Choosing the best soundbar for you can be tricky, whether you want to build your dream home theater system, or you want a more reliable audio source to accompany your TV with great sound and an affordable price.
Generally speaking, soundbars are must-have devices to accompany today’s modern TVs. That’s because as the newest and best TVs get slimmer and slimmer, there’s less room for built-in speakers. That means they might look fantastic but you’ll need another way to do the advanced screen tech justice.
Comb through the specs of any of the top TVs you can buy right now and you’ll see the audio probably won't be up to scratch. In our opinion, even the best OLED TV could use an external soundbar to upgrade its audio performance from fair to great.
That’s why we’ve created this guide to the best soundbars you can buy right now, selecting the top soundbar devices on the market for every budget, home, and setup. 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. Or pick a new soundbar that looks good but doesn’t deliver the quality you’re looking for.
In the list below you’ll find our pick of the best soundbars in 2021, from those that boast Dolby Atmos through to ultra-affordable plug-in-and-go models.
- Best surround sound systems: how to get truly cinematic audio in your home
Our top picks
The best soundbars 2021
Sonos latest surround sound solution is 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, 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.
Read more: Sonos Arc review
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.
Read more: Samsung HW-Q950T review
The Samsung HW-Q90R was the brand's all-singing, all-dancing flagship soundbar for 2019 – and in 2021, it has only just been pipped by the newer Q950T.
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 one of the best soundbars you can buy.
Read more: Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar review
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.
Read more: Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar review
[Update: Sony has released the follow up to the HT-X8500; the Sony HT-G700 comes with virtual Dolby Atmos and a dedicated center speaker to enhance dialogue.]
The Q800A is an impressive refinement on its 2020 predecessor, delivering improvements in two key areas.
Firstly, if you’re able to combine it with the sound optimization features of the new Q70A or higher 2021 Samsung TVs, the improvements in audio performance prove unexpectedly worthwhile.
For its second big improvement over last year’s Q800T, Samsung's added up-firing height channel drivers to the Q800A's optional extra rear speakers, providing a more satisfying and convincing Dolby Atmos sound experience. That said, the Q800A is good enough on its own that we suspect most people who buy it won’t feel any great compulsion to add the rears.
Read more: Samsung HW-Q800A review
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.
Read more: LG SN11RG Soundbar review
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.
Read more: Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar review
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.
Read more: Sonos Beam review
The Denon HEOS Bar has been renamed – meet the Denon S716H. The name change is designed to reflect HEOS's status as a multi-room software solution used by multiple brands, and aside from a small retune, the soundbar itself is unchanged.
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 Denon S716H 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 the Denon S716H 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.
Read more: Denon S716H review
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.
Read more: LG SK8 Soundbar review
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?
There's no point in having a great soundbar if your TV's display is terrible; that's why we have the following roundups for you to browse:
- Best TVs
On a budget? Check out the best cheap TV sales and 4K deals this month.
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.
Are soundbars worth it? Absolutely. Even if you don't consider yourself a hardcore cinephile, the best soundbars make a world of difference to your TV watching experience – built-in TV speakers just don't do your favorite films, TV shows, and games justice.
How much should I spend on a soundbar? It really depends on what you're looking for. If you want the very best soundbar technology has to offer, you might be looking at prices of $800 / £800 / AU$1,000 and upwards. However, there are lots of fantastic budget soundbars on the market, with some costing less than $100 / £100 / AU$150. Just bear in mind that you generally get what you pay for, and these budget models probably won't come with premium features like Dolby Atmos, included rear speakers, and hi-res audio support.
What is the best cheap soundbar? The Sony HT-X8500 is a high-quality soundbar that delivers excellent sound at an affordable price – and by affordable we mean below $300 / £300. There are cheaper options, though, especially if you're looking for a small soundbar for your computer. Check out the Razer Leviathan if you need a decent budget gaming soundbar.
Where should I put a soundbar? You generally have two options when it comes to soundbar placement: wall-mounting it, or placing in below your TV on your TV cabinet. If your soundbar is quite tall, wall-mounting may be the best option, as it could obscure the IR receiver on your TV, rendering your remote control useless.
What's new in the world of soundbars?
Many new soundbars are released every week and plenty have innovative designs and high-spec features.
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 number 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.
Polk Audio also 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.
Most recently, American audio company Klipsch has announced two new soundbars coming to its premium Cinema range. Both the Cinema 1200 and Cinema 800 will arrive with Dolby Atmos out of the box, offering rich, room-filling audio that could complete your home theater setup.
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