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Best soundbar UK 2021: The top soundbars for improving your TV’s audio

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Upgrade your television’s sound with our choice of the best soundbars you can buy

If you’re seeking to recreate a cinematic experience at home, there are no two ways about it, you need the best soundbar you can afford.

Audio is just as important as visuals when watching TV, but manufacturers tend to overlook sound quality when producing their televisions.

By buying one of the best soundbars, you’ll significantly enhance your audio experience while watching movies, sport and TV shows. Dialogue will sound clearer, sound effects more impactful and music much richer and more enjoyable to listen to.

Best of all, a decent soundbar doesn’t need to cost a fortune and, unlike stereo speakers, soundbars blend much more discreetly into your living room decor, resulting in a cleaner, more minimalist look.

We’ve tested numerous soundbars and this article will break down the very best of them across a range of prices. More expensive soundbars typically offer a wider range of features and connection options, so it’s important to work out which you need and those that you can live without.

To help you do so, we’ve put together a handy buying guide detailing all of the things to consider when buying one of the best soundbars available, which is located under the “At a glance” list below.

Rare Black Friday discount on one of the priciest soundbars around

The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage combines a beautiful aesthetic with high-quality sound and has seen a substantial price cut for Black Friday. It's still pricey despite the £250 discount but is at least slightly more affordable than it was previously.
Amazon
Was £1,349
Now £1,099

Black Friday savings on the best soundbar of the year

The Samsung HQ-Q800A was crowned best soundbar of 2021 at our Tech Products of the Year Awards and is currently available for an all-time low price of £609. That's almost £200 cheaper than it was when we gave it our coveted Best Buy award.
Amazon
Was £699
Now £609

Save £50 on the best soundbar under £200

Denon's DHT-S216 is our favourite soundbar under £200 and it's currently available for a discounted price of £150. With virtual surround sound in the form of DTS Virtual:X and an in-built subwoofer, this bar is a space-efficient way to improve your home audio.
Currys
Was £200
Now £150

Save £45 on the Polk React soundbar

Our favourite Alexa-equipped soundbar is now on sale. Reduced from £249, the Polk React soundbar is currently available for just £180 in Amazon's Black Friday sale.
Amazon
Was £249
Now £180

For more savings be sure to check out our complete round-up of the best Black Friday soundbar deals


Best soundbar UK 2021: At a glance


How to choose the best soundbar for you

How do I choose the best soundbar?

It’s important to pick a soundbar that suits your TV and living room. The first thing to look at is the size of the bar. Too wide and it may not fit on your AV cabinet; it might also be wider than your TV, which could look odd, especially if you plan to wall-mount the bar. Height is also a consideration if you’re going to be placing the bar in front of your TV on your AV cabinet. You’ll want to be sure it’s not so high that it obscures the bottom part of the TV screen.

Next, consider whether you want a standalone soundbar or one with extra speakers to enhance the audio experience. A standalone unit is easier to set up and looks more elegant, but these bars can lack the dynamism and sense of immersion that a more complex setup can deliver. Standalone soundbars can struggle to deliver convincing bass, which is why many are supplied with subwoofers.

A separate subwoofer delivers more convincing bass, adds richness and body to audio in general and can deliver room-shaking low-frequency sound effects. Look for a wireless subwoofer, which will allow you to hide the subwoofer away, out of sight. Certain soundbars also come with rear speakers that deliver truly enveloping 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. If you’re not sure you want these, some bars allow you to upgrade your soundbar further down the line by adding wireless rear speakers.

READ NEXT: Best UK TV deals – the top TV bargains from 4K HDR TVs to Full HD smart TVs

What’s the best way to connect a soundbar?

Having a wide array of connection options is always a bonus as you’ll never know what you might want to connect to your soundbar in the future. The most convenient is HDMI: this is the connection favoured by most modern soundbars, even cheap ones. You’ll most often see an HDMI input (or maybe even two or three), which you connect your sources to (games console, Sky box etc) and an HDMI output, which passes the video signal on to your TV. As ever, the more connections, the better, as it gives you more flexibility in the future.

