In July 2022, we still rate the Sonos Arc as the best soundbar for most people with 55-inch TVs and up, thanks to its ability to provide great Dolby Atmos sound that's big and rich even without a soundbar. We also still think the Sony HT-G700 is the best option for those want the Dolby Atmos effect for a low price, and for TVs of 48 inches and up.
We have a new entry for those who want the most spectacular 3D sound possible from a soundbar, though: the Samsung HW-Q990B. This is for those who want that real movie theater experience, but it comes from just four boxes. It's the elite soundbar of choice for us now – but it's priced like it, too.
Matt Bolton, Senior Editor – TV and Audio
The best soundbars are excellent for people who have invested in big-screen TVs realised that TV speakers just don't deliver the same level of immersion, audio-wise, as the visuals. These speakers have been growing massively in popularity in the last few years, especially because they don't take up as much space as a three- to seven-piece speaker system. In addition, during the cost-of-living crunch, a soundbar can be much cheaper than a whole new set!
Even the best TVs on the planet could do with an external soundbar to provide you with better audio performance. But, at the more affordable end of the market where audio tends to be a bit of an afterthought, you'll absolutely need it. So, if you've got one of the best TVs under $500 or best TVs under £500, you'll definitely benefit from the extra oomph a soundbar can offer.
Since there's a huge range of options, with lots of spec differences at all kinds of prices, finding the best soundbar can be a complicated process. We're here to help whittle it down to just the most worthwhile options, no matter if you want to create the ultimate home theater system of your dreams or simply want the best soundbar under $200/£200 to improve the sound of your TV and make speech clearer.
If you're not sure how to set up your soundbar, check out how to set up TV speakers and soundbars: we asked the pros how to get the best results. It's also worth noting that soundbars aren't the only option. Take a look at our pick of the best surround sound systems for a truly cinematic audio experience, or check out the best Dolby Atmos speakers and soundbars instead.
Best soundbars 2022: the list
Sonos has managed to cram an entire surround sound solution into its Arc soundbar. It isn't cheap, but if you're already a fan of Sonos then we think you're going to love the way this soundbar delivers really impressive surround sound.
The Sonos Arc draws on Dolby’s latest TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus sound codecs to deliver the best quality lossless audio found on cutting edge Blu-ray disks and some of the leading streaming services. It then enhances the 3D soundscape using Dolby Atmos object tracks to bounce certain sounds off the walls around you so they feel like they’re coming at you from all angles. We thought the effect was pretty convincing in our tests, and while it's not as immersive as overhead speakers mounted on your ceiling it's a lot easier to install.
We also liked the simple setup, which involved just a couple of steps on the smartphone app, and as you'd expect it's easy to hook it up to other Sonos speakers. The minimalist cable connections and all-in-one system construction add to this no-fuss feeling and streamlined aesthetic – making it the best Dolby Atmos soundbar you can buy in 2022.
Read more: Sonos Arc review
We think the Sony HT-G700 hits an excellent sweet spot for features, price and the scale of its sound. It's a soundbar and wireless subwoofer combo, and the soundbar is a good size for TVs of 48 inches and up.
As we've come to expect from Sony there's more to this soundbar than just stereo, as good as that is. It supports both the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X elite surround sound formats (which is not something guaranteed in even more high-end soundbars), and Sony uses its excellent sound processing and acoustic wizardry to create a real wall of sound that stretches way beyond the limits of your TV screen, but with convincing positioning and direction of specific sounds. It might not be quite as good as the Sonos, but it's definitely up there.
Sony hasn't forgotten about the basics, though. The subwoofer gives it depth in bass that something like the Sonos Arc can't match on its own, and speech is really clear even in busy action soundtracks – and that's without the speech-boosting mode turned on.
Downsides? There aren't any dedicated upfiring channels, so we found the Atmos performance a little lacking compared to our Sony AV amp with its dedicated Atmos speakers. And if we're being really picky we'd say that it's also slightly less dynamic for sudden explosions and swelling soundtracks than the likes of the Sonos Arc or Samsung HW-Q800A – but it's a lot cheaper than either. So for the price, it's the most cinematic experience you can get.
Read more: Sony HT-G700 review
Samsung’s HW-Q950A soundbar hits the ground running by delivering no less than 16 separate channels of sound. It sounds particularly amazing when it comes to watching your favorite movies, delivering a remarkably well-rounded Dolby Atmos soundstage. As we said in our Samsung HW-Q950A review, it's all kinds of awesome.
