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The 6 Best Soundbars For Music – Summer 2023: Reviews

  1. Table of Contents
  2. Intro
  3. Best Soundbar

    1. Best Upper Mid-Range

      1. Best Mid-Range

        1. Best Lower Mid-Range

          1. Best Budget

            1. Best Small

              1. Notable Mentions
              2. Recent Updates
              3. All Reviews
              4. Discussions

              Updated Jul 12, 2023 at 02:24 pm

              By Becca Fischer

              Soundbars are a great and compact way to enhance your music listening experience when you don’t have space for a full home theater setup. You can get great stereo audio reproduction with soundbars and excellent bass performance when your system has a dedicated subwoofer, although one isn’t necessary to enjoy good audio fidelity. Not all soundbars are the same, and you should choose one that suits your needs, whether you prefer using Bluetooth, your home Wi-Fi network, or even AirPlay to stream your favorite tracks.

              We’ve tested over 175 soundbars, and below are our recommendations. Also, check out our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best Dolby Atmos soundbars (if you watch a lot of movies), and the best budget soundbars.

              1. Best Soundbar For Music

                Samsung HW-Q990C

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                8.5

                Channels

                11.1.4

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                The Samsung HW-Q990C is the best soundbar for music that we’ve tested. Whether you like the classics or bass-heavy genres like EDM, this soundbar shines thanks to its impressive sound quality. It’s the next generation of the Samsung HW-Q990B, and you notice an improved performance from the start, especially in the bass range. The dedicated sub reproduces a deep thump and rumble that brings genres like EDM and hip-hop to life without muddying the vocals and lead instruments in the mid-range. The result is a clean, clear sound suitable for lots of different audio content, especially music.

                This soundbar stands out from the crowd thanks to its wide array of sound enhancement features. You find a room correction tool that automatically optimizes its output based on your room’s unique acoustics, as well as a 7-band graphic EQ for manual adjustment. If you don’t need as many customization features, you can check out rival bars like the Sonos Ultimate Immersive Set with Arc and the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module. They’re both great alternatives, especially if you already own audio products in these manufacturers’ ecosystems—however, they aren’t as customizable as the Samsung soundbar since they lack graphic EQs.

                See our review

              2. Best Upper Mid-Range Soundbar For Music

                Samsung HW-Q930B

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                8. 1

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                The Samsung HW-Q930B is a great alternative if you want a standout music performance at a more affordable price. This bar is a great value buy, especially since it offers many of the same functions and features as the more premium Samsung HW-Q990C. It has a great sound quality, so voices and instruments reproduce accurately right out of the box. The dedicated sub isn’t as stylish as the more premium model, but it can still bring all the thump and rumble in the low-bass.

                Plus, with a graphic EQ and bass and treble adjustments, you have no trouble customizing the bar’s sound. Note that we haven’t tested the next-generation Samsung HW-Q930C yet, but we’ll update this review as soon as we do. There are some key differences between the Q930B and the more premium Q990C. First, the Q930B is a 9.1.4 setup with two fewer surround channels than the 11.1.4 Q990C.

                Also, its sound quality isn’t quite as impressive right out of the box. There’s a little more boom in the bass range, which more astute audiophiles notice running into the mids, so voices and lead instruments are a bit more muddied. The bar’s customization tools give you a more even sound, but it’s not ideal for everyone. The Q990C offers the best plug-and-play performance, so it’s worth a look. But if you’re a more casual listener looking for a more affordable alternative, you may find that the Q930B is a better value overall.

                See our review

              3. Best Mid-Range Soundbar For Music

                Samsung HW-Q900C

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                Looking for a more affordable setup? Don’t have room for satellites? You’re in luck. The Samsung HW-Q900C is another great pick for rocking out to your favorite tunes, and it comes with a lot of the same features as the manufacturer’s more premium counterparts. Notably, you get access to many premium sound customization features, including bass and treble adjustments and a graphic EQ. Its room correction tool is also designed to optimize its output based on your room’s acoustics, which is a nice touch.

                With a clean and clear sound right out of the box, this soundbar is suitable for various music genres. Unlike the more premium models on our list, though, this setup lacks discrete satellite speakers. This can be a plus, especially if you don’t have a lot of space behind your couch. If you’re just listening to stereo content like music, too, you probably won’t need satellites in the first place.

                However, this bar doesn’t shine as bright with other content like surround sound compared to the Samsung HW-Q930B and the Samsung HW-Q990C. It still does a good job, but you notice less detail in the space behind your couch without satellites. It’ll depend on your listening habits as to whether this is a fair tradeoff or not—keep in mind that you can always add on satellites separately, though, which is a nice touch.

                See our review

              4. Best Lower Mid-Range Soundbar For Music

                Vizio M Series M512a-H6

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                8.0

                Channels

                5.1.2

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                The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is an even more wallet-friendly option for music lovers. Right out-of-the-box, you get a clear and detailed audio reproduction that’s great for listening to everything from rock to pop to EDM to classical music. Voices and lead instruments reproduce accurately, and the dedicated sub brings the rumble in the low-bass. Crank up the volume to enjoy your favorite songs as loud as you want. It doesn’t have a graphic EQ like the Samsung HW-Q900C, but you can still adjust its bass and treble to get the best possible sound.

