Finding the best soundbar takes patience, time and a keen ear. That’s why we exhaustively researched the top models, ordered each one and tested them in a real-world setting to determine the top rated models. We did this by watching movies, listening to a wide variety of music and playing video games until our thumbs were numb.
Once in our testing environment, we looked for sound accuracy, a range that could satisfy the most discerning of ears and a feature set (Dolby Digital, Bluetooth, HDMI inputs, etc) that only serves to enhance the home theater experience. When we finished up with testing, we were happy to find that the Yamaha YAS-108 performed the best out of all the options. With a super affordable price and excellent audio quality, it wasn’t that hard of a decision to make. Keep reading our soundbar buying guide to learn more about the Yamaha and the other exceptional soundbars on our list.
Jump To: Sound bars of 2019 compared.
- 1 Top Soundbar Comparison 2019
- 2 #1 Pick Yamaha YAS-108 – Best Soundbar/Editor’s Choice
- 3 #2 Pick Vizio SB3820-C6 – Best Budget Soundbar
- 4 #3 Pick Sony HT-ST5000 – Best Atmos Soundbar
- 5 #4 Pick Sonos Playbar – Best Wireless Soundbar
- 6 #5 Pick Bluesound Pulse 2i – Best Soundbar for Music
- 7 What to Look for in the Best Soundbar
- 8 Mistakes to Avoid
- 9 Most Important Soundbar Features
- 10 Which Best Soundbar Is Right For You?
Top Soundbar Comparison 2019
|Best Soundbar||Yamaha YAS-108||CHECK PRICE|
|Best Budget Soundbar||Vizio SB3820-C6||CHECK PRICE|
|Best Atmos Soundbar||Sony HT-ST5000||CHECK PRICE|
|Best Wireless Soundbar||Sonos Playbar||CHECK PRICE|
|Best Soundbar for Music||Bluesound Pulse 2i||CHECK PRICE|
#1 Pick Yamaha YAS-108 – Best Soundbar/Editor’s Choice
Price: Check Price | Length: 35 inches | Wall Mountable: Yes
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Excellent virtual surround sound for the price.
The Yamaha YAS-108 soundbar boasts excellent sonic capabilities, especially when compared to other models in its price range. Because of this, it easily makes it a best soundbar under $500. Its capabilities are especially noticeable when viewing movies, largely because its audio performance is incredibly clear as is its surround capability. In short, films sound as if they’re being played back on a much larger sound system … which is the ultimate goal of a soundbar.
To that end, the YAS-108 easily ranks as the best soundbar with built-in subwoofers, which provide thumping bass without needing to take up space with another box. The inclusion of a quality built-in subwoofer sets the YAS-108 apart from most other soundbars on the market today. We believe this is the best overall sound bar in 2019.
The YAS-108 also offers a stellar Bluetooth connection capability that uses more advanced compression versus standard Bluetooth audio to provide clearer sound. Another interesting feature with this Yamaha unit is 4K connectivity, which allows you to connect your 4K ultra HD TV to your soundbar without any loss in audio quality.
One drawback for the Yamaha YAS-108 is its lack of app support, even in spite of its compatibility with Alexa. But this pretty significant for this Yamaha model, making it one of the best soundbar for the money options.
#2 Pick Vizio SB3820-C6 – Best Budget Soundbar
Price: Check Price | Length: 38 inches | Wall Mountable: Yes
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Simple, affordable with virtual surround sound.
If you’re looking for a super affordable, basic soundbar, the Vizio SB3820-C6 has got you covered. Vizio decided to forgo all the frills and fancy sub-woofers to focus on making a truly great soundbar that anyone on a budget can afford. One of the most interesting aspects of this soundbar is that it works so well with any space and any TV, making it one of the more versatile soundbars on our list. you can place it on your TV stand or mount it directly to the wall.
The Vizio soundbar features 2.0 premium audio that can deliver up to 100 decibels of sound, which is more than enough to fill your room with the sounds of your favorite TV shows, movies and even music (via Bluetooth connectivity). We were pleasantly surprised at how deep the bass went on this soundbar, even without an external subwoofer to accompany it.
#3 Pick Sony HT-ST5000 – Best Atmos Soundbar
Price: Check Price | Length: 46.9 inches | Wall Mountable: Yes
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Highly versatile thanks to wireless connecitivty.
The Sony HT-ST5000 is the most expensive unit on our list at nearly $1300, but it is the only one on our list that offers the best Dolby Atmos experience. Atmos offers a more immersive experience than standard surround sound, because of its 3-dimensional approach to sound. With this soundbar, you get 7.1.2 channel surround sound.
Moreover, it maintains 4K quality whenever it’s connected to ultra HD televisions, offering you superb signal pass-through with exceptional contrast, detail and color. You also get a wireless subwoofer with this soundbar, so your audio experience is taken to a deeper level.
The Sony HT-ST5000 is designed impeccably with multiple tweeters and mid-range speakers inside. The sound experience is truly revolutionary, which is why I can recommend this speaker despite its high price tag. Lastly, the ST5000 works with Spotify and has Chromecast built directly into its internal software, which allows you stream music, listen to podcasts or access online radio directly from smartphones or tablets connected to the Dolby Atmos soundbar.
#4 Pick Sonos Playbar – Best Wireless Soundbar
Price: Check Price | Length: 35.43 inches | Wall Mountable: Yes
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Highly versatile thanks to wireless connectivity.
The Sonos Playbar is an expensive unit at nearly $700 (almost double the price of the Sonos Beam), but it is fully compatible with other Sonos products, allowing you to stream music from a variety of music sources (Spotify, Rhapsody, Pandora, etc).
