• Yamaha YAS-209

  • Polk Audio Signa S2

  • Razer Leviathan

  • How We Tested

  • What You Should Know About Soundbars

  • Other Soundbars We Tested

  • More Articles You Might Enjoy

Our Favorite Soundbars of 2020

  1. Best Overall

    Yamaha YAS-209

    Pros

    • Clear, punchy sound

    • Loaded with features

    • Built-in Alexa

    Cons

    • No analog input

    • No multiroom audio

    Skip to the full review below
  2. Best Value

    Polk Audio Signa S2

    Pros

    • Great bass presence

    • Flexible feature set

    • Durable materials

    Cons

    • Overall audio could be better

    Skip to the full review below
Yamaha-YAS-209-header
Credit: Yamaha

The Yamaha YAS-209 is our top soundbar right now.

Best Overall
Yamaha YAS-209

Yamaha’s YAS-209 takes our award for the best soundbar for three basic reasons: it sounds great for the money, it’s easy to set up and use, and it’s absolutely loaded with features.

Those features include everything from a spare HDMI input for your favorite gaming console or streaming box to Amazon's Alexa voice assistant for controlling smart home devices and even basic playback commands with your voice. Don’t love Alexa? That’s ok, it’s easy to mute the microphones atop the bar and use the YAS-209 as a traditional soundbar. And that’s where this system really excels.

When it comes to sound performance, while the 209 can’t match up with expensive, audiophile systems or bars with multiple upfiring drivers for Dolby Atmos immersion like the Sonos Arc, it absolutely punches above its weight. Detail is impressive, bass response from the wireless sub is smooth and powerful, and dialogue is easy to make out thanks to the Clear Voice EQ feature. On that note, the bar offers multiple sound modes (including DTS:X Virtual Surround to expand the soundstage), making it easy to adjust the EQ to taste.

You can also stream your favorite music or podcast over your choice of Wi-Fi (including Spotify Connect) or Bluetooth. We do bemoan the lack of an analog input—which makes plugging in legacy devices like turntables something of a pain—and multi-room audio, a feature that was supposed to be added after launch, but has yet to show up.

Those quibbles aside, however, it’s hard to find much fault with this stealthy sound system. If you're looking for a great-sounding, affordable soundbar that’s chock-full of features, Yamaha’s YAS-209 is the best in the business right now.

Pros

  • Clear, punchy sound

  • Loaded with features

  • Built-in Alexa

Cons

  • No analog input

  • No multiroom audio

Polk-Audio-Signa-S2-header
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Polk Audio Signa S2 is our best value soundbar right now.

Best Value
Polk Audio Signa S2

While not one of our top picks, the Polk Audio Signa S2 is a fantastic value, hands down. This is a well-tuned soundbar and external subwoofer with handsome, glossy finishes and robust construction, all at a great price.

It also checks off a lot of the right boxes where features are concerned. The soundbar and subwoofer come pre-paired right out of the box, and you're getting a slew of common but useful functions: Bluetooth, naturally; different modes for movie, music, or night audio (the latter masks high, sibilant frequencies and reduces bass); alternate volume rockers for the soundbar and subwoofer; and three different "Clear Voice" settings for use with TV/movie programming.

Where audio quality is concerned, the Signa S2 does a solid job. The subwoofer definitely stands out: During one sampling period, we started streaming music from Spotify to the soundbar via Bluetooth and had to re-pair the subwoofer after checking if it was synced. Once the sub kicked back in, we immediately felt the familiar shaking warmth of bass presence filling the space, robust, and distortion-free. It was striking for a system in this price range.

Unlike some budget-priced soundbars, cranking up the volume on the S2 doesn't introduce distortion or imbalanced frequencies. The S2's frequency crossover between the subwoofer and bar is well balanced and even compressed streaming Bluetooth audio sounds very crisp. The S2's rich sound signature can cause movie soundtracks to overpower dialogue at times, but the Clear Voice feature (which emphasizes the midrange where male and female voices exist) works well to stem any muddiness.

Pound for pound, this soundbar is just a really good value, especially if you can find it discounted online.

Pros

  • Great bass presence

  • Flexible feature set

  • Durable materials

Cons

  • Overall audio could be better

Related content

Razer-Leviathan-header-image
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Razer Leviathan is our favorite soundbar for gaming.

Best for Gaming
Razer Leviathan

The Razer Leviathan is not your traditional TV soundbar: it's designed specifically to be great for gaming. That said, you can still pair it with a TV (or PC monitor) for use with music and movies. It sounds good for most kinds of audio, but it's especially well-suited for the footfalls, explosions, and mixed soundscapes of video games.

