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Best soundbars to buy in 2021

Want that cinema experience from the comfort of your own home? Here’s our pick of the best soundbars to enhance your family movie nights.

By Gemma Wilcock | Last updated Jul 29, 2021

Family watching TV

While the latest TVs come with large HD screens for viewing even the smallest of details, the audio can often be lacklustre. Flat-screen designs make it harder to fit decent speakers inside, so adding a soundbar can give you clearer, richer audio that’ll add something special to movie nights.

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The best soundbars are discreet, sitting in front of or below your TV to upgrade your audio. A long box that contains multiple speakers, they are easy to set up and can offer a range of features including Dolby Atmos, the latest surround sound technology, as well as music streaming. A speaker can also boost your games console audio and can come with built-in Alexa for voice activation.

There’s no doubt about it that soundbars can be pricey but, if you’re just looking to give your audio a boost, there are plenty of products at affordable prices - some costing less than £100.

With lots of different devices to choose from, choosing a sound system can feel overwhelming so we’ve researched the best soundbars to buy right now, including a range of brands, prices and designs.

1. Best overall soundbar: Sonos Beam Compact Smart Soundbar

Sonos Beam soundbar

Price: From £389 | Buy now from Amazon

“We have a Sonos and there’s lots of good things about it - you control it with your phone, so no losing the remote, you can add speakers and, when you do, you can play different things in different rooms. Sound quality is good to my untrained ear." ClosedAuraOpenMind 

We couldn’t do a round-up of the best soundbars without including a Sonos (or two!). The brand is known for making high quality sound systems and the Beam is a great all-in-one soundbar that most families will love.

It’s compact, sleek and comes in white or black to suit any modern home. With no separate speakers, it’s also simple to set up with a HDMI connection and the sound is particularly impressive. Unlike the pricier Sonos Arc, the Beam doesn’t have Dolby Atmos, but if you decide you want to upgrade it to a surround sound system, you can add more speakers as you go.  

The Sonos Beam comes with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control so you can easily alter the volume, play music, listen to the news and more. It’s also compatible with AirPlay 2 and Ask Siri.

Plus, the great thing about Sonos is you can also connect it to other devices for playing the same music all around the home. 

Pros 

  • Impressive sound for compact soundbar
  •  Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for easy voice control

Cons

  •     No Dolby Atmos
  •     No subwoofer

 Technical specs

  •     Channels: 3.0
  •     Power output: Unknown
  •     Connectivity: Wi-Fi, HDMI (ARC), optical
  •     Dimensions: 651 x 68.5 x 100mm

2. Best budget soundbar: Creative Stage V2 2.1 Soundbar

Creative Stage V2 2.1 Soundbar

 Price: £99.99 | Buy now from Amazon

This soundbar from Creative Stage is an all-in-one audio entertainment system that sits at a much more affordable price point than many of the devices on our list. 

The V2 is an update on the original 2.1 to provide higher quality audio, and comes with two new sound modes - ‘surround’ and ‘dialogue’ - plus a separate subwoofer to help fill your room with deeper bass.

It includes plenty of connectivity options, including HDMI ARC and optical (although the cables are not included) for connecting your TV, computer, phone and games consoles. You can also use Bluetooth. You’ll also find a remote control for adjusting the treble and bass setting, selecting audio modes and switching the input source.

You’re unlikely to get the same sound quality as more high-tech speaker systems, but the Creative Stage V2 2.1 is a great option for upgrading your TV’s audio without breaking the bank.

Pros 

  •     Affordable, good quality sound system
  •     Good range of connectivity options 

Cons

  •     You have to buy HDMI and optical cables separately

Technical specs

  •     Channels: 2.1
  •     Power output: 160W
  •     Connectivity: HDMI (ARC), Bluetooth, optical, USB, aux cable
  •     Dimensions: Soundbar: 680 x 78 100mm, subwoofer: 116 x 423 x 250mm 

3. Best mid-range soundbar: Sony HT-S350 2.1 Soundbar

Sony HTS350 Soundbar

Price: £199 | Buy now from Amazon

With seven different sound modes, a subwoofer and surround sound technology, the Sony HT-S350 will make home movie nights feel like a cinema trip.

