Let’s face it, although today’s TVs deliver better picture quality than ever, sound quality has definitely lagged behind. You can only squeeze so much sound out of a thin TV frame. Even innovations, such as putting a subwoofer in the stand or embedding transducers into the actual screen still can’t deliver a great listening experience that an external audio system can.
Of course, this means spending more money, installing a home theater receiver, and multiple speakers, right? Not necessarily. You can opt for a much simpler solution, such as a soundbar.
Soundbars are easy to set up and although they won’t necessarily deliver a full home theater surround sound experience, they are definitely a step up from the speaker system inside your TV.
If you want something that is still convenient but offers a little more flexibility, you can opt for a soundbar that comes with a wired or wireless subwoofer, or one that comes with a subwoofer and compact wireless surround speakers.
However, just as with TVs, you need to choose the right soundbar for your needs and budget. At Ecoustics, we have reviewed and reported on several great soundbars at a variety of price points for your consideration. One of them may just be right for you.
Great Sound for a Low Price
What makes the Monoprice SB-300 a great soundbar, especially for those on a limited budget is that for its low price of $129, it sounds great and even includes Dolby Atmos! There are also several sound modes provided to fine-tune audio from different sources or types of content.
The Monoprice SB-300 Soundbar is 39-inches wide and can be stand/shelf or wall-mounted.
There are also two HDMI inputs for external sources such as a Blu-ray Disc player, media streamer, or another compatible device. The extra HDMI inputs are 4K/60Hz and HDR10 compatible. This is great if you run out of HDMI inputs on your TV.
Although the SB-300 includes a lot for its budget price, it must be pointed out that no subwoofer output is provided and there is no Wi-Fi or Ethernet port provided – so no direct access to music streaming from the internet, but Bluetooth is provided for streaming from compatible smartphones.
Also available is the Monoprice SB-600 ($349.99 at Monoprice.com) which includes 2 up-firing speakers for more precise Dolby Atmos, external wireless surround speakers, and a wireless subwoofer.
Roku Streambar Pro
Improve TV Sound and Access Streaming Apps
The Roku Streambar Pro not only provides a way to improve your TV sound but if you have non-smart TV or a smart TV that doesn’t have all the streaming services you want to watch, the Streambar Pro also incorporates Roku 4K UHD streaming capabilities with access to over 5,000 streaming apps that can be navigated via an easy-to-use on-screen interface.
Roku also provides a voice remote that includes a TV control, personal shortcut buttons, and headphones for private listening. There is even an earphone jack on the remote for convenient private listening (the earphones are included).
You can also control the soundbar and its streaming features via the free Roku Mobile App as well as Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri.
The Streambar Pro is 32-inches wide and provides decent sound quality from its four 2.5 speaker drivers. However, if you want to boost your sound experience further you have the option of adding a Roku wireless subwoofer and wireless surround speakers.
NOTE: Roku is currently in a dispute with Google over streaming rights to YouTube apps. This may result in loss of access to those apps for new accounts on Roku devices after December 9, 2021.
Polk Audio React
Great Sound and Alexa Built-in at a Bargain Price
The big selling point of the Polk Audio React Soundbar is that for a very reasonable price it offers up good sound quality as well as having Alexa built-in. Think of it as a sort of an Amazon Echo combined with a soundbar.
The soundbar is 34-inches wide and incorporates a two-channel speaker configuration, complemented with Virtual 3D surround sound processing. Additional audio features include Voice Adjust for clear dialog, preset sound modes for Movies and Music, as well as Night Mode that reduces bass levels and enhances Voice Adjust to deliver clearer dialogue at low volume levels. Bluetooth is also provided.
With Alexa and necessary microphones built-in, the soundbar can execute sound bar tasks like adjusting volume and bass levels, and selecting listening modes. React also works with other Alexa devices like a Fire TV Stick or Fire TV Blaster. Syncing a Fire TV Stick with React lets users queue up and play movies or TV shows without touching a remote while pairing React with a Fire TV Blaster enables voice control of TVs, cable boxes, and other devices.
You can also expand the sound capabilities of the Polk React with the addition of an optional React wireless subwoofer and Polk SR-2 wireless surround speakers.
