Best soundbar 2021, including Dolby Atmos wonders and cheap soundbars

Our best soundbars for all budgets will instantly beef up your weak TV speakers, all the way up to 3D Dolby Atmos surround sound

Included in this guide:

Best soundbar 2021, living room with a black Sony soundbar sitting on a wooden TV bench, with TV wall mounted above, and subwoofer on the floor to the side
(Image credit: Sony)

The best soundbars instantly add more power, clarity and excitement to your TV's audio, and take just seconds to set up. Because today's TVs are so ultra-thin and design-focused, they struggle to fit high-quality speakers in. Adding a soundbar just below your TV instantly solves this – and you can choose anything from cheap soundbars for an instant stereo upgrade, up to the best Dolby Atmos soundbars for elite surround sound.

The best soundbars have become wildly popular because they make this upgrade so simple. They take up barely any space compared to a traditional surround sound speaker system, and you need just a single HDMI cable to connect them to any recent TV, which means they're controlled by your TV's volume buttons – easy all around!

There are soundbars available for all levels – if you've got an elite model from our guide to the best TVs, you can get a soundbar with that delivers Dolby Atmos surround sound that's just as cinematic as your set's images. More mid-range soundbars can still add cinematic 3D-effect sound with extra depth to pair with the best TVs under £1000. And the more budget soundbars replace the often-weak audio of the best TVs under £500 and adds clarity for speech, depth for action effects, and generally a rich experience.

Most soundbars are aimed towards the movies and TV experience, btu some are now made with game audio in mind (perfect if you're looking to purchase one of the best gaming TVs). And if you're looking to upgrade your audio without spending too much, our list of the best cheap soundbar deals might help.

Don't forget too, that the best Black Friday deals are the ideal time to pick up a bargain and with our live prices being continually updated, you'll be able to grab the perfect soundbar for your home setup. 

The best soundbar you can buy today

Our pick for the best soundbar overall is the Samsung HW-Q950A. It's simply the ultimate home cinema upgrade, delivering 11 channels of surround, four channels of overhead Dolby Atmos sound, and a nice beefy subwoofer. The sense of 3D audio you get from it is unmatched, and the overall quality of the audio is top-notch. It's also really easy to set up despite including four separate boxes, and is packed with extra useful features.

That's an expensive choice, though. If you want the best affordable soundbar with cinematic sound, we'd recommend the Sony HT-G700, which is also able to produce Dolby Atmos with positional effects, but from a much more compact setup, including just a soundbar and subwoofer. It doesn't offer true surround sound, but the width and height is pretty amazing for the price.

And the best soundbar for smaller TVs is the Sonos Beam (2nd Gen), which is delivers incredible clarity and depth for a soundbar that's suitable for TVs down to 32 inches, and even still supports Dolby Atmos.

And if you just want the best budget soundbar, the Yamaha SR-C20A delivers incredible sound quality for its price, and is still easy to set up and looks smart.

The best soundbars: ranked

Samsung HW-Q950A soundbar, rear speakers and subwoofer on white backgroundT3 Best Buy Award badge

(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung HW-Q950A

The best soundbar for astounding Dolby Atmos cinema audio

Specifications
Dimensions: 1232x69.5x138mm (soundbar); 210x403x403mm (subwoofer), 125x 203x141mm (rear unit)
Connections: 1x HDMI out, 2x HDMI in, optical, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
eARC support: Yes
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: Both
Speaker configuration: 11.1.4-channel, 22 drivers
Quoted power output (total): 616W
Reasons to buy
+Incredible 3D effect+Excellent audio quality overall+Good range of features too
Reasons to avoid
-Not everyone will want four boxes-Not as strong with music as movies

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.

The soundbar delivers seven channels of surround sound (using angled drivers to bounce audio to the left and right to create real width), plus two upfiring drivers for height channels. Each rear speaker includes two surround channels (adding more precise positional sound than the Samsung HW-Q950T further down this list) as well as an upfiring driver of its own. The subwoofer delivers exactly the kind of deep bass you want, without getting ridiculous.

