Sunday, March 3, 2024

Instantly improve your home theater setup with the best soundbars



Soundbars have come a long way in the last few years, offering excellent sound while taking up less space and costing far less. Our criteria for the best soundbars start with: bars that won’t bankrupt you, come with the best streaming devices or smart assistants built-in, and create powerful sound without relying on subwoofers or rear speakers. The Sonos Beam will astonish you with its massive sound in a small, reasonably-priced package, but we have plenty of other great options to consider below.

Best overall: Sonos Beam Smart TV Sound Bar


With the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), you get the best soundbar with basic smarts. The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) connects to your TV with HDMI-ARC or with the included HDMI-to-Optical adapter. A recent update has brought the ability to integrate Sonos products and Google Assistant. You can control your TV with your voice if your TV supports HDMI-CEC, which most modern sets do. Controlling your TV with your voice isn’t a replacement for a remote, but it’s an excellent option.

Sonos’ ecosystem is attractive because it’s easy to add more speakers to create a surround system. And as for connections, you’ll get a single HDMI port, a single Ethernet port, and the standard AC power input. So you can start with the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) and have a great soundbar. Then, a few months later, you can pick up a couple of Sonos One speakers to add more channels. Or, you can buy a Sonos 5.1 kit with everything you need and create one of the best soundbar systems you can find.

However, if you want to experience better “lows” in your movies and video games, you’ll want to pick up a subwoofer after the fact. This adds more of a punch to intense scenes and helps to immerse you in whatever you’re watching or playing. Until then, the Beam creates a wide soundstage with an effective low-end sound all on its own, as we discovered during our Sonos Beam review.


  • Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built-in
  • Integration with other Sonos speakers
  • Lightweight
  • Great sound


  • No subwoofer included
  • Optical cable needed if HDMI-ARC not available
  • Voice commands won’t work with optical cable

Best overall

Sonos Beam Smart TV Sound Bar (Gen 2)


$599 at Amazon $450 at Best Buy $450 at Walmart

All of the smarts

With Alexa support and the ability to pair with other Sonos speakers, this should be the go-to soundbar for almost everyone.

Best for Sonos enthusiasts: Sonos Arc


The best Sonos speakers were limited to portable Bluetooth speakers paired to your phone; now, you can get them all over the house. Sonos has become a household name for TV audio after diving into the soundbar industry, with the Sonos Arc coming in as its flagship model. It offers the homeowner eight woofers, three tweeters, and a total of 11 amplifiers for incredible, immersive sound. This is paired with a far-field microphone to work alongside your voice assistant of choice.

The Arc requires only two cables to plug in before being ready to experience this soundbar’s greatness, which is incredible if you don’t want a complicated setup. As for connections, the Playbar offers one Ethernet port, an HDMI ARC port (with included cable), and an Optical Audio port. Plus, as part of the Sonos family, you can connect the Arc to other Sonos speakers for a surround-sound experience.

It’s a fantastic option, and we had almost nothing but praise for it in our Sonos Arc review — mainly whenever it plays Dolby Atmos content, which sounds particularly incredible from a soundbar without rear speakers. But the Arc isn’t without a couple of downfalls that may have you looking elsewhere. First is the size and weight: it measures more than 13 pounds and is 45 inches wide, so you’ll need to have plenty of space and heavy-duty wall anchors. The other pitfall is that there is no subwoofer included, so you may not get as much “punch” during your movies as you might want.


  • Wall mountable
  • Integrates with other Sonos speakers
  • Only two cables to hook-up
  • Works with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Apple Airplay 2
  • Dolby Atmos-compatible


  • May be too large for TVs under 49 inches
  • Expensive
  • Subwoofer not included

Best for Sonos enthusiasts

Sonos Arc – Black


  • From $800 at Amazon
  • $900 at Best Buy
  • $899 at Sonos

Great sound with the smarts to boot

Sonos knocked it out of the park with this one, as this is compatible with Amazon Alexa and is perfect for most setups.

Best Sonos competitor: Creative SXFI Carrier


If you’re looking for a powerful soundbar that’s comparable to the Sonos Arc in both output and price, the new Creative SXFI Carrier soundbar is a great alternative. Creative worked directly with Dolby Atmos on its latest soundbar, which has already proved to be an excellent option for users who want Dolby Atmos sound in an integrated package and need a high-end soundbar with a wireless sub.