Moreover, this Sonos speaker connects to your home’s WiFi allowing you to control its volume and features with your smartphone or tablet. And while it offers simulated surround sound, you can also wirelessly connect any of Sonos’ other wireless speakers, such as the Play:3 or Play:1, to add complete 5.1 surround sound.
And if that isn’t enough, inside the Playbar are 9 Class-D digital amplifiers, nine amplified speaker drivers, six midrange and three tweeters. This means you’ll get decent bass, provided you’re not willing to invest in the company’s awe-inspiring Sonos subwoofer, which I can recommend despite its high price tag. Lastly, the Playbar will work with most TV’s infrared receiver, allowing it pass commands to the set despite blocking it.
#5 Pick Bluesound Pulse 2i – Best Soundbar for Music
Price: Check Price | Length: 42.25 inches | Wall Mountable: Yes
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Hi-resolution audio playback and the ability to play MQA files.
As the first soundbar to actually support playing MQA (master quality authenticated) files and hi-res playback, the Bluesound Pulse 2i is perfect for music and audio junkies alike. There’s nothing on this list that sounds quite like the Pulse 2i and once you hear it, you’ll be thinking the same thing.
The soundbar plays music so well due in part to the two pairs of 3-way speaker arrays it features, each consisting of a cone woofer, cone mid-range and soft-dome tweeter. You can also add a wireless sub for an extra cost, if you so choose. But the best part is that each driver has its own amp channel which blends together high and low frequencies for the best sound you’ll ever experience on a soundbar.
Yes, the Pulse soundbar is expensive – one of the most expensive soundbars on our list – but the premium audio quality is absolutely worth it. In this $800 price tag, you’ll also get AirPlay compatibility and support for Amazon Alexa. This is cutting-edge audio technology and your living room and home theater system will be all the better for it.
What to Look for in the Best Soundbar
Sound Quality and Surround: To work well as a home theater, a soundbar needs to offer high-end audio quality, including a subwoofer (built-in or separate) and enough drivers to provide robust, room filling sound. To that end, a wireless sub with surrounds is ideal.
Surround Standard: This is generally more important when discussing full surround sound systems, but it’s still worth noting. Not all sound bars are compatible with all surround sound standards, such as DTS and Dolby Digital. For instance, Sonos’ Playbar only works with Dolby Digital.
Wall Mountable Option: If you’ve wall mounted your television, you also may want to elect to use the same option with your soundbar. Not every soundbar can be mounted to a wall, so if this is important to you, closely look at the feature list for the soundbar you’re considering.
Connection Options: An HDMI port on the soundbar will make setting up the unit easy, but digital optical ports work well too for connecting to a TV. If you plan to stream music from your smartphone or tablet through the soundbar, Bluetooth connectivity compatibility is a must. And for improved sound quality over Bluetooth, look for compatibility with the aptX compression algorithm. Some soundbars include built-in WiFi connectivity to simplify the process of accessing streaming audio services, such as Sonos’ Playbar.
Mistakes to Avoid
Soundbar’s Size: If you place the soundbar in front of a suggested best 4k TV, some soundbars are tall enough that they’ll block the infrared port on the television (note: some have an infrared pass through port, such as Sonos), preventing you from using your remote control. Or they might be too large to fit in the location you have available. So make sure to check the size of the soundbar before you purchase it to ensure it will fit your available space.
No Remote: Although most soundbar remote controls are simple units, having a remote control is important. You’ll likely be sitting far from the TV and soundbar location, so you don’t want to have to stand up and press buttons on the soundbar each time you want to adjust the audio. If your soundbar doesn’t ship with a remote, most of our best universal remotes should be able to control the sound bar. That said, some units don’t even offer a remote control capability.
Expecting Sound System Quality: A full surround sound system will outperform a soundbar in nearly every instance. So don’t purchase a soundbar thinking that you’re going to have top-flight audio quality equal to a sound system with multiple speakers.
Most Important Soundbar Features
Music and Bluetooth
- A soundbar with Bluetooth connectivity works especially well for playing your personal music library from your smartphone. And if your soundbar supports the aptX compression format, it will provide improved audio quality versus Bluetooth alone.
- The audio power of most soundbars is measured in watts, which is different from the number of decibels available. (This measurement of watts is also different from the electrical power usage of the unit, also measured in watts.) Some manufacturers don’t provide the audio power of their soundbar systems.
- Most soundbars allow you to connect to your TV through an HDMI cable or through a digital optical cable. HDMI connectivity is rare in a soundbar, but this type of connection is easy to set up. The TV needs an HDMI ARC (audio return channel) port to work with the soundbar’s HDMI port.
- Some soundbar kits will include a separate subwoofer, which is a speaker that provides bass. Some soundbar kits include a subwoofer inside the soundbar, but this option will be much weaker than a stand alone subwoofer. Some separate subwoofers connect wirelessly to the soundbar, while others must connect through a wire. Opt for wireless for versatility and ease of setup.
- A good soundbar can be both wall mounted or placed in front of a TV. Just make sure it will fit.
Smart Home Compatibility
- With the emergence of smart homes and voice-enabled technology, it’s important that you consider a soundbar that is smart home compatible. These devices can connect to Alexa and Google Assistant, which then enables you to control them with your voice.
Which Best Soundbar Is Right For You?
Although it may seem as if all soundbars are basically the same, it’s clear from our list above that there are quite a few different configurations available. Reading through our sound bar reviews for 2019 can help you find a perfect model for your needs, whether you’re seeking a model with great audio quality for movies, gaming, music, or all three. Although soundbars cannot compete directly with the high end audio quality of a full speaker system, the best soundbar will give you much better audio quality than the TV’s built-in speaker while occupying a much smaller amount of space than a full speaker system.