Best Soundbar 2019 – Buyer’s Guide

Televisions are getting thinner and thinner. There are even patents for ones which roll or fold away nowadays. But the evident downside to this is that sound is often compromised.

It seems bizarre to say, but if you miss the sound quality which your old bulky telly from ten years ago gave out, then purchasing some home cinema speakers is a great way to boost this. You don’t have to settle for a large setup of multiple items though – soundbars are here to keep your entertainment area looking minimalistic.

There are two forms of soundbar, which is all explained in the Buying Guide below. You can also get soundbases, in case you want the speaker to act as a base for your TV rather than sitting separately. Which is best for you? What are the other factors to consider? Read on to see our top ten picks and handy FAQ’s.

The Best Soundbars – Our Top Picks

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
BOSE Soundbar 700
  • Inputs: HDMI x1, Optical TOSLink x1, USB Input x1
  • WiFi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: 5.7 x 98 x 10.8 cm
  • Weight: 4.8 kg
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Sony HT-SF150 Bluetooth Soundbar
  • Inputs: USB x1, Optical x1, HDMI x1
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: 6.4 x 90 x 8.8cm
  • Weight: 2.4kg
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Samsung HW-M360 Bluetooth Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer
  • Inputs: USB x1, Optical x1, Analogue x1
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: Bar - 5.4 x 90.8 x 7.1. Subwoofer - 35.3 X 17.9 X 30cm
  • Weight: 4.6kg
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Best All-In-One Soundbars

BOSE Soundbar 700

Described as the ‘best Bose soundbar to date’, which is saying a lot as seeing they are the market leaders and have released some corkers in the past few years.

It is solid in perfectly delivering films, music and dramatic box sets, whereas some others on the market excel in one area and are poor in the others. ADAPTiQ audio room calibration optimises the system’s acoustic performance to the unique characteristics of your room, so no matter how much furniture or how minimalistic the room is, you will still get perfection delivered.

A remote control is included, but with Amazon Alexa built-in, you don’t need to reach for it when you want to turn the volume up or change the song on Spotify. You can even ask it a question as normal. Thanks to the eight integrated microphones, it won’t struggle to hear you when you’re snuggled up on the sofa.

Should you already be a Bose multi-room speaker fan, you can connect these up to your soundbar. This allows you to either listen to music around the home in every room or adapt it into a home theatre system for surround sound if your room is on the larger side. If you connect up the Bose Bass Module 700 and Surround Speakers (sold separately), you can get even deeper bass.

Connectivity is a bit of a pain as you have to meticulously follow the instructions on the app – skipping a step or jumping ahead and guessing how its done will do you no favours. But once it is all set, the control is seamless and sound quality is exceptional. A little pricey, but relates to the superior jump in sound quality.

We like

  • Colour choices
  • Great sound no matter positioning or room type
  • Choice of input connections

We dislike

  • Can be hard to adjust to get perfect sound from bass module if using

Final Verdict

Immersive sound for the size, and definitely the best on the market at the moment. Worth the price tag if you want something which won’t let you down

+ Specifications

  • Inputs: HDMI x1, Optical TOSLink x1, USB Input x1
  • WiFi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: 5.7 x 98 x 10.8 cm
  • Weight: 4.8 kg

+ Downloads

Bose® Sound Bar 700 User Manual

Download

Sonos Beam Compact Smart Sound Bar

Another soundbar with Amazon Alexa voice recognition. Fab if you’ve not quite jumped on the smart speaker bandwagon yet or are already a firm fan and reaching for remotes is simply something you will no longer do.

There is no limit to what you can listen to using this bar. 9pm BBC dramas, weekend movie marathons, podcasts, video games and playing the Top 40 music chart from your chosen streaming service is all dealt with issue-free.

Ask Alexa the time, weather or the score of the Manchester United match when you’re in the middle of the task, and she will hear you and respond thanks to the five far-field internal microphones.

