Choosing the Best Soundbar

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A quick look at our TV ratings will show that while many TVs these days offer great picture quality, that’s not as true for soundbars reviews. Only about 80 of the 200-plus televisions in our TV ratings can deliver satisfying sound quality. You’ll notice the shortcomings the most if you’re watching a movie or TV show with a dramatic soundtrack.

One great—and increasingly popular—option is to add a soundbar speaker. A soundbar has several speakers and the electronics to power them in one thin enclosure that you connect to your TV, with no need for a receiver. Some have a separate subwoofer, usually wireless, and a few have rear speakers to create a full surround-sound system.

Most soundbars are mounted on a wall or placed on a shelf above or below the TV. There are also pedestal-style soundbars called sound bases that your TV can sit on.

Bar Crawl: Soundbar Types

Here’s an important note for CR members, who can access all our ratings. In our ratings, a soundbar speaker is held to a higher standard than a TV for audio quality. We judge them more like speakers designed for listening to music. That means a soundbar with a Good rating for sound will sound better than a TV with a Good rating.

Note that many less expensive soundbars have less power and fewer features than a component audio system, so they’re not the best choice for a very large room, nor for audiophiles craving a theaterlike experience. Many inexpensive soundbars can be great if you have a small or medium space and want a simple way to enhance your TV’s sound. But there are also some newer, pricier models that have enough power to fill even a larger room.

One other thing to consider: Do you want the ability to use your voice to control the speaker? Many soundbars are now smart speakers that can respond to voice commands to raise the volume, change inputs, and sometimes control a TV or other smart devices in your home. Some come with popular voice systems, such as Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit (with Siri), or Google Assistant built in, and others require the use of another voice-enabled smart speaker to respond to voice commands.

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