Finding the best soundbar for your setup can be challenging. Maybe you want to build the home theater system of your dreams. Or perhaps you’re just looking for a more reliable and great-sounding audio source to accompany your TV.
Soundbars are a must-have device to accompany most of today’s modern TVs. As the newest and best TVs get slimmer and slimmer they might look fantastic but this means there’s less room for built-in speakers. Which means you need another way to do the advanced screen tech justice.
Take a look through the specs of any of the top TVs at the moment and you’ll see the audio doesn’t tend to be up to scratch. In our opinion, even the best Samsung TV could use an external soundbar to upgrade its audio performance.
That’s why we’ve created this guide to the top soundbars you can buy right now. We’ve selected the best of the best soundbars on the market for you. That’s because we don’t want you to spend a fortune on a new TV display only for the audio to fall short as soon as you’ve got it all set-up.
In the list below you’ll find our pick of the best soundbars available for you to buy in 2021, from those that boast Dolby Atmos through to ultra-affordable plug-in-and-go models.
What’s new in the world of soundbars?
We’re seeing plenty of new soundbars flooding the market, with innovative designs and high-spec features.
First up, there’s the Cowin Soundbar, which is a modular soundbar that you can break in half to make two floorstanding speakers.
On the subject of soundbars that come with more options than we’re used to, we like the look of the LG QP5 Éclair, which comes in at just 11.7 inches by 2.3 inches (W x H), making it an ideal choice if you’re short on space.
If you’re on the lookout for affordable audio tech, JBL has announced its latest soundbar, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam, as the latest addition to its popular Bar series. On the opposite end of the price spectrum, Samsung has announced a bevy of new high-spec Q-Series soundbars for 2021, including the 11.1.4-channel HW-Q950A, which comes with Dolby Atmos support and some seriously innovative rear speakers.
Most recently, Polk Audio announced the Polk React, which the company claims is the world’s most advanced Alexa soundbar. Support for Alexa’s Communication features means you can even sync your contacts from the Alexa app and use voice commands to call them at no extra cost.
Our top picks
The best soundbars
Sonos has a new surround sound solution and it’s contained entirely in a single soundbar it calls Arc.
While we’re not sure if the device gets its name from the HDMI interface it uses, the curved sound it pitches or the fact that it is perhaps, metaphorically, a vessel delivering impressive surround sound to the modern minimalist home, whichever the case this system is hell-bent on short circuiting the surround sound game.
The Sonos Arc draws on Dolby’s latest TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus sound codecs to deliver the best quality lossless audio found on cutting edge Blu-ray disks and some of the leading streaming services. It then enhances the 3D soundscape using Dolby Atmos object tracks to bounce certain sounds off the walls around you so they feel like they’re coming at you from all angles.
While all this might sound complicated, the Sonos Arc setup couldn’t be simpler, involving just a couple of steps on the smartphone app. The minimalist cable connections and all-in-one system construction add to this no-fuss feeling and streamlined aesthetic – making it the best soundbar you can buy in 2021.
The Q950T sees Samsung retain its place at the top of the 3D audio soundbar league, beaten only by the Sonos Arc. It combines Samsung’s customary fearsome power with enhanced precision and dynamism by providing 14 separate channels of sound. Plus, its slimmer shape will see it fit under a wider range of TVs too.
The 9.1.4 system is pretty remarkable for a soundbar, and is clearly tailor-made for the object-based sound delights of today’s Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio formats.
Audio streaming is supported over both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which includes Hi-Res Audio file formats, and even lets you connect with certain phones just by tapping them against the soundbar’s bodywork.
Physical connectivity is fair for a premium soundbar, comprising two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output (with eARC support for obtaining lossless Dolby Atmos / DTS:X soundtracks from compatible TVs) and an optical digital audio input.
The Samsung HW-Q90R was the brand’s all-singing, all-dancing flagship soundbar for 2019 – and in 2021, it has only been pipped by the Sonos Arc for the best soundbar you can buy because it’s a little pricier.
It not only supports object-based audio in the shape of both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, it’s also the only soundbar from 2019 to achieve this with actual rear speakers and four upward-firing drivers.
Few soundbars come so close to producing the full Dolby Atmos and DTS:X experience, and thanks to tuning from Harman Kardon the HW-Q90 even sounds good with music. A decent set of features and fully-specified HDMI connections complete a nearly flawless package… as long as you can afford it, this is the best soundbar you can buy.
Given that rival Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbars typically sell for twice the price, Sony’s HT-X8500 warrants an easy recommendation – and it’s the best soundbar with Dolby Atmos that won’t break the bank. Cost-cutting can be attributed to connectivity and features but what’s genuinely confounding is just how great the HT-X8500 sounds.
The key to the HT-X8500’s gutsy performance is Sony’s proprietary Vertical Sound Engine – working with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, it creates a convincing illusion of wraparound sound that allow Dolby Atmos movies to play with a clear sense of expanded height and width.
The build quality and design of the soundbar is exceptional, and its general audio performance impresses with its clarity and spatial presentation.
Overall, if you want a home theatre sound system that won’t dent your budget, this is the best soundbar for you.
Without any doubt about it, the LG SN11RG was the company’s flagship soundbar last year. In fact, it’s much more than just a soundbar, in that it ships with both a substantial external subwoofer and a pair of heavy duty rear speakers.
With its 7.1.4-channel configuration, it’s a complete audio arsenal.