It is only 65.1cm long, so there is a high chance it is compact enough to sit comfortably on your TV cabinet without hanging over the edges. You just need to plug it in and connect to your telly using an HDMI cable, and that is that.

Other Sonos speakers can be connected up as well, so you can create surround sound or multi-room music. If you have an Apple device, AirPlay 2 will allow you to stream music straight from your phone. Just ask Siri. There is no Bluetooth for connecting other brands, however.

It is simple to set up and produces decent bass despite the lack of subwoofer. It is beautifully made, and to say there is great sound, the price isn’t too extortionate. Perfect if you want to spend that bit more on a quality product but don’t want to break the bank.

We like

  • Nice size for sitting in front of TV
  • Streams radio and music well
  • Even the packaging is high quality

We dislike

  • Very iPhone/iPad reliant to make full use of functions

Final Verdict

A premium item and brand for a mid-range price - we have nothing much negative to say

+ Specifications

  • Inputs: HDMI x1, Optical x1, Ethernet x1
  • WiFi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Dimensions: 6.85 x 65.1 x 10cm
  • Weight: 2.88kg

+ Downloads

Sonos Beam Compact Smart Sound Bar User Manual

Download

Samsung Sound+ HW-MS650 Smart Bluetooth Soundbar

Ideal for any TV’s which are 32” and above, this bar features Dolby 5.1 sound support, so it is all you need for immersive crystal clear audio.

You can connect it to your telly via an HDMI or optical cable, or with Bluetooth if compatible. Or, if you happen to have a Samsung TV, then they can both be connected wirelessly.

The Multiroom app for iOS and Android smartphones will allow you to stream music from your gadget straight to the soundbar, so you can start the party or settle down with a nice book and calming playlist.

Automatic sound selection caters the settings towards what it is you are watching, so if there is a drama with a fair bit of whispering, then you’ll still be able to hear. Likewise, if one movie scene is quiet and the next is booming, you aren’t going to have a shaking room. The nine speakers all have their own dedicated amplifier, so you get no less than you deserve.

It is a soundbar which is highly recommended by plenty of dedicated audio sites on the internet and has a host of glowing user praise too. The reason it doesn’t top our list is only that it isn’t multi-room compatible, nor is there voice control. But not everybody needs these features, so if you don’t, the lower price for missing out on them is well worth the quality.

As a bonus, it can be hung on the wall using the included fittings for an even more minimal layout.

We like

  • Every little detail in sound
  • Wall fittings included
  • One Remote included for controlling all tech products

We dislike

  • Slight faint hiss sound when at lower volumes

Final Verdict

Misses some luxury features but the price tag is relative, and we would still be more than happy to have it in our homes

+ Specifications

  • Inputs: HDMI x1, Optical x1
  • WiFi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: 7.8 x 106 x 13.1cm
  • Weight: 6.2kg

+ Downloads

Samsung Sound+ HW-MS650 Smart Bluetooth Soundbar User Manual

Download

Bose Solo 5 TV Soundbar System

Amazon’s Best Seller and a firm favourite of those who want the luxury of better sound without forking out hundreds of pounds. In fact, this soundbar is the best we found for under £200.

We would say it is the best option for anyone who simply wants to boost the ordinary volume levels of their TV without having to turn the volume up or replay scenes. Dialogue mode makes every word clearer and soundtracks richer, while still boosting the bass without it becoming overpowering.

Talking of bass – sometimes, having all of this automatically controlled for you can actually be annoying. It is nice to have an immersive action scene, but there are the odd occasions where you want it to be remaining on screen as opposed to in the room. Well, with the Solo 5, you have the control. Just press the dedicated button on the remote to change levels. You can also increase it if the music requires. Perfect for listening to the latest house music.

Bluetooth lets you stream music from other devices, and you have freedom of choice over which audio cable to use when connecting to the telly. Whether optical, coaxial or analogue, it will automatically detect and adjust to suit. It even comes with a selection.

