As the years pass, more and more incredible new home audio standards propagate out into the world, and eARC is finally at a place where it’s reasonable to expect this feature. If you’re ready to get a premium soundbar including eARC, you’re in a spot where you have the opportunity to future proof your system and get the highest possible quality sound.
Here are the 7 best options for eARC soundbars:
- Sonos Arc Soundbar
- Bose Soundbar 700 Soundbar
- Sony Z9F 3.1ch Soundbar System
- Sony ST5000 7.1.2ch Soundbar System
- SAMSUNG HW-Q950T 9.1.4ch Soundbar System
- Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage Soundbar
- Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar
This list is actually in order of increasing price, so if you’re budget conscious, then it’s very easy to just say you should save up for the Sonos Arc or Bose Soundbar. If you’ve seen our review of the Sonos Arc, you know it’s well worth the money. But if you want to know what the current ecosystem of eARC soundbars looks like beyond the Arc, be sure to read through all of our notes on these models below.
The Sonos Arc soundbar (on Amazon) is an incredible product, packing in a tremendous amount of hardware. With 11 built-in amplifiers powering 11 different drivers, this soundbar fills the room like few others can at this price point, although, if this doesn’t cut it, we have another list of great soundbars. And, of course, it has the eARC standard built-in. Above this price, there’s no question that you’ll be getting a quality product from any of these manufacturers, but the Sonos brings something special to the table.
Once you’re in the Sonos ecosystem, everything is going to just work in a way that some other speakers will struggle to emulate. While all of these options will be designed to connect to whatever your home theater system is (a TV, a projector, etc.), few will have the flexibility of the Sonos Arc, which allows networking with other Sonos speakers on the fly and easy streaming from their well-polished app.
If you’re already pretty sure this is the option for you, we’d encourage you to check our video review of the Arc (on Youtube), to get a feel for if it meets all your needs. That said, the next option on our list also packs in some interesting features at roughly the same price point as the Arc. It’s always good to shop around.
- An incredible amount of value for money, with top of the line hardware and room-filling sound
- Access to the Sonos ecosystem with easy ability to scale the system up over time.
- Low-end sound can struggle a little
- The Android app isn’t as full-featured as the iOS system, but still better than the experience most manufacturers offer.
Bose Soundbar 700
The Bose Soundbar 700 soundbar (on Amazon) is another solid contender on our list. This is a second-generation product that’s improved from the Sound Touch 300, and it packs in helpful assistant speakers like Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as Airplay 2, (more soundbars with Google Assistant in our Top 8 list). Those assistant features, and especially the AirPlay, go a long way toward making you not miss the Sonos experience discussed in our last option.
It’s worth noting that there is an advanced 8-mic array in the unit too, making those assistants a great experience. Past the undeniably great audio experience (including four midrange cones and one tweeter), there’s a lot to write home about with this unit, like the included universal remote and the stylish, slim design.
Like the Arc, the Soundbar 700 blends into the scene very well, something they were obviously thinking about ahead of time when they chose to offer it in white and black. Unlike the Arc, the Bose system also comes with Bose’s ADAPTiQ audio calibration tools to help you tune the soundbar to your space, which can also be done in another way via audio-syncing which we explain more in our guide.
- Great quality and value for the money
- Still technically expandable through other Bose speakers
- Customize the soundbar’s performance to your space with ADAPTiQ
- Comes with a universal remote that, if you’re buying it for eARC, you may not need
- At the same price as Sonos, struggles to set itself apart with a compelling reason to not choose the Arc
Sony Z9F 3.1ch Soundbar System
The Sony Z9F 3.1ch Soundbar and sub (on Amazon) is the first unit on our list that adds an external speaker to the package and at only slightly more than the first two options. Having true bass (not something that is bounced off the walls or simulated) will for sure elevate the experience here, but maybe not so much that you wouldn’t want to save the hundred or so bucks you could going with the Arc or Bose 700.
That said, this package has eARC and then some, earning it a place on our list. This is a great bread-and-butter piece of hardware, and it almost announces that with the visible front drivers. Sure, there’s a removable panel that can cover them up and give this soundbar the “mesh grille” look that’s become a common design language of soundbars thanks to Sonos.
But if you’re an audiophile or someone who’s aesthetics skew a little more minimalist, you might actually prefer the more honest look of exposing the drivers. Past that unique design element, this package has everything you’d expect. Great sound quality. Included remote. As mentioned earlier, eARC, and also Dolby Atmos support and another feature Sony calls a “vertical sound engine” which might make those 3.1 channels sound a little punchier.
- A great, intentional design that doesn’t try to do too much
- Great pedigree–Sony–means that the audio quality here will be solid and dependable
- At this price point, you might be wishing you had a few more channels included
- Only 2 HDMI-in ports, so although there’s eARC, this isn’t going to be the best way to manage all your devices if you need more ports
- Dolby Atmos support is virtual–no upward-firing speakers
Sony ST5000 7.1.2ch Soundbar System
The Sony ST5000 7.1.2ch soundbar and sub (on Amazon) is the next step up from the Z9F we were just looking at. The most obvious difference is the channel count. This unit has the actual dedicated upward-firing speakers able to support Dolby Atmos, like the Sonos Arc, not just the “vertical sound engine” of the Z9F which tries to pull that trick off virtually. It has a standalone bass, too, but even that is a bit beefier than the Z9F counterpart.
