Best Soundbar 2021 The best soundbars to improve your TV sound

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Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

What is the best soundbar in 2021?

So you’ve bought a TV but you’ve come to the realisation every does when the turn on the TV listen it how it sounds. It doesn’t sound very good. A soundbar is what you need to solve your audio woes, relieving your TV of the burden of trying to play the latest films, games or watching sports by providing a big, full-sized sound.

We’ve tested plenty of soundbars, from cheap affordable efforts to top-of-the-range Atmos and DTS:X soundbars, and that helps us not know how good a soundbar can be but also the type of performance to expect across a range of prices. We spend time with every soundbar watching plenty of TV to see how they handle dialogue, movies for how well they deal with scale and complexity and sports for that immersive feeling they can provide.

This is our list of the best soundbar on the market, whether you’re looking for something that fits into your budget needs or a specific set-up to fits your space. This list covers what you need.

What to look for when buying a soundbar

If you already have an idea of what you want, then skip ahead. For those less sure, the following questions will help set you on your way to finding a new soundbar.

  • What type of soundbar do you want? Options include an all-in-one bar or soundbase; a more conventional soundbar and subwoofer set-up. Soundbars with upfiring speakers produce a taller sound, and a soundbar system includes speakers you can place in a room.
  • How much space do you have? A purchase will often be dictated by how much room you have. For small rooms an all-in-one bar will do, but for sound to cover a bigger room, a system with rear speakers could be the one, though these are often more expensive.
  • How many HDMI inputs do you need? If you want to plug a source into the soundbar itself, rather than a TV, that is an option. Not all soundbars offer this feature, so it’s worth considering if this is of interest.
  • Are you looking to upgrade in the future? Some soundbars offer an upgrade path so you can add a subwoofer and satellite speakers. Again, not all soundbars have this as an option, and some may only wired connections whereas others can add extra speakers wirelessly.
  • Do you want Atmos and DTS:X? With more content available in immersive formats on disc and streaming services, a soundbar that can do Atmos or DTS:X can open up the home audio experience.

Have a better idea of what you need? Then here is our list of the best soundbars on the market today.


Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

1. Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

Arguably the best sounding soundbar around

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 135 x 1265 x 171mm | Sub: No | Connections: HDMI 3/1, Optical, Aux, LAN, sub pre-out, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: Both | eARC: Yes

Pros:

  • Superb 3D audio performance
  • As good with music as it is movies

Cons

  • Eye-wateringly expensive
  • Big and not exactly pretty

Sennheiser’s Ambeo Soundbar had been in development for a while, but the wait was worth it as it’s one of the best sounding units we’ve heard.

With support for Atmos, DTS:X, Sennheiser’s Ambeo processing and MPEG-H format, this hefty bar produces a muscular and hard-hitting performance, with excellent effects steering, clarity and a superbly immersive soundscape. For those who don’t have to room for a traditional speaker package or even a 5.1 soundbar solution, the Ambeo is a phenomenal sounding bar that convincingly apes a 5.1/object-based speaker packages.

Sonos Beam

2. Sonos Beam

The best compact soundbar

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 68.5 x 651 x 100mm | Sub: No | Connections: HDMI, Wi-Fi | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No

Pros:

  • Excellent sound
  • Integrated Alexa works a charm
  • Controls TV
  • Lovely design

Cons:

  • Not the last word in bass output

If you’re tight on space and have cash to spare, the Sonos Beam is a fine choice. It’s a soundbar for your TV, a multi-room speaker that plays nicely with other Sonos products – and it works with Alexa and Google Assistant.

During our testing the Beam produced a soundstage so wide and tall that it was hard for us to believe it’s coming from a speaker that compact. It’s an entertaining sound that’s complemented by a smooth and direct mid-range, giving a convincing weight to voices. Everything is controlled through the brilliant Sonos S2 app, and there’s even support for Apple AirPlay 2 (as well as Siri).

Connect it to a pair of One SL speakers and a Sonos sub, and you’ve got yourself a formidable surround sound system.

Best Soundbar 2021 The best soundbars to improve your TV sound

3. Samsung HW-Q950T

A stunning sounding Atmos/DTS:X bar

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 69.5 x 1232 x 138mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 2/1, Optical, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Atmos/DTS:X: Yes | eARC: Yes

Pros:

  • Big, immersive Atmos/DTS:X sound
  • Capable of power and subtlety
  • Side-firing speakers work well
  • Premium-looking system
  • Great with music

Cons:

  • Pricey
  • Odd display placement
  • Benefits of Game Pro mode feel overstated

The HW-Q950T from Samsung is their top of the range soundbar system, featuring a 9.1.4 channels of sound with upfiring rear speakers, a soundbar and ridiculous amount of the speakers in the main unit.

