Best soundbars: one-box speakers to enhance your TV viewing

living room with bike, plant and a Sennheiser soundbar on top of a sideboard
(Image credit: Sennheiser)

You don’t need an involved, multi-product speaker system cluttering up the lounge to get a great home cinema. Even the best budget soundbars can do a number on your TV's built-in speakers. You don't have to be a physicist to see that a standalone 'bar will be a significant step up in terms of clarity, bass and volume than something that fits into the razor-thin bezels and screen of even the best smart TVs

And unlike a room-filling surround sound system — with snaking cables doubling as tripwires — the best soundbars do their jobs by sitting demurely underneath your TV, with wizardry such as up-firing drivers adding directional, immersive sound.

They don't have to be expensive either. While you can pay thousands for a top-tier Dolby Atmos soundbar with automatic room calibration and the like, more modest models actually start at around $/£100, and there are some competitively featured options at the more wallet-friendly end of the market.

With Black Friday coming up on November 25, we could see some great soundbar deals which make the best devices even more affordable — you can find some soundbar discounts from Amazon here (opens in new tab). You can also find our guide to the best streaming deals here.

One thing to note: soundbars don’t immerse you quite like a true surround sound system, which involves placing speakers behind you. But most models offer virtual surround sound which does a very good estimation of the same thing. And if you’re anything like us, the space saved will be more than worth it.

What follows is our pick of the best soundbars around.

The best soundbars 2022: our top picks

Devialet Dione on white background

(Image credit: Devialet )

1. Devialet Dione

The ultimate soundbar for full home cinema sound in a single box

Specifications

Streaming : Bluetooth 5.0, AirPlay 2
Max power: 950W
Connectivity: 1x HDMI eARC, optical digital, Ethernet
Dimensions: 120 x 7.7 x 16.5 cm
Weight: 12kg

Reasons to buy

+
Bass like a subwoofer (with no subwoofer)
+
Excellent Dolby Atmos directional sound
+
Excellent when listening to music

Reasons to avoid

-
No option for rear speakers
-
No HDMI passthrough

Best soundbars: JBL Bar Studio

(Image credit: JBL)

The Devialet Dione is probably the ultimate single-unit soundbar. No rear speakers behind the sofa, no subwoofer, just plug it in and enjoy. Why is it so good? Because Devialet has packed in no fewer than eight(!) woofers to create a low-end as full and deep as most subwoofers can go, and it's a triumph. 

It's got a great-looking spherical centre speaker enclosure too. This driver can actually rotate so that it always faces you whether you have it mounted on a wall or  flat on the TV table. 

The Dione produces a huge and detailed soundstage, too. Yes, it's a shame that you can't add any rear speakers for genuine surround sound even if you wanted to, and it's a little frustrating to see something so high-end that does not offer HDMI passthrough. 

But on sound quality alone we have to hand it to Devialet: this is as aspirational as it gets.

2. JBL Bar Studio

The best soundbar for most of us

Specifications

Streaming: Bluetooth
Max power: 30W
Connectivity: HDMI, Optical
Dimensions: 15.49 x 85.34 x 19.81 cm
Weight: 1.4kg

Reasons to buy

+
Feature-rich
+
Meaty sound
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks musicality
-
Struggles when loud

Let's get a bit more affordable, shall we? It's a few years old now, but that doesn't mean the Bar Studio can't compete with the best of them – and thanks to a few recent price cuts, the Bar Studio is now situated very much at the lower end of the price scale.

And it delivers a surprising amount for such little outlay: connections are modern, as is the design, and the sound is full and round with plenty of bass – ideal if you’re watching action movies or live sport.

The JBL Bar Studio is pretty small, measuring just 60cm long and 6cm tall, which means it will fit under even the most low-slung lounge TVs. Thanks to some clever processing, it does a good job of mimicking ‘true’ surround sound too, recreating the atmosphere of a cinema. You’ll just have to bring your own popcorn.

Best soundbars: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

3. Sennheiser Ambeo Max Soundbar

The ultimate soundbar, with the price tag to prove it

Specifications

Streaming: Bluetooth, Google Chromecast, wi-fi
Max power: 250W
Connectivity: HDMI
Dimensions: 14 x 127 x 17cm
Weight: 18.5kg

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible sound
+
Immersive surround effect 
+
A centrepiece

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive 
-
Huge

If you can afford it, this is one of the ultimate soundbars on the market – and Sennheiser recently renamed it the 'Max' to prove it. 