The 2020 model was already pretty impressive with 14 channels, but the HW-950A is even better. This is the most immersive Dolby Atmos performance we've ever heard from a soundbar. When we tested it with fast-paced action scenes it didn't miss a beat, even when it was thumping out the hardest impact sounds. Polite? No. Enormous fun? Oh yes.
Our only real disappointment here is its slightly less impressive music playback. At this price we expected it to have the wow factor, but it's just quite good. It's definitely been made with movies and gaming in mind rather than music. That's not to say its musical performance is bad. But we've heard better, so if you're swithering between this and a decent separates system instead, if music is your priority then separates may be the better option. But if you're more into movies, you can't really beat the power, performance and convenience of Samsung's soundbar.
Read more: Samsung HW-Q950A review
Sonos impresses at the cheaper end as well as the higher end, with the Ray – its smallest and least-expensive soundbar. The sound is an immediate and clear upgrade for the older or cheaper TVs that it's aimed at – we tested it with a mid-range Sony set from a few years ago, and the dialog was clearer, movie scores had more life and drama, and it even delivers a good amount of bass for impactful explosions in action movies. Compared to built-in speakers of the 32- to 50-inch TVs it's aimed at, there's no competition; it's a huge improvement.
Of course, it's not as strong as the larger soundbars here. It doesn't offer the expansive width and height to audio that the Sony HT-G700 above does, nor is it as good with positioning sounds precisely in space. And it's simply less dynamic overall.
But that's okay, because it's not made for people who are reaching for the most cinematic experience they can get. It's made for people who just want bigger and fuller movie sound, with more understandable speech. And it's a full Sonos wireless speaker, so it's much better with music than most soundbars, including the Sony HT-G700.
One thing to know is that it only uses optical digital for its connection – no HDMI ARC. This means it may need to learn your remote control's signals before it works, but Sonos has made that part of the setup process, so it's pretty much foolproof.
Read the full review: Sonos Ray
The Samsung HW-Q990B is the high-end Dolby Atmos soundbar system from Samsung's 2022 range, and it's essentially the upgraded version of the Samsung HW-Q950A above. Like the HW-Q950A, it delivers 11.1.4 channels of audio that it directs around and above, delivered from a combination of soundbar, subwoofer and two wireless rear speaker units.
But it's made some refinements from the previous model. A new 'acoustic lens' on the subwoofer diffuses the sound better around the room, the rear speakers have been redesigned to better help the precision of the upfiring drivers, there's now 'Space Fit' automatic room compensation to help maintain detail in the sound as it reflects around, and the sound has generally been tweaked and re-engineered.
And the result is that, in the words of our review, "the Q990B creates the most fully rounded and immersive surround sound experience we’ve ever heard from even the best Dolby Atmos soundbars." They way it steers parts of movie round around and right above you is unparalleled. It's so really big and fulsome in its sound, without being overly heavy – it's a heavy sledgehammer and a deft fountain pen, depending on the need.
Read the full review: Samsung HW-Q990B
Don't have space for rear speakers and don't want to spend too much money? The Samsung Q800A is a superb package for getting Dolby Atmos sound that you can really feel without putting a big dent in your wallet. It's not too big either – we'd recommend it for TVs of 48 inches and up.
One of the reasons we like this soundbar so much is because it has actual upfiring drivers. That means it can deliver more convincing Atmos height than soundbars without upfiring speakers, and we found that the horizontal sound stage was nice and wide too. Add in some impressively meaty bass and you've got the ideal home entertainment experience without having to fill your room with hardware.
There are some useful tricks for new Samsung TV owners too: you can combine it with the sound optimization features of the new Q70A or higher Samsung TVs, enabling you to get an even bigger and clearer sound.
Don't worry if you don't have those TVs, though: we think the Q800A is more than good enough to stand on its own. It provides you with room filling sound that's wonderfully immersive. It's precise, powerful, and dynamic enough to ensure that you feel the full weight of every one of its available 3.1.2 channels. And as an added bonus, you can add wireless rear speakers later if you're ready to upgrade.
Read more: Samsung HW-Q800A review
If you're tight on space, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is the best soundbar you can buy. Its compact size means it will easily slot beneath your TV, whether you pop it on a TV stand or mount it to your wall, and a sleek design means it won't look out of place with your decor. It's compact enough to work with 32-inch TVs (just about), but it's a perfect fit with 40-inch TVs up to 50-inch TVs.
