The best soundbars for TV shows, movies and music in 2021 best soundbar 2021

Share this post

Choosing the best soundbar for your budget, home, and current set up can be tricky. Maybe you want to build the perfect home theater system of your dreams. Or perhaps you’re simply looking for a more reliable audio source to accompany your TV with great sound and an affordable price.

Generally speaking, soundbars are must-have devices to accompany today’s modern TVs. That’s because as the newest and best TVs get slimmer and slimmer, there’s less room for built-in speakers. That means they might look fantastic but you’ll need another way to do the advanced screen tech justice.

Comb through the specs of any of the top TVs you can buy right now and you’ll see the audio probably won’t be up to scratch. In our opinion, even the best Samsung TV could use an external soundbar to upgrade its audio performance from fair to great.

That’s why we’ve created this guide to the best soundbars you can buy right now, selecting the top soundbar devices on the market for every budget, home, and setup. That’s because we don’t want you to spend a fortune on a new TV display only for the audio to fall short as soon as you’ve got it all set-up. Or pick a new soundbar that looks good but doesn’t deliver the quality you’re looking for.

In the list below you’ll find our pick of the best soundbars available for you to buy in 2021, from those that boast Dolby Atmos through to ultra-affordable plug-in-and-go models. 

Our top picks

The best soundbars 2021

(Image credit: Sonos)

1. Sonos Arc

The best soundbar you can buy right now

Specifications

Dimensions: 1141.7 x 87 x 115.7mm (W x H x D)

Speaker configuration: 5.0.2

Claimed audio power: N/A

Connections: HDMI input (ARC), optical digital audio to HDMI converter, Bluetooth, Ethernet port, 802.11b,g Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay 2, IR receiver

Reasons to buy

+Dolby Atmos, TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus+Discrete all-in-one soundbar+Amazing surround sound and music playback

Reasons to avoid

Doesn’t suit every room

Sonos latest surround sound solution is contained entirely in a single soundbar it calls Arc. 

While we’re not sure if the device gets its name from the HDMI interface it uses, the curved sound it pitches or the fact that it is perhaps, metaphorically, a vessel delivering impressive surround sound to the modern minimalist home, this system is hell-bent on short circuiting the surround sound game.

The Sonos Arc draws on Dolby’s latest TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus sound codecs to deliver the best quality lossless audio found on cutting edge Blu-ray disks and some of the leading streaming services. It then enhances the 3D soundscape using Dolby Atmos object tracks to bounce certain sounds off the walls around you so they feel like they’re coming at you from all angles.

While all this might sound complicated, the Sonos Arc setup couldn’t be simpler, involving just a couple of steps on the smartphone app. The minimalist cable connections and all-in-one system construction add to this no-fuss feeling and streamlined aesthetic – making it the best soundbar you can buy in 2021.

Read more: Sonos Arc review

[Update: Sonos has confirmed that it will be launching a new product in March 2021. Will it be a new version of the Sonos Move, or the long-rumored Sonos headphones? We can’t wait to find out.]

Samsung HW-Q950T Soundbar

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung HW-Q950T

One of best soundbars just got better

Specifications

Dimensions: 1303 x 621 x 277 mm (H x W x D)

Speaker configuration: 9.1.4

Claimed audio power: 0.45W

Connections: HDMI input (ARC) x 2, HDMI output x 1, optical digital x 1, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Spotify Connect

Reasons to buy

+Outstandingly powerful sound+Unprecedented channel support+Tasteful and slender design

Reasons to avoid

Expensive for a soundbarUnhelpfully positioned displayNo auto-calibration system

The Q950T sees Samsung retain its place at the top of the 3D audio soundbar league, beaten only by the Sonos Arc. It combines Samsung’s customary fearsome power with enhanced precision and dynamism by providing 14 separate channels of sound. Plus, its slimmer shape will see it fit under a wider range of TVs too.

The 9.1.4 system is pretty remarkable for a soundbar, and is clearly tailor-made for the object-based sound delights of today’s Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio formats.

Audio streaming is supported over both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which includes Hi-Res Audio file formats, and even lets you connect with certain phones just by tapping them against the soundbar’s bodywork.

Physical connectivity is fair for a premium soundbar, comprising two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output (with eARC support for obtaining lossless Dolby Atmos / DTS:X soundtracks from compatible TVs) and an optical digital audio input.

