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Best soundbars for TV shows, movies and music in 2020

TechRadar logo TechRadar 27/03/2020 Nick Pino
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While it doesn't have tons of fancy features, the Sony HT-MT300 is a compact soundbar that will fit just about any home theater and comes with a wireless sub for just $200 / £200. If you want something cheap, simple and easy to setup, this is the 'bar to go for.

One of the best soundbars from this list will make a huge difference to the audio within your home. That’s why a top-quality soundbar is an important investment for any home cinema enthusiast. You can use it on its own or as part of an immersive 5.1 speaker system that forms the immersive home theater system of your dreams. 

TV displays are getting slimmer and slimmer. Although this means they look great in your home, there’s less room for built-in speakers. Just take a look at any of the top TVs at the moment and you’ll see the audio isn’t up to scratch. Even the best Samsung TV could use an external speaker system.

This is why we've rounded up the very best soundbars on the market in one handy guide. Because there’s no point spending a small fortune on a new TV display for the audio to fall short. 

What you'll find below is our selection of the best soundbars available for you to buy in 2020, from the best pricey, feature-rich models through to ultra-affordable, easy-to-set-up speakers. 

Our list has a bit of everything. There are plenty of expensive soundbars here that will give you immersive Dolby Atmos sound and a wide soundstage. But when it comes to soundbars, you don’t always need to spend the big bucks. It's well-worth considering the cheaper options on here too, as they sound great for the price and won't break the bank.

Our top picks

The best soundbars 2020

a close up of a computer: (Image credit: Samsung) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar

Be afraid, traditional Hi-Fi speakers. Be very afraid.

Dimensions: 1226 x 83 x 136mm (W x H x D) | Speaker configuration: 7.1.4 | Claimed audio power: 512W | Connections: 2 x HDMI inputs, 1 x HDMI output with eARC, optical digital audio input, USB (service only), Bluetooth and WiFi

Impressive sound quality
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
Easy to install and setup
Limited HDMI Inputs

The Samsung HW-Q90R was the brand's all-singing, all-dancing flagship soundbar for 2019 – and in 2020, it's still our top pick. It not only supports object-based audio in the shape of both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, it’s also the only model from 2019 to achieve this with actual rear speakers and four upward-firing drivers.

Even in 2020, no other soundbar comes close to producing the full Dolby Atmos and DTS:X experience, and thanks to tuning from Harman Kardon the HW-Q90 even sounds good with music. A decent set of features and fully-specified HDMI connections complete a nearly flawless package... as long as you can afford it.

Read more: Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar review

© Provided by TechRadar a living room: (Image credit: Sony) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar

Sony’s all-in-one Dolby Atmos bar may be the best value of the year

Dimensions: 890 x 64 x 96 mm (35 1/8 x 2 5/8 x 3 7/8 in) | Speaker configuration: 2.1 | Claimed audio power: N/A | Connections: 1 HDMI input, 1 HDMI Out (ARC), analogue audio in/out, Ethernet, optical audio in, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compatible
Compact all-in-one form factor
Integrated subwoofer
No upfiring drivers

Given that rival Dolby Atmos-compatible soundbars typically sell for twice the price, Sony’s HT-X8500 warrants an easy recommendation. Cost-cutting can be attributed to connectivity and features but what’s genuinely confounding is just how great the HT-X8500 sounds. 

The key to the HT-X8500’s gutsy performance is Sony’s proprietary Vertical Sound Engine - working with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, it creates a convincing illusion of wraparound sound that allow Dolby Atmos movies to play with a clear sense of expanded height and width.

The build quality and design of the soundbar is exceptional, and its general audio performance impresses with its clarity and spatial presentation. 

Overall, if you want a home theatre sound system that won’t dent your budget, it’s probably the best option right now.

