Some soundbars also have Bluetooth connectivity and HDMI inputs as well, meaning you can use them as a traditional home theater receiver. What you need depends entirely on your own use case, but for most people, a simple HDMI connection for ARC will suffice. These cables are usually included in the box. If not, here is a cable we like.
What About Surround Sound?
Surround sound is exactly what it means—you’re surrounding yourself with sound via dedicated speakers placed around the room. It’s not necessary, but it can feel more immersive, especially if you watch tons of movies, play video games on the TV, or closely watch a lot of sports. Soundbars will often boast digital surround sound, but don’t put a ton of trust on immersion unless they come with dedicated rear surround speakers (not the built-in side speakers that bounce audio off the walls). You’ll want to look into using stands to place them behind your couch, and consider the wires you’ll have to run from these surround speakers back to the soundbar.
How Much Should You Pay?
$100 or Less
You can find small soundbars in this price range, and they’re still better than the speakers in your TV. They’re a great option if your budget is tight, but they’re also great for TVs in bedrooms, kitchens, or other non-primary viewing locations.
$100 to $400
This is a good price range for most non-surround soundbars. Look for recognizable brand names like Samsung, Vizio, Sony, Polk, LG, Bose, and Sonos. I wouldn’t purchase a soundbar in this price range without a wireless subwoofer included, but some models sound decent without them (Sonos and Bose have soundbars that don’t come with subwoofers but are still pretty great). You can also sometimes find soundbars with satellite speakers for surround sound below $400, but most of them aren’t the best for truly immersive sound.
$400 to $1,000
This is the price category where you’ll start to see high-quality surround soundbars, with real satellite speakers. I wouldn’t spend more than $400 on a soundbar that doesn’t come with satellite speakers, unless it’s a high-end system that can be expanded later, like those from Sonos.
More Than $1,000
At this price, you’ll see the biggest, boldest surround soundbar systems with the most possible speakers for height and surround audio. These are for anyone with the cash to build out a small home theater system but don’t have the room for larger systems that require discrete components like an A/V receiver. If you’re going much higher, I’d consider a true, traditional home theater system with speakers, amps, and a receiver.
Many soundbars feature smart assistants, multi-room audio connectivity, and other bells and whistles. If you’ve already got a smart assistant you love (Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri), keep this in mind when shopping for a new soundbar. You might not need a smart speaker in your living room if you end up with a smart soundbar instead. Conversely, if you don’t want those features, you can save some money by avoiding soundbars with all the fancy stuff.
Brands We Like
Virtually all well-known electronics brands make decent soundbars. Our favorites come from the likes of Vizio, Samsung, Sonos, Bose, Polk, Yamaha, LG, Sony, Sennheiser, and a few others. Try to visit a store that has many soundbars set up to listen to. You’ll be surprised how different they can sound. Be sure to check out our Best Soundbars guide for our favorites.