Let's face it, TV sound is terrible. 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, Yamaha's YAS-209(available at Amazon for $349.95) is our favorite, thanks to great performance, tons of features (including Amazon Alexa built-in), and easy setup all at a very reasonable price. If the YAS-209 doesn't strike your fancy, though, we've got plenty of other great options on our list, each of which will beef up your TV sound by leaps and bounds.
These are the best soundbars, ranked in order:
Polk Audio Signa S2
JBL Bar 2.1
Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400
Polk Audio MagniFi Mini
Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
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 Amazons 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, 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 multiroom 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.
While not one of our top picks, the Polk Audio Signa S2 is a solid value choice, 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.
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.
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 really tends to set soundbars 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, object-oriented 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 sub-woofers refer to speakers (drivers) assigned to the midrange or bass/sub-bass frequencies of the audio spectrum.
What About a Subwoofer?
Many soundbars offer what is known as a 2-channel or 2.1-channel configuration, meaning the sound is directed through left and right stereo channels with the possible addition of a separate subwoofer to handle lower frequencies (which makes up the ".1" of the equation). A 2-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.
Surround Sound and Dolby Atmos/DTS:X
Some soundbars also take things even further, offering 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). 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.
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'll 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, 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' multiroom speakers, it may just be the best on the list.
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. There's also no Bluetooth functionality—casting music wirelessly to the Beam requires interfacing with it through the Sonos app over WiFi. The Beam withdraws some avenues of accessibility for the sake of consistent streaming quality (and, probably, a feeling of exclusivity and security). Rather than an oversight, it feels like Sonos' expression of confidence that the Beam belongs to a proprietary system worthy of your investment.
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.
Sonos is perhaps best know for the functionality of its multiroom 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.
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, which incorporates 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 for the cheaper SB36514-G6, 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 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming, multiroom 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, 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.
While the LG SK8Y is one of the pricier soundbars on our list, the bar makes up for it in part with a whopping 360 watts of power. It's a 2.1-channel soundbar and subwoofer combo like so many others on the list and delivers the useful features like Bluetooth audio, multiple sound modes, and Chromecast streaming. But it also supports high-resolution audio, including the ability to upscale lower bitrate streamed music, as well as multiple high-end sound formats.
The SK8Y delivers a very robust feature set for the money, though its HDMI input doesn't support 4K HDR passthrough, so buyers looking to directly connect a 4K Blu-ray player or gaming console will want to look elsewhere. On the bright side, it does support Google Assistant, WiFi connection, and even Ethernet.
However, the major draw here is the two 80-watt speakers in the hefty soundbar itself and the whopping 200-watt subwoofer. The SK8Y delivers huge sound and a ton of bass. This is one of the most aurally powerful soundbars we've ever experienced.
While we don't think pure output power alone is what makes for a great soundbar experienced—some may strive more for clarity, for speech preservation, for better crossover—it's definitely a selling point for this soundbar. It can easily fill a large room and has the aural power to match well with TVs in the 65- and 70-inch range.
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 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, 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, Wi-Fi streaming, or smart assistant support, the Bar 2.1 delivers a consistent and convenient experience for a great price.
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 or high-tech features, 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: easy Bluetooth, a "clear voice" setting for dialogue, dimmable LED indicators, and various audio modes for movies, music, and so on. 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. While not unique, it's a time-tested array that works to deliver TV audio and music in a way that complements the full frequency range.
The way 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 Yamaha's 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 only drawback is that it feels a little "plain" for the price tag.
One of the older bars on our list, the MagniFi Mini is here because of 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. While this also means it isn't quite as loud as some of the beefier soundbars we've tested, 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 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), and a pretty good basic 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.
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 to 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.