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Pick the perfect sound bar to partner with your TV and you’ll be rewarded with crisp, immersive audio. To help you choose wisely, we’ve gone hands-on with 12 new sound bar models in the Which? test lab.
Prices for our latest on-test sound bars start at around £100 and rise to a hefty £800, meaning you’re covered whatever your budget. Making up the list are new releases from Hisense, JBL, Philips and Samsung. The leader of the pack is a nailed-on Best Buy, but the worst sound bar we tried is plagued by muffled audio that’ll have you cringing on the sofa.
Keep scrolling as we take a look at the relationship between the price of a sound bar and the average Which? test score. You’ll also spot some links pointing to our expert sound bar reviews.
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Are cheap sound bars any good?
You don’t always need to spend big to find a sound bar that makes a noticeable difference to your audio setup. Take a close look at the graph below showing sound bar price vs Which? test score:
As you can see from our table of results, our expert testing has found eight sound bars (shown in red) worthy of Which? Best Buy status since the start of 2020.
The average price for all those Best Buy sound bars is around £550, which might be more than you’re willing to spend on a living room upgrade. However, we’ve also uncovered a bargain Best Buy under £200 that impressed our expert listening panel. It’ll serve up clear speech and a pleasing level of detail when your next movie night rolls around.
Buying a cheap sound bar is mighty tempting if you want improved sound for your TV, but we’ve seen plenty of sub-£200 models that simply aren’t good enough. One of our lowest-scoring models on test this year was described as ‘hissy, brittle and unclear’ by one of our listeners.
Make sure you read our expert sound bar reviews if you’re looking for a high-scoring bargain.
New sound bars in the Which? test lab
Philips TAB8505/10 (£224)
We like: lots of features
We don’t like: complicated setup
Here’s another mid-range sound bar to consider if you’re aiming to keep costs fairly low. The Philips TAB8505/10 has Bluetooth support, wi-fi connectivity and support for multi-room streaming.
This sound bar is compatible with Dolby Atmos, an enhanced form of surround sound that’s common on many popular streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+.
To see if this budget-priced sound bar offers audio quality you’d expect from a pricier alternative, check our Philips TAB8505/10 review.
Samsung HW-A550 (£299)
We like: simple plug and play setup
We don’t like: no support for Dolby Atmos
This mid-priced sound bar teams up with a separate wireless subwoofer. If you decide to invest in Samsung’s optional SWA-9100S wireless rear speaker kit, you can create a full surround system. The HW-A550, which is best suited to 43-inch TVs and beyond, features a mini central display and physical controls.
You’ll spot a pair of HDMI connections on the back of this model. One of those is ARC (audio return channel) compatible, so you won’t need to attach a separate audio cable to your TV.
How does this £300 sound bar compare with similarly priced rivals? Our Samsung HW-A550 review has the answer.
JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam (£304)
We like: good sound, easy to use
We don’t like: can be fiddly to use
This sound bar from JBL uses forward-facing speakers to offer a pseudo-surround-sound listening experience. It measures 71cm wide and can be mounted to your wall or placed underneath your TV. Physical controls on the MultiBeam let you control the volume, but you also get a remote bundled in the box.
Support for Alexa and Google Assistant means you can bark orders at this sound bar without having to leave the comfort of your chair. When it’s not mirroring audio from your TV, you can use it on its own as a music speaker.
How did this sound bar perform when placed in front of our expert listening panel? Have a look through our full JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam review.
Samsung HW-Q700A (£699)
We like: easy to set up and use
We don’t like: expensive, app takes some learning
This Samsung sound bar is part of a package that also includes a wireless subwoofer. It has Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity, as well as support for Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify so you can stream your favourite tunes through your smartphone or tablet.
The Samsung HW-Q700A supports the brand’s Q-Symphony technology. If you’ve connected this model to a Samsung QLED TV, the sound bar will work in harmony with the TV’s speakers to create a more impressive sound.
The Samsung HW-Q700A doesn’t come cheap, so make sure you read our full Samsung HW-Q700A review before buying.
As part of our latest round of sound bar testing, we also went hands-on with the following models:
- Hisense HS214 (£99)
- Philips TAB6405/10 (£179)
- Yamaha SR-C20A (£195.02)
- Philips TAB8405/10 (£224)
- Klipsch Cinema 400 (£379)
- Samsung HW-Q600A (£489.99)
- Samsung HW-Q800A (£799)
Cheap sound bars under £200 in the Which? test lab
Although there are plenty of sound bars under £100 fighting for your attention, paying more means added features such as a bundled subwoofer, voice control or a partner app for your smartphone.
For every affordable sound bar we test, we measure audio performance for films and music. Our listening panel also pay close attention to how clear speech is from all angles, so you know whether a sound bar will be good wherever you’re sat in your living room.
To see which budget-priced sound bars we recommend, consult our guide on the best sound bars under £200.
Retailer prices correct as of 17 August 2021.