Skip Navigation

Sound bars buying guide

Find the right one for your ears and your space

In a nutshell: As TVs have gotten thinner, so has their sound. Adding a sound bar is an easy way to make your TV’s audio just as clear as its picture.

A sound bar makes human voices easier to understand. Look for a model that has a dialogue enhancement setting. 

Some sound bars have simulated surround sound to make movie-watching more fun.

If you like strong bass, look for a sound bar that comes with a matching wireless subwoofer.

Models with built-in Bluetooth or Wi-Fi are great for music, too.

Read the full story to learn more about sound bar designs, features, and mounting options.


egin your search for the best sound bar by setting your expectations. Do you want a low-cost bar that simply amplifies your TV sound? Or do you want immersive home theater sound? A bigger investment can get you sound quality that's comparable to a full home theater system.

Now think about where your new sound bar is going to live. How big is the room? How big is the TV you're pairing it with? Big rooms and big TVs call for big sound bars. Compact models are great for smaller rooms and TVs, of course.

Will your sound bar also be your primary speaker for music? Look for a bar with high-grade speaker components and powerful amplification. Many sound bars offer wireless connectivity, and some even give you multi-room system capability.

What does a sound bar add?

Here are some features nearly all sound bars have in common, regardless of their size or price.

Dialogue is easier to understand

Naturally, a sound bar will bring more volume and fullness to TV sound. That means you'll hear greater clarity, particularly when it comes to human voices. Many sound bars even have dialogue enhancement features, which make voices louder and more prominent in the mix.

Even volume

When you're watching TV at a comfortable volume level and a commercial comes on, the sudden shift in volume can be jarring.

A lot of sound bars have volume leveling technology to ensure commercials aren't louder than show soundtracks. This is also good for late-night watching, so loud sound effects won't wake sleeping family members.

Simulated surround sound effects

If you don't have room for a multi-speaker surround sound system, you can still get thrilling audio from a sound bar.

For the best sound with the most realistic surround effects, look for a multi-channel sound bar. They typically have five or seven audio channels, with discrete sounds assigned to each channel to create a three-dimensional surround effect.

A multi-channel sound bar gives you immersive surround sound

A seven-channel sound bar with the front grille removed to show the discrete drivers that simulate TV and movie surround sound.

Some sound bars can actually reflect sound off your walls to trick your ears into thinking there are speakers all around you. In some cases, this effect can even be customized to your space.

virtual surround sound

Sound bars with mulitple angled drivers, like Yamaha's Digital Sound Projectors, create realistic surround effects.

Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos enabled sound bars have special drivers that reflect sound off your ceiling. The effect is enveloping surround sound that puts you in the middle of the onscreen action. It's like 3D for your ears.

It's also a convenient music player

Built-in Bluetooth® is a common sound bar feature that lets you stream music easily from your phone, tablet, or Bluetooth enabled computer. Some sound bars even have Wi-Fi® capability for quick access to online streaming services as well as your personal digital music library.

A sound bar might also have a USB input, so you can load up a thumb drive with your favorite tunes, leave it plugged in, and listen to them anytime. 

Some sound bars even have support for high-res music files. Got CDs? Use your connected Blu-ray player to play them, and hear them through your sound bar.

Your sound bar can also play a starring role in a multi-room music system. A growing number of brands offer sound bars that communicate with other music players, powered speakers, and receivers over a network connection, so you can stream wireless music throughout your home.

What are your placement options?

Table-top placement

If you plan to place your sound bar on a stand in front of your TV, it's a good idea to measure your stand and your TV's base to be sure the sound bar won't stick out from the stand at all.

Sound bar resting on a TV stand

Most sound bars can rest on your TV stand. To find the best fit, take measurements beforehand.

You should also measure the space between your stand and the bottom of your flat panel so your sound bar doesn't block your remote control signal or part of the picture.

If you aren't sure, a sound bar with a built-in IR repeater might be the best option, since your remote will continue to work even if the TV's remote sensor is obstructed.

Sound bar is too tall

Some sound bars have a built-in IR repeater to ensure your TV continues to receive remote control signals with the sound bar placed in front. You may also be able to adjust the sound bar's height, so no part of the TV's picture is blocked.

Mount it on the wall

If your TV is wall-mounted, a sound bar mounted right under it makes for an elegant setup. If you're going this route, you'll need to consider how you'll hide the power cord and connection cable.

Check out our cable management options or call a Crutchfield advisor to get an idea of what's involved.

Sound bar mounted under TV on wall

Most sound bars have keyhole slots for mounting to walls. If your TV is wall-mounted on an articulated bracket, you may also have the option of adding a specialized sound bar bracket so the two pieces always move on the same plane.