It has pretty much every bell and whistle going, including Dolby Atmos sound processing, auto-calibration, and four HDMI ports, so you can hook up all your AV gear at once. But it’s not for everyone – if the price doesn’t turn you off, its humongous size might. You’ll also need to position it correctly to really get the most out of it – it has upwards-firing speakers, so shouldn’t have anything placed on top of it.

But if you can, it’ll give you the best virtual surround sound from any soundbar going. Worth the effort, not to mention the considerable cost.

Best soundbars: Roku Streambar

(Image credit: Roku)

4. Roku Streambar

On a budget? This is the best soundbar for you

Specifications

Streaming: Bluetooth, wi-fi
Max power: 32W
Connectivity: HDMI, USB, Optical
Dimensions: 6 x 35.5 x 10.7cm
Weight: 1.1kg

Reasons to buy

+
Direct sound 
+
Feature-rich 
+
Loud

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks impact 
-
Video streaming could be superfluous

The Streambar is actually two devices in one – as well as being a soundbar, it’s a Roku video streamer. That means it will turn almost any TV into a smart one, with all the usual apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. All you need is an HDMI port on your TV and a wi-fi connection – plus membership to whichever streaming platform you're trying to access, of course.

The thing is, it’s also a pretty decent soundbar, especially considering the wallet-friendly price. It’s not as cinematic as a bigger, pricier model, but we wouldn’t expect it to be. The audio is direct, clear, and has plenty of detail. It also goes surprisingly loud for such a small device.

Anyone with a smart TV will find the video streaming skills superfluous. But at this price, we’re not complaining. 

denon Home sound bar 550 with TV

(Image credit: Denon)

5. Denon Home Sound Bar 550

The best smaller soundbar for bigger, bolder sound

Specifications

Streaming: HEOS, wi-fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect
Max power: not stated
Connectivity: 4K HDMI (1 X in / 1 x out with eARC), 1 x digital optical, USB port, 3.55mm aux input
Dimensions: 65 x 7.5 x 12 cm
Weight: 3.5kg

Reasons to buy

+
Well specified and very flexible
+
Agile, large-scale sound (within sensible volumes)
+
Classy build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Sonically a little brash at higher volumes
-
Dolby Atmos effect is lacking

Within this list, you'll find big, expensive Dolby Atmos soundbars and inexpensive, smaller soundbars for a quick upgrade on your TV's audio. And the Denon Home Sound Bar 550 is here because it sits somewhere in the middle, bringing you Dolby Atmos-style immersive and overhead thrills in a smaller footprint.

Its looks are demure, but its sound is anything but. You're also getting a whole suite of connectivity options with HEOS inbuilt, including hi-res audio ability and some processing wizardry to deliver a sense of spatial audio and it displays genuine talent as a music speaker.

Any flies in the ointment? One: this isn't a 'bar that you should crank up too loud. Send it up to near its maximum volume and things become somewhat cluttered, harsh, and a tad aggressive. Keep it at sensible volumes though and it shines, sonically speaking. 

Best soundbars: Sony HT-A7000

(Image credit: Sony)

6. Sony HT-A7000

One of the most versatile soundbars around

Specifications

Streaming: Wi-fi, Chromecast, Bluetooth, Apple Airplay 2
Max power: 500W
Connectivity: HDMI, Optical, USB, Ethernet
Dimensions: 8 x 130 x 14 cm
Weight: 8.7kg

Reasons to buy

+
Solid bass
+
Superb Atmos
+
Lots of features

Reasons to avoid

-
No equaliser controls
-
Not cheap

Sony makes phones, laptops, TVs, cameras and more, but it’s anything but a jack of all trades, master of none. Its soundbars are very good indeed, as this model proves.

Its many built-in speakers provide a broad soundstage that sounds brilliant from every seat in the room. And the built-in subwoofer adds plenty of low-end kick.

It supports pretty much every format going too, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, LPCM, hi-res wireless audio and Sony 360 Reality Audio. Don’t worry if that means nothing to you – basically it will make almost anything sound good. And its wireless smarts are unparalleled, supporting Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast and Spotify Connect. If your budget can stretch to it, you won’t be disappointed.

