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:
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. 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.
The Bose Soundbar 700 soundbar (on Amazon) is another solid contender on our list. This is a second-generation product (improved from the Sound Touch 300) that packs in helpful assistant speakers like Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as Airplay 2. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.