The SN11RG also carries true up-firing rear and front drivers to deliver the height effects of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, and sees LG continuing its so-far impressive collaboration with high-end British AV brand, Meridian.
The main soundbar boasts an attractive, practical design and supports eARC with Dolby Vision. Plus, it has an AI Sound Pro processor that can convert pretty much any incoming sound format – even vanilla stereo – into a full multi-channel output that although not perfect, sounds spectacular.
Sennheiser is best known for its range of headphones and professional microphones, but it recently extended its ambitions to home audio as well, with the introduction of its new Ambeo Soundbar.
The bulky soundbar is packed with the latest audio technologies, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for surround sound audio, as well as Sennheiser’s own Ambeo ‘virtual 3D’ sound system. Sennheiser clearly has its sights set on the home cinema market with the Ambeo, although the bar’s Wi-Fi connectivity means that it can double up as a pretty impressive music system as well.
It’s not perfect – Sennheiser’s reliance on Google Home to provide Wi-Fi streaming seems like an odd choice – but the sheer sound quality of the Ambeo Soundbar ensures that it justifies its wallet-breaking price tag.
The Sonos Beam is a fantastic soundbar for its price, one that takes full advantage of the Sonos ecosystem and is a joy to use (and set up, if your television has HDMI ARC). Its smaller form factor means it’s a device that will sit comfortably next to a 32-inch TV but it’s got enough of a footprint to not be dwarfed by a much bigger set.
The Sonos Beam doesn’t offer earth-shattering bass and the lack of Dolby Atmos support will irk some, but at this price point it’d be more of a surprise if it had been included. The voice control may be Alexa-only for now, but it works well and if you have adopted some of Amazon’s TV toys, it really is worth experimenting with.
With its nine drivers are arranged in trios for left, center and right channels and a virtual surround mode to create the illusion of having more speakers around the room, the HEOS Bar is pretty much whatever you want it to be.
Blessed with such a balanced soundscape, this soundbar proved immediately adept with music, and has a consistently warm yet refined sound quality that’s all its own. The fact that it lacks the opportunity to tweak the audio settings is not as important as we had feared.
Music sounds superb, especially lossless tunes, from which HEOS Bar drags out a lot of detail. However, we did notice on a couple of occasions that the first half-a-second was cut-off songs.
The key feature of the SB362An-F6 – also referred to more helpfully as the “36-inch 2.1 Sound Bar” on most retailer’s websites – is really its sheer value for money, costing just £149 in the UK and an even more competitive $139 in the US, where it was launched at the end of last year.
Despite the bargain-basement price, the SB362An-F6 is neatly designed, measuring 36 inches wide, and a streamlined 2 inches high, and 5.2 inches deep (914xx52x133mm). This soundbar will sit comfortably underneath the screen of most TVs, and Vizio also includes a pair of wall-mount brackets as well.
The SB362An-F6 isn’t perfect, but its dramatic and imposing sound provides a real audio upgrade for your television’s built-in speakers. The Virtual:X technology works well too, helping to create a more immersive atmosphere while you’re watching. And while it might be missing a few bells and whistles, there’s no doubt that the SB362An-F6 provides excellent value for money.
The LG SK8 sits elegantly and compactly beneath your TV, and delivers a clean, detailed and open sound.
Although you have to treat the LG SK8’s Dolby Atmos claims with something of a pinch of salt due to its lack of ‘real’ sound channels and a slightly reticent subwoofer, it still has plenty to offer for its money.
It supports lots of sources, it looks attractive, it sounds more powerful than it looks, and it’s just as adept with music as it is with movies. An on-soundbar display and Google Assistant compatibility make it easy to use, too.
If $300 is your budget cap for a smart soundbar, then we highly recommend the Polk Audio Command Bar for any small or medium-sized living room.
As you might be able to tell based on the soundbar’s design, the Command Bar comes with Alexa built right into it making it unquestionably smart. It’s also relatively inexpensive too, coming in at $250 (£249 / AU$649), and it comes with a subwoofer.
It has defined and powerful low end, some cool smart features, and looks pretty good, too.
Read more: Polk Audio Command Bar review
Why should I buy a soundbar?
If you love the slim aesthetic of your new 4K TV, we can bet it doesn’t have the audio needed to match the visuals. That means picking the best soundbar to go with your TV is your best option to get the most out of your favorite TV shows and films.
The best soundbars of 2021 are built to be just as pleasing to the eye as they are to the ear. Most of them are sleek, minimal and designed to sit flush against a wall or home cinema set-up. They’re also a good solution for smaller homes and rooms with little space that wouldn’t be able to squeeze a 7.1 channel speaker system in.
The majority of the soundbars on this list are made to sit in front of your screen, but they can also be wall-mounted above or to the side of it as well, depending on how your room is laid out. This provides you with ultimate choice as to how your home entertainment set-up looks.
Despite most of the soundbars on this list only featuring front-facing speakers, many are able to confidently project sound in a way that makes it seem as though there’s booming audio coming from every direction.
Best soundbars at a glance
- Sonos Arc
- Samsung HW-Q950T Soundbar
- Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar
- Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar
- LG SN11RG Soundbar
- Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar
- Sonos Beam
- Denon HEOS Bar
- Vizio SB362An-F6 Sound Bar
- LG SK8 soundbar
- Polk Audio Command Bar