That allows it to fire sounds above to create height channels needed for Atmos and DTS:X. It’s also capable of firing out sounds to the side for a wider soundstage. With the content we played on it, the Q950T produced an immersive performance with excellent vocal clarity, thunderous bass and good, even tonality across the frequency range.

The extra HDMI inputs will help those considering plugging any sources straight into the soundbar. And unlike some other soundbars, it looks good thanks to the use of premium Kvadrat material. We weren’t fans of some of the odd design choices, but few soundbar systems rocked our world as much as this did.

Wharfedale Vista 200S

4. Wharfedale Vista 200S

Exceptional value

Smart: No| Size (HxWxDmm): 69.5 x 900 x 138mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 2/1, Optical, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No

Pros:

  •  Great with movies and music
  •  Well-integrated bass
  •  Low-profile and well-made cabinet
  • Exceptional value
  • Easy to setup

Cons

The Vista 200s is a 2.1-channel soundbar suited for TVs 65-inches and more. An HDMI ARC, optical and coaxial digital inputs and a 3.5mm jack are available in terms of physical connections, with Bluetooth there for wireless connections.

Its simple to set-up and use, with the Vista 200s putting in a great performance across movies and TV shows. In our test space, the wireless sub delivered deep, punchy bass; dialogue is rendered with clarity and it can cope well with busy soundtracks, sifting through the detail on offer. It’s easily one of the best value soundbars currently available, and a good find if you’re after performance on a budget.

Best Soundbar 2021 The best soundbars to improve your TV sound

5. Polk Command Bar

Built-in Alexa support

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 51 x 1091 x 102mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 1/1, Optical, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No

Pros:

  • Amazon Alexa built in
  • Excellent sound quality

Cons:

If you’re after a soundbar that can do smarts then the Polk Command Bar can oblige. It provides the benefits of a soundbar plus the convenience of voice control. Want to order a Dominos pizza? Ask Alexa. Fancy turning down the lighting for that perfect cinema feel? Alexa will help. For those more savvy with smart features, an IFTTT protocol could be set to switch to movie mode and dim the lighting all in one go.

Performance-wise we enjoyed the the Command Bar’s audio delivery: voice clarity is excellent and it sounds great with movies, music and sports alike.

Sonos Arc

6. Sonos Arc

An Atmos upgrade over the Playbar

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 90 x 1440 x 115mm | Sub: Optional| Connections: HDMI | Atmos/DTS:X: Atmos| eARC: Yes

Pros:

  • Expansive, well-defined and invigorating sound
  • Good impression of audio height and width
  • Fine spec
  • Ample control options

Cons:

  • Slightly bumpy frequency response
  • Some treble stridency
  • No MQA support

Despite some sonic idiosyncrasies, we feel that Sonos’ first attempt at a Atmos soundbar has plenty to recommend it. It carries the same design aesthetic as other Sonos speakers, and can be mounted on a wall or placed in front of the TV

The width and height of the soundstage we encountered with Atmos content was impressive, and for Sonos owners it’ll slot easily into their current set-up easily via integration with the Sonos S2 app. Like other Sonos speakers, there’s wide app support and access to various streaming services

Our feeling is that the bass/mid-range integration could be handled better, and the eARC-only HDMI means you’ll need to be careful to pair with an eARC-compatible TV if you want a true Atmos performance.

Samsung HW-Q800T

7. Samsung HW-Q800T

An accomplished all-rounder

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 58 x 980 x 115mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 1/1, Optical, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Atmos/DTS:X: Both | eARC: Yes

Pros:

  • Expansive soundstage
  • Powerful subwoofer
  • Sleek design
  • Solid build quality
  • Simple to setup

Cons:

  • Front-heavy delivery
  • Single HDMI input
  • No Chromecast/AirPlay

The HW-Q800T is another accomplished soundbar from Samsung, delivering an expansive and compelling soundstage, and a sound that’s detailed, dynamic and exciting. The support for both Atmos and DTS:X allows it to create an immersive wall of sound that gives anything you’re watching a boost.

Throw in eARC support, Q Symphony functionality with compatible Samsung QLED TVs and built-in Alexa, and this is a soundbar that covers pretty much all the bases apart from offering a true surround experience. On aspect we’re not enamoured with is the single HDMI input. If you have plenty of physical sources you want to hook up, this isn’t the soundbar for you.

