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Best sound bars for 2018

Our expert's top picks, plus some shopping tips

In this article: Our list of best sound bars for 2018 (updated 11/20/18) ...

  1. Yamaha YAS-207
  2. Sonos PLAYBAR
  3. Bose® Soundbar 700
  4. JBL Bar 5.1
  5. Sony HT-Z9F
  6. Polk Audio MagniFi Mini

... plus a few buying tips.

Adding a sound bar is an easy, convenient, and space-saving way to get great sound from your TV.  A good sound bar is the perfect solution for an apartment or a living room with an open floor plan. If your décor, lifestyle, or budget won't allow for a full-blown surround sound system, you'll find a lot to like in a sound bar.

Our top picks for 2018 

Yamaha YAS-207

Yamaha YAS-207 — More home theater bang for your buck

The YAS-207 is the first sound bar that comes ready for DTS:Virtual X — a lifelike 3D virtual surround sound format that creates an expansive and detailed soundfield.

This sound bar is easy to hook up, and is compatible with 4K TVs and video sources with HDR (high dynamic range).

Details

  • four 1-3/4" full-range drivers and two 1" dome tweeters
  • separate wireless subwoofer with 6-1/4" front-firing driver

What we love about it

  • Yamaha's Clear Voice feature makes dialogue easier to understand
  • you can control your system with a free app
  • the price is hard to beat
Sonos PLAYBAR

Sonos PLAYBAR — The sound bar for music lovers

Get killer TV and movie sound with access to all your favorite tunes through the Sonos PLAYBAR.

Sonos' Trueplay tuning lets you use an app on your iPhone® (currently not compatible with Android™) to measure how sound reflects off objects in your room, and fine-tune the PLAYBAR so it sounds great no matter where you place it.

Pair a Sonos SUB with the PLAYBAR to add bass impact to your home theater system. The SUB pairs wirelessly with the PLAYBAR, and is a simple way to enjoy rich, full-sounding music, movies, and TV. Add additional speakers to build up to a 5.1 home theater system.

Details

  • nine built-in speakers (three tweeters and six midrange drivers)
  • communicates wirelessly with other Sonos players

What we love about it

  • quick, easy setup and control with free Sonos app
  • you can add other Sonos speakers to your TV sound system
  • easy to integrate into Sonos wireless whole-home audio system

Bose Soundbar 700

Bose® Soundbar 700 — Voice-control and a living-room-friendly design

The powerful Bose® Soundbar 700 has heavy-duty drivers that cut right through dead spots in open floor plans. Bose's ADAPTiQ® room calibration system makes up for any challenges presented by objects reflecting sound in your room.

The 700 has Amazon Alexa built-in, so you can control it — and other smart home devices — using only your voice.

Bose also offers the optional wireless Bass Module 700 — in Bose's own words, “it's the difference between hearing bass and feeling thunder.” It communicates wirelessly with the Soundbar 700 to add realistic impact to onscreen effects.

Details

  • specially designed drivers deliver full, spacious sound
  • PhaseGuide® technology simulates surround sound
  • light bar visually indicates when Alexa is listening, thinking, or speaking

What we love about it

  • the contextual remote control only lights up the buttons you need for what you're doing
  • solid build with a metal grille and beautiful tempered glass top panel
  • optional Surround Speakers available for added rear effects
JBL Bar 5.1

JBL Bar 5.1 — Truly wireless surround sound

A lot of sound bars give you the option for "wireless" rear speakers. Sure — they make a wireless connection to the sound bar, but they still need a wired connection for power. The JBL Bar 5.1 is unique. It includes 100% wire-free rear speakers that recharge when attached to the sound bar. 

