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Picture this: you just bought a brand-new TV that you managed to score at nearly half the cost of the original price. Huge 65″ display, 4K resolution, HDR—it’s everything you could ever want in a television. You turn it on, hook up the streaming device of your choice, and get comfy on the couch with a bowl of popcorn. It’s only once you start playing your favorite Netflix original that you realize the built-in speakers sound terrible. No matter how you tune your EQ settings, there’s a complete lack of bass, and when you turn the volume up, everything sounds tinny and distorted. No matter how good the picture quality looks, you just can’t get over how terrible the speakers sound, ruining your movie plans and sending you to bed early.
If that experience sounds familiar, it might be time for you to check out the ever-growing soundbar market. Soundbars replace old-school sound systems, making it easier than ever to get great sound without taking up half the room with receivers, speakers, and wires. While some soundbars do include satellite speakers to place around your room, most give you great sound in an all-in-one package you place just below your TV. No matter your budget, adding a soundbar to your TV will give you better sound nearly every single time.
With the soundbar market as popular as it is today, it might be tough to pick the right soundbar for you. Whether you’re after perfect sound or on a budget, these are the best soundbars you can buy in 2020.
If you want the best all-around soundbar for your home, it’s hard to beat the Sonos Beam. Replacing the Sonos Playbar on our list, the Beam starts at just $399, and for that price, you’re getting one hell of a soundbar. The Sonos brand is well known for their lineup of interconnected speakers. Any audiophile will tell you buying into the Sonos ecosystem is a great way to wire your house to listen to music regardless of the room you’re in, and the Beam is a great way to start out. Whether you’re looking to watch the newest Criterion Collection releases with crisp audio or focused on listening to your favorite albums, the Beam will serve you well.
One of the best parts of the Sonos ecosystem is its easy and intuitive setup, and the Beam is no different. With HDMI-ARC built into the Beam, setup is as simple as plugging the Beam into power, then connecting the Beam to your television with an HDMI cable. Setup is taken care of through the Sonos app on your smartphone, where you can tune and customize your listening experience to your liking. With five drivers, the Sonos Beam isn’t the most powerful soundbar on the market today, but it is capable of producing some solid sound. In fact, the Beam was tuned by Oscar-winning sound engineers, to ensure your movie nights sound as accurate to the filmmakers’ vision as possible.
If the Beam doesn’t seem like enough speaker for you, don’t worry—Sonos isn’t done yet. Though the Beam on its own runs you $399, Sonos also offers a number of various packages you can pick up alongside it. A 3.1 set includes the Beam and Sonos’ Sub, their $700 wireless subwoofer. At $1,100, you don’t save any money by buying this bundle separately or together, but that does mean you can always add the Sonos Sub later on. Sonos also makes a 5.1 surround sound bundle, with the Beam, the Sub, and two Sonos One SL speakers for $1,400. Once again, these Sonos One speakers can be added individually or at a later date, which makes it easy to customize your bundle when you have some extra money to add to your set.
At $399, the Beam isn’t the cheapest soundbar you can buy today. What it does, however, is give you the flexibility to customize not just your home theater audio system, but the audio around your entire house. Sonos is a great audio ecosystem, and the Beam is easily the best way to slowly ease yourself in. With its add-on speakers available individually, Sonos is the best way to get a high-end soundbar in a way that fits your own budget. And frankly, that’s enough to give it our pick for the best set.
If you’re just looking for a soundbar and subwoofer combo that gives you some great audio for a price lower than the Sonos Beam, Yamaha’s YAS-209BL is the set for you. Yamaha is a staple of the audio industry, from soundboards to keyboards and everything in between. This soundbar brings Yamaha’s experience with audio to your living room for a fantastic home theater experience. Like the Beam, Yamaha’s 209 model includes easy setup through HDMI, complete with video passthrough. The subwoofer is wireless, with automatic connection once the bar turns on, and it offers both flexible placements and improved bass. The soundbar itself has a couple of features built-in, including Clear Voice for improved dialogue clarity and DTS Virtual:X, which gives you a virtual 3D surround sound experience.
When it comes to smart features, Yamaha doesn’t disappoint. Alexa is included, making it easy to play music, catch up on the news, set alarms and timers, and control your smart home devices, all with your voice. If you’re a Spotify user, Yamaha has also thrown in Spotify Connect integration, so you can play your entire music library without having to pair over Bluetooth. And for anyone who doesn’t user Amazon or Spotify, don’t worry—Bluetooth is still included here as well, making music streaming possible no matter your device. Yamaha has an app of their own to control your sound settings, and while it isn’t as good as the Sonos app, it gets the job done.
All-in-all, if you want a fantastic sound experience that doesn’t break the bank, Yamaha’s soundbar is an excellent choice. It provides some fantastic-sounding audio without the bloat of the Sonos app, and for some people, that’s all they can ask for.
If you aren’t an audiophile, our top picks might make you balk. Don’t worry—we haven’t forgotten about our budget-minded buyers. For those just looking to get something better sounding than the included speakers on your TV, Vizio’s SB3830 is easily your best bet. At 38″, it’s a great soundbar for any size living room, and with deep bass built right into the unit, there’s no need for an additional subwoofer. The design is a bit more dated than we like, but it’s got basically everything we like to see in a soundbar. At just over $100, it’s one of the few soundbars that we’ve tested that can actually fill a living room with good sound. Anyone overly concerned with audio quality will likely want to upgrade to a more expensive unit, but for most budget shoppers, this is a great soundbar.
For $35 less than Vizio’s offering, TaoTronics offers a fantastic budget set perfect for your master bedroom television. At 36″, it’s a bit smaller than the Vizio model, but it’s just as powerful, offering much better sound than anything your TV could produce. Though the EQ presets on this model are basic, highs are clear and it has solid bass production, especially considering its a standalone soundbar. There’s no smart features built-in, but Bluetooth support allows anyone to pair their phone to listen to music or podcasts. The biggest issue with TaoTronic’s soundbar—and what keeps it from besting the Vizio model—is its lack of HDMI support. You’ll have to choose between optical, coaxial, or auxillary ports for connecting with your TV.
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