As flat screens become brighter, sharper and more vibrant, the difference between the brilliant picture quality of a new TV and its mediocre sound performance becomes increasingly apparent. That’s because almost all modern sets, regardless of their size, are equipped with inferior speakers hidden in increasingly narrow frames. Fortunately, you can easily equip your TV with a soundbar to get a better and more enjoyable viewing experience. The best soundbars combine impressive sound into a standalone package that’s small enough to fit in front of or under your TV.
Before you buy, there are a few things you should consider. Consider the dimensions of your TV to figure out how big your new soundbar needs to be. You don’t want it to be crushed by the screen, but it might also look odd if you combine a huge bar with a small TV – like a small head on overly broad shoulders. Find out the dimensions and compare the width of the bar with that of your TV. Also pay attention to the height – if you have to place the soundbar in front of your TV, you don’t want it to cover half the picture.
Many modern soundbars have wireless subwoofers, Bluetooth connectivity, 4K-compatible HDMI inputs for a game console or 4K Blu-ray player, ARC- and eARC-enabled HDMI outputs, and even support Dolby Atmos audio with up-firing speakers. Think about what content you want to watch and what sources you want to connect. If you only watch Freeview, many of these technologies are unnecessary. However, if you’re streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime Video in 4K HDR, you’ll want to get the best audio quality possible to ensure your content sounds as good as it looks.
Best Soundbars for 2021: List
The best soundbar and subwoofer combo
The Yamaha YAS-209 is an excellent package for the price, with great overall sound, a wireless subwoofer for solid bass and Alexa support for convenient voice control. The soundbar itself is one of the sleeker models we tested, with a 36-inch design that should look good under most TVs. The soundbar’s four 1.75-inch drivers deliver immersive sound for movies and programs. Plus, built-in Alexa functionality makes it easy to control any smart device in your home – even when the soundbar is off. We wish there were more than just one HDMI port on the back, but even despite that criticism, the YAS-209 offers a lot to love. Overall, this is one of the best soundbars of 2021.
The best premium soundbar
The Sonos Arc is the best soundbar you can buy if you’re willing to shell out a hefty sum. This $799 premium speaker stands out for its beautiful curved design, which is designed to be a centerpiece of your living room, as well as to enhance the sound of your TV. And it certainly doesn’t skimp on sound performance, with deep bass and clear highs for your favorite movies and TV shows, complete with Dolby Atmos support.
Thanks to Sonos’ TruePlay technology, the Arc can automatically tune itself to the room it’s in to deliver the clearest, most accurate audio. It also supports voice control via Alexa and Google Assistant, making it one of the smartest soundbars you can buy. If you have a larger entertainment space – and a big budget, the Sonos Arc is the top premium soundbar out there. Overall, this is one of the best soundbars of 2021.
Small, adaptable and great sounding
Judging by a sound-per-pound basis, the five-star Sonos Beam is currently the best soundbar you can buy. It comes with a few additions to its spec sheet, compared to the Sonos Playbar and Playbase, including an HDMI connection and voice control assistance from Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant with Apple Siri to follow. This is an affordable soundbar that could transform your listening experience.
It’s small, light and fits most TVs. The top features sleek touch controls and the back has HDMI and Ethernet ports. You can mount the Beam on the wall, although the optional bracket is pricey. Overall, this is one of the best soundbars of 2021.
Creative Stage V2
The best cheap soundbar and subwoofer combo
Cheap and compact but deceptively rich sounding, the Creative Stage V2 is another fantastic choice for those on a tight budget. The dedicated subwoofer handles the lower frequencies much better than most cheap standalone soundbars, and the clarity of the dialogue impressed during our tests.
There’s also a “Surround” mode that makes the soundstage wider than the Stage V2’s modest size, and you can tweak the sound even further with settings for boosting bass and treble. Connectivity is also very good for the money – in addition to the expected optical and 3.5mm inputs, there’s also HDMI ARC, USB and Bluetooth to play with. Overall, this is one of the best soundbars of 2021.
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
You’ll need plenty of space, but this is the best soundbar for those with deep pockets.
The Ambeo Soundbar is Sennheiser’s first consumer speaker, and it’s quite a proposition – a premium soundbar packed with features, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, 4K HDR pass-through (all handy if Netflix and/or Amazon are your main movie and TV show source). You also get auto-calibration and four HDMI inputs, plus Bluetooth and Chromecast support. At 127 cm wide and 14 cm high, it’s definitely a beast.
