The best soundbars are your next logical upgrade for an immersive home theater experience without sacrificing space and a ton of cash. TVs are becoming impossibly slimmer, so there is less and less space for clear and profound drivers. They are usually good enough for news or even sports, but audio from movies will need more oomph.
Soundbars will feel like an instant upgrade without the need to pick and pay for each component like you would for a full home theater system. They also fit nicely in front of most TVs since the designs are usually discrete and slim. Most are also plug and play, but if any need some setting up, they are usually minimal.
Soundbars come in either basic or full-featured models, so there are plenty to choose from according to your budget and requirements. The basic models are usually the plug-and-play variants that require minimum fuss before you can start using them. The full-featured options have added extras like the ability to add surround speakers or online streaming.
The Best Soundbars 2021 – Recommended by Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports independently tested and researched several of the market’s best soundbars and rated them according to specific criteria. The following models are ranked by overall rating averaged from Sound Quality, Ease of Use for TVs and Features, and Versatility ratings.
|Make and Model||CR Overall Rating / Price||Sound Quality||Ease of Use (TV)||Ease of Use (Features)||Versatility|
|Samsung HW-N950||(73) - $1600||4/5||4/5||4/5||4/5|
|Sonos Arc Soundbar||(73) - $800||4/5||5/5||5/5||3/5|
|Sonos Playbase||(72) - $700||4/5||4/5||5/5||3/5|
|Bose Soundbar 700||(72) - $800||4/5||4/5||4/5||4/5|
|Sonos Beam||(69) - $400||4/5||5/5||5/5||3/5|
|Yamaha SR-B20A||(60) - $200||3/5||4/5||4/5||3/5|
|Creative Stage 2.1||(57) - $90||3/5||3/5||3/5||4/5|
|Bose Solo 5 TV||(56) - $180||3/5||4/5||3/5||4/5|
|Zvox SoundBase 670||(56) - $370||3/5||4/5||3/5||4/5|
|Klipsch Bar 40||(56) - $260||3/5||4/5||2/5||4/5|
Full-Featured Sound Bars Recommended by Consumer Reports
Samsung HW-N950 (73) – $1600
The premium Samsung HW-N950 is the best soundbar this year thanks to its audiophile-grade sound quality and wireless functionality. the speakers include height channels for 3D sound which can be utilized by Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. it’s a full-featured device that includes WiFI streaming, Bluetooth, and Amazon’s Alexa assistant among other things.
Sonos Arc Soundbar (73) – $800
What’s great about the Dolby Atmos-capable Sonos Arc is it doesn’t need a subwoofer to provide satisfying audio quality. It has a total of 11 drivers built-in, but you need a TV with HDMI eARC t be able to enjoy Dolby Atmos content. One of its most important talents is its Trueplay calibration technology which lets you adjust its output based on the room size.
Sonos Playbase (72) – $700
The elegant Sonos Playbase is a pedestal speaker designed to improve your audio quality while doubling as a clean-looking base for your TV. It’s only a 3.0 channel system, but it sounds considerably better than many options and you can connect Sonos speakers to it wirelessly. It supports several smart home platforms such as AirPlay 2 and Google Assistant which increases its functionality.
Bose Soundbar 700 (72) – $800
The Bose Soundbar 700 is probably one of the best-looking and sounding options in its price range. Its excellent build quality with a tempered glass top while its finely-tuned drivers provide an output that critical listeners will like. It also supports Alexa or Google Assistant, plus you can add Bose rear speakers and bass modules to expand its top-notch performance.
Sonos Beam (69) – $400
The Sonos Beam is a compact smart soundbar speaker that provides excellent sound for both music and movie playback. It features Alexa and Google Assistant functionality, and it can also be expanded wirelessly by adding a Sonos subwoofer or two rear or side drivers for 5.1 surround. It’s one of the most flexible options in the lineup thanks to its features and modest size.
Basic Soundbars Recommended by Consumer Reports
Yamaha SR-B20A (60) – $200
The Yamaha SR-B20A offers great sound for the price and it’s well-suited as an upgrade for movie or even music enjoyment. It also offers Bluetooth connectivity, and it can be expanded with a separate subwoofer for better depth.
Creative Stage 2.1 (57) – $90
The budget-friendly Creative Stage 2.1 offers a lot of value for its $90 MSRP. It doesn’t offer plenty of features, but it comes with a passive subwoofer that completes its soundstage. It also comes with Bluetooth connectivity so you can stream music from your mobile device as well.
Bose Solo 5 TV (56) – $180
The Bose Solo 5 TV is one f the most compact in the line up at 22 inches, but its sound quality cannot easily be matched. The Bluetooth-enabled speaker is a popular premium upgrade for TVs thanks to its performance, even if it’s not compatible with the Bose bass modules.
Zvox SoundBase 670 (56) – $370
The Zvox SoundBase 670 comes from the company that essentially pioneered the soundbar category. The sturdy device can double as a base for TVs that weigh up to 120lbs, plus it offers plenty of connectivity to go with its superb sound quality.
Klipsch Bar 40 (56) – $260
The Klipsch Bar 40 is another reasonably-priced premium offer that provides 2.1 sound performance that punches above its price range. This model doesn’t support surround sound like its bigger brother, but it does come with a capable wireless subwoofer for the price.