The remote will also allow you to control any other Bluetooth connected devices linked to the television to make control more effortless. The instruction booklet included is very informative and clear, so even if you are a bit of a technophobe on your first foray into the speaker bar world, it will be set up in no time.

We like

  • On the compact side
  • Remote can control other items too
  • Power off after 60 minutes of inactivity
  • Voices and talking are notably clearer

We dislike

  • Best for everyday sound as opposed to films/games etc

Final Verdict

Good sound for the size and price - not the fanciest or highest performer, but there is a noticeable improvement, and a lot of people will like that control is placed more in their hands, yet it is largely plug-and-play

+ Specifications

  • Inputs: Optical x1, Co-axial x1
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: 7 x 54.8 x 8.6cm
  • Weight: 1.6kg

+ Downloads

BOSE Solo 5 Sound Bar User Manual

Download

Sony HT-SF150 Bluetooth Soundbar

The latest Sony soundbar system is over 10x the price of this one, and while it may unarguably deliver a better sound, we’d still say you can’t go wrong with this Dolby option if you’re on a budget. In fact, it pleasantly packs a punch.

Suiting screens over 32”, it gives everyday viewing a boost and is described as delivering virtual surround sound. This difference is notable, and the built-in bass speaker will also do most of the job of a separate subwoofer by adding a deeper boom, so you can keep everything minimalistic.

If you have audio files on a USB, it can play these simply from plugging it into the dedicated input. Same applies to if these are on a compatible MP3 player or iPod. There are presets for every occasion, from movies to football games and dramatic television marathons.

When comparing to the higher-end soundbars, the sound isn’t quite on par. But this is hardly surprising. We say quite because we were still surprised by just how good it was. There is a cinematic feel to it, and getting it all going is easy.

If you want something cheap but cheerful and for a budget price under £100, then the notable improvement in sound clarity is worth it. The size is unobtrusive, and the choice of input will suit the majority of households.

We like

  • Price
  • Setting up is simple
  • Sleek basic design

We dislike

  • Slight buzz given out on higher volumes

Final Verdict

Our budget buy choice, but don’t be put off - the sound is still quality and perfect for most eventualities

+ Specifications

  • Inputs: USB x1, Optical x1, HDMI x1
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: 6.4 x 90 x 8.8cm
  • Weight: 2.4kg

+ Downloads

Sony HT-SF150 Bluetooth Soundbar User Manual

Download

Best Cinematic Soundbars

Samsung HW-M360 Bluetooth Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer

For a richer sports match sound and high-quality, crisp vocals, this 2.1 system is ideal for all occasions.

It will suit any televisions up to 55” in size and gives a big improvement to the sound. There are five presets, and as it chooses which is best for the given programme or input, you’ll always get the optimum results.

Connection from the bar to compatible Samsung TV’s is wireless thanks to Bluetooth, and it will pick everything up immediately so setting up is effortless. The size is good for sitting underneath or in front of your television without becoming unsightly or obstructive.

Bluetooth also means you can hook your other electrical devices up to it to stream music from dedicated platforms or your files, so it acts as a standalone powerful speaker.

Because you get a separate subwoofer, the bass is incredibly powerful. We’d say it is on par to being sat in the cinema (on a smaller scale, of course). If you’re more of a movie buff or sports fanatic than a traditional spoken drama type, then this will certainly appeal more than a singular bar.

This subwoofer is wireless, so you can place it wherever is best within your room. You can also add further rear speakers for a surround sound experience.

Control is through the supplied remote, or if you already have a Samsung television, you can use this to control the soundbar too. Failing this, there is a handy app which includes everything you will need.

Unfortunately, there is no HDMI so it can’t pass through 4K or HDR video and you’d have to go through your Blu-Ray player if this is your wish. But as seeing as it doesn’t, therefore, take away from the usability or quality, we can’t say it is a massive downfall. Still good for the price and reliable.

