Let's face it: modern TVs sound bad. If you're at all serious about sports, movies, TV, or video games you'll want to invest in a home theater system, and a soundbar is among the easiest investments you can make. Good soundbars are key for clearing up obscured dialogue, but they can also vastly improve cinematic sound, bringing everything you watch (or play) to life.
Our team of reviewers has spent countless hours over the years evaluating soundbars. Of all the bars on the market right now, the Sonos Arc(available at Best Buy for $799.99) is our favorite. Thanks to stellar performance, tons of features (including Dolby Atmos), and beautiful design, it's the best for most purposes—but it'll cost you. If the Arc doesn't strike your fancy, we've got plenty of other great options on our list for any budget, each of which will beef up your TV sound by leaps and bounds.
These are the best soundbars we've tested, ranked in order:
Klipsch Cinema 400
Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400
Polk Audio MagniFi 2
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
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.
Yamaha’s YAS-209 takes our award for the most valuable 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 built-in control of 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 WiFi (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.
Vizio’s Elevate soundbar has a trick up its sleeve not shared by any other soundbar on this list: rollable speakers that “elevate” the sound upward to serve as height channels for 3D audio content, and roll back down again for any other content. This makes the height speakers quite versatile, allowing you to blast sound from all 13 speakers inside the bar at all times.
But apart from that, it’s the sheer amount of cinematic chutzpah this Dolby Atmos machine delivers that sets it apart from most other soundbars on the market. Simply put, you’ll have a hard time finding better (or even equivalent) surround sound might at this price in any other bar on our list.
With 18 speakers in total, including dual surround sound speakers and a thunderous subwoofer, the Elevate is a joy for action flicks. It's especially immersive when bouncing sound off your ceiling and walls when sourced with well-mixed Dolby Atmos content, from The Mandalorian streams to Blu-ray Atmos demos in full-resolution Dolby TrueHD. It also delivers premium detail and clear dialogue to enhance prestige dramas, alongside plenty of features like Chromecast streaming over WiFi, two spare HDMI inputs, and HDMI eARC for seamless, future-proof connection to the latest TVs.
Where the bar falters a bit is in its music delivery, which tends to go to extremes both in the bass and the upper midrange, resulting in less musicality than our top pick. In addition, the interface isn’t the best for novices, requiring manual tuning for best results.
Luckily, the simplified remote is relatively easy to use and the overall design is equal parts sleek and robust, thanks to plush materials like anodized aluminum and a striking overall design. If you’re looking for unadulterated Dolby Atmos might, without going full on A/V enthusiast, this system is the pick of the litter.
Compared to the average soundbar, the Vizio SB36512-F6 packs a ton of cinematic thrill for your dollars. That’s because this soundbar brings the spherical immersion of Dolby Atmos right into your living room for a very friendly price, 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 some 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. It's also worth noting that you're not getting eARC with this one, which limits compatibility in certain home theater setups.
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.
Klipsch’s Cinema 400 has accomplished the deceptively tough task of doing a lot with a little. Dressed in a unique design representing a generous nod to Klipsch’s popular home theater speakers, this 2.1-channel system delivers impressive sound for the admittedly limited number of drivers that it’s equipped with. That's why it's our favorite soundbar under $300.
It’s quality, not quantity with Klipsch’s construction and approach to this bar’s sound. A pair of 3-inch midrange woofers flanked by 1-inch horn tweeters work together to create wonderfully detailed sound that avoids the harsh higher frequencies that some take issue with in entry-level lines of Klipsch speakers. The 8-inch ported subwoofer is the real star of the show, producing resonating low end unlike most other soundbar subwoofers in this class.
With a modest price, concessions had to be made somewhere along the way. For the Cinema 400, it’s in the features department. The bar does not have WiFi or voice assistant support to speak of, nor does it have support for sought-after audio formats like Dolby Atmos or an expansive equalizer to tune its sound to your personal taste (though that’s not surprising at this price). Additionally, as pleasant as the overall sound of the Cinema 400 is, the lack of a dedicated center channel driver is noticeable when watching dialogue-heavy content.
That being said, if a lack of features seems like a fair tradeoff for remarkable stereo audio quality to you, the Klipsch Cinema 400 makes for a compelling option. It really is a suitable bar for anyone who wants great sound, but doesn’t need the creature comforts of WiFi and virtual assistants. Of course, if you would prefer those kinds of features and don't want to lose out on sound quality, you can send a little more money on the excellent Yamaha YAS-209.
