Soundbars have become the audio choice for many homes. Here’s STACK‘s guide to some of the very best that are available right now.
At 55 inches, the Arc is a long soundbar that comes with voice control for Google Assistant, Alexa and AirPlay 2. A stylish, curved design, the Arc features Dolby Atmos for the first time, and with Arc’s whopping 11 high performance drivers for upwards, forwards and sideways audio, the true cinema sonic experience here is astounding. ARC/eARC, a HDMI port most TVs now ship with as standard, allows the Arc to talk directly to the TV, eliminating the need for multiple remotes, but if you have an older TV, Sonos include an optical cable.
Bose Smart Soundbar 300
The Bose Smart Soundbar 300 connects to Wi-Fi via its SimpleSync technology and becomes part of a multi-room sound system, along with other Bose speakers in your house. Plus, you can even pair up Bose headphones for the full audio experience, without waking the little ones. Set-up is a breeze and you can be totally assured of Bose’s renowned sound quality. Along with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, it’s also Apple AirPlay 2 compatible and it has Alexa built in to slip seamlessly into your smart home ecosystem.
The perfect companion for your 2021 Samsung Neo QLED TV. The Q950A delivers 11.1 channel sound, thanks to the inclusion of two separate wireless rear speakers, along with the main soundbar and wireless subwoofer. On compatible Samsung QLED TVs, the Total Sound Collaboration feature set customises sound for the music or movie you’re playing, and the room you’re listening in. Chromecast is built in, plus the Q950A works with Alexa and Apple AirPlay 2. Connect via the HDMI eARC and full resolution content like Dolby Atmos passes from the TV to the soundbar, for the best possible sound quality.
JBL Bar 5.1 Channel Soundbar with Wireless Sub
If you want to be immersed in a cinematic audio experience, this 550-watt system and 10″ subwoofer will do very nicely. Building on a 75-year legacy in theatre sound, JBL’s MultiBeam technology delivers an impressive panoramic soundscape, without the need for extra speakers. The subwoofer is wireless, so all you need is power to the unit and one optical connection. Use the HDMI and you’ll get 4K Dolby Vision passthrough. Plus, Wi-Fi compatibility with Chromecast and Airplay 2 ensures easy streaming of your favourite online content.
Command your sound!
The dynamic range in movies has been specifically mixed for the acoustics you find in contemporary cinemas, so it can be frustrating watching at home with one finger on the remote to counter any sudden and dramatic changes in volume. However, there are some things you can do in the home to compensate for this, and maximise the sound from your device.
- Most quality soundbars will offer a night mode – a feature designed to lift dialogue in quieter scenes without forcing you to lift the volume and risk waking the house when the film switches to a louder scene.
- Many soundbars will allow the sound to be tweaked through the EQ in an app to customise your personal audio preference.
- The first thing you’ll want to do when introducing a soundbar at home is mute or turn off the TV speakers, as they can adversely affect the quality of sound you’re getting. There are some exceptions to this rule: top end Samsung TVs are designed to incorporate in-built TV speakers with some Samsung soundbars to enhance the audio experience.
- Shoot for Dolby Atmos or DTS: X. These audio formats are now becoming more prevalent in high end soundbars. In short, they deliver a fuller sound by utilising upward- and sideways-facing speakers that bounce the audio off the walls and ceiling.