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Published Mar. 3, 2022

At the heart of any great home theater is a soundbar. The best soundbars deliver immersive sound using an array of speakers tuned to the sonic profile of your room. With features like autoprogrammed speakers aimed to bounce sound off your ceiling for Dolby Atmos–enabled heights, smart pairing with a subwoofer or auxiliary speakers, and exceptional connectivity, the best soundbars position themselves at the center of your home audio world and act as sonic hubs that are ready for music, television, or the newest blockbuster. 

Hear the city whoosh as you swing from buildings with your Spidey-Verse cohorts, know the roaring epicenter of a sandworm’s maw, and appreciate the subtle reverb of French horns ushering in a new theme in a Dolby Atmos recording of the London Philharmonic. A great soundbar opens up the sonic worlds in your favorite media and extends a hand, bringing you right into the mix.

How We Picked the Best Soundbars of 2022

Methodology

As tech reviewers and audiophiles, we always have an ear to the ground, looking for the best audio gear out there. To assemble this list of the best soundbars, we took a look at a wide array of soundbar models from multiple manufacturers, stacking up the specs and looking for the best in each category. A few specific criteria stood out as the foremost hallmarks of quality.

Speaker quality is the greatest single factor when determining a soundbar’s quality. Lots of audio channels with tepid response won’t collectively add up to great sound. The best quality across the whole spectrum usually comes with a speaker array that has great midrange delivery, crisp highs from its tweeters, and decent bass coverage, without overemphasizing any particular niche of the spectrum and becoming scooped. Most soundbars are improved with the addition of a subwoofer. Yet some rare soundbars manage to cover the mid-lows with an included mid-low subwoofer — down to the 40-hertz range or so, and do a decent job without a separate deep-bass subwoofer. However, for truly deep bass, most soundbars do require a subwoofer, if simply for the required size of the woofer’s speaker head. We looked for soundbars that deliver great quality across the whole spectrum.

The number of speakers contained in a soundbar and their positioning can be right up there with speaker quality in terms of importance — especially for those looking for immersive home cinemas. Audio channels are described with three numbers. The first represents the number of channels delivering the mid- and high-range sounds that define most of what you hear. The second number describes the bass channels. The third number denotes spatial channels that deliver the sonic verticality required for Atmos. A 7.1.2 soundbar system uses ten audio channels that match contemporary soundscapes found in some movies and games. A 5.0.2 system uses seven. Systems with more audio channels deliver more detailed, immersive sound, especially in larger rooms.

Versatility is also a key factor. We looked for soundbars that are compatible with lots of different devices, from optical connections to Xbox to Spotify on Bluetooth. The best soundbars connect to your devices both wirelessly and via wire, and can often connect to many at one time. Some even have features like 4K pass-through.

Directionality and immersion are essential with a soundbar. We prioritized models that do great with premium sound features like the vertical immersion of Dolby Atmos. Many of these have upward-firing speakers that bounce sound off the ceiling, rear speakers that bounce sound off the wall behind them, or a microphone that enables you to tune your soundbar to the unique sonic profile of your space.

The Best Soundbars: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Sony HT-A7000

Why It Made The Cut: This 7.1.2 soundbar takes spatial audio seriously: with great versatility, good bass coverage, and an immersive sound stage.

Specs:

  • Amp Channels: 7.1.2 channels
  • Wattage: 500 watts
  • Dolby Atmos / DTS-X: Yes
  • Size: 53.5 x 7.75 x 8.81 inches

Pros:

  • Deep and immersive sound stage with Dolby Atmos and DTS-X coverage
  • Voice enhancement highlights already crisp vocals
  • Corrects for room

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t get as loud as some
  • Best with added subwoofer

The Sony HT-A7000 is a resounding investment in your home theater. A truly versatile home audio kit, the HT-A7000 is ready for the movies of now. Delivering ten audio channels that include a good mid-bass channel and immersive heights that will bounce off the ceiling, the A7000 is ready for most anything you want to amplify. For those who are looking for a soundbar that’s more than just a home-theater system, it also prioritizes easy wireless connections and pass-throughs, seamlessly integrating with Spotify or your PS5.

Naturally excelling in the mids, expect your A7000 to produce vocals that will leave you breathless. If its natural proclivity for dialogue isn’t enough, it features a dialogue enhancement feature that further crisps up vocals. So if you spend every night running through the Seinfeld back catalog you’ll catch every one of George Costanza’s insights on the human experience as though you’re right there at Monk’s Cafe.

In terms of spatial audio, the A7000 will enfold you. With a room-correction feature that will dial it into whatever acoustic space you’re working with, the Atmos-capable directional audio bounces sound off the ceiling and models the shape of the sound it produces to create an illusion of surround sound. Its woofer delivers bass down to about 40 hertz (somewhat better coverage than the competitive Sonos Arc’s 46 hertz). However, those who need viscerally concussive bomb blasts or want to experience the rumble of King Ghidorah crashing into crumbling buildings will want to buy a true subwoofer to pair with their soundbar. The A7000 also does suffer somewhat from a lack of loudness overall, not getting quite as loud as some might wish.