There are some drawbacks when comparing it to a traditional soundbar. For one, there's no remote. That means you wouldn't want to use it with a TV set across the room. This bar is made to sit close and provide powerful sound while you sit at your preferred gaming setup. The design is also pretty brash: decorated by Razer's green snakes insignia, it may not integrate very subtly into your decor.

If you're looking for something to enhance movie dialogue or to boost your favorite TV shows, a more traditional bar will suit you better. If you're looking for a powerful solution to literally raise your game, however, this compact soundbar/subwoofer combo is one of the best choices out there.

Pros

  • Solid audio quality

  • Great value for gamers

Cons

  • No remote

  • Polarizing design

How We Tested

How-We-Tested
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The ideal soundbar blends right in with your TV; it's the unsung hero of movie night.

The Testers

Reviewed staff have spent years evaluating soundbars—everything from simple 2.1-channel value models to the huskiest Dolby Atmos 'bars—in order to narrow down the picks and find the best soundbars for every buyer. We've got a long history studying headphone audio objectively via our in-house Head-and-Torso Simulator, and no shortage of movie- and music-lovers on staff hungering for the best living room audio experience. Our soundbar testing is spearheaded by Reviewed's experienced team of home theater and tech experts, and backed up by science.

The Tests

For years now, Reviewed has listened to, loved, and argued over standalone soundbars, soundbar/sub combos, and a few home-theater-in-a-box products to find the best soundbars you can buy.

Testing mostly involves using them as any consumer would, using each bar as an audio substitute for a TV (via either HDMI ARC or optical connection), testing its streaming and Bluetooth functions, and analyzing its sound modes, voice-boosting modes, and individual proprietary features. We also conduct back-to-back analyses of sources like Netflix/Blu-ray movies , surround sound and Dolby Atmos demo discs, Spotify over Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi, and occasionally, 3.5mm aux sources and USB audio.

While the best soundbars all had different combinations of drivers, tweeters, woofers, and external subwoofers, generally, audio quality was respectable in most cases across genres and sources. Apart from performance features like surround sound speakers and Dolby Atmos/DTS:X speakers, what often tends to set soundbars from major brands apart in like price ranges are usability pain points, design aesthetics, and overall responsiveness—where the day-to-day rubber meets the road, so to speak.

What You Should Know About Soundbars

In short, the point of a soundbar is to either replace a home theater speaker system with a less obtrusive device or, more simply, to replace your TV's built-in speakers with something that actually sounds good. Because speaker (or driver) clarity depends so much on the vibration of moving parts within a confined space, modern super-thin LED and OLED TVs generally don't have very good sound. You might think your TV sounds fine, but when you hear your favorite movies, TV shows, or music through a good soundbar, your opinion will change.

Soundbars aren't your only option for improving your living room/home theater audio, but they're by far the most affordable and convenient. If you live in an apartment or smaller space, or simply don't want to shell out the considerable funds it requires to install a surround system or mounted speakers in your home, a soundbar is an impermanent way to greatly improve your TV audio experience. And because the vast majority of soundbars can read your TV remote for volume and power over HDMI ARC connection, it's often a seamless transition.

What To Look For In A Soundbar

The major things to look for when shopping for a soundbar are price, audio output, and connectivity, the latter two usually being directly related to the first. If you're on a tight budget, you likely aren't going to get extras like Dolby Atmos, satellite surround speakers, or a huge range of decoding/pass-thru options for advanced or lossless audio modes. However, you can expect to get multiple speaker drivers comprising at least a stereo (left/right) setup, and usually an external subwoofer.

Tweeters refer to smaller speakers (drivers) assigned to the high-mid and high (treble) frequencies of the audio spectrum. Woofers and subwoofers refer to speakers (drivers) assigned to the midrange and bass/sub-bass frequencies of the audio spectrum respectively.

What About a Subwoofer?

Many soundbars offer what is known as a 2.1-channel configuration, meaning the sound is directed through left and right stereo channels with the addition of a separate subwoofer to handle lower frequencies (which makes up the ".1" of the equation). A 2.0-channel soundbar works fine for most content, and a soundbar without a subwoofer or one that has built-in woofers, rather than a separate cabinet, may even be preferred in smaller apartments.