Read more: Samsung HW-Q950T review

Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar

(Image credit: Samsung)

3. Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar

Be afraid, traditional Hi-Fi speakers. Be very afraid.

Specifications

Dimensions: 1226 x 83 x 136mm (W x H x D)

Speaker configuration: 7.1.4

Claimed audio power: 512W

Connections: 2 x HDMI inputs, 1 x HDMI output with eARC, optical digital audio input, USB (service only), Bluetooth and WiFi

Reasons to buy

+Impressive sound quality+Dolby Atmos and DTS:X+Easy to install and setup

Reasons to avoid

Expensive

The Samsung HW-Q90R was the brand’s all-singing, all-dancing flagship soundbar for 2019 – and in 2021, it has only just been pipped by the newer Q950T. 

It not only supports object-based audio in the shape of both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, it’s also the only soundbar from 2019 to achieve this with actual rear speakers and four upward-firing drivers.

Few soundbars come so close to producing the full Dolby Atmos and DTS:X experience, and thanks to tuning from Harman Kardon the HW-Q90 even sounds good with music. A decent set of features and fully-specified HDMI connections complete a nearly flawless package… as long as you can afford it, this is one of the best soundbars you can buy.

Read more: Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar review

Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar

(Image credit: Sony)

4. Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar

Sony’s all-in-one Dolby Atmos bar may be the best value of the year

Specifications

Dimensions: 890 x 64 x 96 mm (35 1/8 x 2 5/8 x 3 7/8 in)

Speaker configuration: 2.1

Claimed audio power: N/A

Connections: 1 HDMI input, 1 HDMI Out (ARC), analogue audio in/out, Ethernet, optical audio in, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Reasons to buy

+Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compatible+Compact all-in-one form factor+Integrated subwoofer

Reasons to avoid

No upfiring drivers

Given that rival Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbars typically sell for twice the price, Sony’s HT-X8500 warrants an easy recommendation – and it’s the best soundbar with Dolby Atmos that won’t break the bank. Cost-cutting can be attributed to connectivity and features but what’s genuinely confounding is just how great the HT-X8500 sounds. 

The key to the HT-X8500’s gutsy performance is Sony’s proprietary Vertical Sound Engine – working with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, it creates a convincing illusion of wraparound sound that allow Dolby Atmos movies to play with a clear sense of expanded height and width.

The build quality and design of the soundbar is exceptional, and its general audio performance impresses with its clarity and spatial presentation. 

Overall, if you want a home theatre sound system that won’t dent your budget, this is the best soundbar for you.

Read more: Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar review

[Update: Sony has released the follow up to the HT-X8500; the Sony HT-G700 comes with virtual Dolby Atmos and a dedicated center speaker to enhance dialogue.]

samsung soundbar

(Image credit: Samsung)

5. Samsung HW-Q800A

Powerful new soundbar takes your living room to the movies

Specifications

Dimensions: Main soundbar 980 x 60 x 115mm / Subwoofer 403 x 210 x 403mm (W x H x D)

Speaker configuration: 3.1.2

Claimed audio power: 330W

Connections: HDMI input and output with eARC, optical digital audio input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Reasons to buy

+Powerful, immersive, room-filling sound+Excellent bass support from the subwoofer

Reasons to avoid

Best features require a new and fairly premium Samsung TVExpensive by typical soundbar standards

The Q800A is an impressive refinement on its 2020 predecessor, delivering improvements in two key areas. 

Firstly, if you’re able to combine it with the sound optimization features of the new Q70A or higher 2021 Samsung TVs, the improvements in audio performance prove unexpectedly worthwhile. 

For its second big improvement over last year’s Q800T, Samsung’s added up-firing height channel drivers to the Q800A’s optional extra rear speakers, providing a more satisfying and convincing Dolby Atmos sound experience. That said, the Q800A is good enough on its own that we suspect most people who buy it won’t feel any great compulsion to add the rears.