In combination, it becomes what our full Samsung HW-Q950A review called "a total beast, bringing the most complete and impactful Dolby Atmos 3D effect we've heard from anything to date". We also said the audio is "phenomenally powerful, detailed, dynamic and aggressive".

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.

Sonos Beam 2 on whiteT3 Award

(Image credit: Sonos)

2. Sonos Beam 2

Best soundbar/music speaker/smart assistant combo

Specifications
Dimensions: 68.5x651x100mm
Connections: 1x HDMI, 1x Ethernet, Wi-Fi
eARC support: Yes
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: Atmos
Speaker configuration: 5 speakers, 3-channel
Quoted power output (total): Not given
Reasons to buy
+Deft, poised and weighty sound+Expansive sound stage+Excellent app and controls
Reasons to avoid
-No HDMI passthrough-Atmos isn't as good as rivals'

Is it a fantastic-sounding soundbar? Is it a multi-room music speaker? Is it a home voice assistant? No, it's super Beam 2, doing all these things at once. Like its predecessor the Beam 2 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.

Samsung HW-Q800A soundbar and subwoofer on white backgroundT3 Awards 2021 winner

(Image credit: Samsung)

3. Samsung HW-Q800A

The best soundbar for balancing price and audio quality

Specifications
Dimensions: 980x60x115mm (main body); 210x403x403mm (subwoofer)
Connections: 1x HDMI out, 1x HDMI in, optical, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
eARC support: Yes
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: Both
Speaker configuration: 3.1.2-channel, 8 drivers
Quoted power output (total): 330W
Reasons to buy
+Dynamic movie sound+4K HDMI passthrough+Good for TVs 50 inches and up
Reasons to avoid
-Only one HDMI input-No Chromecast support

The Samsung HW-Q800A is our top mid-range soundbar pick right now because it's just the right balance of being a big audio upgrade, of offering a practical design that's useful with most TVs, and of being a good price. It's such a hard target to hit, and the Samsung excels in so many areas that it's won Best Soundbar at the T3 Awards 2021 in our audio category!

It's a Dolby Atmos soundbar, and features seven drivers in total in the main unit – two firing left and right, one central, and two firing upwards for adding Atmos height. Between them, they deliver a huge, highly effective wall of sound in front of you, with convincing movement of audio and positioning.

Crucially, it also offers all the detail, clarity and dynamic power you want from a cinematic bar. The separate wireless subwoofer is perfectly integrated with the soundstage of the main unit, with bass sounds moving seamlessly from one to the other as needed, with no sudden weird increase in rumble or anything else undesirable.

It also offers 4K HDR HDMI passthrough, so you don't lose a port by plugging it in, and has both Wi-Fi (with Apple AirPlay 2) and Bluetooth on board for streaming music to it.

And you can even add separate wireless rear speakers if you want to turn it into a proper surround system. But what you get in the basic set here is exactly what most people want from a soundbar anyway – a big, beefy upgrade over what a thin TV can offer, that's really easy to set up.

And unlike most soundbars aiming at this level of audio fidelity, it's actually small enough to sit in front of a 50-inch TV or bigger – too many of its competitors start from 55 inches minimum. Be sure to read our full Samsung HW-Q800A review for more info.

Save 50% off a subscription to T3 this Black Friday!

Save 50% off a subscription to T3 this Black Friday!
Want the world's most essential tech and lifestyle upgrade advice delivered right to you? T3 magazine is filled with reviews of the hottest new gadgets, as well as incredible technology you've never heard of, but you need to know. And now you can get it half-price, when you buy before 10am GMT on 30 November!