That said, if you're looking for cinematic rumble—whether for movies, TV, or video games—you'll want to seriously consider a soundbar that includes a separate subwoofer. It cannot be underestimated how much this will enhance action scenes and other dramatic moments, while also helping thinner bars fill in some of the gaps their smaller drivers create in the frequency spectrum. There are only a few cases where low-frequency sound is well-handled without a subwoofer, such as in Sonos' Arc soundbar.

Surround Sound and Dolby Atmos/DTS:X

Some soundbars also offer separate surround sound speakers that can be set behind you in a 5.1-channel configuration (including center, left, right up front and rear left and right channels in back). When fed content mixed in surround sound, these soundbars better immerse you in your favorite shows and movies, especially when the different channels are balanced properly. In some cases, satellite surround speakers can even be added on later.

Dolby Atmos- and DTS:X-enabled soundbars take things even further, adding upfiring speakers (either 2 or 4), which can bounce sound off the ceiling so that it appears to be coming from above, immersing you in a hemispheric globe of sound. While only effective with Dolby Atmos and/or DTS:X-supported content, Atmos-enabled soundbars offer the most immersive experience available, bringing you even closer to what you'll experience in a high-quality theater. That said, you will pay a premium for this technology, and you may also have more speakers to spread around your TV room, so these concessions must be considered before making your choice.


Other Soundbars We Tested

Sonos Arc

Sonos’ first-ever Dolby Atmos soundbar is more than just a pretty (and tubular) face. This powerful hunk of well fashioned plastic is loaded with 11 individually powered drivers, including dual speakers pointed upward to bounce off your ceiling, creating an impressively potent example of the hemispheric immersion for which Dolby’s Atmos sound format is so highly praised.

But Dolby Atmos isn’t the only prize up the Arc’s sleeve. Its well-tuned drivers offer a rich and smooth sound signature that’s fantastic for anything you play, from sitcoms to streaming music.

Speaking of streaming, like all Sonos speakers, the Arc offers WiFi connection through the Sonos app, along with the ability to connect with other Sonos speakers, either in a group, or as part of a surround sound setup. This allows you to add dual surround speakers and a Sonos subwoofer if you want, though the Arc offers impressive bass response even without one. Like the Sonos Beam, it also sports built-in microphones and your choice of Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa support, making it both a soundbar and a powerful smart speaker.

The drawback of all these features is, of course, the price of $799, which puts the bar beyond the average budget. That’s really the only thing keeping the Arc from taking the top slot on our list, as it outscored everything else we tested. In addition, while the bar includes an HDMI eARC port for seamless connection to your TV it doesn’t offer a secondary HDMI input for outboard devices like streamers and game consoles. That means, for most setups, it doesn’t support high-resolution Dolby Atmos playback. In addition, if you want to stream Dolby Atmos at all, you must have a TV with Dolby Digital Plus (common on most namebrand TVs 2017 or newer).

Since most folks get their Dolby Atmos from streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ (which use the compressed format) the difficulty in sourcing full-resolution Dolby Atmos shouldn’t matter to the majority of buyers. Moreover, this bar sounds fantastic with just about any content, and its many features and loaded app make it a versatile, intuitive way to step into Dolby Atmos sound.

Pros

  • Rich, powerful sound

  • Hands-off interface

  • Sonos style and versatility

Cons

  • Dolby Atmos limited to newer TVs

  • Short on inputs

  • Big and heavy

Vizio SB36512-F6

Of all the soundbars on our list, Vizio’s SB36512-F6 packs the most cinematic thrill for your dollars. That’s because this micro-sized surround soundbar offers the spherical immersion of Dolby Atmos, incorporating both height speakers as well as traditional surround speakers to completely engulf you in sound. And it does so at a crazy-low price.

Before Vizio stepped in, an Atmos home theater system cost at least $1,500, and often much more. Vizio’s first “affordable” Atmos soundbar, the $1,000 SB46514-F6, cut costs by swapping the wireless surround sound speakers found in other Atmos soundbars with wired speakers that plug into the subwoofer. It’s not the most elegant solution, but with true 5.1.4-channel surround sound at hundreds less, it’s a great compromise.

From there, Vizio began paring down further, including shortening the bar itself by 10-inches and cutting two of the upfiring drivers for our pick, the SB36512-F6. The result is a 5.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos setup for the same cost as many 2.1-channel systems. The SB36512-F6 also offers other goodies like WiFi and Bluetooth streaming, multi-room audio support, and control via a smartphone app.

So why isn’t the SB36512-F6 our top pick? For one thing, it’s a little onerous to set up, requiring you to run wiring throughout your TV room. For another, while the soundbar offers solid detail and clarity for regular content, Dolby Atmos is definitely its forte, and the format still isn’t all that common. It's currently offered only on select content and streaming services, often with hurdles to manage.

