Few activities are more relaxing than watching TV, especially new movies and series that compete in special effects and cinematography. Of course, with the technological developments in the field of films, televisions have also evolved, becoming thinner, more elegant and more efficient. But one aspect that TV manufacturers and designers are beginning to ignore more and more is sound.
With the enlargement of the screen and the flattening of the TVs, the space for the built-in speakers decreased. This means that these speakers have become smaller and weaker, unable to keep up with modern audio requirements. Moreover, some modern TVs completely skip these speakers, following the principle that users who care about audio will prefer to buy a soundbar from the start. These speakers offer an experience similar to that of the well-known home cinema systems only at a much more affordable price.
In this article we will present the best soundbars on the market, we will talk in detail about the technical specifications and their functions, we will analyze various aspects of interest to potential buyers and we will offer practical advice to facilitate your decision-making process.
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- Uses state-of-the-art MusicCast technology
- It has the IntelliBeam function to adapt its performance to the room in which it is located
- It offers the “home cinema” experience thanks to Cinema DSP programs
- Supports many music streaming services
- The TV menu is somewhat limited and not very intuitive
The Yamaha YSP-2700 is designed to deliver impeccable sound quality, whether it's cinematic sound effects or music.
If you want quality speakers that give a splash of color to both the images on the screen and your favorite songs then this Yamaha model is the best soundbar for you. These speakers are designed to provide quality and dynamic sound with a surround effect that will dominate any room you choose to mount them. Also, thanks to the IntelliBeam function, the soundbar can set an optimal sound field for the specific camera in which it is located, thus offering guaranteed superior performance.
For movie lovers, this soundbar comes with 10 Cinema DSP programs that deliver that sound specific to home cinema systems, making you feel like in a movie theater. In addition, these speakers have a Clear Voice function that allows narratives and conversations to be heard clearly, thus ensuring that you do not miss any important revelations from the movie or series you are watching with your heart.
For those who put music first, this soundbar comes with MusicCast technology which is a real innovation in the audio field of Yamaha that turns listening to music into a whole new experience. Yamaha YSP also comes with a subwoofer soundbar, for those songs with a bass that deserves to be appreciated with an amplification function for songs that have lost their charm in the compression process.
Another notable aspect is support for streaming music services, from online radio stations to live playback from your phone or laptop via Bluetooth or from Apple devices via the AirPlay service.
- Channel: 7.1
- Separate subwoofer: Yes
- Physical connectivity: HDMI, Optical, Coaxial, Analog
- Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Ethernet
- Smart features: Spotify, Deezer, AirPlay
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JBL Bar 5.1 Surround
- It is a powerful system that impresses with its sound quality even at the highest volume
- Comes with JBL MultiBeam technology which provides an excellent audio experience
- Allows streaming and online file management via Airplay and Chromecast
- Massive bass makes it the best soundbar for lovers of EDM music and action movies
- The speakers would need specific audio modes to provide a more premium experience
JBL Bar 5.1 Surround is a powerful soundbar that brings cinema to your home and will make you feel like you are taking part in the action on the screen.
This audio system consists of a soundbar and a large subwoofer, which allows it to deliver that perfect epic sound for action scenes and energetic songs. It comes with JBL's MultiBeam technology, which delivers satisfying surround sound but not as powerful as a home cinema system. The jbl bar 5.1 surround soundbar does not have smart features such as voice control but is compatible with Google Cast and Apple AirPlay 2 offering the possibility of control and streaming from the phone.
In terms of performance, this soundbar offers quality in both the film and music department. The dialogue sounds clear and unmistakable, not being swallowed by background noise even in the case of action movies, and explosions and other impressive sound effects can be experienced to the fullest thanks to the massive subwoofer. Bass is an element that stands out in the case of music, offering spectacular performance even at maximum volume where many systems begin to distort the audio. For songs with a richer instrumental, this soundbar offers an authentic and dynamic sound that is not swallowed by the strong tones of the bass.
A disadvantage that cannot be ignored of this powerful system is that it has no separate modes for music and movies. This means that the user has to create their own volume and bass settings depending on the activity they prefer. This need for manual adjustment can be an important minus for those who do not want to waste time choosing the intensity of the bass and playing with the volume.
