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If you want audio to complement that stellar picture and are looking for something easy to install, then you need a Klipsch premium sound bar and wireless sub.Sound bars are an excellent alternative to whatever speakers are built into your television by – wait for it – “raising the bar” on how you hear and experience movies, music, and online gaming.
Once BT PAIRING displays on the soundbar, navigate to. Home on your TV. Select Settings, and then select Sound. Select Sound Output, and then select Bluetooth Speaker List. Select your soundbar from the list.
Soundbars enrich your auditory experience when enjoying entertainment on your TV. One of the ways that they can be connected, if necessary, is by Bluetooth. On some models, you can connect your soundbar to your TV using a feature called SoundConnect. If the model year of your soundbar and your TV don’t match, then you may need to mix and match the steps in this guide.If the soundbar has not been connected via Bluetooth before, the display will change to BT PAIRING. If BT READY appears, press and hold the Source button on the right side panel of the soundbar or on the remote control for more than 5 seconds to display BT PAIRING. On your TV, navigate to Home, select Settings, select Sound, select Expert Settings, select Wireless Speaker Manager, and then select Bluetooth Audio Devices. Select your soundbar from the list. When the TV is connected, [TV Name] → BT appears on the soundbar’s front display. Once BT PAIRING displays on the soundbar, navigate to Home on your TV. Select Settings, and then select Sound. Select Sound Output, and then select Bluetooth Speaker List. Select your soundbar from the list.On your TV, navigate to Home, select Settings, select Sound, select Sound Output, and then select Bluetooth Speaker List. Select your soundbar from the list.
Electronic devices may cause radio interference and other issues. Devices that generate electromagnetic waves must be kept away from the soundbar, such as microwaves, wireless LAN devices, medical equipment, etc.
When the TV detects a nearby soundbar, the message Need Pairing or Paired will appear in the TV’s Bluetooth device list. To connect the TV to the soundbar, select the message, and then establish a connection. When the TV is connected, [TV Name] → BT will appear on the soundbar’s front display.
We recommend using a wired connection rather than using Bluetooth. For the best sound quality and performance, connect your soundbar with a Digital Audio Out (Optical) or an HDMI (ARC) cable. HDMI is better if the only external device connected to your TV is your soundbar. Otherwise, Digital Audio Out is usually the better option, depending on your setup.
If you don’t have the remote, press the Source button on the top panel and then select BT. After a few seconds, the panel will display BT READY if there is no Bluetooth device already connected to the soundbar. When BT READY appears, press and hold the Source button for more than 5 seconds until BT PAIRING displays.SPACE™ ensures an immersive and enveloping sound experience. The proprietary technology actively upscales any stereo-encoded 2.0 signal into a 5.1.2, no matter what you are viewing. In other words, your visual may be straight ahead, but your sound is coming from all around you.
Seventeen autonomous high-end drivers deliver dynamic midrange and crystal-clear treble, while eight built-in SAM®-powered subwoofers remove any need for additional equipment, making Devialet Dione a truly all-in-one soundbar.Devialet Dione also integrates into a Phantom multiroom configuration through Airplay2. This set-up is also possible for any Airplay 2-enabled speaker if you use iOS.
State-of-the-art sound engineering made simple. Devialet Dione intelligently adapts to each room to provide the best experience, whatever content you are watching. Whether wall-mounted or placed on a piece of furniture, Devialet Dione harnesses its room calibration technology to fill your space with pristine sound, no matter your preferred set-up, audio modes, and equalization. Devialet was born of a pledge: to keep pushing the boundaries of sound experiences. Fourteen years later, after delivering groundbreaking, iconoclast innovations in the field of acoustics, Devialet ventures into the world of audio-visual.Devialet Dione is Devialet’s acoustic engineering applied to home cinema: a high-end, all-in-one Dolby Atmos® 5.1.2 soundbar that elevates all contents on your television. Devialet Dione is compatible with Bluetooth®, AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect. It can also be connected to your TV via HDMI® or TOSLINK optical input for any digital music source. And when combined with SPACE™ technology, your music is spacialized and delivered in enveloping 3D. External subwoofer? No need to add what’s already built in. Devialet Dione soundbar boasts eight internal subwoofers, the highest on the market, making it a true all-in-one sound system.Devialet Dione 8x high-excursion subwoofers are custom-designed to deliver powerful and deep low-frequency effects with improved sound wave directivity to greatly enhance bass restitution and immersion.