                This bar is a great fit if you want to use your soundbar for more than just listening to music. Since it comes with satellites, it offers an immersive sound with surround content, and it also supports Dolby Atmos, both commonly found on streaming platforms and Blu-rays. You can check out the similarly-priced Klipsch Cinema 800 if you don’t watch many movies. It’s a good alternative without satellites, meaning it’s better suited for smaller rooms. Of course, its surround sound isn’t as good as the Vizio, so it’s not quite as versatile, but it’s still worth noting for those who really only want a bar for listening to music.

                See our review

              5. Best Budget Soundbar For Music

                Vizio V Series V51-H6

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                7. 8

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                5.1

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                The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is a solid pick if you’re shopping on a tight budget. It’s a 5.1 setup that’s quite simple but still does a very good job with music. Thanks to its balanced mids, it reproduces clear and accurate vocals and lead instruments, and its dedicated subwoofer ensures that you feel the punch and rumble in the bass. Its neutral sound makes it suitable for listening to everything from classical music to rock to hip-hop. You get a standard selection of sound enhancement features for its budget price point. You won’t find a graphic EQ or a room correction feature, but there are bass and treble adjustments that give you some control over its sound.

                If you want a versatile bar, you’re in luck. Despite its budget-friendly price, you still get satellites with this soundbar. It’s especially handy if you want concerts mixed in Dolby Digital. There’s no Dolby Atmos support like with the Vizio M Series M512a-H6, though this isn’t a huge deal if you don’t listen to much content mixed in this format. If you don’t have room for satellites and don’t listen to much surround sound, the Samsung HW-B550 is another great alternative. Still, the Vizio soundbar’s versatility makes it stand out from the competition, even in the budget price range.

                See our review

              6. Best Small Soundbar For Music

                Sonos Beam (Gen 2)

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                Music

                7.4

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                Whether in a small room or a tight apartment, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a great pick that won’t take up a lot of space. It has the same compact design as the original Sonos Beam, measuring under 26 inches in width, with a sleek and premium style that blends in easily with your decor. Compared to its predecessor, it supports Dolby Atmos content frequently found on streaming platforms and Blu-ray discs. Using psychoacoustic principles, it stretches sound well past the edges of the bar itself, so you get a wide and immersive-sounding experience with your audio, just like if you were seated right in the middle of the action.

                Like the premium Sonos Arc, this soundbar has many customization tools, including a TruePlay room correction feature that adjusts audio output based on your room’s acoustics. Voices and lead instruments are clear right out of the box, but its bass and treble adjustments give you extra control over its sound. Bass lovers can add on a separate sub if they want, and Sonos sells compatible satellites, too—the full Sonos Beam (Gen 2) with Sub Mini + One SL Speakers is a great option if you have space for the extra components. Of course, compared to the Arc, this smaller soundbar doesn’t get quite as loud and can’t reproduce as much height in the soundstage. That said, it’s still a solid pick overall.

                See our review

              Notable Mentions

              • Bose Smart Soundbar 700 with Speakers + Bass Module:
                The Bose Smart Soundbar 700 with Speakers + Bass Module is a premium setup with an immersive sound right out of the box. It’s the predecessor to the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 with Speakers + Bass Module and doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. It’s fine if you don’t watch many movies, but the Samsung HW-Q990C is more versatile overall.
                See our review
              • Klipsch Cinema 800:
                The Klipsch Cinema 800 is a 3.1 setup that’s a great choice for music thanks to its sub that reproduces a deep and rumbling low-bass. However, it’s not as well-built as the Samsung HW-Q900C and lacks room correction.
                See our review

              Recent Updates

              1. Jul 12, 2023:
                Replaced the Samsung HW-Q800B with the Samsung HW-Q900C as ‘Best Mid-Range’. Added the Sonos Ultimate Immersive Set with Arc as an alternative to the Samsung HW-Q990C.

              2. May 16, 2023:
                Replaced the Samsung HW-Q990B with the next generation Samsung HW-Q990C.

              3. Apr 14, 2023:
                Confirmed product picks. Minor text updates for accuracy.

              4. Feb 14, 2023:
                The Samsung HW-Q900A’s price rose, so we replaced it with the Samsung HW-Q800B as our ‘Best Mid-Range’ pick.

              5. Dec 16, 2022:
                No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.

              All Reviews

              Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best soundbars for music for most people to buy. We factor in the price (a cheaper soundbar wins over a pricier one if the difference isn’t worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no soundbars that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

              If you would like to choose for yourself, here’s the list of all our soundbar reviews, sorted by their music performance. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. No soundbar is perfect. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.