- Channel: 5.1
- Separate subwoofer: Yes
- Connectivity: HDMI, Optical, USB
- Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth
- Smart Features: AirPlay2, Chromecast
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JBL Bar 9.1 True Wireless Surround
- It offers an experience almost equivalent to that of a cinema
- Comes with the Dolby Atmos system for a unique experience
- The two removable speakers have a battery life of up to 10 hours
- The sound is really surround, allowing excellent dynamism
- Although it has portable elements, this system takes up quite a lot of space
The JBL bar 9.1 True Wireless Surround offers a unique viewing experience with the addition of portable speakers that can be placed anywhere for complete immersion.
We can say about this soundbar that it is the improved version of the 5.1 version that we talked about before, thanks to its new additions that offer a truly premium experience. It is the first JBL device with built-in Dolby Atmos , for an extra touch of audio realism. It is also a wi fi soundbar, allowing internet connection, a function that is missing from the previous model. Another plus of the jbl 9.1 version is the two small detachable speakers, which run on battery (which lasts about 10 hours) and can be placed at will to take the viewing of your favorite movie to another level.
As for performance, this soundbar will not let you down and will offer an unforgettable experience especially if combined with a 4K smart TV. Thanks to the numerous speakers, the powerful bass and the Atmos system, watching a movie at home will be able to compete with that at a cinema. A small disadvantage at this point would be the location of the portable speakers. You may need to try a few locations until you find the perfect position, and each new move will require a calibration to ensure that the experience is an unforgettable one.
In the case of music, this soundbar offers a performance similar to JBL Bar 5.1, maybe even a little better thanks to the removable speakers. The sound is incredible regardless of the musical tastes, and the intensity of the bass can be easily set.
Aspects you should consider would be the price, this model being the most expensive on our list and the size, the complete system requiring more space than a regular soundbar.
- Channel: 5.1.4
- Separate subwoofer: Yes
- Connectivity: HDMI, Optical, USB
- Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
- Smart Features: AirPlay2, Chromecast
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- Excellent value for money
- Provides voice control via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa
- It supports a wide range of 75 streaming services
- Compact and easy to install
- Bass is not a strong point of this product
Sonos Beam is a high-performance soundbar with speakers designed to offer the complete performance package in an elegant and compact package.
Due to its size and compact design, we can say that this model from Sonos is a mini soundbar suitable for those who want to enjoy improved audio but do not want to invest in a more complex and expensive system.
Starting with the advantages, sonos beam stands out immediately through the wide variety of streaming services it supports. This device gives you the ability to play everything from music to podcasts, audiobooks, games, and movies. Another notable plus is that it can be voice controlled via the built-in services of Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Thanks to this, you can use the soundbar to listen to music, set alarms and check for the latest news, all without having to move a finger. If you prefer not to use voice commands, Beam can also be controlled via the Sonos app.
In terms of performance, this soundbar offers a satisfactory sound, with the option to customize your settings to your liking depending on the room in which you install it. Speaking of installation, this is easy and all you need to do is connect two cables and wait for the system to detect your smart TV.
As disadvantages would be the fact that this cheap soundbar excels more as a complement to the TV, in the sense that it comes with smart functions for a better user experience in general, than as a standalone audio system. If you are more interested in the sound enhancement and simulation experience of the cinema experience, then Sonos Beam is not the product you are looking for.
- Channel: 3.0
- Separate subwoofer: No.
- Connectivity: Optical
- Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet
- Smart Features: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, AirPlay2,
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- Affordable price for excellent performance, which is close to that of more expensive models
- Use DTS Virtual: X technology to provide a surround effect
- It has a good range of modes and functions
- Installation is very easy and can be used almost as soon as it is taken out of the box
- The application through which it can be controlled, and which includes the full range of functions of this device, is only available for Android systems
LG SL5Y is a high-performance soundbar with a satisfactory range of functions, which rises to LG's quality standards.
This soundbar resembles the Sonos Beam in design, being small, compact and quite minimalist, but also having an LED display where technical details can be viewed. Another detail that makes the difference between the two products is that the LG SL5Y can be considered a wireless soundbar thanks to its optional wireless subwoofer and the ability to connect to Bluetooth.
For better performance, this soundbar offers satisfactory audio for movies, even if it struggles a bit with the lower sounds, and handles the music excellently, managing to offer perfect chords in any room. As for functions and modes this soundbar is somewhat limited, being a more budget option. It has important features such as sound adjustment to provide perfect audio and DTS Virtual: X , a technology that provides the experience of surround sound without the need for a system with multiple speakers strategically placed around the camera.
