These days, TVs are getting thinner and sleeker, but this means there usually isn’t enough room to include quality speakers anymore. So, to get the best audio from your TV, you’re going to want to get a soundbar or surround sound system. While surround sound systems usually offer better audio-quality, soundbars are much more stylish, they cost less, and they don’t require an A/V receiver or any complicated wiring. Here is our list of the best budget, mid-range, and high-end soundbars for music, movies, TV, and everything in between.
Best Budget Soundbar Under $100: Creative Stage
The 21-inch Creative Stage offers the best sound quality for those on a tight budget. Unlike most soundbars under $100, the Creative Stage comes with an 18-inch subwoofer that delivers deep bass.
This 2.1 audio channel soundbar (with two stereo channels and one subwoofer) has tons of connectivity options, including an HMDI (ARC) port, which lets you get the best audio when you connect to your TV or computer. Plus, it supports Bluetooth, so you can also stream music from your phone or computer. It even comes with a wall mounting kit and a remote control that lets has preset EQs for music, movies, and games.
It’s incredible how Vizio managed to keep the V21 under $200. This 36-inch budget soundbar comes with a 5-inch subwoofer that is wireless (except for the power cord). Plus, it is optimized to get the best audio quality from your 4K and HDR (High Dynamic Range) content.
This 2.1 channel soundbar supports DTS Virtual:X, which gives you room-filling 3D sound. It also supports Dolby Volume, which evens out the audio levels across channels. That means commercials won’t be too loud, and you won’t have trouble hearing dialogue clearly.
The back of the Vizio V21 has an HDMI (ARC) port, a USB port (for playing .wav and MP3 files), and two 3.5mm jacks (AUX and AUX VA). The unique AUX VA jack lets you connect this soundbar to your smart home speakers (like an Amazon Echo). This mountable soundbar supports Bluetooth, and it comes with an easy-to-use remote control.
The Samsung HW-R650 is a 3.1 channel soundbar, which means it has a center channel that is dedicated to dialogue. This way, dialogue won’t be competing with the background music or other sounds that play through the stereo channels.
This 41-inch budget soundbar comes with a 6.5-inch wireless subwoofer, and it has a fairly neutral sound profile. However, it does not support 4K passthrough. Instead, this soundbar has a smart sound mode that optimizes your audio and gives your content the best sound possible. Plus, it also has a game mode that knows when you are playing a video game and automatically boosts the sound effects.
Since this soundbar was made by Samsung, it is one of the best soundbars you can get if you already have a Samsung TV. It will even work with your existing Samsung TV’s remote. The Samsung HW-R650 comes with two HDMI (ARC) ports (one in and one out), so you can plug in another HDMI device, such as a streaming device or game console.
While the JBL Bar 5.1 is technically over $500, you can easily find it for cheaper when it is on sale. With its detachable surround speakers, this is the best budget soundbar that offers a “true surround sound” experience.
You can place the detachable end speakers behind your couch to hear audio from all directions. These wireless speakers are battery-powered and offer up to 10 hours of playtime. It also comes with a wireless down-firing 10-inch subwoofer.
This 5.1 channel soundbar supports Dolby Digital technology, which is the most common surround sound format found on DVDs and HD broadcasts. That means your movies will sound the way they were meant to be heard.
It also has three HDMI (ARC) ports that make it easy to get the best sound from your TV and two other 4K devices at once. This system also has Bluetooth connectivity, and it will work with most remote controls, even the one that you already use to control your TV.
The Bose Soundbar 700 doesn’t just look high-end, with its metal grille and glossy glass finish, it’s also one of the best soundbars for listening to music. This standalone 3.0 channel soundbar has a great frequency response, and it doesn’t overly compress the audio, so it’s perfect for a wide variety of music genres.
This 38.5-inch soundbar features side-facing speakers, which bounce audio off the walls to fill your space with sound. It also has an audio calibration tool that optimizes the audio to the acoustics of your specific room. Plus, it supports Dolby Digital and DTS technologies and has a dialogue enhancement feature, so it’s also great for watching movies, even when the volume is turned down.
On the back of the soundbar, there’s one HDMI (eARC) port, which lets you send lossless audio from your TV back to the soundbar. Plus, you can also connect your devices via Bluetooth, WiFi, and Apple AirPlay 2 to stream wirelessly. You can control this soundbar with the included universal remote or from the Bose Music App, which lets you stream music from all your favorite services, like Spotify, Pandora, and internet radio stations directly to your soundbar.
This soundbar also doubles as a smart speaker, with Alexa and the Google Assistant built-in. You can even turn this soundbar into a surround sound system by adding additional speakers from Bose. However, the sound from this standalone soundbar is already great without the additional speakers.
Despite its name, the JBL Bar 9.1 is actually a 5.1.4 channel system. That means it comes with five surround sound channels, one subwoofer, and four up-firing speakers that provide an immersive 3D effect.
In total, this 48-inch soundbar (with the surround speakers attached) has 13 drivers and tweeters (speakers). The 10-inch wireless subwoofer offers theater-level bass, while the two detachable wireless speakers give you a surround sound experience. The detachable surround speakers have a 10-hour battery life, and they only take three hours to fully charge.
The JBL Bar 9.1 supports Dolby Atmos and DTS: X, which means your audio won’t be constricted to specific channels. Instead, this soundbar can assign audio to certain locations by bouncing sound off the walls in your room, so you will hear audio coming from all around you. It also supports 4K passthrough and has a room correction feature to optimize the sound for any content, no matter where you put it in the room.
The back of this soundbar has one HDMI in (eARC) and one HDMI out port, so you can use it to connect and control another HDMI device. You can also stream directly to the soundbar wirelessly via WiFi, Bluetooth, Chromecast, and AirPlay.
Best 7.1 Soundbar for Home Theaters: Samsung HW-Q90R
If you’re looking for a truly immersive surround sound experience, the Samsung HW-Q90R is the best soundbar you can get. This 7.1.4 soundbar includes additional rear channels that make audio sound like it’s coming from behind you.
In total, the Samsung HW-Q90R has a whopping 17 built-in speakers, including a wireless eight-inch subwoofer and two wireless rear speakers. Together, these speakers provide a wide sound that works with everything from movies to podcasts and everything in between.
This 48-inch soundbar supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, so it will deliver a well-balanced and crisp audio performance that can rival even the best movie theater sound systems. There’s also an Adaptive Sound feature that delivers the best audio quality by automatically optimizing sound based on the scene or genre.
The back of the Samsung HW-Q90R features two HDMI in and two HDMI (eARC) out ports. Or you can connect directly to the soundbar via Bluetooth, WiFi, and SmartThings. Plus, with Alexa built-in, you can ask your soundbar to play any song, artist, playlist, or genre of music.