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Best Soundbar 2020: Upgrade your TV audio

What’s the best soundbar?

Best soundbar: You’ve bought a TV but the sound isn’t great. What you need is a soundbar, and we’ve listed plenty of options for you to choose from.

Modern flatscreen TVs are now so thin that it’s hard to find space for audio components. The result is that the sound quality has become average to quite poor. To avoid disappointment, a soundbar is your best solution to your audio woes.

A soundbar lends your TV some much-needed sonic support, and are a simple and way to improve sound quality without the hassle of cables that come with a more traditional home cinema system Here’s our list of the best soundbar on the market, from budget efforts to Dolby Atmos stunners.

  • Best soundbar: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
  • Best compact soundbar: Sonos Beam
  • Best budget soundbar: Wharfedale Vista 200S
  • Best smart soundbar: Polk Command Bar
  • Best Atmos soundbar: Sonos Arc
  • Best featured soundbar: Samsung HW-Q800T
  • Best 7.1.4 Atmos soundbar: LG SN11RG
  • Best soundbar design: DALI Katch One
  • Best soundbar for high-res music: Sony HT-ST500
  • Best multi-room soundbar: Bluesound Pulse Soundbar 2i
  • Best HEOS soundbar: Denon DHT-S516H
  • Best lifestyle soundbar: Samsung HW-S60T
  • Best all-in-one soundbar: Canton Smart Soundbar 9
  • Best Sky soundbar: Sky Soundbox

Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

If money were no object…

Pros:

  • Superb 3D audio performance
  • As good with music as it is movies

Cons

  • Eye-wateringly expensive
  • Big and not exactly pretty

Sennheiser’s long-awaited Ambeo Soundbar is a big, bulky effort that’s the most expensive on this list. It’s always one of the best sounding units we’ve heard.

With support for Atmos, DTS:X, Sennheiser’s Ambeo processing and MPEG-H format, this hefty bar produces a muscular and hard-hitting performance, with excellent effects steering, clarity and a superbly immersive soundscape. A phenomenal sounding bar that convincingly apes a 5.1/object-based speaker packages.

Sonos Beam

Sonos Beam

The best compact soundbar

Pros:

  • Excellent sound
  • Integrated Alexa works a charm
  • Controls TV
  • Lovely design

Cons:

  • 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 multi-room speaker that plays nicely with other Sonos products – and it works with Alexa and Google Assistant.

The Beam’s soundstage is so wide and tall it’s hard to believe there aren’t other speakers in the room. An 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).

Pair it with Sonos One SL speakers and a Sonos sub, and you’ve got yourself a formidable surround sound system.

Wharfedale Vista 200S

Wharfedale Vista 200S

Exceptional value

Pros:

  •  Great with movies and music
  •  Well-integrated bass
  •  Low-profile and well-made cabinet
  • Exceptional value
  • Easy to setup

Cons

  •  Nothing at this price

The Vista 200s is a 2.1-channel effort that offers good value for money.

It’s a fairly wide unit suited for TVs 65-inches and more. An HDMI ARC, optical and coaxial digital inputs and a 3.5mm jack are your lot for physical connections, with Bluetooth for streaming wirelessly from a mobile device.

Simple to set-up and use, the Vista 200s puts in a great performance across movies and TV shows. The wireless sub delivers punchy, deep bass; dialogue is rendered with clarity and it can cope well with busy soundtracks, sifting through the detail on offer. For less than £250, the Wharfedale Vista 200S offers exceptional value.

Polk Command Bar

Built-in Alexa support

Pros:

  • Amazon Alexa built in
  • Excellent sound quality

Cons:

  • None at this price

Polk’s Command Bar provides all the benefits of a soundbar plus the convenience of voice control operation. Want to order a Dominos pizza? Ask Alexa. Fancy turning down the lighting for that perfect cinema feel? Alexa will oblige.

The Command Bar’s audio delivery is refined with excellent voice clarity, adding up to a very enjoyable sonic experience indeed.

Sonos Arc

An Atmos upgrade over the Playbar

Pros:

  • Expansive, well-defined and invigorating sound
  • Good impression of audio height and width
  • Fine spec
  • Ample control options

Cons:

  • Slightly bumpy frequency response
  • Some treble stridency
  • No MQA support

Despite some sonic idiosyncrasies, Sonos’ first attempt at a Atmos soundbar has plenty to recommend it. The width and height of the soundstage it can deliver is impressive, and for existing Sonos owners it slots into their current set-up.

Bass/mid-range integration could be handled better and the eARC-only HDMI means you won’t be able to get full, unfiltered Atmos performance from a non-eARC TV, which is something to keep in mind.

Samsung HW-Q800T

Samsung HW-Q800T

An accomplished all-rounder

Pros:

  • Expansive soundstage
  • Powerful subwoofer
  • Sleek design
  • Solid build quality
  • Simple to setup

Cons:

  • Front-heavy delivery
  • Single HDMI input
  • No Chromecast/AirPlay

The HW-Q800T is another accomplished all-rounder from Samsung.

It delivers an expansive and compelling soundstage, with a sound that’s detailed, dynamic and exciting. The support for both Atmos and DTS:X allows it to create an immersive wall of sound that gives anything you’re watching a boost.