Read more: Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar review

© Provided by TechRadar a desktop computer sitting on top of a table: Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar © Provided by TechRadar Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar

3. Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar

The best soundbar for less than £400/$400

Power: 100W | Speakers: 2 | Dimensions: 1,000 x 90 x 142mm | Weight: 4.9kg | Inputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x digital optical, 1 x 3.5mm | Outputs: N/A | Wireless: Bluetooth aptX | Subwoofer included?: Yes | Special features: N/A

Beautiful musicality
Easy to use
Stereo only
No HDMI input

The Q Acoustics M4 soundbar doesn’t immediately set pulses racing with its slightly prosaic looks, ‘mere’ 2.1-channel sound and lack of any HDMI support. However, you only have to hear what the M4 can do with both music and movies for your doubts about it to evaporate almost instantly. 

In fact, though, it sounds so much better than pretty much any rival soundbar in the same price bracket, that it’s actually ridiculously good value – especially if you care about music as much as you care about movies. 

Read more: Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar review

© Provided by TechRadar a television that is sitting on a counter: (Image credit: Samsung) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Samsung)

4. Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar

A good-looking and well-spec'd soundbar for both movies and gaming

Power: 3300W | Speakers: 3.1.2 | Dimensions: 1100 x 59 x 100mm (W x H x D) | Connections: HDMI input and output with ARC, optical digital audio input, Bluetooth | Subwoofer included?: Yes

Big immersive soundstage
Souped-up subwoofer
Great with movies and games
Only one HDMI input

Samsung's California-based audio lab has been on a roll. In the last few years, the lab has helped the company put together the award-winning Samsung HW-M650, last year's powerful, Dolby Amtos-ready Samsung HW-N850, and now, the Samsung HW-Q70R, a soundbar designed to keep up with the Korean giant's 2019 QLED TVs.

If you've followed Samsung's naming structure in the past, the Samsung HW-Q70R represents a revised version of last year’s HW-N650 and although the new model costs more at $800 (£800, AU$1,099), the good news is that the Q70R adds support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and still uses Acoustic Beaming technology that widens the soundstage.

The resulting soundstage is big and open, lending itself to larger screen sizes. The overall effect is somewhat front heavy, but that’s to be expected given the lack of rear speakers. However once you take into consideration the looks, build quality, and features, this is a solid midrange combo.

Read more: Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar review

© Provided by TechRadar a view of the television: (Image credit: Sennheiser) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Sennheiser)

5. Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar

Dazzling 3D sound – but at quite a price

Power: 500W | Speakers: 5.1.4 | Dimensions: 1265 x 135 x 171 mm | Weight: 18.5kg | Inputs: Digital coaxial in, Digital optical in, HDMI 2.1 output (eARC), 3 HDMI 2.0a In, Audio in 3.5 mm jack | Wireless: Bluetooth 4.2 and AAC | Subwoofer included?: No

Superb sound quality
Effective Dolby Atmos
13 separate drivers
Humongous price, size and weight
No AirPlay or AptX for Bluetooth

Sennheiser is best known for its range of headphones and professional microphones, but it recently extended its ambitions to home audio as well, with the introduction of its new Ambeo Soundbar. 

The bulky soundbar is packed with the latest audio technologies, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for surround sound audio, as well as Sennheiser’s own Ambeo ‘virtual 3D’ sound system. Sennheiser clearly has its sights set on the home cinema market with the Ambeo, although the bar's Wi-Fi connectivity means that it can double up as a pretty impressive music system as well.

It’s not perfect – Sennheiser’s reliance on Google Home to provide wifi streaming seems like an odd choice – but the sheer sound quality of the Ambeo Soundbar ensures that it justifies its wallet-breaking price tag.

