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Soundbar reviews

We've tested seventeen soundbars that help improve your TV's sound.
 
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01 .Introduction

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We review seventeen soundbars priced from $249 to $1099.

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.
Take a look at how we test, and the brands and models tested. For more information about home theatre systems, see our Sound section.

 

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 17 soundbars on test will deliver a better sound than you'll get from your TV's speakers.

Brands and models tested

  • Boston Acoustics Tvee 26
  • Denon DHT-S514
  • Harman Kardon SB 26
  • JBL Center Cinema SB400
  • Klipsch R-10B
  • LG NB3540
  • LG NB5540
  • Panasonic SC-HTB680
  • Panasonic SC-HTB880
  • Pioneer SP-SB23W
  • Samsung HW-H751
  • Samsung HW-H450
  • Sonos PLAYBAR
  • Sony HT-CT60BT
  • Sony HT-ST3
  • Yamaha YAS-103
  • Yamaha YSP-1400

How we test

Listening panel The soundbars are placed in a room typical of a 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 We assess 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. We look at the key size, shape, colour and grouping for ease of understanding.

Standby energyWe measure 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.

CHOICE independence guaranteed

These independent ratings are only available through membership with CHOICE Online, because no one test products like we do. Arm yourself with our unique and exclusive information to help you make your next purchase with confidence.

 
 

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