Another thing to look out for is HDMI ARC (audio return channel) support, which typically uses the HDMI output on the soundbar to ferry audio back from the TV. HDMI ARC is most useful for getting audio from on-TV apps such as Netflix back to the soundbar. It’s also handy if you run out of HDMI inputs on the soundbar as it reroutes any audio that would otherwise play through the TV speakers back to the soundbar.

Other than this, it also may be useful to look for an optical digital (also called TOSlink or S/PDIF) connection. Although optical digital can’t carry a lossless surround-sound signal such as Dolby True HD or DTS:X, it’s often the easiest way to hook up a music source, console or TV if the soundbar doesn’t support HDMI ARC. Optical digital is always preferable to coaxial digital connections, although it is possible to purchase a simple adapter that will convert from one to the other if you need it.

Less useful these days are analogue connections such as stereo RCA and 3.5mm inputs, and they’re becoming less common on soundbars, too. They’re still worth having for emergency use, but don’t worry too much if your soundbar doesn’t have these.

As well as wired connections, many soundbars also support Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting phones and tablets and some also have Wi-Fi, allowing for higher-quality music streaming, potential integration in a multiroom wireless speaker network and support for digital voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant.

Looking for a soundbar deal? See our pick of the best offers

Is it worth buying a Dolby Atmos soundbar?

Dolby Atmos is a relatively new surround-sound standard that expands upon the 5.1- and 7.1-channel setups previously offered by soundbars and other surround-sound systems. The main thing that Atmos adds is audio height: where other systems aim to surround you with audio to the side and rear, horizontally, Atmos extends that to sounds that come from above you.

Soundbars with Atmos have upwards-firing speakers that bounce audio off the ceiling to achieve this audio height and this can be very effective, although how effective they are depends on how high your ceilings are. There’s usually an optimal height, which you can find in the specifications.

Dolby Atmos soundbars also tend to be more expensive than simpler 5.1-enabled units and they have a nasty habit of neglecting support for other, non-Dolby, surround-sound standards. This can be a problem if you watch a lot of movies on Blu-ray discs. Many Blu-ray movies come with the surround-sound soundtrack encoded in some form of DTS standard and have no Dolby surround track at all. In this case, you’ll have to opt for the stereo soundtrack, which might be of lower quality than the surround track.

READ NEXT: The best soundbars under £300


The best soundbars to buy in 2021

1. Creative Stage V2: The best soundbar and subwoofer under £100

Price: £100 | Buy now from Amazon

Value-for-money soundbars don’t get much better than the Creative Stage V2. It may not be as cheap as the original Stage 2.1, which is available for £80, but it features two new sound modes, Surround and Dialog, both of which are welcome additions. Surround mode widens the soundstage to increase immersion, while Dialog mode does a top job at enhancing voices on screen. The discrete subwoofer helps deliver rich, impactful bass, and the bar itself articulates mid-range and treble frequencies very capably.

The Stage V2 has connection options aplenty, too. Optical, HDMI ARC and AUX connections are all supported, while a USB-C port allows you to hook the bar up to your PC and use it as a desktop soundbar. Wireless connectivity via Bluetooth is also available for those wanting to stream content from external devices.

If you want a wallet-friendly way of improving your TV’s audio, the Creative Stage V2 is the best bang for your buck.

Read our full Creative Stage V2 review for details

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 160W; Dimensions: Soundbar – 680 x 100 x 78mm, subwoofer – 116 x 250 x 423mm; Weight: Soundbar – 2kg, subwoofer – 3.3kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical, 1 x 3.5mm, 1 x USB-C


2. Sonos Arc: The best standalone soundbar

Price: £899 | Buy now from Sonos

We loved the minimalist excellence of the Sonos Beam, but the Sonos Arc is something else when it comes to outright sound quality. It’s a standalone bar, with no subwoofer supplied, but it delivers such astonishing depth and breadth of sound that most of the time you simply won’t care that some of the really low frequencies are a little absent. And if you find you want more dynamism in the future, you can add a Sonos Sub (and Sonos 1 speakers at the rear for full surround sound) to supplement its already accomplished audio output.

