Best Soundbars to Buy in 2020

August 1, 2020

Today, we’ll be taking a look at the best soundbars that you can buy in 2019. We have recently started reviewing soundbars and have been testing the most popular models. Just keep in mind we are still testing more.

If there’s a model you want to see reviewed, make sure to vote for it on our suggestion tool, linked in the description below. We’ll look at the design, sound quality, and connectivity of the best soundbars across various usages. Since this is a new product for us to test, I’ll give a little bit of an intro to what we’re doing before checking out the best soundbars we’ve tested that you can buy in 2019, going from the best budget soundbar up to the best of the best.

I’m not going to go too much into detail in this post, so don’t worry, but let us know in the comments down below what you’d like to see from us in the future, including if you’d like to see more about how we test. So, let’s start off with the room. This is our soundbar and TV testing room. TV sound is tested in here as well as soundbars. It is not an an echoic chamber, it is a fairly standard room, more similar to what you may have at home. This way we can report how soundbars sound in normal conditions. We have developed tests for use in here with this: our custom mic array – which we have come to name Mozilla.

We use this to take a total of 80 different measurements in different spots of the room to determine the average frequency response. We also use a dedicated Home theater  speaker system as a reference for things like sound stage, so we can better evaluate the performance at a comparative level. This setup is not meant to yield absolute values of performance, because your room at home may sound different. The setup is meant for all the soundbars we test to have mostly comparable results to one another, because they are tested the same way. For more details about our inaugural soundbar test bench, check out the links in the description below. Alright, let’s get started with our recommendations. We’ll start with the best budget soundbar: the Yamaha YAS-207. It is a decent 2.1 soundbar meaning it has an included wireless sub.

It has Bluetooth and a multitude of ports for connectivity, and can playback DTS and Dolby Digital formats. It has a plastic and mesh-fabric construction with the LED light indicators on the front plastic section. The sub follows the same design language. It is 2.3 inches high and should not obstruct your view of the tv. Depending on your TV, it might fit between the legs but will most likely have to be positioned in front of the feet of your tv. The remote is very small and not particularly nice, but it does have useful controls. Sound-wise, the YAS-207 has a very good stereo frequency response and has a neutral and accurate sound profile. For its price range, it can also deliver decent bass. It has a decent sound stage that is about the width of the bar, so it can’t separate sounds like a dedicated  Home theater speaker system can, naturally.

It can get plenty loud and the dynamic range compression at max volume is noticeable but not too bad. Since it is a 2.1 soundbar, 5.1 content is down mixed to stereo, but luckily centre channel audio is handled well and sounds good, while surround content leaves much to be desired. Voices can be enhanced with the voice clarity button and the sub woofer level can be adjusted to your liking. Next, we’ll look at the best small-format standalone soundbar: the Sonos Beam. The Sonos Beam is a good 3.1 soundbar with a nice design and has a decent performance on its own, and can be improved with the Sonos Sub sold separately.

Well, be looking at its performance on its own though. It has a premiums feel to it, with a nice high-quality plastic sandwiching the mesh-covered grill. It is pretty heavy for a small little bar. It only has an HDMI port for ARC, but if you don’t have a TV that supports ARC you’ll have to use the included optical-to-HDMI adapter. In terms of sound, the performance of the Beam is pretty decent. The bar alone doesn’t have deep bass so bass fans will find it lacking, but the sound reproduction is neutral and clear. Happily, the bar has a discrete centre channel for clear dialogue reproduction and the soundstage is great thanks to the side-firing stereo speakers which makes the sound separation much wider than the bar itself.

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Unfortunately, surround sounds play out of the same speakers and aren’t very immersive. Another important thing to note is the Beam registers inputs with your TV remote so you can control the volume with the remote and not have to fiddle with the app every time. The app is the best way to control the bar, as you can cast audio and control all the settings. It even has a room correction feature that is only available for iPhone that can EQ the soundbar to your room. It is a good little bar on its own, but if you want something a little less expensive, consider the Bose Solo 5. It’s a bit smaller and doesn’t have a quite as good sound or separation but will be a good improvement over your TV’s internal Home theatre speakers. Next, we’ll look at the best 5.1 soundbars, the Samsung HW-Q80R.