As a result, the Sennheiser delivers sound big enough to not need its own subwoofer, with clear, direct dialogue and detail and subtlety galore. The way the sound is stretched around you creates a great atmosphere and really pulls you into the action. To get the full Dolby Atmos effect, you’ll need to mount the soundbar on the wall or place it on the top shelf of your rack so that the upward-facing speakers aren’t obstructed. But it’s definitely worth it. Overall, this is one of the best soundbars of 2021.
JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam
The best soundbar for affordable Atmos
Proving once again that you don’t have to spend much for high-quality Dolby Atmos integration, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam defies its standalone form factor with a respectable attempt at digital surround sound – not to mention powerful bass, even without a subwoofer. While we would have liked a few more ways to manually adjust the sound output, the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam also features a handy auto-calibration feature that specifically tunes the Atmos output to the dimensions of your living room.
This contributes to a strong sense of audio positioning, again something you can’t always be sure of with individual soundbars. Still, it works, and it’s another reason why the Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is one of the best soundbars around.
Polk MagniFi Mini
The best soundbar for smaller spaces
No soundbar packs huge audio into a small package just like the Polk MagniFi Mini does. This unassuming speaker fits seamlessly into any setup, delivering clear dialogue and deep bass with the help of the included wireless subwoofer. Plus, with Google Cast support, the MagniFi Mini doubles as a great home music speaker.
The MagniFi Mini gets loud enough to fill most bedrooms and small apartments, and we found it reliable for being immersed in movies and shows. Factor in a handy remote and a simple setup process, and you have the best soundbar out there for those with limited space. And at $300, you’re not paying much for it, either. Overall, this is one of the best soundbars of 2021.
JBL Bar Studio
One of the best soundbars you can buy on a budget.
There are fine soundbars to be had for little money, and this JBL proves it. The sound is solid and punchy; connectivity includes a single ARC-enabled HDMI output, an optical digital input and Bluetooth. Build quality is also good – it’s clear that JBL has made this model to its usual high standards of aesthetic modernity. Given its small size (it’s 60 cm long and 6 cm high), the scale of the JBL sound is a bit limited, but it still delivers a confident sound with plenty of detail, clear dialogue and powerful, rich bass in the lower regions.
You also get JBL Surround Sound, a proprietary technology designed to reproduce the enveloping sound of a 5.1 system – further proof that this soundbar is committed to overcoming the limitations imposed on it by its size. It may not be a market leader, but this is an excellent buy for an impressive all-rounder for the money. If you’re looking for a full-fledged upgrade for your TV’s weak speakers, you can’t go wrong here. Overall, this is one of the best soundbars of 2021.
This Sony easily mixes it with the best soundbars at the money.
There are very few Dolby Atmos soundbars that quite live up to it, but the Sony HT-ST5000 happens to be one of them. It makes movie soundtracks so immersive that you think you’re in the movie. The HT-ST5000 is fantastic – it pairs a real sense of height (thanks to its upward-facing drivers) with refined sound quality. This Sony soundbar also has impressive features, including three HDMI inputs, USB, Bluetooth and support for high-res audio.
You can also stream music to it wirelessly via wi-fi or the Bluetooth 4.1 connection. Spotify Connect is also built-in, as is Google Chromecast for users of Tidal or Google Play Music. There’s even a special “Music Service” button on the remote, which can automatically resume Spotify playback if you’ve been on the road and listening on your smartphone. Overall, this is one of the best soundbars of 2021.
Vizio M-Series M512a-H6
The best soundbar, subwoofer and satellite system on a budget
Bargains don’t come much bigger than the Vizio M-Series M512a-H6. For less than $500, it delivers true surround sound via satellite speakers and Dolby Atmos via the soundbar’s drivers. This is the real deal: not a digital imitation of the Atmos effect, but truly immersive sound.
Only a few luxury features like Wi-Fi and auto-calibration are missing, and Vizio is particularly generous with the range of options for adjusting overall sound output, so you can make the M512a-H6 sound exactly the way you want it to. If you’re using an even cheaper soundbar, like the Vizio V-Series V21-H8, this is a great upgrade. Overall, this is one of the best soundbars of 2021.