Soundbars are a fantastic tool for pumping a lot of sound into a room without having to fuss with a huge surround sound speaker system. They minimize the number of wires you have to deal with, hardware you have to mount, etc. – and many of the newer fancier models do so in style. If you’re dealing with a bigger room, you will need a bigger, beefier soundbar. Our top recommendations (in order of roughly descending price) are:
- Sonos Arc
- SAMSUNG HW-Q950T
- Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.1.4
- Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4
- Bose Soundbar 500
- Polk Audio MagniFi Max Home Theater Sound Bar
- Yamaha YAS-209BL
- Sonos Beam
Some of these units you may have heard of before. Sonos, interestingly, is at both the high and low end of the cost spectrum here. But all of these units have their own unique features to think through. Let’s get started, so that you can have confidence you’re picking the right soundbar for yous space.
The Sonos Arc (on Amazon) is an incredible piece of audio equipment. If you’ve seen our review, you know this is the best Dolby Atmos soundbars money can buy, and with the Sonos pedigree, there’s very little left to tweak or modify on your end. Sure, you might choose to expand the system with a Sonos Sub (Amazon) and a couple of Sonos One SLs (also Amazon), but even without that commitment to a large surround system, the Arc stands alone just fine.
The Sonos Arc does lock you into it’s own ecosystem though. If you go with the soundbar, any other speaker you buy will feel like a missed opportunity if it isn’t Sonos and doesn’t take advantage of that ecosystem. It’s a pretty good ecosystem to be in, but it’s also an expensive one. The Arc, then, could be the cornerstone of your full-home audio system at some point, if that’s what you want.
But if you’re just here for a soundbar, the don’t worry, the Sonos Arc will meet all of your needs easily. It supports Dolby atmos, with the upward firing speakers. And the overall count of eight woofers and three tweeters means this soundbar will fill a big room easily – you probably won’t get close to touching max volume on this one.
- Premium app integration and software backend
- Dolby Atmos
- Locks you into the Sonos ecosystem
- High price
- Doesn’t support DTS:X
The SAMSUNG HW-Q950T (on Amazon) is the first unit on our list that comes with the satellite speakers to support full surround sound. Not only do you get the soundbar, but the wireless subwoofer and two wireless rear speakers establish a very solid surround sound system, and it definitely won’t struggle to fill even a large room with sound.
The added remote in this package is a nice touch, but it’s interesting to not see Samsung put a robust app-based solution in place here. There’s not platform like Sonos’ that you can quickly and easily pull up on your phone and start streaming music from. Instead, this soundbar relies on a Bluetooth connection to stream the music you’d like. Not a huge knock here, but different.
This is a surround sound home theater system first, and a wireless music streaming system second. It will do both, but with the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X built in, this is really going to shine as a home theater surround system. It also has Alexa enabled, so there’s going to be some serious smart-home support built-in. If you’re already deep into the Amazon/Alexa assistant mashup, this will be a great option for you.
- Great bang for your buck (when buying the 9.1.4ch system)
- Alexa voice-assistant support
- Not the most stlyish unit
- No robust backed/ecosystem like Sonos
- Can’t easily add more speakers
Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.1.4
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.1.4 (on Amazon) is a hugely impressive unit at its’ price point. If you’ve seen our review on this unit, you know some of the main reasons we love it. Dual subwoofers. four satellite speakers on top of that. And all of it managed from the extremely capable centerpiece: the soundbar. The Shockwafe Ultra pulls double-duty as both speaker system and receiver in one, adding a huge amount of functionality.
When it comes to filling a room with sound, none of the other options on the list will have as many actual speakers dedicating to producing sound in the space. This is another case where you’ll likely never need to touch the high end of the volume level the speakers are capable of.
As far as a speaker ecosystem and software back-end…you won’t ever need to add speakers to this system, so discussing options there is a bit of a moot point. When it comes to actually streaming audio on the device, not only are there a plethora of input options (check out our review for a full description), but there’s also Bluetooth support for streaming from your phone or other Bluetooth enabled device.
- The most robust surround sound system at (or near) its’ price point
- With video pass-through and a full surround system, this unit effectively functions as a receiver
- Lots of external speakers to manage means lots of power cables to hide
- Soundbar design that some may not prefer
Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4 (on Amazon) is significantly less than its older sibling, the 9.2.4 unit, and there are important reasons for that. First, there are two less satellite speakers, and second, there is one fewer subwoofer. But, those changes don’t mean this unit can’t effectively fill a big room with sound. And the other features preserved from the Ultra 9.2.4 unit make this another hugely compelling option.
First, even though there’s “only” one subwoofer, you’ll notice all the other units on the list have one or none. And with the satellite speakers, this is a robust surround solution at a frankly incredible price point. With the soundbar still configured with those 4 upward firing tweeters to support Dolby Atmos, this unit will perform whether its functioning as a home theater system or as the music source for a party.
The question comes up then: why wouldn’t you want this package? Well, aesthetically, the Arc is a better option. And there are some cases where you actually just want a soundbar. After all, floor subs and satellite speakers are in many ways another hassle: equipment that needs to be mounted, powered, and hidden or worked into the look of the space. There’s great value here, but it’s not going to fit everyone’s needs.