While the SXFI Carrier soundbar doesn’t offer Wi-Fi connectivity, it does include two HDMI inputs, an HDMI output with eARC, and all the benefits of HDMI 2.1—including variable refresh, ALLM, 4K at 120fps, and HDR10+ as well as Dolby Vision. You also get optical, 3.5 in, USB-C, and Bluetooth 5.0.

The SXFI Carrier also boasts a relatively compact design, measuring 880 x 128 x 76mm and weighing roughly 8lbs. (3.6kg). Other impressive specs include the wireless subwoofer, which features a 10-inch driver for next-level bass and sub-bass detail, seven driver units, and Creative’s unique SXFI virtualization technology.


  • Better than expected sound
  • Wireless sub has impressive bass
  • Easy to set up and use
  • HDMI 2.1 connectivity
  • Six different modes for movies, TV shows, and music
  • Dolby Atmos integration


  • No Chromecast integration
  • Cannot add rear surrounds
  • Limited EQ customization

Best Sonos competitor

Creative SXFI Carrier sounder


  • $999 at Creative

Great sound with the smarts to boot

Creative’s second Atmos speaker holds its own against high-end Atmos options from the likes of Sonos, Sony, and Yamaha. In addition to being easy to set up and use, the Creative SXFI Carrier delivers an epic base across six different modes.

Best all-in-one: Roku Streambar


A few different streaming box options are available now, including the Chromecast with Google TV, our favorite of all the best Android TV boxes. Whether you prefer Chromecasts, Fire Sticks, or Rokus, however, you’ll end up using two HDMI ports for your streaming box and soundbar — one too many if you have a lot of gaming consoles, cable boxes, or Blu-Ray players to connect as well.

The Roku Streambar is the all-in-one soundbar solution you’ve been looking for. Connect it to an HDMI ARC-compatible port on your 4K TV, and you’ll be able to enjoy 4K HDR content and upgraded audio thanks to its four 1.9″ full-range drivers, plus the streaming capabilities of a Roku Streaming Stick+. It’s compact enough to easily slide under any TV, with side-firing drivers to fill a room with decent sound. You can also invest in a subwoofer and wireless speakers to upgrade to true surround sound.

The best competitor for this slot is another Roku device, the more expensive Roku Smart Soundbar. We compared the Roku Smart Soundbar vs. Streambar and ruled in favor of the Streambar. The Smart Soundbar’s four front-facing drivers are larger at 2.5 inches, and the soundbar is over twice as long, but otherwise, it doesn’t have any other advantages over its bargain-priced sibling. Plus, only the Roku Streambar has an optional ethernet adapter for more consistent streaming speeds.


  • Built-in 4K HDR streaming
  • HDMI ARC support
  • Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Can be expanded with subwoofer and wireless speakers
  • Dolby Audio


  • No wireless subwoofer included
  • Ethernet adapter sold separately

Best all-in-one

Roku Streambar – Streaming Media Player


  • $99 at Amazon
  • $100 at Best Buy
  • $99 at Walmart

The true all-in-one soundbar has arrived

This soundbar is here to provide the best all-in-one home theater system you never thought you needed.

Best for Fire TV: TCL Alto 8+


If it hasn’t been obvious over the past few years, one of the best streaming devices has been the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K. But what if we told you that you could get one built right into your new soundbar? Well, that’s what you’ll get with the TCL Alto 8+. Of course, TCL is already known for some of the best soundbars, but the Alto 8+ brings a new focus on combining your streaming TV needs with a great audio experience for that 4K content.

While the Alto 8+ may not look all that impressive, there are a few extra tricks that you’ll find with this soundbar. For one, there’s a built-in subwoofer, so you won’t have to worry about trying to route any extra cables, nor will you need to worry about paying extra for some improved bass. There are also three different sound modes in the software, providing optimized sound for movies, music, or the news.

However, not everything is great about the TCL Alto 8+, as this soundbar does not support Dolby Atmos. With more and more soundbars seeing this included, it’s a bit disappointing to see TCL miss the mark here. Another potential frustration is the inclusion of only a single HDMI port on the backside. This may not be a huge deal for some, but if you’re planning on using this with your PS5, you’ll end up a bit disappointed.