All are currently available on the Polk Audio website, Amazon, and other authorized resellers.
Brings Out The Voices
What makes the ZVOX Audio AV357 AccuVoice TV Speaker different is that its main purpose is to make voices sound clear when viewing TV programs and movies. In that regard, several degrees of voice emphasis are provided (referred to as AccuvVoice and SuperVoice).
The AV357 is compact (only 24-inches wide) and easily fits in front of most TVs without blocking the bottom portion of the screen. The AV357 has the surprisingly good sound quality for its size, although its surround sound capability is limited. However, you can connect an optional subwoofer to improve its bass response.
One bonus feature is that you can connect an Echo Dot, Echo Input, another Echo device that has analog audio output to a designated input on the AV357 and use Amazon Alexa to answer questions and play music from compatible streaming services.
For more details, read our review.
True 5.1 Channel Surround Sound For a Great Price
The Vizio M51ax-J6 is a 5.1 channel system that combines a soundbar, compact wireless subwoofer, and a set of surround speakers.
The soundbar is 36-inches wide and houses the left, center, and right channel speakers, as well as two passive radiators that aid in providing lower frequencies for a fuller sound.
The M51ax-J6 package also comes with two compact surround speakers and a wireless subwoofer. For added convenience, the surround speakers connect to the wireless subwoofer, which cuts down on cross-room cable clutter.
The soundbar has a variety of input options, including HDMI-ARC/eARC, Digital Optical, USB, and an analog audio input for getting audio from your TV or other sources.
There is also an additional HDMI input (4K/HDR pass-through compatible) that allows connection oF a compatible external AV source as well as a special analog audio input for connecting the audio output from a compatible Amazon Echo device. This allows you to access Alexa for information, as well as be able to listen to select music streaming services accessible by the Echo device.
One of the key features of the Vizio M51ax-J6 is that it features Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support.
The M51ax-J6 is priced at $329.99 and is available on Amazon.
Samsung HW-Q800A and HW-Q900A
Use With Any TV, but Best for Samsung TV Owners
The Samsung HW-Q800A is a 3.1.2 channel system that combines a 38.6-inch wide soundbar with a compact wireless subwoofer. The .2 refers to the inclusion of the two speakers devoted to Dolby Atmos height channels.
The Q800A can also be expanded to a 5.1.4 channel configuration with the purchase of the optional SWA-9500S wireless surround speakers ($297 at Amazon).
The Q800A provides an abundance of sound settings, as well including other features such as built-in Alexa, and integration with the Samsung SmartThings app for control of other compatible smart home devices.
The Samsung HW-Q800A will work with any TV that has a digital optical output or HDMI-ARC/eARC. However, if you own a select high-end Samsung Samsung 2020 and/or 2021 QLED TV, you can access Q-Symphony, which combines your TV speakers with the soundbar for an even more fuller sound, and SpaceFit, which auto-calibrates the TV and soundbar audio in relation to your room.
If you want to take it up a notch, consider the Samsung HW-Q900A soundbar/wireless subwoofer system.
That system has all the capabilities of the HW-Q800A, including Dolby Atmos and Alexa, but is wider, at 48-inches. This makes it a great match for TVs 50-inches and larger and provides a wider stereo sound field.
Also, instead of 3.1.2 channels, the Q900A expands things to 7.1.2 channels (left, center, right, 2 height channels, left and right side channels, and, of course, the subwoofer channel). The Q900A can also be expanded into a 9.1.4 channel configuration (which includes two additional Dolby Atmos height channels) with the purchase of the optional SWA-9500S wireless surround speakers.
Bose Smart Soundbar 900
Dolby Atmos, Room Correction, and more
The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is Dolby Atmos-enabled sound bar that easily fits below most TVs without obstructing the screen. It can also be wall-mounted with the purchase of an additional wall-mounting kit.
The 900 incorporates five horizontal facing speakers and two vertically firing speakers placed at each end Dolby Atmos. For content that isn’t Dolby Atmos encoded Bose includes TruSpace technology that provides a Dolby Atmos-like listening experience.