Devialet’s Adaptive Volume Level (AVL™) technology is Devialet Dione’s dynamic equalizer. It harmonizes sound levels adapted to each content, in real time, for a more enjoyable listening experience. An action packed scene coupled with wispering dialogue? You won’t miss a single detail.
Devialet’s Advanced Dimensional Experience patent (ADE️) combines innovative speaker placement with advanced digital filters to deliver superior sound restitution all around.The Devialet Intelligence Processor combines Devialet’s amplification and signal processing technologies (ADH®, SAM®, Magic Wire, Class A, DAC) into a single, one-square-centimeter System on a Chip (SoC), custom-designed for optimal efficiency.
With the best performance-to-thinness ratio, Devialet Dione stands out in both design and sound quality, and blends in when the action begins. And its sleek central ORB®️ is a nod to Phantom’s signature aesthetic.Devialet Dione soundbar is powered by a 17 high-end drivers array in a 5.1.2 surround-channel configuration boasting five ground channels, a subwoofer channel, and two upper/ceiling channels.
With more drivers than a traditional soundbar, Devialet Dione delivers room-filling sound with rich bass, clear medium, and precise treble. In other words, sound that plunges you into the scene.With Devialet Dione soundbar, immerse yourself into your favorite movies or series on Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, or Apple TV+. Equipped with SPACE™ technology, stereo movies are spatialized to render 5.1.2 audio and efficiently use Devialet Dione’s 3D sound capabilities.My next selection was Loren Maazel and The Cleveland Orchestra’s recording of Moussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain (Telarc) to see how well the Resolution BEs would handle large macro-dynamics and an orchestra at full tilt playing this stormy and dynamic classical piece. One of my audiophile friends came over to hear these speakers; and, when this selection was over, he asked me to turn off my pair of subwoofers to see how well they would handle the bottom end and giant crescendos of this piece on their own. I explained that I had already turned them off, so the Resolution BEs had delivered the power range and gut-rattling punch on their own, fooling him into thinking the subwoofers were on. To audition the speakers, my first music selection was the very well-recorded album by tenor saxophone player Scott Hamilton called Back in New York (Concord Jazz) to hear how the Resolution BEs would handle the creamy, deep, and darkish tonality/timbres that he produces on his saxophone. The Resolution BE rendered the colors/tonalities of his playing in an extremely accurate way. This was not done at the expensive of the “feeling” aspect of his playing. The timbres and all the little nuances of his playing were on display, but not in the overly analytical fashion that speakers with great resolution sometimes struggle with. Another aspect that I easily picked up on was that the Resolution BEs completely disappeared in a large, realistic soundstage, with the location of each player placed right where it should have been on that stage. My final selection was the late, great Bob Marley’s album Legend (Island), which contains all of his and the Wailers’ most important music from 1972 to 1981. This music demonstrated two more aspects of the Resolution BE’s sonic qualities. The first one was how quick and accurate this speaker is at following the ebb and flow of the dynamics of music. Secondly, the overall tonality is silky and smooth, including the high-end frequencies; therefore, the Resolution BE never gets “in your face” no matter what the volume level is. Additionally, it will effortlessly play very loudly without sounding mechanical or analytical.The drivers themselves are top-of-the-line Scan Speak transducers. The midrange/bass driver is the 5.5-inch Illuminator, and the tweeter is a one-inch Air Circ Beryllium dome. The front baffle, which is curved on its sides, is two inches thick. The rest of the cabinet is one inch thick with extensive internal vertical bracing. Needless to say, the Resolution BE’s build quality, regarding all the internal parts and the massive damping of its enclosure, ranks with the very best on the market today. It is also one of the most attractive looking stand-mount speakers I have had in-house for review.I am no longer surprised at the number of small, American-based companies that design and build superlative speakers that can compete with the historical “big boys” in both build quality and performance yet can beat them on the very important ratio of cost versus performance. Jed Kunz’s company Clearwave Loudspeaker Design is located in Rochester, New York. After reviewing the Clearwave Resolution BE, which retails for $3,699/pair, I’ve added Jed to my growing list of creative and talented designers who manufacture top-notch speakers for reasonable prices.
