Personally there's nothing better than sat on the sofa at home watching a decent film on TV, but up until recently I could understand why people wanted to go to the cinema to watch a decent film. The problem for me is always the sound that my TV makes which to be honest is never very good.
Over the years I have upgraded my TV to the point where I now have a Panasonic TX series 50-inch 4K TV that provides an amazing picture, but still does not really give great sound. TV manufactures often focus on the picture quality rather than the speaker quality and as a result the sound lacks far behind the picture. If you're looking for perfect surround sound, then the only to achieve this is to spend thousands on a top of the range surround sound speaker system.
My problem is that I don't watch enough TV at home to make it worth buying a top of the range speaker system and therefore the next best option to have great sound at home is to buy a soundbar.
Before we start looking for the best soundbar across the market, lets discuss what a soundbar is and most importantly whats its not. A Sound Bar is basically an All-In-One speaker system that has been designed to sit next to your TV and provide high-quality TV sound without the space needed for a home theater speaker set-up or a surround sound system.
It's important that mention this one point again as it often comes up in conversation with customers. A soundbar will provide high-quality sound, however it's not a surround-sound set-up and therefore will not provide surround sound. Often when we get complaints after selling a soundbar it's because the customer thought they were buying a surround sound system and could not understand why there system would not provide this.
Typically your sound bar will come with a selection of speakers from subwoofers that deal with bass, mid-range and high-range speakers that have been designed to work at the different pitch ranges. As a minimum, your sound bar will have been designed with two sets of speaker, one set of mid-range speakers and one set of high range speakers, however there can be as many as eight speakers built into your sound-bar.
If you’re wondering how to tell what speaker set-up your sound bar comes with, look at the numbers that follow the model. As an example, one of our favourite models the Samsung HW-J355 2.1 has a speaker set up of “2.1” meaning that is has two speakers in the mid and high range and the number 1 means that that is has 1 subwoofer.
Top 10 Soundbar's Across The Market
Typically and soundbar will come with multiple high and medium range speakers, however whilst the better models will come with a decent built-in amplifier, I would recommend that you l0ok out for models that come with a separate subwoofer rather than a built-in subwoofer as they do perform better and provide a better base sound.
The problem with built-in subwoofers is that the case has been designed for high and medium pitch range sounds which needs a completely different casing than a subwoofer. If you're subwoofer is contained with the soundbar, rather than a clean base sound, you end up with a messy vibration and on many of the cheaper models, the subwoofer affects the sound from your core speakers. If you’re in the market for a new subwoofer, we have reviewed the best subwoofer here.
Choosing The Best Soundbar
Over the last few years technology has changed this to the point where a top of the range set of speakers will not break the bank and soundbars have been designed to offer both value for money and a decent upgrade in sound from your TV speakers.
In this review, we’re looking at what really is the best sound bar on the market in 2017 and therefore which you should be buying. Choosing a great sound-bar is actually very easy and you can simply pop down to your local electric store and buy the most expensive model that you can find and it will more than likely give you great sound, however the problem comes when you introduce money in to the equation.
What the best, value for money, soundbar on the market in 2017. This is an entirely different question and one that will take some time to review the options.
How We Evaluate Sound Bars
For this review, we’re going to be looking at four key areas that are important to our readers being, user-ability, overall sound quality, accessories and price.
- User-Ability – This is important as our reader are typically not experts and simply want a soundbar that will work from the outset. We have tested sound bars in the past that were so complicated to use and set up that it really made it difficult to use.
- Overall Sound Quality – This is probably the most important aspect of this review. If we’re going to buy a soundbar to use at home, we want it to perform well
- Accessories – This is typically things like subwoofers, inputs and outputs, however really we feel that this is probably the least important point. As long as we can connect both the TV and Music to the soundbar, it really does not matter what other imputs or outputs the soundbar comes with as it’s likely they will be used.
- Price – My budget for a soundbar is far from unlimited and bet yours is similar. Probably the best soundbar, home theatre bundle on the market today is the Sonos 5.1 which consists of a soundbar, subwoofer and two surround sound speakers, however it cost over £1,500 which does take some justifying.
