Choose the very best for your living room
Just recently I was at my friend’s house, since he said he had something new to show me. Imagine the look on my face when I saw that he owns a sound bar. I was like, man, what do you need this for ? He just sat on his couch and told me to sit next to him. Asked me what movie do I want to watch. I was like, just put on anything you want, we’ve got some time to kill anyway. He put Pacific Rim on and told me: “Now you’ll see what a sound bar is capable of !” I was like, whatever, lets see it.
For the next 2 hours I’ve felt like I was in a cinema. During the “naval” battles the room was flooded with crisp sound of the waves, yet deep bass during the fight, roars of the machines. I was really engulfed in the sound of the movie itself I didn’t even realize he left to go get something to eat. Even during the dialogue the male voices had a certain depth to them, you don’t normally get that with ordinary TV speakers. There was no hiss, no distortion of the sound anywhere, even if there was I didn’t even notice, because I was enjoying the moment a bit too much I believe. If someone told me that kind of sound was possible to achieve with a sound bar and a subwoofer I, honestly, wouldn’t believe them. I knew it was possible but with some super expensive, top of the line speakers, not just an ordinary piece of tech.
After that experience I did some digging. I found out that sound bars didn’t have crazy high prices on their price tags anymore. There were, of course top of the line and those more affordable, but after testing the top sound bars on the market right now I can tell you that a higher price doesn’t mean better sound quality
What is a sound bar ?
A sound bar is basically a long, thin speaker that’s designed to sit neatly underneath your television and offer a significant boost to its original speaker’s
weak sound. It looks very elegant when sitting below your TV, plus, it makes your whole setup look that much cooler. Not only will they beef up the sound, but some even have the power to provide true, yet simulated, surround sound, essentially giving you an almost cinematic experience. But not all sound bars are made equal. In their quest to improve upon the bass-free output of a TV’s built-in speakers, some sound bars go too far in the opposite direction, and give you a bass overload, but fear not we aren’t going to give you that type of sound bar options here.
So without further ado, welcome to our guide to the best sound bars available in 2016. We’ve got something to match every budget, and our “price tracker” will make sure that you get the absolutely best price possible.
Sound bars are the best way to get better sound quality in the living room. They’re simple and sleek, elegant, plus they don’t have all the frustrating cable management that comes with a true surround-sound system. Sound bars are there to improve on your stock speakers that came with your TV. No matter what TV you buy there won’t be any built-in TV speakers that sound better than a whole dedicated audio source like a sound bar.
Sound bars are something that’s being seen more and more in people’s homes ,and it’s slowly becoming “the device to have” in tandem with your TV. Its beautifully elegant and sleek design makes it easy for the eyes, compared to those HTIB set-ups.
BEST SOUND BAR –Focal Dimension
BEST BUY – Philips Fidelio B5
BEST SELLER –LG SH5B
BEST GAMING SOUND BAR – Razer Leviathan
LG OLEDE6 Series
There are 2 design types;
Pedestal-style sound bars are even sleeker than the more traditional bar design. “Pedestal” refers to the fact that they are designed to sit
under your TV; they actually end up looking more like part of your TV stand than a speaker.
The most common design is quite literally a sound
: it’s a long, thin speaker that’s typically paired with a wireless subwoofer. The sound bar can be wall-mounted or, more commonly, placed on your TV stand in front of the TV. bar
For this comparison we’ve chosen to review the best of the best the today’s market has to offer, not considering the ones with above-the-top price points
BEST SOUND BAR – Focal Dimension
Dimensions: 1,155 x 115 x 115mm
Weight: 5. 5kg
Inputs: 1 x HDMI, 1 x digital optical, 1 x 3. 5mm
Wireless : Bluetooth aptX
Subwoofer included? : No
The Dimension doesn’t come with standard Bluetooth. To get the Bluetooth option you have to buy the aptX universal receiver, which is around £130.It does, however, offer Dolby Digital and DTS decoding to give you true 5.1 sound. It will play 5.1 core of these formats, just not the hi-res part, but you can always get a Blue-ray deck to decode them and input the signal as LPCM.