Sony HT-G700 soundbar and subwoofer on white backgroundT3 Award

(Image credit: Sony)

4. Sony HT-G700

The best budget soundbar with Dolby Atmos

Specifications
Dimensions: 980x64x108mm (main body); 192x387x406mm (subwoofer)
Connections: 1x HDMI out, 1x HDMI in, 1x optical line in, Bluetooth
eARC support: Yes
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: Yes
Speaker configuration: 3.1-channel
Quoted power output (total): 400W
Reasons to buy
+Impressive spatial sound+Great value package+Easy to set up and use
Reasons to avoid
-No 'real' height channels-Not as dynamic as fancier soundbars

This soundbar busts its way near the top of our list by offering an excellent package that makes it easy to recommend to most people for the price – it gives you significantly more spectacular directional audio than budget soundbars, and though expensive soundbars offer more dynamic audio, you have to spend almost double the price to really improve on what this gives you.

This soundbar and wireless subwoofer include Sony's fanciest processing, to make the three drivers in the soundbar seem like they're giving you sound coming from the sides and above. It can't really achieve its claims of being like a surround sound system, but that's okay, because what it does manage is really impressive.

Soundtracks have excellent width from this speaker, convincingly coming from the far left and right, but also being more subtly positioned in front of you, to match what's on screen. And yes, some height is added too, for extra immersion.

But it also does the boring stuff you want a soundbar to do immaculately: it makes voices much more audible in sound mixes, adds rich bass to underpin dramatic action, and generally lifts everything to sound more cinematic.

It's really easy to setup, too – plug and play, basically, with the wireless connection between the two boxes pre-synced – and includes an HDMI input as well as an HDMI output to your TV, so you don't lose the use of one port. Finally, it's small enough to fit well with TVs of 43 inches and up; other Dolby Atmos soundbars tend to be much bigger. Check out our full Sony HT-G700 review for even more info, and also see our Sony HT-G700 vs Sonos Beam guide if you want to see how it compares to its biggest competition in this list.

Yamaha SR-C20A on white backgroundT3 Award

(Image credit: Yamaha)

5. Yamaha SR-C20A

The best budget soundbar

Specifications
Dimensions: 600x64x94mm
Connections: 1x HDMI out, 2x optical line in, 3.5mm, Bluetooth 5.0
eARC support: No – just ARC
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: No
Speaker configuration: 2.1-channel
Quoted power output (total): 100W
Reasons to buy
+Really well-balanced sound+Adds impressive width+Incredibly compact
Reasons to avoid
-Not so good at high volumes-Nasty remote

If you're looking for the best soundbar under £250, your journey has ended. The audio quality here 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 – our complete Yamaha SR-C20A review goes deeper into why.

Samsung HW-Q950T on white backgroundT3 Award

(Image credit: Samsung)

6. Samsung HW-Q950T

The best Dolby Atmos surround soundbar for under £1,000

Specifications
Dimensions: 1232x69.5x138mm (bar); 210x403x403mm (sub); 120x210x141mm (rear speakers)
Connections: 2x HDMI, 2x HDMI out, 1x optical line in, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
eARC support: Yes
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: Yes
Speaker configuration: 20 speakers, 9.1.4-channel
Quoted power output (total): 564W
Reasons to buy
+Astounding dome of 3D sound+Dynamic and punchy audio+Bulletproof build quality
Reasons to avoid
-Four boxes to accommodate-Slightly imperfect low frequencies

If you want the scale of the cinema at home for under four figures, this is the best option. It's basically the 2020 version of the soundbar at the top of this list, so it's still a four-box system, meaning you've got the soundbar, a subwoofer, and two rear speakers. It originally cost the same as the newer model, but after a year on the shelves, its price has dropped a lot, and it's pretty astonishing value now. The audio results are still incredible – when it comes to the 3D effect of object-based audio (such as Dolby Atmos) adding surround sound and even height, only the Samsung HW-Q950A is better.

It's a 9.1.4-channel system, which is two less than the newer model. Just like that model, seven of the nine surround channels are in the front bar (using angled drivers to bounce the sound to the sides), as are two upward-firing drivers for Atmos height channels. That makes it a big bar – suitable for 55-inch TVs and up. Each rear speaker has one surround channel and another upward-firing driver – this is where this model really differs from the HW-Q950A, because that offers two surround channels per rear speaker, which noticeably helps to complete the 3D effect.