The control of this soundbar can be done with the help of a remote control or through the Music Flow Bluetooth application, which can be used from your phone or tablet. Although you can make all the actions and settings possible on the remote control from the application, it also comes with exclusive functions, such as the automatic volume control. Thus, the application is a must if you want to enjoy everything the device has to offer. It should be noted here that Music Flow Bluetooth is only available for Android systems.
- Channel: 2.1
- Separate subwoofer: Yes
- Connectivity: HDMI, USB
- Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth
- Smart Features: No.
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How to choose a soundbar that suits your needs
Presenting a top of products helps to format an overall idea, but, more information is needed to be able to make a choice. Soundbars are ultimately a considerable financial investment, especially for more premium options. So, to help you choose a system that will fit your needs perfectly, let's talk a little about the technical aspects and review some questions to clarify what you want from a soundbar.
What are soundbars and are they really a better choice than home cinema systems?
A soundbar is a compact elongated device that contains a number of speakers inside, placed next to each other. Because the speakers are all in the same unit, the soundbars do not provide real surround sound, but a virtual one, obtained through the ingenious use of vibration and state-of-the-art audio technology. These devices can be mounted on the wall, using a soundbar bracket, or placed next to the TV. Soundbars connect and mount easily, usually only needing to plug a cable into the TV .
Home cinema systems use a set of speakers of different sizes that must be placed along the room to provide a home cinema experience, as the name implies. These systems provide real surround sound thanks to the speaker assembly. A disadvantage of home cinema systems would be the installation, which requires many wires scattered everywhere and multiple configurations to choose the optimal positions. Another factor to consider is the price. Quality home cinema systems can reach quite exorbitant prices, far exceeding those of premium soundbars.
The soundbar is a better choice in terms of ease of installation, use and cost. However, keep in mind that their performance will never be equal to that of home cinema systems that provide real and dynamic surround sound.
How many types of sounbar are there on the market?
Soundbars are quite simple devices and there is not much variation in their functions and specifications. However, we can classify several types according to the requirements they meet.
These are the systems that come with a wireless subwoofer for little variation in the audio range. Subwoofers are usually small but there are also soundbars that come with massive speakers of this type, such as the JBL Bar 5.1 on our list or the various samsung soundbar models. The strengths of these systems are the stronger bass, which is especially felt in action movies and party music, such as EDM. So, subwoofer systems are recommended for those who want to feel that deep vibration.
However, this type of soundbar also comes with its disadvantages. First of all, the bass comes with limited intensity levels that must be set manually, depending on your preferences and purpose of use. Also, systems with smaller wireless speakers do not have the capacity to provide that much desired vibration.
Soundbars without subwoofer
These soundbars are classic, highlighting more by the compact design and simplicity of use. A soundbar without a subwoofer has all the speakers on the inside, no need for further calibrations. A very good example is the Sonos Beam soundbar on our list that does not come with any wireless or removable element but that impresses with the variety of streaming services it is compatible with and by incorporating the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant smart functions.
In the case of these soundbars, it is advisable to talk about the disadvantages first. It offers a satisfactory but not impressive sound, with a modest performance due to the lack of wireless elements. It works more as a complement to the audio system with which your TV comes from the factory than as a device that wants to simulate the cinema audio experience. But, as notable pluses, this type of soundbar is more affordable, and if you choose a quality product, the lack of premium audio performance is offset by its built-in features.
This category includes soundbars that have several wireless elements, which can simulate the surround offered by a home cinema system. A very good example is the Bar 9.1 model from JBL, which comes with a separate subwoofer and two removable speakers that run on battery and can be placed at will. These systems are also called hybrid because they enter the territory of stereo systems through the variety of speakers, being much more than a soundbar for TV.
The biggest advantage of this type of soundbar is definitely the quality. It offers a captivating and unique audio experience, with a vast repertoire, perfect for both movies and music. The sound provided by such a system can take the images on the screen to another level, allowing you to feel like you are part of the action and can help you discover new elements in your favorite songs.
On the other hand, the biggest disadvantages of these hybrid systems are the price and the difficulty of configuration. A larger number of speakers is the explanation for both of these shortcomings, as they translate into higher costs and more time wasted with installing and searching for the perfect settings.