Read more: Samsung HW-Q800A review

Best Soundbar

(Image credit: LG)

6. LG SN11RG Dolby Atmos Soundbar

LG’s most serious and exciting soundbar yet

Specifications

Power: 770W

Speakers: 7.1.4

Dimensions: 56.8 x 2.5 x 5.8 inches

Connections: HDMI with 4K passthrough, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB

Subwoofer included?: Yes

Reasons to buy

+Well-designed main soundbar+Mostly great sound quality+True rear/upfiring speakers

Reasons to avoid

Bass can lack clarityOccasional lack of impact

Without any doubt about it, the LG SN11RG was the company’s flagship soundbar last year. In fact, it’s much more than just a soundbar, in that it ships with both a substantial external subwoofer and a pair of heavy duty rear speakers. 

With its 7.1.4-channel configuration, it’s a complete audio arsenal.

The SN11RG also carries true up-firing rear and front drivers to deliver the height effects of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, and sees LG continuing its so-far impressive collaboration with high-end British AV brand, Meridian.

The main soundbar boasts an attractive, practical design and supports eARC with Dolby Vision. Plus, it has an AI Sound Pro processor that can convert pretty much any incoming sound format – even vanilla stereo – into a full multi-channel output that although not perfect, sounds spectacular. 

Read more: LG SN11RG Soundbar review

Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

7. Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar

Dazzling 3D sound – but at quite a price

Specifications

Power: 500W

Speakers: 5.1.4

Dimensions: 1265 x 135 x 171 mm

Weight: 18.5kg

Inputs: Digital coaxial in, Digital optical in, HDMI 2.1 output (eARC), 3 HDMI 2.0a In, Audio in 3.5 mm jack

Wireless: Bluetooth 4.2 and AAC

Subwoofer included?: No

Reasons to buy

+Superb sound quality+Effective Dolby Atmos

Reasons to avoid

Humongous price, size and weightNo AirPlay or AptX for Bluetooth

Sennheiser is best known for its range of headphones and professional microphones, but it recently extended its ambitions to home audio as well, with the introduction of its new Ambeo Soundbar. 

The bulky soundbar is packed with the latest audio technologies, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for surround sound audio, as well as Sennheiser’s own Ambeo ‘virtual 3D’ sound system. Sennheiser clearly has its sights set on the home cinema market with the Ambeo, although the bar’s Wi-Fi connectivity means that it can double up as a pretty impressive music system as well.

It’s not perfect – Sennheiser’s reliance on Google Home to provide Wi-Fi streaming seems like an odd choice – but the sheer sound quality of the Ambeo Soundbar ensures that it justifies its wallet-breaking price tag.

Read more: Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar review

Sonos Beam

8. Sonos Beam

This is the smart soundbar we’ve been waiting for

Specifications

Power: N/A

Speakers: 3 channels

Dimensions: 2.70 x 25.625 x 3.94 in. (68.5 x 651 x 100 mm)

Weight: 6.2 lbs (2.8 kg)

Inputs: 1 x Digital Optical-In, 1 x HDMI-in

Wireless: Sonos

Subwoofer included?: No

Special features: Amazon Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2

Reasons to buy

+Great compact design+HDMI ARC compatible+Superb sound

Reasons to avoid

No Dolby Atmos

The Sonos Beam is a fantastic soundbar for its price, one that takes full advantage of the Sonos ecosystem and is a joy to use (and set up, if your television has HDMI ARC). Its smaller form factor means it’s a device that will sit comfortably next to a 32-inch TV but it’s got enough of a footprint to not be dwarfed by a much bigger set. 

The Sonos Beam doesn’t offer earth-shattering bass and the lack of Dolby Atmos support will irk some, but at this price point it’d be more of a surprise if it had been included. The voice control may be Alexa-only for now, but it works well and if you have adopted some of Amazon’s TV toys, it really is worth experimenting with. 

Read more: Sonos Beam review

denon soundbar

(Image credit: Denon)

9. Denon S716H (HEOS Bar)

A powerful and well-connected Playbar challenger

Specifications

Power: N/A

Speakers: 3.0

Dimensions: 2 7/8 x 43 3/8 x 5 7/8 inches; 72 x 1100 x 148 mm

Weight: 10.58 lbs; 4.8 kg

Inputs: 4K HDMI Input and HDMI Output

Wireless: Bluetooth, 802.11ac Wi-Fi

Special features: Heos Multi-Room Audio

Reasons to buy

+Excellent sound quality+Handles all formats & streams

Reasons to avoid

Occasional switching delayInaccessible USB slot

The Denon HEOS Bar has been renamed – meet the Denon S716H. The name change is designed to reflect HEOS’s status as a multi-room software solution used by multiple brands, and aside from a small retune, the soundbar itself is unchanged. 