We like

  • Price
  • Subwoofer isn’t too large to be bothersome
  • Bluetooth capability

We dislike

  • The bar is quite long - ensure it’ll fit on your cabinet first

Final Verdict

Not the most modern in terms of features, but as it is under £200 and offers a subwoofer too, it is still a device which will make you happy and make an impact

+ Specifications

  • Inputs: USB x1, Optical x1, Analogue x1
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: Bar - 5.4 x 90.8 x 7.1. Subwoofer - 35.3 X 17.9 X 30cm
  • Weight: 4.6kg

+ Downloads

Samsung HW-M360 Bluetooth Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer User Manual

Download

Panasonic SC-HTB488EBK Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer

A clever design means that you will hear crisp sound and rich, deep bass when required, from gaming and movies to your Saturday night and Sunday morning playlists.

It is suitable for TV’s over 42”, so one for those who are serious about their viewing. The biggest notable improvement is the boost in clarity. You may have previously had to turn your television up to high volume, which resulted in a muffled slightly crackly sound. Not any more, as this system reduces the need to reach for the volume button while ridding you of any sound issues.

Even though there is an improvement, it is still an entry level model when comparing to some of the more modern, higher-end models. We also thought that the upward facing display was a bit annoying – you can’t see the  LED indicators for mode selection unless you are standing over it, which is unlikely. To have it on the front, or some form of a sign on the remote would have been much more practical.

Beware that it will only work with HDMI ARC connections as opposed to standard HDMI as well, so check your telly has this before you buy.

But it still has all the basics, and we love the sleek design which won’t clutter up your living room. There is a small remote included for control from the sofa, and buttons on the top of the bar for close-up control too.

We like

  • Price
  • Sleek look

We dislike

  • Occasionally, the sound goes out of sync with the display

Final Verdict

For the price, you can’t expect the absolute best soundbar out there. But it still delivers strong enough results to have an impact, making it well worth a go

+ Specifications

  • Inputs: HDMI x1, Optical x1
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: 6.1 x 85.3 x 9cm
  • Weight: 4.3kg

+ Downloads

Panasonic SC-HTB488EBK Bluetooth Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer User Manual

Download

LG SK9Y Wi-Fi Bluetooth Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer

Have you ever been to the cinema and been blown away by the 3D sound you have experienced? Well, with this cinematic system, you get as close to that as possible from the comfort of your own sofa.

This is courtesy of the Object Based Audio from Dolby Atmos, and Adaptive Sound Control will balance it out depending on whatever you’re watching. Not to mention the whopping 500W of power, which is over double some of the other lower-end offerings.

It is packed with various extra functions which make it much more adaptable to your needs. Bluetooth allows you to stream music from other gadgets such as tablets or laptops, so you don’t need a separate speaker, and there is also built-in Chromecast. The latter allows you to stream music, podcasts, radio, and access Google Play through the TV.

If you own a Google Assistant speaker, the audio from the bar can be controlled with your voice. Handy if you’ve settled down with the blankets and are all cosy but need to turn the volume up slightly or change channel.

The HDMI ports allow for 4K pass-through, which in short means it can be connected to other devices, and there will be no loss in sound quality or timings. As the sub is wireless, you can pop it anywhere in the room for the best sound – some people love placing it behind them at the back of the room for more of a surround sound experience.

You can also pair it up with the dedicated SPK8 Wireless Surround Speakers if you want to go all out. Talking of pairing up though, people have commented that they struggled with connecting it to their Xbox and Sky Q boxes so if this is what you’d be doing as opposed to straight to the TV, you may wish to read up about this.

We like

  • Clear dialogue
  • Big improvement in sound

We dislike

  • Bass is a little weak
  • Is very long - beware before buying

Final Verdict

It isn’t cheap, and it isn’t absolutely perfect, and even though the bass isn’t the most thumping of those we tested, the Atmos sound is crisp, and we like the addition of Chromecast

+ Specifications

  • Inputs: HDMI x2, USB x1, Ethernet x1, Optical In x1, Audio In x1
  • WiFi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: Sub - 39 x 22.1 x 31.28cm. Bar - 5.8 x 120 x 14.5cm
  • Weight: 5.64kg

+ Downloads

LG SK9Y Wi-Fi Bluetooth Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer User Manual

Download

JBL Bar 2.1 Wireless Sound Bar

A lovely slim design which can be accommodated on any surface, this JBL sub speaker set is a fab choice for anyone who wants to spend well under £300 for a great all-rounder.