Best Budget: Hisense HS212F 2.1ch Soundbar

Hisense

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Why It Made The Cut: With good mid- to high-range sound and a strong subwoofer, the Hisense soundbar brings great value to your home theater.

Specs:

  • Amp Channels: 2.1 channels
  • Wattage: 120 watts
  • Dolby Atmos / DTS-X: Dolby Digital, but no Atmos
  • Size: 37.8 x 3.1 x 2.0 inches, subwoofer: 8.3 x 9.8 x 12.8 inches

Pros:

  • Included subwoofer yields solid bass
  • Dolby Digital processing is included for good depth
  • Ready for Roku, Bluetooth, Pure Surround

Cons:

  • Low wattage power for a soundbar and consequently won’t get that loud
  • No vertical Atmos coverage
  • Turns off automatically after ten minutes of paused programming

If budget is the prerogative, the Hisense HS212F brings a multifaceted solution with an included subwoofer. Offering two channels of ear-level audio and one bass channel, the Hisense is more stripped down than higher-priced soundbars. However, it still packs a punch. With Dolby Digital sound included in the package, this soundbar does a good job at creating multidimensional sound synthetically, even if it doesn’t have the ten channels found on higher-priced bars.

At only 120 watts, this isn’t a super loud or detailed sound system. However, for the price it’s still a good bump up in quality from what’s offered on standard televisions. It’s also Roku-ready and digitally compatible with Bluetooth, HDMI, and optical connections. 

The system has some jankiness with remote options and may require that you use the remote that came with the soundbar to control it. It also has an auto shutoff issue that any buyer should be aware of. The device turns off after ten minutes without signal and may require a reboot of both the system and the media being watched. So if you pause your movie for a bathroom break and fail to come back on time, you may need to restart both your connected television and show. It’s a very annoying feature.

All in all, the Hisense HS212F is a system with some flaws, but with the included subwoofer, it’s still one of the best deals out there if you’re looking for a sound boost for your TV that won’t break the bank.

Best All in One: Bose Smart Soundbar 900

Why It Made The Cut: With solid loudness and decent Atmos-enabled heights, this is an impressive surround-sound device.

Specs:

  • Amp Channels: 5.0.2 channels
  • Wattage: No wattage info from manufacturers
  • Dolby Atmos / DTS-X: Dolby Atmos
  • Size: 41.14 x 4.21 x 2.29 inches

Pros:

  • Gets quite loud
  • Decent surround-sound capabilities with some verticality
  • Sounds good

Cons:

  • Low bass is less pronounced than a soundbar with dedicated subwoofer

With the Smart Soundbar 900, Bose delivers on its brand reputation with a soundbar that just sounds great. Dolby Atmos is a challenge: producing nuanced sonic immersion with a single soundbar. The seven-channel Soundbar 900 is Bose’s answer to the Atmos market and delivers great coverage of the whole sonic spectrum, except for the lower bass range. 

At 41 inches, the attractive finish on the top of your Bose wants to be seen; slightly rounded edges round out the design. It’s a piece that’s meant to be placed centrally beneath an impressive TV, not just for acoustics but also for aesthetics.

Using a microphone system, the Soundbar 900 processes the aural footprint of your room and calibrates the soundbar, tuning its audio processing to the shape of your room. This means that by itself this soundbar is capable of delivering convincing sonic immersion, using directional speakers to bounce sound off your room and envelop you. It’s a powerful system that’s ready to take you to the theater, in the comfort of home.

All in all, the Soundbar 900 might not deliver as rich of a Dolby Atmos–enabled home-theater experience as a Sony HT-A7000–based system, supplemented with extra surround-sound speakers and a woofer, but as a single unit, it’s deeply polished and delivers an excellent whole experience.

Best With Subwoofer: Polk Audio Signa S4

Polk Audio

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Why It Made The Cut: At a moderate price point that isn’t a month’s rent, the Polk Signa eschews some of the fancy directionality of top-tier systems but still delivers great whole-spectrum sound that will make your movies pop.

Specs:

  • Amp Channels: 3.1.2 channels
  • Wattage: No wattage info from manufacturers
  • Dolby Atmos / DTS-X: Dolby Atmos and DTS
  • Size: 35.43 x 3.22 x 2.15 inches, subwoofer: 6.72 x 12.2 x 13.4 inches

Pros:

  • Directional Dolby Atmos and DTS sound good
  • Great frequency response down to the mid 40s
  • Relatively inexpensive

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have the depth of higher-price-point models
  • Some issues with Dolby Atmos some of the time

With its very moderate price point, the Polk Audio Signa S4 can’t be beat. A true midrange soundbar system, the Signa doesn’t deliver some of the high-end bells and whistles you’ll secure from soundbars twice its price, but it does all the basic features well and dips its toes into some of the advanced ones.

The Signa has an impressive speaker array. Its 5.1.2 channel array features five ear-level speakers, one subwoofer, and two directional speakers. With its included subwoofer, it hits bass thumps resoundingly, for concussive blasts that will rock your couch. In the midrange it supplies great vocal clarity that won’t peter out in the highs. Its Atmos and DTS coverage isn’t as good as what you’ll find in a Sony HT-A7000, but for the price it’s still darn impressive. You’ll find the movie coming to life around you. 

