Best soundbar: our pick of the best speakers to boost your TV's audio

The best soundbars for adding a cinematic feel to your next binge-watch, from LG, Sonos, Yamaha and more

best soundbar: Sennheiser Ambeo placed on wood TV stand against light green wall
(Image credit: Sennheiser)

Are you tired of not being able to hear what's going on in your favorite film or TV show without constantly rewinding and enabling closed captions? The best soundbars could be the answer to your prayers, boosting audio quality and giving you more power over the way your television sounds.

Ranging from single speakers to more complete sound systems with a wireless subwoofer included, soundbars are designed to fit nicely on your unit (or mounted to the wall) and compensate nicely for the smaller speakers housed in modern flat-screen TVs.

Without external speakers to compensate, the sound quality of an average television has dropped, making soundbars ever-more popular as a result. Many come with technology like Dolby Atmos that mimic surround sound, while others can be connected to a wider speaker system after the fact.

We have taken a look at some of the best and most popular soundbars available right now, rating them on everything from smart features and connectivity to size and design. Scroll down to see what we thought or, if you’re looking for something that goes a little further, take a look at our roundup of the best surround sound systems

The best soundbars in 2022

Sennheiser Ambeo SoundbarLivingetc badge – tried, loved

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

1. Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

Best soundbar overall

Specifications

Channels: 5.1.4
Bluetooth?: Yes
Dolby Atmos?: Yes
Connections: 4 x HDMI, Ethernet, USB, Opt, Analogue, Bluetooth, Chromecast
Subwoofer included: No
Dimensions: 5.3 x 49.8 x 0.7in
Weight: 40.8lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Chromecast built-in
+
4K video passthrough
+
Dolby Atmos surround sound

Reasons to avoid

-
The most expensive soundbar on our list
-
No built-in smart assistant
-
Might be too heavy and bulky for some people

It may force you to trade convenience for sound quality, but the Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar really does deliver on its promises. With support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround sound in addition to its impressive internal speaker set-up, the AMBEO is powerful enough to be the only TV speaker needed in your living room.

The only drawback is the size and heft of the unit, which isn't recommended for those dealing with a smaller space. Weighing in at more than 40lbs and with a height of 5.3in, the speaker is large enough to actually block a small amount of your TV's picture if you place it on a stand. The best alternative is to mount the soundbar, but this will require a bracket that can hold it. For inspiration, head over to our rundown of soundbar mounting ideas.

Ease of set-up aside, the Sennheiser AMBEO is an awe-inspiring piece of kit. Once installed, the soundbar will calibrate its output based on the room it's in, and there are three preset normal, movie, or nighttime modes depending on what you're watching and when. It's not perfect - there is no built-in compatibility with Alexa or Google Assistant - but, for those who want the best of the best, this could well be it.

Livingetc rating: 5 out of 5 stars

LG Eclair Soundbar

(Image credit: LG)
Best compact soundbar

Specifications

Channels: 3.1.2
Bluetooth?: Yes
Dolby Atmos?: Yes
Subwoofer included?: Yes
Connections: Optical, HDMI, Bluetooth
Dimensions: 2.4 x 11.7 x 4.9in
Weight: 3.4lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Dolby Atmos surround sound
+
Soundbar is small and compact
+
Energy Star certified

Reasons to avoid

-
No built-in smart assistant
-
Subwoofer's size could take away from 'compact' aspect

If you have a smaller television or struggle to find space for a full-size soundbar (or just don't like how it looks!), then LG's QP5 Eclair soundbar is the ideal surround sound companion. It's also the only speaker on this list that's Energy Star certified, so could be a good choice if you want to reduce your waste.

With Dolby Atmos and 'Sound Field Expander' technology on board, the sound produced by the tiny soundbar is impressively immersive, filling the room with audio that completely masks the fact that the device is about a third of the size of an average bar. It also comes with a wireless subwoofer, which unfortunately does not continue the compact theme. It's so big and heavy that we struggled to find a good place for it while testing.