- Incredible value for your money
- Still competes on its own against the other units on the list, even without the Shockwafe Ultra’s extra speakers
- Fewer speakers than the Ultra package, and no ability to add more after the fact
- Like the Ultra, the soundbar design might stand out a little too much and not go with certain aesthetics
Bose Soundbar 500
The Bose Soundbar 500 (on Amazon) is a great bread-and-butter model that doesn’t try to do everything, but which should still be able to fill up even a large room well. The price point here is lower than our other options so far, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t getting quality sound from the included speaker, just that there are fewer of them. Like Sonos, Bose comes with a pedigree of high sound quality that’s reflected in this model.
And there’s actually a decent opportunity to scale up your system after the fact with this unit, a trick that none of the other models listed so far save the Sonos Arc can pull off. Within the Bose smart speaker ecosystem, there are subs, satellite speakers, portable speakers–you name it. They’re making a play for this space by allowing all the devices to talk together. Just beware that, although you can add speakers, you can’t att Dolby Atmos after the fact.
With Alexa support, and the Bose music app, this is also one of the more connected “smarter” models we’ve talked about so far, right up there with Sonos when it comes to streaming audio functionality. The Bose music is just as capable as the Sonos offering (though a little less polished), giving you the capability to connect up all your favorite streaming services for easy management of the soundbar and what’s playing on it.
- Alexa voice-assistant built-in
- Easily expandable with the growing ecosystem of Bose smart speakers
- Bose music app for easy phone streaming
- Not a package of surround speakers
- No Dolby Atmos support or upward-firing tweeters
Polk Audio MagniFi Max Home Theater Sound Bar with 5.1
The Polk Audio MagniFi Max Home Theater Sound Bar with 5.1 (on Amazon) checks a lot of boxes. It has a really approachable price, a wireless subwoofer, and, while not as loud as some of the other options on our list, should still have no problem filling a large room with sound. On top of that, Polk claims that patented voice adjust software allows this soundbar to handle dialogue so that it’s crisp, clear, and customizable, a topic we’ve discussed before in why soundbars are so great at helping with dialogue.
So, while many soundbars focus on the music and the surround experience, The Polk Audio MagniFi seems to be tackling some of the other edges. It wants to be your home companion for listening to podcasts and audio-books, and for watch movies and shows where the dialogue is just as interesting as the explosions. That said, there’s still a wireless streaming option to get all of your music on the unit.
There’s no microphone array within the soundbar hardware itself, but Google home Speaker support over WiFi allows you to pipe in the smarts to this soundbar. That means it can work in a limited speaker system with some google home speakers, but it’s not ever going to expand to a full surround system in a nice, streamlined way. But if that’s not what you want, at this price point the Polk MagniFi is a great option for simple 5.1 channel sound that will fill your space.
- 5.1 channel sound at an affordable price
- Some unique features around simulated surround sound and a priority placed on dialogue and voice tones
- Limited expansion capabilities mean that if you want a 7.1 system, you’ll be shopping for something new, not just adding two more channels
- Cosmetically, what could be read as a simplistic design starts to edge towards drab
The Yamaha YAS-209BL (on Amazon) brings us close to the bottom of what you should be expected to spend to fill up a large room with quality sound. The wireless sub helps a ton, and it’s a feature we’re really happy to see at such a great price. But with the Yamaha pedigree, you can be sure that the sound quality will still be there. This soundbar even sports some of the creature comforts you might not expect in this price range.
First, Alexa is built in, which means you can have all the virtual assistant goodness you can stand. All of the features you’d expect – setting timers, listening to news, etc. – will all be functional via your soundbar. That’s a pretty neat trick. There’s HDMI Arc for managing inputs intelligently, and there’s even a soundbar controller app.
The lack of Dolby Atmos is not a surprise at this price point, but what is a surprise is the audio kung-fu the Yamaha YAS-209 claims to be doing in place of Atmos and DTS:X. Namely, it sports “DTS Virtual:X” which claims to deliver virtual 3D sound. You can tell they really want you to feel like this feature is powerful, even giving it a dedicated button on the remote, but trust me: don’t buy this for the “virtual surround sound.” If you want surround sound, move up the list and find a unit that does it with real, dedicated speakers.
- Alexa voice assistant support built in
- Yamaha name and fair price
- DTS Virtual: X is a long way from DTS:X and/or Dolby Atmos
- Not expandable
It’s fitting we should end the list with another entry from Sonos. On the one end, there’s the Arc, but on the other, there’s the Sonos Beam (on Amazon). This svelt soundbar has access to all that Sonos goodness. Most importantly, the soundbar sports three channels, but you can step that up to a 3.1 or even 5.1 channel system with the addition of more Sonos speakers.
That said, the Beam is really designed as a standalone unit, able to fill up a large room with sound all by itself, and able to do it via AirPlay 2 or by simply telling Alexa what to play. That’s on top of all the other Sonos functionality you’d expect in the app.
Sure, there’s only one HDMI port and no optical, but if you’re in the market for a Beam, Sonos is betting that you’ll be more interested in the ethernet port. And that’s not a bad thing.
- Access to the Sonos app and speaker ecosystem
- One of the few options offering a white variant
- Apple AirPlay 2 and Alexa built-in
- You are paying a little more for the luxury factor of Sonos
- Limited audio inputs with a single HDMI port (but which does support ARC)