The Arc supports Dolby Atmos (although only via eARC) as well as both Google Assistant and Alexa. It can be fully integrated into a Sonos multiroom audio system and controlled via the excellent Sonos S2 app. The only caveat is that physical connectivity is limited to a single HDMI ARC/eARC port, with no HDMI or optical digital input available. Otherwise, this is an astonishing achievement in AV audio engineering.

Read our full Sonos Arc review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 5.0.2; RMS power output: Unknown; Dimensions: 1,142 x 116 x 87mm (WDH); Weight: 6.25kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 1 x HDMI ARC/eARC


3. Samsung HW-Q800A: The best soundbar and subwoofer combo

Price: £685 | Buy now from Amazon

Samsung has a reputation for producing fantastic-sounding soundbars and the HW-800A, which was designed to be paired with the company’s 2021 4K and 8K TVs, doesn’t disappoint.

The bar is compact but manages to deliver delightfully detailed, natural sound, while the accompanying subwoofer adds impactful low-end depth regardless of the content you’re watching. There's support for both the spatial and object-based audio formats Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and even 5.1 content sounds great thanks to the bar’s surround-sound mode.

Our only real grumble about the HW-Q800A is that a couple of its neat features are only accessible if it’s being used with one of Samsung’s newer TVs. Q-Symphony enables the soundbar to operate in tandem with compatible 2021 Samsung sets, while the “SpaceFit” feature tailors the soundbar’s frequency response to suit your room, but relies on the mics inside compatible Samsung TVs to work.

If you happen to have bought a Samsung TV this year, the HW-800A is the perfect companion for it, but regardless of which TV you own, there’s no getting away from the fact that this soundbar sounds superb.

Read our full Samsung HW-Q800A review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 3.1.2; RMS power output: 330W; Dimensions: Soundbar – 1,142 x 116 x 87mm, subwoofer – 210 x 403 x 403mm; Weight: Soundbar – 3.6kg, subwoofer – 9.8kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 1 x HDMI eARC, 1 x HDMI, Optical in


4. Denon DHT-S216: The best soundbar under £200

Price: £199 | Buy now from Denon

The Denon DHT-S216 is an affordable soundbar that prioritises audio performance over bells and whistles. There’s no Wi-Fi connectivity or smart functionality but it delivers where it matters, providing an immersive audio experience no matter what you’re watching or listening to.

Connect the DHT-S216 to your TV via its HDMI ARC port and you’ll be able to use it as an all-in-one sound hub for every other device plugged into your TV. Should you wish to hook up a subwoofer there’s an output for that, in addition to an HDMI input, an optical port and in-built Bluetooth 4.2.

The DHT-S16’s big selling point is the incorporation of DTS Virtual: X technology, which gives the impression of surround sound with height effects. It doesn’t match the audio experience you’d get with a full set of surround-sound speakers, but the effect is noticeable. Toggle the mode on and you’ll soon find yourself swept up in the onscreen action. There are other modes to play around with too, with specific settings for watching movies, listening to music and watching TV at night, but DTS Virtual: X is undoubtedly the pick of the bunch. A great soundbar for not much cash.

Read our full Denon DHT-S216 review for details

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 120W; Dimensions: 890 x 120 x 66mm; Weight: 3.4kg, Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, HDMI, HDMI (ARC), optical, 3.5mm

Buy now from Denon


5. Polk Magnifi Mini: The best compact soundbar

Price: £220| Buy now from Amazon

The Polk MagniFi Mini is the smallest soundbar we’ve ever set eyes on and yet, despite its tiny dimensions (it’s around the same size as a loaf of bread), it produces the sound of a much larger speaker. That’s largely thanks to its wireless subwoofer, which packs in a 6.5in downwards-facing driver and lends movies and music a real solid thump.