Place a sound bar on a stand below a wall-mounted TV

Placing a sound bar on a stand below a wall-mounted TV is a great option for sound bars that have more depth than your TV panel. This setup makes it easy to hide cables.

Put it under your TV

A platform-style sound bar supports your TV and blends in with its base. Check the specs for the maximum TV weight, and make sure the platform is wider than your TV's base.

These might be your best bet if there isn't a lot of space between the bottom of your TV screen and your stand.

A platform-style sound bar sits under your TV

A platform-style sound bar is a neat solution. Since the speakers inside are larger, it also has more low-end kick than a slim-profile bar.

Will you need a subwoofer?

A subwoofer is a speaker dedicated to reproducing only the lowest bass frequencies. Most sound bars are too slim to reproduce lower-frequency sound, so in many cases a separate subwoofer is included. 

If you like action movies, video games, or TV programs that have a lot of bass, a soundbar/subwoofer package is probably best for you.

A wireless subwoofer can be placed nearly anywhere in the room

Most sound bars come with a separate subwoofer, for deep bass and explosive sound effects. Most of them connect wirelessly to the sound bar for easy placement in your room.

Most of the subwoofers included in a sound bar package are wireless. They only need to be plugged into a wall outlet for power, and the low frequency sound they produce is more or less non-directional, so you've got plenty of placement flexibility.

If you don't have room for two separate pieces but still want good bass response, we recommend a platform-style sound bar.

These broad platforms house larger speakers and give them plenty of room to resonate, so these sound bars have better overall bass response than their slim counterparts.

Wireless surround speakers

The list of sound bars with wireless surround speakers is growing. You'll get more lifelike surround sound from this kind of system. And it's still easier to set up than a traditional home theater system.


When choosing a sound bar, make sure you pick one with the right connections for your TV and other components.

Nearly every sound bar has an optical digital connection, and many offer HDMI connections for more flexibility. If you have a multi-channel sound bar, using the HDMI connection ensures the best sound quality from Blu-ray soundtracks.

If you have an older TV, there are sound bar models with analog inputs as well. For the latest 4K Ultra HD TVs, there are 4K video compatible sound bars. See our sound bar connection and setup guide to determine which type of connection is best for you.

Remote control

Once your sound bar is set up, you can use your existing TV remote to control its volume. Most TV and cable or satellite remotes can be programmed to control a sound bar, or the sound bar can learn your TV's commands.

Sound bars usually do include their own remote controls, and often there are free remote apps that let you use your phone or tablet as a remote. If you have a sound bar with a lot of features, it's generally best to use the included remote or a remote app to control it.

  • Nathan M from Milford

    Posted on 7/22/2018

    If using the HDMI arc option from TV to soundbar, does the sound quality of the TV itself matter to the soundbar output, or is it solely based on quality of the soundbar? Thanks so much for any help.

    Emily S. from Crutchfield on 10/16/2018
    Hi Nathan! Some TVs will downgrade the audio signal to the sound bar. I don't think it's that common, but it's worth investigating if you are concerned (especially if you are planning to use surround speakers in your system). Check with your TV manufacturer to confirm which audio formats are passed through the ARC connection. If you have more questions or want to find a sound bar that's a good fit for your TV, feel free to call or chat with one of our advisors.
  • Amy from South Jordan

    Posted on 5/6/2018

    I am looking for a sound bar that can be wired connected to a TV and wirelessly connected to a stereo receiver. Both connections would not need to be active at the same time. Is this possible and what features would I need to look for on the sound bar?

  • Emily S. from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/26/2018

    Great question Mike! The wireless subwoofer is actually receiving the signal FROM the sound bar while your paired Bluetooth device is sending audio TO the sound bar. So, in short, the sub doesn't count as your paired device. I hope that helps! But if you need more information about a specific sound bar's capabilities, please call one of our very knowledgeable advisors at 1.800.555.7088.

  • Mike p from La Mirada , Ca

    Posted on 4/25/2018

    If the subwoofer is wireless in a Bluetooth sound bar system....How is the subwoofer getting a signal if Bluetooth only pairs to one device????

  • wirelessspeakers

    Posted on 1/30/2018

    soundbars are more prominent in sound quality since most of them are part of home theater systems. Before you bought one consider also the measurements of your space. They're inexpensive and good quality for audio.


    Posted on 12/9/2017

    Shamir did you ever recieve an answer to your question?

