Best soundbar for small TVs 2021, giving you clearer, deeper TV sound in any space

The best soundbars for small TVs can bring you big Dolby Atmos sound from a compact frame – or can just make speech clearer for you

Included in this guide:

Best soundbar for small TVs 2021, image shows Sonos Beam 2nd Gen in front of TV, on a wooden table
(Image credit: Sonos)

Our guide to the best soundbar for small TVs is here to help you pick out the compact options from the, er, noise. So many soundbars released today are huge units made for big-screen adventures, but it's the compact TVs that tend to really need help providing clearer dialogue or more impact for action.

That's where the best soundbars for small TVs come in – the options we've picked here are less wide than most of the best soundbars, but all offer far, far better sound than a compact TV alone can produce.

When buying a small soundbar, the first thing to consider is your upper limit where size is concerned. If you’ve specified a smaller TV (by which we mean something under 50 inches, down to 24 inches), the chances are it’s in a smaller room. We've provided the measurements of all the soundbars we've chosen, so if you know the width of the TV (which is different to the screen size: screen size is measured diagonally, but we're talking about the horizontal width), you can see which will be a good fit.

Next, we'd recommend looking at the port options of the soundbars. Everything we've chosen supports HDMI ARC (audio return channel) connectivity, which means you connect to the HDMI ARC port on your TV, and the TV passes its sound to the bar, and the soundbar's volume is controlled by the TV remote. Easy! But even the best TVs only have one HDMI ARC port, and you might already be using it to plug in a set-top box or console, etc. If so, you may want a soundbar with an HDMI passthrough, which means you don't lose the use of that one HDMI port for connecting video devices – we've pointed out which soundbars have HDMI passthrough. And if you don't have HDMI ARC on your TV, you'll need to use optical – we'll point out that connectivity too.

After that, it’s important to check on the driver configuration and where you'll place the soundbar. Between them, our favourites feature speaker drivers that face upwards, downwards and sideways too – and if you tuck them away close to a surface (whether that’s a wall, or a shelf) they’ll skew your sound more than somewhat.

After that, just make sure your putative soundbar will do what you want it to do. If it’s for movies, do you need it to be able to deal with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack (even if it doesn't have a Dolby Atmos speaker configuration)? If it’s for gaming, does it have the necessary sound modes to make the most of your favourite games?

Don't forget we also have our guide to the best soundbars for Samsung TVs if you want advice tailored to that brand.

What is the best soundbar for small TVs?

Sonos is right on the money with the new version of the Sonos Beam soundbar. Here’s a compact, beautifully made speaker that’s easy to use, sounds remarkably adept in any circumstance, and even gives the hint of a suggestion of the Dolby Atmos 3D spatial effect. Not as much as Sonos seems to think it does, mind you, but a hint nevertheless. 

Add in the usual Sonos possibilities vis-a-vis multi-room and true surround-sound systems, and the Beam Gen 2 is the outstanding product in its class – and does it all for TVs of just 32 inches and up. The only potential flaw of the Sonos Beam is that it doesn't offer HDMI passthrough, but we have more options below that do.

Best soundbar for small TVs: the list

Sonos Beam 2 on whiteT3 Best Buy Award badge

(Image credit: Sonos)

The best soundbar for small TVs for most people

Dimensions (WxHxD): 651x69x100mm
Suitable for TVs: 32-50 inches
Dolby Atmos: Yes
Connections: 1x HDMI (eARC); Ethernet; Wi-Fi
Reasons to buy
+Poised, big and well-defined sound+Great app and control options
Reasons to avoid
-No HDMI passthrough-Dolby Atmos effect is subtle

In almost every respect, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is a no-brainer. While its promise to create a Dolby Atmos effect isn't as pronounced as you might be hoping and it's a shame it doesn't have HDMI passthrough, in every other department this is the best small soundbar around. 

Its sound is broad, properly balanced, surprisingly punchy and utterly believable, with real width and depth to movie soundtracks (and even the tiniest suggestion of height to Dolby Atmos content). The standard of build and finish is impeccable. And because it’s a Sonos, of course, it’s an object lesson in ergonomics. It’s simple to set up, to control, and to integrate into a wider Sonos-based surround-sound or multi-room system, or to use with Apple AirPlay 2 streaming.

So if your TV is of modest dimensions, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 will make an immodest difference to its sound. And it's a superb speaker for music too, and even has Alexa and Google Assistant built in, meaning it operates as a smart speaker too (if you want). Here's our full Sonos Beam (2nd Gen) review.

