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Best Soundbars in 2020 | Android Central

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Source: Android Central

Best
Soundbars
Android Central
2020

The best soundbars have come a long way in the last few years. While full-sized speakers will still sound better — sound needs space, after all — soundbars are great for their size. That size also requires a smaller footprint in your living room, so it’s great for people who want to save space. With something like the Sonos Beam, you’ll get great sound without a head-scratching installation process, and more. There are other great soundbars available, and we have detailed some of the best soundbar options for your home.

Best Soundbar Overall: Sonos Beam Smart TV Sound Bar

Sonos Beam Lifestyle HeroSource: Sonos

With the Sonos Beam, you get a superb TV soundbar with some basic smarts. The Sonos Beam connects to your TV with HDMI-ARC, or with the included HDMI-to-Optical adapter. A recent update has brought the ability for integration between Sonos products and Google Assistant. You can control your TV with your voice if your TV supports HDMI-CEC, which most modern sets do. Controlling your TV with your voice isn’t a replacement for a remote, but it’s an excellent option.

Sonos’ ecosystem is attractive because of how easy it is to add more of its speakers to create a surround system. And as for connections, you’ll get a single HDMI port, a single Ethernet port, and the standard AC power input. You can start with the Sonos Beam and have a great soundbar. A few months later, you can pick up a couple of Sonos One speakers to add more channels. Or, you can buy a Sonos 5.1 kit with everything you need.

However, if you want to experience better “lows” in your movies and video games, you’ll want to pick up a subwoofer after-the-fact. This adds more of a punch to intense scenes and helps to immerse you in whatever you’re watching or playing.

Pros:

  • Amazon Alexa built-in
  • Compatible with Google Assistant
  • Integration with other Sonos speakers
  • Lightweight
  • Great sound

Cons:

  • No subwoofer included
  • Optical cable needed if HDMI-ARC not available
  • Voice commands won’t work with Optical cable

Best Overall

Sonos Beam Smart TV Sound Bar

All of the smarts

With Alexa support and the ability to pair with other Sonos speakers, the Beam should be the go-to soundbar for almost everyone.

Best for Sonos Enthusiasts: Sonos Arc

Sonos Arc Sub LifestyleSource: Sonos

Sonos has been rising the ranks. Once it simply made fantastic speakers that paired to your phone, but now, you can get them all over the house. Over the last few years, the company has moved into the soundbar game, with the Sonos Arc coming in as its flagship model. It offers the homeowner eight woofers, three tweeters, and a total of 11 amplifiers for incredible, immersive sound. This is paired with a far-field microphone to work alongside your voice assistant of choice.

The Arc requires only two cables to plug in before being ready to experience the greatness of this soundbar, which is incredible if you don’t want a complicated setup. As for connections, the Playbar offers one Ethernet port, an HDMI ARC port (with included cable), and an Optical Audio port. Plus, as part of the Sonos family, you can connect the Arc to other Sonos speakers for a surround-sound experience.

While it’s a fantastic option, the Arc isn’t without a couple of downfalls that may have you looking elsewhere. First is the size and weight — it measures in at more than 13 pounds and is 45 inches wide, so you’ll need to have plenty of space and heavy-duty wall anchors. The other pitfall is that there is no subwoofer included, so you may not get as much “punch” during your movies as you might want.

Pros:

  • Wall mountable
  • Integrates with other Sonos speakers
  • Only two cables to hook-up
  • Works with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Apple Airplay 2

Cons:

  • May be too large for TVs under 49 inches
  • Expensive
  • Subwoofer not included

Best for Sonos Enthusiasts

Sonos Arc

Great sound with the smarts to boot

Sonos knocked it out of the park with the Playbar, as this is compatible with Amazon Alexa, and is perfect for most setups.

Best for Bose Fans: Bose Soundbar 500

Bose Soundbar 500 LifestyleSource: Bose

Bose has been in the sound game for a long time, but its home theater audio options used to be priced out of budgets for many potential owners. The times have changed, and the Bose Soundbar 500 system couldn’t be better evidence of that. This affordable soundbar provides an Optical input, coaxial input, and a 3.5mm auxiliary input while allowing for Bluetooth connections if you want to use your phone or tablet.

Although the Soundbar 500 does not include a subwoofer, it can be paired with some of Bose’s wireless add-ons. This includes the company’s wireless speakers — you’ll just have to pick them up after-the-fact. Owners of the Bose 700 Headphones, will be able to use SimpleSync to pair them with the soundbar and listen via the headphones instead of the soundar. The sound volume can be adjusted for the headphones and soundbar separately in the event you want to hear the movie and your loved one fell asleep.