  • Built-in Fire TV 4K
  • Voice Remote with Alexa included
  • Built-in subwoofer
  • Various Sound Modes to choose from


  • No Dolby Atmos support
  • Only one HDMI port
  • Does not feature Wi-Fi connectivity

Best for Fire TV

TCL Alto 8+


  • From $120 at Amazon
  • $218 at Walmart

Built-in Fire TV

An impressive soundbar with a built-in Fire TV and Alexa smarts with the Voice Remote.

Best for Bose fans: Bose Smart Soundbar 300


Bose has been in the sound game for a long time, but its home theater audio options used to be priced out of many potential owners’ budgets. Those times have changed, and the Bose Smart Soundbar 300 system couldn’t be better evidence of that. This 2″ x 27″ x 4″ soundbar is priced and designed to compete directly with the Sonos Beam but has the premium Bose features we’re used to from its more expensive models.

On its own merits, the Bose Smart Soundbar 300 has four full-range drivers and a central tweeter for compact, distortion-free sound. It also has a mic for built-in Alexa or Google Assistant, which you can use to control your TV or cable box or answer phone calls. Plus, it has several connectivity options: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Bose SimpleSync to the best Bose headphones.

For dedicated Bose fans, you can pair your 300 to other Bose Bluetooth speakers or buy a Bose Bass Module or Surround Speakers to build a total home theater system. These can add up in price, but we appreciate that the Smart Soundbar 300 mainly stands on its own as an audio experience until you can afford to augment it with new audio tech.


  • Can be paired with Bose wireless speakers and subwoofers
  • Built-in support for Assistant and Alexa
  • Bluetooth connectivity enables music streaming
  • Affordable compared to previous Bose soundbars


  • No subwoofer included
  • Might be too small for some

Best for Bose fans

Bose Smart Soundbar 300 – Black


  • $449 at Amazon
  • $450 at Best Buy
  • $449 at Walmart

Perfect soundbar for most people

Bose’s attempt to take on Sonos with a compact soundbar is priced below its usual luxury range.

Best for 3D surround sound: Yamaha YAS-209BL Soundbar


In years past, Yamaha has released some of the best soundbar options that you could find. Now, the Yamaha YAS-209BL soundbar shows that the company has taken its experience and introduced another fantastic option. First, there is surround sound, and then there is a three-dimensional surround sound, and the Yamaha 209BL Soundbar is a vast improvement over its predecessor. With DTS Virtual:X, the 209BL will fill every inch of your room to entrench you in action and make you feel like a part of the movie.

Yamaha also includes the ability to stream music over Bluetooth and use either the included remote or the accompanying smartphone app. Plus, there is a wireless subwoofer packaged in the bundle so you can get just the right amount of bass for your favorite movie, TV show, or music playlist.

Unfortunately, while the 209BL is excellent in many facets, there are a few frustrating omissions. The first frustration is the number of inputs, as there’s a single HDMI for input, one for output, and a single Digital Optical output port. As for smart home assistants, you’ll be limited to Amazon Alexa, which is already built-in. However, Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay 2 users will not be able to take advantage of those benefits. Additionally, Yamaha has not included support for all music streaming services, including Apple Music, TIDAL, or YouTube Music.


  • Wireless subwoofer included
  • Virtual 3D surround sound
  • Amazon Alexa built-in for voice control
  • Use the included remote or application on your phone


  • Does not support all music-streaming services
  • No support for multi-room systems
  • Limited input/output ports

Best for 3D surround sound

Yamaha YAS-209BL Soundbar


  • $350 at Best Buy
  • $350 at B&H

Almost perfect

Nearly perfect soundbar between the subwoofer and virtual 3D sounds, but there are still some compromises.

Best for Google Assistant: Polk Audio Signa S3


Polk is another one of those companies that prides itself on providing great audio experiences throughout your home. The Signa S3 Sound Bar is no different and has a few tricks up its sleeves that other soundbars simply can’t compete with. Kicking everything off, the Command Bar sports a single ARC-compatible HDMI, along with a standard optical port for your television and an auxiliary cable.

Smart home integration is on board, with Google Assistant built right-in, and you’ll have the added benefit of the built-in Chromecast (keep in mind this only lets you stream music over Wi-Fi, not stream video). The Signa S3 also includes a wireless subwoofer so that you can get that extra bass from your media without the need for any additional wires.

