With so many awesome home theater gear options out there, figuring out exactly which model to buy, or what features you need, can be daunting. Thankfully, High-Def Digest has you covered. Welcome to our new Home Theater 101 series, where we'll be explaining emerging technologies while also recommending the very best possible A/V gadgets n' gear you can buy at your particular budget level.
SOUND BARS are perfect for anyone who wants a clean aesthetic and/or doesn't have the room, space, or budget to buy an AV Receiver plus another five to eleven speakers that will then need to be wired, mounted, or installed in walls and ceilings. Sound bars are simple, all-in-one solutions that include everything you need to enjoy movies and television.
Yes, there's a bit of a tradeoff compared to the AVR-plus-speakers approach, but sound bars have come a long way in the last few years, and many include a way to enjoy a full surround sound experience just like a movie theater. From simple 2-channel budget models to more robust virtual surround sound and complete Dolby Atmos solutions, there's a sound bar for all price points and needs. So, without further ado, here are HDD's
BEST SOUND BARS OF 2017
Note: All listed prices reflect current Amazon discounts at press time and do not include taxes.
In our first section, we're going to spotlight entry-level sound bar options, covering prices under $300. Though these models don't carry all the bells and whistles that come with more expensive models, they all sound worlds better than your crappy TV speakers.
VIZIO SB2820n-E0 Sound bar Home Speaker ($87.98) - About as basic as they come, this 28" model might not include a subwoofer or advanced audio features, but it provides a simple, inexpensive 2-channel alternative to integrated TV speakers. The sound bar is rated for 95 dB with less than 1% Total Harmonic Distortion and a frequency response of 70 Hz - 19 KHz, and offers Dolby Digital playback and DTS sound enhancement through a digital optical connection. And though HDMI and Wi-Fi are not included, the device does support Bluetooth streaming.
VIZIO SB3821-D6 SmartCast38" 2.1 Sound Bar System ($168.42) - This more advanced model features a larger 2-channel 38" sound bar unit along with a separate 5.25" wireless subwoofer for dedicated low frequencies. The woofer is rated for 50-90 Hz, while the system as a whole has a frequency response of 50 Hz - 20 kHz. Though the unit lacks HDMI connections and video pass-through, it does include digital optical and RCA inputs along with Dolby Digital and DTS audio. Likewise, the sound bar includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and support for VIZIO's SmartCast system with Google Cast built-in, allowing users to control the speaker and stream music from the SmartCast app for mobile devices.
Yamaha YAS-106 Sound Bar with Dual Built-In Subwoofers ($199.95) - While the YAS-106 does not include a separate, dedicated subwoofer, the 35" sound bar unit does feature two integrated 3" subwoofers, along with two 2-1/8" woofers and two 1" tweeters. The system uses an ultra-slim design, is rated for 120 W total power, and offers Dolby Digital and DTS audio support. In addition, Bluetooth connectivity is integrated as well, and unlike the above budget VIZIO models, this sound bar does include an HDMI input and HDMI output with 4K / 60p (4:2:0) video signal pass-through, HDCP 2.2 digital copy protection, and Audio Return Channel (ARC).
VIZIO SB3851-D0 SmartCast38” 5.1 Sound Bar System ($277.39) - Expanding upon the 2-channel SB3821-D6, this model includes a compact 5.1-channel system, complete with a 3-channel sound bar unit, two satellite speakers, and a wireless subwoofer. The woofer is once again rated for 50-90 Hz, while the system as a whole has a frequency response of 50 Hz - 20 kHz. This unit also adds an HDMI input and output with video pass-through and ARC, and upgrades the remote with an LCD screen. Likewise, the sound bar includes Dolby Digital and DTS playback, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity along with support for VIZIO's SmartCast system with Google Cast built-in, allowing users to control the speaker and stream music from the SmartCast app for mobile devices.
With this section, we're going to kick things up a notch with a few more robust sound bar options geared toward customers looking for beefier performance or more convenient design features, including Dolby Atmos support in the most expensive model -- all while still coming in under $900.
