The best soundbars will totally transform your TV set - whether you're watching a blockbuster or listening to music, a soundbar will boost the audio and give you a much more immersive experience.
Recent TVs are super slim with stunning screens offering incredible visuals, but you often lose out on the sound quality because there's not enough space within the frame to fit powerful speakers in. Buying a soundbar will solve that problem.
You can buy soundbars in all shapes and sizes, at all sorts of prices. Even a cheap soundbar will go some way to improving your TV's sound. What's great about soundbars is that they're designed to sit along the width of your television set without taking up too much space which makes them look a lot neater than standard speakers.
How should you choose a soundbar? Well, if you have invested in one of the best TVs and you want a high-end soundbar to match, then you’ll find yourself with surround sound that is just as immersive as going to the cinema. However, if you have one of the best TVs under £1000 then a mid-range soundbar will complement your TV just fine, giving you the crisp, clear audio you want.
But even if you're on a tight budget, there are some great cheap soundbars. They'll be suited to some of the best TVs under £500 which means you can build yourself a fantastic new living room setup without spending an eye-watering amount of money. You can also check out our guide to the best cheap soundbar deals for the cheapest options.
While soundbars are ideal for listening to music and having epic movie experiences at home, they are also great for gaming. So if you are looking for something to go with the best gaming TVs, a soundbar can upgrade your gaming experience.
The best soundbars 2023: The top 3
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The best soundbar for total immersion is the Samsung HW-Q990B. This soundbar plus sub plus rear speakers package isn't messing arround, able to deliver 11.1.4 channels for total sonic immersion. It's the most complete at-home solution we've heard to date, if you can afford the space and price.
The best soundbar for most people is the Sonos Beam (Gen 2). Great for boosting TV audio but also great for music as part of Sonos' wider system, the second-generation Beam is a little star that'll suit most people best. It even delivers psychoacoustic processing for Dolby Atmos all from the one box.
The best cheap soundbar is the Yamaha SR-C20. Working on a budget? Yamaha has been in this game for a long time – and those years of experience show. The SR-C20 is basic but its sound punches well above its asking price.
The best soundbars 2023: The top 3
Delivering over 600W of power from 22 different speakers, this really brings the cinema experience home, yet still retains all the size and convenience advantages of a soundbar. The system comprises a soundbar that's the right size for TVs of 55 inches and up, a subwoofer, and two small rear speaker units, all of which communicate wirelessly in an 11.1.4 channel configuration (11 front/surround, one sub, four upfiring).
The soundbar delivers super sonic immersion, including using angled drivers to bounce audio to the left and right to create real width, plus two upfiring drivers for height channels. The dedicated rear speakers seal the deal with immersion, while the subwoofer delivers exactly the kind of deep bass you want (and improved upon its Q950T predecessor here too).
Our HW-Q990B review said it "continues Samsung’s domination of the premium home cinema soundbar market, delivering a combination of power, detail, dynamics and full surround sound cohesion with movie soundtracks that no rival we’ve seen to date can match." That's why it won the T3 Awards 2022 trophy for Best Soundbar.
Beyond the stunning dome of sound it produces, it's also really well-equipped for features overall. There are two HDMI inputs, as well as the connection to the TV. It supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, so any 3D system is good to go. You can stream music over Apple AirPlay 2 or Bluetooth. And it supports Samsung's Q Symphony feature for adding even more speaker power, which absolutely makes it the best soundbar for Samsung TVs – as well as the best option for any other model.
Check our Samsung discount codes to pick up a bargain.
Is it a fantastic-sounding soundbar? Is it a multi-room music speaker? Is it a home voice assistant? No, it's Sonos' super Beam, which does all these things at once. Like its predecessor, the 2nd Gen Beam is a superb soundbar that's small enough to fit under even a 32-inch TV but big enough to fill your room with brilliant sound. This version adds Dolby Atmos, and while you don't get the same performance with Atmos that you do with much bigger bars it's still pretty good.
Like its predecessor, the Beam 2 has one tweeter, four ‘racetrack’ mid/bass drivers and three passive radiators for low-end punch, and it's all driven by five Class D amplifier blocks of unspecified power. But Sonos has massively improved the on-board processing to deliver meaningful height as well as width. No matter what you're listening to, the Beam 2 adds impressive clarity and depth.
The Beam 2 solves another issue with the original Beam, which lacked eARC HDMI. That's here now, but there's still no HDMI passthrough. As before, AirPlay 2 means you can stream from Apple devices, while the Sonos app connects to streaming services. You can then enjoy your audio in one or more rooms depending on your Sonos setup.
The Beam has both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control on board, so in addition to your sound settings you can use it to control your smart home or ask your digital assistant for information.
If you're disappointed by your TV's audio this is a significant upgrade, and it's the soundbar we'd recommend for most people – it's easy to use, it's very versatile, and we think it is the best-sounding option for the price. You can find out more in our full Sonos Beam 2 review.