While controlling your TV and soundbar with a single remote is nifty, we would have liked to see a more robust remote from Polk. The included remote gives you basic controls without any shortcuts to Netflix or another streaming app. Those who want to have multiple devices connected directly to the Signa S3 will be disappointed as there’s just a single HDMI port on this soundbar.


  • Built-in Chromecast
  • Wireless subwoofer included
  • Single remote to control your TV and soundbar
  • Universal TV compatibility with HDMI ARC


  • Pretty basic remote included
  • Only one HDMI port included

Best for Google Assistant

Polk Audio Signa S3


$250 at Amazon $280 at Best Buy $279 at Polk

Sleek, smart, and powerful

Includes Dolby Digital 5.1, is sleek, includes a subwoofer, and is excellent for those wanting Google Assistant.

Best for truly wireless surround sound: JBL Bar 5.1


Google has done a phenomenal job getting Google Assistant into the hands of millions. Even better is that more products are launching that integrate Assistant, so it’s even more useful.

The JBL Bar 5.1 is the perfect example of this, as the company worked with Google to integrate Google Assistant and Google Cast support. There are three HDMI ports onboard, along with an HDMI Arc output option. JBL even included a privacy switch for the microphone if you don’t want your soundbar listening. However, one of the most significant advantages is the truly wireless surround sound speakers that detach from the primary soundbar. You can then mount them in different areas around your room and charge them with the main soundbar.

Despite being a favorite for the best soundbar, some sacrifices had to be made. For one, you can’t currently add this to your Google Home Groups. That likely won’t make or break your purchase, but it’s something to be wary of when you get this soundbar. Additionally, the Bar 5.1’s wireless speakers have micro-USB charging and not USB-C, which is just disappointing at this point.


  • Wireless surround speakers included
  • 10-inch wireless subwoofer
  • Three HDMI inputs
  • Instantly switch sound between devices


  • Micro-USB charging for surround speakers
  • Finding the proper configuration can be frustrating
  • Plastic design

Best for truly wireless surround sound

JBL Bar 5.1 Soundbar with Built-in Virtual Surround


$600 at Amazon $600 at Best Buy $450 at Walmart

Get Google Assistant built-in

A fantastic option for those who want to get rid of the wires and still have a great surround sound experience.

Best for Samsung TVs: Samsung HW-Q800T Soundbar


It can be frustrating to continually switch your EQ levels to match the content viewed. With Samsung’s HW-Q800T Soundbar, you can throw those worries out the window. The soundbar sports Adaptive Sound Mode, automatically adjusting the EQ levels based on what you watch.

There is a catch: You’ll need to have the Q800T plugged into one of the best Samsung TVs on the market with the new QLED models. But, even if you don’t have one of those TVs, the Q800T is intriguing with its passthrough 4K compatibility, along with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support. As for the connections, Samsung provides a single HDMI input, one HDMI output, an optical input, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Samsung knocked it out of the park with the Q800T, but one possible frustration source comes from the included remote. Designed to control all of your Samsung home theater products, it’s not as reliable as previous iterations. However, you can use your smartphone with the Samsung SmartThings app to replace the old remote.

Keep in mind that wealthier shoppers have some better options available, including the excellent Samsung HW-Q900T annual follow-up that upgraded from a 3.1.2ch to a 7.1.2ch setup for enhanced sound or the HW-Q950T 9.1.4ch soundbar with actual upfiring rear speakers for the ultimate Atmos experience. It’s one of the best soundbars available, but also costs almost twice as much as the HW-Q800T, which is already stretching most people’s budgets. Rest assured that non-audiophiles will be perfectly happy with the HW-Q800T.


  • Dolby Atmos/DTS:X Support
  • Built-in Alexa
  • Wireless subwoofer
  • 4K Passthrough built-in
  • Bluetooth connectivity


  • Some functions limited to Samsung TVs
  • Included remote is not reliable

Best for Samsung TVs

Samsung HW-Q800T Soundbar


$428 at Amazon $480 at Best Buy

Perfect if you want a Samsung TV setup

With this soundbar, you get various features such as Dolby Atmos, but you need to have the right Samsung TV.

Best for Dolby Atmos on a budget: VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X (M51ax-J6)


Most of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars will cost you well over a grand, while the cheaper Atmos-compatible soundbars are standalone devices that can only produce a pale imitation of 3D audio. This Vizio soundbar comes with the subwoofer and rear speakers necessary to bounce sound artfully around your living room, but without the premium price that usually demands.