As I stated earlier in the review, Jed Kunz has joined my list of talented designers who are manufacturing great speakers at lower prices compared with many of the historical “house brands,” and often these speakers actually perform at a higher level than many of the more expensive models from these larger companies.The Resolution BE is a two-way, stand-mount design clad in a beautiful glossy Santos Rosewood veneer and weighing in at 28 pounds. The dimensions are 13.5 inches high by 8.25 inches wide by 12.25 inches deep. The Resolution BE’s frequency range is 42 Hz to 25 kHz, and its sensitivity is 85 dB. The speaker’s impedance is four ohms. The internal parts list is filled with the highest quality components, such as all Mundorf capacitors and resisters, ERSE air core inductors, Supra wiring, and Cardas copper binging posts with gold plating and custom binding post plate and port ring to lower resonance.
When I was preparing to review the Resolution BE, I shared with Jed that I was somewhat leery of his use of a Beryllium tweeter in his design. My past experience with highly regarded speakers that use Beryllium tweeters has been a mixed bag. I enjoyed the tremendous resolution and detail that this type of transducer has to offer, but I found that the tonality/timbres were not as natural as I am used to hearing. I discovered that, after a short time, I would start to experience listener fatigue. He understood the shortcomings I was expressing, and he assured me that he had eliminated these qualities while keeping the sonic virtues of micro-details, speed, resolution, and top-end extension.
The S95QR is packed with more features. It has an HDMI eARC port plus two HDMI inputs, so you can connect a Blu-ray player and a gaming system (or two gaming systems) directly to it and get the maximum fidelity of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks from Blu-ray discs, even if your TV doesn’t have eARC. It also has a single optical digital audio input, but no analog audio input.
You can stream audio wirelessly from a phone, tablet, or computer using Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2 (which requires an iOS device for setup), or Google Chromecast (which can be set up using iOS or Android devices).
Beyond that, the M-Series Elevate is fairly living-room-friendly. It measures 41.2 inches long, and the soundbar and rear surround speakers are wrapped in charcoal-shaded fabric. The subwoofer is one of the shortest we’ve tested—just 9.5 inches high—so it should be able to tuck under many end tables. The M-Series Elevate doesn’t have holes for wall-mounting, but it can be wall-mounted using soundbar wall-mount brackets.
The Vizio M512a-H6 is a former also-great pick, and still probably the best bet if you want an under-$500 soundbar that includes surround speakers. We’d rather step up to the Vizio M-Series Elevate, but if you want to save a couple hundred dollars, the M512a-H6 is a great choice.
We tried streaming Iron Man in its IMAX Enhanced version from Disney+, and comparing the S95QR with the similar (but non-IMAX) Samsung HW-Q990B soundbar: The sound from the LG definitely seemed more enveloping, with more sound seeming to come from all around us. But whether this improvement was because of IMAX Enhanced or because of the LG’s extra upward-firing speaker, we don’t know.We were also surprised to hear that, with the 3D Sound mode enabled, the SR-C30A gave us a fairly convincing sense of surround sound; it didn’t make us feel quite like we were part of the action, but we could hear sounds seeming to come from the sides of the room. Unlike with the Polk MagniFi Mini AX, there’s no option to add surround speakers to the SR-C30A.The remote is useful but complex. It’s the same model Vizio has been offering for a few years now, with a backlit alphanumeric display at the top. It has four buttons that access different control menus (EQ, Level, Setup, and Effect), and each of those offers several control functions—so it’s much more complicated to operate than almost any other soundbar remote.
If you want to improve your TV’s sound but don’t want to fool with a subwoofer: The Denon DHT-S217 is a 2.0-channel Atmos soundbar that doesn’t include a subwoofer—although it has a subwoofer output, so you can add the sub of your choice if you like. Two 3.5-inch woofers on the bottom give it a surprising amount of bass, and it still sounds clear even when cranked up loud. Even though it doesn’t have upward-firing speakers, this soundbar produced a strong immersive effect when we played Dolby’s Atmos demo disc. It has an HDMI eARC port, an HDMI input, plus optical digital and analog audio inputs.