The surround sound technology will bring everything on your screen to life, whether you be playing a game with the family or watching the latest talked about drama. You also have the freedom to choose between the HDMI, optical, or aux connections, so it should be able to work alongside any telly.

There’s Bluetooth so you can stream music from compatible devices. Whether it be a motivational playlist or a new podcast, you can make those daunting household tasks a lot more fun.

It comes with a dedicated remote but also works with most ordinary TV remotes, so you can pop the rest away in the drawer to keep them safe. The sound goes loud without any distortion or crackling which is good, but we would still say it is best for small or medium rooms.

There are multiple presets to suit whether you’re watching a football match or a movie, and we love the choice of connections (which coincidentally, a lot of more expensive offerings lacks). If your aim is to simply upgrade your TV speakers and add a bit of something extra, it is a perfect budget offering which is simple to use and set up.

We like

  • Great range of features
  • Sound is decent
  • Screen on front to tell you which output is chosen

We dislike

  • Can struggle a little with playback timing occasionally

Final Verdict

Holds its own against those which retail for 2x the cost, and the sound is surprisingly punchy and clear for the size and price tag

+ Specifications

  • Inputs: HDMI x2 (ARC x1), Optical x1, 3.5 mm aux x1
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: Sound bar - 5.8 x 96.5 x 6.8. Subwoofer - 22.5 x 22.5 x 37cm
  • Weight: 1.9 kg

+ Downloads

JBL Bar 2.1 Wireless Sound Bar User Manual

Download

LG SK5 Bluetooth Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer

360W of power makes this one of the more impactful cinematic soundbar systems on the market at the moment.

It can be wall mounted, and is suited to screens over 32”. The overall design of both parts is quite inconspicuous, so it shouldn’t stick out or clash with your decor.

The wireless subwoofer delivers a punchy low pitch which makes watching films and action television a dream. An app is available for more control from anywhere, although it is only on Android at the moment. You do get a standard small, chunky remote, however, which does everything you need it to do.

Which is a good thing, as the power, source function and volume control buttons on the actual bar are placed at the back. This makes little sense for a wall-mountable device and can make it awkward even if it is in front of the TV. So look after the remote, particularly if you’re one to lose things like this.

Adaptive Sound Control will cater the settings for you depending on what you’re watching, so you have no fear of Coronation Street using the same settings as the latest Marvel movie and having to scramble for the remote to turn it down. Though we did find that at times, particularly in Cinema mode, the subwoofer can overpower the bar a little, so the ordinary sound becomes muffled. But a slight adjustment of settings can eliminate this.

Listening was still enjoyable though, and it beats the sound which a modern television can blast out. It needs an HDMI ARC connection on the TV, so check all is good before purchasing.

We like

  • Suitable for most setups
  • Great at adjusting sound to match what's playing
  • Easy to install

We dislike

  • Sub can sometimes overpower bar

Final Verdict

A style and quality which will happily fit within any home or room. There is no denying the sound is powerful, and even though this can get a bit much at rare times, on the whole it is very welcome

+ Specifications

  • Inputs: HDMI x1, USB x1, Optical x1
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Dimensions: Bar - 5.8 x 89.1 x 8.8cm. Subwoofer - 39.3 x 17.1 x 24.8 cm
  • Weight: 2.35kg

+ Downloads

LG SK5 Bluetooth Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer User Manual

Download

Help and Resources

Soundbar Buying Guide

Types Of Soundbar

  • All-in-ones – These come as one channel and are designed to boost ordinary sound. It is more compact than having multiple
  • Cinematic – This is a soundbar package made up of multiple channels. The basic setup is the soundbar and subwoofer, but some can also include rear speakers or sell these separately. This is opposed to your traditional home cinema package which often contains a large DVD/Blu-Ray player. Some may pack the 5.1 design into just 2 items

The former is great for space saving, and the latter for those who need a deeper booming bass when watching films and listening to music and have the space to accommodate an extra speaker or two.

