Mis à jour le 14 June 2023.
Increasingly popular, soundbars are an excellent alternative to home theater systems composed of an A/V receiver and a speaker pack. Easier to integrate into the living room or bedroom, soundbars are ideal for those who wish to limit the number of cables in their living room. They can then be discreetly installed on the TV cabinet in front of the television, or wall-mounted underneath the TV.
There are countless different soundbars, ranging from stereo models, sometimes with the support of a subwoofer, to models capable of simulating spatialized sound or being paired with true wireless surround speakers. To make sure you make the right choice and immerse yourself in the heart of the action scenes in the best possible conditions, here is a comparative guide of the best soundbars of 2023.
Soundbar or home theater?
While the picture of LED, OLED and QLED TVs continues to improve with 4K and 8K Ultra High Definition and HDR display technologies (HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG), the sound is often their Achilles heel. To enjoy a more immersive sound experience, there are many powerful compact home theater systems and home theater packs, but this sometimes involves installing many speakers in your living room, all connected to the amplifier using long and unsightly cables. A soundbar is therefore the simplest and most aesthetic way to boost the sound of the TV. Placed under or in front of the television, a soundbar is less intrusive and is ideal for providing a better quality soundtrack for your television.
Stereo or multichannel sound?
Many types of soundbars exist, from simple stereo models like the Sonos Ray to those capable of producing true 5.1, 7.1 or even Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound, which results in a more or less wide spatialization of the soundstage.
The simplest soundbars offer stereo sound by integrating at least two full-range drivers. Often more compact and more affordable, these models are intended to provide a few additional watts to the television for a better perception of stereo programs like TV shows and sporting events, for example.
In addition to stereo, some soundbars like the Samsung HW-Q700C incorporate an additional driver for the center channel. These are known as 3.0-channel or 3.1-channel soundbars when accompanied by a subwoofer. The addition of this center channel allows the soundbar to reproduce dialogue more effectively, which benefits talk shows as well as movies.
Finally, the most advanced soundbars like the Sennheiser Ambeo SoundBar Max, the smaller Sennheiser Ambeo SoundBar Plus and the Devialet Dione increase the number of channels and therefore the number of drivers, which can quickly reach several dozen. This abundance of drivers offers a more immersive and more faithful reproduction of the various effects. These multichannel soundbars are the models to choose to enjoy the most immersive home theater experience and immerse yourself in the action with Netflix movies and series or, better still, movies played on a 4K UHD Blu-ray player.
Virtual surround sound or dedicated drivers?
There are two main families of surround soundbars on the market: those that produce virtual surround sound and those that are equipped with dedicated drivers for each channel. Soundbars that produce virtual surround sound, through digital signal processing (DSP), are typically 2.1-channel (two stereo channels plus a subwoofer) or 3.1-channel (three-channel LCR plus a subwoofer) models. The front drivers reproduce the soundtrack by applying processing that expands the sound field, horizontally for surround effects and vertically when they are also Dolby Atmos or DTS: X compatible.
With the virtual spatialization of surround sound effects, the result is more or less convincing depending on the technology used and the volume of the listening room. The surround sound effects are less precisely localized than with dedicated surround speakers, but the soundstage still spreads out wide and high enough to offer a more convincing immersion than with a stereo soundbar. However, those who want to enjoy more precisely spatialized surround sound should turn to a soundbar in which each channel has its own driver. These then use the reflection of the room’s walls and ceiling to position the different effects more precisely in the space.
It may seem a little odd to associate the adjective “musical” with a soundbar. However, some of the biggest names in hi-fi have come up with their own vision of the soundbar, which is also designed to play music with the same standards as a high-fidelity speaker. Danish manufacturer DALI figures prominently among them, with its superb DALI Katch One. Its particularly meticulous design features 10 drivers. These include two 0.8″ fabric dome tweeters for high frequencies, and four 3.5″ midbass drivers with fabric and aluminum cones. These drivers are mounted in a closed enclosure and combined with four 4.5″ passive radiators to deliver solid, dynamic bass.
The B&W Panorama 3 soundbar is positioned in the same category of audiophile home theater soundbars. Awarded multiple times by the specialist press, this Dolby Atmos-compatible 3.1-channel model uses 3 titanium dome tweeters and multiple glass-fiber cone drivers for bass/midrange and Atmos effects. Two 4″ woofers provide robust low-frequency support, giving the soundtrack a solid foundation and the music a sense of depth.
Dolby Atmos and DTS: X soundbars
Dolby Atmos soundbars are the ultimate solution to enjoying the most immersive experience possible. Like with surround effects, some soundbars offer virtualized Atmos effects reproduced by the front drivers. These are called Virtual Dolby Atmos soundbars. An example is the Denon Home 550. However, the most advanced models use dedicated drivers facing the ceiling. They transmit the Dolby Atmos effects which are reflected by the ceiling towards the viewers, using the same principle as the Dolby Atmos speakers used to complete a pack of classic 5.1 or 7.1 home theater speakers. The user is then enveloped in a sound bubble and enjoys 3D sound.
