Soundbar Buying Guide
A soundbar is a type of speaker designed to plug into a television and serve as a sound system for the device. Most soundbars are more powerful and better configured than the speakers built into TV sets, so a soundbar is a good way of improving the audio quality of your TV setup.
Soundbars are usually designed as long rectangles that can be placed directly under your TV screen, though some designers have experimented with other designs - including larger box-shaped designed that can double as a stand for the whole TV. These alternate designs are few and far between however - most are a simple rectangle, making them unobtrusive and easy to fit alongside your current TV setup.
It’s worth noting that a soundbar may be a necessity for more modern televisions - ultra-thin OLED TVs are so thin that they cannot fit any speakers into the unit, so have to rely on an external soundbar for all audio.
While most soundbars comprise of just the bar itself, others come packaged with a separate subwoofer unit. This is a loudspeaker designed specifically for bass frequencies, meaning it will augment the standard soundbar and provide substantially more powerful bass notes. This boosts the overall sound quality of the TV, and is especially good if you watch a lot of action-heavy blockbusters, since the explosions and gunshots will have a lot more presence.
Some soundbars have a separate remote control, but many simply use the volume control from your standard TV remote, and run any signal from your remote to the soundbar itself. This makes using the device extremely easy - all you have to do is plug it in and continue using your TV as normal!
The majority of soundbars are designed to be plugged in directly to the TV, rather than using a wireless connection. This is minimise any delay in the audio - wireless connections can generate a very slight delay while the data is sent from the TV to the soundbar, meaning that the video and audio signals the TV could drop out of sync. Wired connections have no such delay, meaning the video and audio will always be perfectly in sync.
Many soundbars do have wireless capabilities, but they are instead used for streaming audio from your phone/tablet/etc. Because there is no video signal, the small delay doesn’t really matter. This means that as well as TV audio, soundbars can also be used for music on demand, making them great for parties or just relaxing with your favourite music!
Simulated Surround Sound
Traditionally surround sound works by having multiple speakers (usually 5-7) arranged in such a way as to give the audio a sense of depth and 3 dimensions in order to increase immersion when watching films or playing video games.
Since soundbars only have a single speaker, they are not capable of true surround sound - however some newer soundbars have a method of simulating surround sound. They do this using a trick called ‘binaural audio’, which carefully directs sound to the left or right channels in order to simulate a 3D effect without extra speakers. You can hear an example of binaural audio here - Virtual Barber Shop
Generally only the higher-end soundbars have the is capability, but if you can afford the expenditure, you will gain a far more immersive audio quality from your movies and video games.
Soundbars range in price from £12 to £1,299 and in total we found prices for 223 soundbars. On average, a new soundbar costs £252 and 80% of soundbars are priced between £55 and £502. The most expensive soundbar that we found is the Yamaha YSP-5600 at £1,299, and the cheapest is the DELL AX510 at only £13.
Soundbar Brands - Price Range
Harman Kardon soundbars range in price from £580 to £900, and the highest average soundbar price out of all brands is Harman Kardon soundbars with an average price of £740.
The average price of Polk soundbars is £629 which is the second highest average price of all soundbar brands. Polk soundbars range in price from £629 to £629.
The third highest average soundbar price out of all brands is Bluesound soundbars with an average price of £521. Bluesound soundbars start at £298 and their most expensive soundbar costs £745.
Soundbar Brands - Average Ratings
We have analysed 1,037 expert reviews and 38 user reviews for soundbars and used this data to evaluate the average rating for each brand of soundbar. Samsung is the top rated soundbar brand with an average rating of 86%. LG is the second best brand with 73% and Sony is the third best brand with 60%.
Biggest Soundbar Retailers
The biggest soundbar retailer by number of products currently for sale is eBay. We found 132 current soundbar offers from eBay. The second biggest retailer is Currys with 75 offers. That means eBay is much bigger than Currys when it comes to soundbars. Amazon UK is the third biggest retailer with 63 current offers.
When Are Most New Soundbars Released?
We couldn't see any clear trend in the release dates for new soundbars over the last 3 years. 19 new soundbars were released in November 2018 making it the biggest month that year for new soundbar releases. The biggest month in 2017 for new soundbar releases was May, with 48 new soundbars released that month. In 2016 most new soundbars were released in March, with 15 new soundbars released that month.
How Fast Do Soundbar Prices Drop After Release?
On average, in the first 6 months after release, soundbars drop in price by 9%. On a typical new soundbar costing £252, by waiting 6 months before buying you could save on average £24.
'Audio Output' denotes the number of individual channels for the soundbar to use. Specific sounds and parts of the screen are assigned to individual channels, allowing the soundbar to simulate surround sound and create a deeper audio depth.
We found 141 soundbars that are 2.1 channels soundbars, which makes 2.1 channels the most common audio output amongst new soundbars. We found 61 soundbars that are 2 channels soundbars, making 2 channels the second most popular audio output amongst new soundbars.
More channels mean that the sound will be more spread across the channels, leading to a richer surround sound 'effect'.
Whether the sounder has support for wireless Bluetooth connections or not.
The vast majority of the 327 new soundbars currently listed on Kagoo are soundbars which support Bluetooth. 304 out of 327 are soundbars which support Bluetooth.
Bluetooth support allows you to stream music from your phone or laptop directly to the soundbar, without the need for wires.
Whether the soundbar includes a subwoofer, which is a loudspeaker for low frequencies (bass sounds).
The vast majority of the 327 new soundbars currently listed on Kagoo are soundbars with a subwoofer included. 219 out of 327 are soundbars with a subwoofer included.
A subwoofer boosts the bass quality of the soundbar, allowing it to have far more powerful bass than would otherwise be possible.
Which Are the Cheapest Retailers for Soundbars?
The chart below helps you decide which retailer is normally cheapest for buying soundbars. For each retailer it shows the total number of soundbars where they currently have a market leading price. The chart below helps you decide which retailer is normally cheapest for buying soundbars. For each retailer we took all of their prices and looked at what proportion of those prices where the cheapest on the market. The cheapest retailer that we found was eBay. 95 of their soundbar prices were the cheapest that could be found anywhere.
Proportion of Soundbars for Which Each Retailer is Cheapest?
Assessing how cheap each retailer is for soundbars by counting the number of cheapest prices for that retailer, makes the retailers that offer the greatest number of soundbar prices more likely to offer the greatest number of cheapest prices. The chart below considers the proportion of each retailer's soundbar prices that are the cheapest compared to other retailers. The cheapest retailer that we found using this approach was eBay. 72% of their soundbar prices were the cheapest that could be found anywhere.