If you're looking for the best cheap soundbar then your journey has just ended. The audio quality from this Yamaha is excellent for the price, adding so much more balance, clarity and depth than budget TV speaker could ever hope to produce. And despite this soundbar being not even as wide as your average 32-inch TV (meaning it's just as at home with monitors as TVs), the sound has really impressive width and stereo positioning. The dynamic range is great too, in everything from movies to games. It's even pretty good with music, and has Bluetooth for easy streaming.
It's really simple to set up, too – it has a single HDMI ARC port for easy TV connection (which enables control from your TV remote), or twin optical connectors, or even a good ol' 3.5mm jack. The remote is awkward, but there are also controls on the top, and a great app you can use to make mode adjustments. This thing is cheap, versatile, discreet and sounds great. We love it – and our complete Yamaha SR-C20A review goes deeper into why.
Best soundbar 2023: The best of the rest
The LG S95QR gives you a main bar, a subwoofer and two rear speakers that all connect wirelessly to create a real 'dome' of sound developed in conjunction with the Meridian audio brand. There's even the addition of a centre height channel – which is a world’s first.
It's astoundingly good at enveloping you with audio, with convincing positioning of sounds around and above you. There's excellent dynamic range, and it makes a hell of a noise without anything getting overwhelmed. It's even excellent at upscaling regular surround or stereo soundtracks into really convincing Atmos-like audio. What's more, is the AI Room Correction which helps bring the numerous speakers together into a single cohesive system while eliminating acoustic distractions from its environment.
With twin HDMI inputs (plus the eARC output to the TV), useful wireless streaming options and Google Assistant support, and a really easy setup process. This is for 65-inch TVs and up, really, and it's very much priced for the premium end of the market, which is why we don't recommend it for more people. But as our full LG S95QR review reveals, if you tick the right boxes, it's one hell of a sound system.
The Sony HT-A7000 delivers basically the best Dolby Atmos width and height we've heard from a one-box soundbar – certainly at this kind of price. When we say "one-box" soundbar, we mean there's no separate subwoofer here, making it great for those who want a simpler setup. Although it's still a big unit, suitable for TVs of 55 inches and up…
With its array of drivers and clever audio processing (Sony always excels at this), it gives the impression of precise sound that really envelops you from the front, wrapping to your sides and just about above you. We also noted that despite the lack of separate subwoofer, you get a big and deep bass response that makes soundtracks feel full and meaty.
In our full Sony HT-A7000 review, we said "There’s really dynamic potency on display, so when the going switches from ‘very quiet’ to ‘very loud indeed’ (as it surely must in any modern movie soundtrack at some point) the A7000 breathes deeply enough to make the difference explicit. It’s very detailed in general, and especially through the midrange/centre channel – so dialogue is plain, easy to follow and packed with character."
And best of all, this soundbar includes two HDMI inputs, as well as the HDMI connection to your TV, and it can pass through 4K HDR at up to 120Hz, meaning it's absolutely ideal for next-gen gamers, as well as movie fans. It's not cheap, but you get a seriously future-proofed bit of kit.
The Sonos Arc is a Dolby Atmos soundbar with eleven drivers at various angles, for projecting sound upwards as well as out to your left and right. As a single-box soundbar, it's not able to fake sound truly coming from all around you, but instead it creates a clear sense of the sound filling the space in front of you, which is just as good, in its own way.
Instead of the noise seeming like it's coming from a speaker, it's projecting from the entire wall, spanning the full width and height to the room. And it really makes use of that space: Atmos' height channels mean that something moving up and down really has a sense of that height in motion, and when a noise travels across the screen it's matched to what you're seeing on screen, adding immersion even if it doesn't surround you. If you want to go with the full surround experience, you can add two smaller Sonos units, such as Sonos One SLs, as wireless rear speakers.
The audio quality is just fantastic, no matter whether you're watching movies or listening to music (this is a full multi-room speaker, with streaming via the Sonos app or Apple AirPlay 2) – everything is finely balanced (including totally clear dialogue even without the Speech Enhancer option) and beautifully smooth.
However: it has only a single HDMI port, with no passthrough at all, so you'll lose an HDMI port from your TV when connecting it, and if your TV doesn't decode or passthrough Dolby Atmos itself, then you won't actually be able to make full use of what it can do anyway. This is incredibly frustrating, and feels bizarrely cheap for a premium soundbar. It's a good thing the audio quality is so good that our full Sonos Arc review review still rates it as one of the best soundbar buys, provided it's a good fit with your TV.
The Denon Home Sound Bar 550 is a small soundbar (it'll sit happily under 32-inch TVs, and it's a good match with sets up to 55 inches) that's able top produce an impressively wide and tall soundstage, thanks to smart processing and its six drivers (plus three passive radiators). Its support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X mean it's future-proofed for advanced sound no matter the source.
Its connection options include two HDMI ports – allowing for 4K HDR HDMI passthrough – an optical connection for older TVs, 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Over Wi-Fi, you can stream to it using Apple AirPlay 2, or Denon's own multi-room streaming app.