The wireless subwoofer delivers a thumping bass and low rumbles while the S-Force PRO Front Surround technology allows you to hear the sound all around the room without needing additional speakers. The soundbar also comes with voice enhancement so you’ll never miss a line from your favourite film.

With HDMI ARC and optical cable, the Sony HT-S350 is easy to set up, and you can connect your phone or tablet via Bluetooth to stream music, podcasts and radio. Some users have found the sound can distort when at maximum volume though so it may be better suited to small to medium-sized rooms.

Pros 

  •     Seven different sound modes
  •     Wireless subwoofer for deeper bass

 Cons

  •     Sound may be distorted when volume is at max

Technical specs

  •     Channels: 2.1
  •     Power output: 320W
  •     Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI (ARC), optical
  •     Dimensions: Soundbar: 900 x 64 x 88mm, subwoofer: 190 x 382 x 390mm

4. Best value soundbar: LG SN5 2.1 Wireless Soundbar

LG SN5 Soundbar

Price: £319 | Buy now from Currys

While LG soundbars can be very pricey (check out the SN11RG below), this one is a much more affordable price, proving that you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good quality home entertainment system.

While it doesn’t support Dolby Atmos, the SN5 features DTS Virtual:X for immersive 3D sound. It’s got a decent 400W audio power and a wireless subwoofer to ensure you get deeper, richer audio for watching movies, TV or sport, and it automatically adjusts the settings to whatever you’re listening to. You can also play your favourite songs via Bluetooth.

Pros 

  •     Features DTS Virtual:X
  •     Good quality soundbar for decent price

Cons

  •     Doesn’t have Dolby Atmos

 Technical specs

  •     Channels: 2.1 
  •     Power output: 400W
  •     Connectivity: HDMI, optical, Bluetooth
  •     Dimensions: Soundbar: 57 x 890 x 85mm, subwoofer: 394 x 180 x 290 mm 

5. Best soundbar for TV: Samsung HW-Q800A Cinematic Soundbar

Samsung HW-Q800A soundbar

Price: £799 | Buy now from Amazon

“We've got a Samsung sound bar with Samsung TV. It's great!” Mormont

The Samsung HW-Q800A comes with surround sound technology, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, for a truly cinematic experience. 

The HW-Q800A’s separate subwoofer offers excellent bass support for watching your favourite TV shows, films or listening to music - and if you have a Samsung TV, you can synchronise both devices so that they play simultaneously, adding more height and space to your audio. 

There’s plenty of features too, with built-in Alexa voice control, two HDMI ports, digital optical, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Plus, with the option to stream via Spotify and AirPlay 2, you’re likely to get the most out of these high-performance speakers to make them worth the hefty price tag. 

Pros 

  •     Separate subwoofer for excellent bass support
  •     Features include Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround sound

Cons

  •     Expensive

Technical specs

  •     Channels: 3.1
  •     Power output: 330W
  •     Connectivity: HDMI (eARC), optical, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  •     Dimensions: Soundbar: 980 x 60 x 115mm, subwoofer: 403 x 210 x 403mm 

6. Best LG soundbar: LG SN11RG Bluetooth Wifi Soundbar

LG SN11RG Soundbar

Price: £1,199 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners

This is a soundbar for those with deeper pockets, but if you’re looking for a speaker that packs a punch then the LG SN11RG won’t disappoint. In fact, with a host of premium features, your cinematic experience will rival even the fanciest of cineplexes.

The 770W of audio power, wireless subwoofer for thundering bass and two rear speakers will ensure you’re at the centre of the action. The SN11RG supports surround sound technologies Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and automatically adjusts to the most optimum of settings. 

Thanks to the wireless Bluetooth connectivity and built-in Google Assistant and Chromecast, you can also easily play music from your favourite streaming services.

Pros

  •     Built-in Google Assistant and Chromecast for voice control
  •     Supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X

Cons

  • Very expensive

Technical specs

  •     Channels: 7.1 
  •     Power output: 770W
  •     Connectivity: HDMI, optical, USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  •     Dimensions: Soundbar: 630 x 1442 x 146mm, subwoofer: 390 x 220 x 31.2mm, speakers: 211.5 x 130 x 191.2mm (each)

7. Best Sony soundbar: SONY HT-X8500 Bluetooth Soundbar

Sony HTX8500 Soundbar

 Price: £229 | Buy now from Amazon

While other devices come with separate subwoofers and speakers to get a powerful, immersive sound, Sony’s HT-X8500 packs it all into one soundbar. 

