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Sound bars on test: do you need to spend £900 for a true cinematic experience?

We've put an eye-wateringly expensive Canton sound bar to the test, plus three cheap models £150 and under

Sound bars on test: do you need to spend £900 for a true cinematic experience?

If you struggle to hear your TV, one of the 10 sound bars we’ve just tested could be the answer to your woes. Our latest round of lab testing included a high-end model from Canton costing a whopping £899, plus three models for £150 or less.

Our expert listening panel scrutinised sound bars from popular brands including Canton, JBL and Panasonic. They described the sound from one device as ‘engaging and enjoyable’ – which helped it to become a Best Buy.

Although two disappointing sound bars were labelled as Don’t Buys, including one that our experts said was ‘very tiring to listen to’.

Jump straight to our Best Buy sound bars page to find the very best models from our testing.

Five of the latest sound bars on test

Canton Smart Soundbar 10, £899

Canton claims the Smart Soundbar 10 will set new standards in room-filling home cinema sound, without the need for multiple speakers – although you can add more speakers and a separate subwoofer for an extra cost.

This costly sound bar is packed with features, including Dolby Atmos, built-in Chromecast, integrated Spotify Connect and Lipsync technology designed to keep the sound of vocals in line with the image on screen. But does it live up to Canton’s promise? Read the full Canton Smart Soundbar 10 review to find out.

JBL Bar 5.1 Surround, £549.99

This is the top of JBL’s range of sound bars, and is by far the most expensive sound bar we’ve tested from this brand to date. It’s got JBL’s MultiBeam technology, a separate subwoofer, and 550 Watts of power, as well as built-in Chromecast and Apple Airplay 2 compatibility.

We pitched it against our listening panel to find out how good it sounds. Find out what they thought, as well as what it’s like to use, in our full JBL Bar 5.1 Surround review.

Panasonic SC-HTB700, £399

Panasonic promises that the SC-HTB700 will give you an immersive cinematic experience, without leaving your living room, thanks to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It is one of a few sound bars to add Google Home Assistant to its list of features, meaning you can use voice commands to control the bar via a Google speaker.

It’s a mid-range bar with a sub-£400 price, but how does it sound? We reveal all in our full Panasonic SC-HTB700 review.

JBL Bar 2.0 All-in-One, £150

While £150 is still an investment, it’s a reasonably low price for a sound bar which can sometimes cost up to £1,000.

It’s light on features, but that doesn’t matter if it delivers on sound. So does it? Find out how our listening panel rated it in our JBL Bar 2.0 All-in-One review.

JVC TH-D329B, £100

The cheapest sound bar in our latest round of testing is the JVC TH-D329B. It’s only available from Currys/PC World.

It’s a compact option, and certainly doesn’t come with any bells or whistles (you won’t find smart features, a separate subwoofer or Dolby Atmos, for example). But does it get the basics right? Find out in our full JVC TH-D329B review.

Spending more on a sound bar may mean you get extra features, but we’ve found that a higher price doesn’t always equal better sound. For our pick of the best budget options, find out which are the top five best sound bars for under £200.

How we test sound bars

To measure a sound bar’s sound quality, we use a panel of five audio industry experts who listen to a set programme of audio content, which includes TV dramas, films with action scenes, plus content with quiet moments where you should be able to hear a pin drop.

But that’s only part of our test. We also examine how the sound bar delivers audio from different positions in the room, plus how easy it is to set up and use, and whether the features it includes work as they promise.

Find out more about the lengths we go to in our how we test sound bars guide.

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