It improves on the company’s original Sonos Beam soundbar with virtual Dolby Atmos, HDMI eARC compatibility, and a refreshed design.
While it doesn't have the upfiring tweeters necessary for 'true' Dolby Atmos (and as a result, we found the sonic height isn't as impressive as the Sonos Arc), the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) boasts a wide soundstage and an immersive audio performance. It's very detailed, impressively dynamic for switching between loud and quiet suddenly, and is just as good with music as it is with movies.
In fact, you can stream music to it over Wi-Fi (AirPlay 2 or Sonos' own wireless system), and it works as a smart speaker – it has Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant built in (you can choose which).
Read more: Sonos Beam (Gen 2) review
If you're looking for a convincing alternative to the Sonos Arc at a similar price, we'd recommend the Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3. It's a great choice.
This sleek-looking soundbar offers 3.1.2-channels of cinematic sound, Dolby Atmos support, and lots of control options including a touch-sensitive panel on the bar itself.
In our tests, the Panorama 3 was engrossing, punchy and dynamic without sacrificing the natural and coherent sound Bowers is known for. The soundstage is wide and spacious, although we felt the Dolby Atmos feature could be more convincing; we didn't get the same sense of height that you'd get from Sennheiser's Ambeo soundbar or a pair of overhead speakers.
Still, the Atmos performance does make the sound more three-dimensional and the soundbar sounds just as good for music as it does for movies. With Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth (with aptX Adaptive), you've got plenty of connectivity options, too. Unfortunately there's no HDMI passthrough, but that's a small bugbear for a soundbar that's otherwise so feature-rich.
You'll be able to hook the Panorama 3 up to a multiroom system with Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin, Formation, or other Panorama speakers - but this feature is coming via a software update, so we weren't able to test that particular feature for ourselves.
Read more: Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3 review
The Devialet Dione might be ultimate single-unit soundbar. No subwoofer, no rear speakers, just plug it in and go. The reason is that it Devialet has packed eight(!) woofer drivers in here to create bass as full and deep as a subwoofer can manage, and it really works. It means the soundbar is a bit of a best, but it's only as wide and tall as something like the Sonos Arc (actually, it's shorter than the Arc), so as long as the depth isn't a problem, it'll still fit in your room.
It's got a clever spherical center speaker enclosure too, which enables this driver to rotate, so that it always faces you no matter whether you have it flat on the TV table, or wall mounted in an upright position.
After testing it, we said that it produces "a massive but also beautifully constructed and balanced soundstage underpinned by arguably the finest bass performance we’ve heard from a soundbar that doesn’t deploy an external subwoofer." Its ability to positional treble sound at exact points in space, while underpinning it all with directionless (as it should be) low-end is just astounding.
It's a shame that you can't add any rear speakers for genuine surround sound, since it can't really recreate that, and it's frustrating for something so expensive to not offer HDMI passthrough. But when it comes to sound alone, this is as premium as it gets.
Read the full review: Devialet Dione
With models such as the HT-A7000, HT-G700 and HT-X8500 Sony is in the habit of making really impressive soundbars that punch way above their price tag. And this, the Sony HT-S400 is no exception: for just $299 / £269 / AU$499 you're getting a whopping 330W of high quality audio that sounds like it's coming from a much more expensive system.
This is a 2.1ch setup with a wireless subwoofer and Sony's S-Force PRO front surround, which does a reasonable job of making the 2.1 channels sound like more. There's Bluetooth A2DP, HDMI ARC and optical cable support but no 3.5mm input and the USB is purely for firmware updates. But while the feature set is fairly slim, the sound isn't. Whether you're gaming, streaming movies or listening to your favourite music the sound quality is crisp, clear and loud enough to make you really unpopular with the neighbours.
Read more: Sony HT-S400 soundbar review
If you asked us to sum up the difference between ordinary and premium audio kit, we'd say: detail. And that's something the LG SP11RA really delivers. Its ability to bring out every last detail in a complex movie mix is exceptional, enabling it to build an immersive, busy soundstage that makes most soundbars - and all built-in TV systems - sound puny and one-dimensional by comparison.
We think that the SP11RA hits the right notes with its features, too. The Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound formats are both supported - support which extends to four up-firing speakers, two in the main soundbar and one in each of the rears.
It's particularly striking how accurately the SP11RA places each element in its impressively large sound stage. If a sound is supposed to be coming from high and to the left, that’s where it appears. If it’s supposed to be coming from somewhere behind and above your right shoulder, that’s where it appears. Details are also always beautifully clear and defined, even when the on-screen action is at its most intense.
