Table of Contents
Why a Soundbar?
Soundbars can vastly improve your home theater audio experience, they fit under your TV, easy to setup, and can give you a better sound experience than most TV’s internal speakers.
You can expect better room filling bass, clearer dialogue, wider soundstage and even surround sound with up and side-firing speaker drivers (or wireless surround speakers).
What’s better than a soundbar? Consider a home theater system with at least 5.1 channels with individual speakers around your living room that can give you a immersive experience no soundbar can match.
How to Choose The Best Soundbar - The Right Size
The two main considerations are TV size and room size. Find a soundbar that complements your TV’s width and placement whether you’re putting the soundbar and TV on a media cabinet or wall mounting both. In smaller rooms, consider getting a compact soundbar that can easily fit below the TV in any space.
For larger rooms, a soundbar with an external wireless subwoofer and higher channel count can immerse the room with surround sound. In general, the bigger the bar, the bigger the sound. It’s not just about the aesthetics but also about delivering the best audio experience for your specific room and preferences.
Surround Sound and Channels
When watching TV Shows and Movies, the number of audio channels in a soundbar or home theater system determines the sound imaging, immersion and directionality.
As the number of audio channels increase from 2.0 to 11.1.4, we have more speaker drivers that are assigned discrete channels (specific roles) to project sound to you and will give you a larger and more accurate sound image, just like a movie theater.
- 3.0 Channel: We recommend starting with at least a 3 channel soundbar to start that can give you a dedicated center channel for improved clarity for dialogue.
- 3.1 Channel: The additional “.1” indicates the soundbar includes a built-in or external subwoofer to handle the lower frequencies such as low rumbles or explosions. Wireless external subwoofers can give you a great bump up in experience and can be conveniently located anywhere in your living room.
- 5.1.2 or 7.1.4 Channel: The additional .2 or .4 in these configurations indicate height channels that are upward or sideways facing speakers that bounce off walls and ceilings to simulate speakers above and behind you for content mixed in Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. The more channels you get, the bigger your soundbar will be.
Connectivity and Compatibility
Most modern sound bars offer a range of wired and wireless connectivity options, such as HDMI, TosLink Optical, Aux, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, some even have streaming operating systems such as the Roku Streambar. Consider which options are important to you and your home entertainment setup.
- HDMI ARC/eARC: This is the most common and convenient connection method to your TV to retrieve sound from the TV or any other sources connected to the TV such as an AppleTV, PS5, Bluray Player etc. eARC or “Enhanced Audio Return Channel” is a newer version of ARC that allows for greater bandwidth and communication of technologies such as Dolby Atmos. We highly recommend using the ARC/eARC connection to ensure a seamless operating experience when using your TV remote to control your soundbar.
- Bluetooth: Wireless connectivity for streaming music from your smartphone or tablet.
- Ports: Check for additional HDMI ports for connecting other devices like gaming consoles and Blu-ray players.
Advanced Features and Technologies Explained
Many soundbars feature smart assistants such as Alexa or Google Assistants with mics built in. While this could be convenient in certain circumstances, we find that most modern smart TV’s that are connect will already feature this and it’s often duplicative and can add to confusion. Instead try to look for “Works with Alexa or Works with Google” so that the soundbar can be found and controlled by any voice assistant in the living room space or handled device.
Wi-Fi Music Streaming or Streaming OS
Another technology that’s often repeated is WiFi Streaming for music and TV. Many soundbars will feature wifi connectivity that can be used to stream music from Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music or even whole Streaming Operating systems like the Roku Streambar to stream the likes of Netflix or Disney+. But similar to smart assistants, these apps can often be found not only on your smart TV, but also your favorite streaming player such as AppleTV, Amazon Firestick or Roku Streamer. There are so many ways to do the same thing on our connected devices, we’d recommend you to streamline your operations and focus on using your preferred stream device/TV Operating system such as: Apple TV or Android TV and build your Ecosystem around that so you have familiarity and interoperability.
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
Dolby Atmos is an immersive audio technology developed by Dolby Laboratories. It's designed to create a more three-dimensional, realistic, and captivating audio experience. Unlike traditional sound systems that use channels (like 2.0 or 5.1), Dolby Atmos adds height channels to the mix. This means that sound can come from above, creating an audio sphere that envelops you.
DTS:X is a similar technology to Dolby Atmos developed by DTS (Digital Theater Systems). It also offers immersive, three-dimensional sound but uses a slightly different approach. There’s generally less content that’s encoded for DTS:X but it’s wide compatibility means it can be used to upmix stereo and even Dolby Atmos content a slightly different style of spatial audio experience.