It features 10cm ultra-thin paper drivers, that are shaped like inverted cones to deliver clearly defined and coherent high frequencies. Four lateral driver are responsible for generating low frequencies, using bass-reflex loading with 2 ports on each side of the sound bar. The Focal Dimension doesn’t rely fully on sound beams or high-frequency manipulation to deliver its 5.1 sound, just subtle processing to create a sense of surround immersion.
The Dimension’s performance is over the top. Its enormous sound engulfs the room and immerses you in whatever you’re watching.
The key to this type of sound is its impressive bass output. It is so deep and heavy that it’s hard to believe there is no subwoofer included. Only hardcore bass enthusiasts will feel a need to add one.
Watching Blu-Ray Pacific Rim while testing this piece of tech, we found that the Dimension conveys the scale of the monster’s battles. Emitting heavy, but in-line, thump with every step and thunderous rumble when buildings come down. It tightly locks to 5 full-range drivers and stops and starts with ease. The result is fast and hard-hitting sound, all the ingredients needed for great entertainment. Since it has crisp mids and highs hearing the monster’s roar gave me chills. Not just action scenes benefit from this type of sound. Even male voices have a subtle depth to them.
It’s not just action scenes that benefit from this top-drawer bass performance – softer sounds like Army truck engines are underpinned by a solid rumble and male voices have subtle depth. Not just action scenes benefit here, even softer sounds like male voices have a subtle depth to them.
Sound bars do have their limitations, this one is no different. However, it’s the
best sounding sound bar I’ve heard and seen. For those with limited space, the Dimension sound bad and a subwoofer are a great choice. It takes a couple of hours to set the whole thing up, but once it’s done, it’s a delight to see. It isn’t cheap but you’re paying for excellent build quality, sound and design. The optional Dimension sub is an addition and it is worth it if you want to feel the bass, though I didn’t find it necessary for my taste.
BEST BUY – Philips Fidelio B5
Weight: 16kg ( 35 pounds )
Dimensions: 1,035 x 70 x 156 mm
Subwoofer included ? : Yes
This is much more than just a sound bar, the Philips Fidelio B5 is wireless. No more of those cable management problems, forget about that. If you want this to be surround sound, just take the speakers from both ends of the sound bar and place them behind you. They each have built-in rechargeable batteries that can last up to 10 hours. You can have surround sound entertainment all evening with ease. When they drain, just plug them back into the sound bar and in 4 hours they will be fully charged.
To ensure you get the clearest surround sound possible, the Fidelio featured automatic spatial calibration. This adjusts the pitch in relation to where it’s positioned. The result is a crystal clear surround sound system.
The Fidelio also has another stunning feature. Like many sound bars these days, it lets you connect it to a tablet or smartphone via Bluetooth. This ensures that you have the best, yet effortless, music streaming available. Due to the portability of the two speakers attached to the sound bar itself, you can stream on both of them independently. You can even take one with you, since they have a 10 hour long battery life span. Even with detached speakers, the Fidelio B5 looks sleek all day, every day. Its teardrop shape doesn’t interfere with anything below your TV, and with aluminum refined edges, it gives it a luxury feel.
Surround sound with portable Bluetooth, what’s not to love ?
The Fidelio sound bar offers hi-fi sound quality. Of course it has a dedicated subwoofer, that benefits music and movies. This offers a rich and powerful bass response. Adding to this it has a built-in Dolby Digital and Pro Logic II decoders, which insures furthermore that your TV is delivering stunning surround sound detail and clarity. Plug it into your TV via HDMI port and, thanks to ARC, you’ll only need one cable to sound one way and video the other. Connect it to your Blu-ray player, console and you will get the best connectivity going for yourself. For other external sources like CD/DVD players, there are optical and digital inputs included.
The Philips Fidelio B5 is an impressive kit. T
he perfect sound bar for someone who appreciates good cinema sound but has no interest in the time consuming process of installing a 5. 1 surround sound system. The B5 enables you to pick and choose your favorite movie moments, and do it on a click. It creates a pretty decent surround sound experience too, using both Dolby Digital 5. 1 and DTS Digital Surround decoding.
