Finding the best soundbar takes patience, time, and a keen ear. That’s why we exhaustively researched the top models, ordered each one and tested them in a real-world setting to determine the top-rated models. We did this by watching movies, listening to a wide variety of music, and playing video games until our thumbs were numb. Enjoy your gaming sessions even more with some of the best computer speakers or leading gaming speakers.
Once in our testing environment, we looked at the best speakers for sound accuracy, a range that could satisfy the most discerning of ears, and a feature set (Dolby Digital, Bluetooth, HDMI inputs, etc) that only serves to enhance the home theater experience. When we finished up with testing, we were happy to find that the Yamaha YAS-108 performed the best out of all the options. With a super affordable price and excellent audio quality, it wasn’t that hard of a decision to make. Keep reading our soundbar buying guide to learn more about the Yamaha and the other exceptional soundbars on our list. The best home theater systems need quality sound and this delivers.
Top Soundbar Comparison 2022
#1 Yamaha YAS-108 Soundbar
Award: Best Soundbar/Editor’s Choice
Length: 35 inches | Wall Mountable: Yes | Read Full Review: Yamaha Yas-108 Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Excellent virtual surround sound for the price.
The Yamaha YAS-108 soundbar boasts excellent sonic capabilities, especially when compared to other models in its price range. Because of this, it easily makes it the best soundbar under $500. Its capabilities are especially noticeable when viewing movies, largely because its audio performance is incredibly clear as is its surround capability. In short, films sound as if they’re being played back on a much larger sound system, which is the ultimate goal of a soundbar. Although, compare a soundbar vs a home theater, and you may find a difference in sound quality you didn’t notice before.
To that end, the YAS-108 easily ranks as the best soundbar with built-in subwoofers, which provide thumping bass without needing to take up space with another box. This way, the YAS-108 has that plug and play convenience for getting great sound with little setup. The inclusion of a quality built-in subwoofer sets the YAS-108 apart from most other soundbars on the market today. We believe this is the best overall soundbar in 2022. If you like additional bass, then check out our guide to the best subwoofers.
The YAS-108 also offers a stellar Bluetooth connection capability that uses more advanced compression versus standard Bluetooth audio to provide clearer sound. More specifically, this audio compression smoothes out the sound by reducing the peaks and improving lower sounds. Another interesting feature with this Yamaha unit is 4K connectivity, which allows you to connect your 4K ultra HD TV to your soundbar without any loss in audio quality.
One drawback for the Yamaha YAS-108 is its lack of app support, even despite its compatibility with Alexa. But this is pretty significant for this Yamaha model, making it one of the best soundbar for the money options. If you prefer a traditional speaker, take a look at the best in-wall speakers instead.
Another option is the Yamaha YAS-209. The YAS-209 is a smart soundbar with built-in Alexa voice control, DTS® Virtual:X™ virtual 3D surround sound, a wireless subwoofer, and Bluetooth music streaming.
Additionally, you can compare two more speakers from this brand, like the Yamaha HS7 vs HS8, to see which one works best for you.
#2 Vizio SB3820-C6 Soundbar
Award: Best Budget Soundbar
Length: 38 inches | Wall Mountable: Yes | Read Full Review: Vizio SB3820-C6 Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Simple, affordable with virtual surround sound.
If you’re looking for a super affordable, basic soundbar, the Vizio SB3820-C6 has got you covered. Vizio decided to forgo all the frills and fancy sub-woofers to focus on making a truly great soundbar that anyone on a budget can afford. One of the most interesting aspects of this soundbar is that it works so well with any space and any TV, making it one of the more versatile soundbars on our list. you can place it on your TV stand or mount it directly to the wall. But, does it beat out the top-rated floor standing speakers?
The Vizio soundbar features 2.0 premium audio that can deliver up to 100 decibels of sound, which is more than enough to fill your room with the sounds of your favorite TV shows, movies, and even music (via Bluetooth connectivity). The virtual surround mode performs sufficiently and can create a fun and immersive space, especially with its powerful bass. We were pleasantly surprised at how deep the bass went on this soundbar, even without an external subwoofer to accompany it. That’s another plus for those looking for a product with excellent bass, since you won’t have to splurge on a separate wired subwoofer. This affordable soundbar will be able to transform the overall experience of your sound stage or home audio without making a massive dent in your wallet.
