Published: Tuesday, 10 August 2021 23:12
A soundbar can make a big improvement to your TV watching, and they're more convenient and affordable than a surround-sound system. Here are our favorites. Ty Pendlebury July 14, 2021 3:35 p.m. PT
- Best soundbar for the money Vizio V21 Jump to details $180 at Best Buy
- Best soundbar under $100 Creative Stage Jump to details $82 at Amazon
- Best soundbar under $300 Klipsch Cinema 400 Jump to details $299 at Crutchfield
- Best soundbar under $400 Yamaha YAS-209 Jump to details $300 at Crutchfield
- Best soundbar under $500 Vizio SB36512-F6 Jump to details $450 at Best Buy
- Best soundbar under $1,000 Vizio Elevate Jump to details $847 at Amazon
- Best soundbar over $1,000 Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Jump to details $2,500 at Crutchfield
- Best for music listening Polk Signa S3 Jump to details $249 at Amazon
- Best all-in-one soundbar under $1,000 Sonos Arc Jump to details $799 at Sonos
- Best soundbar with built-in streaming video Roku Streambar Jump to details $127 at Amazon
- Best bass without a subwoofer Zvox SB500 Jump to details $380 at Amazon
If you want to take your TV viewing experience to the next level, it might be time to consider investing in a soundbar. Soundbars are not only affordable, but they're also a breeze to set up and offer improved sound quality for your home theater over a standard built-in TV speaker. That's why they're considerably more popular than larger home theater speakers, AV receivers and subwoofers.
In general, soundbars offer clear sound, more than one sound mode, and some even work with your existing smart speakers -- so you can talk to them through your Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. There are a lot of soundbars out there, but all are bound to offer better audio quality than what you've already got. With a multitude of choices available, finding the best soundbar can be challenging, but this guide can help you cut through the noise.
To test the quality of each soundbar listed below, we compared them against similarly priced models with a combination of movies and music. We also took into account features such as multiroom capabilities, the number of HDMI ports, high-resolution audio, Bluetooth, surround sound or Dolby Atmos. We have the best soundbar options for wireless aficionados and for people who want to literally plug their soundbar into their existing living room audio system and immediately get to watching their favorite TV shows.
From solid bare-bones bars to smart Alexa-powered, Atmos speakers, this is CNET's lineup of the best soundbars available from $100 and up. This list is updated periodically as new products become available and are tested.
Read more: Soundbar buyer's guide
Best soundbar for the money
Vizio V21Ty Pendlebury/CNET
If you're looking to ditch your TV speaker, this is where we suggest you start. Our long-time favorite, the Vizio SB3621n-E8 has essentially been replaced by the new V21. The subwoofer may be smaller on the newer model but this bar still sounds great, as well as offering HDMI connectivity and a much easier to understand input display. This is the best soundbar value we've tested this year.
Read our Vizio V21 review.
$180 at Best Buy $178 at Walmart $141 at Target
Best soundbar under $100
Creative StageSarah Tew/CNET
If your price range is limited, for less than a C-note, the Creative Stage soundbar offers a bunch of previously unheard-of features, including HDMI connectivity and a subwoofer. But what's even more remarkable is that it sounds better than most of its ultrabudget competition, with a wired subwoofer that fills the room with great bass. It comes with a variety of modes making this soundbar speaker especially suited to music, concerts (now that we can't see them live) and gaming. Excellent sound quality for gamers and movie fans alike.
Read our Creative Stage review.
$82 at Amazon
Best soundbar under $300
Klipsch Cinema 400Ty Pendlebury/CNET
Easily supplanting our previous favorite, the JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass, the Klipsch Cinema 400 adds great design and an even bigger subwoofer. Sound quality is still king though with a real sense of dynamics and excellent music replay. If you want to make your TV the next best thing to a cinema, this is one of the most affordable ways to do it.
Read our Klipsch Cinema 400 review.
$299 at Crutchfield $224 at Klipsch $225 at Amazon
Best soundbar under $400
Yamaha YAS-209Sarah Tew/CNET ED I T O R S ’ C H O I C E Dec 2020
The Yamaha YAS-209 offers excellent sound quality in a compact soundbar. The addition of Amazon Alexa is useful, allowing this voice control smart soundbar to stream music, and the mics work well in loud environments. The soundbar's implementation of DTS Virtual:X offers a rich effect reminiscent of surround speaker sound. This smart soundbar's wireless subwoofer is more articulate and offers more headroom than the competing, and also excellent, Polk Command Bar. However, the YAS-209 doesn't use the company's MusicCast system, so it won't sync up with other Yamaha speakers.