The combination of convenience and good audio. With its transformative surround sound capabilities makes the Fidelio B5 a great option for the movie fan who can’t face all the aggravation of a proper 5. 1 installation. In the end if you can’t decide between typical or surround sound, you can have both, with the Philips Fidelio B5.
BEST SELLER –LG SH5B
Dimensions: 41. 73 x 2. 09 x 3. 35 inches
Inputs: 1 x HDMI In, 1 x HDMI Out, 1 x 3. 5mm
Wireless: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
Subwoofer included?: Yes
The subwoofer is wireless, all you need to do is plug in its power cable and it will sync automatically with the sound bar. There’s a status light located on the subwoofer that tells you if it’s connected, which comes to good use if you ever need to troubleshoot it.
It’s very flexible for mounting. Wall mount adapters are included in the box and the sound bar itself is very lightweight so it can fit just about anywhere. On the other hand, if you didn’t plan to take out a drill today, you can simply just place the sound bar flat onto your home entertainment center without needing to drill anything. And because the subwoofer is wireless you can place it anywhere you want within the room itself, but we suggest putting it somewhere in a corner to maximize the bass impact.
Behind the sound bar you are going to find connections for HDMI, optical, auxiliary and ethernet. You can’t physically see the connection for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi though. All of this makes this LG’s entry level sound bar quite versatile for your music or movie streaming needs.
To get started with this setup you’ll need to download LG’s MusicFlow Player app. It allows you to transition seamlessly from listening to your favorite music on your smartphone, to all of your LG speakers at home. LG’s MusicFlow line of speakers all work in tandem with the sound bar to create a multi-room listening. With the sound bar connected to your home network, you can use Google Cast to stream your music over Wi-Fi, offering an audible performance bump over the Bluetooth connection.
The LG SH5B is a sound bar system that can do almost everything. Its feature set and above average sound quality make it a good choice for those who have limited space. While music playback and surround sound are a breeze and a delight, its design is something to keep in mind too, since it so minimal. Also it’s a breeze to set up since its subwoofer is wireless. Sound quality is good for the price, if you want a sound bar that can take on every type of media you can throw at it, the LG SH5B is a great option.
For its price tag, the sound bar itself surprised me with above average sound quality. Although it still sounds like a sound bar, with narrow imaging and simulated surround sound, it’s surprisingly a delight listening to music or movies over it. Movies sound good with powerful bass and distortion-free playback, even when listening in higher volume. You can adjust the bass with the included remote.
Watching Star Wars, the sound of blasters and lightsaber swings filled my apartment. Lasers hit with impactful blasts of sound, with the subwoofer generating an impressive amount of bass.
If you want a comparison to another manufacturer, the Samsung HW-J650 goes for around the same price of the LG, but features an annoying echo effect making the LG a better buy.
Music sounds great on the SH5B with the speakers top-end resolution and offering sometimes loud bass. If you’re more of a casual music listener, the SH5B is more than enough. One thing I really enjoyed about the LG SH5B is its ability to be used without the TV being ON. I streamed music via Google Play Music and Soundcloud to the sound bar. I love that Google Cast is built in, making it easy to start streaming music from any Android or iOS device.
The LG SH5B sound bar is a capable and flexible speaker system for getting more out of your movies and TV shows. Its wireless subwoofer and clean dialogue reproduction lets action and voices come through crystal clear and with plenty of power. The variety of connection options, including LG’s powerful Music Cast feature, makes hooking up almost any audio source very easy, with or without wires. However, like many sound bars in this price range, it’s very clearly tuned for movie and television audio, and lacks the really fine detail and wide, that dedicated music speakers can offer.
BEST GAMING SOUND BAR – Razer Leviathan
Dimensions: 19. 7 x 3 x 2. 8 inches
Inputs: 1 x digital optical, 1 x phono
Subwoofer included?: Yes
Just when you think you really know a company, it goes and releases something completely out of its field. Razer has historically been a peddler of pointers and the king of keyboards. Just look at the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate mouse or Razer DeathAdder Chroma mechanical keyboard.