You might be thinking that overall, this is a very similar proposition to the Sonos Beam further up the list – and you'd be right. The Denon is more flexible, and its HDMI passthrough alone may make it the better choice for you – but as our full Denon Home Sound Bar 550 review explains, we found that at loud volume, the quality of its audio starts to wobble. Many people will never listen that loud, but it still means that the Sonos Beam remains the marginal winner in our eyes.
This single-box soundbar uses its hefty line-up of speaker drivers to deliver really detailed, punchy and engrossing movie sound. It's not as impressive when it comes to advanced Dolby Atmos positional audio as some of the other options here, but when it comes to the meat and potatoes of a full and wall-balanced soundstage, excellent dynamic range and clear dialogue, it's faultless.
It's also the best here when it comes to music reproduction, which is often a secondary concern for soundbars. But Bowers & Wilkins is a hi-fi specialist, and it really shows, delivering drive and timing conviction that's truly rare from this kind of product – and there are plenty of wireless ways to play music to it.
In our full Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 review, we praised it a lot for its ability to discern fine details, but also noted that it's "more than capable of kicking right off if the soundtrack demands it. There’s real dynamic power here, and the soundbar can switch from ‘near-silence’ to ‘enormous earth-shattering explosion’ and back again in an eye-blink."
It's may an imperfect buy for you, though. Its multi-room music support is currently limited to AirPlay 2 only (with more options coming later), there's no HDMI passthrough, there's no DTS support, and there's no way to add rear speakers if you wanted a more complete setup in the future. For a lot of people, none of these may matter – but either alone or in combination, it just makes it a slightly more limited option than some others here.
If you like the idea of the top Samsung entry on this list but you're less keen on its jaw-dropping price then the Samsung HW-Q800B packs in a lot of the same features for a lot less cash.
Made up of a 5.1.2-channel speaker layout that delivers front left/centre/right channels, a pair of side channels, twin up-firing channels, and a wireless subwoofer - this soundbar undoubtedly ticks the immersive audio box.
In the Samsung HW-Q800B review, we said that "the soundstage is understandably front-heavy, but there’s plenty of width, height and scale to the presentation" so you'll get a bold cinematic experience across all sorts of movies and music.
To boost the audio even further, you can add wireless rear surround and height channels, the Q800B can also integrate with certain Samsung TVs using Q Symphony. Plus, with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and audio calibration to deliver a cohesive system optimised for your room, you won't be short on features.
The Bose Soundbar 700 is only about the width of a 43-inch TV, yet offers the kind of high-end build quality and audio expertise you find on bigger soundbars usually. We love that it brings Bose's excellent touch for sound to people who don't want to go massive with their TV setup, though it has some issues that keep it from being further up the list.
First, the sound quality is strong. There's width and power, but vocals stay clear and central. For adding clarity and depth to movie soundtracks, it does the job really well – though can get a bit muddy at higher volumes, and doesn't quite have the dynamic range of some of the other options here. Being a one-box design, there's no separate subwoofer, which means is solid rather than truly cinematic.
The glass-topped design is excellent, and it's easy to set up, thanks to an excellent remote and really good app. There's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, and it's a great option for music as well as movies.
At this price, though, we're annoyed that it doesn't offer any HDMI passthrough, and that there's no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support (it doesn't support the formats, as well as offering no upfiring drivers or anything).
How to buy the best soundbar for you
As televisions get slimmer they may look more attractive, but the audio quality is thin, too. A soundbar puts back some power and bass without the intrusive cables and clutter of a home cinema system.
First thing to bear in mind is they don't all supply surround sound – just as many soundbars deal only in stereo, so choose accordingly. Stereo is more reliable from a fixed unit; surround sound can be magical, or it can be a mess. Of course, it's excellent in all the soundbars we've chosen, but if you're look at others, keep that in mind.
Some have subwoofers built-in to the main unit, while others include separate woofers, often wireless (in that they connect to the bar wirelessly – they still need power).
Many now also boast Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi to stream music wirelessly from phones. Some will also include microphones with support for Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
The main thing to bear in mind with soundbars is where to position them. If your TV is on a media unit, and you're planning to just plonk the soundbar in front of it, you may find it blocks your remote control, or even the bottom of the TV, depending on your TV's stand. Some soundbars are lower profile than others, so be sure to factor this in.
Another key thing to look out for is the number and type of wired connections on offer. HDMI ARC is standard now, because it's the easiest way to plug and play, and it means you don't need a remote just for your soundbar, because the TV passes all controls over the cable.
However, some older TVs don't have HDMI ARC connections, or will only have one, which may already be in use by another box of yours, so most soundbars will have the option of an optical audio connection instead. So make sure that you choose a soundbar with the connection types that suit your TV.
Most high-end soundbars (and many budget ones) will have an HDMI passthrough, which can solve the issue of your TV only having one HDMI ARC port – this means you plug a console, set-top box or whatever into the soundbar, which passes the video onto the TV, while still receiving all audio from the TV.