Connectivity

The majority of soundbars can connect to your television via an optical cable or HDMI. Most are Bluetooth, so can connect wirelessly to a compatible screen.

If your TV is relatively modern, then this shouldn’t be an issue. Bear in mind what else you have plugged in and connected, however, as you may face some restrictions here.

You may need an HDMI ARC connection as opposed to an ordinary HDMI so think ahead before you buy. Some of the cheaper soundbars also offer 3.5mm audio jacks, but these can be packed with the risk of interference. You should only really use these if you are temporarily using the bar.

Price

You can buy a soundbar for just over £100, and some for closer to £1000. A lot that we found are under £500, and we even found some brilliant buys for under £300.

The more expensive ones do generally give you better sound and control, but there are some gems out there for a more budget-friendly price. Think about what you need for your home – if you have a small living room and you only watch ordinary TV shows, you aren’t going to need a state-of-the-art booming soundbar at the higher end of the cost scale.

Features To Look Out For

  • Wall Mounting – If you are stuck for space or your TV is mounted on the wall, you may wish for a soundbar that matches or stays away from your tables. Not every bar is mountable, but for those which are, it is common to get the fittings included in the purchase
  • Adaptive Sound Control – This optimises the sound and equalisers depending on what it is you are watching. A booming movie needs different settings to a quiet period drama, but you won’t have to reach for the remote or quickly change settings as it will be done for you
  • Bluetooth – Offers the ability to turn your soundbar into a music speaker, streaming from your compatible devices such as your tablet or laptop. You may also be able to connect it to your TV this way, especially if you are sticking to the Samsung brand for instance
  • WiFi – These often offer the user app control (acting as a Smart device for your TV), access to apps such as Spotify, and multi-room technology with further speakers
  • Dolby Atmos – Not all bars have this technology, but those which do will often provide a stronger Cinematic surround sound and a 3D field reach
  • Attractive design – Not an essential, but if it is on display, then you want it to match up to your other gadgets. From colour to style, this may be a big factor if you want perfection

Dimensions

Important as your bar will ultimately be on display. If you want it to sit on a shelf or your TV cabinet, ensure it will fit lengthwise and won’t be too tall, so it blocks the remote control signal receiver won’t be blocked.

FAQ’s

Why Choose A Soundbar?

Sound power, depth and detail may be lacking from your modern flat screen TV as the speakers are generally poor. If you have a room on the larger side, this will be more notable.

A sound bar or cinematic subwoofer set can add this, boosting what you hear. This can be making voices clearer (great for those mumbling dramas), or explosions and gunfights in your favourite action movies a lot more realistic.

Are Sound Bars Suitable For Small TV’s?

There are plenty of options out there which are compact and small enough to not protrude beyond a smaller TV. Look at the dimensions, both lengthways and height, and ensure it won’t look or feel overpowering with your TV.

What Is ARC?

You will have seen we mention this a few times, as some soundbars require this as opposed to an ordinary HDMI cable. It simply means you won’t need additional cabling. It can deliver high-quality sound and video to your TV while sending audio from your TV to soundbar. This will use the same HDMI port so that you can make a cleaner display.

You won’t need to connect an audio cable as well. Perfect for TVs which create their own sound, or if you have other sources such as Sky boxes or DVD players.

Not all tellies have this, however, so check before you buy. It only passes Dolby Digital too, so Blu-Ray will be unable to connect.

Also, check how many sources the ARC connection can cope with – you should be fine with soundbars, but if you would rather get a 5.1 home cinema system, some TV’s only support two channels, so it won’t be suitable.