However, there’s plenty to like about the soundbar itself. Its six drivers, all individually amplified, produce a surprisingly wide soundstage for a speaker so small, and there are no worries at all about it being able to fill a room. It’s well appointed in terms of features as well, with HDMI ARC, optical, Bluetooth and Google Chromecast all supported.

Read our full Polk MagniFi Mini review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; RMS power output: 150W; Dimensions: 340 x 109 x 81mm; Weight: 1.76kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optical, 3.5mm


6. Sharp HT-SBW460: The best cheap Dolby Atmos soundbar

Price: £299 | Buy from Amazon

Lots of movies and streaming services now use the Dolby Atmos surround system to add extra height to the soundtrack, but most compatible soundbars are still quite pricey. Not so the Sharp HT-SBW460, which packs in Atmos support and a wireless subwoofer for less than £300.

It’s a great-sounding soundbar as well, as long as you don’t mind doing a bit of DIY sound tuning. Out of the box, the subwoofer is overpoweringly boomy in small to medium-sized rooms; you have to stuff the bass reflex port with a foam bung or a pair of socks to get it to sound good.

With that done, however, there’s plenty of detail and presence to the audio. The centre channel presents dialogue in a clear and coherent manner and, despite the fact that there are no upward-firing drivers, Atmos-enabled height effects do sound like they’re coming from above the soundbar.

It might not be the last word in scale or quality, then, and you do have to take matters into your own hands to get it to sound its best, but the Sharp HT-SBW460 is a very good buy at this price.

Read our Sharp HT-SBW460 review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 3.1; Total power output: 440W; Dimensions: Soundbar – 950 x 110 x 70mm, subwoofer – 240 x 240 x 415mm; Weight: Soundbar – 2.5kg, subwoofer – 5.4kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2, 2 x HDMI input, 1 x HDMI output (ARC), optical and coax S/PDIF, 3.5mm, USB


7. Sonos Beam 2: A brilliant mid-range soundbar

Price: £449 | Buy now from Amazon

The original Sonos Beam delivered superb sound quality in a compact package, and the second-generation iteration sounds even better thanks to the addition of Dolby Atmos.

The Beam 2 looks identical to its predecessor, but the processor has been upgraded and that facilitates a couple of new features in addition to Atmos. NFC allows for a faster, more reliable setup, while support for Amazon’s 3D Audio allows you to enjoy spatial audio on compatible platforms.

Smart assistant support extends to both Alexa and Google Assistant and works effectively, negating the need for a remote, though you can use the Sonos app to control the bar if necessary.

The Beam 2’s Achilles heel is that it has only one HDMI port and requires a TV with an eARC HDMI port to make use of Atmos. So those with older TVs will probably want to avoid it, but if you do own a TV with eARC, you’ll struggle to find a better-sounding standalone soundbar.

Read our full Sonos Beam 2 review for details

Key specs – Channels: 2.0; Total power output: Unspecified; Dimensions: 651 x 100 x 68mm; Weight: 2.8kg; Connectivity: 1 x HDMI (eARC), 1 x optical


8. JBL Bar 2.0: The best standalone soundbar under £100

Price: £99 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’ve only got £100 to spend on a soundbar and don’t have room for the subwoofer that comes with the Creative Stage V2, this standalone bar from JBL is your best option.

It’s sleek and compact and delivers impressive audio quality given its price. Although it lacks any audio modes to play around with, they’re not really needed: the Bar 2.0 delivers decent detail in the mid-range, treble is articulated crisply and bass frequencies hit home with plenty of weight.

Connectivity is limited to HDMI, optical and Bluetooth, but those options cover all the main bases and keep things pleasingly simple. The JBL Bar 2.0 may not be flashy or feature-rich, but it’s an affordable soundbar that performs excellently.

