Soundbar & TV speaker buying guide: Everything you need to know

Soundbar? Soundbase? Sound ... system? All your home theater options, explained

Flat-panel TVs deliver a great picture, but few deliver audio to match. Whether you want more explosive sound or simply need help hearing dialogue, there are several available speaker solutions to meet your needs. Options stretch from easy to install soundbars and soundbases to more complicated set-ups with powered speakers and home theater-in-a-box systems. Our TV speaker buying guide will clearly set out all the options you can choose from to get the best sound for your TV.


Samsung HW-K950
A soundbar is the most common type of supplementary sound solution. They are available with or without subwoofers for enhanced bass, and some even come with satellite speakers for true surround sound. Soundbars are the easiest devices to connect to your TV because they require very few cables. Along with their easy installation, soundbars look handsome beneath your TV, whether on an entertainment stand or mounted to the wall. Simple bars like the AmazonBasics SB210 offer great 2-channel sound for under $100, or you could spend more than $1,000 for a Dolby Atmos Soundbar which offers a powerful cinematic experience.


Sony HT-XT2 2.1 Channel Sound Base with Bluetooth

Another option similar to the soundbar is a soundbase — a platform-style speaker meant to fit beneath a TV or act as the TV’s stand. They can provide a good amount of bass, since there’s more room within their cabinet, and you can add a subwoofer to some models for even heavier-hitting sound. Since soundbases tend to be narrower, they offer less stereo separation than many soundbars, but most will still fill your room and make dialogue easier to understand.

Powered speakers

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If you want a little more audio punch, or just a more visible speaker system, powered speakers are the way to go. Powered speakers, often referred to as computer speakers or multimedia speakers, are self-amplified speakers that often require a bit more wiring to connect, but the payoff will be worth it. Typical powered speaker arrangements range from two-speaker solutions to full surround sound systems. Generally, you get what you pay for in this category, and the bigger the speaker, the bigger the sound. These solutions tend to be fine for smaller rooms like bedrooms or compact living areas, but they aren’t always ideal for larger spaces.

Compact home theater system

tv speaker buying guide

The last option is a compact home theater system. You may not have a multi-thousand dollar home theater, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have similar sound quality. Compact home theater systems usually comprise a set of speakers and a separate, compact amplifier. These systems, sometimes called home theater in a box (HTIB), offer big sound at an affordable price. You will probably have to buy the cables and wires you will need if they aren’t included, and be prepared to take a little more time with installation.

Whether you need something simple and compact, or big and bombastic, there’s a TV sound solution for you.

This video tutorial featured the AmazonBasics SB210 sound bar, the Samsung HW-K950/ZA sound bar, the Sonos Playbase, the Onkyo HT-S5800 Home Theater Package, the Edifier Luna Eclipse speakers, and the Yamaha YAS-706 sound bar.