Home Audio/Video Soundbar Evolution: Our Best of the Best

Soundbar Evolution: Our Best of the Best

Soundbar Evolution: Our Best of the Best

As video and audio streaming services add more content with various flavors of spatialized audio, demands on soundbars—our go-to compact solution for improving the sound on sleek new TVs—keep increasing. Higher-end models are sprouting newer capabilities like up-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos content, WiFi, great sound, and lots of output power, while midrange and budget soundbars generally sacrifice output power and premium features. 

One key trend is the integration of voice assistants and home products from Amazon, Google, and Apple, allowing you to use voice commands to access content, playback controls and more. Higher-end models have built-in voice support, while midrange and low-end soundbars are more likely to accept voice command input from other devices if at all. Manufacturers are also increasingly using advanced audio technologies, such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, to deliver immersive and realistic sound. Many soundbars also include dedicated subwoofers and multiple speakers to create a more realistic and powerful audio experience, though a few are all-in-one designs that are designed with enough bass output to work great without one. 

In terms of pricing, the soundbar market offers options for a wide range of budgets. Consumers can find basic soundbars on Amazon for well under $100, though the sound may not be much of an improvement over your TV’s built-in speakers. Most high-end models are in the $1500-$2000 range (with notable outliers like Bang & Olufsen’s flagship model below), and have most of the bells and whistles you could ever want in terms of connectivity, number of drivers, and audio power. The midrange models generally represent a good balance of price, sound and features, though a few budget models punch a bit above their weight.  


Image: Bang & Olufsen
Image: Bang & Olufsen

Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Theatre ($6890-7990)

A top-shelf pedigree, striking sailboat-inspired design, and 7.1.4 channels totaling 800W of output power make this the creme de la creme of soundbars—hefty price tag and all. Beyond having all the latest hot specs like Dolby Atmos, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, BeoLink Multiroom, the Theatre is software-expandable, meaning you’ll be able to update it for future audio processing technologies. It’s also physically expandable with modular sections to match TVs from 55-77”, and it comes with an external mic for room calibration as well as an optional motorized wall bracket.  

48.1” x 6.2” x 7.4” WHD  


Image: Samsung

Samsung Q Series HW-Q990C ($1800)  

The Q990C has an impressive 11.1.4 channels (656W) and includes a separate subwoofer as well as a pair of up- and side-firing rear speakers. Boasting tons of connectivity options via WiFi (AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect) and Bluetooth, plus Dolby Atmos and TrueHD support, Samsung’s flagship soundbar covers most of the latest technologies. It can also calibrate itself to any room, and it works with Google Home, Alexa, as well as Samsung’s own voice assistant Bixby. The soundbar can also integrate speakers of Samsung Q-Symphony-enabled TVs into the system 

48.5″ x 2.7″ x 5.4″ WHD 

Image: JBL

JBL Bar 1300X ($1700) 

JBL dropped its latest and most powerful soundbar at CES 2023. The 11.1.4-channel Bar 1300X cranks with an industry-leading 1170W of power output, plus it features detachable battery-powered wireless surround speakers and a 12” subwoofer. WiFi (AirPlay, Chromecast, and Alexa Multiroom Music) and Bluetooth round out the package, along with support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. 

39.4” (54.2” with surround speakers attached)  x 2.4″ x 5.5″ WHD 

Sennheiser Ambeo Plus ($1499.95) 

Building on the success of the original Ambeo, this 7.1.4 channel (400W) model has four up-firing speakers, as well as a pair of built-in subwoofers—though an optional separate subwoofer is available if you need the walls to shake. Its wide array of connectivity features includes Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Google Chromecast, as well as compatibility with Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit. Its arsenal of audio features comprises room calibration, stereo upmixing, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and a voice enhancement mode.  

41.4 x 3 x 4.8” WHD 


Image: LG

LG Sound Bar C SC9S ($999)  

This mid-size 3.1.3-channel (400W) system includes IMAX Enhanced, DTS:X, Dolby Atmos and TrueHD support and comes with a wireless subwoofer. It sports the usual connectivity—Bluetooth and WiFi (Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2, Chromecast), as well as Alexa compatibility. If you have an LG Evo C series TV, the SC9S can incorporate the TV’s speakers into its audio array.  

38.4 x 2.5 x 4.9” WHD 

Image: Polk Audio

Polk Audio Magnifi AX SR $899 

Polk’s latest soundbar comes with a 10” wireless subwoofer, and pumps out 5.1.2 channels of audio across its 11 speakers. The company’s Stereo Dimensional Array (SDA) technology provides an impressively wide sound stage,  Stream music via Wi-Fi (Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect) or Bluetooth, speech clarification, compatible with Alexa, Roku-ready. SR2 rear surround speakers. 

45 x 4.6 x 2.8” WHD 

Bose Soundbar 600 $499 

Bose’s compact Soundbar 600 is a 3.1.2-channel system with optional subwoofer and surround speakers. Support for Dolby Atmos and TrueHD, and Bose TrueSpace upmixing provide an immersive experience despite the soundbar’s diminutive size. Connectivity options abound, including WiFi (Airplay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth, and Alexa is built-in as well as support for Google Assistant devices. 

27.3 x 2.2” x 4.1” (WHD) 


Sonos Ray $279  

The Ray requires an optical output from your TV and lacks Dolby Atmos, but it gives you access to Sonos’ excellent software and multiroom audio ecosystem in an extremely compact soundbar. It has limited voice command capability but its built-in WiFi gives lets you stream via AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect. Room correction via app, compatible with Sonos’ subwoofer (as well as the rest of the Sonos line). The company hasn’t released the Ray’s power output specs, but it’s loud enough for small to mid-size rooms.  

22 x 2.8 x 3.75” (WHD) 

Vizio M-Series All-In One ($199) 

This wallet-friendly 2.1 channel system has a pair of small built-in subwoofers for big bass for an all-in-one soundbar. It doesn’t offer much in the way of connectivity outside of Bluetooth and HDMI. Although the M-Series lacks up-firing speakers, it can handle spatial audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content using virtual surround signal processing. The soundbar supports voice assistance input from various devices/platforms. 

36 x 2.13 x 5.5” (WHD)