It's not just about scale, though – the dexterity of the sound here is top-notch as well. From the smallest element of the soundtrack to the largest, it all gets picked out and presented clearly and precisely. It can deliver subtle scenes with a light touch, then instantly turn on the big noise for a shock moment, if that's what a movie asks.

It struggles to deliver quite as much nuance in the bass as it does elsewhere, but it's overall just incredible at what it does, as our in-depth Samsung HW-Q950T review explores.

B&O Beosound Stage on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

7. B&O Beosound Stage

The best one-box premium soundbar

Specifications
Dimensions: 1100x170x77mm
Connections: 1x HDMI out, 1x HDMI in, 1x 3.5mm line in, 2x Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2
eARC support: Yes
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: Dolby Atmos only
Speaker configuration: 3-channel, 11 drivers
Quoted power output (total): 550W
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic for movies or music+Extremely stylish+Simple to set up+Loads of wireless options
Reasons to avoid
-Not surround sound-Just one HDMI input

The Danish audio masters have done it again with this soundbar, where 'it' is 'pack an astounding amount of sound into a small, stylish unit'. The Beosound Stage is actually B&O's first soundbar, and it's been worth the wait.

There are 11 drivers hidden behind is stylish Kvadrat cloth finish, producing a hugely impressive wall of sound – angled drivers give the audio height, while a range of tweeters and woofers add width and depth. It can get incredibly boomy without the need for a subwoofer, too.

The amount detail is just excellent, and its a deft touch with everything from dynamic action scenes that pan across the screen to subtle speech. It squeezes every drop of audio quality from soundtracks thanks to Dolby Atmos compatibility, and does feature a noticeable boost to the spatial positioning of audio compared to simpler soundbars, though don't expect it to offer a full surround experience like the Samsung Q90R below.

But that's okay – because this is a single-box solution that's basically plug-and-play, and sometimes that's just what you want. It doesn't even have its own remote – you'll just use your TV's remote, or the B&O app, to control it.

It's also probably the single best soundbar we've ever tested for music playback, bringing a rhythm and musicality that most can only dream of. And with that big, tall soundstage, it feels like sitting in front of an orchestra.

With Chromecast and Apple AirPlay 2 streaming built in, plus support for B&Os system, it's a multi-room music marvel too. And there's Bluetooth, for streaming from other devices (such as a wireless turntable). 

It's expensive, yes, but you can hear every penny. Here's our full five-star B&O Beosound Stage review, if you want even more about how impressive it is. We've also got a Samsung HW-Q950T vs B&O Beosound Stage guide, if you want to see exactly how this compares to a similarly-priced system that offers multiple boxes for surround sound.

Majority Bowfell Compact Soundbar on white backgorundT3 Award

(Image credit: Majority)

8. Majority Bowfell Compact Soundbar

The best super cheap, super small soundbar

Specifications
Dimensions:
Connections: 1x optical line in, 1x 3.5mm audio, 1x RAC, Bluetooth
eARC support: No
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: No
Quoted power output (total): Not given
Reasons to buy
+Plenty of connectivity options+Very compact+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-No HDMI connectivity-The sound doesn't compare to the others on this list

The Majority Bowfell Compact Soundbar is super, super cheap. Naturally, that means the sound is nowhere near the level of the other options on this list. 

What's good about it is how simple it is – there are a few different ways to connect including Bluetooth (although there's no HDMI) and everything feels self-explanatory, including the remote that comes with it.

We wouldn't recommend using it in a large living room, but for a small bedroom TV or a computer monitor, it'll be an improvement on the sound offered by built-in speakers boosting the clarity of voices and increasing the volume overall. Our full Majority Bowfell Compact Soundbar review explains more about its strengths and weaknesses.