The Cinema 400 side steps those perks, however, delivering an old-school rendition of a new-age product. In other words, it looks classic and sounds stellar. There’s really not that much else to this bar, and for many, there doesn’t need to be: that's what makes the Cinema 400 such an excellent pick.
Vizio's 2.1-channel soundbar is an awesome choice if you want full-bodied sound and modern features without shelling out a ton of money. While a lot of entry-level soundbars don't offer up satisfying bass performance, we were very impressed with how deep and robust the V21-H8's wireless subwoofer is, delivering a balanced, blended soundscape that really ups the audio ante where movies, music, and video games are concerned. That's why it's our favorite soundbar under $200.
This Vizio combo also checks off a lot of the right boxes for features. You're getting Bluetooth, WiFi, and HDMI (ARC) compatibility, making it easy to stream music from your phone and control the soundbar with your TV remote. Like most combo bars, the wireless sub and soundbar pair quickly and automatically, making it easy to just plug everything in and instantly upgrade your home theater situation. Adjusting volume and jumping between sound modes is easy, too: in fact, the simplicity of this product is one of its strengths.
Premium, future-facing features like Dolby Atmos, eARC, or microphones for built-in voice assistant control are not a part of this package, but that's reflected in the easily digestible price point. If you just need a quick and effective audio upgrade, this entry-level Vizio combo is one of the most value-packed options around.
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.
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.
HDMI ARC And HDMI eARC Connection Explained
HDMI ARC or HDMI eARC are the preferred soundbar connection options, not only because these connections allow for newer TVs (around 2017 and later) to pass advanced audio formats like Dolby Atmos, but also because they usually allow you to control the soundbar's power and volume with your TV remote—without the need to program said remote. (To do this, you may need to turn on HDMI CEC in your TV's settings.)
The optical audio connection that also comes standard on virtually all soundbars can carry 2.1-and 5.1-channel surround sound, but that's where it tops out. If you have a more advanced soundbar with Dolby Atmos (which usually includes upfiring speakers), you'll have to use HDMI ARC or eARC to make it work properly.
Speaking of eARC, some soundbars (often pricier ones) may have an HDMI eARC connection rather than the more common HDMI ARC port. This stands for "enhanced Audio Return Channel" and is designed to provide high-quality, uncompressed audio from your TV (including top-quality Dolby Atmos) as well as address any sync issues between on-screen video and the soundbar's audio. While eARC is becoming more common, there are really only two things you need to know when it comes to soundbar connection. First, eARC's "enhanced" features only work if both your sound system and TV support eARC. Second, in all other respects, HDMI eARC should work just like HDMI ARC.
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 multi-channel configuration. 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, usually 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, these soundbars offer the most immersive experience available, bringing you even closer to what you'll experience in a high-quality theater. In addition, some soundbars are only Dolby Atmos or DTS:X compatible, with the sound being virtualized with digital signal processing or even wave-guide technology to varying degrees of efficacy.
Either way, 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
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, which lowers its overall value quotient. 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 on our list. 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. But we'd also be fine if it was added in for convenience.
The Beam’s audio quality, hardware, and design are all impressive, and it also integrates Amazon Alexa in a sensible way, making it easy to use voice commands for basic smart controls. Speaking of voice assistants, the Beam lets you choose between Alexa and Google Assistant, which makes it more versatile in this department 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 or setup a wireless surround sound system. However, it isn't the best option for everyone. If you want something with a friendlier price, 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 for your needs.
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.
Take Vizio’s solid 2.1-channel Home Theater Soundbar (the V21-H8), add two little matching surround speakers, and you’ve got the V51-H6: a full-bodied, 5.1-channel system that has no business sounding as good as it does for what you’re paying.
Like most of Vizio’s soundbar/subwoofer combos, the V51-H6 keeps things relatively simple where features and design go. The plain, charcoal-colored chasses that decorate the soundbar, wireless subwoofer, and wired surround speakers aren’t going to liven up your living room, but they do a good job of allowing this range of speakers to hide around your TV stand and couch—you know, heard but not seen. This isn’t a bare-bones product, though. You’re still getting the standard range of connectivity options here, including Bluetooth, WiFi, Spotify Connect, and Chromecast functionality, making it easy to use the system with a range of source devices.