The $199 (£159) Leviathan is many things for Razer. Mainly, it’s Razer’s first sound bar, but also its first step into your living room and the consoles that live there. It’s the first product from Razer that can directly interface with your Xbox and PS4 via its optical audio-in port, as well as your PC or TV through auxiliary in. But, above all that, the Leviathan represents an idea. Proof that companies like Razer can do now more than ever before.
On the face, you’ll find a speaker that guards two 0.74-inch tweeters and two 2.5-inch full-range drivers. In the exact middle there will, of course, be the Razer silver logo. You will also find a power button located along the top of the grille.
On the top of the bar you’ll see standard controls along with a Bluetooth button used to sync the Leviathan up with your smartphone device and a preset button that includes
game, music and movie modes. Rotate it all the way around and you will see a proprietary subwoofer-out, DC-in, optical audio-in and auxiliary in jacks as well as two brackets for wall mounting. The bar itself isn’t stocked with ports as well as its higher-end competition, but in the end, it’s an easier setup with bare essentials.
The only problem with the the proprietary subwoofer port that transmits power and signal to the external, extremely sleek, matte black subwoofer, is that the cable sits a bit loose in the jack. Overall the input looks extremely fragile. Perhaps in the next generation of the Razer sound bar they will go with the option to make the subwoofer wireless
As it stands, the Leviathan’s greatest asset is its subwoofer. The little box can push an astounding amount of air trough its 5.25-inch driver that produces rich, clear, bass-heavy sound that doesn’t distort on high, or even max, volume. The low-end is also not too overpowering, and if you are a game that likes your bass to drop harder than your opponents dead bodies, you will, without a doubt, love this little, yet elegant, cube.
With some balancing issues, the overall quality of the bar’s sound is good no matter which input you option out for. The Dolby Pro Logic II codec will transform any signal (analog, optical or Bluetooth) into simulated 5.1 surround sound. It has to be simulated though, as the unit is one driver shy, just one, of having the ability to give out true 5.1 sound.
For $199, the Razer Leviathan is a great sound bar, and is easily recommended for gamers who just aren’t ready to dive into a full 5.1 system yet. It’s a bit bass-heavy, thanks to the standalone subwoofer – but even so, movies and games come through crystal clear.
The bar is relatively versatile, too. It’s plenty powerful for a PC, but it works out of the box with any console or TV through optical audio out. Not to mention that built-in Bluetooth lets you connect your mobile device when you aren’t directly in front of your entertainment setup. A few tweaks, like a more stable subwoofer connector and a remote would’ve been nice. But, in spite of its diminutive size, the Leviathan far outgrew my expectations.
For a company that puts such a high priority on design, Sonos’s speakers always seem rather plain in person. If you are looking for a sound bar that attracts attention to itself, this isn’t the one. The Playbar has the unassuming aesthetic that doesn’t call attention to itself, but that’s what most people are looking for in a home audio system.
Instead, Sonos’s design excels with a host of nifty features that show the company’s attention to detail. The Playbar has a low profile (3.35 inches in height), which helps keep it from blocking the remote sensor on your TV.
The Playbar also has a unique multipositional design: you can put it flat on a table or the wall. It’s a clever trick that allows the Playbar to have a thin profile in either configuration. A sensor inside can tell which configuration the Playbar is in and adjusts its sonics accordingly to the position. There’s a second remote sensor on the Playbar that’s positioned to better receive commands in the wall-mounting position.
The Playbar sounds good, even when compared to its competition, especially when it comes to playing music. It’s a versatile speaker that stood up to expectations. Whatever we threw at it, being bass-heavy Jay Z or some classical Jazz music, it coped very well. The bass is tight and the vocals are clear. The playbar also shines with TV and movie audio playback. It provides good simulated surround sound, and its a good improvement over any TV speakers out there.
