With an exciting new range of big screen smart TVs available in 2022, a soundbar is the perfect match to bring the complete cinema experience home.

If you haven’t been on the hunt for a new TV in a few years, the first two things you’ll likely notice are an increase in screen size and a decrease in thickness. You’ll never hear us complaining about bigger screens, but the move to a slimmer design comes with a sacrifice in speaker size. If you’re upgrading a visual home entertainment experience, you’ll want plenty of oomph in the audio department, and that’s where a soundbar comes in.

The modern soundbar is an unobtrusive bit of kit that packs a real punch and can now support immersive Dolby Atmos audio to bring the cinema right into your lounge room. They are easy to install, and you don’t have to worry about separate speakers and metres of wiring. But what are the key considerations when buying a soundbar?

Sizing up
There’s a bit of common sense at play here. Assess the area that the soundbar will service, and this will determine what size unit you want and how much grunt it needs under the hood. If you want the soundbar’s length to complement the length of your TV – and ensure that it fits beneath – get the tape measure out before you buy.

Making connections
For new TVs, an HDMI port, or even better, an HDMI ARC or eARC port, is where you’ll get the best sound quality from your soundbar. Most soundbars will include an optical port if you’re connecting to an older TV.

In the channel
Should you want to enhance the soundbar’s surround sound output, it might be worth augmenting it with a subwoofer and rear speakers (preferably wireless). At the higher end of the pricing scale is the excellent Dolby Atmos. This immersive technology adds height to the sound, providing a full, enveloping soundscape.

Set for streaming
Remember, soundbars make excellent music players too. Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2 support will allow you to stream music from a smart device, while Wi-Fi enables direct connection to an online streaming service, and you can link other compatible speakers throughout the house.

Smart move
If you want to control all your audio commands with your voice, smart functionality such as Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa is essential.

GOOD: TCL S522W SOUNDBAR
A perfect match with TCL’s 2022 TV range or any modern smart TV, this entry-level 2.1-channel soundbar delivers a powerful 200W surround sound experience and includes a wireless subwoofer for that essential bass boost. Sporting a sleek, cylindrical design with tactile buttons for power, volume and Bluetooth connection, the S522W features specialised sound modes for a variety of content, from TV shows and movies to your favourite music playlists, and support for optical and HDMI ARC connection for high-resolution audio. It’s also a good fit for that second TV in the bedroom.

TCL S522W Soundbar

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

BETTER: LG S80QY SOUNDBAR
Designed to complement their 2022 TV line-up, LG’s new soundbar range will sound great with any recent smart TV. The S80QY features groundbreaking triple up-firing channels, which add a sense of height and nuance to the wide soundscape it pumps out. Packing 480W of power, 3.1.3 channels and a wireless subwoofer for robust bass, all the bases are covered for immersive cinema-like sound, plus the option to add rear speakers (sold separately) for added spatial effects. AI Room Calibration Pro tuning tailors the sound to suit your room’s layout, while AI Sound Pro analyses content and enhances the audio to match. Add Meridian advanced digital signal processing tech, Dolby Atmos support (with compatible TVs and source content) and voice control via Alexa and Google, and all the boxes are ticked for an impressive surround set-up.

LG S80QY Soundbar

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

BEST: SAMSUNG Q700B Q-SERIES SOUNDBAR
Match your 2022 Samsung QLED or existing TV with this True 3.1.2-channel soundbar that brings the sound of the cinema to your lounge room with wireless True Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, dispensing with the need for HDMI connection when used with compatible 2022 TVs. However, eARC connection is recommended for high-resolution content. Incorporating 3 x channels, 1 x subwoofer and 2 x up-firing speakers, an immersive soundscape with directional and overhead audio awaits. When connected to a compatible Samsung TV, Samsung’s Q-Symphony and Space Fit tech offer a synchronised sound experience that’s tailored to your room’s configuration. An Adaptive Sound function will optimise the audio to match content and scene, and up voice clarity at low volumes. There’s smart connectivity with Alexa, Google and Apple AirPlay 2, and the soundbar can access content streamed from other smart devices via the SmartThings app.

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi

 

BOSE SMART SOUNDBAR 900
Packing nine speakers into its slender frame, the 900 is a powerhouse performer that delivers authentic Dolby Atmos using Bose’s PhaseGuide tech for multidirectional audio. There is also decoding for Dolby Digital, Dolby True HD and Dolby Digital Plus, and the bar will upmix audio formats like 2.0 and 5.1 to a 7-channel experience using Bose’s proprietary TrueSpace spatial processing, adding a vertical effect to non-Atmos content.
The directional quality of the audio and the 3D soundscape it creates is truly impressive, with sound bouncing from areas where there are clearly no physical speakers. And the 900’s centre channel excels at producing crisp and clear dialogue, which can often be drowned out in a cacophony of sound design or score.
We put the 900 through its paces with two of the go-to discs for audio excellence: Star Wars: A New Hope and Dario Argento’s Suspiria. Both sounded phenomenal, with an immersive and richly detailed soundscape full of deep bass and subtle nuances highlighted in the sound design – every creak and strain of Princess Leia’s ship can be heard as the Imperial troops prepare to board, while the Star Destroyer’s entrance overhead makes for a great Atmos demo. Music-wise, the 900 delivered a similarly robust and precise performance when spinning some hard rock tracks from the Foo Fighters and classical selections.
Set-up is simple using the Bose Music app and Bose’s proprietary ADAPTiQ technology – the bar comes with a wired headset microphone to tailor the audio to fire at your five favourite positions within the room. Settings can then be customised using the app’s EQ.
The 900 supports Alexa and Google Assistant, and also a very cool feature called Voice4Video, which will turn on the TV and switch it to a desired channel with a voice command. And there is a range of connection options to access your favourite tunes – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple Airplay 2, Chromecast and Spotify Connect.
Connection is via a single high-speed HDMI cable (included) plugged into the eARC port on a smart TV, or an optical cable as an alternative. However, HDMI eARC is recommended for Dolby Atmos.
The 900 can be easily paired with other Bluetooth speakers throughout the home, as well as the option to add peripherals like a Bose bass module and rear surround speakers to further expand the soundscape.
A premium soundbar that opens up the immersive world of Dolby Atmos, the Bose 900 delivers a remarkably multidirectional soundscape and comes highly recommended.

STACK‘s essential 2022 TV buying guide – your portal to all the tips, brands and know-how!

SURROUND SOUND FORMATS

Can you tell a Dolby from a DTS? When it comes to home theatre audio, a myriad of different surround sound options are available. Here are some of the more common ones you’re likely to encounter, and why they matter.

Dolby Atmos – cinema-quality, object-based surround sound that includes height speakers to create an immersive 3D soundscape

Dolby Digital – digital audio coding that reduces the amount of data required to produce high quality sound (also known as AC-3)

Dolby Digital EX – adds an extra rear surround channel to create a 6.1 system

Dolby Digital Plus – supports up to 15 channels of audio and greater bitrates

Dolby Surround – an algorithm that upmixes a stereo or surround soundtrack to match a room’s speaker configuration

Dolby True HD – multi-channel format that delivers uncompressed audio

DTS – audio encoded at a high bitrate for better quality audio reproduction

DTS-ES – Extended Surround format that adds an extra channel for spatial effects

DTS-HD Master Audio – multi-channel format that uses lossless compression to deliver the original studio soundtrack

DTS: X – multi-directional object-based format that works with standard surround speakers and supports up to 11 channels