Best soundbars: Sonos Beam Gen 2

(Image credit: Sonos)

7. Sonos Beam Gen 2

Not just a great soundbar, a great multi-room speaker too

Specifications

Streaming: Wi-fi, Apple AirPlay 2
Max power: Unknown
Connectivity: HDMI, Optical
Dimensions: 7 x 65 x 10cm
Weight: 2.8kg

Reasons to buy

+
Great Dolby Atmos 
+
Welcoming sound 
+
Multi-room smarts

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks some features
-
Could use more HDMI ports

Priced as a mid-market product, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 offers some top-end features, including Dolby Atmos, which is essentially virtual (and overhead) surround sound. And it does a great job of delivering truly immersive audio, whatever you’re watching.

Sonos is known for its home multi-room systems, and the Beam Gen 2 slots right into that ecosystem. So when you’re not using it for watching TV, it can act as a music speaker, streaming from a host of online music services or your home network. It can play the same as in other rooms, or you can control it independently.

Even if you don’t use that feature, this compact and impactful device is one of the best soundbars money can buy.

The best soundbars: FAQ

What size soundbar should I get for my TV?

Basically, you need to balance two things: a soundbar that fits within the space you have available, and a soundbar that fits with your TV. Some people have wall-mounted TVs with a soundbar mounted underneath. Others have their TV on a stand and the soundbar just sits in front of it (the height of your stand is quite important if this is you, because nobody wants a tall soundbar that covers the infrared receiver on your TV). 

Consider the space you have, but also the size of your TV. A compact soundbar might look silly beneath a massive screen and vice versa – if your 'bar juts out at either end of the screen you might have bought the wrong one for your needs. 

The good news is that soundbar manufacturers know what they're doing and have a keen knowledge of the products they're designing for. There are many different-sized soundbars available to suit all the TV screen sizes on the market, so make sure you check the dimensions and match them up.

What connections do I need for a soundbar?

The best (read: easiest) way to connect a soundbar to your TV is with an HDMI cable. For this, you'll just need to make sure you have an HDMI port on your soundbar and an HDMI ARC port on your TV. Thus, you to use a cable to connect them (which is almost always bundled with the soundbar) and voila! 

An HDMI port means that the highest quality audio can pass from your TV to your soundbar, including Dolby Atmos. 

TV or soundbar doesn't have HDMI ports? OK, the second best option is an optical connection. This can still transfer digital sounds, but not the high-resolution ones you'd get with HDMI.

Are Dolby Atmos soundbars genuinely worth it?

If you can afford the higher asking fees that come with Dolby Atmos soundbars, then it's worth investing in the tech – especially if you want to recreate a true cinematic experience when watching movies at home.

That said, if you're watching the pennies (there's a cost of living crisis on and we get it) or simply want to boost your TV's sound rather than create a high-end entertainment set-up, then you don't need Dolby Atmos to get good audio from your 'bar. 

How to buy the best soundbar for you

There are a fair few things to consider when you’re looking for the best soundbar.

The first is the size. As set out in the Q&As above, you’ll want to make sure that your soundbar fits happily under (or next to, depending on your set-up) your TV's screen. If you're heading into a showroom, for example, knowing the size of your current TV and the size of the space you have to fit it will be a huge help – and will let the sales assistant know you're taking this whole thing seriously. 

You’ll also want to decide whether you're looking to invest in Dolby Atmos or not. Dolby Atmos is directional surround sound technology, placing sounds and voices all around you so that (when it's done well) cars screech past, bullets fly over your shoulder and voices appear from behind you. Our advice? It can be excellent. But (and it's a big "but") Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbars are usually more expensive. You’ll need to weigh up whether Dolby Atmos sound is worth it for you – and remember, there are lots of cheaper options that'll still give you oodles of great-quality audio. 

Another thing to watch for is the type of connection you need. Most modern soundbars have HDMI connectivity, but optical is another solution. What's the difference? Aside from the shape of the ports around the back of the 'bar, these are the two main ways that audio is passed from your TV to your soundbar, but HDMI is able to pass high-resolution audio, including Dolby Atmos. 

Want a premium, immersive listening experience? You’ll want to be sure you have an HDMI connection on your soundbar and an HDMI ARC (that's audio return channel) port on your TV for to connect it to.

Of course we could go on (driver count, design, extra features, voice smarts), but these all come second to getting the size, audio features and connectivity set out in your mind early on. Happy hunting!