Your TV sounds rubbish. And it’s not just yours – TVs have generally sounded terrible ever since they got prettier – and thinner.
No longer is there any room for beefy audio components. Big speakers would be a great help, but not everyone wants or has space for those. The solution: soundbars, which exist to lend your TV some much-needed sonic support. They’re a neat and cost-effective way to improve your sound without the hassle (and cables) of a traditional surround sound system.
Best value soundbar
The Polk Signa Solo is a budget-friendly audio upgrade for any TV adding much-needed audio clarity as a single-box add-on. This makes it great if space is of a premium, too.
There are quite a few varieties, though. You can get a basic standalone soundbar, a more advanced soundbar with a subwoofer and the potential to add satellite speakers, or a soundbase that your TV sits on. We’re quite excited about the upcoming Sennheiser Ambeo 3D soundbar, which seems eerily good at handling surround sound.
Most recently we’ve fallen in love for the Sonos Beam, a compact smart soundbar with integrated Alexa voice assistant, as well as Google Assistant and Siri. That’s coming out on 17th July.
Related: Best soundbar deals
How we test soundbars
Soundbars were invented to make your TV sound better, which means we end up watching a lot of TV. We play everything to make sure soundbars coming through Trusted Reviews are given a proper challenge: news reports for voices, movies for scale and effects steering. We’ll play all sorts of music too, since a good soundbar should double up as a great music system.
More complex soundbars have network functionality for hooking up to other speakers and playing music around the home, so we’ll check for connectivity issues and ease of use. We test everything from cheap soundbars under £100 to those over £1000, so our reviews benefit from extensive market knowledge. Every product is compared to similarly priced rivals.
Here is a list of our favourite soundbars. For an explanation of the differences between soundbars and soundbases, scroll to the bottom.
Polk Signa Solo
- Great value
- Slim and discreet
- Decent boost for vocals
- Nasty remote
- Limited detail and unruly bass
Cheap doesn’t mean rubbish. The Polk Signa Solo is a neat, discreet soundbar at a super-low price – this is just about the cheapest worthwhile upgrade you can get for your TV’s weak built-in sound. It’s a neat single-box add-on: don’t layers of sonic detail and ground-shaking bass, but it does a good job improving vocal clarity.
- Weighty bass
- Clear speech
- Sky Q optimisation modes mostly work well
- Large-scale sound from a compact unit
- Sound lacks the subtlety for music
- Awkward form factor makes it difficult to position
- Not worth the higher price to non-Sky customers
The Sky Soundbox is an odd one, and in more ways than one. The first oddity is the shape, which is more like a soundbase but too small to fit a TV on. It can be tricky to find the right home for it.
The Soundbox’s other quirk is that Sky customers can buy it at a truly excellent price. No one should pay the full £799, but for £299 to Sky subscribers or an even lower £249 to Sky Q Multiroom users, this is a no-brainer.
The scale of sound from such a compact unit is very impressive, while some Sky Q-specific sound modes help to get a better sonic balance during sports, movies, etc.
With music it’s a little shouty and the bass can be overblown, but with most video content it’s very good – as long as you’ve only paid that discounted price for it.
Buy Now: Sky Soundbox for £299 from Sky
Q Acoustics M2
- Great build
- Nicely balanced sound
- Plenty of power
- Easy to use
- Rubbish remote
It seems everything Q Acoustics cannot go wrong. Their hi-fi speakers are excellent. Their soundbars are excellent. And now we have their first soundbase, which is also excellent.
The Q Acoustics M2 soundbase is a simple affair, but it’s exactly what a soundbase needs to be; no more, no less. It’s sturdy enough to withstand 25kg of TV. It’s wide and deep enough to take most TVs with central pedestals; flat enough to sit under TVs that straddle. The cabinet is made of MDF with internal bracing to reduce unwanted resonance – that’s the stuff used in hi-fi speakers.
This unassuming little box does wonders for your TV’s sound. The performance is far more spacious than you’d assume just looking at it. Tonal balance is neutral, never adding too much bass or making voices sound crispy. There are no fancy virtual surround modes, but if you want something to straight-up boost your TV’s audio performance, this will do nicely.
Buy Now: Q Acoustics M2 for £239 from Amazon
- Attractive, low-lying design
- Generous range of features
- Effortless music streaming
- Exciting, snappy sound with good scale
- Upward-facing display
- Hard tone at high volumes
- Bass lacks control and definition
The Panasonic SC-ALL70T folds multiroom music, a whopping 350W of knockout audio and a vast array of features into a sleek, albeit 950mm wide, design. The stylish soundbar brings depth, punch and lively sound to your living room movies – providing you’ve got the space for it.
If it’s true 3D sound you’re after, you won’t be disappointed. Stick on an action film and activate 3D mode to hear swooshing missiles and explosions populate both ends of the soundbar. Who’s laughing at your super-sized soundbar now
Paricularly impressive is the SC-ALL70T’s ability to “re-stream” devices connected to it to other speakers on the network, including Bluetooth and Blu-ray. This means you could buy two of Panasonic’s SC-ALL2 wireless speakers and you use them as rears in a discrete 5.1 system.
