What is the best soundbar in 2021?
So you’ve bought a TV but you’ve realised that it doesn’t sound very good. You need a soundbar to solve your audio woes, so you can listen to your favourite films, games or sports without having to worry about how flat it sounds.
We’ve tested soundbars from cheap affordable efforts to top-of-the-range Atmos and DTS:X soundbars. We spend time with every soundbar watching plenty of TV to see how they handle dialogue, movies for how well they deal with scale and complexity and sports for that immersive feeling they can provide.
This is our list of the best soundbar on the market, whether you’re looking for something that fits into your budget needs or a specific set-up to fits your space. This list covers what you need.
What to look for when buying a soundbar
If you already have an idea of what you want, skip ahead. For those less sure, the following questions will help you on your way to finding a new soundbar.
- What type of soundbar do you want? Options include an all-in-one bar or soundbase; a more conventional soundbar and subwoofer set-up. Soundbars with upfiring speakers produce a taller sound, and a soundbar system includes speakers you can place in a room.
- How much space do you have? A purchase will often be dictated by how much room is available. For small rooms an all-in-one bar is best, but for sound to cover a bigger room, a system with rear speakers could be the one.
- How many HDMI inputs do you need? If you want to plug a source into the soundbar itself, rather than a TV, that is an option. Not all soundbars offer this feature, so it’s worth considering if this is of interest.
- Are you looking to upgrade in the future? Some soundbars offer an upgrade path to add a subwoofer and satellite speakers later on. Not all soundbars have this as an option, and some may only do wired connections whereas others can add extra speakers wirelessly.
- Do you want Atmos and DTS:X? A soundbar that can do Atmos or DTS:X can add an extra dimension to the home cinema experience.
Have a better idea of what you need? Then here is our list of the best soundbars on the market today.
1. Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
Arguably the best sounding soundbar
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 135 x 1265 x 171mm | Sub: No | Connections: HDMI 3/1, Optical, Aux, LAN, sub pre-out, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: Both | eARC: Yes
- Superb 3D audio performance
- As good with music as it is movies
- Eye-wateringly expensive
- Big and not exactly pretty
Sennheiser’s Ambeo Soundbar had been in development for a while, but the wait was worth it as it’s one of the best sounding units we’ve heard.
With support for Atmos, DTS:X, Sennheiser’s Ambeo processing and MPEG-H format, this hefty bar produces a muscular and hard-hitting performance, with excellent effects steering, clarity and a superbly immersive soundscape. For those who don’t have to room for a traditional speaker package or even a 5.1 soundbar solution, the Ambeo is a phenomenal sounding bar that convincingly apes a 5.1/object-based speaker packages.
- read our Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar review
2. Sonos Beam
The best compact soundbar
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 68.5 x 651 x 100mm | Sub: No | Connections: HDMI, Wi-Fi | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No
- Excellent sound
- Integrated Alexa works a charm
- Controls TV
- Lovely design
- Not the last word in bass output
If you’re tight on space and have cash to spare, the Sonos Beam is a fine choice. It’s a soundbar for your TV, a multi-room speaker that plays nicely with other Sonos products – and it works with Alexa and Google Assistant.
During our testing the Beam produced a soundstage so wide and tall that it was hard for us to believe it’s coming from a speaker that compact. It’s an entertaining sound that’s complemented by a smooth and direct mid-range, giving a convincing weight to voices. Everything is controlled through the brilliant Sonos S2 app, and there’s even support for Apple AirPlay 2 (as well as Siri).
Connect it to a pair of One SL speakers and a Sonos sub, and you’ve got yourself a formidable surround sound system.
- read our Sonos Beam review
3. Samsung HW-Q900T
A versatile Atmos/DTS:X bar
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 69.5 x 1232 x 138mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 2/1, Optical, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Atmos/DTS:X: Yes | eARC: Yes
- Dolby Atmos/DTS:X
- Looks great
- Big, wide presentation
- Multiple HDMI inputs
- Front-heavy delivery
- Curious placement of the display
The HW-Q900T is the step down soundbar from the HW-Q950T. The only difference between the two is the Q900T doesn’t include the rear speakers.
Otherwise it’s the same main bar, same sub and similar performance. Without the rear speakers the performance becomes front heavy, but you still get a big, wide and tall presentation that gives impressive height to Atmos/DTS:X soundtracks, as well as fire sounds towards the listener and out wide with impressive skill and heft.
