Finding the Best “Anything” is a daunting task. Once you’ve determined that your living room’s aesthetics can’t really support a full surround sound system (this is more common than you might think), one of the go-to solutions involves getting a sound bar. But finding the best soundbar for your application and room isn’t always the easiest thing to do. There are questions to be asked (and answered), and not every sound bar is created equal—nor is it intended to fit the requirements of every situation. Here are the different characteristics of some of the best sound bars on the market—pay attention to these strengths, and you’ll know where to focus your attention (and where to spend your money):
The “HDMI Inputs Galore” Model
This type of soundbar is best for those looking to forego having to purchase an AV receiver for their living room. All of your devices can connect into this soundbar because it comes with more than one HDMI input. As such, you can feed your Playstation 4, Cable box and Blu-ray Player into it and get it all to your television hassle-free via a single HDMI cable. You can also use the embedded ARC (Audio Return Channel) to take audio from your television’s tuner or its multimedia streaming content and listen to that via the soundbar as well. These are the very best sound bars for people with lots of source devices.
With three HDMI inputs, the Yamaha YSP-2200 demonstrates that it can truly take the place of an AV receiver and source all of your HDMI-equipped devices. Like gaming, movies and DISH satellite TV? Yamaha has you covered. This is an entry level digital sound projector with some very high-end features.
The JBL Cinema SB400 is one of those sound bars that has a little bit of everything. Featuring four 2-1/4″ woofers and two 1″ tweeters, integrated Bluetooth and three HDMI inputs, this sub-$600 subwoofer has it all. Did we mention the 200-watt, 8″ wireless subwoofer? On top of all that its diminutive size makes it an attractive option for anyone looking to get great sound without making a splashy appearance.
Topping even the impressive YSP-3300, the YSP-4300 adds even more drivers—22 array DSP-controlled speakers in addition to the dual 2-1⁄2′ midrange woofers. An aluminum body dampens vibrations and the low profile of the digital sound projector makes it an easy solution for any flat panel TV installation. Like the 3300, Yamaha’s YSP-4300 comes with 4 HDMI inputs, making it one of the most robust and input-ready sound bars on the market.
The SB 26 has four woofers and two tweeters plus a 100W wireless subwoofer to drive your room, but its strength is in its connectivity. This is one of few low-priced soundbars with dual HDMI inputs to ensure you can connect your gear and experience home theater for gaming as well as movies.
If You Really Like Your Bass Thumping…
The best sound bar isn’t the same for everyone. Sometimes you want inputs, but other times you want good bass response. For a sound bar, bass is tough—which is why you want one that comes with a good quality subwoofer. While you can look for a soundbar with a subwoofer output and roll your own, these models include a sub that we think is actually a step above the norm (for the price) and will satisfy all but the most ardent bass-heads.
Harman’s approach to sound bars is to replace the five loudspeakers and subwoofer (not to mention the wires) with a single solution that can be installed easily and deliver great sound in an environment that requires a bit more focus on aesthetics. But this is Harman—and they can’t stand to do anything half-way. The SB 30 is what happens when their designers are let loose to design a sub-$1000 soundbar that has enough power and bass to make home theater movies come alive. With simple connectivity and a wireless subwoofer that can be placed virtually anywhere in the room, the SB 30 is one of those products we recommend to bass-hungry consumers.
I know it sounds like something you eat when you’re running a marathon, but the Energy Power Bar Elite isn’t messing around. It’s 10” side-firing subwoofer is no joke, and it can drive the system down to around 40Hz—almost unheard of in soundbar systems. At under $600, it’s also one of the better deals for those who want to feel explosions in their chest when Michael Bay or J.J. Abrams get on a roll.
The 8” down-firing sub on the Polk Audio 9500 BT is deceptively good. You simply won’t believe that kind of sound can come from an enclosure that small. (The subwoofer is just over a cubic foot in size.) On top of that, you get features like Bluetooth audio with Apt-X and four audio inputs so you can connect just about anything and get it running through this small but powerful 2.1 system.
Slim Aesthetics and Style Matter!
If you want good quality sound, but aesthetics are a major driving force in your decision, then check out some of these more unusually-attractive models that combine excellent sound bar quality with a design that caters to those looking for a cut above the normal black boxes you find from many manufacturers.
Polk Audio designed this particular soundbar for the gaming community, but what resulted was a downright beautiful and unique design that deserves some recognition. Gaming with flat panel TVs really takes the wind out of your sails, so adding a sound bar for that purpose is a great idea. What the Dolby Digital N1 Gaming SurroundBar adds, however, is a suite of customized, built-in gaming immersion modes that simulate surround in ways that are simply fun to experience. Aside from that, this soundbar is priced under $300 and comes with Bluetooth and AptX for wireless streaming of your favorite tunes. This is a soundbar that looks as good as it sounds.
Yamaha YSP-3300 Digital Sound Projector Yamaha’s YSP-3300 kicks it up a notch in both price and features, with 16 array speakers that are controlled by DSP to “steer” the audio as if you had a true surround system. Two 2-1/2” woofers contribute to a considerable amount of midrange clarity for dialogue and effects and a wireless flexible 6.5” sub (that can be positioned horizontally or vertically) drives the bottom end. With 4 HDMI inputs, this digital soundbar tops the charts on flexibility and input sourcing. And on top of all that, it sits just 3.4” tall—making it one of the lowest-sitting sound bars available.
Wireless Connectivity and Bluetooth
Among other criteria for the best sound bar is the issue of streaming music. If that’s your thing, then you’ll want the best—and the best is currently Bluetooth with AptX technology. It provides for advanced audio streaming at CD-quality that doesn’t result in all your music sounding like it was run through a couple of cans connected by string…not that there’s anything wrong with tins cans…or string…I just want my streaming audio to sound as good as it possibly can.
Since the Polk Audio Surroundbar 5000 IHT uses Bluetooth with aptX, you get CD-quality audio from your iPhone, Android, tablet or any other compatible device. And while all that is a big deal, the look of this soundbar is unmistakably sweet, with clean curves and a futuristic-looking 6.5″ down-firing subwoofer that adds a nice amount of bottom end to your tunes. This soundbar is actually licensed for use with the Xbox—but you’ll be too busy listening to your entire music collection all over again. And if you want even more performance, check out the SurroundBar 9500 BT (which we also mentioned above)—it provides an even better listening experience and an 8″ down-firing sub.
[top-seller category_id=’13’ product_count=’4′ title=’Top Selling Sound Bars’]
If we missed one that you like, leave us a comment below, and give us your best pick(s).