Soundbars with wireless surround speakers
Although the drivers dedicated to Atmos effects often offer very convincing results (provided you do not have a cathedral ceiling), the precision of the surround effects is variable from one room to another. With a very crowded room or a listening position far away from the TV, the surround effects may be less noticeable than with a conventional home theater system. To overcome this problem, more and more manufacturers allow their soundbars to be associated with wireless surround speakers. This is known as wireless home theater. This is the case with Sonos soundbars, which can be associated with any Sonos wireless speaker, such as the Sonos One SL, to reproduce surround effects. Denon soundbars like the Denon Home 550 can also be paired with Heos compatible wireless surround speakers like those in the Denon Home range.
Using a soundbar with wireless surround speakers provides an experience very similar to that of a home theater system, but without the inconvenience of wiring the rear speakers. These can therefore be placed more freely in the listening room, near the sofa. For the majority of wireless surround speakers, however, it is still necessary to connect them to the mains for them to work. If you don’t have an outlet near your sofa, some manufacturers offer battery-powered surround speakers. This is the case of the Philips Fidelio B97 and its very ingenious surround speakers which can be stored and recharged on the ends of the soundbar. It also makes it possible to enjoy an even more discreet system when the soundbar is not in use.
LG and Samsung also offer high-performance Dolby Atmos soundbars accompanied by a wireless subwoofer and a pair of surround speakers equipped with vertical effects drivers. These true home theater systems can therefore reproduce Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks very effectively for excellent sound immersion.
The LG S95QR soundbar provides 9.1.5 channel reproduction. To do so, it features a total output power of 810 watts. The bar comes with a subwoofer and a pair of wireless surround speakers that incorporate vertical effects drivers. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compatible, this LG soundbar delivers powerful and very immersive surround sound while ensuring perfectly clear dialogues.
Samsung’s catalog includes the flagship Samsung HW-Q990C soundbar, which offers 11.1.4 channel surround sound. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compatible, it comes with a wireless subwoofer and a pair of wireless surround speakers with Atmos drivers. The Samsung HW-Q990C soundbar features two HDMI inputs and an HDMI eARC output, all UHD 4K and HDR10+ compatible, as well as an optical digital audio input. With support for Bluetooth and WiFi, it can even be controlled vocally thanks to its compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant.
The importance of subwoofers
Despite the “integrated subwoofer” claims made by manufacturers, it is clear that few soundbars offer powerful bass when used alone. The result is far from what you can achieve with a real subwoofer. For the best reproduction with action scenes or video games, it is strongly recommended to opt for a soun bar sold with a subwoofer or to acquire a separate subwoofer. In order to facilitate their integration, most of the subwoofers supplied with the soundbars are of a reasonable size. In addition, almost all of them communicate wirelessly with the soundbar, so they only need a power outlet to operate. Their placement is therefore once again facilitated.
However, some soundbars manage to produce great bass without a subwoofer. An example is the Devialet Dione, which has a more significant change volume and is equipped with 17 drivers, 8 of which are dedicated to the lows. Consequently, it is able to produce true bass without the need for a separate subwoofer.
Any soundbar must at least offer an HDMI Arc and/or an optical input so it can be connected to the TV. This allows you to retrieve the soundtrack from the different sources associated with the TV, but also programs played from streaming applications such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+. For Dolby Atmos or DTS:X compatible soundbars, only an eARC HDMI port can retrieve the soundtrack in Dolby Atmos. However, it is also necessary that the TV has an eARC port, otherwise the sound will be limited to 5.1 of HDMI ARC. Finally, some soundbars also offer HDMI inputs to receive audio streams from your sources and transfer the UHD 4K HDR or Dolby Vision image to the television.
With each new generation, televisions are becoming lower and flatter. To adapt to these new specifications, sound bar manufacturers are redoubling their inventiveness to offer thinner models. The thickness of a sound bar is now a major criterion for ensuring that it fits under a new-generation TV without hiding the bottom of the screen.
Measuring just 4 cm thick, the Samsung HW-S801B soundbar is one of the thinnest on the market. This 330-watt, 3.1.2-channel soundbar fits neatly under a TV, and can even be wall-mounted. The Samsung HW-S801B soundbar comes with a wireless subwoofer that’s also very compact, and supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X tracks to immerse you in the heart of the action. It connects easily to the TV via HDMI eARC or wirelessly thanks to Q-Symphony 2 technology. Last but not least, this Samsung HW-S801B soundbar can also receive music via AirPlay 2 and Chromecast via WiFi or a direct Bluetooth connection with a smartphone.
