We review nine soundbars priced from $549 to $2199.
Through our rigorous testing, we reveal which soundbars are:
- best suited to your TV and your room
- are easy to operate
- have the best remote, and
- are the most efficient.
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If you want proper stereo sound to accompany your TV, you can’t beat a pair of properly placed speakers. And for a cinema sound experience you need a well-designed (and often expensive) multi-speaker setup with a home theatre amplifier. So when the subject of high quality audio is raised, the word “soundbar” is rarely part of the conversation.
Soundbars are a collection of speakers housed in a long, thin cabinet for convenience and are by their very design a compromise compared with larger systems. But if you want to avoid going through the often considerable hassle of setting up a home theatre system, you may be pleasantly surprised at the quality to be gained through the use of these TV audio enhancers. Any of the nine soundbars on test will deliver a better sound than you’ll get from your TV’s speakers.
Brands and models tested
- B&W Panorama
- Bose CineMate 1 SR
- Bose Solo
- Boston Acoustics TVee Model 30
- Harman Kardon SB30
- JBL SB300
- Polk Surroundbar 6000
- Yamaha YSP-2200
- Zvox ZBase 580
How we test
Listening panel The soundbars are placed in a typical small lounge room (four metres by five metres) with furnishings and calibrated according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Our panel of three audio industry expert listeners appraises them for their ability to cope with stereo and 5.1 channel music, as well as 5.1 movies. They pay particular attention to the soundbar’s ability to produce an immersive surround sound experience in comparison with our reference 5.1 system, which is worth approximately $3000.
Ease of use connections, calibration options, on-screen and front panel displays, as well as the manual and any other instructions that come with the product.
Remote control James assesses the remote control to determine how easy it is to use for common functions while not as crucial as with other home entertainment devices such as a Blu-ray player or PVR, the remote is still an important part of the functionality of any home entertainment unit. He looks at key size, shape, colour and grouping for ease of understanding.
Standby energy James measures the amount of power the soundbar uses when in standby mode.
Our report also offers:
- Sortable table of all soundbars in the test: you choose what's important. You can select by brand, price, overall score, image quality. Specs, prices, features and functions for all models.
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