Your TV sounds rubbish, but it isn’t only just your model. The sound quality of TVs in general has taken a dive from the days they started becoming prettier – and thinner.
This slim form factor has meant there’s no room for beefy audio components. Separate speakers would help, but not everyone wants or has space for them. The solution: soundbars and soundbases. They exist to lend your TV some much-needed sonic support and are a neat and cost-effective way to improve sound quality without the hassle and cables that come with a traditional surround sound system.
There are a few options, 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 on which your TV will sit upon.
If you in the mood to give your new (or old) TV system a kick, you’re in the right place. We’ve included our best picks from budget efforts to more pricey models.
Related: Best soundbar deals
1. Sonos Beam
The best compact soundbar you can buy
- Excellent sound
- Integrated Alexa works a charm
- Controls TV
- Lovely design
- Not the last word in bass output
If you’re tight on space and have cash to spare, the Sonos Beam is a fine choice. It’s a soundbar for your TV, a multiroom speaker that plays nicely with other Sonos products – and it’s a voice-activated smart speaker armed with Amazon Alexa.
The Beam’s soundstage is so wide and tall it’s hard to believe there aren’t other speakers in the room. An engaging and entertaining sound is complemented by a smooth and direct mid-range, giving a convincing weight to voices. Everything is controlled through the brilliant Sonos app, and there’s even support for Apple AirPlay 2 (with Siri) and Google Assistant.
Pair it with Sonos Play:1 speakers and a Sonos sub, and you’ve got yourself a formidable surround sound system.
2. Dali Kubik One
Delivers a movie/music performance to die for
- 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 be hung on a wall or placed on top of a flat surface – and looks great either way.
A strong selection of connections is tucked away at the rear, along with grooves and clamps to keep cables from tangling. Annoyingly, there’s no HDMI port, highlighting Dali’s music-first approach. Bluetooth connectivity is available.
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.
3. Polk Command Bar
A fantastic sounding soundbar with Alexa support
- Amazon Alexa built in
- Excellent sound quality
- None at this price
Polk’s Command Bar is a soundbar that also integrates Alexa voice control.
This means you get all the benefits of a soundbar plus the convenience of voice control operation. Want to order a Dominos pizza? Tell Alexa. Fancy turning down the lighting for that perfect cinema feel? Alexa will oblige (as long as your smart home devices are connected).
But enough about Alexa, what about the audio? While it isn’t proper surround, the Command Bar offers an immersive experience, drawing you into what you’re viewing without the added expense of a surround sound setup. Sound delivery is refined and voice clarity excellent, and that all adds up to a very enjoyable sonic experience indeed.
4. Sony HT-ST5000
A no-compromise 7.1.2 soundbar
- Dynamic, exciting performer
- Excellent clarity with High-Res Audio
- Premium build quality
- Powerful bass
- Dolby Atmos doesn’t surround you
- Short on streaming services
- Very expensive
If you’ve just bought a massive TV and want a fancy soundbar to go with it, Sony wants to be your first choice. The HT-ST5000 is the company’s most feature-laden soundbar yet.
Headline attractions include Dolby Atmos, High-Res Audio, Bluetooth and Chromecast. It has three HDMI ports for passing through 4K video signals, alongside analogue and digital optical audio options.
And it sounds fantastic. It isn’t quite the full surround effect you get with a proper Atmos setup, but you’ll struggle to find such scale, depth, dynamism or clarity on most alternatives.
5. Samsung HW-N950
A powerful and immersive soundbar package
- Fantastic sound quality
- Highly immersive performance
- Genuine Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
- Easy to set-up
- Well made and attractively designed
- Basic audio calibration
- Not cheap
The HW-N950 is Samsung’s current flagship soundbar, with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X available in 7.1.4 configuration. It’s not cheap, but audio performance of this quality never is.
It’s a nicely designed, well-made soundbar that boasts an extensive set of features. You could likely build a more conventional stereo system with an AV amplifier and the results would sound better but cost more. The HW-950W is a balanced performer, able to deliver a sense of detail and width, comfortable whether it needs to deliver some heft or powering more subtle soundtracks.
For an immersive audio performance that won’t take up a huge amount of space, the Samsung HW-950W is a winner.
6. Q Acoustics M2
Tremendous value for money
- Great build
- Nicely balanced sound
- Plenty of power
- Easy to use
- Poor remote
The Q Acoustics M2 soundbase is a simple affair, but it’s exactly what a soundbase needs to be.
It’s sturdy enough to withstand 25kg. It’s wide and deep enough to take most TVs with central pedestals and flat enough to sit under TVs. The cabinet is made of MDF with internal bracing to reduce unwanted resonance – the type of material 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 on first inspection. 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 boost your TV’s audio performance, this will do nicely.
7. Bluesound Pulse Soundbar 2i
A big performer, in more ways than one
- Extensive specification
- Multi-room ability
- Full, rich and high calorie sound
- Quite a visual statement
- Short of outright dynamic headroom
- Control app is quite easily confused
If you want to make a statement, Bluesound’s Pulse Soundbar 2i may be the ideal way to do so.
Measuring a 1m in length and 14cm high, it’s not the most discrete of efforts. That said, it packs plenty of talents into its robust package. It can play hi-res audio tunes, stream audio via AirPlay 2; has support for several streaming services including Spotify and is compatible with Alexa voice control. You’re not left wanting in this regard.
And in terms of the audio performance, the Pulse delivers a rich, detailed sound with a convincingly deep soundstage. If you want a soundbar that can do more than just ably assist film soundtracks, the Pulse Soundbar 2i is worth auditioning.
8. Yamaha MusicCast YSP-2700
A great soundbar for movie lovers
- Great build
- Nicely balanced sound
- Plenty of power
- Easy to use
- Poor remote
Traditionally, soundbars were no match for a proper surround sound system with 5.1 or 7.1 speakers. The Yamaha YSP-2700 disproves that notion.
It features clever Soundbeam technology, which takes into account your surroundings and uses 16 28mm drivers to bounce sound around, creating the impression of the soundfield enveloping you.
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, the YSP-2700 is a great choice.
9. HEOS Bar
Excellent for both movies and music
- 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 it’s now a brand in its own right.
The HEOS Bar is an all-singing, all-dancing sound system that excels at music playback as much as it does movie soundtracks. It’s smooth, warm, muscular sound takes notes from Denon’s hi-fi heritage. Factor in the smooth app operation and 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, there are few packages as versatile.
10. Polk Signa Solo
A neat, discreet soundbar at a super-low price
- 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 – it’s 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 expect layers of sonic detail and ground-shaking bass, but it does a good job of improving vocal clarity.
11. Sky Soundbox
A decent option for Sky customers
- 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. 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 other quirk is that Sky customers can buy it at a truly excellent price. No one should pay the full price, but for £249 to Sky customers, this is a no-brainer.
With help from Devialet, the scale of sound from such a compact unit is super-impressive, while some Sky Q-specific sound modes help to get a better sonic balance during sports, movies, and so on.
It’s a little shouty with music and the bass can be overblown, but with most video content it’s very good – as long as you’ve paid that discounted price for it.
How we test soundbars
Soundbars were invented to boost the sound quality of TVs – 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.
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 to tackle the issue of poor quality built-in TV speakers. Most are stereo offerings, but some beefier models pack enough tech inside to deliver a convincing virtual surround sound experience.
Most soundbars you’ll find are 2.1-channel sound setups. This 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 designed to sit below the TV on a cabinet or stand. It will typically include a greater number of bass drivers compared to 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 feature 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 is an example.