One of the best soundbars is essential if you’ve invested in a big TV and its speakers aren’t living up to its visuals. With one of the top soundbars, you get bigger, forward-facing speakers that deliver better speech clarity and immersion in movies. The best bit is they’re sleek and slim, often fitting below your TV on a cabinet or mounted on the wall.
Some TVs may not need a soundbar, but plenty of the best TVs you can buy today need an external soundbar for better audio – especially cheaper ones. Many of the best soundbars come in three styles: all-in-one units with just a single soundbar, soundbars with subwoofers, and soundbars with subwoofers and rear speakers for surround sound. The first is ideal for people who want a minimal setup, the second is great for big sound on a budget, and the third is perfect if you want a real home theater audio experience.
In expensive soundbars, you’ll find features like wireless connectivity, which can be used in multi-room speaker setups, while cheaper soundbars play the audio from your TV when linked via either an HDMI or optical digital connection. We’ve tested hundreds of soundbars and speaker systems over the years, including elite units with Dolby Atmos 3D sound, through to bargain soundbars that boost your sound.
Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Entertainment, and has over a decade of experience in tech publishing. He has been writing about the latest TVs and soundbars since 2017. CES 2024 has been and gone, which gave us a glimpse of all the new soundbars on the horizon. Matt was most impressed by the announcement from Samsung about the HW-Q990D.
The quick list
In a hurry but need to find the best soundbar for you? Take a look at our quick list below which covers a soundbar that will suit every budget and situation. You can still check out more detailed reviews of each soundbar below.
The best soundbar for most people
The Q800C offers great cinematic sound, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support at a great value price, making it the best buy for a lot of people.
The best budget soundbar
If you're looking to get immersive Dolby Atmos support on a budget, the Sony HT-S2000 is a no-brainer – a high-quality soundbar for a low price.
Best Atmos surround
The best soundbar for Dolby Atmos surround
With outstanding power, range and impressive Dolby Atmos sound, the Samsung HW-Q990C is the best soundbar for the full Atmos experience.
Best compact Atmos
The best soundbar for compact Dolby Atmos
If you're looking to get Atmos sound but are tight on space, this Bose is a soundbar that packs powerful sound into a small package.
Best for gaming
The best soundbar for gamers
With two HDMI 2.1 ports, 4K 120Hz passthrough and VRR support, the HT-A7000 not only sounds great, but is the ideal choice for gamers
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Perfect for music
The perfect small soundbar for music
Small in size but not in sound, the Sonos Beam's rich bass, level of clarity and hi-res audio compatibility make it perfect for music as well as movies.
The best soundbars of 2024
Why you can trust TechRadar
The best soundbar overall
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You want the best value soundbar: The Q800C is a mid-range priced soundbar with premium features including excellent Dolby Atmos effects.
✅ You want a powerful sound: The Q800C offers punchy, direct sound with plenty of bass and brilliant clarity, especially when it comes to speech.
❌ You're after 4K 120Hz passthrough: If you have a next-gen console such as a PS5, you'll have to look at other soundbars for 4K 120Hz passthrough.
❌ You want the best soundbar for music: The Q800C has great sound quality but there are better soundbars for music such as the Sonos Beam at #7 in this list.
What you need to know: The Samsung HW-Q800C is a knockout when it comes to delivering a powerful, room-filling sound for a reasonably affordable price. With support for spatial audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, it has an impressive soundstage thanks to two upfiring drivers that deliver exceptional height (those with a Samsung TV can also use its Q-Symphony tech). However, despite there being support for a variety of music files, including hi-res formats like FLAC, we don't think it's best suited for playing music – instead, look at the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) at #7 in this list. For everything else, it's a definite crowd pleaser.
Audio performance: When we heard the Q800C in action, the first thing we immediately noticed was its powerful sound, which made various spatial effects extremely convincing, especially for a soundbar that does not have rear speakers (although there is the option to add these to create even more immersive audio). It particularly shines when watching movies and TV shows thanks to excellent channel steering, deep bass and clear dialogue.
Design: In terms of looks, the HW-Q800C may not be the most visually appealing bar (it looks a lot like any other regular soundbar), but there is something particularly attractive about its grilled finish, which reminds us of an industrial aesthetic. Although it's heavy compared to to other soundbars, it's a reassuring heaviness that gives it that sense of quality. At 43-inches wide, it fits well exactly with a 50-inch TV and would look great with 55-inch plus sized TVs.
Value: This is an excellent value soundbar. It may not carry the same power and soundstage as the Samsung HW-Q900C, which is at #3 in this list, but it's a fraction of the price and the rear optional speakers will certainly add to the already fantastic 5.1.2 channels in the HW-Q800C itself. When you add all that together, it's no surprise why we think this is the best soundbar for most people.
Read our full Samsung HW-Q800C review
The best budget soundbar
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You want an affordable soundbar: The Sony HT-S2000 launched with a higher price than the next cheapest offering at #7 in this list but is now regularly reduced for less.
✅ You want immersive sound: The HT-S2000 offers 3.1 channels of surprisingly powerful sound, with support for virtual Dolby Atmos, for a reasonable price.