All in all, if you’re ready to invest in stunning sound but don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, the Signa S4 is the best midrange option out there, especially if you value sound that includes good bass coverage.

Best for Entertaining Outdoors: SAMSUNG 5.1ch Terrace Soundbar

SAMSUNG

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Why It Made The Cut: With a sonic profile particularly designed for outdoor viewing, and decent dust and weather protection, this is a soundbar that’s meant for days watching sports on the porch swing or enjoying movies from the screened-in pool house.

Specs:

  • Amp Channels: 5.1 channels
  • Wattage: 210 watts
  • Dolby Atmos / DTS-X: Dolby, but no Atmos
  • Size: 48 x 5.5 x 2.1 inches

Pros:

  • Dust- and weather-resistant with a moderate IP55 rating
  • Good emphasis on mids and lows for outdoor listening
  • Included subwoofer with bass control on remote
  • Good connectivity

Cons:

  • Not actually waterproof
  • No directional sound coverage

If you’re looking to furnish the outdoor veranda of your summer home with an OLED TV, then you might want the soundbar to go with it. The 5.1ch Terrace Soundbar from Samsung is a weather-resistant soundbar that’s meant to cut through the noise of the outdoors. Rather than aiming for sonic immersion in your home theater, the terrace soundbar prioritizes sound for outside. It features a built-in subwoofer that supplements an impressive central speaker channel meant for clear dialogue.

With an IP55 rating, this is a soundbar meant for mounting on the wall of a covered porch. It’s not ready for full exposure and will malfunction if exposed to pouring rain or snow. Rather it’s calibrated to be resistant to dusty days, salty air, or foggy autumn mornings. The Terrace Soundbar is ideal for sports fans who want to augment a pool house with something that’s powerful and resistant to the elements, or couples who like to watch TV on the covered terrace porch of their Santa Fe home. 

It serves a novel purpose, but this is no one-trick pony. Even without its IP rating, this would be an impressive all-in-one soundbar — especially for fans of sports or nightly Netflix sessions. Its Alexa compatibility further expands its usefulness.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Soundbar

Immersive Sound

If Dolby Atmos and high-tech directional sound features are important to you, you’re going to want to look for a soundbar that includes audio channels primed for those things. Most soundbars will have their audio channels coded with three numbers, e.g., 5.1.2. The third number in these sequences denotes the channels of audio dedicated to directional sound. Usually these channels are angled upward, to bounce sound off the ceiling. While some soundbars achieve remarkably immersive sound without Atmos-functional directional speakers, most of the best ones include them.

All in One vs. Part of a Set

While the best soundbars offer great coverage of the sonic spectrum, for truly versatile sound coverage one may want to add a subwoofer to the mix. Some soundbars include a subwoofer in their design; however, due to the physical properties required for bass tones, internal subwoofers often won’t work as well as discrete subwoofers. Extra surround-sound speakers can also augment your system and add immersion. Before you buy, consider whether you want a soundbar that will operate as part of a whole-room surround-sound system, or a standalone piece.

Connections

When buying a soundbar it’s important to find one that will work for your purposes. If you use Roku, look for a soundbar that supports Roku TVs. If you’re an Amazon Alexa devotee, it might be worth finding an Alexa-compatible soundbar that will allow you to use the voice commands you’re used to, for premium audio. 

FAQs

Q: Are soundbars worth it?

Yes. Soundbars deliver a wider soundstage than most traditional home audio systems. This will make your music more immersive but will particularly shine with television, films, or gaming. Some Dolby Atmos soundbars function as stand-alone home-theater systems that create the illusion of physical surround sound.

Q: What’s the best soundbar?

While every user’s needs are different, our favorite soundbar is the Sony HT-A7000. With its decent bass coverage and immaculately crisp detail in the mids, it would be good enough. Yet it also features excellent vertical sound for Atmos, plus ten total audio channels.

Q: How much does a good soundbar cost?

While you can spend a little over $100 for a decent soundbar like the Hisense HS212F, which will boost the quality of your TV’s sound significantly, some of the best soundbar features start to come into play in the mid hundreds range. The Polk Audio Signa S4 is a great soundbar with some truly premium features for just a few hundred.

Q: Are soundbars compatible with any TV?

While many soundbars will work with any TV, not all will. Look for soundbars that have the connections you need, be they HDMI, Bluetooth, or optical. Many soundbars advertise specific connection compatibility for TVs and music, such as Roku or Alexa compatibility.

Final Thoughts

The best soundbars can vastly expand the audio capabilities of your home. Some offer premium services like physical Dolby Atmos compatibility, which will bounce sound off the ceiling for total immersion. Some come with a subwoofer that will guarantee depth to your media. Others offer only a few channels of audio but come at a fairly low asking price. The Sony HT-A7000, with its ten channels of audio, approximately 40-hertz bass coverage, and vertical sound, is our pick for the best of the best. However, for those on a budget, the Hisense HS212F packs a good punch for a cheap price, and the Polk Signa S4 hits a midrange sweet spot that delivers most of what the majority of people want.

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