In our Vizio SB-36512-F6 review, we praised its Atmos performance for adding “completely new depth” to movie soundtracks and filling a room with distinct objects that a standalone 3.0ch soundbar can’t hope to match. However, it had some issues with the remote control and Vizio SmartCast app. The newer Vizio M-Series 5.1 Sound Bar retains all the strengths of its predecessor and improves on its flaws. While the M51ax-J6 offers a similar experience without the finicky remote control. It also brings DTS:X to the table, adding even more depth to the sound.

If you truly want the best Atmos experience, the Samsung HW-Q90R or LG SN11RG will absolutely outperform the Vizio M51ax-J6; they’ll just add an extra thousand dollars to your bill. Considering Atmos content is still relatively niche, we’re hesitant to recommend dropping that kind of cash unless you really can afford it. Vizio’s soundbar will still outperform many of the other best soundbars on this list in producing a wide, rich soundstage.


  • Easy to set up
  • Subwoofer and rear speakers for cheap
  • Dolby Atmos-compatible
  • Google Assistant and Bluetooth support


  • Only one HDMI input
  • No Alexa or AirPlay support

Best for Dolby Atmos on budget

VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X (M51ax-J6)


From $300 at Amazon $330 at Best Buy $328 at Walmart

Blow up your soundstage, not your price

This Atmos-compatible soundbar will make regular surround sound feel boring and static by comparison.

Best for tight budget: TCL Alto 6


Some folks either don’t want to or don’t need to dive into the deep end when finding the best cheap soundbars. If you have a smaller budget and just want a better audio experience, the TCL Alto 6 is here to fit the bill. The Alto 6 measures in at 31.5-inches, making it a good option for those with limited space.

There are several different sound modes to pair with the content you’re enjoying, along with five hardware buttons on the soundbar to make adjustments. The Alto 6 supports Dolby Digital processing, and it can double as your Bluetooth speaker if you want to take advantage of the versatility of this soundbar. It also comes with Roku TV built-in, which earns it some bonus points. If you don’t want to use the Optical port for your television’s audio needs, you can rely on the HDMI ARC port.

Unfortunately, at this price point, you won’t find a built-in subwoofer or add-on satellite speakers, leaving you with a more basic and stripped-down soundbar experience. It doesn’t have Dolby Atmos either, but that isn’t surprising considering the price tag. Another downside for the Alto 6 is that you can’t control it with Google Assistant or any other smart assistant.


  • Compact design
  • Features Optical, 3.5mm jack, Bluetooth
  • Various Sound Modes to choose from
  • Roku TV built-in


  • Lacks a subwoofer
  • No Dolby Atmos support
  • Doesn’t support any voice assistant

Best for tight budget

TCL Alto 6


$80 at Amazon $80 at Best Buy $80 at Walmart

Getting started with soundbars

You’re getting Roku TV, Bluetooth, and a barebones soundbar experience, which should be fine for beginners.

The best soundbars come in small packages

Soundbars come in all shapes and sizes. Larger soundbars have more room for bigger drivers and built-in subwoofers but can get expensive for what they offer. Smaller soundbars may not have the same punch, but they often do a better job of side-firing audio that spreads rich sound across an entire room. You can’t go wrong either way, but the petite-yet-powerful Sonos Beam is our pick for the best soundbar. It gives you superb audio quality for an immersive surround sound experience, with the option to augment it with other Sonos speakers for even better sound down the line.

There are some downsides. The bass isn’t particularly strong unless you invest in the separate Sonos Sub. It only supports voice commands if connected via HDMI-ARC, not optical cable. And it doesn’t play Dolby Atmos soundtracks. But, if that’s not a deal-breaker, it’s still the best affordable soundbar you can find today.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide


Andrew Myrick is a regular freelancer at Android Central and iMore. He has been a tech enthusiast ever since the original iPhone was released and continues to flip-flop between devices. You might as well hook him up to an IV filled with coffee to get him through the day. If you have any questions, you can find him on Twitter, and he’ll get back to you.


Michael Hicks is Senior Editor and resident jack-of-all-trades at Android Central, covering everything from soundbars to virtual reality to home security systems. He relies on a Vizio soundbar for his TV and the Panasonic gaming soundbar for his PC.

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