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Top five sound bars for 2017

By Daniel Nissenbaum

Enjoy incredible movie sound, crystal-clear TV audio and all the latest features by going for one of our recommended sound bars. 

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A great sound bar will take your home entertainment to the next level, giving you exciting bass and audio clarity that mean you won’t ever miss a word of dialogue. 

However, if you don’t do your research, it’s all too easy to end up with a dud. We’ve tested the latest models from all the biggest brands to help you avoid making a costly mistake. 

In 2017, more sound bars are coming equipped for wireless multi-room music streaming. By pairing speakers together around the house, you can enjoy seamless access to your music library in multiple rooms. But if you’re thinking about making a sound bar your living-room media hub, it’s crucial that you choose one with audio pedigree. 

The table below rounds up our top choices for 2017 but, further down the page, we’ve also picked out a few models that you will definitely want to avoid. 

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the tables below.

Top five sound bars for 2017

Lowest price (in stock) £799.00
Which? score 87%
Reviewed May 2017
Overall sound quality:
5 out of 5
Overall features:
5 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
5 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Separate subwoofer:
Member exclusive

This beast of a sound bar includes Dolby Atmos technology, which can bounce sounds off the walls to give them impression of them coming from different places around you. Aside from this impressive technical wizardry, this is quite possibly the best-sounding model we’ve ever tested. Bass is strong yet refined, and there’s plenty of detail in the top end.

Lowest price (in stock) £164.90
Which? score 81%
Reviewed May 2017
Overall sound quality:
4 out of 5
Overall features:
4 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
5 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Separate subwoofer:
Member exclusive

This 2017 model isn’t huge, but it still packs a serious punch. Sound is exciting and clear, whether you’re listening to the latest Hollywood blockbuster or the 10 o’clock news. This sound bar confirmed its Best Buy status in our tests by impressing us with its ease of use.

Lowest price (in stock) £189.00
Which? score 73%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Overall sound quality:
4 out of 5
Overall features:
4 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
5 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Separate subwoofer:
Member exclusive

Although this is a 2016 model, it’s still good enough to mix it with the new crowd, and its age means it’ll be available a bit cheaper. Sound is really clear, it’s easy to use and it’s energy efficient, too. The only thing holding this model back from Best Buy status is a slight weakness in the bass from its subwoofer.

Lowest price (in stock) £1,198.00
Which? score 69%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Overall sound quality:
3 out of 5
Overall features:
4 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
5 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Separate subwoofer:
Member exclusive

Another giant sound bar. It includes both a separate subwoofer and wireless rear speakers so straddles the gap between a sound bar and a full-on surround sound system. It also includes Dolby Atmos, which places sounds convincingly around you in 3D space.

Typical price £180.00
Which? score 64%
Reviewed May 2017
Overall sound quality:
4 out of 5
Overall features:
4 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
2 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Separate subwoofer:
Member exclusive

This compact sound bar doesn’t mess around with a separate subwoofer, but you still get impressive sound out of the single unit. If it was a bit easier to use, it would be a Best Buy, but if you’re confident with technology, then it may be worth a look.

Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct as of May 2017.

Not found the product for you? Browse all of our sound bar reviews

And here are three sound bars to avoid

While the models above will make your TV experience all the richer, there are plenty of sound bars out there that won’t improve things at all. In fact, our testing has found that the worst sound bars don’t actually sound any better than even the worst built-in TV speakers. To help you avoid wasting your money, we’ve rounded up three of the worst-offending models in the table below. 

Three sound bars to avoid in 2017

Lowest price (in stock) £49.99
Which? score 33%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Overall sound quality:
2 out of 5
Overall features:
3 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
2 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Separate subwoofer:
Member exclusive

The sound that spews from this model is nothing short of horrible. Avoid it at all costs. There’s practically no bass at all, which makes everything sound harsh and tinny. If you turn the volume up, you’ll be covering your ears to get away from the noise.

Lowest price (in stock) £109.99
Which? score 45%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Overall sound quality:
3 out of 5
Overall features:
3 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
2 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Separate subwoofer:
Member exclusive

This Don’t Buy was a bit of a surprise to us. When a respected audio brand puts out an expensive high-end product, you don’t expect it to be this bad. But bad is what it is – strange digital processing makes everything sound unnatural. One member of our expert panel even said that listening to this sound bar is like listening to sound effects ‘in a bathroom’.

Typical price £150.00
Which? score 49%
Reviewed Jan 2017
Overall sound quality:
2 out of 5
Overall features:
4 out of 5
Overall ease of use:
5 out of 5
Type:
Member exclusive
Separate subwoofer:
Member exclusive

Everything about this sound bar seems great – until you get it home and listen to it. It’s reasonably priced, it’s stylishly designed and has useful features such as Bluetooth streaming. However, the poor sound makes all of this worthless. There’s far too much bass and details get overpowered.

Sound bars in 2017: what’s new?

It’s another year of evolution rather than revolution for sound bars. The basic concept, of course, remains the same: to pipe your TV’s sound output through a bigger (and hopefully better) set of speakers, making films and TV more enjoyable to watch. Manufacturers are generally moving in a few key directions though.

Blurring the divide with wireless speakers

We’re starting to see more manufacturers marketing their sound bars as part of a family of wireless speakers, rather than something that you just plug into your TV. Wi-fi connectivity is still a high-end feature that you will have to pay hundreds of pounds for, but the logic is that you might be willing to pay the premium if it saves you from buying a separate wireless multi-room speaker for your home. 

More high-end sound bars

The rise of the sound bar in recent years has meant that manufacturers have stopped focusing on multi-speaker surround sound systems. However, this has left a bit of a gap in the market. Sound bars were at first marketed as cheaper, simpler alternatives to surround sound, but now we’re being encouraged to spend more on ‘premium’ sound bars that will do the job better than the more basic models. 

Wireless multi-room features are one thing that manufacturers are throwing in to persuade people to plump for these high-end models. We’ve also recently seen even some larger sound bars that come with rear speakers and cost more than £1,000 – effectively a surround sound system masquerading as a sound bar. 

Wireless subwoofers becoming more common

The latest feature that’s been trickling down the product ranges is wireless subwoofers. Without a cable connecting the separate subwoofer to the sound bar, you have more flexibility in where you place it. Not having to trail cables around is useful, and you could even hide the subwoofer in a more discreet location (as long as it’s near a power socket). 

Previously, wireless subwoofers were found only on more expensive models, but we’re starting to see them included with mid-range sound bars too. 

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