Still, for those looking to get into the cinematic joys of true Dolby Atmos, the SB36512-F6 is far and away the most affordable ticket in town, and a whole lot of fun to boot.

Pros

  • Powerful Dolby Atmos sound

  • Chromecast, Wi-Fi streaming

  • Multiroom audio

Cons

  • Wired setup can be obtrusive

  • Not as good for stereo tracks

Sonos Beam

The Sonos Beam is one of the most popular soundbars around (with good reason). The Beam isn't cheap for a soundbar without a subwoofer, but it's made with Sonos' signature attention to detail and sweeping penchant for minimalism, which makes it an excellent choice. And for those heavily invested in Sonos' multi-room speakers, but who don't have the space (or the budget) for the Sonos Arc, the Beam is an easy call.

The first thing you'll notice about the Beam is that it takes an altogether different approach than many of the other soundbars we've tested. For one, as mentioned above, there's no included external subwoofer. Like the Arc, there's also no Bluetooth functionality—casting music wirelessly to the Beam requires interfacing with it over WiFi, though there are many ways to do so (including Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect). Rather than an oversight, the lack of Bluetooth feels like Sonos' expression of confidence that the Beam belongs to a proprietary system worthy of your investment, as well as one that deserves the highest quality streaming.

The Beam’s audio quality, hardware, and design are all impressive, and it’s also one of the few bars we tested to integrate Amazon Alexa in a sensible way, making it easy to use voice commands for basic smart controls. Speaking of voice assistants, the Beam let's you choose between Alexa and Google Assistant, which makes it more versatile than Yamaha's YAS-209.

Sonos is perhaps best know for the functionality of its multi-room audio ecosystem, and that shines through brilliantly with the Beam, making it easy to integrate the bar with other Sonos speakers to fill your home with sound. However, it isn't the best option for everyone. If you want to spend less, want something with a more robust cinematic presence via additional drivers or an external subwoofer, or especially if Bluetooth is important to you, the Beam may be too pared down.

That said, while the Beam may not have the most features or the highest driver/speaker count on our list, it does everything with an undeniable polish. For those interested in diving further into Sonos' popular audio ecosystem, it's a great choice.

Pros

  • Minimalist design

  • Highly polished user experience

Cons

  • No Bluetooth

  • Geared towards Sonos users

Sony HT-G700

Sony’s latest Dolby Atmos compatible soundbar, the HT-G700, doesn’t offer the height speakers generally associated with the format. Instead, this bar is designed to virtualize the height element, and while it doesn’t offer nearly the same immersion as a bar like the Sonos Arc, it does a pretty good job at faking it.

Perhaps more importantly, the G700 offers impressively musical sound from a very thin profile, meaning it’s much easier to add to most living rooms. And because its soundstage is powered in part by digital signal processing, it’s designed to work in places with vaulted ceilings where bouncing sound down from above isn’t an option.

There are two major downsides to the G700. First, the bar doesn’t offer WiFi connection, meaning you’re stuck with Bluetooth streaming and there’s no way to add digital assistants. Second, it’s priced far above most similarly appointed bars at $600 MSRP, though it can often be found for $500 on sale .

You can get a lot more for your money from Yamaha’s YAS-209 and similarly loaded, mid-tier soundbars, but if you don’t mind spending a little extra, the HT-G700 offers among the most impressive performance for its size that we've encountered.

Pros

  • Clear, detailed sound

  • Slim and simple design

  • Impressive Dolby Atmos virtualization

Cons

  • Not upgradeable

  • No WiFi

  • Lack of height speakers limits Atmos immersion

JBL Bar 2.1

This JBL soundbar simply delivers a stellar combination of sound quality, usability, and ease of use for its price range.

First of all, the form factor—while not overly fancy—is traditional and functional. The bar and its included wireless subwoofer are dressed in an unassuming black/charcoal chassis, designed to take up minimal space within your living room or home theater and not draw attention to themselves.

The included remote stands out from the pack a bit because it isn't small and compact like those you'll get with most other soundbars. It's a full-sized, TV-style controller, which gives it ample surface space for buttons. While you can set up the Bar 2.1 to be controllable via your TV remote, you're probably going to want to keep its proprietary remote handy. One of our favorite things about this soundbar is the considerate range of features it offers via the remote, such as a Night Mode which automatically trims the louder frequencies, and an LED indicator dimmer for when you're watching in a dim/dark room.