- Big, spacious sound
- Clear, expressive mid-range
- Crisp, open treble
- Great streaming options
- On the large side
Looking for a straight-up soundbar without extra frills like Dolby Atmos and external support? Then this is the best Samsung has to offer in 2017. The Samsung HW-MS750 is a pretty impressive all-in-one solution that prides itself on not needing a subwoofer for low-end welly.
Its performance is in the hands of 11 very capable drivers, including two upward-firing speakers for height, and a few of wide-dispersion tweeters for a breadth. Features are numerous, too: you can count Bluetooth, multiroom and a high-res music support on its impressive list of capabilities.
The sound is powerful yet clear, and the stereo separation is excellent. It’s not cheap, but if you have the budget, this won’t disapoint.
DALI Kubik One
- Stunning design and build quality
- Natural, well-balanced and powerful sound
- Equally talented with music and movies
- No HDMI connections
- Dreadful remote
- Movies sound better with subwoofer
The Dali Kubik One is simply stunning. The minimal design, outstanding build quality and eye-catching colour schemes unite to make this a device anyone would want in their living room. It can also be hung on a wall or placed on top of a flat surface – and look great either way.
A strong selection of connections is tucked away at the rear, along with grooves and clamps to help keep cables from tangling, but annoyingly there’s no HDMI port, highlighting Dali’s music-first approach. Bluetooth connectivity is also on offer. The hefty £800 price tag is justified by the performance. Music, TV and movies sound clear, balanced and highly-detailed, as well as powerful. You can adjust sound through the Neutral, Bass Enhance and Bass Boost switches at the back, too.
Buy Now: DALI Kubik One for £799 from Amazon
- Excellent sound
- Integrated Alexa works like a charm
- Controls TV
- Lovely design
- Not the last word in bass output
If you’re tight on space and you’ve got a generous wad of cash to throw at one very pretty sound source, the Sonos Beam is a fine choice. It’s designed to be an all-in-one sonic upgrade for your living room. It’s a soundbar for your TV, it’s a multiroom speaker that plays nicely with other Sonos products – and it’s a voice-activated smart speaker armed with Amazon Alexa.
The Sonos Beam’s soundstage is so wide and tall that it’s hard to believe there aren’t other speakers in the room. Engaging, entertaining sound is complimented by a smooth and direct midrange, giving a convincing weight to voices. Everything is controlled through the brilliant Sonos app, and there’s even upcoming support for Apple Airplay 2 (with Siri) and Google Assistant.
Plus, pair it with Sonos Play:1 speakers and a Sonos sub, and you’ve got a formidable surround sound system. If you like the sound of this, but you want a little more power and you’ve got the cash to spare, check out the Sonos Playbar.
Yamaha MusicCast YSP-2700
- Great build
- Nicely balanced sound
- Plenty of power
- Easy to use
- Rubbish remote
Traditionally, soundbars were no match for a proper surround sound system with 5.1 or 7.1 speakers. The Yamaha YSP-2700 effortlessly disproves that notion.
It has clever Soundbeam technology, which takes into account your surroundings and uses 16 28mm drivers to bounce sound around, very convincingly creating the impression that the soundfield envelops you. If you think you need a bunch of speakers to make bullets and lasers are pinging past your ears, think again.
This soundbar (and wireless subwoofer) are all it takes for a proper cinematic sound experience. For high-quality audio without the hassle of a discrete system, this soundbar is the next best thing.
- Plenty of connections
- Nice design
- Excellent sound
- Easy to use
- Not the last word in effects steering
- Could do with a little more bass depth
HEOS used to be Denon’s wireless range but now it’s a brand in its own right – and the HEOS Bar is gunning for Sonos.
What we have here is an all-singing, all-dancing sound system that excels at music playback as much as it does reproducing movie soundtracks. It’s a smooth, warm, muscular sound that clearly takes notes from Denon’s hi-fi heritage. Factor in the Sonos-like smooth app operation and the competitive price, and this is a success in virtually every respect.
If you’re looking for a one-box solution to serve as your home’s sonic centrepiece, you’d struggle to find a package that’s more versatile.
Buy Now: Denon HEOS Bar for £452 from Amazon
- Dynamic, exciting performer
- Excellent clarity with High-Res Audio
- Premium build quality
- Powerful bass
- Dolby Atmos doesn’t surround
- Short on streaming services
- Very expensive
Sony isn’t messing about here. If you just bought a massive TV and you want a fancy soundbar with it, Sony wants to be your first choice. The Sony HT-ST5000 is the most feature-laden soundbar the company has ever produced. Headline attractions include Dolby Atmos compatibility, High-Res Audio support, Bluetooth and Chromecast. It also has three HDMI sockets for passing through 4K video signals, alongside the simpler analogue and digital optical audio options.
It also sounds fantastic. It’s not quite the full surround effect you get with a proper Atmos set up, but you’ll struggle to find such scale, depth, dynamism or clarity on most alternatives. If you’re after a no-compromise 2.1 sound system, few sound better or are as well equipped. All that and it looks great too. Peel away the fabric covers and you’ll find gold-trimmed drivers. Overkill, but a nice touch. If you’re looking to splash out on a soundbar, look no further.
If you’re undecided on whether to go for a soundbar or a soundbase, here is a brief explanation of the differences.
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.