Casual listeners will find no fault with the Playbar’s output. The Playbar excels as a sound bar, above the competition, providing a considerable upgrade over your TV’s speakers. As well as serving as a capable stereo substitute that provides a convenient way to listen to all of your music
The Playbar’s home theater performance is supported by a pair of unique features: Night Sound and Speech Enhancement. Night Sound is aimed at those who prefer late-night TV, but don’t want to wake the neighbors. Switch it on, and the dynamic range of the audio coming through the speakers is reduced if the volume is reduced too. Soft sounds, like dialogue, become louder, while the louder sounds, like shooting, are softened. It works fine for movie watching.
Speech Enhancement was a welcome addition to our TV watching. It works through a combination of lowering bass but by adding gain to the center channel. In practice, the feature is brilliant, as it makes voices sound rich and crisp, particularly when watching the talk shows or any channels, such as ESPN. It’s not something you notice when it’s switched off, but when you realize that on-screen voices suddenly seem muted and muddy in comparison, you’ll know it’s on.
Overall, the array of nine drivers filled the room with sound, and the Playbar can really crank up the volume. We’re talking really, really loud, and should you be so inclined, we detected no distortion during our time spent listening at max volume. Needless to say, if you’re looking for the Playbar to serve as the centerpiece for your next party, Sonos has you covered.
Despite the Playbar’s well-rounded abilities, we’d be remiss not to mention just how much better the listening experience improved when paired with a Sonos Sub. Naturally, home theater sound can be improved further by deploying a couple of Play:3s as satellite speakers to create a true 5.1 surround system, but adding the Sub is what really fills in the Playbar’s sonic gaps.
Dimensions: 1080 × 58 × 127mm
Weight: 3. 2kg
Inputs: 1 x digital optical, 3 x HDMI
Outputs: 1 x HDMI
Wireless: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
The sound bar ticks a lot of boxes. Apart from its core role as a TV sound system, it can also function as part of a multi-room wireless system. Integrating with other Sony wireless speakers and system components through the SongPal app. It also includes the support for Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth. Music services, such as Qobuz, Google Play Music and Tune-in radio, can be streamed using Google Cast. There’s also Spotify on board. A glittery Hi-Res Audio badge tells you its compatible with 24-bit audio, and that includes DSD files. You can also use Sony’s own higher-resolution LDAC Bluetooth codec, but you’ll need to stream from a compatible LDAC mobile source.
The user interface is simple. It’s made up of a graphical menu of all connected sources and inputs. Hopping between devices connected on your home network is as easy as choosing something plugged in via HDMI or some other port.
The unit also has its own video processing on-board. There’s Super Bitmapping, which fights color banding, plus DSEE HX. The system can also be upgraded with compatible Sony wireless bookshelf speakers to create a multi-channel surround system.
This Sony package impresses with its clarity and precision. The sound bar sounds as if it’s been tuned for both music and movies alike. It also wins points for vocal clarity and mid-range definition.
The HT-NT5 can be laid flat in front of the TV, or be wall mounted, with a pair of hooks that are included in the box. The midrange woofers are angled within an acoustic dip. When laid flat, the edge facing tweeter ensures the soundstage remains nice and clear. When vertical, those neat super-tweeters come into play.
The system has enough volume to keep things interesting with Blu-ray and gaming. Sony quotes a power output of 400W but this is woefully optimistic. The system draws no more than 75w at the mains, split between sound bar and subwoofer.
Audio presets include: Movie and Music, Sports, Game Studio and “Standard”. It’s worth experimenting as they do make a difference to the sound field, as well as any would do. There’s also a “Voice Up” mode which incrementally lifts dialogue for those who find movie mixes a bit unclear.
The subwoofer doesn’t drop any deep bass either. During The Revenant, the thud of horseflesh and the cacophony of battle is thrilling, but the system doesn’t get muddy or visceral.
As the subwoofer expends its energy above 50Hz, it’s also quite directional. In terms of placement you’ll want to place it relatively close to the sound bar. The mid-range woofers operate upwards from 100Hz, while the tweeters become effective at 200Hz.
Sitting proudly at the top of Sony’s 2016 sound bar line-up, this $700, 2. 1 sound system includes 4K HDMI-ready inputs, a wireless, ultra-thin bar with a subwoofer and even a Hi-Res Audio badge.