Mistakes to Avoid
Soundbar Size – This is something to think about before you order your soundbar as we have made a a few almighty mess-ups ourselves over the years. Some soundbars are tall enough that they cannot be placed infront of your TV without blocking the infrared port whilst others have been design so that sound is released from this top of the design meaning that you cannot stick the TV on top of the soundbar. Before you buy, make sure you understand where your sound bar is going to go.
Remote Control – Make sure that you don’t buy a sound bar without a remote control allowing you to change the volume without moving. Most come with this feature, but especially within the portable designs, some don’t and it’s a pain to stand-up each time you want to change the volume.
Sound Bar Vs Surround Sound – Remember you’re buying a soundbar and not a surround sound feature. Your sound bar is not going to give you that surround sound cinema experience, not matter how much you spend, but it’s not designed to. Often if you look at the reviews for a specific sound bar, the poor reviews are down the sound quality where the user was expecting an amazing surround sound experience which is not what sound bars have been designed for.
What To Look Out For In The Best Sound Bar
Bluetooth Connectivity – This is very important especially if you want to use your sound bar to play music from both your TV and potentially your phone. If you’re anything like me, you will end up playing music either from your phone or tablet on your soundbar. The easiest way to do this is through Bluetooth.
Speaker Wattage – This is the audio power that a soundbar can produce and is measured in wattage, however given that we’re not looking to play either our TV or Music loudly, we should be only be looking at taking this as a guide rather than a definitive measure, however as a minimum you should be looking at buying a soundbar than can give you a minimum of 300 Watts as this is needed for sufficient noise.
HDMI Port – Look out for an HDMI port in the back of your sound bar that will allow you to connect your TV and your soundbar together easily.
Separate Subwoofer – It’s our recommendation that you buy a separate subwoofer to go with your soundbar as whilst some soundbars do come with a built-in subwoofer, they generally don’t perform as well and as a result you
Wall Mountable – Given that many people are attaching their TV’s directly to the wall, it’s often a great idea to buy a soundbar that can be wall mounted allowing you to easily fix it to the wall.
Over the years we have reviewed a number of the top soundbars across the market. In this section we have given you our thoughts on the best soundbars across the market.
Our Rating -
The Bose Solo 5 TV Sound System is a fresh, fantastic and simple sound system from Bose, with only one speaker to ease setup and get you enjoying great sound without any fuss or complication. The setup is insanely simple and all you need to do is plug one wire from your TV into the back of the speaker, switch the soundbar on using the remote control and your ready-to-go.
It gives great clarity to every last noise from your favourite films and TV shows, and the dialogue mode makes every word stand out, so you won’t catch yourself missing key bits of on-screen conversation. The system makes your sounds rich and deep, so you can enjoy TV and movies like you never have before.
Loads of users have reported how happy they are with the increased and improved quality and depth of sound; there’s a reason why Bose are so reputable in the world of sound. The simple bass setting on the remote control also allows you to turn up the bass quickly and easily.
It’s also a neat device for people who value tidiness and simplicity – it’s just one bar, and you can place it anywhere you like, so you don’t need to worry about too many pesky wires cluttering up your house or bug bulky speakers dominating the room. The technology also allows you to connect the device to music players, so you can listen to your favourite tunes from any of your devices.
A small amount of users have reported small problems with sound and low levels of sound quality, though not enough for this to seem significant or accurate. Although this sound system is of course not going to offer the depth of a multi-speaker system, it is very good considering that it is only one unit, and definitely comes recommended if you want something small and simple to improve your experience of watching TV and films at home.
Our Rating -
The new Samsung HW-J355 120 Wireless Soundbar comes with two speakers and is a great option if you want to improve the sound quality of the movies and TV you watch at home. If you’re looking for detailed and powerful sound, this is exactly what these speakers deliver, while also defining and clearing the verbal aspects of your favourite entertainment.
The main speaker links up to your TV wirelessly, which is convenient if you value tidiness and keeping your home neat, while it also means that you connect up your phone and play some tunes too. That may scare off people who are wary of technology, but the setup is still fairly easy – and you can connect it with wires if that approach is more to your taste.
Although this is a decent option for most users who want to improve their sound quality at home, some users have reported that the bass is insufficient, while others have reported that the speakers are only marginally better than the ones which come automatically with their TV.
Unfortunately, if bass is your priority there are indeed better subwoofers available, particularly given that some users have experienced durability issues with this product. It is also worth noting that the sound is a little out of sync with the visuals at times, though this can be simply fixed by playing with the settings.