Yamaha SR-C20A on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Yamaha)

The best cheap soundbar for small TVs

Dimensions (WxHxD): 600x64x64mm
Suitable for TVs: 32-50 inches
Dolby Atmos: No
Connections: 1x HDMI (ARC); 2x digital optical; 3.5mm analogue; Bluetooth 5.0
Reasons to buy
+Wide, well-organised sound +Great with movie or game soundtracks
Reasons to avoid
-Weaker at high volumes-Nasty remote control

What Yamaha doesn’t know about soundbars isn’t worth knowing. And with the SR-C20A the company has taken decades of expertise and crammed them into a brilliantly compact soundbar that’s a truly entertaining listen.

Unless you get completely carried away where volume levels are concerned, the SR-C20A is a bold, detailed and quite expansive listen. Certainly it can give far more width and substance to movie soundtracks than your TV alone can manage, and with games it’s a dynamic and revealing performer too. It’s even prepared to have a go at being a music speaker – although for all its dynamism and detail retrieval, it’s not the most rhythmically adept soundbar around.

But then neither is it the biggest. If you want an affordable and discreet portable soundbar to do the business where movies and games are concerned, this Yamaha demands a listen, as our full Yamaha SR-C20A review explains.

Panasonic SC-HTB01 Soundslayer on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Panasonic)

The best soundbar for small TVs with a focus on gaming

Dimensions (WxHxD): 431x52x132mm
Suitable for TVs: 24-43 inches
Dolby Atmos: Yes
Connections: 2x HDMI (1x ARC); 1x digital optical; Bluetooth 2.1
Reasons to buy
+Confident, weighty sound+Specific gaming modes
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks outright scale of audio-Can sound rather blunt

‘Soundslayer’ may make it sound like a character in Game of Thrones, but don’t be fooled – this Panasonic is all business. Despite being the smallest soundbar in this list, easily able to fit beneath even compact gaming monitors as well as the tiniest TVs, the SC-HTB01 fairly belts out soundtracks with something approaching relish.

‘Assertive’ only begins to describe it. The Panasonic may be giving away a little detail and a little outright scale compared to other similarly priced alternatives, but it makes up for that in sheer scale. Low frequency stuff may not be controlled with absolute precision here, but by heavens there’s plenty of it. The movie and/or game soundtrack that uses ‘bass’ as a shortcut to ‘excitement’ is hardly a rare beast, after all, which makes the Soundslayer an exciting listen. 

And, let’s not forget, all that excitement is derived up by the smallest soundbar in this list – and one of the few that has HDMI passthrough, making it a practical choice.

It's especially of interest to gamers, because it has specific sound modes for different genres design to make it easier to stay competitive when you need to, or immersed in the vibes. But that doesn't mean it isn't ideal for movies too – as we go into in our full Panasonic SC-HTB01 Soundslayer review.

Samsung S60T on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Samsung)

The best Samsung soundbar for small TVs

Dimensions (WxHxD): 760x70x130mm
Suitable for TVs: 40-50 inches
Dolby Atmos: No
Connections: 1x HDMI (ARC); 1x digital optical; Bluetooth 4.2; Wi-Fi
Reasons to buy
+Clarity, detail and scale to spare+Good control options
Reasons to avoid
-Light on bass presence-Can be picky about position

Just because you want a sensibly sized soundbar to go with your sensibly sized screen, that doesn’t mean you don’t want great big sound – and on that score (as well as quite a few others) the Samsung HW-S60T has you covered. 

Thanks to its side-firing speaker drivers, the Samsung develops a sound far wider (and, indeed, a fair bit taller) than its physical dimensions. And it’s a precise, insightful sound at that – if you'll tweaks your EQs just so for your specific listening environment, there’s real presence to midrange dialogue, and very well controlled bite and attack at the top of the frequency range. Only the bass side of things, which is tentative where so many rivals are quite bolshy, stops the HW-S60T getting higher up this list.

Many listeners prefer clarity to bombast, though, and if you’re one of them then this Samsung should be a tempting option. Our full Samsung HW-S60T review goes even deeper into why.

Yamaha SR-B20A on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: Yamaha)

The best cheap and small soundbar for 3D effects

Dimensions (WxHxD): 910x53x131mm
Suitable for TVs: 43-55 inches
Dolby Atmos: No
Connections: 1x HDMI (ARC); 2x digital optical; subwoofer pre-out; Bluetooth 5.0
Reasons to buy
+Full-scale, dynamic sound+Pronounced positional effect
Reasons to avoid
-Monotonal bass…-…of which there’s either too much or too little

Yamaha has packed 120 watts of amplification into what is a fairly compact soundbar (even if it’s the biggest on this list) and uses it to power a six-driver array. The result is sound that’s way beyond what your TV alone is capable of where dynamism and sheer scale are concerned – but not at the expense of clarity or insight.

Admittedly it’s a bit of a one-note wonder where the lowest frequencies are concerned – there’s not too much differentiation in the truly deep bass sounds. But at least they are present (which is more than some alternative designs can say) and everything that happens above them is detailed and prodigiously informative.

