The Best Soundbars of 2018

The future of TV audio, here’s our collection of the Best Soundbars.

ProductJBL Bar 3.1Polk Audio Signa S1Sonos BeamSony HT-NT5Bose SoundTouch 300Definitive Technology W Studio MicroLG SJ7Philips Fidelio B5Sonos PlaybaseVizio SB4551-D5
Lowest Price$489.95
Best Price
Best Price
Best ForBass LoversBudget-Seeking Home Theater FansAlexa-Acclimated AudiophilesGoogle Cast FansAll-in-One Design FansBass Lovers With Little RoomFans of Stereo SeparationSurround Sound EnthusiastsMulti-Room Audio FansSurround Sound Fans
Physical Connections3.5mm, Optical, HDMI3.5mm, OpticalOptical, HDMI3.5mm, USB, Optical, HDMIOptical, HDMIOptical, Stereo RCA, HDMI3.5mm, Optical, HDMI3.5mm, Optical, Coaxial Digital, HDMIOptical3.5mm, Optical, HDMI
Separate SubwooferYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Multi-Room SupportYesYesYesYesYes
Voice ControlNoneNoneAmazon AlexaNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNoneNone

JBL Bar 3.1 Review

JBL Bar 3.1MSRP: $499.95

Pros: Powerful audio performance with deep bass and crisp, clear highs. Wireless subwoofer. Adjustable bass levels.

Cons: Highly sculpted sound signature could use more midrange presence.

Bottom Line: The JBL Bar 3.1 soundbar delivers crisp highs and serious rumble from a wireless subwoofer with adjustable bass levels.

Polk Audio Signa S1 Review

Polk Audio Signa S1

MSRP: $199.95

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Pros: Balanced and clean audio performance. Simulated surround can produce a wide sound field. Bluetooth connectivity. Affordable.

Cons: Subwoofer could be more powerful.

Bottom Line: The Polk Signa S1 is a no-frills soundbar that offers very good performance for an affordable price.

Sonos Beam Review

MSRP: $799.99

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Pros: Powerful sound for its size. Built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistant. Easily expanded with additional Sonos speakers.

Cons: No Bluetooth. Optional subwoofer is expensive.

Bottom Line: The Sonos Beam packs multi-room, multi-service audio streaming and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant into a deceptively small soundbar.

Sony HT-NT5 Review

Sony HT-NT5

MSRP: $799.99

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Pros: Lots of wired and wireless connection options. Powerful sound. Good performance for both movies and music. Crisp highs and powerful bass.

Cons: Slightly weak in the low-mids for music. Only uses Miracast for video streaming. Power cables are permanently attached.

Bottom Line: The well-connected Sony HT-NT5 soundbar is a powerful two-piece speaker system equipped with Google Cast and 4K HDMI pass through.

Bose SoundTouch 300 Review

Bose SoundTouch 300

MSRP: $699.95

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Pros: Immersive sound with adjustable bass and good clarity in the highs. AdaptIQ adjusts audio to suit your room’s contour and reflections. Expandable with wireless Bose speakers. Versatile connectivity, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and HDMI ARC.

Cons: No treble EQ. DSP can be intense at high volume levels.

Bottom Line: The Bose SoundTouch 300 soundbar delivers strong audio performance with multiple ways to stream music and connect to your TV.

Definitive Technology W Studio Micro Review

Definitive Technology W Studio Micro

MSRP: $899.00

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Pros: Wireless subwoofer. Good overall sound quality. Wi-Fi music streaming.

Cons: No Bluetooth. Wi-Fi support is limited.

Bottom Line: The Definitive Technology W Studio Micro soundbar is tiny enough to easily fit in front of your HDTV without blocking it, with a wireless subwoofer to provide plenty of power.

LG SJ7 Review


MSRP: $499.00

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Pros: Powerful audio performance with strong bass response and solid clarity. Versatile connectivity. Right speaker is portable.

Cons: Default audio settings can sound overly bass-boosted. 2.1 system is not, visually, what most people consider a soundbar.

Bottom Line: The LG SJ7 breaks the traditional long soundbar into a stereo pair and adds a modestly sized subwoofer, with solid audio quality you can adjust to your taste.

