Review: 10 soundbars comparison review

Great TV Audio with streaming

Soundbars is the simplest way to having great TV audio. Choose one with a streaming and you'll get a stereo system with your purchase!

Published 2019-02-25 - 2:36 pm
10 soundbars comparison review
Geir Nordby

Products in this test

The television manufacturers are working diligently to improve their products, and continue to launch better products from year to year. Except for one point: the sound quality. In a world where flatter is better, there is no room to incorporate good quality speakers.

The simplest and most elegant solution to issues regarding audio is a soundbar. A separate speaker, in which all speaker drivers, amplification and processing of the digital audio signal from the film or music are built into a single chassis.

Bar or base?

A regular soundbar is fairly thin and long, and is designed to fit under a wall mounted TV. If, on the other hand, you have your TV on a table, you may prefer to select a sound base. This is deeper and narrower than a soundbar, and has the advantage of allowing you to have the TV placed on top of it, so that it doesn’t get in the way of the TV’s bottom edge, like a soundbar can do, if you place this on the table in front of the TV. Because of the larger chassis volume of the base, it often has more bass than a soundbar and manages fine without an additional subwoofer next to it. The soundbar does not have as deep bass of its own, and may often require a subwoofer to work optimally.
The sound base market has never completely taken off, so many manufacturers have stopped making them. For the same reason, we initially considered having soundbars in this test, but suddenly Sonos (the market leader within multi-room speakers) launched its first sound base, so we decided to include it. Other than that, the rest of the test subjects are soundbars.

What are we looking for?

A soundbar’s job is primarily to improve TV audio, while music becomes a bonus. More powerful sound is an important keyword, but we have learned that some producers have fallen for the temptation to provide a round and rich sound experience at the expense of openness and clarity in the dialogue. This is not acceptable. The soundbar must always be better than the TV. It shouldn’t be the case that when you watch the news, you use the TV’s built-in speakers because they render clearer speech than the soundbar. The soundbar should ALWAYS be the preferred choice. That means first and foremost that dialogue is in order.
Of course, we also want a rich and hefty sound rendition and also viable music experiences in stereo. The best soundbars can handle everything.

This is how we tested

All products have been tested by our hi-fi bench. For movies, we have connected the 4K Blu-ray player Panasonic DMP-UB900 with HDMI as this has been available. In other cases, the audio has been transmitted via the optical digital input. Where products have external subwoofers, they are positioned where it sounds best (usually somewhere on the floor by the wall, not far from the soundbar).
Music in stereo has been played over the wireless network. We have used Tidal with CD quality where this has been available, otherwise we have used Spotify.
We have tested with the movie Deadpool on 4K Blu-ray, while music in stereo has been an assorted selection.

Products in this test

Philips HTL5160

Clear speech

The Philips soundbar does its job, with crystal clear dialogue and a fairly balanced sound.

The balance in the sound is fine, and the soundbar simulates surround sound quite well. Google Cast provides great usability for streaming.
We want more overtones, and the stereo perspective on the music should be wider.
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Yamaha YAS-306

Rather complete

If you are looking for an affordable option with multi-room, and do not want an extra bass crate, then this one is good.

A low price and good usability are a plus, and the soundbar provides a rich enough audio without a subwoofer.
Music in stereo lacks energy and life.
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Samsung HW-MS660

Impressive balance

Samsung’s soundbar sounds just as well on music as it does for movies.

The sound is very clear and clean, Samsung is in the forefront when it comes to natural sound.
The bass can once in a while almost be too rich.
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Sony HT-NT5

Good compromise

This is designed to lie flat and point towards the ceiling, but nevertheless sounds good facing forward. It works pretty good.

The most successful flat soundbar we have heard. Sounds both natural and open, and has good usability.
The focus of the soundscape is better from the soundbar that play directly forward.
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Bose SoundTouch 300

Not good enough

Bose has banked on user-friendliness, but has unfortunately forgotten about the sound quality.

In typical Bose style, the soundbar is very user-friendly, and room correction can help in difficult environments.
The sound is too bad, and it lacks support for multiple streaming services.
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Sonos PlayBase

The TV's resting pad

Sonos’ new sound base PlayBase acts as a base for the TV. But did it arrive too late?

The sound is balanced, and the room correction fixes problems. Increased chassis volume accommodates subwoofers.
It lacks HDMI inputs, and the sound is not as engaging as the best sound bases.
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Heos HomeCinema

User-friendly and tough

Heos has endowed this with user-friendliness, and here one also gets tough, rich sound for one’s money.

The usability is top notch, many streaming services are supported, and with subwoofer included, the price is very favourable.
It lacks some nuances in the overtones, especially for music in stereo.
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Klipsch RSB-14

A lot of sound pressure, little else

Klipsch has the highest sound pressure in the test. But the soundbar disappoints on sound quality.

When it comes to sound pressure, Klipsch is in a separate class. The user-friendliness of the Play-Fi multi-room is very good.
The sound quality does not measure up.
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Yamaha YSP-2700

Hissing sound

The biggest problem with this soundbar is a huge hole in the soundscape.

Many speaker drivers and advanced DSP allow one to get virtually true surround sound.
There is a large hole in the sound between the subwoofer and the soundbar. The soundbar gives us the consonants from vocals, while the subwoofer provides the vowels.
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Bluesound Pulse Soundbar

The most accomplished

Bluesound’s soundbar costs a bit more, but pays off in the form of a much better experiences on both film and music.

Very powerful sound, even without a subwoofer, timbre balance is great and user-friendliness very good.
There could also be even more air at the top.
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