The Kvadrat fabric looks great, though this isn’t a soundbar made for smaller spaces and as such we’d suggest it’s one for mid to large rooms. The placement of the display is irksome as you can’t see it from a seating position and there’s no room optimisation technology to calibrate the sound for the room. Nevertheless, the spec is great, the features are useful and if you can marry it with a compatible Samsung QLED TV the Q-Symphony tech works to create a bigger soundstage with well-positioned effects.
- read our Samsung HW-Q900T review
4. Wharfedale Vista 200S
Smart: No| Size (HxWxDmm): 69.5 x 900 x 138mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 2/1, Optical, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No
- Great with movies and music
- Well-integrated bass
- Low-profile and well-made cabinet
- Exceptional value
- Easy to setup
- Nothing at this price
The Vista 200s is a 2.1-channel soundbar suited for TVs 65-inches and more. An HDMI ARC, optical and coaxial digital inputs and a 3.5mm jack are available in terms of physical connections, with Bluetooth there for wireless connections.
Its simple to set-up and use, with the Vista 200s putting in a great performance across movies and TV shows. In our test space, the wireless sub delivered deep, punchy bass; dialogue is rendered with clarity and it can cope well with busy soundtracks, sifting through the detail on offer. It’s easily one of the best value soundbars currently available, and a good find if you’re after performance on a budget.
- read our Wharfedale Vista 200S review
5. Polk Command Bar
Built-in Alexa support
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 51 x 1091 x 102mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 1/1, Optical, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No
- Amazon Alexa built in
- Excellent sound quality
- None at this price
If you’re after a soundbar that can do smarts then the Polk Command Bar can oblige. It provides the benefits of a soundbar plus the convenience of voice control. Want to order a Dominos pizza? Ask Alexa. Fancy turning down the lighting for that perfect cinema feel? Alexa will help. For those more savvy with smart features, an IFTTT protocol could be set to switch to movie mode and dim the lighting all in one go.
Performance-wise we enjoyed the the Command Bar’s audio delivery: voice clarity is excellent and it sounds great with movies, music and sports alike.
- read our Polk Command Bar review
6. Sonos Arc
Sonos enters the Atmos-phere with its new bar
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 90 x 1440 x 115mm | Sub: Optional| Connections: HDMI | Atmos/DTS:X: Atmos| eARC: Yes
- Expansive, well-defined and invigorating sound
- Good impression of audio height and width
- Fine spec
- Ample control options
- Slightly bumpy frequency response
- Some treble stridency
- No MQA support
Despite some sonic idiosyncrasies, we feel that Sonos’ first attempt at a Atmos soundbar has plenty to recommend it. It carries the same design aesthetic as other Sonos speakers, and can be mounted on a wall or placed in front of the TV
The width and height of the soundstage we encountered with Atmos content was impressive, and for Sonos owners it’ll slot easily into their current set-up easily via integration with the Sonos S2 app. Like other Sonos speakers, there’s wide app support and access to various streaming services
Our feeling is that the bass/mid-range integration could be handled better, and the eARC-only HDMI means you’ll need to be careful to pair with an eARC-compatible TV if you want a true Atmos performance.
- read our full Sonos Arc review
7. Samsung HW-Q800T
An accomplished all-rounder
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 58 x 980 x 115mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 1/1, Optical, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Atmos/DTS:X: Both | eARC: Yes
- Expansive soundstage
- Powerful subwoofer
- Sleek design
- Solid build quality
- Simple to setup
- Front-heavy delivery
- Single HDMI input
- No Chromecast/AirPlay
The HW-Q800T is another accomplished soundbar from Samsung, delivering an expansive and compelling soundstage, and a sound that’s detailed, dynamic and exciting. The support for both Atmos and DTS:X allows it to create an immersive wall of sound that gives anything you’re watching a boost.
Throw in eARC support, Q Symphony functionality with compatible Samsung QLED TVs and built-in Alexa, and this is a soundbar that covers pretty much all the bases apart from offering a true surround experience. On aspect we’re not enamoured with is the single HDMI input. If you have plenty of physical sources you want to hook up, this isn’t the soundbar for you.