The dual-integrated subwoofer is handy if you’re short on space and, despite being at the lower end of the price range, it comes with surround sound technology. Sony’s Vertical Sound Engine works with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to produce cinematic sound from all around you.

Use the remote control to choose from seven different sound modes, including ‘cinema’ for watching movies and ‘game’ for boosting the audio on your games console. With Bluetooth connectivity for playing music, as well as HDMI and optical digital cables, there’s plenty of options here to suit most households. 

Pros

  •     Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 
  •     All-in-one soundbar with integrated subwoofer 

Cons

  •     No rear speakers so surround sound may be better in smaller rooms 

Technical specs

  •     Channels: 2.1
  •     Power output: 32W
  •     Connectivity: HDMI (ARC/eARC), optical, Bluetooth, WI-FI
  •     Dimensions: 890 x 64 x 96mm

8. Best all-in-one soundbar: Sonos Arc Soundbar

Sonos Arc soundbar

Price: £799 | Buy now from Amazon

“Love our Sonos. I would definitely recommend. I like that I can group rooms or play different music in different rooms. The sound quality is excellent. Easy-use app to control which you can have on several devices (we have it on my phone, DH’s phone and the iPad)." Cheesymashandbeans

The Arc is Sonos’ latest soundbar and provides everything you should need for home movie nights all in one little box, including Dolby Atmos. Whether you’re watching TV, a movie, listening to music or gaming, the 11 drivers in the Arc are angled so that sound bounces around the room to give a powerful 3D experience.

Like the Sonos Beam, it has built-in Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa and you can connect it to AirPlay2 as well. With no separate subwoofer or speakers, it has a very minimalistic feel and, as with all Sonos products, you can connect it to other devices around the home and control it using the Sonos app. 

It’s simple to set up using HDMI ARC/eARC but you do need to make sure your TV is compatible as there is no other input available and you may not get the best sound quality the Arc has to offer. 

Pros 

  •     Impressive Dolby Atmos soundbar
  •     Discreet all-in-one sound system

Cons

  •     Better suited to newer TVs with HDMI ARC/eARC
  •     Hefty price tag

Technical specs

  •     Channels: 3.0
  •     Power output: unknown
  •     Connectivity: HDMI (ARC/eARC), ethernet, optical audio adapter, Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2
  •     Dimensions: 87 x 1141.7 x 115.7mm 

9. Best compact soundbar: Bose Smart Soundbar 300

Bose 300 Soundbar

Price: £399 | Buy now from Amazon

“We got a Bose one and it’s awesome. Proper cinema sound and it’s only little. We have a Sharp telly with Sky and it all works beautifully.” exWifebeginsat40

The Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is compact, sleek and offers some great features. While it doesn’t come with a subwoofer and isn’t compatible with Dolby Atmos, it uses five drivers to get a wide, deep sound for watching films, playing games or listening to music.

 Although it comes with a remote control, the 300 also has Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control - and with Bose voice technology, you can control the soundbar and TV, including changing the channel and making or taking calls. 

You can connect via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and it comes with an audio cable for set-up – there’s the option of HDMI, but this is sold separately. You can also connect to other Bose products as part of a home speaker system. 

Pros

  •     Compact, discreet design
  •     Built in Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control

Cons

  •     You need to download the Bose Music app for set up
  •     Doesn’t come with HDMI cable

Technical specs

  •     Channels: 2.0
  •     Power output: unknown
  •     Connectivity: HDMI, optical, WI-FI, Bluetooth
  •     Dimensions: 560 x 695 x 103mm

10. Best Panasonic soundbar: Panasonic SC-HTB01 SoundSlayer

Panasonic Soundslayer

Price: £249.99 | Buy now from Amazon

Although the SoundSlayer (yes, really) has been designed with gaming in mind, it is an impressive small soundbar with surround sound compatibility.