It is a 5.1.2 Dolby At mos and DTS:X soundbar with 3 channels on the front; left, centre, and right, as well as the two surround channels firing from the sides of the bar as well as two top firing speakers that bounce sound off the ceiling for Dolby Atmos height channels. It has a nice design and is pretty much identical to both last years N850 as well as the Q90R, its bigger brother that adds satellite rear surround speakers. It has a metal grille, a screen, and is pretty hefty. The sub is made of an MDF feeling enclosure and has a big cloth grill covering the woofer on the side. It is also one of the best sounding soundbars we’ve tested so far.

It has a slightly warm and bass-heavy sound signature which is great for movie and bass-heavy music lovers. The soundstage is about as wide as the bar which is good because the bar is so long. That being said, you’ll need a pretty wide TV stand to fit this on and it will most likely sit in front of the TV feet like you see here. [Insert of the Q90R in front of the TV feet]. The bar gets really loud and doesn’t compress much which is great for loud listening sessions. Since it has discrete 5.1.2 speakers, centre channel content such as dialogue is very clear and balanced. Surround content is bounced off the walls to simulate surround speakers, but don’t give the proper immersive feel physical speakers give.

That being said, the up-firing Atmos Home theatre speakers are pretty decent and give a good sense of height to the sound, its just not as good as down-firing speakers for the pinpoint accuracy of sounds. The bar is very customization with the remote and you can play with almost every setting possible to tune it the way you like it. The bar has 2 HDMI In ports and can pass through all the highest quality common audio formats such as Atmos and DTS:X. At the time of this Post, Samsung has not released the update to enable eARC which would be able to pass over lossless audio back to the soundbar from your TV. If your TV doesn’t have eARC, you can still get lossy Atmos from sources like Netflix, that pass the signal through Dolby Digital Plus.

If you’re looking for a soundbar that offers similar performance for much less expensive, check out the 36 inch Vizio 5.1.2 bar: the SB36512-F6. It has physical surround speakers that are wired into the subwoofer for a more immersive surround experience and the sound quality is great. It is not as premium feeling as the Samsung Q80R but is a great performer, nonetheless. Now for the best soundbar, you can buy in 2019: the Samsung Q90R. Some of you may be wondering about the Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The Samsung Q90R is identical looking to the Q80R and adds two rear surround satellites that themselves have up-firing speakers as well, so it is a 7.1.4 system.

best home theater system

It performs almost the same as the Q80R in every way and is our highest scoring soundbar, the physical rear surrounds Home theatre speakers add an elevated level of immersion the Q80R falls short in. The rear surrounds will only fire with 7.1 or Atmos and DTS:X content, but you can force them to always be on by putting the soundbar in the surround sound mode. It does a good job handling Atmos content, but the firing speakers still do not give pinpoint accuracy to the height sounds like dedicated down-firing speakers would.

The Sennheiser AMBEO soundbar is a good soundbar but there’s a small problem with it, and that is its bass. Besides how massive it is and it will undoubtedly block your TV, its sound performance is only decent. This is due to the bass being lower than the rest of the frequencies. Luckily this can be improved by adjusting the EQ so that the standalone AMBEO bar performs well. With Atmos content, it is very immersive and gives a good 3D sound environment that is impressive for a standalone bar. It supports all the formats and has many connectivity options, but it is still overshadowed by the Q90R system. So we saw the best of the budgets, the Yamaha YAS-207 and was impressed by its stereo sound quality and its neutral and accurate sound profile.

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The Sonos Beam is the best small bar if you’re looking for something with a small profile. The Samsung Q80R is the best 5.1 soundbar you can buy in 2019, and has impressive sound quality with a slightly bass-heavy sound profile that is great for movies and bass-heavy music genres. TV shows are also great to watch with the Q80R because the centre channel helps voices be clear and intelligible. For a fraction of the price, you could also go with the Vizio SB36512-F6 which also performs well, with dedicated surround speakers for a full 5.1 immersion experience. Go with the one that most interests you and fits your budget.

And last but not least, the best performing soundbar we have tested so far, and therefore the best soundbar we can recommend is the Samsung HW-Q90R. It has impressive sound quality, a solid design, and great connectivity features. The Sennheiser AMBEO bar is also a good choice if you’re looking for a standalone bar because of its great Atmos 3D Surround implementation, but it is massive and requires tinkering with the sound to perform well. So that’s it for the Best Soundbars you can buy in 2020.

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