Upgrade your television’s sound with our choice of the best soundbars and soundbases you can buy
The built-in speakers in modern televisions sound pretty awful as a general rule, so if you’ve just upgraded you’re also going to want the best soundbar or soundbase you can afford. Why? Because audio, in our humble opinion, is just as important as visuals in recreating that cinema experience in your own living room.
Opt for one of our selection of the choice of best soundbars and soundbases from the list below, and you’ll transform your TV and movie-watching experience for the better. Dialogue will sound clearer, sound effects more impactful and music much richer and more enjoyable to listen to. Best of all, a decent soundbar doesn’t need to cost a fortune and, unlike stereo speakers, soundbars and soundbases are blend much more discreetly into your living room decor resulting in a cleaner, more minimalist look.
How to choose the best soundbar for you
How do I choose a soundbar (or soundbase)?
Soundbars come in all different shapes and sizes and it’s important to pick the right model to suit your TV and living room. The first thing to look at is the size of the bar. Too wide and it may not fit on your AV cabinet; it might also be wider than your TV, which could look odd, especially if you plan to wall-mount the bar. Height is also a consideration if you’re going to be placing the bar in front of your TV on your AV cabinet. You’ll want to be sure it’s not so high that it obscures the bottom part of the TV screen.
Next, consider whether you want a standalone soundbar or one with extra speakers to enhance the audio experience. A standalone unit is easier to set up and looks more elegant but these bars can lack the dynamism and sense of immersion that a more complex setup can deliver. In particular, because of their size and shape, standalone soundbars can struggle to deliver convincing bass, which is why many are supplied with subwoofers.
A separate subwoofer delivers far more convincing bass, adds richness and body to audio in general and can deliver room-shaking low-frequency sound effects. Look for a wireless subwoofer, which will allow you to hide the subwoofer away, out of sight. Certain soundbars also come with rear speakers that deliver truly enveloping 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. If you’re not sure you want these, some bars allow you to upgrade your soundbar further down the line by adding wireless rear speakers.
Soundbases are somewhat less popular than soundbars and, as the name suggests, form a platform on which your TV sits. Because soundbases are typically larger than soundbars and can, therefore, house bigger drivers, you typically get a fuller, richer sound without having to use a separate subwoofer. Soundbases aren’t, however, suitable for all TVs. Those with legs at either end, for instance, won’t sit neatly atop a soundbase and may not have the clearance beneath to accommodate its full height.
What’s the best way to hook up a soundbar?
Having a wide array of connection options is always a bonus as you’ll never know what you might want to connect to your soundbar in the future. The most convenient is HDMI: this is the connection favoured by most modern soundbars, even cheap ones. You’ll most often see an HDMI input (or maybe even two or three), which you connect your sources to (games console, Sky box etc) and an HDMI output, which passes the video signal on to your TV. As ever, the more connections, the better here as it gives you more flexibility in the future.
Another thing to look out for is HDMI ARC (audio return channel) support which typically uses the HDMI output on the soundbar to ferry audio back from the TV. HDMI ARC is most useful for getting audio from on-TV apps such as Netflix back to the soundbar. It’s also handy if you run out of HDMI inputs on the soundbar as it reroutes any audio that would otherwise play through the TV speakers back to the soundbar.
Other than this, it also may be useful to look for an optical digital (also called TOSlink or S/PDIF) connection. Although optical digital cannot carry a lossless surround-sound signal such as Dolby True HD or DTS:X, it’s often the easiest way to hook up a music source, console or TV if the soundbar doesn’t support HDMI ARC. Optical digital is always preferable to coaxial digital connections, although it is possible to purchase a simple adapter that will convert from one to the other if you need it.
Less useful these days are analogue connections such as stereo RCA and 3.5mm input, and they’re becoming less common on soundbars, too. They’re still worth having for emergency use but don’t worry too much if your soundbar doesn’t have these.
As well as wired connections, many soundbars will also have Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting phones and tablets and some will also have Wi-Fi, allowing for higher quality music streaming, potential integration in a multiroom wireless speaker network and support for digital voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant.
