Do you want a home theatre system without the expense and clutter of all those surround sound speakers?
If you answered yes, then you need a sound bar.
What exactly is a sound bar? Think of it as a middle ground bridging the gap between the built-in speakers of your television and the high-quality stereo of 5.1 surrounds.
Sound bars are small, portable, relatively inexpensive and easy to hook up. They eliminate the messy look that a lot of stereo speakers can produce, and they’re also a lot cheaper than having to buy a full sound system.
If you’re like me and listen to music through your TV, some soundbars also come with a separate subwoofer to ensure your bass tones come through loud and clear.
Sound bars aren’t for everyone, but if you’re looking to streamline your entertainment or don’t want the expense and hassle of setting up a surround sound system, a sound bar makes an excellent compromise.You may also like reading our Top 10 Best Home Bluetooth Speaker Reviews.
Things to Consider
As with any speaker system, there are several things you may want to keep in mind before you go out and buy. Depending on your individual preferences, not all of these points may be a concern, but they’re all worth noting just in case.
Like your television, soundbars can vary in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. When deciding how much you want to pay, consider the various features the soundbar offers and weigh it against how much you’re going to pay for those features.
Soundbars often correspond directly to the size of the television. As a general rule, the larger your television, the larger the soundbar needs to be. Smaller TVs work well with a 12” soundbar, but bigger models need better soundbars to match the sound adequately.
Another thing you need to consider is where you’re placing the soundbar. What does your television setup look like? Do you keep your TV on a stand, or is it wall-mounted? How and where you store your TV will influence not just where you put your soundbar, but how big it should be as well.
4. Wireless Compatibility
Many soundbars have built-in support for Bluetooth or other wireless technology. Not all soundbars enjoy compatibility, however, and they’re not always compatible with your device either. These are things you should investigate before you buy.
This is one of the first things you should look at before you buy a soundbar. Some models include a subwoofer and others do not. Although buying a soundbar individually is less expensive, you’re not going to get a good bass sound out of it.
The Best Soundbars
Best Sound Bars Under $200
Polk Audio – 2.1-Channel Soundbar System
While some soundbars are independent units with a self-contained subwoofer, most of them come with a dedicated subwoofer instead. Although this makes them less compact than a standalone soundbar, it also means better low frequencies.
If you want a subwoofer with your soundbar and don’t want to spend a lot of money, check out the Polk Signa S1 AM9214-A.
Although the soundbar doesn’t offer 5.1 surround sound, it is capable of decoding into 2.1 stereo sound that seeks to emulate the audio qualities of true surround sound.
The soundbar has two winch drivers, which accompany the subwoofer for an impressively loud and true-to-life sound. In addition to its standard HDMI and audio ports, the soundbar is also set up for Bluetooth connections, letting you stream your music wirelessly with zero effort.
The only downside of this soundbar is that it has an automatic shutoff which is annoying. As soon as you turn your TV off, or after just a few minutes of inactivity, the soundbar goes dead. It does this to preserve power, but it’s also obnoxious.
There are supposed to be ways to turn off the auto-shutoff, and even with it on, this is still a great soundbar/woofer combo, especially for the price.
Yamaha YAS107 Sound Bar
Sound bars are an excellent way to enjoy high-quality for your TV without having to buy an expensive and bulky surround sound system. If you’re looking for a good quality introductory soundbar and don’t care about having a subwoofer, the Yamaha YAS-107BL is a nice, affordable option.
Although it doesn’t have the audio quality or dynamics of a more expensive model, it still has very good sound quality. Although it may not look like it, there is a powerful set of speakers built into the soundbar. The soundbar is just under three feet long, but it has two 30W woofers and a 60W subwoofer built in for 120 watts of impressive sound.
It’s three feet long, but only 2 1/8 by 5 5/8 inches, so any mantle or sufficiently long table can support it. It has Bluetooth connectivity, so you can hook up to it directly from your phone and enjoy high-quality audio.The soundbar includes a variety of inputs, including HDMI for connecting to your television, as well as digital optical and analog audio inputs.
