What’s the cheapest soundbar you’d recommend?
Choosing the best soundbar for you is an important decision for any home cinema enthusiast, whether you use it on its own or as part of the immersive home theater system of your dreams.
The best soundbars are an essential accessory for today’s TVs, which are getting slimmer and slimmer; though this means they look great in your home, there’s less room for built-in speakers. Just take a look at any of the top TVs at the moment and you’ll see the audio isn’t up to scratch – even the best Samsung TV could use an external soundbar.
This is why we’ve rounded up the very best soundbars on the market in one handy guide. Because there’s no point spending a small fortune on a new TV display for the audio to fall short. What you’ll find below is our selection of the best soundbars available for you to buy in 2020, from the best soundbars with Dolby Atmos through to ultra-affordable plug-in-and-go models.
[Update: Do you have a Tidal HiFi account? If so, you may be able to play your music in immersive Dolby Atmos through your home cinema system – you’ll need to make sure your soundbar is Atmos-friendly, though.]
Our top picks
The best soundbars 2020
1. Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar
Be afraid, traditional Hi-Fi speakers. Be very afraid.
Dimensions: 1226 x 83 x 136mm (W x H x D) | Speaker configuration: 7.1.4 | Claimed audio power: 512W | Connections: 2 x HDMI inputs, 1 x HDMI output with eARC, optical digital audio input, USB (service only), Bluetooth and WiFi
Impressive sound quality
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
Easy to install and setup
Limited HDMI Inputs
The Samsung HW-Q90R was the brand’s all-singing, all-dancing flagship soundbar for 2019 – and in 2020, it’s still our top pick for the best soundbar you can buy. 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.
Even in 2020, no other soundbar comes 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.
Read more: Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar review
2. Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar
Sony’s all-in-one Dolby Atmos bar may be the best value of the year
Dimensions: 890 x 64 x 96 mm (35 1/8 x 2 5/8 x 3 7/8 in) | Speaker configuration: 2.1 | Claimed audio power: N/A | Connections: 1 HDMI input, 1 HDMI Out (ARC), analogue audio in/out, Ethernet, optical audio in, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compatible
Compact all-in-one form factor
No upfiring drivers
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.]
3. Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar
The best soundbar for less than £400/$400
Power: 100W | Speakers: 2 | Dimensions: 1,000 x 90 x 142mm | Weight: 4.9kg | Inputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x digital optical, 1 x 3.5mm | Outputs: N/A | Wireless: Bluetooth aptX | Subwoofer included?: Yes | Special features: N/A
Easy to use
No HDMI input
The Q Acoustics M4 soundbar doesn’t immediately set pulses racing with its slightly prosaic looks, ‘mere’ 2.1-channel sound and lack of any HDMI support. However, you only have to hear what the M4 can do with both music and movies for your doubts about it to evaporate almost instantly.
In fact, though, it sounds so much better than pretty much any rival soundbar in the same price bracket, that it’s actually ridiculously good value – especially if you care about music as much as you care about movies, it’s one of the best soundbars you can buy.
Read more: Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar review
4. Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar
A good-looking and well-spec’d soundbar for both movies and gaming
Power: 3300W | Speakers: 3.1.2 | Dimensions: 1100 x 59 x 100mm (W x H x D) | Connections: HDMI input and output with ARC, optical digital audio input, Bluetooth | Subwoofer included?: Yes
Big immersive soundstage
Great with movies and games
Only one HDMI input
Samsung’s California-based audio lab has been on a roll. In the last few years, the lab has helped the company put together the award-winning Samsung HW-M650, last year’s powerful, Dolby Amtos-ready Samsung HW-N850, and now, the Samsung HW-Q70R, a soundbar designed to keep up with the Korean giant’s 2019 QLED TVs.
If you’ve followed Samsung’s naming structure in the past, the Samsung HW-Q70R represents a revised version of last year’s HW-N650 and although the new model costs more at $800 (£800, AU$1,099), the good news is that the Q70R adds support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and still uses Acoustic Beaming technology that widens the soundstage.
The resulting soundstage is big and open, lending itself to larger screen sizes. The overall effect is somewhat front heavy, but that’s to be expected given the lack of rear speakers. However once you take into consideration the looks, build quality, and features, this is a solid midrange soundbar.