With its nine drivers are arranged in trios for left, center and right channels and a virtual surround mode to create the illusion of having more speakers around the room, the Denon S716H is pretty much whatever you want it to be.  

Blessed with such a balanced soundscape, this soundbar proved immediately adept with music, and has a consistently warm yet refined sound quality that’s all its own. The fact that it lacks the opportunity to tweak the audio settings is not as important as we had feared. 

Music sounds superb, especially lossless tunes, from which the Denon S716H drags out a lot of detail. However, we did notice on a couple of occasions that the first half-a-second was cut-off songs. 

Read more: Denon S716H review

Vizio SB362An-F6 Sound Bar

(Image credit: Cliff Joseph)

10. Vizio SB362An-F6 Sound Bar

Impressive sonic upgrade for your TV, at a bargain-basement price

Specifications

Power: N/A

Speakers: 2.0

Dimensions: 914.4mm x 52.1mm x 133.1mm

Weight: 5.61 Lbs. / 2.54 Kg

Inputs: 1 x digital optical,1x 3.5 mm jack

Wireless: Bluetooth

Subwoofer included?: No

Reasons to buy

+Powerful, dramatic sound+Dolby Audio and DTS Virtual:X

Reasons to avoid

No HDMINo LCD display

The key feature of the SB362An-F6 – also referred to more helpfully as the “36-inch 2.1 Sound Bar” on most retailer’s websites – is really its sheer value for money, costing just £149 in the UK and an even more competitive $139 in the US, where it was launched at the end of last year.

Despite the bargain-basement price, the SB362An-F6 is neatly designed, measuring 36 inches wide, and a streamlined 2 inches high, and 5.2 inches deep (914xx52x133mm). This soundbar will sit comfortably underneath the screen of most TVs, and Vizio also includes a pair of wall-mount brackets as well. 

The SB362An-F6 isn’t perfect, but its dramatic and imposing sound provides a real audio upgrade for your television’s built-in speakers. The Virtual:X technology works well too, helping to create a more immersive atmosphere while you’re watching. And while it might be missing a few bells and whistles, there’s no doubt that the SB362An-F6 provides excellent value for money.

Read more: Vizio SB362An-F6 review

The Vizio SB362An-F6 is currently sold out in the UK – if you’re looking for an alternative, check out the Sony HT-X8500.

LG SK8 Soundbar

(Image credit: LG)

11. LG SK8 Soundbar

Compact design, great value, good sound

Specifications

Power: 360W

Speakers: 2.1

Dimensions: 1061(w) x 57.5(h) x 87(d)mm

Weight: 3.0

Inputs: One HDMI in, one HDMI out, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, optical audio input

Wireless: Bluetooth

Subwoofer included?: Yes

Reasons to buy

+Stylish, compact design+Open, clear soundbar audio

Reasons to avoid

Rather ‘flat’ subwoofer soundNo rear channel sound

The LG SK8 sits elegantly and compactly beneath your TV, and delivers a clean, detailed and open sound. 

Although you have to treat the LG SK8’s Dolby Atmos claims with something of a pinch of salt due to its lack of ‘real’ sound channels and a slightly reticent subwoofer, it still has plenty to offer for its money. 

It supports lots of sources, it looks attractive, it sounds more powerful than it looks, and it’s just as adept with music as it is with movies. An on-soundbar display and Google Assistant compatibility make it easy to use, too.  

Read more: LG SK8 Soundbar review

Polk Audio Command Bar

(Image credit: Polk Audio)

12. Polk Audio Command Bar

Inexpensive and very smart

Specifications

Power: N/A

Speakers: 1

Dimensions: 43 x 14.5 x 14.4 inches

Weight: 8.6lbs

Inputs: 1 x SPDIDF, 1 x HDMI, 1 x TOSLINK, 1 x micro-USB connection

Outputs: 1 x HDMI output with Audio Return Channel (ARC)

Wireless: Bluetooth

Subwoofer included?: Yes

Special features: Alexa built in

Reasons to buy

+Alexa built-in+Space for a Fire TV stick+Inexpensive

Reasons to avoid

Audio is mediocre

If $300 is your budget cap for a smart soundbar, then we highly recommend the Polk Audio Command Bar for any small or medium-sized living room.

