What Kind of Sound Bar Is Right for You?

Amp up your TV sound (and more) with the best sound bar for your needs.

For all of the vast technological improvements that television manufacturers have incorporated into TV sets during the past 20 years, sound quality has been quietly ignored. You could own a state-of-the-art 85-inch smart LED 4K UHD TV with HDR, and the speakers may very well produce the same quality sound as the black & white console TV set that Ward Cleaver would have watched on the Leave It to Beaver sitcom in the late 1950s.

That means that you need a sound bar, but not only to improve the sound of the TV. Various programs—whether broadcast, streamed, or recorded on DVD—produce varying sound levels. Crank up the TV’s sound on a program or movie you can’t hear very well and you’ll probably get a loud hum from the TV’s speakers and very poor-quality audio. You’ll need a sound bar simply to ensure a decent sound from everything you watch.

Some sound bars offer more than sound, too. And if you’re looking to really step up your viewing experience, with balanced, quality sound coming from various directions, a sound bar system is the way to go. Here are three typical TV audio situations that TV owners want to improve, and the type of sound bar to get for each.

You Simple Want Better Sound

Visio’s 29-inch sound bar has twin full-range stereo speakers to boost audio and improve sound quality. Vizio

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If you find yourself continually manipulating the volume control on your television remote because every program and movie you watch is either way too loud or way too quiet, a basic sound bar is the solution. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a basic sound bar that will provide clear, rich, consistent audio for everything you watch. These sound bars are simple to install—all you do is plug them in—and then adjust sound with the included remote. Look for a sound bar that is Bluetooth enabled so you can also listen to music and podcasts via your phone.

You Want Better Sound for both TV and Music

Speakers and subwoofers can be added wirelessly to the Sonos Beam sound bar, which is Alexa enabled. Sonos

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For their size, sound bars can provide excellent audio, and not just for television. Additionally, many sound bars allow you to add subwoofers in order to increase bass levels, and speakers to provide sound in other rooms. Look for a sound bar that allows you to add those wirelessly so you can customize a sound system for the room and for your entire house if you want. Some are Alexa-enabled, providing even more functions for your investment.

You Want Theater Quality Sound

The Samsung Harmon Kardon 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos sound has 17 speakers and can project top-quality audio from multiple directions, providing a theater-like experience. Samsung

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You’ve invested in a great television and subscribe to several media-service providers, and you want to be able to get every possible sound benefit. That means you want a complete sound system with several speakers and subwoofers that provide multidimensional audio, above, behind, and all around you. Look for a sound bar system with rear speakers and several customized audio choices. Some have a game sound setting, if you’re a gamer or have one in your life.