Should I choose a soundbar with or without a subwoofer?
As mentioned above, the subwoofer offers variety and sound dynamics. The subwoofer soundbars are higher quality, allowing a better appreciation of both the special effects in the movies and the various songs with a more prominent bass. Something we didn't discuss in the section above is that there are soundbars that have a built-in subwoofer to provide that wider audio range without the need for an extra speaker, while maintaining the practicability and compactness of the device. However, this built-in subwoofer cannot be compared to the one that comes separately, because its small size and location in an internal assembly, next to or between other speakers, take power.
The separate subwoofer can provide that noticeable vibration and can give "strength" to a song or a movie bang. Also, the fact that the vast majority of these separate subwoofers are wireless helps with installation and adds practicality to the system.
As for choosing an option, it all depends on the price you are willing to pay and the audio quality you want. Soundbars without a subwoofer are the cheapest, but they won't have that repertoire of low sounds. Devices with a built-in subwoofer remain affordable but the performance does not differ significantly from that of soundbars without a subwoofer. And finally, separate subwoofer systems offer the best performance and audio quality, but are a little more expensive.
Our advice if you want something satisfying but more budget is to choose a soundbar with built-in subwoofer, and if the audio quality takes precedence over the separate subwoofer, wireless (for convenience). It's easy to make a comparison soundar when you know what your priorities are.
What you need to know about connections
Soundbars come with a wide range of connections to connect to TVs, other devices, and even streaming services. We will analyze a little each type of connection to see what advantages and disadvantages they bring.
This type is one of the simplest and most reliable connections available. Allows direct connection to the TV by simply inserting the cable into the optical port. But, this type of connection is limited, and cannot "carry" a signal higher than 5.1. This means that it does not support systems such as Dolby, DTS or stereo, which are required for surround sound.
HDMI and HDMI ARC connection
This type of connection is more modern and versatile than the optical one, making it ideal for multi-channel soundbars. Installation is as simple as with optical connections, all you have to do is plug the HDMI cable into the TV's audio return channel (ARC) port. The versatility of this connection translates into good support for Dolby Digital, Dolby Atmos, Dolby True HD, DTS and DTS: X formats that offer a more unique audio experience and a sound as close to reality as possible.
Many modern soundbars come with built-in Bluetooth to facilitate the transmission of audio files from other devices (phone, tablet, PC ) to the soundbar. It is very useful because it allows direct and fast streaming, without the need for an internet connection, cables or USBs .
WI-Fi soundbars allow connection to the local network, which offers a multitude of possibilities for the user. You can access streaming services for music, podcasts, audio books, and more. Connecting to the network is as simple as any Wi-Fi device.
Soundbar channels – what do 2.0, 3.1, 5.2 mean?
We can think of channels as individual sources from which sound actually "comes out". Most movies today offer 5 different digitally integrated audio channels. These are center, left, right and two in the back (one left and one right). Soundbars work on a wide range of channels, represented by numbers such as 5.1 or 2.0. To put the numbers in context, let's talk about examples.
If a soundbar has 2.0 channels, that means it comes with 2 speakers, one right and one left and no subwoofer. A 3.1 soundbar has 3 speakers, one left, one center and one right, plus a subwoofer. A 5.1 channel device means it has a speaker for each basic audio channel (left, right, center and two in the back) plus a subwoofer. For soundbars with more than five channels, the surround element appears. A 7-channel system has the 5 basic speakers plus two for surround information in the back.
To recap, the first issue in the channel sequence refers to the traditional number of integrated audio channels. The ideal here is 5 or more. The second number shows whether or not there is an integrated subwoofer. 7.1 therefore means a surround system with a subwoofer. However, there are also systems that have a third number, for example 5.1.4 as is the case with the JBL Bar 9.1 model on our list. This third number is specific to Dolby Atmos systems and represents the speakers in the unit that emit sound upwards for three-dimensional audio. This type of soundbar that has speakers that transmit audio upwards works best in rooms with a straight ceiling, made of materials that reflect sound.
The more channels a system has, the more captivating and unique the experience is, which will be felt at the same price bar.
Active and passive speakers – what to choose?