  • tamii from oak ridge

    Posted on 7/5/2017

    I don't have a Bluetooth enabled tv.. so which is the best to buy? I just want to enhance my TV's sound

  • Shamir from Redmond

    Posted on 12/20/2016

    I am looking for a soundbar with a wireless sub woofer but primarily will be listening to music. I see this note in your article which says "Look for a bar with high-grade speaker components and powerful amplification. Many sound bars offer wireless connectivity, and some even give you multi-room system capability". How do I identify that? I understand multi-room but can you expand on the others. Can you a recommend a few models within the 600$ range that ticks these boxes - HDMI in, Bluetooth, Wireless Sub Woofer, great for music. Will be nice to have WiFi and multi room capabilities.

  • Sam from Montreal

    Posted on 12/14/2016

    Hi, I have a bit of a dilemma as I'm currently shopping for a soundbar which can be connected to my projector. The only issue is that the projector is mounted to a ceiling mount! The only location I can place the soundbar is on the ceiling as well. I've read that soundbars have Accelerometers built in and only way my placement can work is if I use analog rca cables and I'd have to reverse the left & right males on the projector's outputs that is sending the sound to the soundbar. Are HDMI out of the question? Any suggestions or guidance would be greatly appreciated!

  • Demetrius from Sacramento

    Posted on 11/28/2016

    Is there any rule of thumb for length of soundbar to size of tv, or is it more about the room add the aesthetics of the installation?

  • Deia Z. from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/21/2016

    Hi Lori. The smartphone remote feature is just an added convenience. Most sound bars come with their own remote control, and you can often control them with your TV remote too. If you're not sure, just check under "What's in the box".

  • Lori from Waltham

    Posted on 11/4/2016

    Have an XPS 8500 64 bit, Windows 7; an thinking of getting a newer monitor and a soundbar or speakers; to view videos & movies mostly also to listen to occasional classical music. A Samsung description of a soundbar said it was controlled via a phone, don't have smartphone, nor want to buy 1 for this limited purpose. Are other sound bars available that are reasonably priced & use a remote control? what else would I likely need to check out & buy?

  • David from Falls Church, VA

    Posted on 1/13/2016

    Phil, when you say voice is hardly audible, what do you mean exactly? Is it muffled? Or is it being drowned out by sound effects and music? If dialog is being excessively drowned out, It could be your configuration. Try adjusting sound modes (EQ, etc. if applicable). Is it getting a feed from your TV? If so, go into the audio settings on your TV make sure any special enhancements are DISABLED. Some TVs have fake surround modes that try to enhance stereo separation and give the impression of a wider soundstage in order to attempt to simulate surround sound from two speakers that are very close together. Sometimes, this can cause the center mix (dialog, on screen sound effects, etc) to sound quieter than the rest of the mix. If your TV has this, make sure it is turned off if it is feeding your sound bar.

  • Jose A Rivera from PR

    Posted on 8/24/2015

    Great info. Thanks

  • Punto from New York

    Posted on 8/23/2015

    More than a year ago, I purchased a moderately expensive (ca. $400) JBL soundbar system with subwoofer for my TV after consulting with a Crutchfield representative. I mentioned that much of what I planned on watching was not movies but concert DVDs (or even CDs played on the DVD player with the video off) of classical music so I was not looking for booming movie theater sound but something resembling a concert hall acoustic. The item that we settled on has turned out to be a total disappointment. Anything louder than solo piano or small chamber groups sounds just awful. Worse that the cheap boombox that I keep in my kitchen. Too much trouble to return it or I definitely would have. Just a caution to anyone who might have similar needs and be considering using a soundbar as part of an audio system and has a decent set of ears. I would recommend sticking with good old-fashioned speakers for a life-like listening experience.

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/10/2015

    Scott, sound bars are pretty adaptable to your setup, so mounting above the TV should be fine. I would suggest aiming the drivers to your listening position the best you can.

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 8/10/2015

    Michael, I've sent your comment to one of our Advisors to find some sound bars that will work well in that room. You'll hear from them soon.

  • Michael from Delray Beach

    Posted on 8/6/2015

    Question: My room has a 24 foot ceiling and the acoustics are awful. What characteristics should I look for in a sound bar to compensate for this?

  • Scott from Norton Shores

    Posted on 8/1/2015

    Is there any disadvantage to placing the soundbar on the wall above the television as opposed to below it?

  • Deia Z. from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/28/2015

    Hi Jennifer. It isn't necessary to place the subwoofer near the TV or sound bar. One of the great things about wireless subwoofers is they can be placed nearly anywhere in the room.

  • Jennifer from Rochester

    Posted on 7/26/2015

    Can the subwoofer be placed anywhere in the room or is it recommended to be near the sound bar/tv?

Great Gear Giveaway



Ask an expert advisor

No pressure, no commission — just lots of good advice from our highly trained staff.

Find what fits your vehicle


Can't find your exact vehicle?