Sound bars come in all shapes and sizes, and in almost every price range. We have recently tested five premium soundbars and in this file we compare these models. What is the best soundbar?
What can you expect from a soundbar nowadays? No miracles, but nevertheless more than before. Soundbars remain very popular products and manufacturers try to push boundaries time and time again. And not all in the same direction, by the way. You have a number of premium sound bars that use additional wireless speakers that you place next to your sofa. This brings you a lot closer to a surround sound, such as with a discrete speaker setup. Others offer something very compact, without a separate subwoofer.
Atmos and eARC
One of the main novelties in the latest batch of sound bars is eARC. Elsewhere on the site you will find more information about the advantages of the successor for HDMI-ARC – and to what extent it is relevant to you. Much will depend on how important you think Dolby Atmos not coincidentally the other big sign of the devices we are looking at in this file. Atmos offers you a surround display, supplemented with sound from the height. This creates a 3D sound reproduction. Nice for sound effects that take place in the top of the room (such as a helicopter flying overhead), but also to make the sound image three-dimensional and larger. With Atmos you are really in the rain and you hear thunders being positioned correctly. For a soundbar, Atmos is of course a bit more challenging, because such a device does not work with many speakers that are distributed throughout the room. That is why manufacturers use acoustic tricks to let sound come at you from all sides. Sometimes it works well, sometimes less. We notice that sound bars can create that 3D sound image at the front, but just behind and above you is still challenging without additional speakers next to your seat. In any case, it is important to take into account the built-in speakers when you place the soundbar. You should not slide a soundbar with overhead speakers all the way under a TV, for example.
An option that you see with more and more sound bars: you can build a real surround setup with optional speakers. These are wireless speakers that you place next to and / or behind your sofa, and that play the rear channels as with a surround system. Not everyone likes extra devices at home, but in our experience they provide a significantly better experience with films. Note that those extra speakers are not too close to your ears and more or less radiate at ear height.
Streaming and multiroom
Most manufacturers have embraced Google's Chromecast and Apple's Airplay . is about streaming. This has a few positive consequences: connecting to the network is easy (via Google Home or the WiFi settings of your iPad / iPhone), you can use many streaming services, and you can pair the soundbar with other compatible speakers. Also from other brands. You can play a song with a tap from Spotify app, Apple Music, Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, YouTube Music, Play Music, SoundCloud and more. Do you want to play your own music files, then you use an app like Hi-Fi Cast, BubbleUPnP or mConnect Player.
Internet radio? TuneIn has casting built in, as do countless other apps. In short, thanks to the Chromecast function you can actually play almost all music in a very easy way. AirPlay 2 offers roughly the same benefits. However, sharing the TV sound elsewhere in the house is only possible with a dedicated multi-room platform, such as from Sonos. You can control a Chromecast soundbar with your voice, but note: not every soundbar has a built-in microphone. In any case, if you want some background music or know very specifically what you want to hear, Google Assistant works fine.
What is the best soundbar at the moment?
In this file, we will discuss five high-end soundbars from LG (DSN8YG), Samsung (HW-Q800T), Harman Kardon (Citation Multibeam 700), TCL (Ray-Danz) and Sonos (Arc). Below you will find the conclusions from each of the reviews, with a link to the full review.
The LG DSN8YG offers a lot for its price point. The soundbar may be the entry-level in LG's premium line for 2020, but the performance is already pretty good. That should of course be the case, because 699 euros is not nothing. The stereo with center reproduction is especially good, with decent front height channels that still offer a 3D experience at a certain level. This gives you a much larger and more compelling sound image when watching movies and compared to typical TV speakers.
It could be better, but then you are talking about a more expensive soundbar with more advanced driver setups. The LG excels thanks to the many extras: Chromecast, Google Assistant and the effective room calibration function.
The HW-Q800T is not a cheap soundbar, but delivers quite a lot for its price. Q-Symphony for example, although that is of course only an added value if you also get a brand new Samsung TV. Do you have another television? The HW-Q800T is still recommended. It performs beautifully on any TV with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, although without offering the ultimate in 3D rendering that you can get with top-class soundbars.
We think many people will find the middle ground that this soundbar offers enough . You take a noticeable step towards a full-fledged cinematic experience, partly because the powerful sub provides the burly support to dramatize games and heavy action movies. That is something that a cheaper and smaller soundbar can be more difficult. Highly recommended for the spectacle finder.
TCL Ray-Danz TS9030  The Ray-Danz TS9030 may not make the best first impression in terms of design. Some elements look very plastic-like and appear cheap. We also fear that those acoustic lenses will accumulate a lot of dust in the long term, so don't forget to dust. However, the performance of the TCL Ray-Danz is not bad.
Movies are presented powerfully and the surround mode is cleverly put into a sound bubble. A big advantage is that this bubble is also available if you are in a large room, without walls nearby. The Ray-Danz works well regardless of placement. This is an excellent choice for large open living rooms where you are approximately three meters from the screen.
The Arc is a real tour the force. The soundbar performs well when you feed it with Dolby Atmos content and takes advantage of all the assets of the Sonos universe. Think of the broad support of streaming services, the ease of use and the multiroom function. The price is even quite competitive for the segment, although the price tag grows considerably if you want to expand the Arc with a Sub and two Sonos speakers. We immediately add that we think that because of the smart speaker setup you will less likely need Sub – although we will go into this in a follow-up review of an extensive Arc setup.
All in all the Arc is a very successful soundbar that offers a lot and is very competitive. Although we can think of negatives. There is currently no way to display the rear Atmos height channels, something that Samsung's HW-Q950T (or the HW-Q90R), for example, can. As always, Sonos opts for an Apple-ian easy to operate, which is just right for many people. But we would still like to have a little more control, for example, about the volume level of the top speakers. An option to upmix 5.1 to a virtual Atmos experience would also have been a nice extra. Still, we think the Arc has everything to become one of the most popular sound bars in the world. Not only is it a good choice for those already in the Sonos universe, but it is also a competitively priced soundbar that outperforms many rivals and has unique benefits.