Other than how good it sounds for the price, though, the V51-H6 has one more subtle boon on offer: the included remote utilizes an LCD display, a little screen that makes navigating the V51-H6’s various functions and sound modes much easier than it would be otherwise. This also allows for a deep level of customization, from adjusting the balance of individual speakers to telling the system where the surround speakers are located in your living room.
If the V51-H6 has a drawback, it’s that the full surround effect here isn’t as powerful as you’d get with a pricier system. While Vizio’s subwoofer provides ample bass (really, more than enough), the surround speakers can be a bit muddy at times, failing to fully capture the treble crispness of the center soundbar as it passes certain frequencies into the surrounds. However, that’s an occasional problem that will only bother experienced listeners. If you’ve been hankering for the surround experience of the movies, but would rather not pay a bundle to have it at home, the V51-H6 is an excellent 5.1-channel system for the price.
An iteration of the Q70 soundbar series before it, Samsung’s Q800T is a bit of an odd fit in Samsung’s lineup, but its diverse feature set and excellent sound—thanks in no small part to Samsung’s Acoustic Beam technology—make this a fun and effective way to jazz up your TV room.
The Q800T offers a powerful punch thanks to its large-and-in-charge, side-firing subwoofer, while the lean bar takes care of the upper register with clarity, poise, and impressive precision. The soundstage leans on the lighter side, but the fully perforated grill helps the smaller drivers breathe a bit, making the sound less closed and digitized than ultra-thin bars in its class like LG’s SN9YG.
The Acoustic Beam technology mentioned above helps spread the sound around nicely. The system uses multiple upfiring ports to create impressive placement of effects on both the horizontal and vertical planes, expanding the soundstage beyond the bar’s 38-inch width. This works great for content of all kinds (music included), and while the sound mostly stays at the front of the room, it's expansive and compelling for a two-piece system.
Where the soundbar has some limitations is in overhead sounds from Dolby Atmos content, as its smaller Beam drivers seem to have trouble bouncing sound off the ceiling and back down again. The result is less immersion than other pared-down Dolby Atmos setups like the aforementioned LG SN9YG and Sonos’ Arc soundbar. While none of these soundbars offer full surround sound immersion (without adding a pair of surround speakers, that is), the side-firing drivers of Sonos and LG’s bars help spread the sound out further.
In addition, the Q800T doesn’t have a great relationship with Alexa at the moment. While the assistant is easy to use via built-in microphones, her voice was sometimes twice as loud as the content we were playing, with no way to correct it. In general, while Samsung says a firmware update is coming, Alexa isn’t currently as polished as you’d expect for a soundbar in this price category. As such, some may want to go with the more affordable Q70T, which offers a smaller subwoofer and Alexa-control that requires your own smart speaker, but also costs a fair bit less.
That said, the Q800T has plenty of features that make it worthy of consideration, including an extra HDMI input to plug in a gaming console or Blu-ray player directly, both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, HDR passthrough (including Dolby Vision), and both WiFi and Bluetooth streaming. Also, it just sounds dang good, making for a well-rounded package that is sure to be a striking upgrade in comparison to your TV alone.
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 above most similarly appointed bars at $600 MSRP, though it can often be found for $500 on sale .
You can get a lot more features 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.
LG’s SN9YG Dolby Atmos soundbar has a lot going for it. It’s loaded to the gills with features, from hi-res audio support to WiFi streaming and built-in Google Assistant. Unlike Sonos’ Arc, this more traditional two-piece setup (including the main bar and a wireless subwoofer) offers an HDMI port to plug in a gaming console or Blu-ray player directly, HDR passthrough in multiple flavors, and plenty of other stalwart home theater trappings you’d expect in a Dolby Atmos bar.
The SN9YG is packed with speakers, and utilizes its side- and upward-firing drivers to its advantage, creating an impressively immersive experience for a bar that doesn’t include surround sound speakers. Though not as effective there as the aforementioned Arc, the SN9YG’s sound is clear and powerful, making for a fun ride through Dolby Atmos and regular surround content alike.