Looking for a soundbar deal? See our pick of the best offers
Is it worth buying a Dolby Atmos soundbar?
Dolby Atmos is a relatively new surround-sound standard that expands upon the 5.1- and 7.1-channel setups previously offered by soundbars and other surround-sound systems. The main thing that Atmos adds is audio height: where other systems aim to surround you with audio to the side and rear, horizontally, Atmos extends that to sounds that come from above you.
Soundbars with Atmos have upwards-firing speakers that bounce audio off the ceiling to achieve this audio height and this can be very effective, although how effective they are depends on how high your ceilings are. There’s usually an optimal height, which you can find in the specifications.
Dolby Atmos soundbars also tend to be more expensive than simpler 5.1-enabled units and they have a nasty habit of neglecting support for other, non-Dolby surround-sound standards. This can be a problem if you watch a lot of movies on Blu-ray disc. Many Blu-ray movies come with the surround-sound soundtrack encoded in some form of DTS standard and have no Dolby surround track at all. In this case, you’ll have to opt for the stereo soundtrack, which might be of lower quality than the surround track.
So which soundbar should choose? Below, we’ve listed some of our favourites, spanning a range of budgets and uses, to help you get the best audio experience in your living room.
The best soundbars and soundbases to buy in 2020
1. Creative Stage 2.1: The best soundbar under £100
Price: £80 | Buy now from Amazon
Not everyone has heaps of cash to throw at a soundbar and if you’re looking to upgrade your TV’s audio, Creative’s Stage 2.1 soundbar is a cheap and cheerful solution. At only £80, it won’t break the bank and will vastly improve your TV’s audio output.
The soundbar has a variety of inputs making it perfect for all sorts of setups. It’s super small and lightweight, too. As for sound quality, it’s extremely impressive: it’s great at the low end, crisp and detailed at the high end and delivers an engaging listen overall. Although it won’t provide the same surround-sound experience as more expensive setups, the Creative Stage is a great choice if you don’t have huge amounts to spend.
Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 160W; Dimensions: 550 x 70 x 78mm; Weight: 1.2kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI, optical, 3.5mm, USB
Creative Stage 2.1 Channel Under-monitor Soundbar with Subwoofer for TV, Computers, and Ultrawide Monitors, Bluetooth/Optical Input/TV ARC/AUX-in, Remote Control, Wall Mounting Kit
£79.99 Buy now
2. Denon DHT-S216: The best sounding budget soundbar
Price: £179 | Buy now from Currys PC World
The Denon DHT-S216 is an affordable soundbar that prioritises audio performance over bells and whistles. There’s no Wi-Fi connectivity or smart functionality but it delivers where it matters, providing an immersive audio experience no matter what you’re watching or listening to.
Connect the DHT-S216 to your TV via its HDMI ARC port and you’ll be able to use it as an all-in-one sound hub for every other device plugged into your TV. Should you wish to hook up a subwoofer there’s an output for that, in addition to an HDMI input, an optical port and in-built Bluetooth 4.2.
The DHT-S16’s big selling point is the incorporation of DTS Virtual: X technology, which gives the impression of surround sound with height effects. It doesn’t match the audio experience you’d get with a full set of surround-sound speakers but the effect is noticeable. Toggle the mode on and you’ll soon find yourself swept up in the on-screen action. There are other modes to play around with too, with specific settings for watching movies, listening to music and watching TV at night, but DTS Virtual: X is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch. A great soundbar for not much cash.
Read our full Denon DHT-S216 review for details
Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 120W; Dimensions: 890 x 120 x 66mm; Weight: 3.4kg, Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, HDMI, HDMI (ARC), optical, 3.5mm
3. Sharp HT-SBW460: The best budget Atmos soundbar
Price: £299 | Buy from Amazon
Lots of movies and streaming services now use the Dolby Atmos surround system to add extra height to the soundtrack but most compatible soundbars are still quite pricey. Not so, the Sharp HT-SBW460, which packs in Atmos support and a wireless subwoofer for less than £300.