Best Soundbar 2021 The best soundbars to improve your TV sound

8. LG SN11RG

A full-fat Atmos soundbar offering

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 63 x 1443 x 146mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 1/1, Optical, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: Both | eARC: Yes

Pros:

  • Powerful, detailed sound
  • Fully realised Dolby Atmos/DTS:X experience, complete with height and side channels
  • Good looking main soundbar

Cons:

  • Voices can sound a touch narrow
  • The subwoofer can lack finesse
  • Impact sound can lack heft

The SN11RG is the LG’s top-end soundbar for 2020 featuring rear speakers, a subwoofer along with upfiring height speakers, which puts it in direct competition with the Samsung HW-Q950T. At £1499 it’s not cheap, but the SN11RG offers space-saving convenience that you don’t get from a ‘proper’ surround system

And to our eyes the performance is a large, room-filling one, with a convincing 3D soundscape that’s well-balanced and generates plenty of power. There are a few issues – vocals feel slightly dislocated and we feel bass sounds slightly unrefined – but LG’s flagship soundbar delivers on its promise of immersive 3D sound.

DALI Katch One

9. Dali Katch One

Gorgeous-looking soundbar

Smart: No | Size (HxWxDmm): 164 x 860 x 69mm | Sub: Optional| Connections: HDMI, Optical x2, 3.5mm, Sub out, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No

Pros:

  • Wide, detailed and articulate sound from any source
  • Good looks, relatively speaking

Cons:

  • Can be bettered for bass
  • Some may hanker after greater audio attack

The Katch One is DALI’s first dedicated soundbar (the Kubik One was an all-in-one system), and continues the Danish brand’s knack for stylish aesthetics and good audio.

It’s another one-box system that saves on space and produces a good hi-fi performance. We like its well-judged tone to produced during testing, giving the whole frequency range full expression with plenty of precision, detail and insight. The lack of a subwoofer means it’s short of power and punch when it comes to more bass-heavy soundtracks.

Best Soundbar 2021 The best soundbars to improve your TV sound

10. Sony HT-ST5000

No-compromise 7.1.2 soundbar

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 80 x 1180 x 145mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 3/1, Optical, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB, 3.5mm | Atmos/DTS:X: Atmos | eARC: Yes

Pros:

  • Dynamic, exciting performer
  • Excellent clarity with High-Res Audio
  • Premium build quality
  • Powerful bass

Cons:

  • Dolby Atmos doesn’t surround you
  • Short on streaming services
  • Very expensive

Headline attractions include Dolby Atmos, High-Res Audio, Bluetooth and Chromecast. It has three HDMI ports for passing through 4K video signals, alongside analogue and digital optical audio options.

And it sounds fantastic. It isn’t quite the full surround effect you get with a proper Atmos setup, we feel you’d struggle to find such scale, depth, dynamism or clarity on most alternatives.

Best Soundbar 2021 The best soundbars to improve your TV sound

11. Bluesound Pulse Soundbar 2i

For those into films and music

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 69.5 x 1232 x 138mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI, Optical, 3.5mm, Bluetooth, W-Fi, AirPlay 2, Sub out, Ethernet, USB | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: Yes

Pros:

  • Extensive specification
  • Multi-room ability
  • Full, rich and high calorie sound

Cons:

  • Quite a visual statement
  • Short of outright dynamic headroom
  • Control app is quite easily confused

Measuring a 1m in length and 14cm high, it’s not the most discrete of efforts. That said, it packs plenty of talents into its robust package. It can play hi-res audio tunes, stream audio via AirPlay 2; has support for several streaming services including Spotify and is compatible with Alexa voice control. You’re not left wanting in this regard.

And in terms of the audio performance, we like what the Pulse offered during our time with it – a rich, detailed sound with a convincingly deep soundstage. If you want a soundbar that can do more than just ably assist film soundtracks, the Pulse Soundbar 2i is worth auditioning.

Roku Streambar

12. Roku Streambar

A soundbar and video streamer in one box

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 61 x 356 x 107mm | Sub: No | Connections: HDMI, Optical, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No

Pros:

  • Good vocal clarity
  • Space-saving size
  • Good streaming performance
  • Great value Slick voice search

Cons:

  • No Dolby Vision or HDR10+
  • Audio more suited to TV and apps
  • Remote only works with Streambar

For any TV that suffers from a lack of smarts and flat audio, the Roku Streambar aims to swoop in and save the day.

