As televisions have gotten thinner, the picture has improved exponentially. Colors are brighter, blacks are deeper, and the overall visual experience has become so cinematic that many people prefer their homes to the theater. Though the visual spectrum has improved, thinner televisions have had to make cuts in other areas, namely sound. To function correctly, speakers still need a little more space than your average 1 inch television can provide. To supplement this, many people are reaching for soundbars to supplement their televisions lackluster stereophonics.
Soundbars are better for those who don’t want to spend the many hundreds or thousands of dollars on a full speaker system, but still want to have a nice eargasm from time to time. They also take up far less space than a full speaker system so you don’t have to find niches for every tweeter and subwoofer that comes in a 5.1 digital package. Finally, they draw much less power than larger systems which helps keep your electric bill down and is good for the environment. Whatever your reason for wanting a one, you never want to settle for second place, which is why we have the 5 best soundbars to choose from.
Bose Solo TV Sound System
For Smaller TVs: It stands to reason that if you need a soundbar, then you probably aren’t working with unlimited space and probably don’t have a 60 inch monstrosity for a television. For people who are looking for a smaller options that doesn’t look awkward with a standard-sized TV, Bose has the Solo. Bose became famous for their ability to put great things in small packages. The body can hold televisions up to 42-inches which is ideal if you are putting it on a basic entertainment stand. The digital signal processing and speaker array help modulate the noise level so that sudden explosions don’t deafen you and you aren’t cranking the volume up when characters insist on mumbling all their lines.
The biggest problem to plague the Bose isn’t in audio quality, but rather in connectivity. It doesn’t have a wireless or Bluetooth option so you’ll be running yet another cable to your TV and will also need to plug this thing into an outlet. The remote is outfitted with volume control and mute features, though usually you can get your Bose to work in conjunction with your existing television remote. The sound is intended more for dialog than for mind-blowing, thunderous projection. The price is a little weighty for what you get. It is easy to setup, even for those who hate technology, but doesn’t have the option to expand on the unit later. [Purchase: $360]
Best Bass on a Budget: Ordinarily when you add a subwoofer to any speaker system, you can expect the price to skyrocket. Not so with this surprisingly modest offering from Sony. The 2.1 Channel 300W system gives you ample power for both discerning dialog on the TV and for bass that bumps; though don’t it expect to rattle the windows and wake the dead. It can connect to the TV through an HDMI plug or has Bluetooth options for cranking sounds from a tablet, PC, smartphone, or iPod. Even gives you DTS and Dolby Digital decoding for people that are pushing true theater-grade Hi-Fi.
The hexagonal shape can be a turn off for some, and while it can be wall-mounted, it often looks a little clunky and strange when you do it. It is four inches tall and can block the remote input on some televisions if they aren’t placed on a pedestal, but it includes a signal repeater that will send remote commands out the back so that the television can still receive them. The remote is a little cluttered and syncing it with your TV is easy…so long as you have a Sony. The many different modes create noticeable changes that help for those that need more thump, more dialog assistance, or a broader sound that reaches the whole room. [Purchase: $230]
Best Component System: Just because you don’t want your home to become littered with speakers doesn’t mean you don’t want a little more in the surround sound department. This Vizio model also comes complete with two rear speakers that help to capture ambiance and really make those cinematic jump scares get your girlfriend to squeal. It also has a wireless subwoofer to complete the ensemble without turning your home into an audio node.
The problem you will need to address early on is transferring true surround sound to the soundbar and the speakers. Since your television’s output traditionally assumes that a soundbar won’t offer surround sound, it turns it into stereo. The adjustment is slight, but when you make the right tweaks, you’ll hear the difference. For this price, there is no partial component system that can give you the rear option along with the bass. The sound quality is very good, though purists will find a few faults with overall clarity, particularly when it comes to music. Comes with both Bluetooth and Dolby/DTS decoding. [Purchase: $260]
Smooth Operator: The tragically hip might want a soundbar but be concerned that it will make their home look tacky or gauche. For these individuals of refined tastes and high aspirations of style there is the HW-F850. It is a very low-profile pick that creates an excellent stereo quality while maintaining an attractively understated profile. It is meant for nothing less than a 55-inch television and is intended to work in conjunction with a component system, rather than being a replacement. It uses 350 watts to power the 2 channel, 6 speaker system and wireless sub.
The most alluring part of this model – and the trick that Samsung has been teasing for ages – is the incorporation of both digital speakers and vacuum tubes to increase the resonant quality while maintaining a much lower profile. It has Bluetooth compatibility, HDMI and optical interfaces, and even employs an ARC system for feeding back TV sound from compatible HDTVs. If you have a Samsung TV, you can also use the SoundShare feature that will improve the sound quality by combining inputs from both the HW-F850 and the television. [Purchase: $770]
Most Wonderful: We aren’t sure what Paradigm was thinking when they made the SHIFT since anyone would could afford it would probably just opt for a full component system, but it doesn’t matter. They have made the the soundbar to rule them all. While others claim that they can replicate a bigger system, their lies cannot be heard over the dulcet tones of the SHIFT. It has three tweeters that capture the highs in both music and video. They are coupled with 40 Hz of bass power before a subwoofer is even added. The real trick is the 4-inch mid-bass drivers that help create a wider, flatter sound stage and more refined mid-range sound that captures voices with amazing clarity.
One of the most alluring parts of the SHIFT is the ability to incorporate any wireless subwoofer you wish. Ignore brands and choose the thumper that gets your giblets rocking. Then just sync it with the SHIFT and you’re off. The digital signal processor is tremendous, though it still can’t quite give you the same sense as actually putting speakers behind you for true surround sound. It comes with Bluetooth for wireless operation though lacks an HDMI opting instead to stick purely with an optical audio interface. It shifts well to accommodate both dialog and music. Will sync easily with almost any TV thus reducing remote clutter. [Purchase: $1,500]
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