If you want that cinema feeling in the comfort of your own home, you’re going to need a high-end TV and then either a soundbar or a surround sound system.
The best TVs have made small strides with sound quality, but because the focus is on picture quality (and on keeping the screen as thin as possible), they’ll never be able to replicate the power and depth that a dedicated sound device can do.
Soundbars are a popular choice for their space-saving capabilities. But which one is the best? There are plenty to choose from.
Don’t worry – we’re here to make it a lot easier. We’ve picked out 5 of the best soundbars for TV, movies, and gaming so that you can get an incredible setup without having to worry about making the wrong choice.
Best soundbar for TV in 2022
Best overall soundbar for TV
Best soundbar for gaming
Best soundbar for Samsung TVs
Why choose a soundbar for your setup?
There are two sides to this question – why choose a soundbar at all, and why choose a soundbar over a surround sound system.
Well firstly, choosing a soundbar at all is a way of massively improving the sound quality over the TV’s speakers. TVs are thin, and their primary job is to make sure everything looks incredible. But for sound quality you need a bit of depth – nothing necessarily huge, but enough space to pack in directional speakers.
Otherwise, the sound is flat. You might not notice it if you’ve never used a soundbar, but TV speakers just can’t get beyond that static, single layer of sound. As soon as you try either a soundbar or a surround sound system, you’ll really notice just how much more layered and realistic everything sounds.
They’re more powerful too, and while you need to bear in mind the neighbors, there’s nothing like cranking up the settings during high-octane movies and games and feeling completely surrounded by epic sound.
So that’s why you’d choose a soundbar over a TV. But what about surround sound systems?
Surround sound systems are pretty impressive. You get multiple speakers to place around the room, and each speaker is pretty sizeable too.
However, there are some drawbacks. A lot of homes just plain won’t have the space to fit speakers in different locations around a single room, and even when you do, you can expect to pay a hefty cost if you want a good system with multiple speakers.
Bearing that in mind, a soundbar is a great compromise. You only need space in front of (or below) the TV, and potentially a spot for a separate subwoofer. And while some soundbars are expensive, they’re not as costly as the best surround sound systems by some distance.
A soundbar is therefore a great choice for a lot of people who just want a much better experience without a lot of complicated setup.
Are soundbars worth it?
Absolutely soundbars are worth it. The great thing about soundbars is you don’t have to be an audio expert to really appreciate the difference they make. They’re powerful, crisp, and detailed – helping to really elevate the audio of everything you watch and play.
Even if you don’t tend to play many games or watch big action blockbusters, a soundbar will improve the overall depth and sharpness of everything. Even if you only watch the news, or reality TV, you’ll still notice just how much better even simple voices will sound.
And they’re often great for music too, so if you just want to host a party with your playlist, a soundbar will do a great job of bringing the room to life.
How much should I spend on a soundbar?
In reality, there are three price brackets for soundbars, and what you want to get from your soundbar will determine how much you should spend.
You can get a cheap soundbar for $100-300, but for that price you shouldn’t expect a huge jump in quality. What you will get is a boost in audio power. Everything will sound a little better, but it won’t be super-crisp and you won’t get some of the amazing features that can really immerse you. At this price range, your priority should be any extra features too, such as streaming services that the soundbar can add.
From around $300 to $700 you’ll start noticing a real difference in sound quality with everything you watch, but you’ll still be limited by the number of channels. Expect powerful, sharp sound but you likely won’t get any amazing surround sound effect.
And then from around $700+ you’ll start getting into serious sound quality territory, with the best soundbars generally costing between $900 and $1400. For the price you pay, you’ll be getting virtual surround sound through multiple channels, special tech that can incorporate your TV’s speakers into the system, and plenty of other useful features to enhance the overall viewing and gaming experience.
They may be pricey but you’ll truly be wowed by just how good they are.
Where to position a soundbar?
Soundbars are designed to be placed centrally, below your TV. They will act as the center channel of your audio, and if they have multiple directional speakers then they will base their sound on being located centrally.
But the question is – do you put your soundbar on a TV stand, or do you wall mount it?
If your TV is on a stand then it makes sense for the soundbar to also be on the stand. A lot of soundbars have a slim profile and can sit directly below the TV, but for TVs with low stands or for chunkier soundbars you might need a stand with additional shelving.
With a wall-mounted TV you’ve got a little more flexibility. If the TV is mounted high, then you probably don’t want the soundbar directly below it – so it could still sit on a stand. Whereas if the TV is at mid-height then you can get a really clean finish by wall-mounting it just below, especially if you’re only using one cable to connect the soundbar to the TV.
Soundbar mounts are easy to find and to mount, and are nice and discreet.
Ultimately as long as the soundbar is central, you’ll get the best audio performance – everything else is a design choice for your room.
Best soundbar for TV: Understanding the specs
Here are the key spec that you should be looking for when choosing your soundbar.
