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Best Small Soundbar 2022: Great options for small TVs

If you’re short of space beneath your TV for a full-sized soundbar, then a compact soundbar is one of the best solutions for remedying that issue.

Soundbars come in all sorts of sizes and configurations but if you don’t have the space for a “big” bar, then a smaller solution is what you need. They’ve become more popular in recent years, available in stereo configurations, with additional subwoofers and, increasingly, featuring Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support.

But like any product, not all small soundbars are made equal, and some are better than the rest. We’ve reviewed plenty at various price points, and this best list represents the best small soundbars we’ve tested so far.

To determine which are the best, we watch lots of TV and movies and listen to music to judge their audio performance. We use their features and various connectivity options to see if they work as advertised, and we live with them for an extended period of time, using them as any owner would, comparing them to similarly priced options.

We’ll be updating this page regularly, adding new compact bars if they merit inclusion on this list. If you’re still in a quandary about whether a small soundbar is what you need, our general list of the best soundbars in various sizes and forms is worth a look. Our best Dolby Atmos soundbars feature the best immersive bars we’ve tested, and if you do have space for a bigger sound system, then you ought to have a look at our best surround sound system list.

Best small soundbar at a glance

  • Best compact soundbar: Sonos Beam 2 – check price
  • Best compact lifestyle soundbar: Samsung HW-S61A – check price
  • Best small Atmos bar under £300: JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam – check price

How we test

Learn more about how we test soundbars

Soundbars were created to boost TV sound quality – which means we end up watching a lot of TV. We play everything – news reports for voices, movies for scale and effects steering – to ensure that the soundbars that come through the doors at Trusted Reviews are given a proper challenge. We’ll play different genres of music, too, since a good soundbar should be capable of doubling-up as a great music system.

More complex soundbars feature network functionality for hooking up to other speakers and playing music around the home, so we test for connectivity issues and ease of use. We cover the spectrum of models available, everything from cheap soundbars costing less than £100 to those over £1000, to ensure our reviews benefit from our extensive market knowledge. Every product is compared to similarly priced rivals, too.

Sonos Beam (Gen 2)

Best small soundbar
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Pros

  • Clean and balanced sound
  • Upgradeable
  • Excellent size
  • Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support

Cons

  • HDMI eARC input only
  • Limited DTS support

Compared to the original Beam, the Beam Gen 2 has been subtly updated to match the appearance of its bigger and more expensive sibling, the Arc. It comes with addition of an eARC HDMI port that allows it to play full-fat lossless Atmos soundtracks. That will mean you’ll need a eARC compatible TV to get the best out of it. Otherwise, things remain the same, the Beam 2nd Gen is best suited for TVs up to and including 49-inch screen sizes.

The current Beam, like every other Sonos product, supports Wi-Fi and the S2 app, which offers access to a multitude of streaming services such as Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz, as well as Sonos’ own Radio service. You can also call on voice assistance in both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, as well as initiate Trueplay (as long as you’ve got an iOS device), which can optimise the Beam’s audio performance for whatever room it is in.

During testing, we found it produced an excellent audio performance, offering a solid low end and a generally balanced sound across the frequency range. It also handled music impressively, with no noticeable distortion, handling the more subtle elements with delicacy and nuance. The addition of Dolby Atmos isn’t achieved through upfiring speakers but through virtual processing, and it offers a good performance with a decent sense of dimensionality when we watched Captain Marvel on Disney+. An alternative Atmos bar is the Polk Signa S4, which offers a good sense of height with its upfiring speakers, and while its cheaper it is not as compact.

There is a foot dangled in the direction of DTS soundtracks but support for this audio format is not complete. The similarly compact and priced Polk Magnifi Mini AX and Denon Home Sound bar 550 support DTS:X, and like the Sonos both can be paired with a subwoofer for added ‘oomph’ as an alternative. Still, while the Beam 2 is not perfect, as means of getting Atmos into the home, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is a great way of doing so.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full Review: Sonos Beam Gen 2

Samsung HW-S61A

Best compact lifestyle soundbar
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Pros

  • Wide, expansive sound
  • Great with music
  • Tweaked design over older model
  • AirPlay 2 support

Cons

  • Sonos Beam still offers more choice and value
  • Bass limited

The Samsung HW-S61A is an excellent compact soundbar, a rival to the Sonos Beam Gen 2, especially if you’re looking for one that can fit into a room’s décor. It’s around the same size, shape and appearance as the HW-S60T from 2020, and that’s no bad thing as we found it to be a lovely looking soundbar with its Kvadrat fabric (available in grey or white).

