The sound and the jury
Our expert testers and listening panel put the latest soundbar models – such as Yamaha, Sony, Sonos, LG and Samsung – through rigorous testing to rate sound quality, ease of use and how well they work in real life; so you'll know exactly what to expect.
Our unique, comparative lab tests mean you can trust our results, and choose with confidence.
Our expert testers
Our testers have years of expertise in testing audio equipment – and, unlike most reviewers, we don't rely on one individual's perception to rank products. Instead we use a listening panel with expertise in sound appraisal and who've consistently ranked products for their sound quality.
How we choose what we test
We look for as wide a range of products as possible. This test is carried out over some time and continues to grow as we add more models. Soundbars are one of the fastest growing audio categories due to the limited sound delivered by a flat panel TV. However, this situation seems to be changing back with some of the latest TVs delivering surprisingly acceptable audio.
If you're thinking about buying a soundbar, consider the quality of your existing TV sound first and don't expect a cheap soundbar to automatically give you a better audio experience compared to the TV speakers.
How we test
A panel of experts assesses how each soundbar handles excerpts from Blu-ray movies, including chapters from Star Wars: Episode I, as well as different musical tracks, including "Dream Baby" by Roy Orbison, "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman, "New Dorp. New York" by SBTRKT and more. The speaker is positioned about two metres away from the listener, with the panel assessing overall quality.
Ease of use
We check how easy it is to use the connections, calibration options, on-screen and front panel displays, as well as the manual and any other instructions that come with the product.
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 button size, shape, colour and grouping for ease of understanding.
We measure the amount of power the soundbar uses when in standby mode.
We give every soundbar a CHOICE test score so you can see at a glance which are the best and worst performers, plus how the models compare to each other in features and specifications. The overall score ignores price and is based on the following criteria:
- Sound quality (70%)
- Ease of use (20%)
- Remote control (5%)
- Standby energy (5%)
Ready to buy?
If you want to know which soundbars we rate the best, read our latest review. If you want a bit more info on what to look for when considering your next soundbar, check out our buying guide.