#3 Sony HT-ST5000 Soundbar
Award: Best Atmos Soundbar
Length: 46.9 inches | Wall Mountable: Yes | Read Full Review: Sony HT-ST5000 Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Highly versatile thanks to wireless connectivity.
The Sony HT-ST5000 is the most expensive unit on our list at nearly $1300, but it is the only one on our list that offers the best Dolby Atmos experience. Atmos offers a more immersive experience than standard surround sound, because of its 3-dimensional approach to sound. With this soundbar, you get 7.1.2 channel surround sound.
Moreover, it maintains 4K quality whenever it’s connected to ultra HD televisions, offering you superb signal pass-through with exceptional contrast, detail, and color. You also get a wireless subwoofer with this soundbar, so your audio experience is taken to a deeper level. With this multi-channel soundbar presenting its high-quality audio in an immersive audio format of surround channels and height channels and also coming with a subwoofer, this impressive soundbar set is an excellent value for the price you pay.
The Sony HT-ST5000 is designed impeccably with multiple tweeters and mid-range speakers inside. The sound experience is truly revolutionary, which is why I can recommend this speaker despite its high price tag. Lastly, the ST5000 works with Spotify and has Chromecast built directly into its internal software, which allows you to stream music, listen to podcasts, or access online radio directly from smartphones or tablets connected to the Dolby Atmos soundbar. The convenience that the user experience gets through accessing Internet radio from a phone and playing great sounds through this soundbar help the ST5000 stand out from the rest of the competition.
#4 Sonos Playbar Soundbar
Award: Best Wireless Soundbar
Length: 35.43 inches | Wall Mountable: Yes | Read Full Review: Sonos Playbar Soundbar Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Highly versatile thanks to wireless connectivity.
The Sonos Playbar is an expensive unit at nearly $700 (almost double the price of the Sonos Beam), but it is fully compatible with other Sonos products, allowing you to stream music from a variety of music sources (Spotify, Rhapsody, Pandora, etc).
Moreover, this Sonos speaker connects to your home’s WiFi allowing you to control its volume and features with your smartphone or tablet. And while it offers simulated surround sound, you can also wirelessly connect any of Sonos’ other wireless speakers, such as the Play:3 or Play:1, to add complete 5.1 surround sound.
And if that isn’t enough, inside the Playbar are 9 Class-D digital amplifiers, nine amplified speaker drivers, six midrange, and three tweeters. This means you’ll get decent bass, provided you’re not willing to invest in the company’s awe-inspiring Sonos subwoofer, which I can recommend despite its high price tag. Lastly, the Playbar will work with most TVs’ infrared receiver, allowing it to pass commands to the set despite blocking it.
#5 Bluesound Pulse 2i Soundbar
Award: Best Soundbar for Music
Length: 42.25 inches | Wall Mountable: Yes | Read Full Review: Bluesound Pulse 2i Soundbar Review
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Hi-resolution audio playback and the ability to play MQA files.
As the first soundbar to actually support playing MQA (master quality authenticated) files and hi-res playback, the Bluesound Pulse 2i is perfect for music and audio junkies alike. There’s nothing on this list that sounds quite like the Pulse 2i and once you hear it, you’ll be thinking the same thing.
The soundbar plays music so well due in part to the two pairs of 3-way speaker arrays it features, each consisting of a cone woofer, cone mid-range, and soft-dome tweeter. You can also add a wireless sub for an extra cost, if you so choose. But the best part is that each driver has its own amp channel which blends high and low frequencies for the best sound you’ll ever experience on a soundbar.
Yes, the Pulse soundbar is expensive – one of the most expensive soundbars on our list – but the premium audio quality is absolutely worth it. In this $800 price tag, you’ll also get AirPlay compatibility and support for Amazon Alexa. Getting to connect the soundbar to your home network will transform your space, give you more convenient control, and will be sure to impress your guests. This is cutting-edge audio technology and your living room and home theater system will be all the better for it. Getting to watch all your shows and movies with stellar home audio and a surround effect will let you immerse yourself in all the sound effects and clear voices for an enhanced viewing experience.
