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/DTS:X solutions, there's a sound bar for all price points and needs. So, without further ado, here are HDD's
BEST SOUND BARS OF 2018
Note: All listed prices reflect current Amazon discounts at press time and do not include taxes or shipping.
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 ($70.99) - 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 SB362An-F6 36” 2.1 Sound Bar with Built-in Dual Subwoofers ($139.99) - This new 2018 36" 2.1 sound bar system is designed for use with TVs 40" and larger, and can be positioned in front of a display or mounted on a wall. Under the hood, the single unit system features two internal subwoofers paired with four deep bass modules to produce full bass without the need for a separate subwoofer. In addition, the device is rated for 97dB of sound and includes support for Dolby Audio and DTS Virtual:X sound tech to simulate overhead and surround sound. Bluetooth wireless connectivity is integrated as well, along with analog audio and optical audio inputs. Finally, the package comes complete with a remote control and all necessary cables.
VIZIO SB3651-E6 36" 5.1 SmartCast Sound Bar System ($250 or $180 Certified Refurbished) - This 2017 sound bar system includes a compact 5.1-channel package complete with a 36-inch 3-channel sound bar unit, two rear satellite speakers, and a wireless 5.2" subwoofer. The system as a whole is rated for 50 Hz - 20 kHz and a sound pressure level of 101dB. This unit also offers an HDMI input and output with video pass-through and ARC, and a 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 Chromecast built-in, allowing users to control the speaker and stream music from the SmartCast app for mobile devices. In addition, the unit works with Google Assistant voice control via a separate Google Home device.
Yamaha YAS-207 Sound Bar ($269.95) - The YAS-207 is a 200 watt sound bar system with four 1-3/4" woofers and dual 1" tweeters on the main unit and a separate wireless 6-1/4" cone subwoofer. HDMI ARC connectivity with 4K HDR passthrough is featured as well along with digital optical and analog audio connections. In addition, the YAS-207 includes support for DTS Virtual:X post-processing. This feature is designed to create an immersive audio experience with multiple dimensions -- including height -- from a single sound bar system without the need for ceiling speakers, upward firing drivers, or surround speakers. Check out our full review for more details.
Polk Command Sound Bar with Amazon Alexa Voice Control ($299.99) - Offering added convenience, this sound bar model actually features built-in far-field microphones atop the device, enabling integrated Amazon Alexa support. With the Polk Connect Skill, users can control the speaker's master volume, mute, bass, sound modes, and source selection through voice commands. Likewise, customers can also ask Alexa to play music, control compatible smart home devices, provide news and weather, set alarms, read audiobooks from Audible, control a connected Amazon Fire TV, and more. The sound bar system incorporates two 1.25 x 3.25-inch full-range drivers, two 1-inch tweeters, and a ported, wireless 6.5-inch subwoofer. Connectivity options include dual HDMI 2.0b inputs with 4K Dolby Vision HDR passthrough, an optical input, an HDMI ARC out, a USB port, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Finally, Dolby and DTS audio decoding are offered as well.
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/DTS:X support on select models -- all while still coming in under $900.
Sony X9000F 2.1ch Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos & DTS:X ($498) - Though it does not actually feature upward firing drivers like some other immersive audio models, this 2018 2.1-channel 300W sound bar system uses Sony's new Virtual Surround Engine to simulate up to 7.1.2 "vertical" sound in Dolby Atmos or DTS:X tracks without in-ceiling or up-firing speakers. A wireless subwoofer is included as well and the device also offers Bluetooth connectivity. Finally, an HDMI ARC port (1 in/1 out) with 4K HDR10 and Dolby Vision video passthrough is integrated as well.
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.
Sony Z9F 3.1ch Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos & DTS:X ($899.99) - Serving as a 3.1-channel 400W upgrade of the X900F, this 2018 model also uses Sony's new Virtual Surround Engine to simulate up to 7.1.2 "vertical" sound in Dolby Atmos or DTS:X tracks without in-ceiling or up-firing speakers. A wireless subwoofer and Bluetooth capabilities are included as well, and this model also adds built-in Wi-Fi support. Finally, HDMI connectivity (2 in/1 out) with ARC, 4K HDR10, and Dolby Vision video passthrough is integrated as well.
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.
Samsung HW-K950/ZA 5.1.4 Channel Soundbar with Dolby Atmos Technology ($999.95) - Though a new 2018 HW-N950 7.1.4 model is set to arrive later this year, this 2016 5.1.4 sound bar system still has a lot to offer. The package includes a 3.1.2-channel 47.6" sound bar unit with eleven built-in speakers, including two upward-firing drivers, along with two separate wireless rear satellite speakers with upward-firing drivers of their own. With that said, while the unit can properly decode Dolby 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 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.
Yamaha YSP-5600 Music Cast Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos & DTS:X ($1299.95, full review here) - As one of the few upward-firing 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!
MORE HOME THEATER 101 ARTICLES
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-What is Dolby Atmos?
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-What is LCD?
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-Up-mixed: Dolby Surround vs DTS:Neural:X
-Best Dolby Atmos Speakers
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