The Streambar is both a soundbar and video streamer rolled into one. And to our surprise, we found during testing it produced a sound bigger and louder than you’d expect. If you have no interest in more advanced audio formats such as Atmos or DTS:X, the Streambar is more suited to you.

There was an issue with HLG HDR for streaming on iPlayer that’s still unresolved, but in general we found picture quality to be satisfactory with colourful images and consistent levels of clarity and detail with 4K content. It’s a smart (in more ways than one) and convenient soundbar/streamer.

Denon DHT-S516H

13. Denon DHT-S516H

Useful with music

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 730 x 1018 x 104mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 1/1, Optical, Coaxial, USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No

Pros:

  • Expansive and detailed sound
  • Easy to set up
  • HEOS multi-room
  • Good smart features

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No remote control
  • Limited to lossy audio

The DHT-S516H has no aspirations for immersive sound, focusing instead on a 2.1 audio. With HEOS included there’s support for Google Assistant and Alexa. AirPlay 2 brings in the iOS platform (plus Siri), and there is HEOS’ integration of several music streaming services that emphasises this soundbar’s musical traits.

Which is useful as the DHT-S516H has been designed with music in mind, putting in a detailed performance with warm vocals. We found during testing films benefit from its accuracy and clarity, and though it can’t quite deal with the complexity of some movie soundtracks, bass is an improvement on anything your TV can muster.

Best Soundbar 2021 The best soundbars to improve your TV sound

14. Canton Smart Soundbar 9

Crisp and detailed performer

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 70 x 890 x 100mm | Sub: Optional | Connections: HDMI 3/1, Optical, Coaxial, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No

Pros:

  • Great looks
  • Big, revealing and informative sound
  • Dynamically assured
  • 3 x HDMI inputs

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Limited bass
  • Not that smart

The Smart Soundbar 9 is another winning soundbar from German brand Canton. Impressively built, good-looking and featuring three HDMI inputs (which is a lot for a soundbar these days); with the wide range of content we tested on it, it produced a crisp, detailed and nuanced performance. A subwoofer is optional but the bass output is decent enough without one.

We feel it is expensive for what it does, and despite its name it actually lacks built-in smart abilities that other options on this list have.

Best Soundbar 2021 The best soundbars to improve your TV sound

15. Samsung HW-S60T

A lifestyle soundbar for casual listeners

Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 68 x 764 x 125mm | Sub: Optional| Connections: HDMI, Optical | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No

Pros:

  • Looks lovely
  • Clear sound
  • Compact size
  • Engaging music performance

Cons:

  • No LED display
  • Not the most dynamic of presentations
  • Not a soundbar for Atmos/DTS:X soundtracks

The HW-S60T is Samsung’s answer to the Sonos Beam, a compact lifestyle soundbar wrapped in the trendy Kvadrat cloth. It’s not designed to go toe-to-toe with the latest Atmos/DTS:X soundbars, but it does look great sitting under a TV.

Viewed as a lifestyle soundbar for the more casual side of the market and it hits the right notes with good reproduction of dialogue, a decently big soundstage and an entertaining way with music. We don’t feel it’s as talented as the Beam, but it’s worth a look for those not invested in the Sonos ecosystem. This soundbar also comes in two versions, the S60T (black finish) and the S61T (grey finish). Other the difference in colour, they’re the one and the same.

Best Soundbar 2021 The best soundbars to improve your TV sound

16. Sky Soundbox

A decent option for Sky customers

Smart: No | Size (HxWxDmm): 95 x 375 x 210mm | Sub: No | Connections: HDMI 1/1, Optical, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No

Pros:

  • Weighty bass
  • Clear speech
  • Sky Q optimisation modes mostly work well
  • Large-scale sound from a compact unit

Cons:

  • Sound lacks the subtlety for music
  • Awkward form factor makes it difficult to position
  • Not worth the higher price to non-Sky customers

The Sky Soundbox is an odd one. The first oddity is the shape, which is more like a soundbase but too small to fit a TV on. It can be tricky to find the right home for it.

The other quirk is that Sky customers can buy it at a great price. We’d advise against paying the full price, but at £249 to Sky customers this is a no-brainer. With help from Devialet, the scale of sound from such a compact unit is super-impressive, while some Sky Q-specific sound modes help to get a better sonic balance during sports, movies, and so on.

It’s a little shouty with music and the bass can be overblown, but with most video content it’s very good – as long as you’ve paid that discounted price for it.

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