What to Look for in the Best Soundbar
Sound Quality and Surround: To work well as a home theater, a soundbar needs to offer high-end audio quality, including a subwoofer (built-in or separate) and enough drivers to provide robust, room-filling sound. To that end, a wireless sub with surrounds is ideal.
Surround Standard: This is generally more important when discussing full surround sound systems, but it’s still worth noting. Not all soundbars are compatible with all surround sound standards, such as DTS and Dolby Digital. For instance, Sonos’ Playbar only works with Dolby Digital. Alternatively, the 2.1ch Dolby Atmos/DTS X® Single Soundbar with a subwoofer included (HT-X8500) works with Dolby Atmos and DTS.
Wall Mountable Option: If you’ve wall-mounted your television, you also may want to elect to use the same option with your soundbar. Not every soundbar can be mounted to a wall, so if this is important to you, closely look at the feature list for the soundbar you’re considering.
Connection Options: An HDMI port on the soundbar will make setting up the unit easy, but digital optical ports work well too for connecting to a TV. If you’re connecting multiple external devices for optical audio, check how many optical digital input ports your desired device has. If you plan to stream music from your smartphone or tablet through the soundbar, Bluetooth connectivity compatibility is a must. And for improved sound quality over Bluetooth, look for compatibility with the aptX compression algorithm. Some soundbars include built-in WiFi connectivity to simplify the process of accessing streaming audio services, such as Sonos’ Playbar.
Mistakes to Avoid
Soundbar’s Size: If you place the soundbar in front of a suggested best 4k TV, some soundbars are tall enough that they’ll block the infrared port on the television (note: some have an infrared pass-through port, such as Sonos), preventing you from using your remote control. Or they might be too large to fit in the location you have available. So make sure to check the size of the soundbar before you purchase it to ensure it will fit your available space. No matter how good your soundbar’s digital signal processing is of the digital audio or how many sound modes it has, if your large soundbar doesn’t fit in the appropriate space, it’s either distracting or unusable.
No Remote: Although most soundbar remote controls are simple units, having a remote control is important. You’ll likely be sitting far from the TV and soundbar location, so you don’t want to have to stand up and press buttons on the soundbar each time you want to adjust the audio. An included remote control gives you quick and easy access to volume control as well, which can come in handy if you need to lower the volume suddenly. If your soundbar doesn’t ship with a remote, most of our best universal remotes should be able to control the soundbar. That said, some units don’t even offer a remote control capability.
Expecting Sound System Quality: A full surround sound system will outperform a soundbar in nearly every instance. So don’t purchase a soundbar thinking that you’re going to have top-flight audio quality equal to a sound system with multiple speakers. The surround sound audio produced by a whole collection of surround speakers will create an immersive soundstage or craft a better sound performance in your home theater audio system. It’s hard to achieve an excellent surround sound system without additional speakers, especially on a wide soundstage, so consider investing in a few rear speakers if you want that clear sense of depth and immersive effect of a surround system’s sound performance. There are also firing speakers, satellite speakers, and center speakers that use a center channel that you could add to your system. After moving beyond a stereo sound system to a surround setup, you can finally enjoy a truly cinematic sound and immersive audio with a real sense of width and height while listening to your favorite movie soundtracks. If you’re interested in an option that projects directional sound in a narrow beam in case you have neighbors or housemates, be sure to also consider directional speakers.
Other popular choices that just missed our list include the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar, the Soundbar Sonos Beam, and the Apple AirPlay 2 (not a soundbar). The Ambeo Soundbar provides a rich, natural sound alongside a convincing surround sound effect. The Sonos Beam offers superb music streaming capabilities. While the Airplay 2 is a portable, compact speaker that offers wireless streaming of content from other Apple devices.
Most Important Soundbar Features
Music and Bluetooth
- A soundbar with Bluetooth connectivity works especially well for playing your personal music library from your smartphone. And if your soundbar supports the aptX compression format, it will provide improved audio quality versus Bluetooth alone. Always check the product details on sound formats and audio codecs that a specific product supports. Regarding connectivity features, a single soundbar with a wireless connection overall would be an excellent upgrade from a soundbar that functioned only on wired connections.
