July 15, 2024

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The Best Soundbars of 2023

7 min read

A good soundbar goes a long way to enhancing your home theater sound system. While audiophiles may prefer a more traditional speaker setup, soundbars are easier to install and control and can fit nicely under your TV.

Sonos

The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a blockbuster sequel with features you wouldn’t usually find in a soundbar at this price. It’s the ideal choice for anyone who desires 3D audio without shelling out a small fortune.

Its main selling point is its compatibility with Dolby Atmos. Despite lacking upward-firing speakers, it compensates with two of the five front-facing drivers dedicated to reproducing sounds from height when watching Dolby Atmos content. It also features four mid-woofers and a center tweeter for clear dialogue. Overall, there is excellent motion and depth in its vast soundstage.


A Sonos Beam Gen 2 soundbar

Sonos Beam (Gen 2)

Best Overall

$399 $499 Save
$100

With Dolby Atmos for 3D surround sound, plus voice control via Alexa and Google Assistant, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is one of the best mid-range smart soundbars you can get. And with support for Apple AirPlay 2 as well, it’s also a great way to get the most out of your favorite music.

Pros

  • Streamlined and compact design
  • HDMI eARC port
  • Alexa and Google Assistant voice control
  • Wireless multiroom integration
  • Apple AirPlay 2 compatible and integrated Spotify Connect


A Roku Streambar under a TV
Roku

This big bundle of value is extremely compact and offers quality audio as well as a built-in 4K streaming platform. If you’re after an affordable audio setup that you can easily expand, it’s an ideal choice.

The Roku Streambar is a 2.0 system with two forward-facing and two angled 1.9-inch drivers for an impressively wide soundstage. Understandably, low frequencies don’t resonate as much as they might on a higher-end soundbar. However, dialogues are clear, and the highs are surprisingly detailed.

You can improve the bass by opting for the Streambar with Wireless Bass option. Various other bundles are available, including those to enjoy complete surround sound, but they move into price ranges where you might be better off investing in a higher-quality soundbar.


roku streambar with the remote

Roku Streambar

Best Budget

Offering stunning 4K streaming across more than 300 TV channels, the Roku Streambar is perfect for TV lovers. Plus, with Dolby Audio, you can enjoy superb sound quality for your favorite TV and music. And a customizable home screen lets you put all your favorite streaming apps in one place.

Pros

  • Streams content in 4K and HDR
  • Apple Airplay 2 and HomeKit compatible
  • Over 300 streaming channels are available
  • Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri
  • Very compact and space-saving
  • HDMI 2.0 port with ARC support
Cons

  • No power saving mode when idle
  • No Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos
  • The bass is a little flat


A Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Max mounted on the wall under a TV with a family enjoying the entertainment.
Sennheiser

It may be huge, heavy, and expensive, and it may require a bit of trial and error in the setup, but the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Max is very much worth it and will please even the fussiest of audiophiles. It houses a grand total of 13 front, side, and upward-facing drivers, delivering 5.1.4 channels of Dolby Atmos sonic joy.

The huge drivers cover a significantly wider frequency range than most soundbars, from the deepest bass to highs, with precise clarity. In fact, low frequencies can hit 30Hz, meaning you likely won’t need to purchase an additional subwoofer.


sennheiser ambeo max

Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Max

Best for Audiophiles

$1700 $2000 Save
$300

The behemoth that is the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Max is the ideal pick for audiophiles. It delivers some of the best audio a soundbar can offer with its massive drivers and wide frequency range. Its resonating bass allows you to enjoy a home theater audio experience to the max.
 

Pros

  • Rich, detailed, and natural sound
  • Outstanding 3D audio processing
  • HDMI 2.1 with eARC support
  • Supports Chromecast, Apple Airplay 2, Spotify Connect, and Tidal Connect
  • In-app manual EQ and presets
Cons

  • Difficult to position with a TV that isn’t wall-mounted
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Ports are on the bottom


A Polk MagniFi Mini next to a smartphone
Polk

If you want a soundbar that will help you save space, consider the Polk MagniFi Mini AX. However, don’t be fooled by its compact size; this soundbar still packs a fair punch. With a five-speaker array along with a Dolby Atmos and DTS: X-certified soundstage, the immersive audio has impressive clarity.

With the included wireless subwoofer, low frequencies are also excellent. Additionally, you can adjust the bass to find the right level for the content you are watching or listening to. This feature is particularly handy when you are being considerate about others sleeping in the household.


