Best soundbar for 2021: Yamaha, Klipsch, Vizio, Sonos and more

By Dasblog

If you want to take your TV viewing to the next level, it might be time to consider investing in a soundbar. Soundbars are not only affordable, but they’re also a breeze to set up and offer improved sound quality for your home theater over a standard built-in TV speaker. That’s why a soundbar is considerably more popular than larger home theater speakersAV receivers and subwoofers

In general, soundbars offer clear sound, more than one sound mode, and some even work with your existing smart speakers — so you can talk to them through your Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. There are a lot of soundbars out there, but all are bound to offer better audio quality than what you’ve already got. With a multitude of choices available, including Samsung soundbar, Bose soundbar, Atmos soundbar and more options, finding the best soundbar can be challenging. This guide can help you cut through the noise.

To test the quality of each soundbar listed below, we compared each soundbar against similarly priced models with a combination of movies and music. We also took into account features such as multiroom capabilities, the number of HDMI ports, high-resolution audio, Bluetooth, surround sound or Dolby Atmos. We have the best soundbar options for wireless aficionados and for people who want to literally plug their soundbar into their existing living room audio system and immediately get to watching their favorite TV shows with immersive sound.

From solid bare-bones bars to smart Alexa-powered, Atmos speakers, this is CNET’s lineup of the best soundbars available from $100 and up. This list is updated periodically as new soundbar products become available and are tested. 

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

If you’re looking to ditch your TV speaker, this is where we suggest you start. Our long-time TV soundbar favorite, the Vizio SB3621n-E8 has essentially been replaced by the new V21. The subwoofer may be smaller on the newer model but this bar still sounds great, as well as offering HDMI connectivity with HDMI ARC and a much easier to understand input display. This is the best soundbar value we’ve tested this year.

Read our Vizio V21 review.


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If your price range is limited, for less than a C-note, the Creative Stage Dolby Atmos soundbar offers a bunch of previously unheard-of features, including HDMI connectivity with HDMI ARC port and a subwoofer. But what’s even more remarkable is that this affordable soundbar sounds better than most of its ultra budget competition, with a wired subwoofer that fills the room with great bass. It comes with a variety of modes making this soundbar speaker especially suited to music, concerts (now that we can’t see them live) and gaming. Excellent sound quality for gamers and movie fans alike.

Read our Creative Stage review.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Easily supplanting our previous favorite, the JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass, the Klipsch Cinema 400 adds great design and an even bigger wireless subwoofer. Sound quality is still king though with a real sense of dynamics and excellent music replay. If you want to make your TV the next best thing to a cinema, this is one of the most affordable ways to do it. 

Read our Klipsch Cinema 400 review.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Dec 2020

The Yamaha YAS-209 offers excellent sound quality in a compact soundbar. The addition of Amazon Alexa is useful, allowing this voice control smart soundbar to stream music, and the mics work well in loud environments. The soundbar’s implementation of DTS Virtual:X virtual surroun sound offers a rich effect reminiscent of surround speaker sound. Two HDMI connections are included, one with HDMI ARC. This smart soundbar’s wireless subwoofer is more articulate and offers more headroom than the competing, and also excellent, Polk Command Bar. However, the Yamaha soundbar YAS-209 doesn’t use the company’s MusicCast system, so it won’t sync up with other Yamaha speakers.

Read our Yamaha YAS-209 review.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Vizio Elevate’s main draw may be its motorized height speakers, but once you get over their novelty you’ll find that the speaker system also sounds great. The separate sub and height-enabled rear speakers really help pull this Vizio soundbar ahead of the Sonos Arc sonically. With Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and Chromecast built in, multiple HDMI inputs and Bluetooth, the only thing the Vizio doesn’t provide is Apple AirPlay support. 

Read our Vizio Elevate P514A-H6 review.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If you simply must have the fewest number of boxes and remotes in your living space and yet demand the best Atmos quality sound performance you can get, this Sennheiser speaker is your guy. It’s a single unit, without a subwoofer, but it’s able to conjure up the most realistic overhead and true surround sound effects we’ve ever heard. It’s also controlled entirely via remote control. It’s not a cheap piece of sound equipment but it’s comparable in price to a full set of surround speakers without the bulk and with 85% of the great sound and performance.

Read our Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar review.


Also consider

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

If you’re looking for a speaker that can do music as well as play the latest episode of Ted Lasso, then the Polk Signa S3 has a lot to offer. It’s great for streaming, as it has Chromecast built in in addition to Bluetooth and an HDMI input.

Read our Polk Signa S3 review.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

If you’re interested in setting up a multiroom sound system, a Sonos soundbar system is still the best option. The Sonos Arc is the company’s best soundbar and includes Dolby Atmos playback, a class-leading music ecosystem, and a choice of both Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa built into the bar itself. The soundbar system sounds good with music and movies, and adding a pair of Ikea Symphonisk bookshelves should really boost your home theater sound experience. The Arc sounds a lot bigger than the cheaper Beam, which needs the $700 subwoofer on top to make it comparable in terms of sound.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While we really like the Roku Smart Soundbar, the Roku Streambar does essentially the same job for $50 less. With a full-fledged 4K HDR Roku streamer built in and a single voice remote controlling everything, this bar gives you audio and video in one simple bar. The Roku soundbar setup is a breeze; just add to a TV with a simple HDMI port connection. This affordable soundbar has sound quality that’s acceptable for the size and price, and you can add a $129 wireless subwoofer for more punch.

Read our Roku Streambar review.


Best bass without a subwoofer

Zvox SB500

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re looking for a single bar that’s even cheaper than the Sonos Arc, the Zvox SB500 is a great option for people who still prize sound quality. This speaker offers multiple sound mode options, tighter bass and better sound than most other single-speaker options. While it may lack the Sonos’ Wi-Fi streaming the Zvox still includes Bluetooth connectivity for streaming audio from your phone or tablet.

Read our Zvox SB500 review.


More home theater buying guides

  • Best universal remotes of 2021
  • Best soundbars and home audio for the holidays
  • Sony’s new Bluetooth speaker line gets a welcome refresh
  • Best Sonos speakers starting at $100
  • The best Bluetooth wireless speaker of 2021
  • Best soundbars of 2021 under $200
  • Best soundbars with Amazon Alexa in 2021
  • Best 32-inch TV for 2021
  • Best 75-inch TV for 2021: TCL, Samsung, LG and Sony compared
  • Best 65-inch TV for 2021: Samsung TV, LG, TCL and more
  • Best turntables under $300 in 2021: Audio Technica, Pro-ject, Fluance and more
  • Best over-ear headphones of 2021
  • 4 true wireless earbuds under $40 worth buying
  • Best PC speakers for 2021
  • Best soundbars and audio gear for the big game 2021
  • Best TVs for the big game 2021

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