With a soundbar like the Bose Soundbar 500, you may expect some caveats, and there are just a few. Bose opted to keep it simple, and as such, there is no subwoofer included. In some instances, you want a soundbar that spans across the entirety of your TV, but you’ll have to look elsewhere as the Solo 5 measures in at just 31.5 inches, which may be a bit small for some.

Pros:

  • Can be paired with Bose wireless speakers and subwoofers
  • Built-in support for Assistant and Alexa
  • Bluetooth connectivity enables music streaming
  • SimpleSync groups multiple devices for “personal listening”

Cons:

  • No subwoofer included
  • IR blaster sold separately
  • Might be too small for some

Best for Bose Fans

Bose Soundbar 500

Perfect soundbar for most people

Bose has been in the sound game for a while, and the Soundbar 500 is a great pick as it offers excellent sound and looks sleek.

3D Surround Sound: Yamaha YAS-209BL Soundbar

Yamaha Yas 209bl Lifestyle HeroSource: Yamaha

There is surround sound, and then there is a three-dimensional surround sound, and the Yamaha 209BL Soundbar is a vast improvement over its predecessor. With DTS Virtual:X, the 209BL will fill every inch of your room to entrench you in the action and make you feel like you are part of the movie.

Yamaha also includes the ability to stream music over Bluetooth, along with using either the included remote or the accompanying smartphone app. Plus, there is a wireless subwoofer packaged in the bundle so you can get just the right amount of bass for your favorite movie, TV show, or music playlist.

Unfortunately, while the 209BL is excellent in many facets, there are a few frustrating omissions. The first frustration is the number of inputs, as there’s a single HDMI for input, one for output, and a single Digital Optical output port. As for smart home assistants, you’ll be limited to Amazon Alexa, which is already built-in. However, Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay 2 users will not be able to take advantage of those benefits. Additionally, Yamaha has not included support for all music streaming services, including the likes of Apple Music, TIDAL, or YouTube Music.

Pros:

  • Wireless subwoofer included
  • Virtual 3D surround sound
  • Amazon Alexa built-in for voice control
  • Use the included remote or application on your phone

Cons:

  • Does not support all music-streaming services
  • No support for multi-room systems
  • Limited input/output ports

3D Surround Sound

Yamaha YAS-209BL Soundbar

Almost perfect

The Yamaha 209BL is a nearly perfect soundbar between the subwoofer and virtual 3D sounds, but there are still some compromises.

Best for Google Assistant: Polk Audio Signa S3

Polk Audio Signa S3 LifestyleSource: Polk Audio

Polk is another one of those companies that prides itself on providing great audio experiences throughout your home. The Signa S3 Sound Bar is no different and has a few tricks up its sleeves that other soundbars simply can’t compete with. Kicking everything off, the Command Bar sports a single ARC-compatible HDMI, along with a standard optical port for your television and an auxiliary cable.

Smart home integration is on board, with Google Assistant built right-in, and you’ll have the added benefit of the built-in Chromecast. The Signa S3 also includes a wireless subwoofer so that you can get that extra bass from your media without the need for any additional wires.

While being able to control your TV and soundbar with a single remote is nifty, we would have liked to see a more robust remote from Polk. The included remote gives you just basic controls, without any shortcuts to Netflix or another streaming app. Those who want to have multiple devices connected directly to the Signa S3 will be disappointed as there’s just a single HDMI port on this soundbar.

Pros:

  • Built-in Chromecast
  • Wireless subwoofer included
  • Single remote to control your TV and soundbar
  • Universal TV compatibility with HDMI ARC

Cons:

  • Pretty basic remote is included
  • Only one HDMI port included

Best for Google Assistant

Polk Audio Signa S3

Sleek, smart, and powerful

The Signa S3 includes Dolby Digital 5.1, is sleek, includes a subwoofer, and is great for those in the Google Assistant ecosystem.

Best on a Budget: TCL Alto 7

TCL Alto 7 Soundbar LifestyleSource: TCL

If you want your first soundbar to sound great without breaking the bank, the TCL Alto 7 is the best choice. You get three audio channels, Bluetooth connectivity for your phone, 3.5mm or Optical connectivity to your TV, and coaxial input, all in a slim package. There’s no HDMI passthrough or smart assistants — nothing but good sound.

At only 36 inches across, this is an excellent option for college dorms or other rooms without a lot of space. Iif you want to get fancy, TCL includes everything you would need to mount the Alto 7 on the wall. For controls, you can take advantage of the buttons on the side, or the included remote so that you can get the perfect sound for the situation.