VIZIO SB4551-D5 Smartcast 45” 5.1 Slim Sound Bar System ($348.99) - With a 45" 3-channel sound bar unit, satellite speakers, and the company's new slim wireless subwoofer (which is thin enough to slide under furniture), the SB4551-D5 offers a complete surround sound system without sacrificing space-saving convenience. Rated for 104 dB with less than 1% Total Harmonic Distortion, along with bass performance as low as 30 Hz, the model also offers a bit more power than the previous budget VIZIO models. In addition, the unit also includes an HDMI input and output with video pass-through and ARC, a remote with an LCD screen, and Dolby Digital and DTS playback. Likewise, the sound bar features Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity along with support for VIZIO's SmartCast system with Google Cast built-in, allowing users to control the speaker and stream music from the SmartCast app for mobile devices.
Klipsch Reference RSB-14 Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer ($699) - Part of the company's Reference lineup, the RSB-14 features a 44" sound bar unit with two 3 /4” horn loaded textile dome tweeters with 90° x 90° Tractrix horns, and four 2 3 /4” woofers. Likewise, the package also includes a wireless 8" subwoofer, offering a total system frequency response of 28Hz ~20kHz. Optical and analog audio inputs are integrated as well along with three HDMI 2.0 inputs with HDCP 2.2 compatibility for 4K Ultra HD video pass-through. Finally, the RSB-14 also offers built-in Dolby audio decoding, Bluetooth connectivity, and DTS Play-Fi support for wireless audio streaming over Wi-Fi.
Samsung HW-K850/ZA 3.1.2 Channel Soundbar with Dolby Atmos ($897.99) - Serving as the first Dolby Atmos capable model on this list, the HW-K850/ZA features a 3.1.2-channel 47.6" sound bar unit with eleven built-in speakers, including two upward-firing speakers that can bounce sound off of a user's ceiling to simulate overhead audio. With that said, while the unit can properly decode Atmos tracks, it does not include DTS:X support, resulting in upconverted DTS mixes. Finally, the 350-watt system also includes a wireless subwoofer, Bluetooth connectivity, Wi-Fi, and HDMI with 4K pass-through.
In our final tier, we've put together a collection of premium $1,000-plus sound bar models, offering the most advanced performance features, including units with virtual surround sound modes and more robust immersive audio support.
Yamaha MusicCast YSP-2700 Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer ($1,199.95, full review here) - While it does not include Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support, the YSP-2700 does include a rather impressive virtual surround sound mode, offering an immersive soundfield. The model features 16 1-1/8" beam drivers powered by 16 amplifiers with Digital Sound Projection technology that can be aimed directly or reflected off of walls to create a discrete 7.1 channel experience. In addition, a wireless 5-1/2" cone woofer is included as well. Finally, the system supports Yamaha's robust MusicCast wireless multi-room audio system with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support, along with HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI inputs with 4K HDR pass-through and lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA playback.
Samsung HW-K950/ZA 5.1.4 Channel Soundbar with Dolby Atmos Technology ($1,297.99) - Serving as an upgrade to the previously mentioned HW-K850/ZA, the 47.6" HW-K950/ZA sound bar takes its Atmos support even further by adding in two wireless rear satellite speakers with upward-firing drivers of their own, resulting in a full 5.1.4 system. With that said, like the K850, while the unit can properly decode Atmos tracks, it does not include DTS:X support, resulting in upconverted DTS mixes. Finally, the 500-watt system also includes a wireless subwoofer, Bluetooth connectivity, Wi-Fi, and HDMI with 4K pass-through.
Yamaha YSP-5600 Music Cast Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos & DTS:X ($1599.95, full review here) - As one of the only sound bar models with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, the YSP-5600 has all of your immersive audio needs covered. Though the system sadly does not include a subwoofer, the unit boasts 7.1.2-channel support with a 32-speaker array for 7-channel sound, two six-speaker arrays for overhead channels, and two woofers. Finally, the system supports Yamaha's robust MusicCast wireless multi-room audio system with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support, along with HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI inputs with 4K pass-through.
So, there you have it. Those are current top choices for sound bars in every budget category. What do you think about our selection? Do you have any other sound bar suggestions for each price tier? Let us know in the forums!