The package includes a compact subwoofer that also performed better than its size suggests, producing deep, punchy, satisfying bass, and the system sounded better with music than most soundbars do. The MagniFi Mini AX is compatible with the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio formats, and can also stream audio over Wi-Fi via Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast, as well as via Bluetooth.If you want better sound than you’re getting from your TV’s built-in speakers but don’t want to piece together separate components (such as an AV or stereo receiver and a speaker package), a soundbar is the way to go. Looking at the super-compact Polk MagniFi Mini AX, you might not expect much. But in our brand-concealed tests, where the listeners couldn’t judge it by its size, this soundbar outperformed larger, more feature-packed models costing hundreds more. The soundbar measures just 14.5 inches wide, but thanks to its digital signal processing (DSP) technology, it produced a surround-sound effect that was, in some cases, more natural-sounding (if less dramatic) than soundbars using dedicated surround speakers. The signal-sensing input is intended for connection to a smart speaker with an analog audio output, such as an Amazon Echo Dot. When you speak a command to the Dot, the M-Series Elevate automatically turns on and switches to the signal-sensing input, and you hear the sound of the Dot through the soundbar. The original Elevate soundbar (a former pick) was slow to respond to signals from a Dot, so it cut off the first few seconds of the Dot’s response. The M-Series Elevate is much faster. When I asked it to play radio station KNTU, it should have responded “The One, from Tune-In,” and it only cut off “The.” We can live with that.Our CTA-2010 measurements showed that its output averaged 107.8 dB in the mid-bass, but the output was unmeasurable at 25 and 20 Hz, so we couldn’t calculate a low bass average. That’s acceptable bass performance for a small living room or bedroom, but for a larger space, we recommend stepping up to something bigger. If you want a soundbar at a similar price with more bass (but less dialogue clarity), check out our previous budget pick, the JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass.
As soundbar performance continues to improve, does anyone need to invest in an AV receiver and speakers to get great sound? We did blind tests to find out.
TCL now offers the 2.1-channel S4210, 3.1-channel Q6310 and S4310, and the 5.1-channel Q6510 and S4510. All offer DTS Virtual:X for an Atmos-like effect from non-Atmos material, and the Q-Series models include automatic calibration to optimize the sound for your room.
The one caveat is that the sound sometimes seemed a little bright, and the rear surround speakers too loud, but it was pretty easy to fix these flaws using the remote control and the alphanumeric display on the front of the soundbar. We just turned the treble down to -3 and the surround level to -6. Of course, you may prefer other settings. The point is, it’s easy to make these adjustments, and once they’re made, they’re made.
Separate components usually provide better performance, but they also take up more space and require additional cables, and their operation is more complicated. A good soundbar strikes a balance between performance and convenience, delivering improved sound quality in a package that’s easier to set up and use.
The M-Series Elevate uses dedicated surround speakers and motorized upward-firing speakers to produce more immersive sound from Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. With soundbars that offered special sound modes, I generally employed the mode intended for the type of content I was listening to—movies or music, for instance—but I also experimented with all of the other modes available. If the soundbars had an “auto” or “AI” mode, I relied mostly on that one but tried the others as well. For soundbars with HDMI inputs that support 4K HDR video pass-through, I tested whether this function worked properly with an HDR-capable TV. The Polk MagniFi Max AX is the much-larger, roughly twice-as-expensive sibling of our top pick, the MagniFi Mini AX. We liked its sound with music and were impressed with its subwoofer, but we thought Mini AX sounded a little fuller on dialogue, and its immersive sound effects were more enveloping.Brent Butterworth is a senior staff writer covering audio and musical instruments at Wirecutter. Since 1989, he has served as an editor or writer on audio-focused websites and magazines such as Home Theater, Sound & Vision, and SoundStage. He regularly gigs on double bass with various jazz groups, and his self-produced album Take2 rose as high as number three on the Roots Music Report jazz album chart.The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is similar to the Smart Soundbar 900 (featured in Other good soundbars) in terms of features and sound, but it’s smaller and less costly and it needs a subwoofer more than the Smart Soundbar 900 does.
The Samsung HW-Q990B came very close to the performance of our upgrade pick, the LG S95QR, and the two soundbars are extremely similar in design and features. We preferred the LG for its somewhat more immersive sound and easier operation.
However, the S95QR’s many streaming options make its lack of an analog input a small issue at most. It has Google Chromecast and Apple AirPlay 2 streaming through Wi-Fi, and it can also function as a Google Home and Amazon Alexa smart speaker, so it can stream through Alexa, too. And of course, if you don’t want to fool with setting up Wi-Fi streaming, the S95QR offers Bluetooth.If your primary concern is hearing the dialogue in movies and TV shows, almost any soundbar is better than the speakers built into your TV, and some soundbars have effective voice enhancement modes. We brought in some hard-of-hearing listeners to test the voice enhancement on a few soundbars; you can read the results in this blog.
Physical setup is more complicated. Though the subwoofer communicates wirelessly with the soundbar, the rear speakers must be wired to the subwoofer. The included speaker cables are long, but it still means running cables across the room and will affect where you place the subwoofer.The JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass is our former budget pick. Its bass is stronger than that of our new budget pick, the Yamaha SR-C30A, but our panelists thought the SR-C30A sounded clearer with dialogue and vocals.