Details

  • six 2-1/4" midrange drivers and three 1-1/4" tweeters
  • separate wireless subwoofer with 10" down-firing driver

What we love about it

  • rechargeable surround speakers provide up to 10 hours of wireless rear effects
  • the remote has independent volume control for sub and surrounds
  • wall-mount brackets are included for the bar and the rear speakers

Sony HTZ9F Atmos sound bar

Sony HT-Z9F — Dolby Atmos effects in a slim package

If you crave the three-dimensional effects of Atmos and DTS:X but you don't have the room in your living room — or your budget — for speakers stacked on speakers, Sony's HT-Z9F is a great alternative. Its proprietary digital processing simulates height effects using only the sound bar's three front-firing speakers. Since it doesn't need to reflect sound off the ceiling or the walls, you can experience enveloping sound in rooms of almost any size, shape, or ceiling height.

Details

  • three 1-13/16" full-range drivers
  • separate wireless subwoofer with front-firing 6-3/8" driver

What we love about it

  • supports content encoded with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
  • Chromecast built-in for easy streaming and multi-room music, plus Google Home voice control
  • you can add matching SA-Z9R wireless speaker kit for full surround sound

Polk Audio MagniFi Mini

Polk MagniFi Mini — Perfect for small spaces

A lot of us here were blown away when we heard a demo of Polk's MagniFi Mini. We were surprised a sound bar so small could fill our spacious training room. Even from the back of the room, the dialogue was perfectly intelligible.

Details

  • four 2-1/4" drivers and two 1/2" tweeters
  • separate wireless subwoofer with 6-1/2" driver

What we love about it

  • Great sound from a compact bar
  • Chromecast built-in for easy streaming and multi-room music, plus Google Home voice control
  • Polk VoiceAdjust™ technology helps keep dialogue intelligible

Sound bar shopping tips

Sound bars come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit any space, budget, or TV setup. To find the right one for you, start by asking what you hope to get from it.

Are you looking for full-on home theater sound? Or do you just want to hear the TV better?

If you're simply looking for fuller sound from TV, a simpler sound bar model should suit your needs just fine.

If you'd like something that produces thrilling home theater effects, look for a sound bar with surround sound decoding.

Consider whether you'd like a separate subwoofer. Since their built-in speakers are so compact, sound bars can be lacking in the low frequency department. A lot of them come with wireless subwoofers to fill out the lower end. And some have outputs for a wired connection to the subwoofer of your choice.

How big is your room, and how big is your TV?

In general, larger TVs and larger rooms call for larger sound bars. And more compact models are great for smaller spaces.

Consider your placement options 

Sound bars can be wall-mounted or placed on a stand with your TV. And platform-style models are designed to go under your TV.

Do you have a lot of components to connect?

Is your TV is wall-mounted? It might be much easier to connect your cable box, Blu-ray player, and game console through your sound bar. Make sure you get a bar with enough HDMI inputs. See our sound bar connection and setup guide for more information.

Need help choosing?

For more shopping tips, see our complete sound bars buying guide.

Have questions? Our expert Advisors know the gear inside and out.

Your Advisor can send specific Crutchfield pages to your screen, saving you a lot of browsing time. You'll get a shopping cart loaded up with everything you need for your new home theater. 

Call, email, or chat with us today.

Free lifetime tech support is included with your Crutchfield purchase.

Last updated 11/21/2018
  • Jon from NH

    Posted on 8/14/2018

    How does the Bluesound Pulse Soundbar compare to the Sonos Playbar and Bose SoundTouch 300? It seems like the Bluesound got higher marks and compliments in the hands-on review than either of the other two.

    Emily S. from Crutchfield on 8/24/2018

    Hi Jon! Sorry for the delay. I wanted to have a chat with Jeff before I replied. He said that he was very impressed by the Bluesound Pulse. If you've got the space and the budget for it, you probably won't be disappointed.

    That said, all three bars are well-received and popular, and what people buy tends to depend largely upon the system they already have. For example, I use Sonos for multi-room audio, so that would probably be the one I'd pick. And Bose customers tend to be very loyal to Bose products.

    If you want a sound bar that does justice to music, then the Bluesound Pulse is a solid choice. If you are still on the fence, it never hurts to call or chat with one of our knowledgeable advisors!

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