A Polk MagniFi Mini with subwoofer and remote control

Polk MagniFi Mini AX

Most Compact

$349 $499 Save
$150

Enjoy big sound from a compact smart speaker with the Polk MagniFi Mini AX. This smart speaker includes a powerful subwoofer and is Dolby Atmos and DTS:X certified. With an easy one-cable setup, this space-saving smart speaker can be up and running in no time and will help you get the most out of your entertainment.

Pros

  • Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast, and Spotify Connect support
  • Includes subwoofer
  • Dedicated sound modes for music and movies
  • Alexa-enabled
  • VoiceAdjust for clear speech
Cons

  • Remote could be more responsive

Best Soundbar for Dolby Atmos: Sonos Arc


A Sonos Arc sounbar mounted on the wall under a TV in a living room
Sonos

If you’re looking for a premium, feature-rich soundbar topped off with incredible Dolby Atmos, look no further than the Sonos Arc. With 11 drivers projecting a 360-degree soundscape, including two upward-firing speakers, the Arc delivers both power and clarity. The bass generated by this soundbar is so good that you might not even need an additional subwoofer.

The Sonos Arc is designed for Dolby Atmos, and it delivers audio separation of the highest quality. You also get Enhanced Trueplay tuning that automatically adjusts the sound to your room’s acoustics for the ultimate surround sound. However, this feature is only available on iOS devices.


sonos arc-2

Sonos ARC

Best for Dolby Atmos

$719 $899 Save
$180

Sonos Arc brings your entertainment to life with incredible Dolby Atmos 3D sound. Its integrated TruePlay technology optimizes all acoustics in the room to bring you an unrivaled audio experience.

Pros

  • Built-in Alexa with Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Assistant compatibility
  • Auto-optimization with TruePlay technology
  • Dolby Atmos Music streaming
  • Speech Enhancement mode
  • Outstanding audio for music and movies
Cons

  • Enhanced TruePlay is not supported on Android
  • No DTS/DTS:X support

FAQ

Q: Are soundbars better than speakers?

This debate throws up all the usual pros and cons. Ultimately, it is down to personal preference whether a soundbar or a speaker system is the right choice for you.

Soundbars look great and fit right under your TV. There’s also no need for cable clutter, as a soundbar usually needs just one to connect. They are also generally more affordable but can’t offer the same sound quality the right speaker system can.

For a more detailed insight into the soundbar VS speakers debate, check out our guide to what is best for your home.

Q: Can a soundbar replace a home theater system?

It’s possible to replace a home theater audio system with a soundbar. However, while soundbars have come a long way in quality, they struggle to replicate the wide soundstage that speaker systems can deliver.

If done correctly, a speaker system delivers sound with much better clarity. Dialogues are usually more precise, and subtle nuances are more audible. Bass tends to resonate more in a good home theater audio setup than it does in a soundbar with a built-in subwoofer. You can also optimize the position of your speakers or fine-tune each one individually.

However, many soundbars still offer excellent audio, and on top of their convenience, affordable cost, and easy setup, they are a perfect choice for the average movie and music fan. Audiophiles, on the other hand, will likely only be tempted by ultra-serious contenders like the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Max.

Q: Do I need a subwoofer for my soundbar?

Some soundbars come with a built-in subwoofer, but most do not. Without one, low frequencies can sound flat or empty. A subwoofer will deliver more punch, and it can also lessen the load on the soundbar, enabling mids and highs to have more clarity and detail.

Q: What are the different types of audio channels?

The audio channels on a soundbar are represented by numbers, like 2.0, 5.1, or 7.1.2. The first number represents the main speakers. So, in a 2.0 system, there are two main speakers, one right and one left. If the first number is five, this represents five speakers: one right, one left, one center, and two surrounds. The central speaker takes care of the dialogue, and the surrounds help to develop a 360-degree, lifelike sound.

The second number represents the subwoofer. Usually, there is zero or one. So, a 5.1 system represents five main speakers and one subwoofer. The subwoofer is there to enhance the bass and is a great option when watching action movies or listening to music.

The final number represents the upward-firing or height speakers usually found in high-end soundbars. These speakers are designed explicitly for Dolby Atmos or DTS:X formats. They help to create a sense of height by reflecting the sound of the ceiling.

Q: Does it matter which HDMI port I use on my TV to plug my soundbar in?

Yes, it does matter. While you can use any old HDMI port on your TV, if your soundbar has an ARC or eARC port and your TV does, too, then connect with those ports for better audio quality. It also allows for volume control of the soundbar via your TV remote.

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