This article goes over the main features you should know about when choosing a soundbar for your TV. I also list My Recommended Soundbars below so you can choose the best soundbar within your price range.
If you want a soundbar with all the features and best audio quality, it's wise to get a higher-end soundbar. High-end soundbars can make a big difference when completing your home theater experience, but an entry-level and mid-range soundbars can still be much better than the speaker on a TV.
Soundbars can support multiple audio formats, but it also depends on the audio source for which audio format the soundbar will be using. There are four most common surround sound formats: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, DTS, and DTS:X. You don't need to worry about your TV having support for these audio formats since only the soundbar and the audio source needs them. Below are the differences between each kind.
Dolby Digital: This widely-used format provides a higher bandwidth sound that handles five discrete audio channels for surround sound and a subwoofer channel.
DTS: A higher-quality alternative to Dolby Digital, with a higher bitrate and less compression.
Dolby Atmos: Gives a sense of height with dedicated upward-firing drivers to produce a realistic surround sound effect.
DTS:X: Has upward-firing drivers to produce height for realistic surround sound effects, similar to Dolby Atmos. DTS:X allows you to manually adjust individual sound objects for added flexibility, such as raising the volume of voices.
When looking at soundbars, you'll notice the number of channels each has. Channels refer to the number of speakers the soundbar has. Having a soundbar with more channels can improve the range of audio and enrich the surround.
For example, for a 7.1.2-channel soundbar, the first number means the number of speakers. The second number is the number of subwoofers in the soundbar or externally. The last number indicates the number of upward-facing speakers which enhance the surround sound effect.
Many soundbars have Bluetooth capability built-in so that you can connect your phone or other Bluetooth devices to the soundbar wirelessly. Bluetooth can be a great bonus to control the audio in your room easily.
Some TVs also support Bluetooth audio to wirelessly connect your TV's audio to a soundbar without an extra cable. While using Bluetooth makes a cleaner appearance, I recommend using either the HDMI or optical audio cable to achieve the best audio quality.
You may also want to get a subwoofer to add additional bass for deeper-sounding audio. Standalone soundbars don't always come with a distinct bass sound and feel, so having the option to add a subwoofer can be a good choice.
If a soundbar doesn't support a subwoofer wirelessly or has a subwoofer included, make sure the soundbar has a subwoofer output if you plan to purchase one separately.
An additional option is to get wireless rear surround speakers. Wireless surround speakers are for adding a broader dimension to the audio when compared to a standalone soundbar. Many soundbars virtually create the surround sound effect, but physically having the additional speakers can enhance the experience.
If you use wireless speakers, the audio signal can reach the speakers wirelessly if supported. Wireless speakers can either be powered by a wire (for power only) or battery-powered, which can be recharged when needed. Having the wire or charging the speakers can be a downside for some people, but it is a good option for some room layouts or other situations.
Some soundbars have voice enhancement features that can improve the audio clarity and volume of voices. Typically, this allows you to adjust the volume of the voices to your preference. This feature can be beneficial for people who have a hard time hearing voices or movies that have voices that blend in with other background audio.
The easiest way to connect a soundbar to a TV is by using an optical audio cable. These fiber-optical cables connect the optical audio output on a TV to the optical input on the soundbar. The downside to using an optical connection is that it doesn't support Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.
For best audio quality, you can instead connect an HDMI cable from the soundbar to your TV's HDMI ARC/eARC output to transmit the audio from your TV.
Keep in mind that you may have to adjust the audio settings on your TV for the soundbar to work correctly in either case.
If the soundbar supports HDMI video pass-through, you can connect your devices (blu-ray, cable box, or game console) directly to the soundbar via an ARC/eARC-supported HDMI cable. The cable will pass through the video to your TV while decoding the audio on your soundbar.
Video pass-through is a good option if a surround-sound soundbar has this functionality since they usually have surround-sound decoding built-in for better quality audio. When using HDMI ARC, it's expected that you'll be able to control your soundbar volume with your TV remote.Anker 8K HDMI 2.1 Cable (6.6 ft) Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- This Bose soundbar has a compact design and delivers an expansive, spacial sound with two full-range speakers and a center speaker that enhances speech.
- It is compatible with Bluetooth and optical audio and has voice enhancement features for clear dialog. Bose Model 838309-1100 TV Soundbar Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- This Yamaha soundbar has a built-in subwoofer and virtual surround sound with a narrow design.
- Supports Dolby Audio and Dolby Pro Logic II.
- Compatible with HDMI ARC, Bluetooth, and optical audio. YAMAHA SR-C20A Compact Sound Bar Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- This Vizio soundbar has 6 speakers with dual 3-inch subwoofers built-in.
- Supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
- Compatible with HDMI ARC, Bluetooth, optical audio, and up to 4K TVs for video pass-through. VIZIO M-Series 2.1 Channel Home Audio Sound Bar Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- This Polk Audio soundbar has a 7-driver array with a full-range center channel and a 5.25-inch subwoofer.
- Supports Dolby Atmos 3.1.2 and lets you customize voice and bass levels.
- Compatible with HDMI eARC, Bluetooth, optical audio, and up to 8K TVs for video pass-through. Polk Audio Signa S4 Ultra-Slim Sound Bar Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- This Sonos soundbar supports Dolby Atmos for a 3D effect created by eleven different ranges and angles amplifiers.
- Compatible with HDMI eARC, Wi-Fi, and optical audio (with adapter). Sonos Arc - The Premium Smart Soundbar Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- This Bose soundbar has 5 full-range drivers capable of delivering clear dialogue and deep bass.
- Compatible with HDMI ARC, Bluetooth, and optical audio. Bose Smart Soundbar 300 Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- This Sony soundbar has 7.1.2 channels with Vertical Sound Engine, which converts stereo audio to surround sound.
- Supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
- Compatible with HDMI eARC, Bluetooth, optical audio, and up to 4K TVs for video pass-through. Sony HTX8500 2.1ch Dolby Atmos/DTS:X Soundbar Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- This Sony 5.1.2-channel soundbar includes a wireless subwoofer and wireless rear speakers.
- Supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X with immersive surround sound capabilities.
- Compatible with HDMI eARC, Bluetooth, optical audio, Dolby Vision, and up to 8K TVs for video pass-through. Sony HT-A5000 5.1.2ch Dolby Atmos Sound Bar Surround Sound Home Theater Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- This Samsung soundbar has 11 channels, 1 subwoofer, and 4 up-firing channels for a complete experience.
- Supports Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, DTS, and DTS:X with realistic 3D audio and customizable sound.
- Compatible with HDMI eARC, Bluetooth, optical audio, and up to 4K TVs for video pass-through. SAMSUNG HW-Q950A 11.1.4ch Soundbar Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
- This Sony 7.1.2-channel soundbar has the Vertical Sound Engine, which converts stereo audio to surround sound.
- Supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
- Compatible with HDMI eARC, Bluetooth, optical audio, and up to 8K TVs for video pass-through. Sony HT-A7000 7.1.2ch 500W Dolby Atmos Sound Bar Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link
Want to learn more about TVs? Check out the articles in my TV series:
- Best TV Display Types
- TV Resolution Explained - 8K UHD vs. 4K vs. QHD vs. FHD
- Choosing the Best TV for Your Room
- Best TV for Playing PlayStation 5 Games
- What Type of TV Is Best for Gaming?
- Ultimate Guide to Samsung QLED TVs
- Best Type of TV for Bright Rooms
- What Type of TV Has the Best Refresh Rate & Response Time?
- What Type of TV Has the Best Viewing Angle?
- Do LED TVs Have Backlight Bleed?
- How to choose the best soundbar for your TV