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How to buy the best sound bar

By Jack Turner

Sound bars could improve your TV's sound with fewer speakers and wires than a surround sound system. Read on to find out what to look for in a sound bar.

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The best sound bars offer excellent sound quality and are convenient to connect other devices, such as a TV set-top box or Blu-ray player. But get it wrong, and you could be left with poor or laggy audio. We test sound bars with TV shows, films and music, to find those that will genuinely enhance your viewing.

Watch the video above to find out exactly what you need to look for in a sound bar, and read the advice below for more detail on the key points.

Just want to see which sound bars we recommend? Take a look at our Best Buy sound bar reviews.

What is a sound bar?

A sound bar is a compact speaker system designed to improve your TV's audio. Flat-screen TVs might have fantastic picture quality, but sound is often disappointing as there's limited space for built-in speakers. Sound bars contain several speakers in one long bar-shaped box - much easier to set up than a full home cinema system.

Sound bars may also appeal to music fans, and many models can play music from devices via a wireless Bluetooth connection, or as part of a multi-room audio system. If you're thinking of de-cluttering your living room and ditching your hi-fi, read our advice guide on using a sound bar for music

What makes a good sound bar?

  • Fantastic sound quality - a good sound bar provides big, well-balanced sound, which can dramatically improve the audio performance of even the best TV. Audio is richer, deeper and more detailed, and voices have increased clarity so you'll find it easier to follow your favourite dramas.
  • Good connectivity - you can connect your other devices, such as a TV set-top box or Blu-ray player, directly to the sound bar. However, if you have HDMI ports on both your TV and sound bar, you can simply pass all audio from other devices through the TV (If you have more devices than ports on your TV, you could do a mixture of both). This bypasses the TV’s internal speakers and plays all audio through the sound bar. Ensure that you buy a sound bar with the correct connections to match those on your TV and any devices you might want to connect to it. Read our advice guide to find out more about setting up your sound bar with your TV.
  • Easy to set up and use - some sound bars come with cables included, while others don't, so check if you need to buy them separately. If you suffer from 'remote overload' it's possible to operate both the TV and the sound bar with one remote - provided they are compatible.

Browse all of our sound bar reviews to find the best model for you.

 


 

Which sound bar has the best bass?

It is possible to get a good bass sound without having a separate subwoofer, especially for sound bases which are larger than standard sound bars. However, to get the best possible home cinema bass you'll want a sound bar with a subwoofer. 

It's not a simple case of the bigger the better though. We've reviewed  subwoofers with a huge amount of power that sound completely awful, and we've seen lovely cinematic bass from subwoofers far smaller than the biggest. 

The only way to be sure of getting a sound bar with great bass is to read our reviews. The table below rounds up some models that have really excelled in the low frequency range during our testing. 

To see the which sound  bars are behind the scores in our table below, try Which? for a £1 trial. If you're already a member, go to the log-in page and unlock the table.

Sound bars with the best bass

Typical price £500.00
Which? score 87%
Reviewed May 2016
Best Buy
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Volume before distortion :
5 out of 5
Sound bar type:
Member exclusive
Separate subwoofer:
Member exclusive
Suitable TV size (inches):
Member exclusive

This sound bar is pretty huge - it's designed for TVs sized up to 65 inches. It's also one of the best-sounding models we've seen. The bass is powerful, without overdoing it, and is handled well by the separate subwoofer. Volume isn't a problem either, we managed to get up to 91dB before there was any distortion - that's about as loud as a petrol lawnmower.

Today's best price £299.00
Which? score 87%
Reviewed Jan 2016
Best Buy
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Volume before distortion :
5 out of 5
Sound bar type:
Member exclusive
Separate subwoofer:
Member exclusive
Suitable TV size (inches):
Member exclusive

This sound base may be relatively small, but somehow it manages to pack a massive bass punch. With two built-in subwoofers that give a powerful and controlled output this model will give you plenty of depth when you're watching the latest blockbusters. It's not all brashness though - it'll sound equally good playing a TV drama or just some music.

Wireless surround sound 

Many high-end sound bars now feature the ability to make a wireless connection to other speakers from the same brand. This might be via Bluetooth or via your home wi-fi network to form part of a multi-room audio system. Premium models often allow you to set these additional speakers up around the room to create a wireless surround sound system. Buying a sound bar plus compatible rear speakers will set you back a fair bit, but by choosing smaller, more portable rear speakers you could have the flexibility of using them around the house for music and moving them to the living room when you want to watch a film. 

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