The Best Soundbars of 2017

Movie night lacking some super realistic sound effects? We looked at more than 60 soundbars, then bought the 10 best for 140 hours of side-by-side testing in our lab. Our tests covered everything from sound quality, to ease of setup, to Bluetooth connectivity, so we could suss out the finer points of each model. In the end we came out with clear recommendations for almost every user. Whether you want the engrossing experience of a full surround sound system packed into the simplicity of a soundbar, want to up the bass for your next movie marathon, or just want a cheap way to make your TV sound better, we've got you covered.

Read the full review below ≫

Test Results and Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 10 ≪ Previous | View All | Next ≫
Rank #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product
Sonos Playbar
Bose SoundTouch 300
Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Channel
Yamaha YAS-107
Klipsch R-20B
Awards  Editors' Choice Award      Best Buy Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $700 List
$698.79 at Amazon
$700 List
$699.00 at Amazon
$280 List$200 List
$179.95 at Amazon
$800 List
Overall Score 
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82
100
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79
100
0
75
100
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74
100
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66
Star Rating
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Pros Great sound, stylish, useful sound modesGreat sound, easy to use, nice designGood bass, easy to install and use, lots of sound control, nice designInexpensive, good sound, easy to useGreat bass, good overall sound, nice design
Cons Initial setup of the Sonos App can be finicky, expensiveExpensiveSound is slightly muddled compared to more expensive modelsFlimsy remoteExpensive if not on sale, Bluetooth connection is sensitive to other nearby wireless networks
Ratings by Category Sonos Playbar Bose SoundTouch 300 Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Channel Yamaha YAS-107 Klipsch R-20B
Sound Quality - 35%
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
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6
10
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6
10
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8
Ease Of Use - 35%
10
0
6
10
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8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
6
Sound Customization - 15%
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
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9
10
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7
10
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3
Style Design - 15%
10
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9
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8
Specs Sonos Playbar Bose SoundTouch 300 Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Channel Yamaha YAS-107 Klipsch R-20B
Dimensions 35.4" x 3.4" x 5.5" 38.5" x 2.3" x 4.3" 35.8" x 2.1" x 2.8" 35" x 2.2" x 5.2" 40" x 2.8" x 4.1"
External Subwoofer No (optional) No Yes No Yes
Inputs (wired) Digital audio in (optical), Ethernet ports (2) Digital audio in (optical), HDMI Digital audio in (optical), Mini USB, AUX 3.5mm, HDMI Digital audio in (optical), AUX 3.5mm, HDMI Digital audio in (optical), Dual RCA

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Thursday
September 28, 2017

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Updated September 2017
In our last round of testing we added two new models to the review. The Yamaha YAS-107 replaced the old YAS-106. For all intents and purposes the new model is the same soundbar with beefed up Bluetooth capability. Seeing as our biggest complaint with the YAS-106 was its sometimes spotty Bluetooth connection, we love the new YAS-107, and it earned one of our Best Buy Awards.

We also tested the new TaoTronics TT-SK15. This model produces average sound quality, but it is still a big step up from the built-in speakers in most TVs. It also can be found online for less than $100. This ratio of price to performance earned it out Best Buy on a Tight Budget Award.

Best Overall Soundbar


Sonos Playbar


Editors' Choice Award

$698.79
at Amazon
See It

Great sound
Stylish
Useful sound modes
Initial setup of the Sonos App can be finicky
Expensive
If you want the kind of sound that will make your hair bristle as the Millenium Falcon's engines start to rumble, the Sonos Playbar is for you. The combination of crisp, clear sound along with deep, rumbling bass created a rich and full soundscape that completely immersed us in whatever we were watching. And if you find that booming bass a little lacking, you can get the Playbar with an external subwoofer. You can even pair the Playbar with multiple other Sonos speakers to create a fully fledged surround sound system. This makes it a perfect choice if you're on the fence between the simplicity of a soundbar and the true immersion of a full surround sound system. In terms of streaming music, the Sonos pulls everything off of the wifi network and is controlled via an app on your phone, rather than a simple Bluetooth connection. This means no interruptions when the phone rings and less compressed audio files, but it also makes it a bit harder to pass off DJ duty to your guests.