Beyond the simple design and intuitive features, though, the Bar 2.1 earns merits in sound quality, too. Its range of four drivers and two tweeters in the bar and a powerful subwoofer provide ample, balanced sound for the money, with good clarity for dialogue during movies and satisfying bass. The various sound modes provide good differentiation for different types of content, though the Bar 2.1's starting settings work well for most content.

Overall, while it doesn't have extras like like satellite speakers, WiFi streaming, or smart assistant support, the Bar 2.1 delivers a consistent and convenient experience for a great price.

Pros

  • Jack of all trades

Cons

  • Master of none

Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400

Yamaha's MusicCast Bar 400 is kind of like a side of beef. This is not the soundbar to buy if you're looking for pruned elegance, but it is the one to get if you just want to be satisfied by robust audio and simple, effective features.

The 400 has all the feature fixings that we want from most soundbars at its price: easy Bluetooth, dimmable LED indicators, various audio modes for movies, music, and even a "clear voice" setting for dialogue. What makes the 400 stand out is its audio punch: it provides a solid 200 watts of audio. The hefty included subwoofer is half of that, and the other half is split across four woofers and two tweeters within the bar itself.

Unlike the Yamaha YAS-209, the BAR 400's MusicCast support also allows it to be integrated with other MusicCast speakers for a whole-home sound solution (similar to Sonos speakers), and that integration is one of the things you're paying for here, too. If you're not interested in MusicCast it may make more sense to go with the 209. That said, you'll pay a premium for that convenience, and we haven't been blown away by most MusicCast speakers.

All in all, while this isn't the highest value bar, the MusicCast 400 is robust, reliable, and easy to set up and use. It's got options for HDMI, optical, aux (3.5mm) connection, Bluetooth, Dolby/DTS pass-thru, and can be integrated with Amazon Echo devices for voice control. The only drawback is that it feels a little expensive if you're not into MusicCast.

Pros

  • Loud, robust sound

  • Tons of features

Cons

  • Expensive

  • Boring design

Polk Audio MagniFi Mini

One of the older bars on our list, the MagniFi Mini is still here due to its ability to provide big sound in a small package. It really nails the "mini" of its namesake: while the subwoofer is pretty big, the bar itself is only about a foot long. This means it isn't quite as loud as some of the beefier soundbars we've tested, and it also has a much more compact soundstage than wider bars, but it still filled the Home Theater lab without much trouble.

Overall, the Mini is a very good option. Our only complaint about it is that there wasn't quite as much bass as we would have liked. The sub fires into the floor (which might not be great for second or third story apartments), but it's also pretty subtle.

There are separate volume controls for voice and bass on the remote, intuitively placed on either side of the main volume control. The ability to increase dialogue frequencies and reduce rumblings from explosions makes it easy to set up TV shows and movies perfectly, but the general inability to boost bass makes the Mini feel less fun for music. This is especially surprising because it's one of the only ones we tested in this bracket that has four mid-range drivers.

It still beats the pants off TV speakers, however. You're getting all the standard necessary connections here (HDMI, optical, and auxiliary), as well as both Bluetooth and WiFi streaming via Google Chromecast in a soundbar that is barely noticeable on your TV stand. The bar could easily work in a multi-media centric desk/PC setup, and the pairing, remote functions, and various features don't just work as advertised, they're very intuitive.

If you're looking to enhance TV and movies without investing in something that takes up a ton of space, the Magnifi Mini is a great choice.

Pros

  • Compact

  • Flexible features

Cons

  • A bit quiet

  • Lacks bass

Even More Soundbars We Tested

  • Get the LG SK8Y from Amazon for $499.99 — This robust soundbar from LG may be a bit pricy, but its 2.1-channel interface also delivers pretty huge sound: a total of 360 watts. You won't find many fancy features here, but you do get Dolby Atmos compatibility, and if you're looking for a simple option to pair with a large TV, this one isn't a bad choice at all.

  • Get the Yamaha YAS-109 from Amazon for $219.95 — The more affordable sibling of Yamaha's YAS-209 model—one of our absolute favorites—the YAS-109 delivers an all-in-one 2.1-channel setup via built-in subwoofers, and the warm, well-tuned audio we've come to expect from Yamaha.

Meet the testers

Lee Neikirk

Lee Neikirk

Editor

@Koanshark

Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.

See all of Lee Neikirk's reviews
Ryan Waniata

Ryan Waniata

Managing Editor - Electronics

@ryanwaniata

Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2013. Since then he's had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.

See all of Ryan Waniata's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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