What to Look For in a Soundbar in 2022
When shopping for a soundbar, almost anything will be an improvement when transitioning from your stock TV speakers. However, getting a suitable soundbar for your needs will be the difference between being just satisfied and being blown away with your purchase.
The best place to start is to think about where you’re going to put your soundbar. If the soundbar is in a small space, you can get away with spending a little less and getting something on the smaller side.
If you are in a bigger space or want something a little more impressive, it is worth spending a few extra bucks on a soundbar or perhaps getting one with a separate subwoofer for added depth. On the flip side, if you’re in an apartment or share a wall with neighbors, skipping the subwoofer is probably for the best.
From there, it’s just thinking about your budget range and what subwoofer has the surround sound technology you’re looking for, such as Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. The differences between these approaches won’t affect the sound much overall, but you may want to pay attention to them depending on where you get your media from.
Our recommendations will have you covered, no matter what you’re looking for.
- ✓ High-quality, balanced sound
- ✓ DTS Virtual:X Surround Sound
- ✓ Amazon Alexa compatible
- ✓ Clear Voice mode for enhanced dialogue clarity
When you’re searching for a standalone soundbar, the end-of-day goal is to improve upon your current TV watching audio experience. The Yamaha YAS-109 achieves this by providing built-in dual subwoofers, virtual surround sound, Alexa, and more in a minimalistic form factor.
The YAS-109 is simply a well-balanced sounding soundbar. The subwoofers give a lot of life to the sound, especially in action-packed films or films with an intense score. If you’re in a small to medium-sized room with this soundbar, you likely won’t feel a need for a subwoofer at all. If you’re looking to upgrade sound for a home theater, a subwoofer-paired soundbar would be a better option.
If you find voices hard to hear while watching certain movies or shows, the YAS-109 also includes a “Clear Voice” mode to boost the dialogue volume level, making it much easier to understand. Also, in terms of surround sound, Yamaha includes DTS’s popular DTS Virtual:X digital surround sound.
This Yamaha soundbar is also great for music. Given Yamaha has been making affordable, high-quality speakers for decades, this isn’t a shock.
The YAS-109 is a well-rounded soundbar with excellent build quality for only $199. We think this makes it the perfect soundbar for anyone, but especially for someone new to soundbars and at-home surround sound technology. The impressive performance will level up your movie nights, and the price won’t leave you bankrupt.
Best Soundbar Overall
The Yamaha YAS-109 is a brilliant soundbar with favorable features for a low price. This soundbar easily gives you the best bang for your buck.
- ✓ Great quality considering affordable price
- ✓ Simple and easy to use
- ✓ Bluetooth 5.0
- ✗ Lackluster in terms of features
- ✗ No HDMI port
The Bestisan BYL S9920 is a 40-inch soundbar that you can find for around $100. It beats all expectations for a soundbar at this price, and it is the perfect entry-level soundbar.
The S9920 provides impressively clear audio for something that is a fraction of the price of our premium pick. It doesn’t sound quite as rich as the Yamaha YAS-109 or Sonos Arc, but it is a huge step up from built-in TV speakers, and dialogue is very clear coming through this bar.
The BYL S9920 gives you three modes to choose from—Movie, Music, and Dialogue. We like this simplicity because you can only do so much with a soundbar, so these modes cover the main bases. You can change between them with the included remote, where you can also adjust treble and bass. Having the ability to customize the equalization on a soundbar is always a plus.
One downside to this soundbar is the lack of an HDMI ARC port. To connect to this soundbar, you need to use the provided RCA port, optical port, auxiliary port, or connect via Bluetooth if you have a Smart TV. This isn’t a huge problem, but having the HDMI ARC or eARC would have been a convenience that many other modern soundbars already have.
Finally, there are three versions of this soundbar, and we are recommending the largest and loudest of the bunch, the 100-watt model. There are smaller models available if space for a soundbar is at a premium, however.
Overall, the Bestisan is a simple soundbar that doesn’t cost much but makes a huge difference when upgrading your TV speakers. It’s a fantastic way to make dialogue clearer and add depth to what you’re listening to.