Key specs – Channels: 2.0; Total power output: 80W; Dimensions: 614 x 90 x 59mm (WDH); Weight: 1.61kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical


9. LG GX: The best soundbar for wall mounting

Price: £999 | Buy now from John Lewis

If you’re after a soundbar to mount on your wall, you’ll be hard pushed to find a better option than the LG GX. It’s a mere 33mm deep and designed for use with LG’s GX OLED TV, but regardless of which TV you have positioned above it, you can expect crisp sound from its 3.1 audio setup.

There are a choice of five preset sound modes to choose from – AI Sound Pro, Bass Blast, Standard, Movie and Music – though you’ll only be able to make use of these if you’re not watching Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content. The GX delivers well-balanced sound, with high frequencies articulated with clarity and ample detail in the mid-range. Deep bass isn’t handled quite as well by the wireless subwoofer, which struggles when reproducing sound below 50Hz.

Sound quality is impressive overall, however, and the GX does an admirable job at conveying front-to-back depth, particularly when you’re listening to music. It doesn’t create the same level of immersion you’d get from a 5.1 soundbar, but it’s compatible with LG’s wireless rear speakers if you want to transform your setup into one capable of delivering surround sound.

Read our full LG GX soundbar review for details

Key specs – Drivers: 8; RMS power output: 420W; Dimensions: 1,440 x 150 x 32.5mm; Weight: 5.8kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 1 x HDMI 2.1, Bluetooth, USB

Buy now from John Lewis


10. Polk React: The best budget soundbar with Amazon Alexa

Price: £249 | Buy now from Amazon

Smart functionality is becoming increasingly important in the world of soundbars, and the Polk React offers built-in Alexa at a competitive price. Alexa may be a tad loud for some people’s liking, but the integration is comprehensive, with support for voice commands, Alexa Communications, which enable you to use the soundbar as an intercom, and Alexa Multi-room Music. Our commands were picked up and executed consistently with one exception – trying to switch to the React’s sports EQ mode, which for whatever reason couldn’t be accessed using voice commands.

Sports mode is one of four EQ presets available, with movie, music and night modes also on offer. They all do a good job at enhancing your audio experience when watching the content they’re designed to cater for, while Polk’s Voice Adjust technology allows you to increase how prominent dialogue is in the audio and works very well.

If you’re part of the Alexa smart home ecosystem and want an affordable soundbar to slot neatly into it, the Polk React is the best choice around. If you’ve got a bit more cash to play with and want superior audio quality, we recommend you take a look at the Sonos Beam 2.

Read our full Polk React review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 2.0; Total power output: Not stated; Dimensions: 940 x 120 x 50mm; Weight: Unknown; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI output (ARC), optical


11. Pansonic SoundSlayer: The best soundbar for gaming

Price: £250 | Buy now from Amazon

This compact soundbar from Panasonic weighs just 1.8kg and is a great option for those that enjoy gaming, both on PC and consoles. It has a built-in subwoofer and supports Dolby Atmos, DTX:X and DTS Virtual:X in addition to 4K HDR passthrough.

The SoundSlayer features three bespoke audio profiles, each designed with specific gaming genres in mind. Voice mode is ideal for dialogue-heavy games, FPS mode cranks up gunfire and explosions while enhancing positional audio cues, and RPG mode is optimised for an immersive surround-sound experience while playing games such as Final Fantasy XIV Online. All three modes were jointly created with the sound team behind FFXIV Online, and there’s even a special Final Fantasy edition of the soundbar available if you’re willing to fork out an extra £50.

Audio quality is impressive for what is a small soundbar, though the bass response isn’t as weighty as a similarly priced bar with a separate subwoofer. But the lack of a sub reduces its footprint significantly, making it perfect for slipping neatly under a TV or monitor.