Modern soundbars are increasingly connected and versatile. At the very least, this connectivity takes the form of a Bluetooth connection facilitating the distribution of music from a smartphone, tablet or computer. Some models, like Yamaha MusicCast soundbars, also benefit from a WiFi and/or Ethernet network connection with support for numerous streaming protocols and access to online music services. The integration of Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice assistants is also increasingly common. These greatly facilitate the control of the soundbar by allowing you to control all the essential functions, simply by asking. Choosing a soundbar with a voice assistant is therefore the best solution for intuitive use.
Some connected soundbars also offer multi-room functions to enjoy music in any room of the house. Some soundbars use proprietary multi-room technology, which means they can only be paired with devices of the same brand. This is the case with Sonos, Yamaha MusicCast and Denon Heos soundbars. However, when these soundbars also integrate Airplay and/or Chromecast protocols, in addition to or instead of proprietary technologies, you can perform multi-room pairing with any other compatible device.
What is the best soundbar of 2023?
Throughout this guide, we have gone over the best 2023 soundbars according to various criteria, such as the number of channels, spatialization technologies and even connectivity. However, it is difficult to award the title of “best soundbar of 2023” to a single model, as it differs according to the preferences, needs or budget of each user. A soundbar for the living room TV will have to meet more stringent requirements than a soundbar for the bedroom TV. There is therefore not one, but a selection of the best soundbars in different categories.
The best soundbars under €300
- Sonos Ray: 2.0, 4 drivers, optical, multi-room, AirPlay 2, calibration, Dolby and DTS
- JBL Bar 5.0: 5.0, 250W, HDMI eARC, optical, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, Chromecast
- Yamaha ATS-1090: 2.0, 120W, DTS:X, Dolby Audio, HDMI ARC, optical, BT
- TCL S643WE: 3.1, 240W, Dolby/DTS, Bluetooth, HDMI ARC, wireless subwoofer
The best soundbars between €300 and €500
- Sonos Beam: 2.0, Amazon Alexa, HDMI ARC, optical, WiFi, AirPlay 2
- LG SE6s: 5.0, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, HDMI ARC, optical, AirPlay 2, Chromecast
- Yamaha YAS-209: 2.1, DTS Virtual:X, WiFi/Bluetooth, ARC, optical, wireless subwoofer
- Samsung HW-S60C: 3.1, 340W, Bluetooth, HDMI eARC, optical, wireless subwoofer
The best soundbars between €500 and €1000
- Samsung 801B: 3.1.2, Atmos, BT/WiFi, eARC, wireless subwoofer, AirPlay 2/Chromecast
- Sonos Arc: 5.0.2, Dolby Atmos, HDMI ARC, AirPlay 2, WiFi, TruePlay calibration
- Samsung 700C: 3.1.2, 320W, Atmos/DTS:X, BT/WiFi, ARC, Alexa, wireless subwoofer
- Dali Katch One: 2.0, 200W, HDMI ARC, optical, mini-jack, SUB output, Bluetooth aptX
- B&W Panorama 3: 3.1.2, 400W, Atmos, HDMI eARC, optical, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth
The best soundbars over €1000
- Sony HT-A7000: 7.1.2, 500W, eARC, Atmos/DTS:X, BT/WiFi, Chromecast, AirPlay 2
- Sennheiser Ambeo SoundBar Plus: 7.1.4, 400W, eARC, BT/WiFi, Chromecast, AirPlay 2
- Sennheiser Ambeo SoundBar Max: 5.1.4, 250W, eARC, BT/WiFi, Chromecast, AirPlay 2
- Devialet Dione: 5.1.2, 950W, eARC, optical, BT/WiFi, AirPlay
The best soundbars with wireless surround speakers
- Sony HT-A9: 4.0.4, 380W, Atmos/DTS:X, eARC, BT/WiFi, Chromecast, AirPlay 2
- LG S95QR: 9.1.5, 810W, Atmos/DTS:X, eARC, optical, BT/WiFi, Chromecast, AirPlay
- JBL Bar 1300: 11.1.4, 1170W, Atmos/DTS:X, HDMI eARC, optical, Chromecast, AirPlay
- Samsung Q990C: 11.1.4, 656W, Atmos/DTS:X, BT/WiFi, eARC, Airplay 2, Chromecast
- Sonos Beam 4.1: 4.1, Alexa, ARC, optical, WiFi, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect
- Philips Fidelio B97: 7.1.2, 450W, Atmos/DTS:X, Bluetooth, eARC, Airplay 2, Chromecast
- Sonos Arc 5.1 SL: 5.0.2, Atmos, ARC, AirPlay 2, WiFi, Spotify Connect
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