These days, TVs are getting thinner and sleeker, which 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 AV 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.
Creative Stage: Best Budget Soundbar Under $100
The 21-inch Creative Stage offers the best sound quality for those on a tight budget. Unlike most soundbars under $100, the 2.1-channel Creative Stage comes with two stereo speakers and an 18-inch subwoofer that delivers deep bass.
This soundbar also has tons of connectivity options, including an HMDI ARC (audio return channel) port, which makes it easy to connect to your TV or computer with a single cable. Plus, it supports Bluetooth, so you can also stream music wirelessly 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 completely wireless (other than 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. There are also two 3.5mm jacks, one of which lets you connect this soundbar to your smart home speakers, like an Amazon Echo or a Google Nest Mini. This mountable soundbar supports Bluetooth for wireless streaming, and it comes with an easy-to-use remote control.
If you don’t have room for a giant sound system under your TV, the Sonos Beam is one of the best-sounding soundbars you can get. This 25.6-inch soundbar is small enough to fit between the legs of most 55-inch TVs without obstructing your view.
The Sonos Beam was designed with the help of Oscar-winning sound engineers “to fill a room with clear, immersive sound.” This 3.0-channel soundbar has a center channel dedicated to dialogue. So, you will be able to hear dialogue clearly, even when loud music or explosions are playing through the separate stereo channels.
While the Beam doesn’t come with a remote, you can control this soundbar with your existing TV remote or the Sonos app. The app also lets you stream music over WiFi and AirPlay 2. Plus, with Alexa and the Google Assistant built-in, you can control your TV and other smart home devices with voice commands. The back of this soundbar only features one HDMI ARC port and an Ethernet port to connect it to your home network.
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 up to 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 Sonos Arc is one of the best soundbars for movie lovers because it supports Dolby Atmos content. With its upward-firing speakers, this 5.0.2-channel soundbar can bounce audio off the walls and ceiling for an immersive 3D surround-sound experience.
In total, this 45-inch soundbar has 11 speakers, which makes it feel even larger than it is. The Trueplay tuning technology optimizes the sound to the unique acoustics of your room. Plus, it has a Speech Enhancement feature that makes dialogue louder, even when the volume is turned down.
While the Arc doesn’t come with a subwoofer, you can always upgrade it by adding a wireless Sonos Sub for more bass. Or you can add two Sonos One bookshelf speakers to make it a “true” surround-sound system. You can also mount this soundbar on the wall, but you have to buy the special wall-mounting brackets separately.
Like the Beam, the Arc doesn’t come with a remote, but you can control it with your existing TV remote, the Sonos app, or with Alexa or the Google Assistant. On the back of the soundbar, there’s an Ethernet port and one HDMI eARC (enhanced audio return channel) port, which lets you send lossless audio from your TV back to the soundbar. If you connect it to an eARC TV, this soundbar will support TrueHD, MAT, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby Digital content.
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.
With the surround speakers, this 48-inch soundbar has 13 drivers and tweeters. 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, 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 eARC in port 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.
Samsung HW-Q90R: Best 7.1 Soundbar for Home Theaters
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.