The sub’s three-way speaker design really shines, but it’s the presence of Sony S Master digital amp module for every driver that wins the day. Top sound money can buy is assured across the board, with stereo width at its best when it’s wall-mounted.
Now here are some pieces to utilize your new sound bar
The LG OLEDE6 Series
LG’s latest OLED TV combines exceptional contrast and sound along with an amazing ultra-thin design.
The OLEDE6’s incredibly slim ‘picture on glass’ design technique makes it, simply one of the most gorgeous TVs ever made. They’re certainly not just a pretty face, though. Especially since the way each OLED pixel produces its own light and color independent of its neighbors. This means the OLEDE6 series delivers levels of contrast and light control just not possible with LCD. Unprecedentedly deep black colors sit right alongside even the brightest HDR whites without a hint of light ‘bleed’ – something just not possible with current LCD technologies. This works wonders for high-contrast HDR sources, as well as making today’s standard dynamic range sources look better than on any other TV. A sound bar attached to the bottom of the screen, meanwhile, produces sound quality that wouldn’t be out of place on an external audio system. It is expensive but in the end, if you have the funds, down-right worth it.
Among the handful of projectors we reviewed, the
Epson’s 5020UB was our favorite. Yes, there are better projectors for more money. There are also less expensive projectors but they can’t begin to match its performance and yet we felt that the 5020 offered the best of both worlds.
This year, the company hasn’t changed much with the 5030UB. The price, the design, the features, all but one digit in the model number, all identical. One thing has gotten better, however, and that’s the level of the blacks that this guy produces. Those are the most important aspect of picture quality.
The 5030UB still throws out more light than anything in its class. Allowing it to be used in situations aside from total darkness, unlike many of those favorites of videophile. It also boasts the accurate color and solid video processing, and beyond the picture, the package is compelling. It includes 3D glasses, all the expected setup options, even a sliding lens cover.
So Epson has another winner, and no matter how many projectors we test this year, it’s tough to imagine another besting it.
In the end a Sound Bar, or Digital Sound Projector, alone is not a replacement for a true 5.1/7.1 multi-channel home theater system in a large room. But it can be a great option for a basic, uncluttered, audio and speaker system that can enhance your TV viewing enjoyment. Sound Bars and Digital Sound Projectors can also be a great speaker solution in a second system. Perhaps a bedroom, office, or secondary family room.
I have a sound bar in my home the Philips Fidelio B5,and whenever I invite someone to my house, that’s the 1st thing they notice. Now I’m not saying I have a glamorous house like Angelina Jolie or anything of the sort. Just that it’s something that is unconventional and people haven’t yet noticed it in other homes, even though they are beginning to appear more frequently. I am an audiophile and I listen to music 90% of the time when I’m at home so this the quality of the sound I hear is extremely important to me. Not hearing any buzzing or anything of the sort is a delight and, in the end, makes for a quite enjoyable experience.
I’m not going to make, that is purchase, any upgrades any time soon since this is the top option for me and my current needs. I have little free time I just want to enjoy some hiss-free music.
Some lesser known terms
* High-dynamic-range imaging ( HDR) is a high dynamic range (HDR) technique used in imaging and in photography to produce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than is possible with standard digital imaging. The aim of it is to present a similar range of luminescence to that experienced through the human visual system. The human eye, through adaptation of the iris and other methods, adjusts all the time for the broad range of luminescence present in the environment. The brain continuously processes this information so that a viewer can see in a wide range of light conditions.
HDR images can represent a greater range of luminescence levels than can be achieved using more ‘traditional’ methods, such as many real-world scenes containing very bright or very faint objects. This is often achieved by capturing and then combining several different narrower range exposures of the same matter. Non-HDR cameras take photographs with a
limited exposure range, resulting in the loss of detail in highlights and shadows.
The two primary types of HDR images are computer renderings and images resulting from merging multiple low-dynamic-range or standard-dynamic-range photographs. HDR images can also be acquired using special image sensors.
Audio Return Channel or ARC, is an HDMI feature, built into many TVs, receivers, and sound bars. It has the potential to simplify setup, but it comes at a potential cost. Here’s what you need to know