❌ You own a next-gen console like a PS5: Without 4K 120Hz passthrough, the HT-S2000 isn't the best for gamers. Instead look at #5 in this list.
❌ You want a home audio system: The HT-S2000 does not have Wi-Fi so you won't be able to link it up to a multi-room wireless speaker system.
What you need to know: When it comes to sound quality and features vs price, we think the Sony HT-S2000 is the best budget choice around. Although it's a little basic in terms of connectivity, the sound you get from this soundbar is impressive for the money and is certainly a good choice for those looking for an upgrade to their TV sound without breaking the bank.
Audio performance: While the Sony HT-S2000's sound isn't the biggest, the sound you do get for your money is impressive. Clear dialogue levels and a spacious, virtual surround sound are two of the HT-S2000's highlights. Bass levels are also punchy enough, but it's the Sony HT-S2000's ability to reproduce Dolby Atmos effects that's surprising. It's not going to beat a soundbar with height channels, but for a 3.1 soundbar, it offers plenty.
Design: Design wise, the Sony HT-S2000 feels and looks more expensive than it is, with a solid, mesh metal grill on the front and a sturdy black plastic casing housing the speakers. The soundbar also produces visual feedback to remote control commands, something rare on budget soundbars.
Value: Yes, the HT-S2000 isn't going to set the world alight with its sound and certainly isn't the best soundbar for sound on this list, but when you're paying roughly $349 / £299 / AU$695 for a soundbar with this good a sound quality, it's hard to argue against.
Read our full Sony HT-S2000 review
The best soundbar for Dolby Atmos
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You want the ultimate home theater experience: With 16 speaker channels, the Samsung HW-Q990C is the most immersive soundbar on the market.
✅ You want to envelop yourself in immersive sound: The HW-Q990C comprises four components, giving you an extremely wide soundstage.
❌ You're on a budget: The Samsung HW-Q990C offers a lot of features but you'll have to pay a higher price for it than other Dolby Atmos soundbars like #4 in this list.
❌ You want the perfect bass response: The Q990C can have issues with bass reproduction when playing music, sometimes coming in too heavy.
What you need to know: The Samsung Q990C really is the best complete soundbar package around. With 11.1.4 channels split across the main bar, subwoofer and two compact rear speakers, the Q990C excels with Dolby Atmos playback and provides a powerful and immersive experience, be it movies or music.
Audio performance: Even when the Samsung Q990C is being pushed to its limits, it maintains an excellent quality sound without distorting. During our testing, we found that most trebles managed to stay clear and crisp even at higher volume levels. As for bass, the dedicated sub delivers a controlled sound that is deep and exciting (however, this struggles when playing music).
Design: The Q990C comes with four components that are a bit chunkier than previous iterations, so it does take up a sizeable portion of your living room. However, with access to Samsung's Q-Symphony technology, it's able to use the speakers in Samsung TVs to create an even bigger, bolder sound – which it succeeds in doing.
Value: However, with this amazing package comes a higher price tag. Prices continue to drop slowly since its release, but it still sits at the premium end of the market, hence why it doesn't top our list – instead look at the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 at #4 in this list for a cheaper Atmos alternative. But, if you are after the complete Dolby Atmos experience from your soundbar and you have a bigger budget, the Samsung Q990C is the absolute best choice.
Read our full Samsung HW-Q990C review
The best compact Atmos soundbar
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
✅ You want real Dolby Atmos: Unlike the Sony HT-S2000 at #2 in this list, the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 has two upfiring speakers to deliver true spatial audio.
✅ You're at the start of your home cinema journey: The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 has a load of wireless streaming options on board for multi-room listening.
❌ You want an all-in-one solution with bass: Without a sub, the Smart Soundbar 600 can lack oomph. Instead, look at #1 in this list for a complete setup.
❌ You have a complicated entertainment setup: The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 might have an HMDI eARC port but there's no second input for a console or disc player.
What you need to know: The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a budget soundbar that can really deliver. It pumps out big Dolby Atmos sound, but all from a relatively small package. In fact there’s a lots to love here, despite its size. Onboard streaming features, including AirPlay 2 and Chromecast, are plentiful, app-based setup is a breeze and the sound quality is surprisingly powerful.
Audio performance: In our review, we noted that dialogue clarity is excellent, and while it doesn’t hit the low bass notes that other soundbar systems with an included subwoofer manage, it offers up consistently exciting sound when watching movies and TV. Thanks to two upfiring speakers, you're also getting true immersive audio unlike some other budget bars.
Design: At 27 inches wide by 2 inches high and 4 inches deep, it’s a fairly sleek and compact design for an all-in-one unit and a perfect choice for smaller homes or screens. While it only has a single HDMI port, it makes up for this by packaging everything into an attractive all-in-one form.
Value: This soundbar impressed us in several ways during our testing, but its price is what really stood out to us as being excellent value. As one of the few soundbars that sell for under $500 / £500 / AU$700, it offers a lot more features than the likes of the Sony HT-S2000 at #3 in this list and Sonos Beam (Gen 2) at #7 in this list.
Read our full Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review