The only real mark against this is that the built-in subwoofer doesn’t sound as good as an independent subwoofer. But if you want a compact soundbar that you can place anywhere, this is an excellent and affordable option.
Best Sound Bars Under $300
Yamaha YAS-207BL Sound Bar
The Yamaha YAS-207BL is the next step up from the less expensive YAS-107BL listed above. It’s only slightly larger than the 107BL, but it trades up two 30W woofers for a larger, meatier 100W woofer for better, larger sound. Another major change from the 107BL is the subwoofer. Where it was built into the 107BL, here it has its cabinet.
This means there’s more room for a larger speaker, which is why it’s 100 watts instead of 60. The 207BL can be connected to your TV with a simple optical cable, skipping all the cables normally used. It connects to Bluetooth and even has an app that allows you to change the sound settings and other features.
The soundbar also uses DTS Virtual:X, a new type of virtual “3D” sound that creates an illusion of moving, surround sound. This is a fun, exciting soundbar, and it’s available at a reasonable price.
Klipsch R-10B Bluetooth Soundbar
If you want something with a little bit more sound than the previous soundbars, you need to upsize a little. This sound bar from Klipsch is a little larger than the previous two soundbars, with a beefier subwoofer and far more power.
Prepare to be blown away. With 250 watts of power, the dual drivers and subwoofer combine for a vibrant, loud sound that is sure to fill an entire room.
The soundbar is 40 inches long, and it uses all of that room for good use, with an eight-inch driver that offers excellent sound quality. It has an independent cabinet for the woofer, which helps to deliver quality bass sounds as well.
Like most soundbars, the Klipsch R-10B is compatible with most Bluetooth technology so that you can stream your music wirelessly directly from your phone. The cabinet is fairly large, so you’ll need an area with a lot of room to set up this soundbar.
The only real downside is that the Bluetooth connection isn’t very good and sometimes cuts out randomly for no reason. But if you’re using this with your TV, it delivers excellent performance.
Best Sound Bars Under $400
Bose Solo 15 Series II TV Sound System
Bose has been a respectable name in electronics for decades, and their Solo 15 Series II is a good example of why. Their TV sound system is more than just a soundbar: it’s a base for your television stand.
The most important quality in a soundbar is its audio performance, and the Bose Solo 15 performs admirably. The sound system runs at 50 watts and has several speakers situated at different angles along the box for better sound delivery. Although it does not deliver 5.1 surround sound, it can process 5.1 signals and play them back as stereo.
The sound system comes with both optical and analog audio cables, as well as a universal remote. It does not have Bluetooth capabilities. While it is not the best soundbar in the market, it has much higher quality than television and is one of the more affordable soundbars on the market.
ZVOX SoundBase 770 42” Sound Bar
Another reasonably-priced sound bar entry, the ZBOX SoundBase 770 is quite a bit more expensive than the cheapest soundbars, but far from the most expensive either. It is quite a bit larger than a lot of soundbars and is closer in shape and size to the Bose Solo 15 Series.
Like the Bose soundbar, the SoundBase incorporates the woofer directly into the cabinet, and features left, right and center speakers for a rich, full sound.
Like the Bose, this is also designed to be a support cabinet for your television, and it connects to your TV with a single cable. In addition to optical and analog outputs, the SoundBase also supports Bluetooth technology, letting you stream music wirelessly. And with 125 watts of power, the speakers get plenty loud.
The SoundBase can be programmed to work with your TV remote, making it easy for you to adjust the volume without needing a bunch of different controllers. There are also special features that allow you to raise the volume of voices on the television, or quiet loud commercials.
Best Sound Bars Under $500
Klipsch HD Theater SB 3 Soundbar
If the Klipsch R-10B doesn’t have enough power for you, then you might want to consider the Klipsch SB3. Longer, louder and larger than life than the R-10B, the SB3 brings you 300 watts of pure power.