Surround Sound Modes
- It’s important to choose the right sound mode for your setup. For instance, Dolby Digital Surround, s a true surround mode with 5 discrete channels, which utilize compression. This is a good choice when watching movies. Alternatively, DTS can sound a bit better than Dolby Digital Surround due to its higher bit rate.
- The audio power of most soundbars is measured in watts, which is different from the number of decibels available. (This measurement of watts is also different from the electrical power usage of the unit, also measured in watts.) Some manufacturers don’t provide the audio power of their soundbar systems.
- Most soundbars allow you to connect to your TV through an HDMI cable or a digital optical cable (aka optical digital audio cable). HDMI connectivity is rare in a soundbar, but this type of connection is easy to set up. The TV needs an HDMI ARC (audio return channel) port to work with the soundbar’s HDMI port.
- Some soundbar kits will include a separate subwoofer, which is a speaker that provides bass. Some soundbar kits include a subwoofer inside the soundbar, but this option will be much weaker than a stand-alone subwoofer. Soundbars tend to produce low-mid to higher frequencies better than very low frequencies, so a separate subwoofer may be a smart option to invest in so you can play any type of sound with no roadblocks. Some separate subwoofers connect wirelessly to the soundbar, while others must connect through a wire. Opt for wireless for versatility and ease of setup.
- A good soundbar can be both wall-mounted or placed in front of a TV. Just make sure it will fit. Measure the target space, assess the maximum size that would fit, then browse for the size you’re interested in, whether it be compact soundbars, massive soundbars, etc. If you’re aiming to set up a whole wall of soundbars, be sure to measure the available space and the bars to see if you have enough room. Assess the build quality of the soundbar as well to further understand its mounting needs. If wall mounting becomes an issue and you can be flexible with the form factor of your desired new speaker, consider a sound base, which is thicker than a soundbar and rests on a table or platform placed below a TV.
Smart Home Compatibility
- With the emergence of smart homes and voice-enabled technology, you must consider a soundbar that is smart home compatible. These devices can connect to Alexa and Google Assistant, which then enables you to control them with your voice. If you’re after something convenient and like the idea of virtual assistant support, a smart soundbar or smart speaker that uses voice control for voice commands and/or voice assistant integration over a wireless connection would be an excellent choice. If you have a smart TV like an Apple or Android TV that you’d want to connect to a soundbar, be sure to check out the tech specs on these products before purchasing.
Which Best Soundbar Is Right For You?
Although it may seem as if all soundbars are the same, it’s clear from our list above that there are quite a few different configurations available. Reading through our soundbar reviews for 2022 can help you find a perfect model for your needs, whether you’re seeking a model with great audio quality for movies, gaming, music, or all three. This article presents an impressive amount of premium soundbars and other notable mentions with great soundbar ranges that will transform your home and room audio into dynamic and full-range sound. Although soundbars cannot compete directly with the high-end audio quality of a full speaker system, the best soundbar will give you much better audio quality than the TV’s built-in speaker while occupying a much smaller amount of space than a full speaker system.
What is DTS Virtual X?
DTS Virtual X is an audio processing technique that works inside the soundbar to create spacious 3D sound – including the sensation of height – from any content, and without the need for in‑ceiling, rear speakers, or upward-firing speakers. The result is the ambient sound that seems to surround you while the dialogue stays centered.
HDMI Arc VS. Optical Digital
To someone unfamiliar with tech, the terms “HDMI ARC Optical Digital” might not make much sense. But the differences between these two cables aren’t too complicated to understand. When you buy a new music system or smart soundbar, you are often left with the choice between using an HDMI ARC cable or an optical audio cable to connect your system to your television. HDMI ARC and optical cables both share the same purpose and they both transmit multi-channel audio from one device to another. The main difference between HDMI and optical is in their material construction. HDMI cables are primarily made of copper. On the downside, copper is susceptible to electromagnetic interference. Optical cables, on the other hand, are made of fiber optic strands, which are made of glass. These are relatively expensive to manufacture. However, they transmit the signal via light, rather than an electrical current. This makes them impervious to outside interference which helps create an immersive listening experience.