A good soundbar is a cost-effective way to upgrade your TV’s tinny built-in sound, with minimal fuss and maximum ease. The best soundbar is an efficient way to bring cinema-style sound into your living room. But which is the right one for you? Our buying guide will help you choose the best soundbars and soundbases.
TVs’ built-in speakers generally sound terrible, as the current trend for slimmer and more beautiful designs has left manufacturers with less room for proper sound systems. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution. Soundbars exist to lend your TV some much-needed sonic support. They’re a neat way to improve your sound without the hassle (and cables) of a traditional surround sound system.
There are quite a few varieties, though. There are basic standalone soundbars without subwoofers, more advanced soundbars with subwoofers and the potential to add satellite speakers, or a soundbase that your TV sits on. It’s worth keeping an eye out for the Sennheiser Ambeo 3D soundbar, which aims to replace surround sound speakers entirely.
We’ve covered every type here, and explained the differences so you’ll know which will suit you best. Read on for an explanation of the differences between soundbars and soundbases, or scroll past to skip to our suggestions.
Related: Best TVs
Soundbars vs Soundbases – Which one is right for you?
If you want to improve your TV’s audio but don’t want a 5.1 surround system cluttering up your living room, you basically have two choices: a soundbar or a soundbase.
A soundbar is essentially a slim speaker system that can be mounted on the wall below your TV, or in front of it on a cabinet. Soundbars emerged as an alternative to poor quality built-in TV speakers. Most are stereo offerings, but some of the beefier ones pack enough tech inside to deliver a convincing virtual surround sound experience.
Most soundbars you’ll find are 2.1-channel sound setups. That means you’ll get two speakers and a separate subwoofer. There are a few exceptions that bundle subwoofer and even more speakers into one device. The advantage of a wide soundbar is a better stereo experience, but the slim design is also what makes a separate subwoofer pretty much compulsory.
A soundbase is a much flatter unit that’s designed to sit below the TV on a cabinet or stand. They will typically include more bass drivers than a soundbar, meaning most won’t require a separate subwoofer.
Soundbases are often rated by the weight of the TV they can support, and because of the extra space, will often have better audio processing than soundbars.
Both soundbars and soundbases sometimes offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to stream content from smartphones, tablets and computers. Physical connections can include USB ports to plug in external hard drives, HDMI inputs and outputs to support Full HD and 3D TV playback. A recent trend is to have a single optical input, that lets you plug everything into your TV, and then a single cable going to the soundbar or soundbase. The new Sonos Playbase follows this trend.
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There are plenty of excellent models to choose from and we want to help you find the soundbar, or soundbase that’s best for you. So if space is at a premium, and you’re ready to break free from snaking cables, read on.