Finding the right soundbar for you is a big decision. Maybe you want to build the home theater system of your dreams. Or perhaps you’re just looking for a more reliable and great-sounding audio source to accompany your TV.
Soundbars are a must-have device to accompany most of today’s modern TVs. As the newest and best TVs get slimmer and slimmer they might look fantastic but this means there’s less room for built-in speakers. Which means you need another way to do the advanced screen tech justice.
Take a look through the specs of any of the top TVs at the moment and you’ll see the audio doesn’t tend to be up to scratch. In our opinion, even the best Samsung TV could use an external soundbar to upgrade its audio performance.
That’s why we’ve created this guide to the top soundbars you can buy right now. We’ve selected the best of the best soundbars on the market for you. That’s because we don’t want you to spend a fortune on a new TV display only for the audio to fall short as soon as you’ve got it all set-up.
In the list below you’ll find our pick of the best soundbars available for you to buy in 2020, from those that boast Dolby Atmos through to ultra-affordable plug-in-and-go models.
[Update: Bose has just launched a cheap soundbar that's perfect for smaller spaces. The Bose TV Speaker promises to boost your TV's tinny built-in speakers without taking up precious space in your home, thanks to its compact 594mm length and 56mm height – and at $250 / £200 / AU$400, it won't break the bank.
There's also a cool new soundbar from Philips that's caught our attention. The Philips Fidelio B95 is one of the first models to ever come with IMAX Enhanced certification, and it comes with two wireless satellite speakers that are attached via magnets to either end of the main body.
If you want to create a true surround sound experience, you can simply remove them from the bar and place them behind you on your left and right – and with a 240W wireless subwoofer included, you’re all set for an immersive cinematic experience. ]
What about Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday?
Black Friday and Cyber Monday is always a good time to purchase new home cinema equipment, and soundbars are no exception. Last year we saw lots of great soundbar deals, and we're hoping for even more come November 27 when the sales extravaganza (officially) kicks off. It's also worth bearing in mind that Amazon Prime Day 2020 is expected to kick off in October, too – it's not confirmed, but it's well worth keeping an eye out for deals over the next few months, though you'll have more retailers and therefore soundbar models to choose from over Black Friday.
Our top picks
The best soundbars 2020
Sonos has a new surround sound solution and it’s contained entirely in a single soundbar it calls Arc.
While we’re not sure if the device gets its name from the HDMI interface it uses, the curved sound it pitches or the fact that it is perhaps, metaphorically, a vessel delivering impressive surround sound to the modern minimalist home, whichever the case this system is hell-bent on short circuiting the surround sound game.
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.
While all this might sound complicated, the Sonos Arc setup couldn’t be simpler, involving just a couple of steps on the smartphone app. The minimalist cable connections and all-in-one system construction add to this no-fuss feeling and streamlined aesthetic – making it the best soundbar you can buy in 2020.
Read more: Sonos Arc review
The Samsung HW-Q90R was the brand's all-singing, all-dancing flagship soundbar for 2019 – and in 2020, it has only been pipped by the Sonos Arc for the best soundbar you can buy because it's a little pricier.
It not only supports object-based audio in the shape of both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, it’s also the only soundbar from 2019 to achieve this with actual rear speakers and four upward-firing drivers.
Few soundbars come so close to producing the full Dolby Atmos and DTS:X experience, and thanks to tuning from Harman Kardon the HW-Q90 even sounds good with music. A decent set of features and fully-specified HDMI connections complete a nearly flawless package... as long as you can afford it, this is the best soundbar you can buy.
Read more: Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar review
[Update: Samsung has kicked off a summer promotion for a selection of new Samsung TVs, offering a free soundbar alongside a purchase of one of its designer TV models – but you'll need to be in the UK, and it will last until August 11.
Anyone buying "43-inch or larger" model of Samsung's The Frame or Samsung Serif will qualify for the promotion, with a free S-Series soundbar (S60/S61T) being thrown in for free. Given the soundbar is currently retailing for £399, it's definitely a smart saving, if a designer television is what you're after.]
Given that rival Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbars typically sell for twice the price, Sony’s HT-X8500 warrants an easy recommendation – and it's the best soundbar with Dolby Atmos that won't break the bank. Cost-cutting can be attributed to connectivity and features but what’s genuinely confounding is just how great the HT-X8500 sounds.
The key to the HT-X8500’s gutsy performance is Sony’s proprietary Vertical Sound Engine - working with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, it creates a convincing illusion of wraparound sound that allow Dolby Atmos movies to play with a clear sense of expanded height and width.
The build quality and design of the soundbar is exceptional, and its general audio performance impresses with its clarity and spatial presentation.
Overall, if you want a home theatre sound system that won’t dent your budget, this is the best soundbar for you.
Read more: Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar review
[Update: Sony has released the follow up to the HT-X8500; the Sony HT-G700 comes with virtual Dolby Atmos and a dedicated center speaker to enhance dialogue.]
The Q Acoustics M4 soundbar doesn’t immediately set pulses racing with its slightly prosaic looks, ‘mere’ 2.1-channel sound and lack of any HDMI support. However, you only have to hear what the M4 can do with both music and movies for your doubts about it to evaporate almost instantly.
In fact, though, it sounds so much better than pretty much any rival soundbar in the same price bracket, that it’s actually ridiculously good value – especially if you care about music as much as you care about movies, it's one of the best soundbars you can buy.
