As television technology continues to improve - and the actual TV screens get thinner and slimmer - there is more need than ever for a good soundbar. There are two main reasons for investing in a soundbar:
Some manufacturers have reduced the size of the speakers in their TVs, or removed them entirely, in order to make the sets as thin as possible.
As the visual quality gets more and more lifelike, people want a sound system that provides a similar high level of audio quality.
So today we’re going to be looking in-depth at some of the best soundbars you can buy in 2020, in order to make your movies and music sound as good as possible!
Despite sounding like a video-game powerup, the ‘Sonos Beam’ is a top-notch soundbar by home audio specialists Sonos. They have managed to cram a massive amount of audio power into a small, sleek frame. There are a multitude of speakers inside the Beam, and they come together to create an immersive 3D sound that is powerful no matter what kind of film you’re watching
The Beam is surprisingly cheap given it’s capabilities - though it doesn’t come with a separate subwoofer. That said, the bass sound from this all-in-one unit has some real heft to it, so you may well not need it unless you really want your neighbours to feel the bass in their shoes!
Sonos made their name originally with their wireless multi-room system and so, as you’d expect, the music and streaming capabilities of this little guy are fantastic. It can stream from almost any source, and has multiroom support, so you can fill your house with music, or create ‘zones’ for different streams to happen at the same time. They have also built in both touch and voice controls - the Beam supports Siri & Alexa for maximum smart integration.
All in all there’s a lot to like about the Beam, and it’s definitely one of the best soundbars currently on the market. Whether you want to watch movies or chill with some jams, you won’t go wrong with this!
Sony have aimed squarely at the mid-price market with this all-in-one soundbar. It has some exciting features - a powerful integrated subwoofer provides punchy bass, and it has full Dolby Atmos support, which allows for ‘object-based audio’. This is a neat trick which adds height to surround sound and allows certain elements of a movie audio track to be projected ‘higher’ in your hearing. So a helicopter in a film will sound like it’s coming from a different place than a car - clever stuff!
The HT-X8500 continues the run of cool tech with Sony’s ‘Vertical Sound Engine’, which uses the Dolby Atmos along with DTS:X to create unparalleled depth and sense of presence when watching movies. However it lacks the upward-firing drivers of the Samsung HW-Q90R, which means the Dolby Atmos isn’t *quite* as convincing as it could be - though Sony’s Vertical Sound tech somewhat makes up for that.
All in all, this is a very tempting soundbar - the sheer audio quality and power may not match either the Beam or the HW-Q90R, but the 3D ‘wraparound’ sound is excellent, and the price is hard to beat. It may not be as good for music as other soundbars, but for a home cinema system that won’t break the bank, it’s worth a look!
4 / 5
Dolby Atmos support
Strong surround sound depth
No upward-firing drivers
Audio quality lacking compared to other models
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Weighing in at nearly double the size of the Sonos Beam, Samsung’s HW-Q90R is a real beast... both in size and price.
This chunky, well-built soundbar has a lot of heft inside it - a 7.1.4 speaker configuration with rear speakers, 4 upward-firing speakers and fully Dolby Atmos support means it is capable of astoundingly realistic 3D sound, far more than any of the other soundbars on our list.
So if you are wanting to watch movies with a full immersive sound, this is an excellent choice. However the HW-Q90R isn’t just good for explosions and helicopters - the drivers have been tuned by Harman Kardon, so they are also fantastic for playing music, with a subtlety and depth that allow you to really hear all the nuances of your favourite tracks.
The major problem with this soundbar? The price - it’s nearly 4 times the price of the Yamaha YAS-207, and so is a serious investment. The quality is there - this soundbar beats all others for sheer audio quality - but the price will be a dealbreaker for a lot of people.
Finally, Yamaha have released a budget-focused soundbar + subwoofer combo for those scared off by £1,000+ prices, but don’t want to sacrifice audio quality. The YAS-207 is currently the cheapest soundbar on our list, but don’t let that fool you - this guy punches above his weight.
For starters, this is the only soundbar reviewed here with a dedicated external subwoofer, allowing for strong, powerful bass. It is also able to effectively create a 3D surround sound effect using ‘Yamaha Sound Projection’ (YSP) technology. The effect may not be as immersive or pronounced as the more powerful soundbars, but it’s still extremely effective at creating a 3D experience, especially given it’s small size.
Unfortunately the YAS-207 doesn’t have the audio power of its competitors - the lack of extra drivers, upward-firing drivers or other tricks means some sounds can fall flat, especially in the mid-range. However Yamaha began life making musical instruments, so it’s unsurprising that their soundbars are geared more towards music than film explosions. The musical quality of this soundbar is fantastic, and it’s capable of Bluetooth streaming - allowing you to enjoy your favourite tunes from anywhere.
In summary, this is a very good budget soundbar - it may not have the sheer power or home cinema quality of the more expensive models, but it performs very well for its price, and delivers crisp, flawless audio.