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Soundbars to avoid buying

Check 1, 2? These models set the bar lowest in our lab tests.

worst soundbars
Last updated: 25 January 2024

Need to know

  • We tested over 50 popular soundbars from Bose, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Sonos, TCL and more
  • Our experts assess key factors such as stereo and multi-channel listening, ease of use and remote control
  • Join CHOICE to access full reviews and best performers

A great soundbar can take your TV's audio to the next level, but the opposite is just as true: bad bars can turn an epic Hollywood blockbuster into a tinny B-grade mess, or make your favourite sport sound like you've been sent to the sin bin.

Inferior models can really ruin your movie night

Peter Zaluzny, CHOICE tech expert

As our tech expert Peter Zaluzny explains, "Inferior models with issues like limited bass, poor balance across frequencies and distortion can really ruin your movie night."

To sort the best soundbars from the worst, Peter and other CHOICE experts in our audio lab tested more than 50 popular models (ranging in price from $159 to $3999) against key criteria including stereo and multi-channel listening, ease of use, remote usability and energy consumption. 

To save you buying a dud and copping an earful, here are the models that scored worst in our test. Become a CHOICE member to access our full reviews and see the best performers. 

Lowest rated soundbars

Kogan KASBD5123HA

kogan kasbd5123ha

Kogan KASBD5123HA: The worst performing soundbar in our test.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 60%
  • Music quality score: 57%
  • Multi-channel audio quality score: 67%
  • Price: $299

Even at $299, this soundbar is overpriced. It was the lowest scoring soundbar in our test, with ordinary scores on every single test. Stereo audio, music quality, voice quality, multi-channel audio quality, ease of use: there's literally not a single thing we can commend this soundbar on. 

Sure, you get a soundbar, sub and rear speakers, and all for just under $300, but when the audio's this bad you're almost better off just using the TV speakers. (Not to mention that you'd be $299 better off without it.)

Or, you could check out our test results to find cheaper soundbars that our audio experts actually recommend.

Read our full Kogan KASBD5123HA review

Panasonic SC-HTB688


Panasonic SC-HTB688: Flat and dull, according to our expert testers.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 62%
  • Music quality score: 67%
  • Multi-channel audio quality score: 57%
  • Price: $349

This soundbar and subwoofer set comes with a raft of issues – music to your ears it ain't. Our testers noted that its overall sound was somewhat "flat and dull", with boomy, inconsistent bass and thin high frequencies. Plus, it rated just average for standby energy use score and borderline for its remote control.

For the same price or lower, there are plenty of other models that performed better in our tests. 

Read our full Panasonic SC-HTB688 review.

Polk Magnifi Mini


Polk Magnifi Mini: Difficult to use and power-hungry.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 63%
  • Music quality score: 69%
  • Multi-channel audio quality score: 72%
  • Price: $499

Our audio experts noted some positive signs with this Polk – crisp vocals, a decent high end and strong bass – only to find it was undone by a flat, uneven mix. 

The model also lost marks for ease of use thanks to its mediocre remote, plus very hungry power consumption when on standby. 

Read our full Polk Magnifi mini review.


lg s95qr

LG S95QR: High price, poor performance.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 63%
  • Music quality score: 70%
  • Multi-channel audio quality score: 60%
  • Price: $1999

As one of the most expensive soundbars in our test, you'd expect a lot more from this model. It does deliver good sound for both music and voice, but not so much for movies: its multi-channel audio quality was rated as only 'OK' by our experts. 

Its very poor remote control let it down, as did its terrible standby energy consumption, which was so bad our experts gave it a score of zero. Our experts also found it pretty ordinary in terms of ease of use, and noted that it has no 3.5mm AUX input and no audio (lip sync) delay adjustment, which is disappointing for such an expensive system. 

Plenty of other soundbars costing less than this were rated highly by our experts, so if you have this kind of cash to splash on a soundbar, don't despair – but don't buy this one. 

Read the full LG S95QR review

TV Voice Pro Air Plus TV Voice Pro Soundbar

tv voice pro tv voice pro air plus tv voice pro soundbar

TV Voice Pro: Worth considering for people with hearing impairment, but otherwise give it a miss.

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 63%
  • Music quality score: 48%
  • Multi-channel audio quality score: 60%
  • Price: $549

While this didn't perform very well, it may still appeal to people with hearing impairment as it is configured for the hard of hearing. 

It didn't score well for music quality or movie audio, but we did note that the voice content was brought forward and white noise was reduced. 

However, for people who aren't hard of hearing, this soundbar may disappoint.

Read the full TV Voice Pro review

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Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.