The speakers are complemented by Bose’s well-known Phase Guide technology directs the sound both up and out to the appropriate spots in the room to provide a more realistic surround sound listening experience.
The Soundbar 900 comes with remote control, but the free Bose Music app for Android and iOS lets you set up and control the soundbar from any mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. You can also use the app to stream music as well as internet radio stations to the soundbar. Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, and AirPlay 2 are also supported.
The Soundbar 900 also includes Bose’s ADAPTiQ Audio Calibration which matches the soundbar to room acoustics.
Sonos ARC and Beam 2
Home Theater and Wireless Multi-room Audio
Wireless speaker maker Sonos has been very aggressive in the soundbar space. Its current flaghip soundbar is the Sonos ARC.
The ARC is a wide soundbar, coming it at 49-inches makes it a great visual match for larger screen TVs. Inside its thin profile, which doesn’t block the bottom of most TV screens when table mounted, Sonos packs on 11 speakers, which include two up-firing speakers.
The reason for the up-firing speakers is to support Dolby Atmos height effects providing TV viewers with a more immersive soundfield with compatible content.
In addition to its “home theater” features, the Sonos ARC is also compatible with most Sonos wireless speaker products, allowing uses to add Sonos wireless surround speakers and/or subwoofer, or work as part of a multi-room wireless music system.
Another bonus is that built-in microphones enable voice assistant support for Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar
Expensive, but Feature Packed
The Sony HT-A7000 Soundbar has a lot to offer, starting off with its 7.1.2 channel configuration that includes 5 front channel speakers, 2 beam tweeters, one built-in subwoofer, and two up-firing speakers.
Sony’s Vertical Surround Engine creates convincing overhead audio for Dolby Atmos. With its
S-Force PRO Front Surround audio processing, the HT-A7000 also provides a broad front and side soundfield. To optimize the soundbar’s surround sound performance, Sony includes its Soundfield Optimization system, which calibrates the soundbar’s audio capabilities with the user’s room.
You can use the HT-A7000 with any TV, but if own a Sony (A80J, A90J, X95J, Z9J) series TV, you can combine the soundbar with the TV – using the TV as an additional center channel for better positioning of dialog.
All this is great for movie and TV viewing, but Sony hasn’t ignored music performance, which is the downfall of many soundbars. For example, DSEE Extreme™ restores the true dynamic range of compressed digital music in real-time. The H7-A7000 is also compatible with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format.
To make accessing streaming music services easy, the HT-A7000 has Chromecast built-in and is also compatible with AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth.
The HT-A7000 also includes an HDMI-ARC/eARC connection as well as 2 HDMI inputs with 8K HDR, 4K/120fps, and Dolby Vision® pass-through.
The HT-A7000 Soundbar is priced at $1,299.99 and is available via Amazon.
The HT-A7000 can also be expanded with the addition of an optional wireless subwoofer and/or wireless surround speakers. Here are the options:
Klipsch Cinema 1200 Soundbar System
Klipsch Technology and Performance in a Soundbar System
Unlike most of the soundbars on this list, the Klipsch Cinema 1200 comes with wireless surround speakers and a subwoofer – no need for additional purchases.
The soundbar is 54-inches wide which not only aids in providing a wide frontstage (great for stereo music listening) as well as providing a good visual complement for very large screen TVs.
This is a 5.1.4 channel system that includes 5 horizontal directed channels, a subwoofer channel, and 4 upward-firing 3-inch drivers (2 in the soundbar, 2 in the rear channel speakers) to support Dolby Atmos height effects.
The Cinema 1200 incorporates Wi-Fi that integrates with an existing Smart Home ecosystem including the ability to use Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice control via the Klipsch Connect App (iOS/Android) or Amazon Echo/Google Nest, and streaming features such as Spotify Connect. The Cinema 1200 also works with Bluetooth.
HDMI ARC/eARC and up to 8K resolution with HDR video pass-through compatibility is also included.
If you are looking for a complete soundbar system that comes close to the power and sound quality of a home theater system using a receiver and separate speakers for each channel, and without all the cable clutter, the Klipsch Cinema 1200 is worth considering.
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