The one that you’ll probably see referenced most often is Dolby Atmos capabilities. Dolby Atmos is a 3D surround sound codec that programs and splits sound to create an immersive experience.
It can distinguish where a sound should be coming from, and bounce it around the room so that you feel like you’re sitting within the scene – imagine a helicopter flying above you, or crowd sounds at the big game to the left and right while the action takes place centrally.
For a soundbar to work properly with Dolby Atmos, it needs channels that fire upwards for that vertical sound. Some will still only work on a 2D plane around you. So keep an eye out for soundbars that have up-firing channels.
And on the subject of channels – more channels means more definition between different sounds. This is what helps to separate each different type of sound, and make sure it’s projected around the room in the right way. More channels mean a more immersive experience because you’ll hear different sounds coming from different places.
The number of channels isn’t the same as the number of speakers, but they are related. Soundbars will use 1-2 speakers per channel depending on the direction.
Another key tech to look out for is HDMI passthrough. Ideally, if you’re using a Blu-Ray player or a games console, you should be connecting those to your soundbar and then using the HDMI passthrough to then send the audio signal to the TV.
But not all soundbars have passthrough tech. Where they don’t, you’d instead connect your console or player to the TV, and then connect the TV to the soundbar – which means you’re relying on your TV to preserve the audio source and not flatten the data.
Ideally you’ll want a soundbar with HDMI 2.1 passthrough if you’re gaming, as this will mean you can still send 4K content at 120fps to the TV without losing picture quality.
Finally, keep an eye out for manufacturer-specific tech that allows you to use a TV as an extra set of speakers. Normally, if you’re using a soundbar, your TV’s speakers are disabled. But both Sony and Samsung have their own tech which uses the TV as a central channel and the soundbar as additional channels, meaning you get more speakers, more power and more definition to your sound.
Best soundbar for TV in 2022
HDMI input (ARC), optical digital audio to HDMI converter, Bluetooth, Ethernet port, 802.11b,g Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay 2, IR receiver
- All-in-one soundbar – no sub needed
- Incredible audio fidelity for movies and music
- Full Dolby suite – Atmos, TrueHD and Digital Plus
- Long – needs a 55” TV or bigger
- No HDMI passthrough
This powerful soundbar from Sonos does an incredible job of creating a 3D soundscape from a single all-in-one solution.
It does this through Dolby’s True HD and Digital Plus codecs which refine the sound coming from your TV to create crisp audio, before then using the Dolby Atmos tech to bounce it around the room using the internal directional speakers.
There are other soundbars that work with Atmos but the Sonos Arc just slightly outperforms them all from a pure audio quality standpoint. Highs are nice and sharp while lows rumble with power without getting lost. For a discreet single soundbar, what it manages to achieve is pretty impressive.
It’s really easy to set up but the main pain point here is the lack of any HDMI passthrough, so you’re relying on your TV to act as the midway point. It’s unlikely that you’d pair a soundbar this good with a cheap TV anyway, but just be aware that to get the best out of the soundbar you’ll want one with decent audio tech onboard.
HDMI eARC x 1, HDMI input x 1, optical digital x 1, Bluetooth
- 2 x HDMI 2.1 passthrough
- Packed with features
- Works with Sony Acoustic Center Sync
- Missing a couple of key TV features
It’s a really close run between Sony’s best soundbar and the Sonos Arc in terms of the best overall soundbar. Sony’s offering does have more features, and projects a better 3D soundstage, but the final sharpness of sound from the Sonos Arc is a little better, and the price difference means the Arc definitely offers more value.
But if you’ve got the budget, then the HT-A7000 is a truly outstanding soundbar. It also has the full Dolby Suite as well as DTS:X and Sony’s own 360 Reality Audio tech for a truly immersive 3D sound without the need for extra speakers – although they will improve things if you’ve got the cash spare.
It’s got multi-room support if you add extra speakers, voice control with all the major smart assistants, and it comes with Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast all built-in.
With two HDMI 2.1 passthrough ports you can get the best audio from your console without losing that 4k@120Hz picture quality, although it is missing some key gaming tech for the passthrough including VRR and ALLM – hopefully these can be added later.
And if you have a Bravia TV, you can use the Sony Acoustic Center Sync feature to add your TV’s speakers to the central channel, leaving the soundbar free to focus on directional audio around the room. It’s a nice boost and helps to just elevate those blockbuster movies a little bit more.
Two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output with eARC, optical digital-audio input, USB port, Bluetooth / Wi-Fi
- 16 individual channels from one soundbar
- Exceptional audio power
- Works with Q Symphony tech
- No HDMI 2.1 passthrough
- Not the best musical performance
Another fantastic (albeit expensive) choice for a soundbar, Samsung’s HW-Q950A is a revamp of the prior year’s model and adds an additional two channels to take it to a very impressive 16 all from one soundbar, produced by 22 individual speakers.