But if that's not a problem for you, then this is great looking - with wood grain treatment and a fabric wrap - and performing soundbar.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars | read our full review of the LG QP5 Eclair Soundbar

Sonos Arc Soundbar

(Image credit: Sonos)

3. Sonos Arc Soundbar

Best smart soundbar

Specifications

Bluetooth?: No
Dolby Atmos?: Yes
Subwoofer included?: No
Connections: 1 x HDMI
Dimensions: 3.4 x 45 x 4.5in
Weight: 13.8lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Alexa and Google Assistant built-in; works with Siri
+
Dialogue enhancement technology
+
Dolby Atmos surround sound

Reasons to avoid

-
No Bluetooth connectivity
-
Subwoofer sold separately
-
Only one HDMI connection

The Sonos brand has become known for its quality, and the Sonos Arc is the company's biggest (literally and figuratively) soundbar offering. While there is a slightly baffling lack of Bluetooth connectivity and just a single HDMI port to connect the speaker to your TV, it's also one of the smartest examples on this list.

The Arc has Alexa and Google Home built-in, so can be used as a standalone smart speaker, and the Sonos app makes it super-easy to connect other speakers for a surround sound set-up. With Dolby Atmos on-board, however, the soundbar does a good job of mimicking this effect on its own, and there's a speech enhancement option for those who struggle to hear the dialogue in what they're watching.

The cleverness doesn't stop here, as the Sonos Arc can sense everything from the acoustics of a room to the brightness, adjusting audio output and the appearance of its LED lights accordingly. It's also a very good-looking device, which will entice those with carefully a chosen aesthetic in their home.

Sonos Beam Soundbar (Gen 2)

(Image credit: Sonos)

4. Sonos Beam Soundbar (Gen 2)

Best soundbar for the money

Specifications

Channels: Yes
Bluetooth?: No
Dolby Atmos?: Yes
Subwoofer included?: No
Connections: 1 x HDMI
Dimensions: 25.6 x 3.9 x 2.7in
Weight: 6.3lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Small and lightweight
+
Alexa and Google Assistant built-in
+
Can be used with other Sonos speakers for surround sound setup

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one HDMI connection
-
No Bluetooth connectivity

A cheaper, smaller alternative to the Sonos Arc, the 2nd Generation Sonos Beam has a ton to offer. Use it as a smart speaker with Alexa and Google Atmos built-in, hook it up with other Sonos speakers around the home, or use it as a minimalist (yet powerful) soundbar for the TV.

All Sonos speakers are simple to network together, whether that's to create a multi-room audio experience with the same tunes playing in the kitchen, bedroom, and lounge or to build your own true surround sound system for the TV. As a central unit, the Sonos Beam is a fantastic jumping-off point, allowing you to build out any system at your leisure.

Even without additional speakers, the Beam comes equipped with Trueplay - a system that maps your living space to create the optimum sound profile based on where your furniture sits in the environment. There's also night mode and speech enhancement, which allow you to get the audio spot-on for whatever (and whenever) you're watching.

Livingetc rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar

(Image credit: Sony)

5. Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar

Best all in one soundbar (runner up)

Specifications

Channels: 7.1.2
Bluetooth?: Yes
Dolby Atmos?: Yes
Subwoofer included?: No
Connections: 1 x HDMI
Dimensions: 6.7 x 37.2 x 6.2in
Weight: 1lbs

Reasons to buy

+
4K video pass-through
+
Dialogue enhancement technology
+
Dolby Atmos surround sound

Reasons to avoid

-
No smart home compatibility
-
Only one HDMI connection

If you’re looking for simplicity, then you won’t have to look much further than the Sony HT-X8500, which offers more than decent sound quality with far less fuss than some competitors. As such, if you’re not flush with space in your living area - or you just don’t want multiple speakers cluttering up the room - then this is a mid-size option that shouldn’t leave you disappointed with its sound offering.

While it’s probable that you will want to use the soundbar to enhance your television’s sound, the Sony HT-X8500 also has Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to connect to it from your mobile and stream everything from music to podcasts. A great bonus if you’re usually relying on your smartphone speakers.

Sony’s soundbar has various modes that you can switch between depending on what you’re doing in the moment. If you’re watching a movie or playing a game, for example, Cinema and Game Modes will mimic the surround sound of a theater while, in News Mode, voice audio will be prioritised above background music.