Throw in eARC support, Q Symphony functionality with compatible Samsung QLED TVs and built-in Alexa, and this is a soundbar that covers pretty much all the bases apart from offering a true surround experience.

LG SN11RG

A full-fat Atmos soundbar offering

Pros:

  • Powerful, detailed sound
  • Fully realised Dolby Atmos/DTS:X experience, complete with height and side channels
  • Good looking main soundbar

Cons:

  • Voices can sound a touch narrow
  • The subwoofer can lack finesse
  • Impact sound can lack heft

The SN11RG is the LG’s top-end soundbar for 2020 and a full Atmos surround effort.

Full in the sense it includes rear speakers along with upfiring height speakers, which puts it in direct competition with the Samsung HW-Q90R. At £1499 it’s not cheap, but the SN11RG offers space-saving convenience and the simplicity of wireless connectivity that you don’t get from a ‘proper’ surround system

And the performance is a large, room-filling one, producing a convincing 3D soundscape that’s well-balanced and generates plenty of power. There are a few issues – vocals feel slightly dislocated and bass sounds slightly unrefined – but LG’s flagship soundbar delivers on the promise of immersive 3D sound.

DALI Katch One

Dali Katch One

Gorgeous-looking soundbar

Pros:

  • Wide, detailed and articulate sound from any source
  • Good looks, relatively speaking

Cons:

  • Can be bettered for bass
  • Some may hanker after greater audio attack

The Katch One is DALI’s first dedicated soundbar (the Kubik One was an all-in-one system), and continues the Danish brand’s knack for stylish aesthetics and good audio.

It’s another one-box system that saves on space and produces a good hi-fi performance. It’s tone is well judged, giving the whole frequency range full expression with plenty of precision, detail and insight. The lack of a subwoofer means its short of power and punch when it comes to dealing with more bass-heavy soundtracks.

Sony HT-ST5000

No-compromise 7.1.2 soundbar

Pros:

  • Dynamic, exciting performer
  • Excellent clarity with High-Res Audio
  • Premium build quality
  • Powerful bass

Cons:

  • Dolby Atmos doesn’t surround you
  • Short on streaming services
  • Very expensive

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.

Bluesound Pulse Soundbar 2i

A big performer

Pros:

  • Extensive specification
  • Multi-room ability
  • Full, rich and high calorie sound

Cons:

  • Quite a visual statement
  • Short of outright dynamic headroom
  • Control app is quite easily confused

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.

Denon DHT-S516H

Denon DHT-S516H

Useful with music

Pros:

  • Expansive and detailed sound
  • Easy to set up
  • HEOS multi-room
  • Good smart features

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No remote control
  • Limited to lossy audio

The DHT-S516H has no aspirations for immersive surround sound, focusing instead on a 2.1 audio.

With HEOS included there’s support for Google Assistant and Alexa. AirPlay 2 brings in the iOS platform (plus Siri), and there is HEOS’ integration of several music streaming services that emphasises this soundbar’s musical traits.

Which is useful as the DHT-S516H has been designed with music in mind, putting in a detailed performance with warm vocals. TV benefits from its accuracy and clarity, and though more complex movie soundtracks get lost in a bit of a jumble, the bass from the subwoofer provides plenty of punch.

Canton Smart Soundbar 9

Crisp and detailed performer

Pros:

  • Great looks
  • Big, revealing and informative sound
  • Dynamically assured
  • 3 x HDMI inputs

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Limited bass
  • Not that smart

The Smart Soundbar 9 is another winning soundbar from German brand Canton. Impressively built, good-looking and featuring three HDMI inputs (which is a lot for a soundbar these days); it’s a crisp, detailed and nuanced performer that brings Hollywood soundtracks to life in an accomplished manner. And although it lacks a subwoofer, bass output is decent.

It is expensive for what it does though, and despite its name it lacks actual integrated smart abilities that some other options on this list have.

Samsung HW-S60T

A lifestyle soundbar for casual listeners

Pros:

  • Looks lovely
  • Clear sound
  • Compact size
  • Engaging music performance

Cons:

  • No LED display
  • Not the most dynamic of presentations
  • Not a soundbar for Atmos/DTS:X soundtracks

The HW-S60T is Samsung’s answer to the Sonos Beam, a compact lifestyle soundbar wrapped in the trendy Kvadrat cloth. It’s not designed to go toe-to-toe with the latest Atmos/DTS:X soundbars, but it does look great sitting under a TV.

Viewed as a lifestyle soundbar for the more casual side of the market and it hits the right notes with good reproduction of dialogue, a decently big soundstage and an entertaining way with music. It’s not as talented as the Beam but worth a look for those not invested in the Sonos ecosystem. This soundbar also comes in two versions, the S60T (black finish) and the S61T (grey finish). Other the change in colour they are the same.

Sky Soundbox

A decent option for Sky customers

Pros:

  • Weighty bass
  • Clear speech
  • Sky Q optimisation modes mostly work well
  • Large-scale sound from a compact unit

Cons:

  • 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 the best soundbar

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.

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend, using industry standard tests to evaluate products. We’ll always tell you what we find. We may get a commission if you buy via our price links. Tell us what you think – email the Editor