to stardom.
The Bose Music App has its share of quirks, but the Soundbar 700 has compatibility with music services like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, and several others, with the option of controlling your music from any other those audio apps directly. Whatever source you end up using to stream music to the Soundbar 700, rest assured. It’s undoubtedly going to send a masterful sound back your direction.
Read our in-depth Bose Soundbar 700 review
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 and Google Assistant — and potentially others in future updates — the Beam combines your 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 mantle, 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.
For bigger sound while still offering voice compatibility, Sonos’ Dolby Atmos-supported Arc would make an ideal, if significantly more expensive option.
Read our in-depth Sonos Beam review
Why should you buy it? The Vizio V Series provides good surround 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 V Series:
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 V Series in this category.
Vizio’s V Series soundbar system is a complete surround sound package. There is a wireless subwoofer and rear speakers included for a 5.1-channel setup — 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 this system. Frankly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more affordable, good-sounding surround system than the Vizio V Series.
There are some drawbacks to going with the budget pick. The V Series lacks Wi-Fi connectivity, and doesn’t have a particularly noteworthy center channel for dialogue-heavy content. Still, it features good sound overall, and checks the right boxes for folks hoping to enjoy surround sound without breaking the bank.
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 can 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 the 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 full-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?
- Are soundbars any good?
- How do soundbars work?
- Can soundbars be controlled by a TV remote?
- Can soundbars be mounted on a wall?
- Can soundbars be mounted above a TV?
- Are soundbars wireless?
- What about Wi-Fi and Bluetooth?
- Do soundbars always have a subwoofer?
- Do soundbars support Alexa? Google Assistant? Siri?
They offer a small footprint, they’re affordable and easy to set up, and they sound much better than TVs alone.
Some of them are, some of them aren’t. That’s why we recommend reading reviews and best-of lists like this one.
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.
Some of them can be, yes. See the above for information about HDMI ARC.
Yes, most come with mounting brackets.
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.
Some are, but they generally come with brand restrictions. The vast majority connect via HDMI or optical input.
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. See the above question for wireless functionality with your TV or receiver.
No, not always. Some are built without them purposefully to save space, but most rely on a subwoofer for low-frequency sound.
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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