Read review: Sonos Playbar

Best Bang for the Buck


Yamaha YAS-107


Best Buy Award

$179.95
at Amazon
See It

Inexpensive
Good sound
Easy to use
Flimsy remote
Deep, powerful bass can really make a speaker sound robust and full bodied. Somehow, despite costing only $200, the Yamaha YAS-107 delivered some of the most powerful bass we experienced from a model without an external subwoofer. It combined that bass with clear treble, creating a well rounded sound that made us think we were listening to a much more expensive device. On top of all this we found the YAS-107 to be incredibly easy to use, and we had it out of the box and pumping music within 5 minutes. If you don't want to spend much but can't stand mediocre sound anymore get the YAS-107, you won't be disappointed.

Read review: Yamaha YAS-107

Best Buy on a Tight Budget


TaoTronics TT-SK15


Best Buy Award

$79.99
at Amazon
See It

Inexpensive
Good sound quality considering the price
No sound customization available
If you want to improve the sound coming out of your TV, but don't have much of a budget for doing so, the TaoTronics TT-SK15 is your best bet. Its bass power and level of clarity are both clear steps up when compared to any almost any TV speakers. Plus it is currently available online for less than $100. If you can spare a little extra cash the Yamaha YAS-107 is a better value overall, but if you're on a shoestring budget we're sure you'll be happy with the TaoTronics TT-SK15.

Read review: TaoTronics TT-SK15

Top Pick for Deep Bass


Klipsch R-20B


Top Pick Award

$800
List Price
See It

Great bass
Good overall sound
Nice design
Expensive if not on sale
Bluetooth connection is sensitive to other nearby wireless networks
Do you always find yourself wishing you could turn the bass up to 11? Well you're in luck. The Klipsch R-20B and its large external subwoofer delivered incredibly powerful bass in our testing, like the kind of bass that makes your drink vibrate across the coffee table. Despite that over the top power the Klipsch keeps things under control with everything sounding crisp and never muddled. It is the heaviest model we tested, and the user interface is a bit less intuitive than other models, so initial setup and getting your preferred settings dialed in can be a bit more difficult, but once you do you're treated to powerful sound that will make watching action movies at home feel like a theater experience.

Read review: Klipsch R-20B

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
82
$700
Editors' Choice Award
Top notch sound quality in a simple, self-contained package
79
$700
The best bass you'll get from a model without an external subwoofer
75
$280
Great if you're looking for powerful bass on a budget
74
$200
Best Buy Award
Delivers far more performance than you would expect considering its low price
66
$800
Top Pick Award
The perfect choice for those that like their sound with a lot of low end, especially if you can find it on sale
64
$250
A fairly good and inexpensive speaker, but there are better budget options out there
60
$500
Probably the cheapest surround sound you can get, but noticeably inferior to a true surround sound system
56
$140
Best Buy Award
Perfect if you're looking to improve your TV's sound quality on a shoestring budget
55
$130
An upgrade from built-in TV speakers, but probably not a huge one
48
$100
Sound quality poor enough that most users will experience buyer's remorse

Analysis and Test Results


Soundbars provide a simple, effective and, when compared to the cost of surround sound systems, relatively inexpensive way to take your home theater rig to the next level. Obviously these gadgets need to sound good to be worthy of the coveted shelf space below your TV, but there are a number of different attributes that differentiate one model from another. Our scores are based off of 10 hands on tests that range from sound quality to ease of use and installation, all the way through the design and style.

Our sound quality testing involved watching (and listening) to a lot of movies. The Klipsch R-20B (pictured above) produced the best bass in our testing.
Our sound quality testing involved watching (and listening) to a lot of movies. The Klipsch R-20B (pictured above) produced the best bass in our testing.

Sound Quality


First and foremast a soundbar needs to add depth to an at home cinematic experience by making soundscapes feel more immersive. Ideally, it should also be able to belt out a tune in case your party turns from movie marathon to dancing disco. Thus we weighted our sound quality metric most heavily and spent the bulk of our testing time making certain that it was accurately quantified. To do this we spent hours comparing each model side-by-side through watching special effects heavy movies, listening to Hans Zimmer soundtracks, and shamelessly dancing to embarrassing pop songs (all in the name of science, of course).


Perhaps unsurprisingly to fans of the brand, the Sonos Playbar was the top dog in our sound quality testing, earning a perfect 10 out of 10. This device produced incredibly rich and clear sound, seemingly upping the stakes of every hollywood car chase sequence and space shuttle launch that we watched. It couldn't quite match the bass power of models with external subwoofers, but had great punch when compared to integrated subwoofer models. Though its bass wasn't the most powerful, its clarity and wide dynamic range was still able to create a well rounded sound with impressive depth.

The Sonos Playbar was truly in a league of its own sound wise, but the Klipsch R-20B and the Bose SoundTouch 300 were able to come somewhat close, both earning an 8 out of 10 in our sound quality testing. The Klipsch largely shines because its powerful yet supple external subwoofer can vibrate every fiber of your being with the bassline of a dramatic score while still keeping said baseline clear, defined, and punchy. The Bose SoundTouch 300 had the best bass of the integrated subwoofer models we tested, but still couldn't come close to matching the power of the Klipsch. It did, however, have better treble, with its high end clarity falling between that of the Klipsch and the top scoring Sonos.

The Klipsch R-20B had the most impressive external subwoofer that we tested.
The Klipsch R-20B had the most impressive external subwoofer that we tested.

Falling just short of our sound quality podium was the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 Channel which scored a 7 out of 10. While it is advertised as a soundbar, it really is more of a surround sound system as the bar is accompanied by an external subwoofer and two rear satellite speakers. We were able to notice more surround sound type effects with this setup, but we also noticed a clear drop off in sound quality compared to the top scorers. Its bass was very powerful, but lacked clarity and often sounded muddled. The treble was noticeably more crisp than the bass, but still fell short of the top scoring models.

Two models, the Best Buy Award winning Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Channel and the Yamaha YAS-107 scored 6 out of 10 in our sound quality metric. Both of these models have fairly average bass and treble quality and dynamic range. However, all of these aspects are mixed together well enough that you end up with a rounded, full bodied sound. While you likely won't be amazed by the booming bass in explosion laden action movies or the high notes in movie musicals, the overall soundscape provided by these models will definitely enrich your movie watching experience.

The Sonos Playbar produced the best overall sound in our tests.
The Sonos Playbar produced the best overall sound in our tests.

Coming in at just about average was the Bose Solo 5, which earned a 5 out of 10. Its bass is impressively powerful given its tiny size, but tended to sound very muffled, especially at higher volumes. It also lacked some clarity in the upper register, and its dynamic range was a bit stunted compared to other models. Overall this bar will still be a big upgrade over most TVs' built-in speakers, but probably not as much of a step up as you'd expect for $250. The TaoTronics TT-SK15 performed very similarly to the Solo 5in our testing. If anything its bass was just slightly weaker, but its clarity just slightly better. It also can be found for online for less than $100, making its performance much more impressive. The Samsung HW-J250 performed very similarly to these two models but had weaker bass, and thus earned a score of 4.

At the bottom of our sound quality scoresheet with a score of 2 out of 10 was the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel. In short, it just failed to impress us in any way. When we first set it up in our testing home theater we thought we'd messed up the connection and were just listening to the TV's built-in speakers, but alas, we were in fact listening to the AmazonBasics. Without any discernable improvement over default TV speakers this soundbar has little added value.

Our ease of use testing involved setting up and breaking down every model multiple times. Products with external subwoofers  like the Klipsch R-20B  require some extra steps in the set up process.
Our ease of use testing involved setting up and breaking down every model multiple times. Products with external subwoofers, like the Klipsch R-20B, require some extra steps in the set up process.

Ease of Use


One of the major advantages that soundbars have over fully fledged surround sound systems is their simplicity, so if a soundbar is difficult to install and use it loses much of its appeal. During our testing we connected and disconnected each soundbar to our testing TV more times than we can count, so we have a very good idea of how easy they are to set up. We also played with all of their settings throughout our sound quality testing, so we likewise know how user friendly they are in day-to-day use.


After many rounds of setup, breakdown, and use, we determined the Yamaha YAS-107 to be the most user friendly. The slim body makes the bar easy to move around and installation took us only 5 minutes. Our only real complaint was that the remote is a bit small, but it lets you cycle through settings fairly easily and the LEDs on the body of the bar clearly indicate what settings have been selected. There is also a set of controls on the bar in case you've misplaced the remote. Connecting via bluetooth was also seamless.

One step down from the Yamaha were the Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Channel and both Bose models we tested, the Solo 5 and the SoundTouch 300. All three of these models earned an ease of use score of 8 out of 10. The Samsung has a nice remote and a convenient LED display that lets you know which device it is currently paired with, but setup is slightly complicated by needing to pair and find a place for the external subwoofer. All in all, setup still only took us 10 minutes. Both Bose models were easy to set up (both taking 5 minutes) but neither had any controls on the actual bar, so you need a remote or app to change settings.

Most Soundbar remotes  like the Samsung one pictured here  are fairly spartan and often rely on using apps for more fine tuned control.
Most Soundbar remotes, like the Samsung one pictured here, are fairly spartan and often rely on using apps for more fine tuned control.

Both the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel and the Samsung HW-J250 took us only 5 minutes to set up, easily paired with Bluetooth devices, and have on body controls for when you can't find the remote. However, the AmazonBasics' remote was very basic (no pun intended) with few sound customization options and felt flimsy. The Samsung HW-J250's on bar controls weren't very responsive, and we often found ourselves pushing a button over and over to try and make something happen. These flaws bumped the ease of use scores of both these otherwise user friendly models to 7 out of 10. The TaoTronics TT-SK15 ended up with a socre of 7 out of 10 as well, due to a very easy setup process but a remote that felt a bit flimsy and lackluster.

Though high performers in most other aspects of our testing, the Klipsch R-20B and the Sonos Playbar both received relatively mediocre scores of 6 out of 10 in our ease of use metric. The Klipsch mostly lost favor due to the added step of finding a place for the subwoofer, and its remote felt basic, small, and easy to lose. The Sonos Playbar is incredibly easy to use if you're just connecting to a TV. However, connecting wirelessly requires a wifi network and using the Sonos App to send media to the bar. This felt like an unnecessarily complicated step, we wish it just had simple bluetooth like most of the other models. Also, the Sonos does not have a remote control, you have to use the app.

We liked models like the Bose SoundTouch 300 that give some indication of what input is selected.
We liked models like the Bose SoundTouch 300 that give some indication of what input is selected.

At the bottom of our ease of use barrel was the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 Channel, with a score of 4 out of 10. This low score was mostly due to complications with setting up the external subwoofer and tweeters that pushed the initial setup time out to 25 minutes. Also, the LED indicators on the bar were somewhat difficult to understand and we weren't always totally sure what settings we had dialed in.

Many models have different sound modes  like the bass extension and clear voice modes on the Yamaha YAS-107.
Many models have different sound modes, like the bass extension and clear voice modes on the Yamaha YAS-107.

Sound Customization


If you're looking to buy a soundbar because you're not satisfied with the quality of your TV's built-in speakers, chances are you care enough about sound to want to tinker with EQ settings. Some of the models we tested provide full sound customization options so you can dial in the exact type of audio ecosystem that you'd like. Surprisingly, some models only offer a few presets instead of endless customization. We scored each model based on the amount of sound adjustability offered by each model. We should note that you can often adjust audio settings on whatever device you're connecting to your soundbar (TV, phone, tablet) but being able to adjust the setting on the bar itself ensures you'll always get your preferred sound, regardless of what you connect it to.


The top scorers in this metric were the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1Ch and the Samsung HW-K450, both earning a 9 out of 10. The Nakamichi's large remote lets you easily cycle through 9 surround sound modes, adjust bass, treble, and balance, and reduce the subwoofer's power to 50% or just completely shut it off in case you get any complaints from the neighbors. The Samsung HW-K450 offers a similar number of presets along with full EQ adjustments, letting you tinker away to your heart's content.

Closely following the top contenders with a score of 8 out of 10 was the Sonos Playbar. In addition to preset sound modes, the Sonos app includes treble, bass, and balance EQ controls. It also offers dialogue enhancement, which keeps dialogue loud and clear and doesn't let it get drowned out by other sounds, and night mode, which dampens the loudest noises so you late night movie watching doesn't wake anyone up.

Many models  like the Yamaha YAS-107  require using an app to access EQ adjustments.
Many models, like the Yamaha YAS-107, require using an app to access EQ adjustments.

Three different models, the Yamaha YAS-107, the Bose SoundTouch 300, and the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel, scored 7 out of 10 in our sound customization testing. The Yamaha only offers adjustability of the bass level. This isn't a huge deal as that's most likely the first thing most people adjust, but it is limiting compared to models that offer a more full EG adjustment. The Bose SoundTouch 300, when used in conjunction with the SoundTouch App, offers a number of audio adjustments. However, we found the app hard to navigate and feel most users won't bother using it. The AmazonBasics only offers a few basic (sorry, that pun never gets old) preset sound modes.

The lowest scorers in our sound customization metric had only very few customization options. The Samsung HW-J250 only allows adjustment of the bass. It also has a few preset sound modes accessible using the 'sound effect' button on the remote, but we found selecting one of these modes to be difficult and clunky. The Klipsch R-20B only has a dial on the actual subwoofer that adjusts the bass, and offers no other audio adjustments. The Bose Solo 5 offers a dialogue mode that is meant to highlight the words spoken in movies and make them easier to understand, but doesn't offer much customization beyond that.

The TaoTronics TT-SK15 was the worst scorer in this metric, as it has no built-in sound customization options. You have to rely completely on your TV or whatever input you're using with the bar for adjusting sound settings.

In our design/style metric we favored clean lines and simple  monochrome designs  like those of the Samsung HW-J250.
In our design/style metric we favored clean lines and simple, monochrome designs, like those of the Samsung HW-J250.

Style/Design


The ideal soundbar placement is directly below the TV, so it will inevitably occupy a conspicuous spot in your living room. Such prominent placement necessitates pleasing aesthetics. Design and style are inherently subjective, so we awarded scores in this metric, well, subjectively. In our minds the ideal soundbar would have a simple and elegant design, look solid and well constructed, but not have an overbearing visual presence. We also prefer more basic colors like black that can somewhat blend into the background. Silver accents add some visual flare, but we'd rather keep our eyes focused on the movie rather than the speaker. We judged all of our models against that ideal.


Our favorite model from a design perspective was the Editors' Choice Award winning Sonos Playbar. Its solid metal chassis and mesh speaker have a classic looks that oozes a sense of quality. The sleek lines allow it to blend into any living room, whether it's sitting on top of a media stand or mounted to the wall. If we're being really nitpicky, we could do without the dark grey accent along the front of the bar, but it's subdued enough that it doesn't annoy us too much.

A slew of four models shared the second step of the podium at the end of our design and style runway. All of these models look good and we'd be happy to have any of them in our living room, but they just don't quite match the elegance of the Sonos. The Samsung HW-K450 2.1 Channel features simple right angles and an all black design in both the bar and the subwoofer. The speaker coverings are plastic and look fairly nice, but cloth covering would definitely up the looks factor a bit. The Bose Solo 5 largely benefits from its small form factor, making it the most inconspicuous of all the models we tested. Its also features an all black body with clean lines, but again we'd prefer if its speaker coverings were cloth instead of plastic.

The dark grey accents on the Sonos Playbar are subtle enough that we don't really mind them.
The dark grey accents on the Sonos Playbar are subtle enough that we don't really mind them.

The Klipsch R-20B features all black styling with speaker covers that just barely show the cones inside, giving them a slightly retro look that is nice but not too in your face. The external subwoofer is quite large, so it may take some trickery to get it to blend into your decor. The Bose SoundTouch 300 is possibly the most elegant of all the models we tested, with a monochrome black body and simple lines. However, its glossy finish tended to show dust and fingerprints, so may require some extra cleaning.

We didn't like the Samsung HW-J250 quite as much as the top scorers, but it was close. We liked the all black color and right angles, but its more cubic shape tended to look a bit odd under some TVs. The Yamaha YAS-107 opts for a curvier design. This looks nice and certainly would fit into some living rooms, but doesn't quite have the universal appeal of some of the more simple designs. The TaoTronics TT-SK15 has a fairly simple, all black design that is interrupted by one light grey accent right in the middle. We kind of wish that accent wasn't there, but it's still a fairly nice design.

Our least favorite models in terms of style were the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1Ch and the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel. The Nakamichi is well built, but we weren't fans of its silver accents, which could clash with some living room decor. The AmazonBasics has a plastic body that makes it look and feel a bit flimsy.


Conclusion


Soundbars offer a no fuss, simple way to vastly improve the sound that comes out of your TV. However, choosing the right one isn't quite as simple. We hope that our testing results have led you to a model that will fit your needs. If you're still a bit confused, take a look at our buying advice article. It offers some additional information about what to consider when upgrading your home cinema sound system.
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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