It does an excellent job of creating 3D sound through Dolby Atmos and certainly packs a punch – every explosion or car chase really does sound mighty and will really hit home, keeping you immersed in every scene.
But while it is powerful, it’s not quite as crisp as some of the other options on this list, and when it comes to music playback it definitely isn’t as strong as some similar competitors. It’s fine, but definitely more tailored towards gaming and movies.
It’s lacking an HDMI 2.1 passthrough but does have HDMI 2.0 so 4K at 60fps is achievable. And it works really well with a high-end Samsung TV thanks to Q Symphony, which uses the TV’s speakers as the central channel. When used with a Neo QLED with Object Tracking Sound PRO, you’ve got an amazing soundstage from just a super-thin TV and a discreet soundbar. Really impressive overall.
Sonos Beam (Gen 2)
HDMI input (ARC), optical digital audio to HDMI converter, Bluetooth, Ethernet port, 802.11b,g Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay 2, IR receiver
- Amazing value
- Impressive sound from a compact size
- Still tackles Dolby Atmos
- Missing Bluetooth
- Lacks the power of larger soundbars
With a soundbar, the best things don’t come in small packages. But the Sonos Beam Gen 2 really puts forward a solid case despite its compact size. Absolutely perfect if you have a smaller TV, it’s also great if you just don’t have a lot of space in your setup.
Two of the forward facing channels are upward-facing which means that even for a soundbar of this size, it does a pretty impressive job of handling Dolby Atmos 3D audio. It’s not quite as convincing as some other soundbars, and will never be as good as a full surround sound system with a high-end receiver, but compared to the flat sound of a TV it’s still awesome.
It does have some drawbacks – it’s not as powerful as larger soundbars, and it’s missing some key tech like Bluetooth for pairing your phone automatically. It’s not essential when your primary use is for your TV, but it’d be nice to have it.
At this price though, it does a great job of elevating the sound from your movies and games and is definitely worth your consideration.
- Crisp, clear sound
- Pretty powerful for its size
- Built-in Roku streaming
- Missing surround sound tech
- Will hardly blow you away
If you don’t have a big budget for a soundbar, then the Roku Streambar could be a solid choice. It’s not going to revolutionize the way you listen to movies, but if you have a low- to mid-range TV then it will absolutely do a better job of providing clarity and volume than the screen’s built in speakers.
Plus, it’s a Roku device, so if you’re missing some key streaming services then you’ll now have them all to hand, which is pretty useful. You get improved sound with a decent enough punch of power, and access to Disney+, Hulu, Paramount+, Apple TV+ and more (though you’ll need subscriptions, of course).
It’s not got any fancy surround-sound tech and the channels are limited but at less than $100 what do you expect? It’s not quite a proper home cinema but if will definitely do a better job that most TV speakers on their own.
Best soundbar FAQs
What is the best soundbar?
There are some excellent soundbar options that offer powerful, crisp sound and a ton of features to improve the quality of everything you watch. Three of the best are the Sonos Arc, the Sony HT-A7000 and the Samsung HW-Q950A. Of those, the Arc is a few hundred dollars cheaper and so represents the best value.
What is the best cheap soundbar?
The best ‘cheap’ soundbar depends on your definition of cheap. Spending less than $400 is unlikely to get you many great features, and while it’ll still be better than your TV, you aren’t getting amazing audio fidelity. The best soundbar under $500 is the Sonos Beam, while the best soundbar that’s really cheap is the Roku Streambar.
What is the best soundbar for Samsung TV?
The best soundbar for a Samsung TV is the HW-Q950A. It’s packed with features, really powerful, and it has Q Symphony tech. Pair it with your Samsung TV that also has the same feature, and the soundbar can use the TV’s speakers as a central channel, giving you an even more impressive setup with more distinctive channels.
What is the best soundbar for Sony TV?
The best soundbar for a Sony TV is Sony’s own HT-A7000. It has two HDMI 2.1 passthrough ports, ideal if you also own a PlayStation 5, and with Acoustic Center Sync tech you can use the TV as the central channel for more power and more clarity.
What is the best soundbar for voice clarity?
The best soundbar for voice clarity is the Sonos Arc. It’s not as powerful as some other soundbars but the quality is extremely sharp, meaning dialogue comes through really crisp and clear. While it doesn’t have a subwoofer, it handles lows pretty well, meaning there’s no issue with clarity in vocal ranges.
Compiling this list was tough because there really are some fantastic soundbars available. While a surround sound system will always perform slightly better for 3D audio, the latest generation of soundbars still do an amazing job, and without the hassle of finding space for multiple speakers too.
The Sony A7000 and Samsung HW-Q950A are both fantastic choices, and if you’re a gamer we’d probably recommend the Sony for its HDMI 2.1 passthrough. But for overall sound quality, and value, the Sonos Arc just edges it for us.