Philips Fidelio B5 Review

Philips Fidelio B5

MSRP: $699.99

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Pros: Adjustable bass and treble. Versatile configuration options. Wireless rear speakers can be used as individual portable speakers.

Cons: Expensive. No included HDMI or Optical cables.

Bottom Line: The Philips Fidelio B5 4.1 soundbar system delivers strong bass response you can tune to your liking, as well as wireless rear satellites that double as portable speakers.

Sonos Playbase Review

Sonos Playbase

MSRP: $699.99

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Pros: Excellent overall audio performance. Large sound field with very good directional imaging for movies. Lots of streaming media options through the Sonos app. Can be expanded to a true 5.1-channel surround system.

Cons: Lacks ultra-low frequency, sub-woofer-like presence. Can only use other Sonos speakers for 5.1 setup. No Bluetooth.

Bottom Line: The Playbase is a powerful audio slab for your TV, with lots of streaming options and the ability to connect to other Sonos speakers throughout your home.

Vizio SB4551-D5 Review

Vizio SB4551-D5

MSRP: $499.99

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Pros: True 5.1 surround sound with a tweakable sound signature. Powerful output. Thin sub-woofer can stand upright or be placed flat beneath sofa.

Cons: Wired rear channels.

Bottom Line: The Vizio SB4551-D5 is a capable 5.1 surround system with a soundbar as its front three channels.

Upgrade Your TV Audio

New TVs are generally thin, which is great for how they look on your wall or in your entertainment center. However, that’s not so good for how they sound. Speakers typically need a lot of space to produce good audio (with a few unique technical exceptions, like expensive and rare electrostatic panel speakers), and there simply isn’t much real estate in really flat televisions. This means that, as nice as the picture looks, your TV’s built-in speakers probably don’t sound too good. You need a separate sound system if you want loud, high-quality audio for your home theater that isn’t thin or tinny. That’s what soundbars are for.

Soundbars are long, usually relatively thin (but still thicker than your HDTV) speakers that incorporate stereo, left/right/center, or even surround sound audio in an easy-to-set-up device you plug into your TV’s HDMI or optical port. They’re add-on sound systems that don’t take up much more space than your TV itself, but add much-needed power, range, and clarity to your audio experience.

Bars or Slabs?

Most soundbars are one- or two-piece devices. The soundbar itself is the aforementioned long, thin speaker, and it can work fine on its own. However, for strong bass performance you need the additional power of a subwoofer. Fortunately, many soundbars come with a wireless subwoofer you can hide next to the couch or in the corner of the room, and it will automatically sync with the speaker you place in front of your TV.

Besides the standard bar shape, several one-piece sound systems have adopted the sound slab format, like the Sonos Playbase pictured below. These are large, flat speaker systems that incorporate everything into a single monolithic base you can place directly under your TV. The greater area and volume often means that these can produce better midrange and bass than soundbars, and some can even produce solid sub-bass.

Sonos Playbase

Both sound system designs let you augment your TV’s audio significantly with a minimum of wires and fuss. Soundbars and sound slabs both keep a minimum profile, and generally require just one cable connecting to your TV and another cable to a power outlet.

If your sound system is going to have more than one piece, the most important addition is a subwoofer. Many soundbars include subwoofers that wirelessly connect to the rest of the system, and since low frequency sounds don’t rely as much on acoustics as higher frequencies, you can tuck the subwoofer behind, next to, or under your couch and still take advantage of the rumble. If included, wireless subwoofers need to be plugged into a power outlet, but that should be all you need to get running.

You don’t technically need to stick to a soundbar or sound slab for a simple audio system for your TV. Any speaker with an optical, RCA, or (if your TV has a headphone jack) 3.5mm input can greatly improve your audio experience, though its power and ability to produce a sound field might work better with smaller screens than big ones, and it likely isn’t designed to fit neatly in front of or under your TV.

Do You Need a Subwoofer?

Soundbars can put out a lot of sound from low-mid to high frequencies, but they usually can’t reach deep down into low frequency sound. Because of how sound travels, you need a lot of physical volume to get very powerful bass, and the wide, shallow shape of soundbars don’t offer that. That’s why many soundbars include separate subwoofers.