It features a built-in subwoofer and supports Dolby Atmos, DTX:X and DTS Virtual:X. The SoundSlayer also comes with three game modes for that fully immersive surround sound experience – whether you’re deep in the action of your favourite game or watching a film.

While you can’t connect it to Wi-Fi, you can use Bluetooth. But as it’s aimed at gaming, the sound may not be as good when it comes to streaming music. 

Pros

  •     Three game modes for an immersive gaming experience
  •     Small, powerful soundbar

Cons

  •     May not work as well for streaming music 

Technical specs

  •     Channels: 2.1
  •     Power output: 80W
  •     Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI, optical
  •     Dimensions: 431 x 52 x 132mm

Are soundbars worth it? 

Ever had to turn the volume up halfway through a film when the sound suddenly dips? Even the most top-of-the-line TVs can struggle when it comes to the audio, so a soundbar can really help to make your home viewing more enjoyable.  

Unlike a typical surround sound system, they are compact and easy to set up so there’s very few wires or big bulky speakers on display. Upgrading your audio with even the most basic of soundbars means you’ll never miss any crucial dialogue and the clearer, richer audio will vastly improve your home entertainment experience. 

What should I look for when buying a soundbar? 

  • Set up – While soundbars are generally discreet, it’s worth measuring it to see how it compares to your TV screen as you don’t want it obscuring your view. Also think about where it will go - do you have space under or behind your TV or will it need to be wall-mounted? If so, does it come with fittings? If there are any separate speakers, consider where they will go too.
  • Speakers – A soundbar is a box with multiple speakers inside - choose between a standalone soundbar or one that comes with extra speakers. A stand-alone soundbar is discreet and easy to set up and will upgrade your TV’s audio, however you’re unlikely to get that full cinematic experience. A soundbar that comes with extra speakers can offer 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound.
  • Subwoofer – This is a speaker that picks up low-frequency sounds such as bass tones. A standalone soundbar can struggle with bass so adding a subwoofer can deliver a fuller, deeper sound. Some soundbars have a built-in subwoofer, while others come separately. 
  • Dolby Atmos – The newest surround sound technology, Dolby Atmos offers an even better sound experience than the 5.1 and 7.1 channels. Other systems surround you with audio, whereas soundbars with Atmos have upward-firing drivers that give the audio more height. These do normally come with a heftier price tag though. Another surround sound technology to look out for is DTS:X, a rival to Atmos.
  • Connections – Your soundbar will most likely use HDMI to connect to your TV, Sky box, Blu Ray player or games console. Some soundbars come with HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) which connects your TV and audio system with a single high speed HDMI cable so you don’t need an additional audio or optical digital cable. It’s also useful if you run out of HDMI inputs. Older TVs may not be compatible with ARC so do check first. 
  • Extras – Many soundbars now allow you to connect your phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi so you can stream music and use speakers in other rooms too. Some are also compatible with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant so you can use voice control and sometimes even make or answer phone calls.
  • Price - If you’re looking for a high-tech audio package then you’re looking at paying up to over £1,000, however there are lots of budget friendly options for less than £100, though they may not come with as many features. 

What’s the difference between a 2.1 and 5.1 soundbar?

A 2.1 and 5.1 soundbar are both multichannel speaker systems - the numbers refer to the number of speakers and subwoofer that the soundbar comes with. So, a 2.1 soundbar includes two speakers, usually left and right channel and a subwoofer, while a 5.1 soundbar comes with five speakers, often three on the soundbar and two separate surround sound speakers (but they can be built-in), and a subwoofer.

You’ll get better audio from a 5.1 soundbar as they add more volume and deliver a more immersive experience, but generally they do cost more. A 2.1 soundbar can still produce good sound at a cheaper price.

Which is the best soundbar to buy? 

We think the Sonos Beam is the best soundbar to buy. It’s compact, easy to set up and delivers a rich, powerful sound. It comes with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control so you can easily alter the volume, play music, listen to the news and more. You can also connect it to other devices for playing the same music all around your home. 

How we chose our recommendations 

Most of our recommendations for soundbars came from Mumsnet users themselves. We searched the Mumsnet forums for posts about which soundbars Mumsnetters really rated. We also researched various review sites to find out which soundbars performed well across the board.

 

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