It’s a great-sounding soundbar as well, as long as you don’t mind doing a bit of DIY sound tuning. Out of the box, the subwoofer is overpoweringly boomy in small- to medium-sized rooms; you have to stuff the bass reflex port with a foam bung or a pair of socks to get it to sound good.
With that done, however, there’s plenty of detail and presence to the audio. The centre channel presents dialogue in a clear and coherent manner and, despite the fact that there are no upward-firing drivers, Atmos-enabled height effects do sound like they’re coming from above the soundbar.
It might not be the last word in scale or quality, then, and you do have to take matters into your own hands to get it to sound its best but the Sharp HT-SBW460 is a very good buy at this price.
Key specs – Channels: 3.1; Total power output: 440W; Dimensions: bar – 950 x 110 x 70mm, sub – 240 x 240 x 415mm; Weight: bar – 2.5kg, sub – 5.4kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, 2 x HDMI input, 1 x HDMI output (ARC), optical and coax S/PDIF, 3.5mm, USB
SHARP HT-SBW460 440W 3.1 Dolby Atmos Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer, Bluetooth, 4K HDMI (ARC/CEC), LED Display, Remote Control & Wall Mountable – Black
£299.00 Buy now
4. Cambridge Audio TV2 V2: The best soundbase under £200
Price: £199 | Buy now from Amazon
If you’re looking to boost your TV’s audio and don’t want to spend more than £200, there’s absolutely nothing better than the impressive Cambridge Audio TV2 V2. This soundbase sits under your TV and produces an incredible sound – making it the best value for money purchase for your living room.
With a total power output of 150W, the TV2 V2 will fill a large living room with ease. It doesn’t sound bad either, with a powerful bass response, an energetic treble and a spacious sound. It ticks all the right boxes for a soundbase (or soundbar) in its price category.
Read our full Cambridge Audio TV2 V2 review for details
Key specs – Drivers: 3; RMS power output: 150W; Dimensions: 550 x 333 x 100mm; Weight: Unknown; Connectivity: Bluetooth aptX, HDMI, optical, 3.5mm, RCA
Cambridge Audio TV2 Soundbase – For TVs Up To 40″, Bluetooth, HDMI ARC, Optical Input, 3.5mm Aux Input, EQ Settings
£199.00 Buy now
5. Cambridge Audio TV5 V2: The best soundbase under £300
Price: £229 | Buy now from Amazon
The Cambridge Audio TV5 V2 is the bigger, more bassy sibling of the TV2 V2. For the extra money, you get an additional downward-firing subwoofer and a larger frame, meaning you can have a 30kg TV on top of it (up from 25kg on the TV2 V2).
Much like the TV2 V2, the TV5 V2 has a 150W power output – plenty of power for a large living room. As for the sound quality, it’s very much like the TV2 V2, except it has a slightly wider soundstage and a better bass response. This means movies sound that bit more engaging and music has a more pronounced mid-bass slam. If you can accommodate it, and have an extra £100, the TV5 V2 is well worth the extra investment over the smaller TV2 V2.
Key specs – Speakers: 4; RMS power output: 150W; Dimensions: 725 x 340 x 100mm; Weight: Unknown, Connectivity: Bluetooth aptX, HDMI, optical, 3.5mm, RCA
Cambridge Audio TV5 Soundbase – For TVs Up To 30kg And 725mm Base, Bluetooth, HDMI ARC, Optical Input, 3.5mm Aux Input, EQ Settings
£229.00 Buy now
6. Polk Magnifi Mini: The best compact soundbar
Price: £268 | Buy now from Amazon
The Polk MagniFi Mini is the smallest soundbar we’ve ever set eyes on and yet, despite its tiny dimensions (it’s around the same size as a loaf of bread), it produces the sound of a much larger speaker. That’s largely thanks to its wireless subwoofer, which packs in a 6.5in downwards-facing driver and lends movies and music a real solid thump.