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 80W; Dimensions: 431 x 52 x 132mm; Weight: 1.8kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI input, 1 x HDMI output, optical


12. Polk Signa S3: A very capable soundbar and subwoofer combo

Price: £279 | Buy now from Amazon

The Polk Signa S3 is a very capable, well-priced soundbar. It’s a doddle to set up via either HDMI ARC or an optical cable and delivers an impressive audio experience. There’s no surround sound but overall audio quality is great, with plenty of clarity and detail. The included subwoofer doesn’t overshadow the bar but instead adds a pleasing amount of low-end weight where appropriate. Polk’s patented Voice Adjust technology does a good job of enhancing dialogue when you’re watching films, and there are three EQ settings to choose from – Movie, Music and Sport – all of which feel appropriately tuned for their subjects.

Wi-Fi is built in, allowing you to add the soundbar to your Google Home devices and make use of Google Assistant voice control should you wish. Chromecast is also built into the Signa S3, so you can stream music from your favourite services to your heart’s content, while there’s also the option of connecting to your phone or laptop via Bluetooth.

If you’re after an affordable soundbar and subwoofer combo and aren’t fussed about having some form of surround sound, the Signa S3 ticks all the right boxes and looks good on your TV cabinet while doing so.

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 160W (80W soundbar plus 80W subwoofer); Dimensions: Soundbar – 898 x 83 x 56mm, subwoofer – 171 x 343 x 311mm; Weight: Unknown; Connectivity: Bluetooth, HDMI (ARC), optical, 3.5mm, Wi-Fi


13. Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage: A beautiful soundbar that sounds superb

Price: £1,599 | Buy now from John Lewis

The Beosound Stage is a wonderfully musical and surprisingly muscular standalone soundbar. Its 11-driver setup is capable of getting seriously loud and delivers an impressive sense of width, though it’s not quite as adept at articulating height when utilising Dolby Atmos. Voice clarity is top-notch, however, and there’s a decent amount of bass, especially considering the absence of a separate subwoofer.

The soundbar doesn’t come with a remote control (you can use B&O’s Beoremote One if you have one) but is instead controlled via the B&O app and touch buttons on the front edge of the bar. The app is comprehensive and allows for granular customisation of how the soundbar sounds. Once you’ve chosen one of five sound profiles available you can tweak the DSP and EQ to your liking and even set it as the default profile for a particular input source should you wish.

The Stage’s other main appeal is how it looks. It’s modelled on the 1970s Beogram 4002 turntable and is stunning, with its thick-gauge, brushed aluminium trim complementing the fabric covering perfectly. That beautiful aesthetic comes at a hefty price, however. We’ve linked to the most affordable of the three options available, which is still very much in premium territory, but the version with a Smoked Oak finish will set you back a whopping £1,700.

If you’ve got that kind of money to spend on a standalone soundbar, you’ll be getting a bar that both looks and sounds the business.

Read our full Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage review for details

Key specs – Drivers: 11; RMS power output: 550W; Dimensions: 1,110 x 170 x 77mm; Weight: 7.9kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI 2.1, 1 x HDMI ARC/eARC, AUX-in, 2 x Ethernet

Buy now from John Lewis


14. Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar: The best soundbar for audiophiles

Price: £2,199 | Buy now from Sennheiser

At £2,199, the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar is by far the most expensive soundbar on the market. However, it sets a high bar for audio fidelity – no other all-in-one bar comes close. Thanks to the addition of Ambeo 3D technology, it delivers mind-blowing DTS:X and Dolby Atmos performance, and with its 13 drivers (two on the sides and two up top), the Ambeo Soundbar will fill any room.

Its sound quality is truly impressive, with forward-sounding mids and a wide soundstage that delivers excellent instrument separation. Elsewhere, the bar has plenty of connectivity options to choose from and a handy remote to control it from afar. The only complaints we have – aside from the price – are the lack of a dedicated subwoofer and the sheer size of the thing.

Read our full Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar review for details

Key specs – Speakers: 13; RMS power output: 500W; Dimensions: 1,265 x 135 x 171mm; Weight: 18.5kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 4 x HDMI (3 x input, 1 x output), optical, RCA, Ethernet, coaxial subwoofer output

Buy now from Sennheiser