Posted Mon Jun 4, 2018 at 04:00 PM PDT by Steven Cohen
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
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 SB3220n-F6 32" 2.0 Channel Sound Bar ($89.99) - About as basic as they come, this Amazon exclusive 32" model might not include a subwoofer, but it provides a simple, inexpensive 2-channel alternative to integrated TV speakers. The sound bar is rated for 97 dB with less than 1% Total Harmonic Distortion, and offers Dolby Digital playback through a digital optical connection and DTS Virtual:X for simulated surround and overhead sound. 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 ($111.25) - 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 ($238 from Best Buy 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 ($299.95) - 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 support -- all while still coming in under $900.
VIZIO SB36512-F6 5.1.2-Channel Dolby Atmos Soundbar System ($489.95) - This 36" 5.1.2 System features a 36-inch sound bar unit with two upward firing drivers, two rear satellite speakers, and a wireless 6-inch subwoofer. In addition, the device offers support for Dolby Atmos decoding in lossless TrueHD over HDMI from a connected Blu-ray player or in Dolby Digital Plus via a connected set-top box or smart TV. Likewise, the system includes DTS Virtual:X tech for simulated immersive audio if a user does not want to engage the upward firing drivers. With that said, the unit does not support DTS:X decoding.
Sony X9000F 2.1ch Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos & DTS:X ($598) - 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.
Sony Z9F 3.1ch Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos & DTS:X ($898) - 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 expanded immersive audio support.
Samsung HW-N850 Soundbar with Dolby Atmos DTS:X ($997.99) - This 5.1.2 system features two side-firing and two up-firing speakers to offer surround sound and overhead effects from a single unit sound bar. In addition, the package includes a wireless subwoofer, and provides support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. Finally, the system also includes Bluetooth connectivity, Wi-Fi, HDMI with 4K pass-through, and voice control support via a separate Alexa device.
VIZIO SB46514-F6 46-Inch 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos Soundbar System ($999.99) - This 46" 5.1.4 System features a 46-inch sound bar unit with two upward firing drivers, two rear satellite speakers with two upward firing drivers of their own, and a wireless 10-inch subwoofer. In addition, the device offers support for Dolby Atmos decoding in lossless TrueHD over HDMI from a connected Blu-ray player or in Dolby Digital Plus via a connected set-top box or smart TV. Likewise, the system includes DTS Virtual:X tech for simulated immersive audio if a user does not want to engage the upward firing drivers. With that said, the unit does not support DTS:X decoding.
Samsung HW-N950 Soundbar with Dolby Atmos DTS:X ($1,597.99) - This Samsung system features a sound bar unit with two side-firing and two up-firing speakers, along with two rear satellite speakers with their own upward firing drivers, and a wireless subwoofer to offer a compete 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos or DTS:X experience. In addition, the package includes Bluetooth connectivity, Wi-Fi, HDMI with 4K pass-through, and voice control support via a separate Alexa device.
Yamaha YSP-5600 Music Cast Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos & DTS:X ($1,599, full review here) - Packed with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, the YSP-5600 has all of your immersive audio needs covered from a single unit system. Though the package 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!
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