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Soundbars to avoid buying

Check 1, 2... these models set the bar lowest in our latest lab test. 

worst soundbars
Last updated: 31 July 2020

While a great soundbar can take your TV's audio to the next level, the opposite is just as true. As our home entertainment expert Peter Zaluzny explains, "inferior models with issues like limited bass, poor balance across frequencies and distortion can really ruin your movie night." And no one wants that, especially while we cozily hibernate through winter. 

Inferior models can really ruin your movie night

Peter Zaluzny, CHOICE tech expert

To sort the best from the worst, Peter and other CHOICE experts in our audio lab tested 40 models (ranging in price from $80 to $4000) against key criteria including stereo and multi-channel listening, ease of use, remote usability and energy consumption. 

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

Worst rated soundbars

1. Bauhn soundbar

CHOICE Expert Rating: 41%
Price: $80

bauhn-soundbar_1

"The worst in the test by a long shot" is how our home entertainment expert Denis Gallagher described this Aldi home brand buy. Our audio tests found its mid- and high-frequencies sounded harsh and hollow, and the bass barely audible, with some distortion and crunch thrown into the mix too. "It sounds like an old radio at times," our testers noted. Avoid this one next time it's on sale. Read our full review.

2. Panasonic SC-HTB688

CHOICE Expert Rating: 56%
Price: $449

hisense-hs215_8

This soundbar and subwoofer set comes with a raft of issues – music to your ears it ain't. Our testers noted its overall sound was somewhat "flat and dull", with boomy, inconsistent bass and thin high frequencies. For the same price or lower, there are plenty of other models that performed better in our tests. Read our full review.

3. Hisense HS215

CHOICE Expert Rating: 56%
Price: $299

panasonic-sc-htb688_1

If you want to bring your favourite movies and TV shows to life, best to avoid this B-grade performer. "Dull", "flat" and "lifeless" are just a few of the words our expert panel of judges used when wrapping their ears around this one. 

It does lie at the cheaper end of the soundbar spectrum, but there are definitely better performers in the same ballpark. Read our full review.

4. Polk Magnifi Mini

CHOICE Expert Rating: 56%
Price: $549

polk-magnifi-mini_1

The most expensive member in this band of bad units, this one delivers mixed results at best. Our audio experts noted some positive signs – 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 thanks to its average remote and very hungry power consumption when on standby. Read our full review.