If you just want a simple, affordable soundbar to improve your everyday TV-watching experience, the Yamaha SR-C30A is the best soundbar we’ve heard for less than $300. There’s a natural, comfortable character to its sound that’s rare in soundbars at any price, although it doesn’t have the bass power and enveloping surround-sound effects of our pricier picks.
For theaterphiles who also appreciate simplicity, the LG S95QR is the best way to get performance close to that of a real surround-sound speaker system without the complicated setup and confusing operation of a typical AV receiver. The package includes the large soundbar, a subwoofer, and two wireless surround speakers.Polk offers the SR2 wireless surround speakers as an optional add-on. We tried them and found that, while they don’t really make the sound of the MagniFi Mini AX more enveloping, they do let you hear specific sound effects from the rear channels more clearly. However, it’s also more powerful, allowing adjustment of the different channel levels (such as subwoofer, center, and surround), tone controls, and sound modes (such as Movie, Music, and Game). You can even turn off the purple lighting on the slide-out sound vents. All that’s missing is Wi-Fi connectivity to stream music wirelessly via a platform like AirPlay or Chromecast, which is a feature you often get at this price.If you want a high-performance soundbar without a subwoofer or surround speakers: Consider the Sonos Arc, a former pick. It offers great sound (with Dolby Atmos support, but not DTS:X), easy operation, and built-in voice control via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. You get the same extensive access to streaming services that other Sonos speakers offer, plus AirPlay 2 support (but not Bluetooth). The bar incorporates 11 speaker drivers total and produces an extremely spacious, realistic home theater sound, especially with Atmos material. You can add the Sonos Sub or Sonos Sub Mini, and various Sonos speakers as surround speakers, but that increases the cost considerably. The downsides are that it lacks a remote control and an HDMI input to directly connect a source, but the HDMI ARC port allows for easy connection and control through your TV. The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is similar and about half the price, but it’s smaller so it doesn’t play as loud or offer as much bass.
If your top priority is getting the absolute best surround-sound experience, or if you have a lot of source devices (like a cable box, gaming console, streaming media player, and music player) to connect to your TV, you’re better off with an AV receiver and a multi-channel speaker system.
This system can play louder than our other picks. The soundbar, rear surround speakers, and subwoofer are all large enough to fill an average living room with powerful surround sound that doesn’t get harsh when it’s played loud; the system always seemed ready and willing to play louder when we wanted it to. “This one sounds really clear,” one panelist said when we compared under-$300 models. “I could understand the dialogue better, and I could hear more of the sound effects in the movies.” We all felt the SR-C30A had a more natural-sounding balance of bass to midrange to treble than the other inexpensive models we tested, meaning that no frequencies of sound seemed boosted, which might make the sound boomy or harsh. Nakamichi’s Dragon soundbar (named after the company’s famous cassette decks of the 1970s) aims at a state-of-the-art experience with dual subwoofers (each incorporating two separate woofers), separate surround speakers, and a total of six upward-firing Atmos drivers. But at $3,500, it’s the most expensive active soundbar we’ve encountered.Our listeners agreed: “With this one, I can perceive more layers of sound and more of the sound effects, like the whistling sound that happens when the depth charges explode in U-571,” one said. In some ways, the simulated surround sound that the MagniFi Mini AX produces seems more natural than the “real” surround sound of the more expensive 5.1-and-up models we tested because there are no rear speakers blaring into your ears and distracting you from the dialogue. Even without surround speakers, we heard what seemed like sounds coming from all around us and even above us at times.
If you want a great one-piece soundbar but don’t want to use Sonos: The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is similar to the Sonos Arc in that it’s a one-piece Atmos soundbar with optional subwoofer and surround speakers: It is priced about the same, it has a single HDMI eARC jack, and it produces exceptionally enveloping and spacious sound. The Smart Soundbar 900 incorporates Bose’s ADAPTiQ automatic room calibration system, which seems to work well, as the Smart Soundbar sounds a bit clearer on dialogue than the Sonos Arc does, although it can’t match the Arc’s bass performance. It incorporates Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth, so it works well with audio gear from many other companies. It also has a slim, beautiful design and an included remote control. It has an optical audio input and can also transmit sound to certain Bose Bluetooth speakers and headphones for listening in a second room. But it lacks HDMI inputs, DTS:X support, and an analog input.