Sonos Arc on grey backgroundT3 Award

(Image credit: Sonos)

9. Sonos Arc

An excellent one-box soundbar that uses Dolby Atmos for a rich upgrade

Specifications
Dimensions: 1141.7x115.7x87mm
Connections: 1x HDMI ARC, 1x optical line in, 1x Ethernet, Wi-Fi
eARC support: Yes
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: Dolby Atmos only
Speaker configuration: 11 speakers
Quoted power output (total): Not given
Reasons to buy
+Excellent Atmos height and width+Sound glorious for movies or music+Good streaming features
Reasons to avoid
-No HDMI passthrough at all

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.

Yamaha SR-B20A on white backgroundT3 Award

(Image credit: Yamaha)

10. Yamaha SR-B20A

A great budget soundbar with expansive sound

Specifications
Dimensions: 910x131x53mm
Connections: 1x HDMI out, 1x optical line in, Bluetooth
eARC support: No – ARC only
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: DTS:X only
Speaker configuration: 6 speakers, 2.1 channels
Quoted power output (total): 120W
Reasons to buy
+Small but punchy+Impressive width and height to sound+Very well-made
Reasons to avoid
-No separate subwoofer-No HDMI passthrough-No Dolby Atmos

The Yamaha SR-B20A strikes an impressive balance of price and capability. Six drivers is a lot for under £250, and gives it not only great dynamic range, but also a wide and tall soundstage with pretty precise position of audio, adding that extra dimension to what you're seeing on-screen – the '3D Surround' mode is especially effective.

This is a single-box soundbar, so there isn't a separate subwoofer. Two on-board low-end drivers deliver the bass, and this is admittedly its weakest point, lacking the expressiveness and poise that a separate subwoofer unit might have given you. But it still works well, and that's the only wobble when it comes to sound here – everything is immediately enhanced with extra depth and clarity compared to your average TV speakers. We also like that there's a specific gaming mode, which again is great for positioning sound effects.

It's a bit of a shame that there's no HDMI passthrough here, which means you'll lose one of your HDMI ports plugging this in, which may be annoying if you have a mid-range TV with fewer ports. But otherwise, construction is great, and it feels more premium than it costs – read our full Yamaha SR-B20A review for more on why we like it so much.

Panasonic SC-HTB01 Soundslayer on white backgroundT3 Award

(Image credit: Panasonic)

11. Panasonic HT-SCB01 Soundslayer

The best soundbar for gaming, and perfect for smaller TVs or monitors

Specifications
Dimensions: 431x132x52mm
Connections: 1x HDMI out, 1x HDMI in, 1x optical line in, Bluetooth
eARC support: No – ARC only
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: Both
Speaker configuration: 5 speakers, 2.1 channels
Quoted power output (total): 80W
Reasons to buy
+Compact yet really powerful+Good connectivity for the price+Useful gaming-focused modes
Reasons to avoid
-Not as refined for movies-Limited in power and spatial positioning compared to higher-end bars

All of these soundbars will elevate gaming, but they're not made with it specifically in mind. This one is, but also manages to be a really tempting small soundbar for everyone else at the same time. You just have to pretend it's not called the 'Soundslayer' if you're in the latter camp…

Packing in an impressive array of speakers (each stereo channel consists of a full-range driver plus tweeter combo, and bass is handled by a woofer plus bass radiator pair) for its size, plus 4K HDR HDMI passthrough and support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound, this beats the similarly-targeted Sonos Beam for audio features. It offers Bluetooth for streaming to it from a phone, but no Wi-Fi.

Sound is punchy, deep and powerful. Its small size makes perfect for large gaming monitors or small-to-mid TVs, but the level of attack it offers makes for a big experience. It's especially capable when it comes to the low end, packing impact into every hit or explosion. And though being a 2.1 speaker it can't make the most of Dolby Atmos, there's really good width and height to the sound overall.

