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Sound bar vs soundbase: what's the difference?

By Daniel Nissenbaum

You may have seen these two terms banded about, but what do they actually mean? We give you the answers.

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When it comes to beefing up your TV's sound, a soundbar or soundbase can have a big impactand without the annoyance of messy cables and endless tinkering. But while these unique types of speakers are similar at heart, there are some key differences that you need to be aware of before you buy. 

In a nutshell, a sound bar is a long, thin ‘bar’ that sits in front of your TV, and a soundbase is a large, flat base that your TV actually sits on top of. Soundbases are much rarer to find in shops than sound bars, although the best models have done extremely well in our testing.

Soundbases are generally larger than sound bars so they have space for bigger speakers. This means in theory they can produce better bass than a sound bar on its own. However, sound bars often come with separate subwoofers to make up for their smaller size.

On this page, we’ve rounded up the best examples of both, along with some more information about the differences between the two. 

Only logged-in Which? members can view the models in the table below.

Top three soundbases

Lowest price (in stock) £269.00
Which? score 87%
Reviewed Jan 2016
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Different angles and distances:
5 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
5 out of 5
Suitable TV size (inches):
Member exclusive
Pseudo surround sound:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

This soundbase achieved the joint-highest score we’ve ever seen in our testing. It’s not too large, which means it’s well-suited to smaller and medium-sized TVs. Most importantly, sound quality is top notch. It’s surprisingly powerful for its size and the bass is impressively controlled. Vocals are crisp and clear too, so you won’t be straining to hear the evening news or your favourite drama.

Lowest price (in stock) £499.95
Which? score 80%
Reviewed Sep 2016
Overall sound quality:
4 out of 5
Different angles and distances:
5 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
5 out of 5
Suitable TV size (inches):
Member exclusive
Pseudo surround sound:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

A brilliant soundbase with superb, detailed sound. This soundbase completed a hat trick of Best Buys for its brand – truly soundbase royalty. It’s powerful enough to fill even a large living room with sound, and the bass is praised by our experts as being strong and ‘full on’, without compromising the details in the sound.

Lowest price (in stock) £317.00
Which? score 77%
Reviewed Jun 2015
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Different angles and distances:
4 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
4 out of 5
Suitable TV size (inches):
Member exclusive
Pseudo surround sound:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

Another soundbase designed for medium-sized TVs, but that doesn’t stop it from producing a big sound. It has a nice, clear display – surprisingly rare for a soundbase - that allows you to easily view settings such as the volume. The soundbase has a wide frequency range, meaning you’ll be able to clearly hear everything from the rumble of an earthquake to human voices with no problems.

Top three sound bars

Typical price £500.00
Which? score 87%
Reviewed May 2016
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Different angles and distances:
5 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
5 out of 5
Suitable TV size (inches):
Member exclusive
Pseudo surround sound:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

This sound bar is curved, making it perfectly matched to a curved TV, but you could use it no matter your TV’s shape. The most important thing is that it’s one of the best-sounding models we’ve tested. It filled our room with enjoyable and nuanced sound, with every instrument and sound effect clearly identifiable.

Lowest price (in stock) £799.00
Which? score 87%
Reviewed May 2017
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Different angles and distances:
4 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
5 out of 5
Suitable TV size (inches):
Member exclusive
Pseudo surround sound:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

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.

Lowest price (in stock) £649.99
Which? score 83%
Reviewed Jul 2013
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Different angles and distances:
5 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
5 out of 5
Suitable TV size (inches):
Member exclusive
Pseudo surround sound:
Member exclusive
Remote control:
Member exclusive

An oldie, but a goodie. This sound bar has been near the top of our recommended list for four 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, great sound.

Are they both compatible with all TVs?

No. Soundbases need to be able to physical support your TV, which means they need to be large enough for your TV’s feet to fit comfortably on top of. If you’re looking for a soundbase you’ll need to check the sizes of both before you buy.

Make sure you pick the right model from our range of soundbase reviews

Sound bars are more flexible though. You can use pretty much any sound bar with any TV, although size is still a factor – you probably wouldn’t want to pair a tiny sound bar with a giant TV, as it might not be loud enough when you’re sitting further back.

Prefer a sound bar? Our sound bar reviews will point you in the right direction.

Is there a difference in price?

Not a significant one. Both cost around £300 on average, but the range of prices is a bit wider for sound bars as there are more of them on the market. We’ve seen models as low as £25 and as expensive as £1,300. With soundbases, on the other hand, we’ve never tested one below £100 or above £700.  

Is there a difference in sound quality between the two?

Despite the fact that they are very differently designed, we haven't found a big difference in overall sound quality between sound bars and soundbases in our tests. Each is capable of producing well-rounded, natural sound, and though soundbases tend to be a little more effective at pronounced bass, things even out if you're using a separate subwoofer with a sound bar. What we can say is that there's a big difference in quality between different makes and models of both sound bars and soundbases – so this is one home cinema accessory that you should really shop around carefully for before you buy.

How do you choose which to buy?

Since the best sound bars are just as good as the best soundbases, and the worst examples are equally bad, the main deciding factor should be what would fit most conveniently in your living room. A soundbase that sits underneath a TV is a tidier option to a sound bar – so it's great if you're going for a more minimalist approach. 

However, this does mean that you’ll have to make sure that the soundbase fits on your TV stand if you use one, and if you're wall-mounting your TV it might look a bit strange sitting by itself. 

Sound bars are more flexible here. You can either lay them flat in front of your TV or wall-mount them underneath a wall-mounted TV – they usually come with brackets for just this purpose. Many sound bars come with separate subwoofers though, so you’ll have to think about where to place this in your room.

To make sure that you end up with the best sound for your TV, choose one of our Best Buy sound bars and soundbases.

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