An especially nice feature of the S95QR is its AI Sound Pro mode, which automatically adjusts the surround-sound effect to suit whatever you’re listening to. I left this mode on for most of our listening tests, and it seemed to deliver a just-right surround effect no matter what we played.
If your priority is to get an enveloping surround-sound experience, the Vizio M-Series Elevate is for you. This system is more costly and much more complicated than our top pick, but our listening panel felt it delivered an experience more like being in a commercial cinema—though it did not sound as good with music.
The Samsung HW-S800B is a super-slim soundbar that’s only 1.5 inches high but is sonically competitive with larger models. It includes an amazingly powerful and punchy mini subwoofer. All of our listeners loved the subwoofer, but two out of three felt it was weak on dialogue and Dolby Atmos effects.Note that Yamaha says another model, the ATS-C300 soundbar, is identical to the SR-C30A, but was given a different model number to indicate that it’s sold through different retailers than the SR-C30A. We haven’t tested the ATS-C300, but we couldn’t spot a difference between the two models when we scanned the specs on Yamaha’s website.
If you’re just looking for a simple option to deal with dialogue clarity and don’t need all the bells and whistles of a full-fledged soundbar, Zvox’s AccuVoice TV speakers are a good choice, as they use hearing-aid technology to improve dialogue clarity. Read more about Zvox devices here.This small package delivers big sound for movies. The two-piece system consists of a soundbar and small subwoofer. The bar measures just 14.5 inches across, but in our brand-concealed listening tests, it beat out larger and more expensive models (including Polk’s step-up model, the MagniFi Max AX).
There are no dedicated HDMI inputs for connecting source devices. The MagniFi Mini AX has just one HDMI eARC port to connect directly to your TV. So if you have multiple sources (such as a Blu-ray player and a gaming system or two) that you want to connect directly to the soundbar, you might want to opt for a soundbar with more inputs. But most people will probably connect all of their sources to the TV and just run a single HDMI cable from the TV to the soundbar’s eARC port.
For our fall 2022 tests, I asked a couple of Wirecutter subscribers, Katy Cook and Andrew Lyman, to give me their opinions on the top contenders. Both of them are tech-savvy, but neither considers themselves to be an audio enthusiast.LG has introduced the SC9 and SE6. Both can connect wirelessly through Wi-Fi to compatible LG TVs. The former includes the Wow Orchestra feature, which can sync the soundbar’s speakers with the speakers in compatible LG TVs.
If you want a soundbar that’s slim, simple, and under $100: The TaoTronics TT-SK023 sounds so good for its size and price that we seriously considered making it a pick—even though it doesn’t have an HDMI ARC port and it can’t match the full sound of the Roku Streambar. If you can get by with just Bluetooth plus analog and optical digital inputs, it’s a great choice for a vacation home or kids room.
For our official listening tests, I concealed the identities of the soundbars behind thin, black fabric. I told the panelists nothing at all about the soundbars, although they could see that at least some of the soundbars used dedicated surround speakers, which were arrayed on speaker stands behind them. I set the volume of each soundbar to the same playback level, using a sound pressure level meter and a shaped noise tone taken from a Dolby Digital receiver. I then played them the same movie and music selections I used for my testing, plus one music track of their choice.
It offers the essential connection options we like to see—HDMI eARC, optical digital audio, and analog audio—but lacks a dedicated HDMI input to connect a source directly. Optional surround speakers are available.