The SR-B20A even manages to give a laudable impression of effects steering. You'll never be convinced sound is coming from anywhere except in front of you, but there’s plenty of audio movement available, as our full Yamaha SR-B20A review goes into.

LG QP5 Eclair on white backgroundT3 Approved badge

(Image credit: LG)

6. LG QP5 Éclair

The best super-small soundbar with a subwoofer

Dimensions (WxHxD): 296x60x126mm
Suitable for TVs: 34-50 inches
Dolby Atmos: Yes
Connections: 2x HDMI out (1x ARC); 1x digital optical; 1x USB; Bluetooth 4.0
Reasons to buy
+Startlingly compact+Dolby Atmos speakers, plus subwoofer
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't always get tonality right-Atmos effect is very mild

There’s small, and then there’s the LG QP5 Éclair. Even by the standards of these subwoofers, it’s a tiddler – to be clear, the soundbar is the smaller unit in the image above. And yet it still packs in five speaker drivers in an effort to deliver a facsimile of Dolby Atmos spatial audio. Unlike the rest of these soundbars, though, it recognises its physical limitations by partnering a wireless subwoofer (which itself isn’t all that big, yet looks pretty chunky next to the soundbar itself).

The trouble is, the LG has sacrificed a lot of what you might want a soundbar for in order to package itself so neatly. Tonality is skewed somewhat – the subwoofer does its punchy, if rather monotonal, thing, but the soundbar is a little dull at the top of the frequency range and rather boxy-sounding where the dialogue sits. The Atmos effect is barely discernible either.

However, it features HDMI passthrough despite its limited size, so if what you're looking for is a smart and tiny sound option with a subwoofer you can easily hide, it's still a strong option. But other options here will deliver clearer audio.

Majority Bowfell Compact Soundbar on white background

(Image credit: Majority)

An ultra-cheap and ultra-small soundbar

Dimensions (WxHxD): 388x54x72mm
Suitable for TVs: 24-32 inches
Dolby Atmos: No
Connections: 1x digital optical; 1x RCA; 1x 3.5mm aux in; 1x USB; Bluetooth
Reasons to buy
+Suitable for 24-inch or 32-inch TVs+Bluetooth, optical and 3.5mm connection
Reasons to avoid
-No HDMI-Limited sound quality

Let's be up front – this is not the most detailed and melodic soundbar of all time. It's very small, and very affordable, and so is somewhat basic compared to the others here. But what we ask a soundbar to do is improve on what's built into a TV, and for the 24-inch or basic 32-inch TVs that this is designed to be paired with, it absolutely will do that.

It doesn't have HDMI ARC, which is a bit of a shame, but actually a lot of very budget TVs don't include it either, so that's fine overall. You can connect it to your TV over optical or 3.5mm cable, and it has its own remote with volume controls.

As our full Bowfell Majority Compact Soundbar review says, "Watching TV and movies, the soundbar noticeably boosts voices. In comparison to a bedroom TV speaker, vocals came across clearer and louder … It also has a built-in subwoofer helps increase the depth of the soundstage."

At this price, that's all we're asking – if you have a tiny TV with weak speakers, this is a beefier replacement, and for barely any money at all.

How to buy the best soundbar for small TVs

It’s important to accept that smaller soundbars have their limitations, even the quite expensive ones. You can usually forget about state-of-the-art features like Dolby Atmos sound, for starters (yes, we know Sonos thinks the Beam Gen 2 is a Dolby Atmos soundbar, but it simply isn't the same as what bigger soundbars can do). 

Consequently you need to resign yourself to a sound that, while far bigger and more impressive than that coming from your TV, isn’t going to trick you into thinking it’s coming from anywhere but in front of you. The main thing to expect is more detailed sound, clearer dialogue, and more impact for sound effects – it'll be more cinematic, but like a surround system.

Just as important, on a logistical level, is that HDMI passthrough isn't very common. Th

But as long as you’re prepared for the inevitable compromises the compact form requires (compared to bigger alternatives there will be a relative lack of sonic scale, as well as that restricted feature-set), there are some deeply capable soundbars available, and at quite a spread of prices. There will be your perfect purchase among them.

Simon Lucas
Simon Lucas

Simon Lucas is a freelance technology journalist and consultant, with particular emphasis on the audio/video aspects of home entertainment. Before embracing the carefree life of the freelancer, he was editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine and website – since then, he's written for titles such as Wired, Metro, the Guardian and Stuff, among many others. Should he find himself with a spare moment, Simon likes nothing more than publishing and then quickly deleting tweets about the state of the nation (in general), the state of Aston Villa (in particular) and the state of his partner's cat.