A subwoofer is a speaker designed specifically for putting out low frequency sound, in the bass and sub-base ranges. It’s typically bulky and equipped with a very large driver (usually around six inches) so it can move a lot of air to really get that low-end rumble. You can get a good listening experience with just a soundbar, but if you really want to make the walls shake and actually feel your favorite movies or music, you should make sure you have a subwoofer.

Bass sounds are much less directional than higher frequency sounds, so you don’t need to worry about subwoofer placement as much as where you put the soundbar. You can easily tuck a subwoofer next to or behind your couch, or in the corner of the room. Don’t worry about running cables between the subwoofer and the soundbar, though; most subwoofers included with soundbars are wireless, so you only need to plug them into a power outlet for them to work with the rest of your sound system.

If your soundbar doesn’t include a subwoofer, you might still have options. Some soundbars have subwoofer outputs, so you can add your own after the fact. You’ll have to consider cables if you add a subwoofer this way, though. You’ll also need to either make sure your subwoofer is powered (has a built-in amp), or connect a preamp between your unpowered subwoofer and the soundbar. Just like it takes a lot of space to move that much air, it also takes a lot of power.

What About Surround Sound?

Most soundbars and sound slabs claim to offer some form of simulated surround sound, but this can be a bit misleading. Audio processing and driver placement can create a sense of being surrounded by sound even when the only speakers are directly in front of you, but the large sound field can’t reproduce the accurate imaging of a surround system with dedicated satellites for each channel. If you really want to feel surrounded by your movies and for every sound effect to come from just the right direction, you need a full surround sound speaker system, or at least a soundbar with separate satellites for the rear audio channels.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that a true surround system is the best choice, though. While surround sound is authentic with these multi-speaker sets, there are many drawbacks that make them less appealing than a single soundbar or sound slab. Conventional surround systems mean much more clutter for your room. Each satellite requires wires running either to the wall or to a centralized device like an A/V receiver, and that means a lot of cables to potentially trip over. You can hide them with rugs or in-wall conduits, but it’s still going to be more expensive and less convenient than a soundbar or a sound slab.

Yamaha YAS-706

Even soundbars with dedicated rear satellites require some wire-juggling, usually connecting the two rear speakers to a wireless subwoofer (but you probably won’t need to physically run anything directly to your soundbar). And, of course, you need stands, shelves or otherwise appropriately located flat surfaces to place all the speakers in your system besides the subwoofer, which can just sit on the floor. If you have the budget to build or remodel your living room around a surround sound system, it’s a great choice for your home theater, but for most users it isn’t particularly feasible.

Streaming Audio

All of the speakers on this list can wirelessly stream music from your smartphone or tablet. Most of them use Bluetooth, and some use Wi-Fi-based wireless audio systems like Sonos or Yamaha MusicCast. Wi-Fi isn’t quite as simple to connect as Bluetooth, but it lets you set up multi-room sound systems so you can seamlessly play music all over your house. Either way, thanks to wireless audio, you probably won’t need to get a separate wireless music speaker for your living room if you have a soundbar. For more, see The Best Wireless Speakers.

We’re starting to see voice assistant integration as well, most notably in the form of Amazon’s Alexa. As of this writing the Sonos Beam is the only soundbar on this list with Alexa integration, but stay tuned for updates as we’re starting to see more.

Can Soundbars Beat a Full Home Theater System and Receiver?

Home theater audio has traditionally been a big, complex field reserved for audiophiles, or at least for people comfortable in setting up their own sound systems out of individual components. The last decade has popularized soundbars as an easy alternative that’s less expensive, simpler to set up, and takes up less physical space.

In terms of sheer potential power and system flexibility, no single soundbar or all-in-one sound system can match what you can build if you set up your own home theater from components. With your own A/V receiver, amp, and big speakers, you can get much more power and control over your home theater sound. You just have to put in much, much more legwork, and likely spend much more money. A good receiver can easily cost as much as a good soundbar, and that’s before you even start adding speakers. You also need to run the wires yourself, integrate an amp if it’s necessary, and basically work on it much more than simply taking a soundbar out of a box and plugging it into your TV.

An elaborate home theater speaker system can be incredibly rewarding, but you’ll need relatively deep pockets and a good feel for the technology, or even deeper pockets and a willingness to hire a custom installer, to make it all happen.

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