Read our Yamaha YAS-209 review.
$300 at Crutchfield $300 at Amazon $300 at Best Buy
Best soundbar under $500
Vizio SB36512-F6Sarah Tew/CNET
The Vizio SB36512-F6 proves you don't need to spend a ton to get a high-quality soundbar that can handle the latest Dolby Atmos soundtracks and get multiroom sound. The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a full 5.1.2 immersive sound system for the price of an AV receiver, and its height channels do a solid job of bringing out Atmos effects. You can also stream music from any Google Chromecast-enabled audio app, like Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and Google Play Music.
Read our Vizio SB36512-F6 review..
$450 at Best Buy
Best soundbar under $1,000
Vizio ElevateTy Pendlebury/CNET
The Vizio Elevate's main draw may be its motorized height speakers, but once you get over their novelty you'll find that the speaker system also sounds great. The separate sub and height-enabled rears really help pull this Vizio soundbar ahead of the Sonos Arc sonically. With Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Chromecast built in, multiple HDMI inputs and Bluetooth, the only thing the Vizio doesn't provide is Apple AirPlay support.
Read our Vizio Elevate P514A-H6 review.
$847 at Amazon $900 at Best Buy $998 at Walmart
Best soundbar over $1,000
Sennheiser Ambeo SoundbarSarah Tew/CNET
If you simply must have the fewest number of boxes and remotes in your living space and yet demand the best Atmos quality sound performance you can get, this Sennheiser speaker is your guy. It's a single unit, without a subwoofer, but it's able to conjure up the most realistic overhead and true surround sound effects we've ever heard. It's also controlled entirely via remote control. It's not a cheap piece of sound equipment but it's comparable in price to a full set of surround speakers without the bulk and with 85% of the great sound and performance.
Read our Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar review.
$2,500 at Crutchfield $2,500 at Best Buy $2,500 at Audio Advice
Best for music listening
Polk Signa S3Ty Pendlebury/CNET
If you're looking for a speaker that can do music as well as play the latest episode of Ted Lasso, then the Polk Signa S3 has a lot to offer. It's great for streaming, as it has Chromecast built in in addition to Bluetooth and an HDMI input.
Read our Polk Signa S3 review.
$249 at Amazon $250 at Best Buy $249 at Walmart
Best all-in-one soundbar under $1,000
Sonos ArcTy Pendlebury/CNET
If you're interested in setting up a multiroom sound system, a Sonos soundbar system is still the best option. The Sonos Arc is the company's best soundbar and includes Dolby Atmos playback, a class-leading music ecosystem, and a choice of both Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa built into the bar itself. The soundbar system sounds good with music and movies, and adding a pair of Ikea Symphonisk bookshelves should really boost your home theater sound experience. The Arc sounds a lot bigger than the cheaper Beam, which needs the $700 subwoofer on top to make it comparable in terms of sound.$799 at Sonos
Best soundbar with built-in streaming video
Roku StreambarSarah Tew/CNET
While we really like the Roku Smart Soundbar, the Roku Streambar does essentially the same job for $50 less. With a full-fledged 4K HDR Roku streamer built in and a single voice remote controlling everything, this bar gives you audio and video in one simple bar. Setup is a breeze; just add to a TV with a simple HDMI port connection. Sound quality was acceptable for the size and price, and you can add a $129 wireless subwoofer for more punch.
Read our Roku Streambar review.
$127 at Amazon $130 at Best Buy $137 at Walmart
Best bass without a subwoofer
Zvox SB500Sarah Tew/CNET
If you're looking for a single bar that's even cheaper than the Sonos Arc, the Zvox SB500 is a great option for people who still prize sound quality. This speaker offers multiple sound mode options, tighter bass and better sound than most other single-speaker options. While it may lack the Sonos' Wi-Fi streaming the Zvox still includes Bluetooth connectivity for streaming audio from your phone or tablet.
Read our Zvox SB500 review.
$380 at Amazon $380 at Walmart CNET TVs, Streaming and Audio
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