Best Budget Soundbar
Bestisan BYL S9920
You’d be hard-pressed to find a $100 soundbar that sounds as good as the Bestisan BYL S9920.
- ✓ Premium-quality everything
- ✓ Acoustic-tuning adjusts to your room
- ✓ Deep, rich bass
- ✓ Dolby Atmos surround sound
The Sonos Arc has a reputation for being one of the best soundbars you can buy for under $1,000. It is known mainly for its impressive surround sound and overall sound quality. There’s a lot that has gone into the Sonos Arc, so let’s unpack it all.
The Arc includes Dolby Atmos surround sound. Dolby Atmos systems often require ceiling-mounted speakers, but soundbars achieve a similar effect by including upward-firing speakers to bounce sound off your ceiling.
Acoustically, the Sonos Arc delivers an incredible performance due to its Trueplay tuning technology. Trueplay means the Arc can calibrate to any room you put it in through the Sonos app, giving you a completely customized experience for your space.
This Sonos soundbar is great for customization. On top of Trueplay, you can also customize the EQ levels to your liking. If you need to clarify dialogue, Sonos includes Speech Enhancement in the Arc. There’s also a Night Sound mode to reduce the volume of the loudest sound effects, so you don’t disturb housemates or neighbors.
The Arc includes voice assistance through Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and it is also Apple Airplay 2 compatible. This soundbar will work with anything you throw at it.
You may experience a bit of sticker shock with this soundbar, especially since there are great options on this list for half the price. The difference is with the Sonos Arc is that it achieves the most convincing surround sound for a standalone soundbar. The bass holds up very well without a separate subwoofer as there are eight subwoofers built-in.
If you need a top-notch cinematic experience in your living room, the Sonos Arc is the way to go.
Best Premium Soundbar
- ✓ Wide variety of connectivity options
- ✓ Great signature JBL sound
- ✓ Dolby Atmos surround sound
- ✗ Some lower-priced soundbars on this list offer similar performance
If you know about JBL, then you know that they are consistently putting out great audio products. The JBL Bar 5.0 soundbar is no exception, and it would serve as a great addition to your TV setup.
In terms of connectivity, the JBL supports Apple Airplay, Alexa Multi-Room Music and has Chromecast built-in. The Bar 5.0 also supports Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections for supported devices. To utilize the surround sound, you need to connect via the HDMI eARC port.
We picked the JBL Bar 5.0 for its impressive sound performance, and Dolby Atmos surround sound. As previously mentioned, Dolby Atmos is supported by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. So, if you stream on those services, it’s vital to get an Atmos-supported bar for surround, not DTS.
Incorporating JBL’s Multibeam technology to provide a vast soundstage in your chosen room, you won’t be disappointed by the surround sound performance. This soundbar won’t disappoint with regular audio either, though. JBL is known for having rich, punchy bass and crystal clear highs throughout all of its products, and the Bar 5.0 is no different.
If you’re looking for all-around impressive performance, premium build quality, Dolby Atmos surround sound, and plenty of connectivity options, the JBL Bar 5.0 is an excellent soundbar for you.
Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar
JBL Bar 5.0
The JBL Bar 5.0 is one of the smartest soundbars you can get, and it sounds amazing too with Dolby Atmos compatibility.
- ✓ Supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual:X
- ✓ Wide soundstage
- ✓ Simple to use
- ✗ Not great for customizing equalization
For an incredible surround sound experience in a standalone soundbar, the Sony HT-X8500 is a great option. It has a sleek, low-profile design and delivers a convincing surround sound experience. This soundbar also comes with both Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual: X, so you can try both leading versions of surround sound.
The sound quality from the Sony is excellent, but it has a bit less equalization wiggle room than some of the other soundbars on this list. However, it is well balanced for TV and movies right out of the box.
This soundbar tends to have mixed reviews on music sound quality and dialogue clarity, however. This is likely because this soundbar is best in small to medium-sized spaces and may not perform well in a larger-open area.
Therefore, if you’re in a smaller apartment or want a soundbar for your bedroom, the HT-X8500 is a good soundbar for you. If you’re in a bigger space, this is still a decent option if you’re sitting within 10 feet from the soundbar.