Read more: Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar review
Samsung's California-based audio lab has been on a roll. In the last few years, the lab has helped the company put together the award-winning Samsung HW-M650, last year's powerful, Dolby Amtos-ready Samsung HW-N850, and now, the Samsung HW-Q70R, a soundbar designed to keep up with the Korean giant's 2019 QLED TVs.
If you've followed Samsung's naming structure in the past, the Samsung HW-Q70R represents a revised version of last year’s HW-N650 and although the new model costs more at $800 / £800 / AU$1,099, the good news is that the Q70R adds support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and still uses Acoustic Beaming technology that widens the soundstage.
The resulting soundstage is big and open, lending itself to larger screen sizes. The overall effect is somewhat front heavy, but that’s to be expected given the lack of rear speakers. However once you take into consideration the looks, build quality, and features, this is a solid midrange soundbar.
Read more: Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar review
Sennheiser is best known for its range of headphones and professional microphones, but it recently extended its ambitions to home audio as well, with the introduction of its new Ambeo Soundbar.
The bulky soundbar is packed with the latest audio technologies, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for surround sound audio, as well as Sennheiser’s own Ambeo ‘virtual 3D’ sound system. Sennheiser clearly has its sights set on the home cinema market with the Ambeo, although the bar's Wi-Fi connectivity means that it can double up as a pretty impressive music system as well.
It’s not perfect – Sennheiser’s reliance on Google Home to provide Wi-Fi streaming seems like an odd choice – but the sheer sound quality of the Ambeo Soundbar ensures that it justifies its wallet-breaking price tag.
Read more: Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar review
The Sonos Beam is a fantastic soundbar for its price, one that takes full advantage of the Sonos ecosystem and is a joy to use (and set up, if your television has HDMI ARC). Its smaller form factor means it’s a device that will sit comfortably next to a 32-inch TV but it’s got enough of a footprint to not be dwarfed by a much bigger set.
The Sonos Beam doesn’t offer earth-shattering bass and the lack of Dolby Atmos support will irk some, but at this price point it'd be more of a surprise if it had been included. The voice control may be Alexa-only for now, but it works well and if you have adopted some of Amazon’s TV toys, it really is worth experimenting with.
Read more: Sonos Beam review
With its nine drivers are arranged in trios for left, center and right channels and a virtual surround mode to create the illusion of having more speakers around the room, the HEOS Bar is pretty much whatever you want it to be.
Blessed with such a balanced soundscape, this soundbar proved immediately adept with music, and has a consistently warm yet refined sound quality that's all its own. The fact that it lacks the opportunity to tweak the audio settings is not as important as we had feared.
Music sounds superb, especially lossless tunes, from which HEOS Bar drags out a lot of detail. However, we did notice on a couple of occasions that the first half-a-second was cut-off songs.
Read more: Denon HEOS Bar review
The LG SK8 sits elegantly and compactly beneath your TV, and delivers a clean, detailed and open sound.
Although you have to treat the LG SK8’s Dolby Atmos claims with something of a pinch of salt due to its lack of ‘real’ sound channels and a slightly reticent subwoofer, it still has plenty to offer for its money.
It supports lots of sources, it looks attractive, it sounds more powerful than it looks, and it’s just as adept with music as it is with movies. An on-soundbar display and Google Assistant compatibility make it easy to use, too.
Read more: LG SK8 Soundbar review
The key feature of the SB362An-F6 – also referred to more helpfully as the “36-inch 2.1 Sound Bar” on most retailer's websites – is really its sheer value for money, costing just £149 in the UK and an even more competitive $139 in the US, where it was launched at the end of last year.
Despite the bargain-basement price, the SB362An-F6 is neatly designed, measuring 36 inches wide, and a streamlined 2 inches high, and 5.2 inches deep (914xx52x133mm). This soundbar will sit comfortably underneath the screen of most TVs, and Vizio also includes a pair of wall-mount brackets as well.
The SB362An-F6 isn’t perfect, but its dramatic and imposing sound provides a real audio upgrade for your television’s built-in speakers. The Virtual:X technology works well too, helping to create a more immersive atmosphere while you’re watching. And while it might be missing a few bells and whistles, there’s no doubt that the SB362An-F6 provides excellent value for money.
Read more: Vizio SB362An-F6 review
If $300 is your budget cap for a smart soundbar, then we highly recommend the Polk Audio Command Bar for any small or medium-sized living room.
As you might be able to tell based on the soundbar’s design, the Command Bar comes with Alexa built right into it making it unquestionably smart. It’s also relatively inexpensive too, coming in at $250 (£249, AU$649), and it comes with a subwoofer.
It has defined and powerful low end, some cool smart features, and looks pretty good, too.
Read more: Polk Audio Command Bar review
Why should I buy a soundbar?
There's no point in having a great soundbar if your TV's display is terrible; that's why we have the following roundups for you to browse:
- Best TVs
On a budget? Check out the best cheap TV sales and 4K deals this month.
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 2020 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.
- After some real surround sound? Check out the best Dolby Atmos speakers
- TV stands: finding the best TV stand to suit your living room cinema needs
Best soundbars at a glance
- Sonos Arc
- Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar
- Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar
- Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar
- Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar
- Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar
- Sonos Beam
- Denon HEOS Bar
- Vizio SB362An-F6 Sound Bar
- Polk Audio Command Bar
- We've come up with a list of the best movies on Netflix to put your soundbar to the test