Both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are excellent choices for enhancing your soundbar’s spatial sound setup. When shopping for a soundbar, consider if it supports these technologies. These advanced audio formats create a more immersive and cinematic experience, whether you're watching movies, gaming, or enjoying music, by delivering audio that surrounds you from all directions. They provide a level of audio realism that standard audio formats can't match, and they're worth considering if you want the best possible audio experience in your home theater.
There are tons of great soundbar systems to choose from in this market today from TV brands to great audio brands. Hopefully this guide has shown some insight into how you can find the best soundbar for you.
Top Soundbars for 2023 Holiday Season
Looking to upgrade your home entertainment system with a top-notch soundbar? One of the easiest ways to get high-quality sound to your home theater is to We've rounded up the best soundbars of 2023 to help you make an informed choice.
Best Budget Soundbar - Yamaha SR-B20A
Yamaha has a strong reputation for producing high-quality soundbars, and the Yamaha SR-B20A lives up to that legacy. This two-channel soundbar boasts a slim design and an impressive set of features. With DTS Virtual:X digital sound processing, it simulates surround and height-channel speakers, creating a surprisingly spacious soundstage. The built-in Bluetooth allows for wireless music streaming from compatible devices, and the Clear Voice mode enhances dialogue clarity in movies and shows.
Best Soundbar for Music Lovers - Sonos Arc
The Sonos Arc is a favorite among music enthusiasts and movie lovers alike. This soundbar offers an expansive range of streaming services, making it easy to enjoy your favorite tunes. With 11 built-in speakers, including angled side-firing and up-firing speakers for precise three-dimensional sound, the Sonos Arc delivers exceptional audio quality. It's also effortless to expand your system without the hassle of wires, and it supports various voice assistants and Apple AirPlay 2 for seamless control.
Best Soundbar for Large Rooms - Bose Smart Soundbar Ultra
The Bose Smart Soundbar Ultra is perfect for large rooms, providing the smooth sound quality that Bose is known for. It supports Dolby Atmos and features nine expertly arranged speakers for a surround sound experience that feels like it's coming from all around you. The soundbar offers voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and can be expanded with additional Bose components for a complete home theater setup.
Best Soundbar with Wireless Surround Sound - JBL Bar 1300X
The JBL Bar 1300X is a feature-packed 11.1.4-channel Dolby Atmos system with a speaker-packed soundbar and wireless surround speakers. The unique battery-powered surrounds can be detached and used separately for a versatile audio experience. With features like MultiBeam technology, DTS:X, and Dolby Atmos, this soundbar creates immersive 3D audio. It also supports various wireless streaming options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, and Chromecast.
Best-Sounding Soundbar - Sennheiser AMBEO | Max
Sennheiser's AMBEO Soundbar | Max is renowned for its exceptional sound quality and immersive experience. With 13 built-in drivers and Sennheiser's advanced virtualization technology, it auto-calibrates to match your room's acoustics. This results in realistic surround and height effects, compatible with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content. You can customize the level of virtualization to match your preferences and mood, making it an ideal choice for audiophiles.
Best Soundbar for Small Rooms - Polk MagniFi Mini AX
For smaller spaces, the Polk MagniFi Mini AX is a compact soundbar that punches above its weight. It delivers an expansive soundstage with detailed audio quality. The 3D audio mode adds a virtual height dimension and enhances surround effects, creating a more engaging sound experience. It's also expandable to a 5.1 home theater system with the optional Polk SR2 wireless surround kit. With built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, and Chromecast, you can easily stream your favorite music wirelessly.
Best Soundbar for Immersive Surround Sound - Enclave Eclipse 5.1.2
The Enclave Eclipse 5.1.2 is a soundbar that truly excels in creating an immersive surround sound experience. This 5.1.2 channel soundbar system is designed to replicate the audio quality of a dedicated home theater system without the hassle of multiple speakers and wires. It features an array of speakers, including up-firing drivers for height channels, delivering a three-dimensional soundstage that makes movies, games, and music come to life.
The Enclave Eclipse is known for its simplicity of setup; it connects wirelessly to the included subwoofer and rear satellite speakers, eliminating the need for complex cable management. The wireless subwoofer adds deep bass for a more cinematic experience. With support for Dolby Atmos and enhanced dialogue enhancement technology, you'll enjoy dynamic and realistic audio that moves around you.
These soundbars cater to a variety of preferences, room sizes, and budgets. Whether you're a music lover, movie enthusiast, or simply want to enhance your TV's audio quality, one of these soundbars is sure to elevate your home entertainment experience in 2023. Choose the one that best suits your needs, and enjoy a richer and more immersive audio experience during the upcoming holiday season.