Because this is a budget option, TCL had to make some cuts in features and functionality. For one, there is no smart assistant support, so you’ll have to rely on one of your Alexa or Google Assistant speakers for reminders. There is also only Bluetooth 4.2, which is fine for most but it will being a bit out-dated if you planned on keeping this soundbar around for a few years.

Pros:

  • Wired or Wireless setup
  • Mount on wall or under TV
  • Three different sound modes available
  • All the potentially-necessary cables included

Cons:

  • No Smart assistant compatibility
  • Only Bluetooth 4.2

Best on a Budget

TCL Alto 7

This won’t break the bank

The TCL Alto 7 is great for those looking for better sound on a budget. Despite its caveats, the Alto is still solid.

Truly Wireless Surround Sound: JBL Bar 5.1

JBL Bar Lifestyle HeroSource: JBL

Google has done a phenomenal job getting Google Assistant into the hands of millions. What is even better is that there are more products launching that integrate Assistant, so it’s even more useful.

The JBL Bar 5.1 is the perfect example of this, as the company worked with Google to integrate not only Google Assistant, but also Google Cast support. Onboard, there are three HDMI ports, along with an HDMI Arc output option. JBL even included a privacy switch for the microphone if you don’t want your soundbar listening. However, one of the biggest advantages is the truly-wireless surround sound speakers that detach from the primary soundbar. Then, you can mount them in different areas around your room, and charge them with the main soundbar.

Unfortunately, some sacrifices had to be made. For one, you can’t currently add this to your Google Home Groups. That likely won’t make or break your purchase, but it’s something to be wary of when you get this sound bar. Additionally, the Bar 5.1’s wireless speakers are equipped with Micro-USB charging and not USB-C, which is just disappointing at this point.

Pros:

  • Wireless surround speakers included
  • 10-inch wireless subwoofer
  • Three HDMI inputs
  • Instantly switch sound between devices

Cons:

  • Micro-USB charging for surround speakers
  • Finding the proper configuration can be frustrating
  • Plastic design

Truly Wireless Surround Sound

JBL Bar 5.1

Get Google Assistant built-in

JBL’s Bar 5.1 is a fantastic option for those who want to get rid of the wires and still have a great surround sound experience.

Best for Samsung TVs: Samsung HW-Q800T Soundbar

Samsung HW-Q800T LifestyleSource: Samsung

It can be frustrating when you have to continually switch your EQ levels to match the type of content being viewed. With Samsung’s HW-Q800T Soundbar, you can throw those worries out the window. The soundbar sports Adaptive Sound Mode, which automatically adjusts the EQ levels based on whatever you are watching.

There is a catch: You’ll need to have the Q800T plugged into one of the compatible Samsung QLED televisions. Even if you don’t have one of those TVs, the Q800T is intriguing with its passthrough 4K compatibility, along with a Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support.

As for the connections, Samsung provides a single HDMI input, one HDMI output, and an Optical input, along with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Samsung really knocked it out of the park with the Q800T, but one possible source of frustration comes from the included remote. Designed to control all of your Samsung home theater products, it’s not as reliable as previous iterations. However, you can just use your smartphone with the Samsung SmartThings app to replace the old remote.

Pros:

  • Dolby Atmos/DTS:X Support
  • Built-in Alexa
  • Wireless subwoofer
  • 4K Passthrough built-in
  • Bluetooth connectivity

Cons:

  • Some functions limited to Samsung TVs
  • Included remote is not reliable

Best for Samsung TVs

Samsung HW-Q800T Soundbar

Perfect if you want a Samsung TV setup

With the Samsung Q800T Soundbar, you get an array of features such as Dolby Atmost, but you need to have the right Samsung TV.

Bottom line

Soundbars come in all shapes and sizes, and there are a lot of different considerations to be taken when selecting the best one. The Sonos Beam is our favorite option with its combination of superb sound quality and ability to be paired with other Sonos speakers. This will allow you to create a genuinely immersive, surround audio experience for your home, providing the ultimate movie night.

There are some downfalls, as there is no wireless subwoofer available so the sound may not “punch” as hard as you would like. Although there is a smart assistant available with Amazon’s Alexa, you may run into problems if you have to use the Optical connection, as voice commands are not accessible.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Andrew Myrick is a regular freelancer at Android Central and iMore. He has been a tech enthusiast ever since the original iPhone was released and continues to flip-flop between devices. You might as well hook him up to an IV filled with coffee to get him through the day. If you have any questions, you can find him on Twitter, and he’ll get back to you.

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