The use of a soundbar is the easiest, most affordable way to get a cinematic surround-sound experience at home, and the Polk MagniFi Mini AX’s excellent sound and simple setup make it our favorite all-purpose choice—though we have additional picks that suit different budgets and performance priorities.This system adds up-firing drivers and dedicated rear speakers. The soundbar itself features motorized speakers that tilt upward automatically (or at your command) with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, to create a sense of sound effects happening above you, while purple-lit vents slide out from the sides to add extra sonic immersion around the sides. And the package includes two rear speakers to be placed at the sides or back of the room for more convincing surround effects. If you want a more immersive surround-sound experience, we recommend the Vizio M-Series Elevate. It offers more features, inputs, and adjustments than our top pick, but it’s also more costly and much more complex to set up and use. The components are large. At 47.2 inches long, the soundbar may be too big for some TVs and TV stands; it barely fit between the feet of my 65-inch Vizio TV. The subwoofer’s not small either, but at just 7.6 inches wide, it should be easy to slip between pieces of furniture. The soundbar doesn’t have holes for wall mounting, but it can be positioned there using soundbar wall-mount brackets. I then put each of the soundbars through a formal test, playing Dolby Atmos scenes from the Blu-ray discs of Midway and Divergent: Insurgent, along with audiophile favorites such as Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” streamed via Wi-Fi when possible or Bluetooth otherwise. I also compared the soundbars against our existing picks. Based on the results of these preliminary tests, I picked the models I thought had the best chance of winning over our panelists. I also used to work as a consultant in soundbar design and tuning for numerous companies (mostly OEM/ODM companies that supply devices for well-known brands), and I’ve evaluated and measured more than 135 soundbars in final or prototype form.If you want a simple, affordable solution that provides a huge step up from your TV’s built-in speakers, the Yamaha SR-C30A offers the clearest sound we’ve heard from a soundbar/subwoofer combo priced under $300. The compact, 23.5-inch-long bar is a good fit for almost any TV, and while the soundbar doesn’t have a lot of inputs, it has all the ones most people will need. It also lacks Atmos/DTS:X support and any kind of Wi-Fi streaming, but it has Bluetooth.There’s also a Voice Assist mode intended to make dialogue sound clearer, which can be activated and adjusted from the remote. It doesn’t produce the kind of voice boost that hard-of-hearing people will probably find helpful, but it does make dialogue easier to understand for people without hearing loss.If you want a super-affordable, super-compact soundbar with streaming built in: Consider the Roku Streambar, a 14-inch-long, 2.0-channel, HDMI-equipped bar with the equivalent of a Roku Streaming Stick 4K streamer (a current pick in our best media streaming devices guide) built in. The Streambar sounds much clearer, louder, and fuller than almost any TV speakers, and it’s better than most inexpensive 2.0 soundbars. In our tests, we found it nice for all but the loudest movies, as well as for streaming music from Spotify and YouTube through Roku, and it includes Bluetooth and Apple AirPlay 2 support.This system’s extra upward-firing speaker and IMAX Enhanced feature produce an even more enveloping sound than our Vizio runner-up pick, especially with movies encoded in the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats—and it also plays louder without strain. The subwoofer produces powerful, punchy deep bass that really energizes a room (and your emotions).
However, unless you have a newer TV with eARC rather than standard ARC, you can’t get the full, lossless audio fidelity available on Blu-ray discs if you connect your Blu-ray player to the TV, then run the sound from the TV to the soundbar. On a soundbar, it’s unlikely you’d hear the difference between lossless audio and data-compressed formats such as Dolby Digital and DTS. If you need an HDMI input, consider our runner-up pick, the Vizio M-Series Elevate.
Before doing tests with outside listeners, I spent at least three days using each soundbar casually, watching TV programs, at least one action movie, and a few favorite movie clips—and listening to a variety of music. During these tests, I tried out the various sound modes, tested the different connection options, and got a general feel for how the soundbars performed and operated.This full-featured system has both Google Home and Amazon Alexa voice-control compatibility, and it can stream audio via Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, Alexa, and Bluetooth. The S95QR has an HDMI eARC port, plus two HDMI inputs and an optical digital audio input, but no analog audio input.Below are capsule
descriptions of some other soundbars we’ve tested that might be of interest to Wirecutter readers. If you don’t see a certain model you’re interested in, check out our running list of the soundbars we’ve tested.
In what seems like a radical ergonomic revolution these days—but should really be nothing more than common sense—the top-mounted controls have raised white labels against a black background, so they’re easy to see in the dark. The same for the remote, which lets you access all of the soundbar’s adjustments directly, instead of requiring you to navigate a menu system that’s been abbreviated and encrypted to fit onto a four-character front-panel display.
In Music mode, the Mini AX produced some of the cleanest, most natural sound we heard from any of the soundbars we tested. In this mode, there’s not as much stereo spaciousness as the larger soundbars produced, but the Mini AX also didn’t produce the vocal-mangling tonal shifts we heard with so many other soundbars when they tried to reproduce music.
The S95QR is the first IMAX Enhanced soundbar we’ve tested. The marketing materials for IMAX Enhance are light on details; they promise only “a signature sound experience with more immersive, powerful sound” when an IMAX Enhanced movie is played through IMAX Enhanced audio gear.
Our CTA-2010 measurements showed that the M-Series Elevate’s subwoofer output averaged 107.0 dB in the mid-bass and 89.9 dB in the low bass. That’s about the same as the Polk MagniFi Mini AX in the mid-bass, but 3.7 dB less in the low bass, so the Elevate’s sub might deliver a tiny bit less kick on explosions in action movies. Unlike many Vizio soundbars, the M-Series Elevate’s factory-preset subwoofer level isn’t overly loud, and you can turn it up or down if it doesn’t suit your taste (or your neighbors’ tolerance).