Among most reviews, it’s clear that this soundbar has a wide soundstage, meaning that it sounds impressively three-dimensional. The bigger the soundstage, the more realistic your surround sound will be. This soundbar simulates a 7.1.2ch surround sound system, which is impressive for something under $500. The HT-X8500 also has a Vertical Surround Engine to improve the already great surround sound options.
The connectivity of the HT-X8500 is up to par with most other modern soundbars. It comes equipped with an HDMI in, HDMI out (ARC/eARC), optical port, and USB. If your TV is capable of sending Bluetooth, you can also connect this soundbar wirelessly.
The Sony HT-X8500 includes several different sound modes to choose from for basically any situation. These modes have dedicated buttons on the remote, giving you the same simplicity that the BYL Bestisan soundbar provides.
The delivery of features on this soundbar is quite as glorious as the Sonos Arc, but it still packs a lot of features that you can often only get in soundbars that are double the price.
Best Surround Sound Soundbar
Can’t decide whether you want a Dolby Atmos bar or DTS Virtual:X? This Sony soundbar does both.
- ✓ Subwoofer adds a layer of deep bass
- ✓ Impressive sound for a cinematic experience
- ✗ No Dolby or DTS surround sound (JBL uses it’s own surround sound here)
- ✗ Less smart than the 5.0
The JBL Bar 2.1 is another excellent example as to why JBL has the reputation that it does. For even less than the price of the JBL Bar 5.0, you can have that same great JBL signature sound with a dedicated, wireless subwoofer and more wattage to push the sound to your ears.
This sound system can seriously pack a punch by flaunting 300 watts of power between the bar and the subwoofer. The audio is top-notch, and whether you’re in a bedroom or a large living room, you’ll be satisfied with how full this 2.1 setup sounds.
So, what’s the catch? Well, the JBL Bar 2.1 is simply less smart than the Bar 5.0. If you go with the 2.1, you will be skipping out on Alexa, Airplay, and Chromecast options. You also won’t get Dolby Atmos surround sound, but JBL provides its own surround sound technology to take its place.
The bass on this unit is a serious upgrade from the 5.0 and most all-in-one soundbars. This JBL soundbar is best for someone more of an audio purist who doesn’t need the extras with the 5.0. If you’re looking for something just to set up and not pay it much mind while enjoying a theater-like cinematic experience, this is a solid, simple option.
Best Soundbar with Subwoofer
JBL Bar 2.1
Having a dedicated subwoofer along with your soundbar is a great way to add a layer of deep, rich bass. The JBL Bar 2.1 setup is perfect for just that.
- ✓ Ability to connect music services via Bose Music App
- ✓ Rich sound
- ✓ Both Google and Amazon voice assistants
- ✗ No Dolby Atmos or DTS Virtual: X
If you’re a music lover, you’re probably not surprised to see Bose on this list. They are a leading brand for speaker systems and have an excellent reputation. The Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is a well-rounded, premium soundbar that produces excellent sound.
The Smart Soundbar 300 features a spacious soundstage and a basic, sleek design. It is a smart soundbar that comes with Google Assistant, Alexa, Spotify Connect, and Apple Airplay. For supported Bose products, you can interconnect products using Bose Simplesync technology. Finally, you can connect the soundbar to your TV via optical cable or HDMI inputs.
Due to the abundance of features and connectivity options, we think this soundbar would be a great general addition to any living room. Plus, with the inclusion of other Bose products equipped with Simplesync, you can listen to your favorite songs throughout multiple rooms—the perfect way to set the mood for any occasion.
You can set up this soundbar and all of its settings easily using the Bose Music app. The Bose Music app is an all-in-one hub for controlling your soundbar and the services that you use with it. This is convenient because that means you don’t have to switch through apps when you want to change something, it’s all right there.
If you want something with plenty of richness in the sound that you can expand upon to upgrade your home entertainment, the Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is the pick for you. Bose sound quality is perfect for listening to any music, and you’ll be able to listen to your music library in a whole new way.
Best Soundbar for Music
Bose Smart Soundbar 300
This Bose soundbar is a great, middle of the road soundbar. It is packed with features and sounds great playing all of your favorite tunes.