For movies, it's not what we'd call refined – it wants to be full-on all the time. Which can be fine, depending on your movie preference – it certainly doesn't do a bad job. It's not especially well suited to music, particularly when compared to the Sonos Beam. But as an overall upgrade intended to add scale and richness to a monitor or small TV, this is a great buy for a low price. Here's our full Panasonic SC-HTB01 Soundslayer review.

LG SN11RG soundbar, rear speakers and subwoofer on white backgroundT3 Award

(Image credit: LG)

12. LG SN11RG

A gigantic Dolby Atmos experience, but for a gigantic price

Specifications
Dimensions: 1443x63x146mm (soundbar); 221x390x312.8mm (subwoofer); 130x211.5x191.2mm (rear speakers)
Connections: 1x HDMI out, 2x HDMI in, 1x optical line in, USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0
eARC support: Yes
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: Yes
Speaker configuration: 12 speakers, 7.1.4 channels
Quoted power output (total): 770W
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic spatial position of sounds+Easy wireless setup+Powerful, rich speakers
Reasons to avoid
-Very pricey-It's really big

The LG SN11RG gives you four speaker boxes (the main bar, the subwoofer and two rear speakers) that all connect wirelessly to create a real 'dome' of sound when provided with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The soundbar handles centre, front left and front duties, and has two upfiring height drivers; each of the two rear speakers handles one surround channel and that have an upfiring driver each; and the subwoofer deals with bass, of course.

It's astoundingly good at enveloping you with audio, with convincing positioning of sounds around and above you. There's excellent dynamic range on offers, and it make 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.

With twin HDMI inputs (plus the eARC output to the TV) that passthrough 4K and Dolby Vision HDR, useful wireless streaming options and Google Assistant support, and a really easy setup process, it's a hugely impressive system… with emphasis on the huge. 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 SN11RG review reveals, if you tick the right boxes, it's one hell of a sound system.

Sony HT-X8500 on white backgroudT3 Award

(Image credit: Sony)

13. Sony HT-X8500

The best budget soundbar with virtual Dolby Atmos

Specifications
Dimensions: 890x64x96mm
Connections: 1x HDMI out, 1x HDMI in, 1x optical line in, USB, Bluetooth 5.0
eARC support: Yes
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: Yes
Speaker configuration: 3 speakers, 2.1 channels
Quoted power output (total): 320W
Reasons to buy
+Great virtual surround+Dolby Atmos & DTS:X support+HDMI passthrough+Excellent value
Reasons to avoid
-Can't compete with real Atmos

We're seeing this soundbar regularly discounted at the moment, which is making it a hell of a bargain – few soundbars at this price point offer such a focus on cinematic sound.

Despite being a simple stereo setup inside (with integrated subwoofer, which really does deliver impressive bass), Sony's digital processing claims to replicate a 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos surround system. Let's be clear that it doesn't achieve this (not even as closely as the HT-G700 further up does), nor would we ever expect it to – but it does add a ton more directionality to the sound to give movies and TV that extra bit of magic.

And while the lack of upfiring speakers mean it can't achieve the true overhead effect of Dolby Atmos, it does add height to the presentation, so it sounds like it's coming from the whole area in front of you, rather than pumping out of a small bar. And it's really nice compared to other such cheap soundbars – distinctly more cinematic than a TV's speakers, in an immediate and obvious way. And it will upmix stereo or regular 5.1 sources with extra height.

Bose Soundbar 700 on white background

(Image credit: Bose)

14. Bose Soundbar 700

The best Bose soundbar, ideal for smaller TVs

Specifications
Dimensions: 978x57x108mm
Connections: 1x HDMI out, 1x optical line in, USB, Bluetooth 5.0
eARC support: Yes
Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support: No
Speaker configuration: Four speakers, 3.0 channels
Quoted power output (total): Not listed
Reasons to buy
+Premium, compact design+Big sound from a small bar+Good remote and app for setup
Reasons to avoid
-No Atmos or DTS:X-No HDMI passthrough

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.

Matthew Bolton
Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's master of all things audiovisual, running our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also handles smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's the only one on the team who can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable.

Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair.