When you buy a new TV today, you will find that many of the models deliver when it comes to providing a great picture. However, the sound quality on these new TVs can be a bit of an issue. To address the poor sound quality of the modern TV, more people are starting to see soundbars as the perfect solution. They are easy to install and they can provide a dramatic improvement over the onboard sound system that came with the television.
In addition to being easy to install and improving the sound for your home viewing centre, you can find a soundbar that is priced for every budget. You could buy an inexpensive soundbar for as little as £40, or you could go for more expensive models that will cost several hundred pound.
In shopping for a soundbar, one point that you are going to have to consider is whether you want a traditional bar-shaped soundbar or if you want a soundbase. Each design has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the right choice will generally come down to the circumstances of the individual buyer.
Regardless of whether you buy a soundbar or a soundbase, there are additional factors that you are going to want to consider. Think about the amount of power that you want from the sound system. If you are looking for something that is just a little better than the sound from the TV, then one of the cheaper soundbars might do the trick. If you are looking for a more cinematic experience, then you may need to budget a little more for the purchase.
In thinking about the level of output power that you want, you may also want to consider whether you want the system to have a subwoofer. The subwoofer can be a great feature if you want sound that is going to have a little more impact.
If you are getting soundbar, you also have tons of features to think about. Most of the newer models can connect wirelessly to mobile devices to stream music. Some of the more expensive systems can pair with wireless speakers to turn the system into a multi-room music system, and there are other features like the different sound processing effects and Smartphone apps that can allow for control of the system or streaming music from online sources. To get a better understanding of soundbar features, you could check out our features guide.
Once you have sorted out the basics of what you want from a soundbar, then you can start looking into getting the right one for your home. In this, you will consider things like the size of the unit and whether it has the connecting options that you need. If you want to get a better idea of what it takes to pick the right soundbar, take a look at our soundbar buying guide.
Below, we are going to offer some recommendations for what we consider to be the “best buys” for soundbars and soundbases. These recommendations are just based on our opinions, but one factor that has gone into every pick is that each model has received good feedback from real buyers. Along with several other factors, we find real user feedback to be a good indicator of quality.
Best Buy Soundbars
To start, we are going to look at the sound bars with the standard bar-shaped design. These ones tend to be a little more popular because most of them can mount on the wall or be placed on the TV stand in front of the television. Additionally, there are more models to choose from, and the buyer usually gets a little more sound for their money with these models.
At the top of our list for best buy soundbars, we have the Samsung HW-J355. This is a 2.1-channel system that produces a total of 120W of audio power. With the combination of the four-speaker soundbar enclosure and the wired subwoofer, the user gets quality audio, and it comes with nice features like Bluetooth connectivity and USB playback.
In the two spot, we have the Panasonic SC-HTB485EBK. This system costs a little more than the Samsung model in the top spot, but it offers the most power for your money. The 120W soundbar enclosure combines with the 130W wireless subwoofer to provide an experience that is really impressive. Add in the fact that it has Bluetooth for streaming music from mobile devices and HDMI with ARC and it makes for a good value for the money.
Our third best buy is the Sony HT-CT180. This Sony 2.1-channel soundbar does offer great sound quality, but at 100W, it is a bit lacking in the power department. However, it will definitely produce more than enough power and it will outperform the onboard speakers for any TV. With this soundbar, you get the Bluetooth for connecting to mobile devices, and the subwoofer is wireless, so it is easy to get set up.
Best Buy Soundbases
In this section, we will provide our recommendations for best buy soundbases. Now, the soundbase models do tend to be a little more expensive, but their design can make them more advantageous for some buyers.
The soundbase is designed to sit under the television. In some homes, there might not be the space to sit the soundbar in front of the TV, so the soundbase could work better because the unit is positioned under the TV. Another point is that a soundbar could interfere with the operation of the remote when it is placed in front of a TV that is on a stand. With the unit being under the television, you don’t have this problem.
At the top of our list for soundbases, we have the Panasonic SC-HTE200EBK. This is an all-in-one unit, with the stereo speakers and the subwoofer all in one place. The user gets rich 2.1-channel audio that provides a really nice experience, and at a total of 200W, it is a system that is not lacking in power. Add in the Bluetooth for wireless streaming and you have a good home audio system.
As another option, there is the LG LAP250H. This is a 100W soundbase with 2.1-channel sound. It has two 25W speakers for the stereo sound and then an integrated 50W subwoofer to fill in the low end. While it does not have the power of some of the more expensive systems, it does provide a nice quality of sound and it will be clear upgrade over the standard TV sound system. Additionally, you do get the Bluetooth for wireless streaming and this is a system that is very easy to use.
Third on the list, we have the Sony HT-XT2. It has all of the speakers and the subwoofer integrated into the single unit, and it produces a total of 170W of audio power. The sound quality from this system is great, and it delivers a decent amount of power. This unit not only has the ability to connect with mobile devices and stream music, but it is also compatible with Sony’s wireless speakers. With the wireless speakers, you can turn this unit into a full-home audio system that is controlled from a Smartphone app, which is a nice feature for expanded use.
What makes a best buy?
In selecting the best buy soundbars, we consider the following criteria
Performance- The performance of the system is obviously an important factor in selecting a good soundbar. If it does not have good sound, then it isn’t really doing what you paid for it to do. In performance, you would consider the quality of the sound and the power.
Specification- Regarding the system specifications, we look at the speakers in the enclosure, whether it has a subwoofer and how well these components work together. Beyond that, you can also consider the features and options, the installation and the ease of use. Of course, there are systems with high-end features and options, but for a best buy, you have to consider this in context with the price. If you can get something like multi-room audio for a low price, then that is great, but it is not a make or break feature for the primary intention of a soundbar, so the specifications that count the most for a good viewing experience weigh heavier on our consideration.
Value for money- Is the soundbar a good value for the amount of money that you have to spend to purchase it? In this, you would compare it to other systems in a similar price range and compare it to other models that have similar performance and specs. If a system costs £50 more than other comparable models, then it is obviously not as good of a value.
Buyer feedback- A recommendation from a satisfied buyer is a great way to tell whether a product is worth buying. However, you have an immense volume of buyer feedback that you can sift through when you go online. In one sense, this is good, but it is hard to measure the value of the different reviews that buyers have left online. You might find a product with a few dozen good reviews, but there are a few that come from unsatisfied buyers. Do you listen to the majority of satisfied buyers or do you play it safe and listen to the few that have had a bad experience? This is where we can help you out. We read and evaluate tons of user reviews and we know how to identify the patterns that can tell the overall story. Some poor feedback is right on the money, and you might see that several people have had the same issue. But you might also see some poor feedback that is unjustified. The person may have bought a product that is not a good fit for their situation, and they vent their frustration by leaving a poor review. For some poor reviews, it might be that the person is one of the unfortunate few to receive a faulty unit. The point is that in some cases, the bad reviews are not an accurate reflection of the product in question.