Despite their impressive 4K displays with HDR, dynamic lighting and more, today's televisions are mostly left lacking in the audio department. This is because a desire for thinner televisions means they have less space to accommodate quality speakers, and those speakers have less air to push around in the super-thin frames of today's best TVs.
- LG's 2020 sound bar uses Ai to calibrate their sound for your room
- JBL Bar 9.1 has detachable, totally wireless rear speakers
- The best TV to buy in 2020 at any budget, from $200 to $70,000
As a result, the sound bar has quickly shifted from a nice addition for movie buffs, to a must-have for everyone. Prices start below three figures, and extend comfortably past $1,000 for the full home cinema experience.
We've picked our favorites across a range of prices to help you pick the perfect sound bar for your TV.
The best sound bar under $100
LG SK1 sound barLG
Options below $100 are fairly limited, but a good option in our eyes is the LG SK1, pictured above, which carries a retail price of $100 but is currently available from BestBuy for $90. This is a simple and compact sound bar with no subwoofer or rear speakers, but which will undoubtedly improve the sound of most small and medium-sized televisions. The sound bar can handle Dolby Digital and has 40 watts of total output. It connects to your televisions or devices like games consoles using an optical audio cable, and there is also a USB port for playing music directly from a thumb drive.
Bomaker Sound Bar – $90
2.1 channel sound bar with subwoofer, by BomakerBomaker
This option from Bomber includes both a two-channel sound bar and a subwoofer for extra bass. Its makers claim 100W of system power and a maximum volume of 110dB, which is more than enough for most TV rooms. There are four speakers in the sound bar itself, two for each of the left and right channels, and it connects to your TV, games console or other device using an optical audio cable.
The best sound bars under $200
Doubling your budget to $200 introduces you to many more options, and some from leading brands like Bose, Samsung and LG.
Paying more money gets you a fuller and louder sound, HDMI inputs for connecting multiple devices like your streaming box and games console, and even a subwoofer or pair of rear speakers to place at the back of your room, creating true surround sound.
Roku Streambar – $130
We'd like to mention the new Roku Streambar, which is a compact sound bar that connects to your Wi-Fi network and doubles as a Roku movie and TV streamer. It produces surprisingly good sound for such a small device, and works with a huge range of streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, YouTube, Spotify and many more.
We reviewed the Streambar in 2020 and recommend it as the perfect bedroom TV sound bar. As of January 2021, it is available from Amazon at the reduced price of $115. If you have a larger budget, Roku also sells the $180 Smart Soundbar, which is the same as the Streambar but is larger to produce even better (and louder) sound.
If you want a true surround sound system, the Vizio V-Series 5.1, above, is currently reduced from $250 to $200 at Best Buy and includes a sound bar plus a wireless subwoofer and wireless rear speakers. Each component still needs its own power connection from a wall outlet, but not needing audio wire makes positioning the sub and rear speakers much easier.
This wireless sound bar from LG offers a lot of practicality for $200LG
The sound bar has a generous 420 watts of power, works with the DTS Digital Surround audio standard, and is connected to your TV, games console or other devices with an optical cable, plus there is Bluetooth for playing music from your smartphone.
The best sound bar under $400
This Samsung uses virtual surround sound instead of rear speakersSamsung
Double your budget again and you can buy yourself a serious sound bar from almost any of the biggest names in the business. A great pick is the Sonos Beam, which is available in black or white and is a surprisingly compact but powerful and feature-packed option.
Priced at $400, the Sonos Beam includes five speakers, each with their own amplifier, and can be controlled by speaking to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
It includes one HDMI port for connecting to your TV, and you can connect the Beam to an existing Sonos speaker system you might already have; this means multi-room music, or you can use a pair of Sonos Ones as rear speakers, creating true surround sound.
If Sonos isn't for you, then try out the Samsung HW-Q60R/ZA. This is a $400 sound bar with a wireless subwoofer, 360W of output power, and what Samsung calls Acoustic Beam. This uses the sound bar alone to create a virtual surround sound, without needing physical speakers at the back of the room.
Sony HTZ9F sound barSony
Sony also has the HTZ9F, above, in this price range, sitting at $700 and including a wireless subwoofer, integration with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and support for Dolby Atmos too. There's a meaty 400W of power to create the cinema experience at home, plus support for DTS:X surround sound. Connections including optical audio, plus two HDMI ports that work with 4K HDR pass-through.
The best sound bar under $750
This Bose sound bar is priced at $700Bose
Between $500 and $750, a big consideration to make is whether you want rear speakers, or if you are happy with the virtual surround sound created by a sound bar and a subwoofer on their own.
Upping the budget will also bring extra input options (such as two or more HDMI ports), and other features like Wi-Fi for streaming audio from services like Spotify, as well as support for more advanced sound formats like Dolby Atmos, the current range-topper.
A solid option here - and recently reduced at Amazon from $800 to $579 — is the Samsung Harman Kardon HW-Q70R. This is a sound bar without rear speakers, but creates 3D sound compatible with Dolby Atmos and DTS: X using its seven speakers, two of which fire upwards to bounce sound off the ceiling.
Stretching closer to the $700 limit is the Bose 700, an aptly named sound bar which costs $699, includes Alexa and Google Assistant, is available in black or white, has HDMI connectivity, and support for DTS and Dolby Digital. This is a good option for those who want a compact, all-in-one sound bar from a premium manufacturer.
The best sound bar when money is no option
Samsung's flagship sound bar for 2020 is a 7.1.4 setupSamsung
In all honesty, there isn't much need to spend thousands of dollars on a sound bar. If you have a truly limitless budget, you are better off building a home cinema system using separate speakers, subwoofers and an amplifier from the likes of Denon. This option can satisfy even the largest of budgets – we're talking six figures — but can also take up a huge amount of space, especially if you start installing speakers in the walls and ceiling.
Instead, a strong flagship option is the Samsung HW-Q90R, which is a 7.1.4-channel sound bar with wireless rear speakers and subwoofer. What 7.1.4 means is that it has seven speakers pointing at the viewing area, one subwoofer, and four speakers aimed at the ceiling to create three-dimensional sound. This system has 512W of total power, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a pair of HDMI inputs, is Dolby Atmos compatible, and comes with a bracket for mounting on the wall below your TV.
Reduced from $1,700, the Samsung HW-Q90R is currently available at Best Buy for $1,700.
At the CES tech show in January 2021 Samsung announced a new flagship sound bar called the HW-Q950A. This takes the game even further by adding extra speakers to the rear units, resulting in 16 channels of sound. The Q950A doesn't have a price or release date just yet, but we would expect to see it costing around $1,800. In the meantime, the Q90R will satisfy most consumers.
High-end options from other brands include the Bose Bass Module 700, which is a sound bar and subwoofer combo with Alexa voice control and priced at $1,500. If you are feeling more adventurous you could even install a Sonos Beam sound bar, then kit out your room with Sonos speakers at the rear and even the company's ceiling speakers. The Beam and ceiling speakers can be bought for around $1,000.