Best wireless and wired sound bars for music
By Haddi Browne
Could you save space and money by using a sound bar as your living-room sound system? We tell you what you need to know.
Why waste space on another speaker when a sound bar will do? In this guide, we’ll show you what to look out for when buying a sound bar for music - ideal if you’re looking for a more capable speaker for voice assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, or to use with your smartphone.
The ideal sound bar for you will depend on the music set-up you’ll be using and how much you want to spend. Browse our recommended products in the table below, and find out more about how to decide which type will best suit the task.
Below, you'll see our top recommendations for wireless sound bars and wired models with advanced connectivity options including Bluetooth and HDMI. Then, we take you through what you need to know about setting up your sound bar for music.
Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Best wired sound bars for music
This is a mighty sound bar that comes with the full complement of expensive audio features. There's support for high-res digital audio, wireless multi-room streaming and also Dolby Atmos technology for more cinema-like sound in your living room. But do these fancy features make this sound bar good enough to justify its formidable price? Read our full Samsung HW-K850 review to find out.
This sound base is the highest scoring model we’ve tested. It’s easy to use and sounds great – it even does a decent job of simulating convincing surround sound. It has a stereo input so you’ll be able to plug your existing hi-fi amp into it, and there’s Bluetooth too so you can stream wirelessly from your other devices.
Best wireless sound bars for music
Put simply, this is the best sound bar we’ve ever tested. It includes a host of high-end features that will bring cinema-level effects into your living room, without the need for rear speakers. It’s also got wi-fi, so you’ll be able to hook this sound bar up to other speakers in your house and use it as part of a multi-room audio system.
An oldie, but a goodie. This sound bar has been near the top of our recommended list for years now, but it still keeps beating off newer competition. Despite its age, it’s still well up to date with features, including wireless multi-room capability and, of course, it sounds great.
A compact mid-range sound bar, this model is a great option for a very reasonable price. With its separate subwoofer and loud maximum volume, it's a great all-rounder. And with Bluetooth built in, it'll work brilliantly with your music-playing mobile devices and compatible TVs.
Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of May 2018.
Sound bars with Bluetooth
Bluetooth is a versatile standard that’s built in to all smartphones these days and, indeed, most sound bars. If you use your smartphone to play music, this is the easiest way to use your sound bar as a speaker.
Some more expensive sound bars support the high-quality aptX music codec, which allows you to play your music files at a higher bitrate, making them sound even better. This depends on your smartphone supporting aptX and your music being high enough quality.
The Amazon Echo Dot also has built-in Bluetooth, meaning you can easily connect this smart home assistant to your sound bar for better-quality interactions and music playback.
Wi-fi sound bars with multi-room capabilities
High-end sound bars from big brands have wi-fi connectivity. This doesn’t mean you can settle down and browse the web on your sound bar, but it does mean you can hook it up to a multi-room music system if you have other compatible speakers from the same brand.
Indeed, you may already have a wireless speaker that can work in a multi-room system, so it might pay to invest in a sound bar from the same brand so you can have music synchronised in multiple rooms.
Brands include Samsung Multiroom, LG Music Flow, Sonos and Yamaha MusicCast.
Browse our wireless speaker reviews.
Airplay and Google Cast
Occasionally you'll find sound bars with Apple Airplay and Google Cast (also known as Chromecast) built in. The latter will be very useful if you have a Google Home, as you’ll be able to command your assistant to play music from your sound bar. This will also work if you plug in a Chromecast Audio to your sound bar's 3.5mm jack (see below).
Apple Airplay will be useful if you want to play music from an iPhone, iPad or iPod.
Sound bars with 3.5mm aux
Most smartphones, MP3 players and laptops have a 3.5mm jack, making it a useful feature to have.
Not all sound bars come with 3.5mm connectors, however. In fact, it tends to be only cheaper models that get this connection.
If you want to smarten up an older sound bar, you could buy a Google Chromecast Audio, which lets you play music from apps such as Spotify from your sound bar, without having to connect over Bluetooth. The Chromecast Audio connects to your wi-fi itself and handles everything.
Read our review of the Google Chromecast and other Internet TV boxes.