There have been changes that enhance usability, the placement of the buttons on the top surface and LED indicator have been brought down to be more visible when sitting down on a couch. A display would be more useful, but it’s arguably not included here as it would spoil the bar’s seamless looks.

The HW-S61A works with Samsung’s SmartThings app, which allows for easy set-up and connection to the Wi-Fi, as well as operating the bar through playback controls and activation of Amazon Alexa voice control. For the type of audience the bar is pitched at, this is the type of control with a mobile device most will enjoy.

The bar can also be connected to hook up to streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer, and there’s now support for Apple AirPlay 2 if you’ve got an iOS device to cast audio from. The Tap Sound function is only for Samsung Galaxy phones whereby a tap on the bar sends audio directly to the speaker. There’s no eARC, with connectivity arriving in the form of an optical out and HDMI ARC.

There’s also no room for immersive audio formats such as Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, but Samsung aims to compete with its Adaptive Sound mode. This mode offers a wider, taller performance than its default mode, and we found it nicely extended with the width of the soundstage, firing effects out wide with more purpose than the original model. We also found the new centre channel aided in tidying up dialogue in films and TV series, handing out more clarity to what people were saying.

The HW-S61A also handled music well, with a spacious, crisp presentation with plenty of detail. We found it was a definite improvement over its predecessor, though it remains a bass limited effort. Add the SWA-W500 wireless subwoofer and the SWA-9100S wireless rear speakers, and you can create a bigger, more enveloping sound system.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: Samsung HW-S61A

JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam

Best small Atmos soundbar under £300
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Pros

  • Compact size
  • Atmos + MultiBeam sound
  • Multi-room support
  • Energetic sound
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Front-heavy Atmos presentation
  • Issue with Dolby Vision passthrough
  • Bluetooth music playback a little lethargic

The JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam, like the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is an Atmos-flavoured small bar, and at its current price is a cheaper alternative to the Sonos. Its feature set is quite similar with HDMI eARC to pipe through a lossless Atmos signal, Ethernet, and optical audio out. The JBL has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support, enabling playback from a mobile device and casting of audio through either Chromecast or AirPlay 2 (handy for iOS users). With Alexa and Google multi-room support that allows the bar to be connected to other smart devices, the JBL is very flexible in terms of fitting within a home set-up.

The JBL only comes in black but looks rather sleek with its black finish and a transparent acoustic mesh grille. We had no qualms with its build quality, which felt suitably robust, and if there’s interest in wall-mounting a wall-bracket is included. The front facing display is easy enough to read from a couch, and the simple remote bundled in includes all the necessary controls for operating device, as well as beginning the MultiBeam calibration process that tailors the performance of the soundbar to a room’s acoustics.

We found its audio performance was one supplied with a great sense of energy and gusto, the size of the sound expands beyond its small size especially with the MultiBeam calibration applied. With Atmos enabled we found with many films that there was solid elevation of effects to present soundtracks with more height, though we did find that with hectic action films it wasn’t the clearest of performances, with dialogue not treated as well. It also performs at its best with the volume turned up, offering more dynamism and excitement. Bass, as is the case with most compact soundbars, is ok, but if you are after more bass then it’s worth checking out the Polk Magnifi Mini AX as a more expensive alternative.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full Review: JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam

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FAQs

Does a soundbar have to match TV size?

No, but it’s best for them to at least be similar in size. For a full-size soundbar, it’s best to partner them with TVs 50-inches and above. With compact soundbars that TVs’ 49-inches and smaller would be the best fit.

Do soundbars have to be the same brand as the TV?

No, you won’t need a soundbar that’s the same brand as the TV. Any soundbar can work with any TV it is connected to. Where you may want to consider is whether the soundbar and TV have been optimised to work best with each other. LG and Sony both have soundbars that share features with their respective TVs.

Comparison specs

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Manufacturer
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
ASIN
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Model Number
Model Variants
Sound Bar Channels
Driver (s)
Audio (Power output)
Connectivity
ARC/eARC
Colours
Voice Assistant
Audio Formats
Power Consumption
Rear Speaker
Frequency
Multiroom

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