Read more: Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar review

© Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Sonos) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Sonos)

6. Sonos Playbar

Turns your multi-room audio system into wireless surround sound

Power: Not quoted | Speakers: 9 | Dimensions: 900 x 85 x 140mm | Weight: 5.4kg | Inputs: 1 x digital optical, 2 x Ethernet LAN | Outputs: N/A | Wireless: WiFi | Special features: Sonos Play:1 speakers can be connected as wireless rear speakers

Beautiful sound
Integrates with Sonos systems 
Clever audio modes
Requires particular TVs 

The Sonos Playbar is a non-HDMI device that uses optical to hook up to a TV. Used simply on its own it delivers a massive sonic boost to your TV listening, but operating it does require using a smartphone or tablet app. The benefit is that it can seamlessly segue in to a Sonos wireless system, and can even act as the front three speakers in a 5.1 setup with two Play:1s acting as rears. 

Unfortunately although it's optical-only setup will be great for most, it does exclude owners of TVs that lack this connector, which has pushed it a little further down this list. 

Read more: Sonos Playbar review

© Provided by TechRadar Sonos Beam © Provided by TechRadar Sonos Beam

7. Sonos Beam

This is the smart soundbar we've been waiting for

Power: N/A | Speakers: 3 channels | Dimensions: 2.70 x 25.625 x 3.94 in. (68.5 x 651 x 100 mm) | Weight: 6.2 lbs (2.8 kg) | Inputs: 1 x Digital Optical-In, 1 x HDMI-in | Wireless: Sonos | Subwoofer included?: No | Special features: Amazon Alexa, Apple AirPlay 2

Great compact design
HDMI ARC compatible
Superb sound
No Dolby Atmos

The Sonos Beam is a fantastic soundbar for its price, one that takes full advantage of the Sonos ecosystem and is a joy to use (and set up, if your television has HDMI ARC). Its smaller form factor means it’s a device that will sit comfortably next to a 32-inch TV but it’s got enough of a footprint to not be dwarfed by a much bigger set. 

The Sonos Beam doesn’t offer earth-shattering bass and the lack of Dolby Atmos support will irk some, but at this price point it'd be more of a surprise if it had been included. The voice control may be Alexa-only for now, but it works well and if you have adopted some of Amazon’s TV toys, it really is worth experimenting with. 

Read more: Sonos Beam review

© Provided by TechRadar Denon HEOS Bar © Provided by TechRadar Denon HEOS Bar

8. Denon HEOS Bar

A powerful and well-connected Playbar challenger

Power: N/A | Speakers: 3.0 | Dimensions: 2 7/8 x 43 3/8 x 5 7/8 inches; 72 x 1100 x 148 mm | Weight: 10.58 lbs; 4.8 kg | Inputs: 4K HDMI Input and HDMI Output | Wireless: Bluetooth, 802.11ac Wi-Fi | Special features: Heos Multi-Room Audio

Excellent sound quality
Handles all formats & streams
Occasional switching delay
Inaccessible USB slot

 With its nine drivers are arranged in trios for left, center and right channels and a virtual surround mode to create the illusion of having more speakers around the room, the HEOS Bar is pretty much whatever you want it to be.  

Blessed with such a balanced soundscape, the HEOS Bar proved immediately adept with music, and has a consistently warm yet refined sound quality that's all its own. The fact that it lacks the opportunity to tweak the audio settings is not as important as we had feared. 

Music sounds superb, especially lossless tunes, from which HEOS Bar drags out a lot of detail. However, we did notice on a couple of occasions that the first half-a-second was cut-off songs. 

Read more: Denon HEOS Bar review

© Provided by TechRadar a close up of a hard wood floor: (Image credit: Cliff Joseph) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Cliff Joseph)

9. Vizio SB362An-F6 Sound Bar

Impressive sonic upgrade for your TV, at a bargain-basement price

Power: N/A | Speakers: 2.0 | Dimensions: 914.4mm x 52.1mm x 133.1mm | Weight: 5.61 Lbs. / 2.54 Kg | Inputs: 1 x digital optical,1x 3.5 mm jack | Wireless: Bluetooth | Subwoofer included?: No

Powerful, dramatic sound
Dolby Audio and DTS Virtual:X
No HDMI
No LCD display

The key feature of the SB362An-F6 – also referred to more helpfully as the “36-inch 2.1 Sound Bar” on most retailer's websites – is really its sheer value for money, costing just £149 in the UK and an even more competitive $139 in the US, where it was launched at the end of last year.