That said, the vast majority of users have reported that they are happy with this product, so it does still come recommended overall, particularly if you have a Samsung TV. If that is the case, you’d still be investing in a good product here, and the quality of your sound should notably improve!
Our Rating -
The Sony HT-CT80 2.1 Channel Sound Bar is part of the all new 2017 range of sound technology from the giant electrical manufacture Sony and comes with two speakers. It’s a simple device and a great option if you’re looking to improve the sound quality of your favourite films and TV at home.
The surround sound system means that you are more fully immersed when watching TV, so you can have the cinema experience in the cosiness of your own armchair. The sound design offers balanced sound which properly replicates the correct sound balance of whatever you watch. It has a slim design which fits comfortably and subtly into your home, which is great if you value aesthetics.
The speakers have multiple inputs, which makes it simple and easy to connect to your TV in a number of ways, whether technologically or with simple and trustworthy wires. You can also connect the sound bar to your other devices and stream your favourite tunes.
This is also a little cheaper than some other options, so it’s good if you’re looking to bag a bargain and save some cash. Despite of this, it still offers deep, rich and varied sound, so it’s a good improvement on your default TV speakers.
It seems that a few users have experienced problems with durability, and the product occasionally seems to stop working after a few months or so, which is a shame. The connection, when linked up wirelessly, also seems to cut out on occasion, which interrupts the enjoyment of whatever you happen to be watching.
The sound quality at this price and size is of course not going to absolutely blow you away, but in spite of its flaws, this is still a very good product and the majority of users have been left pretty happy with the offerings of the system.
Our Rating -
The Yamaha YAS-93 Front Surround Soundbar System is a fantastic new sound system from Yamaha, and comes with the ease and simplicity of only one device. It’s simple to set up, and the device offers four built-in speakers including two subwoofers for added bass.
The four speakers provide good balance and great surround sound with dynamism and a robust feel to replicate the cinema experience. The sound is multi-layered, so it also offers a very layered and detailed sound, which really improves the viewing of TV and film and enables all of the sound effects and dialogue to sound clear, realistic and exciting.
The UniVolume setting is a really fresh and innovative idea, which balances sound across all channels. So when you switch from one channel to another or one DVD to another, the volume will remain consistent.
There’s nothing more annoying than a loud blast of commercials during the commercial break, and this system ensures the elimination of this too-common occurrence. The one-device model is good if you like to keep your home looking sleek, smart and tidy, while the very aesthetic design looks great placed in front of your TV.
Most customers and reviewers are really happy with the design and performance of this speaker, and it’s a great addition to your home viewing – it looks good, performs well and improves the sound of anything you watch. It of course does not offer the same surround sound as a multi-speaker setup, but the quality is still good.
It’s not quite as simple to use as some other models, and a few users have commented upon some issues with setup, while the bass occasionally outweighs the treble. But all in all this is a great product and it’s a great choice for anybody who wants an accessible device to improve their home viewing!
Our Rating -
The Sonos Play Bar is a fresh product from the lesser-known but still high quality Sonos. This simple one-piece device is a serious gadget for those wanting to improve their sound system at home and is massively easy to set up and use. It looks smart and elegant in your home with its nice design, but it is a lot more expensive than other options.
If you’re intent upon recreating the cinema experience at home at all costs, this is perhaps for you, but it might not be perfect for the casual TV watcher.
That said, the one-piece system has a range of nine speakers within it, which is way more than most other options. This delivers and ensures great depth and detailed sound, and intelligently distinguishes the differences between action films, dramas, concerts and whatever else you might fancy watching, to deliver bespoke and appropriate sound regardless of what you’re viewing. This detail, subtlety and depth does indeed set the device apart somewhat from other less pricey options.
You can also attach the speaker to other devices to play your music, and access over 100,000 online free radio stations and shows. This device unfortunately doesn’t support Blu-Ray sound, which is not convenient at all if you like to watch a lot of DVDs, and the surround sound doesn’t perhaps justify the price. So while the level of sound here is of very high quality, and while it’s true that it doesn’t get much better with a one-device system, this does come at a price.
If you’re willing to splash the cash, then this is worth the investment, but it’s not going to suit the budget of everyone – and you can get something that performs only marginally worse for a much lower price.
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