While your options for audio systems in a home theater is almost endless, one quick and convenient option is to go for a soundbar. They offer a significant improvement over normal TV speakers, and are much easier to set up than a surround sound system.
My Top Pick for Home Theater Soundbars
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After several hours of research and testing, I’ve compiled a list of my top picks for home theater soundbars. Here are my top 3 (click on the links to check current prices on Amazon):
- Best overall soundbar: Sonos Playbar
- Best bang for your buck: Yamaha YAS-109
- Top pick for mid-range budget: Sonos Beam
However, the number of soundbars worthy of mention is quite high, so although these are my main picks, here are 2 other contenders which I tested that are definitely worth looking into on your search for the perfect soundbar.
Best Overall Soundbar: Sonos Playbar
The Sonos Playbar comes out as my overall favorite because it offers a wide range of controls, not to mention its significant improvement on standard TV speakers. However, it is on the more expensive end of the spectrum when it comes to soundbars, but is well worth the investment if you appreciate good sound quality.
What I like about the Sonos Playbar
Aside from the superior technical specifications (which I’ll get into shortly), one of my favorite features about the Sonos Playbar is that it’s mountable. This is a useful feature in home theaters, particularly if your TV is wall-mounted. Not only does it mean you can build a more complete looking setup, but it also means less clutter on surfaces.
Another impressive feature of the Sonos Playbar is that it was designed by Oscar-winning sound engineers, so you know there’s some serious power behind those small speakers. The sound is crisp and dynamic, but also has chunky bass that won’t easily get lost in the room. The speakers being arranged in a line also means there’s no crossover, which means no muddy sound.
So on to the technical side of things. The Sonos Soundbar has 9 speakers arranged in a 3.0 system. This means it has left, right, and center channels, but the presence of 9 speakers gives the soundbar what Sonos call “directionality”, which creates an impressive sound delivery system that’s not far off the dynamic capabilities of surround sound.
The Sonos Playbar makes a great addition to your TV, but is also great for playing music too. The soundbar can be controlled either through the Sonos app, or using the controller, and has streaming capabilities. This makes it an adaptable piece of kit that will be a particularly useful addition to almost any home theater.
- Only needs 2 cables for installation: power and audio. This makes it an almost instant addition.
- Automatically tunes itself for superior sound quality.
- Can be integrated into other Sonos systems for more dynamic and customizable audio.
Here is a review video I liked and one which you may probably find useful.
Things I didn’t like about the Sonos Playbar
I think the most obvious downside to the Sonos Playbar is the price. In fact, it’s not a dissimilar price to a semi-decent surround sound system, which will obviously give you much more dynamic audio. However, the Playbar still makes a good addition to your home theater if you don’t want to fork out on a clunky and complicated surround sound system.
A cheaper alternative to the Sonos Playbar is the Samsung Sound+ Premium (Amazon link), but this won’t give you the same deep and dynamic bass tones that the Playbar does. After all, Sonos are known for their superior audio equipment, so sometimes it’s worth paying for the best.
Best Bang for Your Buck: Yamaha YAS-109
The Yamaha YAS-109 is an entry-level soundbar, but don’t let this low price tag put you off. Yamaha are another big contender in the audio industry, and the company certainly know what they’re doing with this one. I was actually very surprised with what this soundbar was able to deliver.
What I like about the Yamaha YAS-109
One of the main things that puts people off choosing a soundbar over surround sound is the lack of dedicated subwoofer. This, however, isn’t a problem with the Yamaha, as even though it doesn’t have an integrated subwoofer, it’ll only miss out on the deepest bass tones. And if that’s enough to make you look elsewhere, fear not, because it’s also got a subwoofer output port.
The Yamaha YAS-109 comes with its own table mount, or it can be mounted to the wall for a much sleeker looking setup. The design is quite rounded, and looks like an enlarged pill speaker. For me, this isn’t a problem, as I prefer softer edges to a hard, sharp-looking piece of tech.
The soundbar features 6 speakers in total: 2 3-inch subwoofers, 2 2.1 inch cones, and 2 1-inch tweeters. Combined, these speakers provide 3.0 channel sound, but as mentioned, this can be upgraded by integrating an external subwoofer. However, I found that the Yamaha’s integrated bass is actually good enough without extra juice.
Considering this soundbar is in the entry-level price bracket, it has a surprising number of features. One of the best is the company’s Clear Voice technology, which is specifically designed to enhance dialogue. This is an incredibly useful feature, and makes it an obvious choice for a home theater. What’s more, the soundbar still works great with music, so it’s a versatile piece of equipment.
The Yamaha YAS-109 has Wi-Fi and Amazon music. It also has both audio input and Bluetooth connectivity and also has the option for direct connection to 4K sources. This means there’s no need to split your signals, as it does all the relevant audio decoding itself. Again, this is a surprising addition to a soundbar in such a low price bracket.
- Excellent range of features for its price range. The most notable points are Wi-Fi, Amazon music, Bluetooth and 4K connectivity.
- Surprisingly clear and dynamic sound when compared to other entry-level soundbars.
- Option to include an external subwoofer is enough to answer most people’s objections to a soundbar.
What I didn’t like about the Yamaha YAS-109
My only real criticism of the Yamaha, and this is a stretch, is that it misses out on the deepest bass tones.
Considering the price bracket for this soundbar, this is a small quibble, as it’s most definitely the best value for money I’ve been able to find. What’s more, my only real dislike isn’t even that major because of the option for connecting an external subwoofer.
Top Pick for Mid-Range Budget: Sonos Beam
The Sonos Beam is my pick for a mid-range budget because it offers many of the superior audio benefits you’d expect from a piece of Sonos equipment, but at a price point that’s much easier to face. It comes with all the connectivity features you’d expect from Sonos, but does lose out slightly on sound quality when pushed near its limit.
What I like about the Sonos Beam
The Sonos Beam offers impressive sound quality for its size, measuring in at 65cm; it’s quite a bit smaller than the Playbar. However, this drop in size sacrifices very little in sound quality, and it still kicks out crisp tones and deep bass, providing it’s kept within its limits.
The soundbar is a rounded design with easy to use touch buttons on top, but it can also be controlled with the Sonos app or a remote. The Beam also has Amazon Alexa features built in, giving you access to a wide range of voice-activated controls.
What’s more, as with all Sonos gadgets, the Beam is incredibly easy to set up. Much like its more expensive cousin the Playbar, it only needs 2 cables: power and audio. You can essentially unbox it and you’re ready to go, which is always a really helpful feature.
The soundbar has 5 integrated speakers, which obviously isn’t as many as the Playbar, but they have to make up the price difference somewhere. The speakers included are still capable of kicking out decent sound though, it just won’t be as dynamic as some higher end models.
- Supports plenty of music streaming services, making it a versatile and useful addition to a home theater.
- The Beam is compact and lightweight, yet still capable of delivering decent audio quality.
- As with all Sonos products, easy unboxing makes it a much more attractive purchase.
What I didn’t like about the Sonos Beam
Considering this soundbar is aimed at a mid-range budget, it does a good job of delivering audio, but true audiophiles will notice a difference in quality when compared to higher end models.
The soundbar is fine when kept within “normal” volume ranges, but if you try and pump this to its max you’ll notice the sound can become very harsh. However, this is a minor problem as it makes a big improvement on normal TV speakers.
The Bose Solo 5 (check prices on Amazon) is a decent alternative to the Sonos Beam, and satisfies the same mid-range budget, but the Sonos is a superior piece of equipment. These are arguably 2 of the biggest names in the audio industry, but the Sonos comes out on top for this bracket of soundbars.