A soundbar is a compact sound system and AV receiver in its own right, with many models now packing multiple speaker channels, a subwoofer, upward-firing speakers and Dolby Atmos support into one slender unit.

Designed as a more powerful alternative to the internal speakers of a smart TV, soundbars add punchier bass, greater dialogue clarity and a more immersive soundscape to a movie’s soundtrack. They are excellent for listening to music, too.

When installing a convoluted surround sound system is impractical for your living space (and buying multiple speakers and a sub can be expensive), soundbars provide a versatile all-in-one audio solution.

So, what should you look for when on the hunt for a soundbar? We’ve got that covered.

MEASURE UP
If you intend to install a soundbar in a large living room, choose one with a lot of grunt. Conversely, if it’s for a bedroom, you won’t want to blow the door off! Some soundbars will include a separate subwoofer (generally wireless) as part of the package. If you want the soundbar to complement the length of the TV screen – and ensure it fits unobtrusively beneath – get out the tape measure before you shop.

Sonos

HOOK UP
Soundbars are simple to set up and connect. If the TV is an older model without a HDMI port, you can connect via an optical cable (generally supplied). Connection to a TV via HDMI ARC or eARC will result in better overall sound quality, and you’ll be able to control the volume using the TV’s remote.

SMARTEN UP
If you want to control all of your audio commands using Google or Alexa voice assistants, look for a soundbar with smart functionality. Moreover, many feature Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast and AirPlay2 support for streaming music and casting curated playlists or podcasts from a smart device, and you can link to other compatible speakers throughout the home.

CHANNEL CHECK
Think of channels as individual speakers. For example, a 5.1-channel soundbar has five speakers – left and right front, left and right rear, and a centre channel – plus a subwoofer. Soundbars supporting Dolby Atmos feature upward-firing speakers that bounce sound off the ceiling for a more enveloping audio experience – they can be designated as 7.1.2 – that’s seven speakers, a sub, and two upward-firing channels.

ENTRY-LEVEL

 

Sonos Ray Soundbar
Sonos has come to the rescue of the space-challenged audiophile with the Ray. Brilliantly compact and with all speakers pointing outwards, it can be tucked away in an entertainment unit or bookshelf. The Ray’s four Class-D digital amplifiers deliver solid bass and crisp dialogue that’s been tuned by Hollywood experts. It’s simple to set up and you can expand down the track with surround speakers, a sub and more. If you want powerful sound but space is tight, or you have a nook in mind that everyday soundbars just wouldn’t fit (like a bedroom shelf), the Ray has you covered.

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Playing with the Sonos Beam – in-depth

MID-RANGE

 

Samsung Q700B Q-Series Soundbar
This 3.1.2 channel soundbar features wireless True Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, dispensing with an HDMI connection when used with compatible 2022 TVs. Incorporating 3 x channels, 1 x subwoofer and 2 x up-firing speakers, an immersive and directional soundscape awaits. When connected to a compatible Samsung TV, Samsung’s Q-Symphony and Space Fit tech offer a synchronised sound experience tailored to a room’s configuration. There’s smart connectivity with Alexa, Google and Apple AirPlay 2, and content can be streamed from other smart devices using the SmartThings app.

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

TOP SHELF

 

Bose Smart Soundbar 900
Bose brings Dolby Atmos to a premium soundbar that delivers a remarkable 3D soundscape. Packing nine speakers – including two up-firing ones – into its slender frame, it’s a powerhouse performer with decoding for Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby True HD and Dolby Digital+. The 900 will also upmix audio formats like 2.0 and 5.1 to a 7-channel soundscape, adding a sense of height. There’s Alexa and Google Assistant support along with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay2 and Spotify Connect for music streaming and casting, plus Voice4Video that turns on the TV and switches to a desired channel with a voice command.

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

Hear here! Your STACK 2022 audio guide – everything you need to know in sound!