As you might be able to tell based on the soundbar’s design, the Command Bar comes with Alexa built right into it making it unquestionably smart. It’s also relatively inexpensive too, coming in at $250 (£249 / AU$649), and it comes with a subwoofer. 

It has defined and powerful low end, some cool smart features, and looks pretty good, too.

Read more: Polk Audio Command Bar review

Why should I buy a soundbar?

If you love the slim aesthetic of your new 4K TV, we can bet it doesn’t have the audio needed to match the visuals. That means picking the best soundbar to go with your TV is your best option to get the most out of your favorite TV shows and films. 

The best soundbars of 2021 are built to be just as pleasing to the eye as they are to the ear. Most of them are sleek, minimal and designed to sit flush against a wall or home cinema set-up. They’re also a good solution for smaller homes and rooms with little space that wouldn’t be able to squeeze a 7.1 channel speaker system in. 

The majority of the soundbars on this list are made to sit in front of your screen, but they can also be wall-mounted above or to the side of it as well, depending on how your room is laid out. This provides you with ultimate choice as to how your home entertainment set-up looks.

Despite most of the soundbars on this list only featuring front-facing speakers, many are able to confidently project sound in a way that makes it seem as though there’s booming audio coming from every direction.

Soundbar FAQs

Are soundbars worth it? Absolutely. Even if you don’t consider yourself a hardcore cinephile, the best soundbars make a world of difference to your TV watching experience – built-in TV speakers just don’t do your favorite films, TV shows, and games justice. 

How much should I spend on a soundbar? It really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want the very best soundbar technology has to offer, you might be looking at prices of $800 / £800 / AU$1,000 and upwards. However, there are lots of fantastic budget soundbars on the market, with some costing less than $100 / £100 / AU$150. Just bear in mind that you generally get what you pay for, and these budget models probably won’t come with premium features like Dolby Atmos, included rear speakers, and hi-res audio support. 

What is the best cheap soundbar? The Sony HT-X8500 is a high-quality soundbar that delivers excellent sound at an affordable price – and by affordable we mean below $300 / £300. There are cheaper options, though, especially if you’re looking for a small soundbar for your computer. Check out the Razer Leviathan if you need a decent budget gaming soundbar.

Where should I put a soundbar? You generally have two options when it comes to soundbar placement: wall-mounting it, or placing in below your TV on your TV cabinet. If your soundbar is quite tall, wall-mounting may be the best option, as it could obscure the IR receiver on your TV, rendering your remote control useless.

Soundbar news

Many new soundbars are released every week and plenty have innovative designs and high-spec features.

Some of the newest soundbars we’ve had our eye on recently include the Cowin Soundbar, which is a modular soundbar that you can break in half to make two floor standing speakers

On the subject of soundbars that come with more options than we’re used to, we like the look of the LG QP5 Éclair, which comes in at just 11.7 inches by 2.3 inches (W x H), making it an ideal choice if you’re short on space.

If you’re on the lookout for affordable audio tech, JBL has announced its latest soundbar, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam, as the latest addition to its popular Bar series.

On the opposite end of the price spectrum, Samsung has announced a number of new high-spec Q-Series soundbars for 2021, including the 11.1.4-channel HW-Q950A, which comes with Dolby Atmos support and some seriously innovative rear speakers. 

Most recently, Polk Audio announced the Polk React, which the company claims is the world’s most advanced Alexa soundbar. Support for Alexa’s Communication features means you can even sync your contacts from the Alexa app and use voice commands to call them at no extra cost.

Best soundbars at a glance

  1. Sonos Arc
  2. Samsung HW-Q950T Soundbar
  3. Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar
  4. Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar
  5. Samsung HW-Q800A Soundbar
  6. LG SN11RG Soundbar
  7. Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar
  8. Sonos Beam
  9. Denon S716H
  10. Vizio SB362An-F6 Sound Bar
  11. LG SK8 soundbar
  12. Polk Audio Command Bar

Soundbar deals

Source: TechRadar


Share this post

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top