Passive soundbars do not have a built-in amplifier, which means they need an external one or a receiver to operate. They also require traditional cable connections. From this point of view, passive systems may seem more difficult to use, but they also tend to have higher quality speakers, which translates into better performance.
The active soundbars have both an integrated amplifier and a channel processor that can separate the audio into the appropriate speakers in the system. This option includes everything you need, is easy to install and allows wireless connection of a subwoofer, for example.
Active speaker systems are the convenient option in terms of installation and use, perfect for those who want a satisfactory value for money. But for those who put quality first and want a cinema-worthy audio, passive speaker systems are preferable.
Soundbars come with many additional features to meet a wide range of needs that a user may have.
Amazon Alexa compatible soundbars allow voice control, making the user experience "hands-free" and allowing the audio system to be included in the wider smart home interface. The Sonos Beam model on our list is the only one that comes with this built-in feature, allowing streaming directly from your phone, tablet, laptop or from services like Spotify, Audible and many more.
This is the Google version of the Amazon service discussed earlier. Sonos Beam also comes with this feature, giving the user the opportunity to choose their preferred system. As a feature, Google Assistant is identical to Alexa, allowing streaming from anywhere plus voice control through which you can do other things such as set alarms, find out the weather or news, turn off and open the TV using specific commands and more.
Some soundbars come with smart features that, on the one hand, make the user experience easier and more enjoyable, and on the other hand they can turn an ordinary TV into a Smart one. In the case of soundbars, most smart features are focused on providing streaming options, especially music through services such as AirPlay2 and Spotify but also other audio files through Chromecast services. Of course, as smart functions we can also include voice control, thus incorporating the two separate categories mentioned above. For a user, these functions offer the freedom of streaming and versatility, no longer limited by the possibilities of the old TV.
Although most soundbars can be controlled via the regular TV remote control, some models also come with their own remote control that is supposed to make it easier to use. However, many users consider this feature to be an excess and not a necessity because the TV remote control is identical.
Some soundbar models, such as LG's SL5Y, come with a front display that provides useful information about settings, volume, and more, which can enhance the user experience. Although it may seem irrelevant, many technology enthusiasts find this feature extremely useful, especially if you have a more complex system with many features and additional elements, such as a separate subwoofer that requires calibration.
What should you consider before buying a soundbar?
Before making a final decision, you should consider the following questions to make sure that you choose the product that will fit your needs perfectly.
Would a home cinema system be a better option?
If you have the space, the knowledge to install and configure a home cinema system and you also have a considerable budget, then soundbars are not the right choice for you. These simple audio systems are recommended for those who do not have much space and who put the price and ease of installation first.
How many channels will you need?
It depends a lot on what you prioritize. If you want a cinema-like audio experience with surround sound and flawless quality then, as I mentioned in this article, the number of channels matters. The more channels a soundbar has, the more impressive the performance will be. If instead you only want an improvement of the current audio of the TV, then a soundbar with fewer channels (even 2) and a subwoofer (built-in or separate) will suffice.
Where will you put the soundbar?
Placement matters a lot when it comes to sound propagation. If you want to put it in front of the TV then you have to opt for a more compact model, which will not block the remote control signal. If space is an issue, you can always use a stand to mount it where it is most convenient for you. However, if you want to mount it on the wall, above the TV, you must take into account that it is recommended that the soundbars are not above the average height of a person, because they must be somewhere at the ear to provide the best performance.
Do you need additional features?
Wireless connectivity and smart features are useful and have a big impact on the user experience, but at the same time we must recognize that they are not really essential. They are convenient, however, if all you are interested in is the audio quality then you can opt for the simpler models in terms of functions but with an impressive number of channels and a powerful subwoofer.
How important is sound quality?
Premium soundbars are more expensive but have the ability to read higher quality audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS, which provide a dynamic and captivating sound and a memorable viewing experience. If quality comes first for you, then go for the versatile systems with many channels and built-in audio features such as JBL Bar 9.1 or even Yamaha YSP-2700 from our top.
In this article we have presented a comparative soundbar of the best models on the market, we have explained what this system consists of, how it works, what types exist on the market, how we decipher the numbers that accompany them, with what types of connections and functions I come and we talked extensively about different aspects that influence the decision-making process. We've also provided tips on how to figure out which features and options matter most to you so you can make the best choice.
We hope that our article will answer all the questions and help you narrow down the list of potential "candidates." Shopping spree!
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