There are reasons the bar falls a few rungs on our list, however. First of all, because of its ultra-thin design, sound is more pinched and digitized in the midrange than we’d like for a soundbar with its relatively hefty cost. In addition, its interface is a bit confusing and unintuitive, while streaming over WiFi was spotty in the few days we spent with it, dropping connection from Spotify a few times. In general, we encountered enough quirks to give us pause about this otherwise solid bar.
While the delivery of all its goodies is less polished than we’d expect and audio performance isn’t as warm or natural sounding as some of its competitors, the SN9YG is a potent and attractive way to add Dolby Atmos sound to your setup. At the time of publication, you can also find it at a hefty discount, which makes it much more attractive and worth consideration for those seeking expansive Dolby Atmos sound first and foremost.
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 pairing, 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. That said, you'll pay a premium for that convenience, and we haven't been blown away by most MusicCast speakers. If you're not interested in MusicCast it makes more sense to go with the YAS-209.
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 primary drawback is that it's quite expensive if you're not into MusicCast, and the more time goes by the pricier it seems.
Vizio’s M-Series All-in-One Soundbar caters to those who desire better sound in as simple (and affordable) a solution as possible. With six built-in drivers-including a pair of 3-inch subwoofers-the M-Series delivers 2.1-channel audio (without a separate subwoofer) that is suitable for most listeners while being remarkably easy to adjust.
The M-Series has plenty of connections (and cables) included to ensure a smooth setup process—including a spare HDMI input and HDMI ARC connection. The functional remote allows you to effortlessly tinker with treble and bass as well as toggle through preset EQ modes and turn on or off a DTS Virtual:X feature that’s quite effective for expanding the soundstage. The sound of the M-Series is pleasantly detailed, particularly with music, movies and TV shows that don’t require it to be overly dynamic.
Bass-centric content does suffer, however, at the hands of the M-Series’ built-in subwoofers, which aren’t physically capable of reproducing impactful low end in the same way as an external sub, evident in certain genres of music and action-filled movies. Dialogue tends to get lost in those big action scenes at times as well due to the lack of a dedicated center-channel driver and a lack of stereo separation.
Truthfully, if these are the biggest problems plaguing a soundbar at this affordable price point, Vizio certainly did a lot of things right. For most, the sound of the M-Series All-in-One will be enjoyable. The simplicity will be appreciated. The shortcomings will only be felt on occasion. And the low price will undoubtedly be a big factor in your decision to buy.
Polk’s Magnifi line has long been a powerhouse when it comes to engineering sheer brute force and relative balance out of a compact setup and the Magnifi 2 continues that tradition. Adding some modern updates like WiFi streaming as well as a slew of HDMI inputs (three in all) to the Magnifi One, this bar offers plenty of cinematic might in a slim form factor (not including its tubby subwoofer, that is).
Where the bar goes a bit astray is in Polk’s implementation of surround sound features, or rather a lack thereof. While Sony’s rival HW-GT700 supports a slew of surround sound formats and high-tech virtualization of 3D sound formats like Dolby Atmos, the Magnifi 2 comes up short in comparison. There’s no 3D surround sound codec support, offering only basic DTS and Dolby decoding, which limits how much this bar can do with the signals it receives.
Further, this is one of the few examples in the Magnifi 2’s price class without a center channel, which is instrumental in providing clarity in the meat of the sound for movies and TV, namely dialogue. With only stereo sound (plus the subwoofer) the 2.1-channel Magnifi 2 occasionally offers muffled sound and less presence than we’d like in the midrange. You can correct for this with the bar’s Voice Adjust feature, but it often comes at a price when it comes to balancing other frequencies.
On the bright side, unlike the GT700, the Magnifi 2 offers WiFi streaming (via built-in Chromecast), and its three HDMI inputs mean you’ll be able to connect a ton of outboard devices without using up all your TV’s ports. Like virtually every bar on our list, it’s also upgraded from the Magnifi One’s optical connection to HDMI ARC to easily use most TV remotes to control it—but it doesn’t offer the latest HDMI eARC connection, which allows for uncompressed audio and adjust for sync issues between the bar and eARC ready TVs.
In the end, while the Magnifi 2 is well appointed in comparison to its previous version, its lack of surround sound hardware and software make it a tough ask at full price. You'll want to find a deal on it if you're thinking of picking one up.
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.
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.
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.