Inside the 44 inch soundbar is not only an 8-inch driver but also advanced tweeters that deliver exceptional audio fidelity.
Using horn-loaded speakers, an innovative new speaker design that increases the volume while minimizing distortion, the tweeter and the drivers in the soundbar sound amazing, for richer, louder, more accurate sounds. Inside the standalone cabinet is a 10-inch subwoofer for rich, well-realized bass.
The Klipsch SB3 has both standard audio inputs as well as Bluetooth capabilities, which are both stronger and more stable than the lackluster Bluetooth of the Klipsch R-10B.
The SB3 is a superior soundbar in every single way. It doesn’t have very good volume control, but that’s a minor complaint in an otherwise excellent soundbar.
Sony CT800 Sound Bar (with Google Home Support)
Google Home is Google’s answer to the Amazon Echo, and the Sony CT800 is a sound bar designed to work with Google’s new technology. Combining a compact but potent soundbar with a powerful subwoofer, this is an excellent piece of technology.
The soundbar measures just 20 inches x 43 inches x 10 inches, yet it has seven mid-range drivers, two up-firing drivers, and three tweeters. That’s a dozen different speakers built into a single soundbar.
Add a subwoofer on to that, and you have a soundbar that means business. The soundbar has a maximum of 220 watts of power, which combines with the 130-watt subwoofer for an impressive 350 watts.
Because the Sony CT800 is compatible with Google Home, you can control your music and TV with voice commands. Turn the stereo on and off, play music wirelessly from your laptop and turn down the volume without having to lift a finger.
The sound quality isn’t always perfect, but it is still quite good, and it connects easily to 4K television. Worth checking out.
Best Sound Bars Under $700
Sonos – Playbar Soundbar Wireless Speaker
If you’re looking for a nice, high-end soundbar, you’re going to have to spend a little bit more. If that’s what you’re looking for, however, you’re likely to find that the Sonos PLAYBAR is exactly what you’ve been looking for.
The Sonos PLAYBAR is powered by nine drivers, including six mid-woofers and three tweeters, delivering powerful, convincing sound throughout the room. The PLAYBAR features both speech enhancement and night sounds technologies.
The former prioritizes spoken dialogue over other audio on TV, whereas the night sounds setting equalizes the volume of louder and quieter sounds for a fuller experience.
Rather than connecting to your Bluetooth device, which can be kind of spotty, the Sonos connects directly to your WiFi network so that you can stream your tunes directly from your computer or phone through your wireless network.
This means no interrupted signals. Plus, this wireless connection makes it easier to connect your PLAYBAR with other Sonos devices in other rooms, so you can enjoy the same audio no matter where you go. The Sonos PLAYBAR isn’t cheap, but if you want high-quality audio, it’s a great choice.
Bose SoundTouch 300 Soundbar
If you like what you read about the Sonos PLAYBAR but you want another option, the Bose SoundTouch 300 is available for the same price. Like the Sonos, it is compatible with Amazon Alexa and connects directly to your wireless network.
Like the PLAYBAR, there’s a lot to like about the SoundTouch 300. It uses waveguide technology to project sound away from the speakers. Like so-called 3D sound, this creates the illusion that the sound is coming from a source other than the speakers.
The soundbar can be used by itself or combined with a dedicated subwoofer and other Bose speakers for a true 5.1 surround sound experience. Unlike the PLAYBAR, the SoundTouch connects via Bluetooth as well as WiFi, and it also has HDMI connection cables.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have standard 3.5 mm analog audio cables; you can’t connect it directly to your computer for PC speakers. All said and done, this soundbar produces beautiful audio and is well worth the price.
A soundbar has a lot of uses, and there are a variety of reasons to buy one. Some people use it to enhance the audio coming from their TV. Others want a Bluetooth speaker that’s minimalist and doesn’t take up a lot of space.
Some may want something that is compatible with their smart home, perhaps on the way to connecting their whole house with a single audio network. Whatever your needs, you’ll find what you’re looking for here on this list. Good luck, and happy shopping!