However, there’s plenty to like about the soundbar itself. Its six drivers, all individually amplified, produce a surprisingly wide soundstage for a speaker so small and there are no worries at all about it being able to fill a room. It’s well-appointed in terms of features as well, with HDMI ARC, optical, Bluetooth and Google Chromecast all supported.
Read our full Polk MagniFi Mini review for more details
Key specs – Channels: 2.1; RMS power output: 150W; Dimensions: 340 x 109 x 81mm; Weight: 1.76kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optical, 3.5mm
£268.00 Buy now
7. Polk Signa S3: A very capable soundbar and subwoofer combo
Price: £279 | Buy now from Amazon
The Polk Signa S3 is a very capable, well-priced soundbar. It’s a doddle to set up via either HDMI ARC or an optical cable and delivers an impressive audio experience. There’s no surround sound but overall audio quality is great, with plenty of clarity and detail. The included subwoofer doesn’t overshadow the bar but instead adds a pleasing amount of low-end weight where appropriate. Polk’s patented Voice Adjust technology does a good job of enhancing dialogue when you’re watching films and there are three EQ settings to choose from – Movie, Music and Sport – all of which feel appropriately tuned for their subjects.
Wi-Fi is built-in, allowing you to add the soundbar to your Google Home devices and make use of Google Assistant voice control should you wish. Chromecast is also built into the Signa S3, so you can stream music from your favourite services to your heart’s content, while there’s also the option of connecting to your phone or laptop via Bluetooth.
If you’re after an affordable soundbar and subwoofer combo and aren’t fussed about having some form of surround sound, the Signa S3 ticks all the right boxes and looks good on your TV cabinet while doing so.
Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 160W (80W soundbar plus 80W subwoofer); Dimensions: Soundbar – 898 x 83 x 56mm, Subwoofer – 171 x 343 x 311mm; Weight: Unknown; Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI (ARC), optical, 3.5mm, Wi-Fi
Polk Audio Signa S3 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer, TV Speakers for Home Cinema Sound System, Surround Sound, Dolby Digital, Built-In Chromecast, Bluetooth, Wall Mountable, Universal Compatibility
£279.00 Buy now
8. Sky Soundbox: The best for Sky customers
Devialet is renowned for its illustrious speakers that cost an arm and a leg to purchase, so when Sky announced its partnership with the French audio company, it raised a few eyebrows. This TV speaker houses nine drivers and sounds seriously good. With its unique speaker configuration, the Soundbox is capable of reproducing deep bass, while also delivering a crisp treble.
The beautiful package doesn’t stop there: it also has an impressive soundstage, which reverberates around an entire room and provides an enveloping sound. At £499, it can’t quite match other soundbars on the market, but at under £250, it’s a steal. If you’re a Sky customer looking to upgrade your TV speaker, get the Sky Soundbox – you won’t find better for the price.
Read our full Sky Soundbox review for details
Key specs – Speakers: 9; RMS power output: Unknown; Dimensions: 375 x 210 x 95mm; Weight: 4kg; Connectivity: HDMI, Bluetooth, optical
9. Sonos Beam: The best mid-range soundbar for voice control
Price: £379 | Buy now from Amazon
Sonos makes a wide variety of connected devices, but the Beam is the company’s latest creation and it’s a marvel. The Beam has Amazon Alexa built-in: the virtual assistant is able to control your soundbar’s volume and work alongside Amazon’s services, too.
As with all of Sonos’ devices, it integrates with the company’s other products – making it perfect for multi-room setups. Better still, if you have an iPhone, you can use the Trueplay app to calibrate your room to get the best acoustics from the Beam.
Read our full Sonos Beam review for details
Key specs – Speakers: 8; RMS power output: Unknown; Dimensions: 651 x 68.5 x 100mm; Weight: 2.8kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, HDMI, optical
£369.00 Buy now
10. Denon HEOS Bar: A bassy standalone soundbar
Price: £549 | Buy now from Amazon
The Denon HEOS Bar is rather expensive for a standalone soundbar but if you’re a bass head who wants to keep things simple and doesn’t want a standalone wireless subwoofer in the living room, there’s nothing quite like this unit.