It's expensive but its exceptionally detailed sound and expansive soundstage adapts brilliantly for music as well as films. We think it looks great too, suiting a modern looking living room.
Read more: LG SP11RA review
There are many big, expensive Dolby Atmos soundbars to choose from, and plenty inexpensive, smaller soundbars for upgrading your TV. The Denon Home Sound Bar 550 sits somewhere in the middle, bringing you Dolby Atmos-style audio thrills in a smaller form factor.
It’s a compact, well-specified soundbar whose looks are quite understated but its sound is anything but. Offering plenty of connectivity options, great (including hi-res audio ability and some processing wizardry to deliver a sense of spatial audio) and a genuine facility as a music speaker.
We found the sound the Denon serves up is tall and quite wide, which makes for an engrossing and entertaining listen. However, we also found that this isn't a soundbar that wants to go too loud: turn it up too much and things quickly get out of hand, with the Home 550 baring its teeth and becoming overly aggressive.
Read more: Denon Home Sound Bar 550 review
The Sony HT-A7000 may have a massive sticker price, but it promises a long shelf life thanks to its two HDMI 2.1 ports and support for all the major spatial audio formats.
At this price we wish it came with the surround and subwoofer units, but those with incredibly deep pockets can tack those on for a few hundred more.
What helps make the price tag feel a little more justified is the fact that the HT-A7000 comes with upfiring drivers for true Dolby Atmos, although we felt the height channels could be a little more convincing.
In terms of musicality, though, the HT-A7000 is a very talented soundbar, with excellent stereo imaging and a really room-filling sound - especially if you take advantage of its support for Sony's 360 Reality Audio.
Connectivity is very good, too. The soundbar supports HDMI, of course, but it also has 3.5mm auxiliary, Bluetooth audio, USB devices, Spotify, Chromecast, Amazon Alexa and 360 Reality Audio via Deezer, Tidal and Amazon Music. That's a very wide selection of sources, giving you lots of flexibility in terms of what you want to connect.
Read more: Sony HT-A7000 Dolby Atmos soundbar review
How to buy the best soundbar for you
If you love the slim aesthetic of your new 4K TV, we can bet it doesn’t have the audio needed to match the visuals. That means picking the best soundbar to go with your TV is your best option to get the most out of your favorite TV shows and films.
The best soundbars of 2022 are built to be just as pleasing to the eye as they are to the ear. Most of them are sleek, minimal and designed to sit flush against a wall or home cinema set-up. They're also a good solution for smaller homes and rooms with little space that wouldn't be able to squeeze a 7.1 channel speaker system in.
The majority of the soundbars on this list are made to sit in front of your screen, but they can also be wall-mounted above or to the side of it as well, depending on how your room is laid out. This provides you with ultimate choice as to how your home entertainment set-up looks.
Despite most of the soundbars on this list only featuring front-facing speakers, many are able to confidently project sound in a way that makes it seem as though there's booming audio coming from every direction.
If you're looking for an alternative solution to a soundbar, check out the Sony HT-A9 Home Theater System. It comprises four speakers that communicate with each other wirelessly via a tiny box that's slightly larger than an Apple TV, working together to create a further 12 "phantom" Dolby Atmos speakers.
If you have an iPhone or an iPad, you should also take a look at our guide to the best AirPlay speakers. These allow you to stream music directly from your devices to your speaker. That means room-filling sound from your phone without the need for a more complex entertainment set-up. Some are small and portable, but plenty of soundbars come with AirPlay integration baked in too.
Are soundbars worth it?
Absolutely. Even if you don't consider yourself a hardcore cinephile, the best soundbars make a world of difference to your TV watching experience – built-in TV speakers just don't do your favorite films, TV shows, and games justice.
How much should I spend on a soundbar?
It really depends on what you're looking for. If you want the very best soundbar technology has to offer, you might be looking at prices of $800 / £800 / AU$1,000 and upwards. However, there are lots of fantastic budget soundbars on the market, with some costing less than $100 / £100 / AU$150. Just bear in mind that you generally get what you pay for, and these budget models probably won't come with premium features like Dolby Atmos, included rear speakers, and hi-res audio support.
Where should I put a soundbar?
You generally have two options when it comes to soundbar placement: wall-mounting it, or placing in below your TV on your TV cabinet. If your soundbar is quite tall, wall-mounting may be the best option, as it could obscure the IR receiver on your TV, rendering your remote control useless.