Despite the bargain-basement price, the SB362An-F6 is neatly designed, measuring 36 inches wide, and a streamlined 2 inches high, and 5.2 inches deep (914xx52x133mm). It will sit comfortably underneath the screen of most TVs, and Vizio also includes a pair of wall-mount brackets as well. 

The SB362An-F6 isn’t perfect, but its dramatic and imposing sound provides a real audio upgrade for your television’s built-in speakers. The Virtual:X technology works well too, helping to create a more immersive atmosphere while you’re watching. And while it might be missing a few bells and whistles, there’s no doubt that the SB362An-F6 provides excellent value for money.

Read more: Vizio SB362An-F6 review

© Provided by TechRadar a computer sitting on top of a wooden table: (Image credit: Polk Audio) © Provided by TechRadar (Image credit: Polk Audio)

10. Polk Audio Command Bar

Inexpensive and very smart

Power: N/A | Speakers: 1 | Dimensions: 43 x 14.5 x 14.4 inches | Weight: 8.6lbs | Inputs: 1 x SPDIDF, 1 x HDMI, 1 x TOSLINK, 1 x micro-USB connection | Outputs: 1 x HDMI output with Audio Return Channel (ARC) | Wireless: Bluetooth | Subwoofer included?: Yes | Special features: Alexa built in

Alexa built-in
Space for a Fire TV stick
Inexpensive
Audio is mediocre

If $300 is your budget cap for a smart sound bar, then we highly recommend the Polk Audio Command Bar for any small or medium-sized living room.

As you might be able to tell based on the soundbar’s design, the Command Bar comes with Alexa built right into it making it unquestionably smart. It’s also relatively inexpensive too, coming in at $250 (£249, AU$649), and it comes with a subwoofer. 

It has defined and powerful low end, some cool smart features, and looks pretty good, too.

Read more: Polk Audio Command Bar review

Why should I buy a soundbar?

What about my TV?

There's no point in having a great soundbar if your TV's display is terrible; that's why we have roundups of the best TVs, including the best OLED TVs, best 4K TVs, best TVs for sport, and the best TVs for gaming.

Looking for a particular size? We have guides for 55-inch 4K TVs, 65-inch 4K TVs, 75-inch 4K TVs, as well as 40-inch and 32-inch TVs.

On a budget? Check out the best cheap TV sales and 4K deals this month. 

If you love the slim aesthetic of your new 4K TV, we can bet it doesn’t have the audio needed to match the visuals. That means a good soundbar is your best option to get the most out of your favorite TV shows and films. 

The best soundbars of 2020 are built to be just as pleasing to the eye as they are to the ear. Most of them are sleek, minimal and designed to sit flush against a wall or home cinema set-up. They're also a good solution for smaller homes and rooms with little space that wouldn't be able to squeeze a 7.1 channel speaker system in. 

The majority of the soundbars on this list are made to sit in front of your screen, but they can also be wall-mounted above or to the side of it as well, depending on how your room is laid out. This provides you with ultimate choice as to how your home entertainment set-up looks.

Despite most of the soundbars on this list only featuring front-facing speakers, many are able to confidently project sound in a way that makes it seem as though there's booming audio coming from every direction.

Best soundbars at a glance

  1. Samsung HW-Q90R Soundbar
  2. Sony HT-X8500 Soundbar
  3. Q Acoustics M4 Soundbar
  4. Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar
  5. Sennheiser Ambeo 3D Soundbar
  6. Sonos Playbar
  7. Sonos Beam
  8. Denon HEOS Bar
  9. Vizio SB362An-F6 Sound Bar
  10. Polk Audio Command Bar

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