Thanks to its six 2.5in mid-woofers and three 1.5in tweeters, the HEOS Bar has a pronounced mid-bass slam and a firey treble. As a result, it’ll sound a little recessed and won’t be as forward-sounding as the Samsung HW-MS750, HW-MS650 nor the HW-N650. Aside from its bassy sound profile, this soundbar has a host of connectivity options and is part of Denon’s wireless ecosystem, too.
Read our full Denon HEOS Bar review for details
Key specs – Speakers: 9; RMS power output: Unknown; Dimensions: 1,100 x 148 x 72mm; Weight: 4.8kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4 x HDMI, optical, 3.5mm
£549.00 Buy now
11. Sonos Arc: The best standalone soundbar
Price: £799 | Buy now from Amazon
We loved the minimalist excellence of the Sonos Beam but the Sonos Arc is something else when it comes to outright sound quality. It’s a standalone bar, with no subwoofer supplied, but it delivers such astonishing depth and breadth of sound that most of the time you simply don’t care that some of the really low frequencies are a little absent. And if you find you want more dynamism in the future, you can add a Sonos Sub (and Sonos 1 speakers at the rear for full surround sound) to supplement its already accomplished audio output.
The Arc supports Dolby Atmos (although only via eARC) as well as both Google Assistant and Alexa. It can be fully integrated into a Sonos multiroom audio system and controlled via the excellent Sonos S2 app. The only caveat is that physical connectivity is limited to a single HDMI ARC/eARC port, with no HDMI or optical digital input available. Otherwise, this is an astonishing achievement in AV audio engineering.
Key specs – Drivers: 11; RMS power output: Unknown; Dimensions: 1,142 x 116 x 87mm; Weight: 6.25kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 1 x HDMI ARC/eARC
£799.00 Buy now
12. Samsung HW-Q80R: Another success from Samsung
Price: £799 | Buy now from Amazon
The HW-Q80R exhibits the excellent build and audio quality we’ve come to expect from Samsung soundbars. It’s one of the company’s pricier models and is rather large (especially when taking into account the subwoofer that’s included) so you’re best off pairing it with a TV of at least 55in in size.
The audio generated by its 13 drivers is superb and there’s support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based surround sound formats, which means you’re able to hear sound coming from above you. This, coupled with a total 372W of amplification, means the HW-Q80R is more than capable of filling your living room with immersive sound. Its Adaptive Sound feature may sound like a gimmick, but does a great job of automatically analysing audio and adjusting the sound settings for an optimal listening experience.
The main blot on the HW-Q80R’s copybook is its lack of rear speakers, which prevent it from delivering a true surround-sound effect. That minor gripe aside, this is a soundbar that oozes quality and delivers powerful, dynamic and detailed sound.
Read our full Samsung HW-Q80R review for details
Key specs – Speakers: 13; RMS power output: 372W; Dimensions: 1292 x 136 x 83mm; Weight: 8.8kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3 x HDMI (2 x input, 1 x output), optical input
£649.79 Buy now
13. Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar: The best soundbar for audiophiles
Price: £2,199 | Buy now from Sennheiser
At £2,199, the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar is by far the most expensive soundbar on the market. However, it sets a high bar for audio fidelity – no other all-in-one bar comes close. Thanks to the addition of Ambeo 3D technology, it delivers mind-blowing DTS:X and Dolby Atmos performance, and with its 13 drivers (two on the sides and two up top) the Ambeo Soundbar will fill any room.
Its sound quality is truly impressive, with forward-sounding mids and a wide soundstage that delivers excellent instrument separation. Elsewhere, the bar has plenty of connectivity options to choose from and a handy remote to control it from afar. The only complaints we have – aside from the price – is the lack of a dedicated subwoofer and the sheer size of the thing.
Read our full Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar review for details
Key specs – Speakers: 13; RMS power output: 500W; Dimensions: 1,265 x 135 x 171mm; Weight: 18.5kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4 x HDMI (3 x input, 1 x output), optical, RCA, Ethernet, coaxial subwoofer output