Read more: Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar review
5. Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar
Dazzling 3D sound – but at quite a price
Power: 500W | Speakers: 5.1.4 | Dimensions: 1265 x 135 x 171 mm | Weight: 18.5kg | Inputs: Digital coaxial in, Digital optical in, HDMI 2.1 output (eARC), 3 HDMI 2.0a In, Audio in 3.5 mm jack | Wireless: Bluetooth 4.2 and AAC | Subwoofer included?: No
Superb sound quality
Effective Dolby Atmos
Humongous price, size and weight
No AirPlay or AptX for Bluetooth
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 wifi 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
6. Sonos Playbar
Turns your multi-room audio system into wireless surround sound
Power: Not quoted | Speakers: 9 | Dimensions: 900 x 85 x 140mm | Weight: 5.4kg | Inputs: 1 x digital optical, 2 x Ethernet LAN | Outputs: N/A | Wireless: WiFi | Special features: Sonos Play:1 speakers can be connected as wireless rear speakers
Integrates with Sonos systems
Clever audio modes
Requires particular TVs
The Sonos Playbar is a non-HDMI device that uses optical to hook up to a TV. Used simply on its own it delivers a massive sonic boost to your TV listening, but operating it does require using a smartphone or tablet app. The benefit is that it can seamlessly segue in to a Sonos wireless system, and can even act as the front three speakers in a 5.1 setup with two Play:1s acting as rears.
Unfortunately although it’s optical-only setup will be great for most, it does exclude owners of TVs that lack this connector, which has pushed it a little further down this list.
[Update: There’s a new Sonos soundbar with Dolby Atmos audio – the Sonos Arc is effectively replacing the Playbar, though you shouldn’t have any trouble finding the Playbar for the time being.]
Read more: Sonos Playbar review
7. Sonos Beam
This is the smart soundbar we’ve been waiting for
Power: N/A | Speakers: 3 channels | Dimensions: 2.70 x 25.625 x 3.94 in. (68.5 x 651 x 100 mm) | Weight: 6.2 lbs (2.8 kg) | Inputs: 1 x Digital Optical-In, 1 x HDMI-in | Wireless: Sonos | Subwoofer included?: No | Special features: Amazon Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2
Great compact design
HDMI ARC compatible
No Dolby Atmos
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
8. Denon HEOS Bar
A powerful and well-connected Playbar challenger
Power: N/A | Speakers: 3.0 | Dimensions: 2 7/8 x 43 3/8 x 5 7/8 inches; 72 x 1100 x 148 mm | Weight: 10.58 lbs; 4.8 kg | Inputs: 4K HDMI Input and HDMI Output | Wireless: Bluetooth, 802.11ac Wi-Fi | Special features: Heos Multi-Room Audio
Excellent sound quality
Handles all formats & streams
Occasional switching delay
Inaccessible USB slot
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.
Read more: Denon HEOS Bar review
9. Vizio SB362An-F6 Sound Bar
Impressive sonic upgrade for your TV, at a bargain-basement price
Power: N/A | Speakers: 2.0 | Dimensions: 914.4mm x 52.1mm x 133.1mm | Weight: 5.61 Lbs. / 2.54 Kg | Inputs: 1 x digital optical,1x 3.5 mm jack | Wireless: Bluetooth | Subwoofer included?: No
Powerful, dramatic sound
Dolby Audio and DTS Virtual:X
No LCD display
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.
Read more: Vizio SB362An-F6 review
10. Polk Audio Command Bar
Inexpensive and very smart
Power: N/A | Speakers: 1 | Dimensions: 43 x 14.5 x 14.4 inches | Weight: 8.6lbs | Inputs: 1 x SPDIDF, 1 x HDMI, 1 x TOSLINK, 1 x micro-USB connection | Outputs: 1 x HDMI output with Audio Return Channel (ARC) | Wireless: Bluetooth | Subwoofer included?: Yes | Special features: Alexa built in
Space for a Fire TV stick
Audio is mediocre
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 2020 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
- Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar
- Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar
- Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar
- Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar
- Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar
- Sonos Playbar
- Sonos Beam
- Denon HEOS Bar
- Vizio SB362An-F6 Sound Bar
- Polk Audio Command Bar