The Best Soundbars – November 2018
With a few notable exceptions, technology has been getting consistently smaller and more powerful over the years. Apple’s famed MacBooks and iPhones become thinner and thinner with each generation, smartwatches are able to pack more punch per centimeter with each new iteration, and flatscreen TVs have gotten so flat that if you look at them from just the right angle you can barely notice they’re even there.
Speakers, on the other hand, have struggled to keep up with this technological revolution when it comes to the inverse relationship between size and power—making things particularly difficult for flatscreen TV owners who want their sonics to be on par with their TV’s awesome visuals.
This all-too-common frustration has led many flatscreen TV owners to add a soundbar to their media setup. These discrete all-in-one speaker systems can dramatically improve the sound of virtually any media system, although they’re particularly well-suited for visual media sources like flatscreen TVs, which almost always lack the sonic quality that most modern movies and shows demand.
Soundbars come in a wide range of sizes and styles, and choosing the right one depends largely on the size of your TV and your connectivity options.
With that in mind, enjoy this list of the best soundbars money can buy.
One of the great things about soundbars is that they really only have to fulfill two criteria: great sound and great style. And although most people would agree that sonic quality should take priority over looks, the primary appeal of a soundbar is that it can be placed directly underneath a flatscreen TV without significantly altering the minimalist style of your living area.
It’s with these sonic and stylistic requirements in mind that we’ve chosen the Sonos Playbar for our number-one spot. Despite its hefty price tag, this soundbar has become wildly popular with audio enthusiasts due to its incredible sonic depth, style, and simplicity.
Ideal for flatscreen TVs that lack the bass response and low-end rumble that so many of today’s shows and movies require, this bar delivers powerful and robust sound from a string of nine fully-amplified speaker drivers.
You can easily connect this bar to smaller devices as well—including an Amazon Echo or an Alexa-enabled gadget—in order to stream music from your phone or computer.
This bar also syncs wirelessly with other Sonos speaker systems as well, so you’ll be able to listen to your favorite TV shows, movies, or music in perfect harmony throughout your entire home. You also have the option of pairing this system with two One devices or a Sub in order to create a truly immersive 5.1 surround system for a home theatre.
This system is also incredibly easy to setup, thanks to a streamlined two-cord configuration. One cord connects to a power outlet, while the other connects to the TV. You’ll even be able to control your system from your existing TV remote, or wirelessly through the Sonos app from your smart device.
The Sonos Playbar is undeniably awesome, but we’re aware that its elevated price point may put it out of reach for some buyers. That’s why we’ve given our runner-up spot to the Yamaha YAS-108 Sound Bar, which provides a surprising amount of power and sonic depth at a much more reasonable cost.
Much like the Sonos Playbar, this streamlined speaker system integrates flawlessly with any TV, and is discrete enough that you won’t have to worry about it taking away from your minimalist home decor.
It offers Clear Voice technology that allows for enhanced dialogue clarity, and DTS Virtual 3D surround sound is ideal for action-packed movies where fast sound bursts are taking place in every corner of the frame.
This device also features Bluetooth streaming technology that allows you to quickly and easily switch between two connected devices, and you’ll be able to connect to any TV via an HDMI, optical, or aux connection.
Unlike the Sonos Playbar, the YAS-108 comes with built-in subwoofers that deliver a truly deep bass response. The only downside to this addition is that it seems to mask some of the higher frequencies—especially in the upper-midrange.
As with all things tech, this comes down to personal preference. If you favor loud action movies with lots of explosions, it’s unlikely that you’ll mind having a pronounced bass response at the expense of the upper register. If, on the other hand, you prefer more nuance in your sonics, you may want to opt for a soundbar that prioritizes the upper register.
Either way, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more dynamic and powerful soundbar in this price range.
AmazonBasics has come a long way since its humble inception. Once the laughing stock of the budget Internet products craze, this brand has become synonymous with affordable quality. This AmazonBasics soundbar is no exception, thanks to a 31.5-inch system with a built-in subwoofer that dramatically enhances most standard home speaker systems.
This bar features Bluetooth technology paired with EDR for seamless streaming on all of your compatible devices, and full-range stereo speakers deliver surprisingly robust sound at up to 92 decibels without peaking—meaning that you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite flics at top-notch volume without experiencing any distortion.
The frame is streamlined and discrete, and you’ll be able to choose between three distinct sound modes based on what your watching: Standard, News, and Movie.
Your order also comes with a specialized remote control, an optical audio cable, an RCA cable, and wall-mounting hardware for easily installation.
This extraordinarily well-priced soundbar is ideal for anyone who wants to enhance the inherent sound quality of their media setup without breaking the bank. At 30 inches, this bar features dual 15W speakers that deliver crisp, rich, stern sound. Its quality holds up even at higher volumes, and you’ll be able to listen at maximum value without experiencing any distortion.
You have the option to connect via both wired and wireless ports, and Bluetooth devices are fully supported at a range of up to 33 feet—making this bar a top-pick for users who prefer to stream sound from their smartphones or iPads.
You’ll be able to control this device with either on-board buttons or an included remote, and it’s easy to adjust the playback settings—including volume and track selection—from afar.
This is also one of the most minimalist soundbars we encountered in terms of overall aesthetics, and its jet-black design makes it ideal for anyone who doesn’t want to alter the general feel or layout of their home TV system.
Ratcheting things back up to a slightly more elevated price point, we find the ZVOX SB380 soundbar, which is comparable to the Sonos Playbar in terms of sonic depth. The only real reason why we ranked this great-sounding bar slightly lower than the others on this list is that its design is slightly less minimized than several of the other models you can find in this price range, although this may not be an issue for those who prioritize great sound above all else.
This bar features a slim, 3.3” aluminum cabinet and an AccuVoice feature that uses hearing aid technology to deliver ultra-clear dialogue. It also comes loaded with a powerful, built-in subwoofer that uses digital algorithms in order to craft a truly great bass response without the need for an external unit.
As is so often the case, however, this added bass response comes at the expense of some upper-register definition and clarity, so if you’re more interested in fully-articulated highs, you may want to opt for a different bar.
Last but not necessarily least, we have the increasingly popular and ultra-sleek TaoTronics Soundbar, which delivers 36 inches of deep, rich audio in a compact and attractive package. There are two full-range and two mid-low frequency speakers that provide for a truly immersive audio experience.
You have the option of placing this bar under your television or mounting it on the wall (if your TV happens to already be mounted itself), and you can easily control your media via the in-unit buttons or with the included remote.
This bar can also be easily connected to a wide range of devices through either Bluetooth or wired connections—including 3.5mm, Optical, Coaxial, and RCA AUX inputs.