- read our Samsung HW-Q800T review
8. Dali Katch One
Smart: No | Size (HxWxDmm): 164 x 860 x 69mm | Sub: Optional| Connections: HDMI, Optical x2, 3.5mm, Sub out, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No
- Wide, detailed and articulate sound from any source
- Good looks, relatively speaking
- Can be bettered for bass
- Some may hanker after greater audio attack
The Katch One is DALI’s first dedicated soundbar (the Kubik One was an all-in-one system), and continues the Danish brand’s knack for stylish aesthetics and good audio.
It’s another one-box system that saves on space and produces a good hi-fi performance. We like its well-judged tone to produced during testing, giving the whole frequency range full expression with plenty of precision, detail and insight. The lack of a subwoofer means it’s short of power and punch when it comes to more bass-heavy soundtracks.
- read our DALi Katch One review
9. Sony HT-ST5000
No-compromise 7.1.2 soundbar
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 80 x 1180 x 145mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 3/1, Optical, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB, 3.5mm | Atmos/DTS:X: Atmos | eARC: Yes
- Dynamic, exciting performer
- Excellent clarity with High-Res Audio
- Premium build quality
- Powerful bass
- Dolby Atmos doesn’t surround you
- Short on streaming services
- Very expensive
Headline attractions include Dolby Atmos, High-Res Audio, Bluetooth and Chromecast. It has three HDMI ports for passing through 4K video signals, alongside analogue and digital optical audio options.
And it sounds fantastic. It isn’t quite the full surround effect you get with a proper Atmos setup, we feel you’d struggle to find such scale, depth, dynamism or clarity on most alternatives.
- read our Sony HT-ST5000 review
10. Bluesound Pulse Soundbar 2i
A bar for film and music
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 69.5 x 1232 x 138mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI, Optical, 3.5mm, Bluetooth, W-Fi, AirPlay 2, Sub out, Ethernet, USB | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: Yes
- Extensive specification
- Multi-room ability
- Full, rich and high calorie sound
- Quite a visual statement
- Short of outright dynamic headroom
- Control app is quite easily confused
Measuring a 1m in length and 14cm high, it’s not the most discrete of efforts. That said, it packs plenty of talents into its robust package. It can play hi-res audio tunes, stream audio via AirPlay 2; has support for several streaming services including Spotify and is compatible with Alexa voice control. You’re not left wanting in this regard.
And in terms of the audio performance, we like what the Pulse offered during our time with it – a rich, detailed sound with a convincingly deep soundstage. If you want a soundbar that can do more than just ably assist film soundtracks, the Pulse Soundbar 2i is worth auditioning.
- read our Bluesound Pulse Soundbar 2i review
11. Roku Streambar
A soundbar and video streamer in one box
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 61 x 356 x 107mm | Sub: No | Connections: HDMI, Optical, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No
- Good vocal clarity
- Space-saving size
- Good streaming performance
- Great value Slick voice search
- No Dolby Vision or HDR10+
- Audio more suited to TV and apps
- Remote only works with Streambar
For any TV that suffers from a lack of smarts and flat audio, the Roku Streambar aims to swoop in and save the day.
The Streambar is both a soundbar and video streamer rolled into one. And to our surprise, we found during testing it produced a sound bigger and louder than you’d expect. If you have no interest in more advanced audio formats such as Atmos or DTS:X, the Streambar is more suited to you.
There was an issue with HLG HDR for streaming on iPlayer that’s still unresolved, but in general we found picture quality to be satisfactory with colourful images and consistent levels of clarity and detail with 4K content. It’s a smart (in more ways than one) and convenient soundbar/streamer.
- Read our Roku Streambar review
12. Denon DHT-S516H
Smarts and multi-room skills
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 730 x 1018 x 104mm | Sub: Yes| Connections: HDMI 1/1, Optical, Coaxial, USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No
- Expansive and detailed sound
- Easy to set up
- HEOS multi-room
- Good smart features
- No remote control
- Limited to lossy audio
The DHT-S516H has no aspirations for immersive sound, focusing instead on a 2.1 audio. With HEOS included there’s support for Google Assistant and Alexa. AirPlay 2 brings in the iOS platform (plus Siri), and there is HEOS’ integration of several music streaming services that emphasises this soundbar’s musical traits.
Which is useful as the DHT-S516H has been designed with music in mind, putting in a detailed performance with warm vocals. We found during testing films benefit from its accuracy and clarity, and though it can’t quite deal with the complexity of some movie soundtracks, bass is an improvement on anything your TV can muster.
