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Best sound bars for 2020

Our expert's top picks, plus some shopping tips

In this article: My list of best sound bars — along with a budget-friendly alternative for each ...

  1. Best budget pick — Yamaha YAS-209
  2. Best for music lovers — Sonos PLAYBAR
  3. Best for large spaces — Bose® Soundbar 700
  4. Best bar with wireless surround sound — JBL Bar 5.1
  5. Best-sounding — Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar
  6. Best for small spaces — Polk Audio MagniFi Mini

... plus some shopping 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. Here are my top picks for 2020.

Yamaha YAS-209

More home theater bang for your buck — Yamaha YAS-209

Yamaha's YAS series bars are always customer favorites, and we expect the YAS-209 to continue that trend. It has built-in Amazon Alexa voice control and DTS:Virtual X — a lifelike 3D virtual surround sound format.

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 6-1/2" 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

A wallet-friendly alternative

You can save some money (and a little floor real estate) with Yamaha's YAS-109. Instead of a wireless sub, there's a pair of ported subwoofers built into the bar itself.

What our customers say about the YAS-209

Sonos PLAYBAR

A sound bar for music lovers — Sonos PLAYBAR

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 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

A wallet-friendly alternative

The Sonos Beam is the more compact of Sonos's sound bar offerings, but it delivers bigger sound than you'd expect from a bar its size. It also adds built-in voice control and an HDMI ARC connection.

What our customers say about the PLAYBAR

Bose Soundbar 700

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

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

A wallet-friendly alternative

The Bose Soundbar 500 is an ultra-slim, matte version of the heftier 700.

What our customers say about the Soundbar 700

JBL Bar 5.1

Truly wireless surround sound — JBL Bar 5.1

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 controls for sub and surrounds
  • wall-mount brackets are included for the bar and the rear speakers

A wallet-friendly alternative

Samsung's HW-R650 is a 3.1-channel sound bar and sub system with the option to add wireless rear speakers when you're ready for an upgrade to surround sound.

What our customers say about the Bar 5.1

Sennheiser AMBEO Atmos sound bar

The best-sounding bar I've ever heard — Sennheiser AMBEO

If you crave the three-dimensional effects of Atmos and DTS:X, but you don't want to worry about precisely placing speakers everywhere, Sennheiser's AMBEO Soundbar is the way to go. It knocked our socks off when it was demoed here at Crutchfield HQ.

Details

  • 13 built-in drivers deliver 5.1.4-channel sound from a single sound bar
  • AMBEO 3D technology creates an immersive experience using 32-bit processing and room calibration to virtually place speakers around the room

What we love about it

  • supports content encoded with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
  • Chromecast built-in for easy streaming and multi-room music, compatibility with Google Home voice control
  • mono RCA subwoofer output lets you add your own powered subwoofer

A wallet-friendly alternative

The more modestly priced Sony HT-Z9F uses proprietary digital signal processing to simulate height effects using only the sound bar's three front-firing speakers.

What our customers say about the AMBEO

Polk Audio MagniFi Mini

Perfect for small spaces — Polk MagniFi Mini

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

A wallet-friendly alternative

If you don't want a separate subwoofer, take a look at JBL's Bar 2.0 — a compact solution for smaller spaces.

What our customers say about the MagniFi Mini

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 11/13/2019

Please share your thoughts below.

  • Sreenath from South Jordan

    Posted on 11/17/2019

    What is the difference between Yamaha 207 and 209 ? Looks like 207 has all the features at lesser price except sound assistant like Alexa. Your thoughts ?

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 11/18/2019

    Hi Sreenath! You're right — the most obvious upgrade in the 209 is the addition of built-in Alexa. But the 209 also makes the sound modes easier to access by adding dedicated buttons on the remote control.


    The 209 does remove the analog input that's included in the 207, but it adds Wi-Fi.


    If you don't care about voice control, Wi-Fi, etc., and you can still get your hands on the older 207 — go for it! The sound quality will be very, very similar.


    I hope that helped!

  • Arthur Mendelsohn from Foxboro

    Posted on 8/24/2019

    Looking at the Denon Heos soundbar and the Bose 700. The tv is a Samsung 75 inch with very poor sound in a room that is 18x 18 section of my open kitchen with cathedral ceiling. I have read multiple reviews of each and both reviews state mostly good with some bad. In your opinion do you feel one is superior to the other, if so in what way. Do i need to add the subwoofer to any of these or is the bass sufficient enough that i do not have to purchase the subwoofer separately? Thanks for the response.

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 8/29/2019

    Hi Arthur!


    Of the two, I've only personally heard the Bose 700. I tried it at home in my living room, which is part of a very open floor plan that spills into the kitchen and the dining room. It sounded great. It has room calibration that can help improve the audio in spaces like ours. It also looks really nice, and it has built-in voice control and a super-cool remote.


    The bass was good for a bar its size, but I don't think you'd regret adding a sub, especially in a room that size. That said, you can always try it without first, and then add a sub if you aren't getting enough rumble.


    I haven't actually heard the HEOS Bar, but our customers review it very favorably. It's also wider and deeper than the Bose, and it might deliver a bit more bass. It also has a more connection options, which means you can connect your sources to the bar if you want (vs. the Bose, which pretty much requires your sources be connected to the TV.)


    But the truth is that it's really hard to say if one is superior to the other without hearing them side by side. I think they are both great choices, but if you still have questions or you'd just like a little more one-on-one guidance to help you along, our Advisors would be happy to weigh in!

  • June Santos from San Diego, CA

    Posted on 12/17/2018

    Is the Sony SA-Z9R rear wireless speaker will work with Sony HT-ST5000 or this speaker only works with HT-Z9F? I am shopping for a soundbar w/ subwoofer that has ATMOS and DTS-X and would like to have an additional rear wireless speaker. I am comparing between these 2 soundbar. Please advise ASAP. Thank you much!

    Emily S. from Crutchfield

    on 12/18/2018

    Hi June!


    You are right, the SA-Z9R rear speakers only work with HT-Z9F. So if you want a DTS-X/Atmos-capable bar with sub AND the option to add wireless rear speakers, the HT-Z9F is the way to go.


    If you look beyond Sony, I believe the Samsung HW-N850 also offers what you're looking for.

    I passed your question on to our advisors because I'm sure they can help find a bar that fits the bill.

  • 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!