Yamaha YAS-209 Soundbar

(Image credit: Yamaha)

6. Yamaha YAS-209 Soundbar

Best affordable soundbar

Specifications

Channels: 2.1
Bluetooth?: Yes
Dolby Atmos?: No
Subwoofer included?: Yes
Connections: 1 x HDMI, 1 x optical
Dimensions: 2.5 x 36.6 x 4.3in
Weight: 6lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Built-in Alexa
+
Attractive, compact design
+
Wireless subwoofer included

Reasons to avoid

-
No Dolby Atmos

Yamaha has been a leader in sound for decades, and the Yamaha YAS-209 is a great, affordable soundbar that offers good sound quality despite the lack of Dolby Atmos (it sports DTS Virtual: X to create a surround sound effect).

The matte design looks great and does away with problems such as reflection from the TV screen. Depending on your existing set-up, it can be placed on a TV stand or mounted to the wall.

The Yamaha YAS-209 soundbar has Amazon Alexa built-in, meaning you can control the speaker using just your voice. It also means it's possible to connect the soundbar with other smart devices around your home, including streaming sticks and smart TVs, for an easier experience all around.

Bose Smart Soundbar 300

(Image credit: Bose)

7. Bose Smart Soundbar 300

Best Bose soundbar

Specifications

Bluetooth?: Yes
Dolby Atmos?: No
Subwoofer included?: No
Connections: HDMI, Optical
Dimensions: 2.2 x 26.5 x 4in
Weight: 5.5lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Alexa and Google Assistant built-in

Reasons to avoid

-
No Dolby Atmos

If you have already started to introduce smart speakers and other devices to your home set-up, then it makes perfect sense for you to include your TV's sound in that. The Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is our top choice for smart homes, with multiple voice control options and easy ways to expand.

As long as you don't mind being tied to Bose and its products, it's straightforward to build a surround sound system or multi-room listening with the Smart Soundbar 300. Bose SimpleSync lets you connect it with other headphones and Bluetooth speakers around the home or with a bass module and surround speakers for a bit more oomph.

Voice control comes built-in, and you have the option to use Google Assistant, Alexa, or Bose's own Voice4Video tech to send commands to your soundbar. You can also connect via Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect, making it a really versatile option. 

How to choose the best soundbar for your home

LG QP5 Eclair Soundbar on wooden surface underneath wall mounted TV

(Image credit: LG)

Where should a soundbar be placed?

Soundbars are designed specifically to be placed underneath your TV without blocking any action, but you should make sure that there is enough space before committing to a soundbar that doesn’t fit. Alternatively, many people choose to mount their soundbars to the wall - especially good if you already have your television mounted. To find out more, you can read our advice on how to mount a soundbar.

What is a subwoofer?

You’ll hear about subwoofers a lot when you’re shopping around for a soundbar, and that’s because they’re an important element. Basically, a subwoofer is a speaker that emits low frequencies to extend your sound and make it more dimensional. This is what makes them ideal for adding more bass to your output.

In addition, some soundbars have a subwoofer built-in, while others come with an accompanying sub that can be connected. If your chosen soundbar doesn't include its own wireless unit, you can see which we rated highly in our guide to the best subwoofers.

Are soundbars worth it?

The answer to this depends on whether you’re satisfied with your television’s current audio output and what kinds of things you tend to watch regularly. If you’re a music fan, for example, then a soundbar is a must to get the most out of live concerts, YouTube, or even music cast from your phone, but those who are just happy watching the news and cooking shows might not get as much out of one.

That said, even the occasional movie night makes a good soundbar a worthy investment and, once you watch an action movie this way, there’s no going back.

There's also the question of whether the better investment might be a more expansive speaker system. To help you choose, you can head on over to our comparison - soundbar or surround sound system?

Caroline Preece
Caroline Preece

Caroline is the smart homes ecommerce editor for Livingetc, covering everything tech for the home, from smart speakers to air purifiers and everything in between. She is passionate about the role that technology and smart devices can play in daily life, enhancing the home without sacrificing personal style and carefully chosen interiors. In her spare time, she can be found tinkering with bulbs, soundbars, and video doorbells in an effort to automate every part of her small home. Previously, she lent her expertise to the likes of Expert Reviews, IT Pro, Coach, The Week, and more.