- read our Denon DHT-S516H review
13. Canton Smart Soundbar 9
A crisp and detailed performer
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 70 x 890 x 100mm | Sub: Optional | Connections: HDMI 3/1, Optical, Coaxial, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No
- Great looks
- Big, revealing and informative sound
- Dynamically assured
- 3 x HDMI inputs
- Limited bass
- Not that smart
The Smart Soundbar 9 is another winning soundbar from German brand Canton. Impressively built, good-looking and featuring three HDMI inputs (which is a lot for a soundbar these days); with the wide range of content we tested on it, it produced a crisp, detailed and nuanced performance. A subwoofer is optional but the bass output is decent enough without one.
We feel it is expensive for what it does, and despite its name it actually lacks built-in smart abilities that other options on this list have.
- read our Canton Smart Soundbar 9 review
14. Samsung HW-S60T
A lifestyle soundbar for the casual audience
Smart: Yes | Size (HxWxDmm): 68 x 764 x 125mm | Sub: Optional| Connections: HDMI, Optical | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No
- Looks lovely
- Clear sound
- Compact size
- Engaging music performance
- No LED display
- Not the most dynamic of presentations
- Not a soundbar for Atmos/DTS:X soundtracks
The HW-S60T is Samsung’s answer to the Sonos Beam, a compact lifestyle soundbar wrapped in the trendy Kvadrat cloth. It’s not designed to go toe-to-toe with the latest Atmos/DTS:X soundbars, but it does look great sitting under a TV.
Viewed as a lifestyle soundbar for the more casual side of the market and it hits the right notes with good reproduction of dialogue, a decently big soundstage and an entertaining way with music. We don’t feel it’s as talented as the Beam, but it’s worth a look for those not invested in the Sonos ecosystem. This soundbar also comes in two versions, the S60T (black finish) and the S61T (grey finish). Other the difference in colour, they’re the one and the same.
- read our Samsung HW-S60T review
15. Yamaha SR-B20A
Yamaha’s compact bar for small spaces
Smart: No | Size (HxWxDmm): 53 x 910 x 131mm | Sub: Optional| Connections: HDMI, Optical | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No
- Neat and tidy
- Enveloping ‘3D’ sound
- Shelf- or wall-mountable
- Short of bass variation
There’s been a move towards compact soundbars that can produce an expansive performance in space-saving form. The SR-B20A is Yamaha’s affordable unit in that part of the market.
At 53 x 910 x 131mm (HWD) it’s manageable in terms of its size. You can wall-mount if that’s of interest and it’s discrete in terms of look, its smoothly applied acoustic cloth adding a touch of class.
In terms of sound the Yamaha is a clear boost over a TV with its expansive, hefty and assertive performance. It doesn’t do Atmos/DTS:X, creating its 3D sound through audio processing. It’s expansively wide and decently tall in this respect, adding a sense of space and immersion beyond a standard TV. Bass is an issue; its lack of variation and expression makes bass-heavy tracks sound one-note. If you can deal with that, this is a pretty satisfying soundbar for the asking price.
- read our Yamaha SR-B20A review
16. Sky Soundbox
A decent option for Sky customers
Smart: No | Size (HxWxDmm): 95 x 375 x 210mm | Sub: No | Connections: HDMI 1/1, Optical, Bluetooth | Atmos/DTS:X: No | eARC: No
- Weighty bass
- Clear speech
- Sky Q optimisation modes mostly work well
- Large-scale sound from a compact unit
- Sound lacks the subtlety for music
- Awkward form factor makes it difficult to position
- Not worth the higher price to non-Sky customers
The Sky Soundbox is an odd one. The first oddity is the shape, which is more like a soundbase but too small to fit a TV on. It can be tricky to find the right home for it.
The other quirk is that Sky customers can buy it at a great price. We’d advise against paying the full price, but at £249 to Sky customers this is a no-brainer. With help from Devialet, the scale of sound from such a compact unit is super-impressive, while some Sky Q-specific sound modes help to get a better sonic balance during sports, movies, and so on.
It’s a little shouty with music and the bass can be overblown, but with most video content it’s very good – as long as you’ve paid that discounted price for it.
- read our Sky Soundbox review
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