The LG QP5 Eclair puts out a big, full, clear sound considering the soundbar is less than 1 foot long, but it’s expensive for a 2.1-channel soundbar and doesn’t produce the spacious, enveloping sound that a good, larger model can offer.
Our CTA-2010 measurements showed that its output averaged 114.2 dB in the mid-bass and 95.1 dB in the low bass. The mid-bass number is about 7 dB higher than what our other picks achieved, which means you’ll feel more punch during impacts and explosions in action movies; this number is similar to what is produced by the Dayton Audio SUB-1200, one of our favorite budget subwoofers.There’s no Wi-Fi capability. This is the only significant downside to the M-Series Elevate because it means there’s no built-in support for Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, or Amazon Alexa. These are fairly common features in this soundbar’s price range.
The SR-C30A offers one HDMI eARC port, two optical audio inputs, one analog audio input, and Bluetooth—which is the standard complement of features we’d expect for this price.
The Sony HT-A5000 produces dramatic overhead speaker effects with Atmos soundtracks, but it seems to emphasize the upper range of voices in a way that makes the sound rather glaring—and despite a large, button-filled remote and a dedicated smartphone app, we could find no way to fine-tune the sound.The system’s weak spot is the subwoofer. While pretty good for its size, it’s one of the smallest subs we encountered, with just a 5.2-inch woofer. On effects like the cannon shots and depth charges in U-571, the sub gave us a polite, restrained boom rather than a couch-shaking experience. However, at just 6 inches wide, it can nestle almost unnoticed against the side of a couch or under an end table.
To specifically test every soundbar system’s bass capabilities beyond the listening tests, I measured each system using the same process we use for our guide to the best subwoofer. These measurements provide a precise assessment of a speaker’s or subwoofer’s bass capabilities. Below is a chart that shows the results for our recommended soundbars:JBL has launched five new soundbars: the $400 Bar 300, $600 Bar 500, $900 Bar 700, $1200 Bar 1000, and $1700 Bar 1300X. The last three include wireless surround speakers that are magnetically attached to the soundbar for charging, but can be removed and placed in the back of the room for surround sound. We heard the Bar 1300X at CES and were impressed with the surround effect and the strong bass coming from its 12-inch subwoofer.
The SR-C30A’s inputs aren’t numerous, but they’re similar to what’s found on most soundbars around this price: one HDMI eARC port, two optical digital audio inputs, and one 3.5 mm analog audio input. You won’t be able to connect a video source directly to the soundbar (you’ll have to run them all into your TV, then connect the TV to the soundbar), but at least the analog input lets you connect source devices such as tablets and computers. The SR-C30A has holes on the back for wall-mounting.
It’s simple to set up and operate. In most cases, setup will involve placing the soundbar below your TV and running one HDMI cable between the two. The subwoofer connects wirelessly to the soundbar, so you can put it anywhere in the room.
The remote control is simple and straightforward. All the controls are clearly labeled, and there’s no menu system to fuss with. It provides dedicated buttons for all of the inputs and sound modes, plus a Clear Voice dialogue enhancement and Bass Extension buttons, neither of which seemed to do much. The powerful subwoofer can easily shake the couch. The subwoofer is just as big a star as the soundbar in this system, producing powerful, floor-shaking bass when the depth charges went off in U-571, and strong deep bass notes when we played pop and R&B tunes. This subwoofer doesn’t boom annoyingly like a cheap soundbar sub—it has the punch and clarity of a small dedicated subwoofer. (The woofer size isn’t specified, but it appears to be about 8 inches in diameter.) Our panelists enjoyed the extra spaciousness they heard through this system. Even though they felt that the Polk MagniFi Mini AX sounded more natural and had a better balance of bass to midrange to treble, they thought the M-Series Elevate sounded more exciting with action movies. It also reproduced impacts and explosions in movie soundtracks with more gusto; it seemed to be able to hit louder peaks.Our CTA-2010 measurements showed that its output averaged 106.8 decibels in the mid-bass and 93.6 dB in the low bass. The mid-bass number is comparable to what we got with our other mid- and low-priced picks, but the low bass number is only 1.5 dB less than our upgrade pick, the LG S95QR, produced. The MagniFi Mini AX still can’t match the powerful mid-bass punch of the S95QR, but for a soundbar in this price range, this is extremely impressive bass performance.