Then, of course, there are the other added drivers designed to give you the side and rear sound effects. Coming from Sony, there’s no doubt this is going to be worth the money, and speaking of money it’s not too much more expensive than the other options we’ve discussed so far. Roughly 40-50% more. That said, we are certainly moving up the price ladder with this model.
So what are you getting for that extra cash? Well, connecting to Spotify and streaming music pretty much any other way is going to be a breeze. There’s Bluetooth if you want it, and there’s even Chromecast audio built in…a nice touch, allowing you to stream all kinds of content quickly and easily from your device; you just have to find the Chromecast symbol. This isn’t as smooth and seamless as using the Sonos App or something equivalent, but it’s actually a little more elegant because it doesn’t require an app.
- Chromecast built-in is a nice touch, arguable simpler to use than the Sonos app or some other dedicated app-controlled streaming solution
- The power increase on this unit from the Z9F is massive. 400 watts up to 800 watts. You won’t struggle to fill a room with this sound, and if that means you don’t have to buy extra satellite speakers then it’s well worth it
- No Airplay support, which we’d like to see at this price point
- No output jack for additional speakers if you did want to add proper rear speakers and no indication that you could add them wirelessly after the fact.
SAMSUNG HW-Q950T 9.1.4ch Soundbar System
The SAMSUNG HW-Q950T 9.1.4ch soundbar system (on Amazon) is taking another pretty big step up on price for our list. Competing more closely with the ST5000, this unit adds two wireless rear speakers which will help flesh out the sound even more. On top of the rear speakers, it still has all the drivers baked in to pull off Dolby Atmos and proper side-bouncing right and left channels. This means that it’s the first unit on our list that, with the wireless sub, can pull off a proper 9.1.4 channel surround effect with few caveats.
Which is great! Because this unit is for sure priced to deliver that kind of value. With Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, as well as Alexa built-in, this package is aiming to be the hub of not just a great home theater surround system, but a great all-purpose sound system meant to fill the room with whatever you’d like, from cinema-quality audio to music streaming. Like the other units on the list, it has the ability to connect to WiFi and has a partnering app to help out with the streaming and remote control.
- Future-proofed standards with Dolby Atmos/DTS:X, eARC, and 4 physical up-firing speakers (as opposed to the minimum 2 needed for Dolby Atmos)
- Literally 20 speakers…
- We’ve reached the point on the list where this model, and any that come after it, is going to be dinged on price. There’s no question that if you spend this much, you’re getting quality. The new question is whether you need to spend this much, and the earlier items on the list should stop and make you consider what you really need.
- Samsung is great at some things, and not great at others. This is a quality unit, but it’s coming from a company that tries to do everything – a jack of all trades and a master of none, so to speak. There may be some logic in going with a model from a company with more of an audio pedigree, like Sonos or Sony.
Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage Soundbar
The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage Wireless Multiroom Soundbar (on Amazon) is the first option on our list that earns the descriptor of “exorbitantly expensive.” If you don’t mind spending nearly $2k for a soundbar (you know who you are), then keep reading. But for some, this price point means backing up on the list a bit.
So what do you get in this sort of luxury/premium soundbar space? You might be surprised to find out that there aren’t any satellite speakers…no wireless base or rear speakers. But you do get Dolby Atmos, and there are 11 drivers packed into the unique, flat design of the Stage. And it’s worth noting: you can add more speakers to this soundbar, additionally, if you choose this route it’s probably wise to disable the TV’s default speakers as we explained in our guide.
You can connect other Bang & Olufsen multi-room speakers to create a surround sound system or to simply stretch the system across your home. And I’m sure all of this works really great too, but note that all of those extra speakers are expensive too…we are north of Sonos’ territory, even, when it comes to individual speaker price.
- A great amount of tech packed into such a sleek frame, including upward-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos
- Very unique design, with three color options, means that this is going to look like it’s worth what you paid for it, elevating any space with intentional simplicity
- If you want more surround speakers, they’re going to be expensive too, but that probably isn’t a surprise to you at this point
- For this price, you may be better off getting a Sonos system with surround speakers (check out our video review here)
Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar
The Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar (on Sennheiser’s website) is the option on the list that we’ve included simply so you know what the North Star of this category is. The price is absurd. But now you know where this end of the spectrum is. The Ambeo sports 13 drivers, packing in 5.1.4 channels to the soundbar itself, without adding anything wireless.
It’s a true standalone system with a mic for calibrating it to your space and it has a look that instantly sets it apart in a good way. It has all the input/output ports you could want, and all the wireless connections you might need too, with even Bluetooth and Chromecast.
The Sennheiser smart control app promises to deliver an elegant and polished management experience. You know who you are if this is starting to sound great. Sometimes you’re paying more because you want more features, and the AMBEO does have tons of features, but other times you are paying more for something none of the competitors have: Wow factor.
- Great design with understated flash
- Plenty of future-proofing features, and the simplicity of a single base unit with no wireless speakers
- For some audiophiles, the lack of dedicated surround speakers is just going to feel wrong no matter the price point
- That price.