A sound bar speaker with a red sales starburst

Everyone knows that picture quality is a critical factor in any TV purchase, but it’s easy to overlook the importance of sound—at least until you get the set home and turn on a movie.

Fortunately, there’s a simple, often inexpensive fix for that: a sound bar speaker system. 

Think of a long, relatively thin speaker that can be mounted on the wall or placed on a shelf below the TV. There are also pedestal-style sound bars called sound bases that can serve as a base for a TV.

Inside are several speakers, plus the electronics to power them. You connect the whole enclosure to your TV—no need for a receiver. Some sound bars also have a separate subwoofer, usually wireless, and a few have rear speakers to create a full surround-sound system.

Sound bar speakers are found in all price ranges. You can spend $80 to $100 for a basic model or more than $1,000 for a multispeaker system that creates a true surround-sound environment. Generally, though, the sweet spot is between $200 and $600.

If you simply want to enhance your TV sound, a sound bar with 2.1 channels (two front channels and a separate subwoofer) could be enough. If you want true surround sound, buy a sound bar with a subwoofer and rear speakers—preferably wireless—for multichannel sound.

Some new models may include Dolby Atmos, a newer immersive sound technology that adds the element of height to speaker systems. (If a movie scene shows a helicopter flying high overhead, the sound might appear to be coming from that direction.) With sound bar speaker systems, this is usually accomplished by having upfiring drivers in the main enclosure.

Cyber Monday—and the holiday season in general—is a great time to buy a sound bar because many are on sale. Here are our picks for the best sound bar deals out there.

Go to Consumer Reports’ Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.

Sound Bar Speakers

Insignia 2.0 Basic Sound Bar

    A low-priced model that we haven’t tested, the Insignia NS-HMSB20 hails from Best Buy’s house brand for electronics. It’s a smaller model—only about 20 inches wide—and it lacks an HDMI input, so connections must be made using digital optical or RCA connections. It does have Bluetooth audio. It was $10 cheaper at both retailers during their Black Friday sales, but it's still a low price for a sound bar.

    LG 2.1-Channel Sound Bar Speaker

      The 2.1-channel LG SL4Y is a lower-priced but full-featured model that comes with a wireless subwoofer. It can be expanded to a 4.1-channel surround-sound system by adding an optional LG SPK8-S wireless rear surround speaker kit. The unit has built-in Bluetooth for streaming from a mobile device, and it can also connect wirelessly to LG TVs that support the company’s Sound Sync technology.

      Polk Audio MagniFi Mini Sound Bar

        This 2.1-channel sound bar speaker system—a smaller sibling to the Polk MagniFi Max SR, also in our ratings—has good overall sound quality. It’s a decent choice for casual listeners for both movie soundtracks and music. Living up to its name, the Mini’s main enclosure is quite small—just over a foot long, and only 3 inches high. It has built-in Bluetooth for streaming from a phone or tablet, and it’s Google-friendly, with built-in Chromecast for streaming music from the cloud, and support for the voice-powered Google Assistant. 

        CR’s test results: Polk Audio MagniFi Mini

        Samsung 2.0 Sound Bar With Built-In Sub

          This basic one-piece sound bar system, the Samsung HW-T400, is selling for about $130 elsewhere, including at Best Buy. It lacks an HDMI input, but does have built-in Bluetooth for wirelessly streaming music from a smartphone or tablet. It also has NFC technology, so you can pair your phone to the speaker just by placing it next to the speaker’s NFC symbol. We didn’t test this model, but lower-priced Samsung sound bars we’ve evaluated have been decent, if not great.

          Samsung 2.1-Channel Sound Bar

            This model is the Samsung HW-T410, a 2020 model we see right now only at Walmart. We haven’t tested it, but in general lower-priced Samsung sound bars have had decent, if unexceptional, sound quality. It’s a lower-priced 2.1-channel system with a separate wireless subwoofer, plus Bluetooth audio for streaming music from a mobile device. 

            Samsung 3.1-Channel Sound Bar

              This model, the Samsung HW-T60C, is a 3.1-channel system with a center channel speaker, which can help localize dialog when people are speaking. It comes with a wireless subwoofer. We didn’t test this model, which has built-in Bluetooth, and a feature that analyzes what you’re watching and automatically optimizes the sound setting.

              Samsung 3.1.2-Channel Q70T Sound Bar Speaker

                This two-piece sound bar, the Samsung HW-Q70T, has a main enclosure with left, center, and right channels, plus upfiring drivers for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive sound formats. It also has a separate wireless subwoofer. Like other models designed to work with Samsung QLED TVs, it has a mode that synchronizes the sound bar with the TV’s speakers to produce a fuller sound. (Note: We haven't tested this, or other Q-series sound bars.) It also has built-in Bluetooth.  

                Samsung 5.1-Channel Q60 Sound Bar

                  This midpriced model, the Samsung HW-Q60T, has a wireless subwoofer and a decent number of features, including the ability to sync with your Samsung QLED TV’s speakers to produce a fuller sound. It has built-in Bluetooth, and you can add an optional rear-speaker kit to create a full surround-sound system.

                  Samsung 5.1.2-Channel Dolby Atmos DTS:X Sound Bar

                    This model, the Samsung HW-Q850T/ZA, appears to be a Best Buy exclusive. It’s a full-blown surround-sound system with a separate subwoofer and wireless rear speakers; it supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive sound formats. Designed to work with Samsung’s QLED TVs, the sound bar synchronizes with the TV’s speakers to produce a fuller sound. It has a lot of features and includes the Amazon Alexa voice assistant built in.

                    Sonos Beam

                      Despite its compact size, the Sonos Beam is among the better-sounding models in our ratings, so the $100 savings makes it one of the better sound bar deals. It has a lot of features, too, including the ability to add a Sonos subwoofer and other Sonos speakers to make a full surround-sound system. Offered in  black or white, the sound bar has built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant; it also supports Apple AirPlay 2.

                       

                      CR’s test results: Sonos Beam

                      Vizio 4.1-Channel Sound Bar

                        We didn’t test this model, the Vizio SB3241n-H6. It’s a system that has a main sound bar enclosure, plus two rear surround-sound speakers and a wireless subwoofer. But oddly, it’s available right now directly from the Vizio website for $128. We don’t see it elsewhere.

                        Vizio Elevate 5.1.4 Sound Bar Speaker

                          This model, the Vizio P514a-H6, is a full surround-sound sound bar system in the company’s top Elevate series for 2020. Right now it's actually $100 cheaper thgan during Best Buy's Black Friday sale. We haven’t tested the model, but generally Vizio sound bars have delivered a lot for the money in our ratings. This model has some unique features, such as auto-rotating speakers at the ends of the bar that automatically swivel upward when playing Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, then shift back for regular audio. The system has Bluetooth, WiFi, and Chromecast built in.