8 best soundbars for cinematic audio in your home – The Independent
Epic 65in 4K TVs are taking up residency in homes across the UK. The thick bezels of yesteryear have faded out of existence, beckoning in an era of gloriously detailed high dynamic range (HDR) tellies, making it easier than ever to get that silver screen experience right from the comfort of your own settee.
But while the picture quality on our TVs is continuously improving, something has to give – and audio is often the first to take a hit. Those thin screens leave little room for booming speakers, so voices don’t always sound crisp and clear, and there’s often not much depth. That’s where soundbars come in.
With a soundbar, you get explosive sound that matches the intense shots seen on screen. The best part? All that acoustic magic comes in an all-in-one audio box, available in a range of sizes – there are compact examples or beefier ones that stretch across the length of your wide screen, and everything in between.
You can get soundbars that connect via both ARC (Audio Return Channel) and eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), as well as examples that come with external subwoofers. The latest technology is also making blockbuster audio more immersive than ever before, thanks to the integration of three-dimensional sound technology, courtesy of Dolby Atmos.
Below, you’ll find a range of soundbars, perfect for any budget, but if you’re looking for a specifically wallet-friendly model, check out our round-up of the best budget soundbars.
How we tested
We looked at a range of different soundbars – from high-end premium models to more budget-friendly options, testing them out extensively on our 65in LG nano86 television set, which has an eARC port.
To get a full sense of the soundbar’s audio quality, we watched a range of Dolby Atmos and non-Atmos TV shows and films on Netflix and regular TV, such as the Premier League, Altered Carbon, Six Underground and high-fidelity music streaming services.
We also looked at each model’s design, features and specs, looking at the quality of any extras – such as subwoofers and companion apps, as well as assessing each soundbar’s overall performance when it came to filling rooms with sound.
The best soundbars for 2021 are:
- Best overall – Sonos arc: £899, Sonos.com
- Best soundbar for films – Bang & Olufsen beosound stage: £1,599, Bang-olufsen.com
- Best compact soundbar – Sonos beam, gen 2: £449, Sonos.com
- Best premium soundbar – Sennheiser ambeo: £2,199, Sennheiser.com
- Best for gamers – Panasonic SC-HTB01 soundslayer: £249.99, Amazon.co.uk
- Best soundbar with Alexa integration – Denon home sound bar 550: £469, Denon.com
- Best soundbar for streaming – Roku streambar: £129.99, Roku.com
- Best budget soundbar – Polk Audio react: £240.06, Amazon.co.uk
- Dimensions: 114cm x 34cm x 11.5cm
- Weight: 6.3kg
- Speaker configuration: 5.0.2
- Connections: Optical, ethernet, wifi, HDMI ARC and eARC, AirPlay 2
- Sound formats: Dolby Atmos, Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital+, Dolby Digital
- Voice assistant? Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
- Separate subwoofer included? Not included, sold separately
The Sonos arc …….