              3 ways Sony’s budget Dolby Atmos soundbar beats the Sonos Beam, and 2 ways it doesn’t

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              (Image credit: Future)

              Sony’s HT-S2000 is a new 3.1-channel soundbar that’s designed to provide very big sound from a compact box. At $499 (around £390 / AU$730) it’s priced about the same as the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), and like that model it can be enhanced with wireless speakers and a subwoofer for a full surround sound package.

              Like many of the best soundbars, the HT-S2000 has onboard Dolby Atmos support, though it uses virtual processing instead of upfiring speakers to deliver the height effects in Atmos soundtracks. In that way, it’s similar to the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), though there are also key differences between the two.

              Given the similar price for both, which model is the best fit for you? I’ll run through the advantages that Sony offers over Sonos, as well as the ways it comes up short when the two soundbars are compared, because they’ll be hot competitors this year.

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              Three ways Sony beats the Beam

              Sony’s basic, yet potent budget Atmos soundbar (Image credit: Sony)

              1. Dedicated center channel speaker 

              The Sony HT-S2000 uses three separate speaker arrays to deliver the left, right and center channel information in soundtracks, along with a subwoofer for low-frequency effects. An advantage of this design is that dialogue, which makes up the majority of audio content in movie soundtracks, gets its own dedicated speaker. 

              The Sonos Beam (Gen 2), in contrast, uses a single center mounted tweeter to carry the high-frequency information for all channels, with four mid-woofers dedicated to the mid-range and bass. That’s not to say the Beam doesn’t do a good job of delivering clear dialogue – in our Beam (Gen 2) review we found voices in movies were clear and easy to follow. But in my initial testing of the Sony HT-S2000, I found dialogue handling to be one of its strong points, and that perception corresponds with my experience evaluating other soundbars with a dedicated center speaker.

              2.  DTS:X processing 

              The Sony HT-S2000 provides onboard processing for both the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats, while the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) only handles Atmos on the immersive soundtrack front. Is this a factor that would cause the hat to tip strongly in Sony’s favor?

              Not necessarily. Dolby Atmos dominates in streaming, where it gets delivered via the Dolby Digital Plus format. To find movies with DTS:X soundtracks, you’ll need to instead look to Blu-ray discs, and even there Dolby Atmos is the more common format. Yet another limiting factor is that not all TVs can pass-through DTS:X soundtracks to a soundbar when one of the best 4K Blu-ray players is connected to the set via HDMI.

              Even so, there are a number of TVs that enable DTS:X pass-through to a soundbar over an HDMI eARC connection, including models from Sony itself. DTS:X isn’t going away any time soon, and it’s a format that many of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars support. For those reasons alone, DTS:X should be on your features checklist when shopping for a new soundbar.

              3. Effective virtual Atmos 

              When we reviewed the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), one shortcoming that we noted was a lack of any discernible height effect, even though that’s something virtual Dolby Atmos processing is supposed to deliver. We did praise the Beam for its soundstage width and for the convincing sound “wrap around” effect it created – something that the Sony HT-S2000 also did exceptionally well during my initial test.

              The Sony soundbar’s compelling surround-like presentation is created by the company’s S-Force Pro Front Surround virtual processing, and its Vertical Surround Engine also delivers a believable sense of height that transcends the TV screen’s physical boundaries. While it’s not exactly overhead sound, it’s definitely an improvement on what you would experience with a non-Atmos soundbar.

              Two ways Sony doesn’t beat the Beam

              The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) comes in white or black (Image credit: TechRadar)

              1. No Wi-Fi streaming

              One advantage to Sonos soundbars and speakers is an ability to stream audio via Wi-Fi, with the streaming controlled by the company’s excellent app. Wireless network connectivity also lets you connect various Sonos speakers in a multi-room configuration, with the ability to stream the same music to all speakers, or different tracks separately to individual speakers. It also lets you use AirPlay to stream music, which is an added convenience.

              Sony’s HT-S2000, in contrast, depends solely on Bluetooth to stream music from a phone or tablet. You can also connect a USB stick loaded with music to the soundbar’s USB port, which will be a higher-quality option than using Bluetooth for music listening, and control the playback using the company’s Home Entertainment Connect app. But Wi-Fi streaming is a superior option to Bluetooth, and probably should be included at Sony’s price point.

              2. No room tuning 

              A Sonos feature called Trueplay lets listeners improve sound quality by tuning the speaker’s output to their environment to compensate for proximity to walls, furniture, or other surfaces that can reflect sound. The process is carried out using the company’s iOS control app, and it generally results in a “tightening” of bass, along with improved clarity over the rest of the audio range.

              Sony’s budget soundbar doesn’t offer any features to tune its audio output to the listener’s environment, though the company’s Home Entertainment Connect app does provide setup test tones for positioning the soundbar, wireless surrounds and subwoofer in a multi-channel setup, along with both night and voice enhancement modes as well as bass level adjustment (also available on the Sony’s included remote control).

              Final thoughts

              Are there any other advantages – or disadvantages –  to buying the Sony HT-S2000 over the Sonos Beam? Here’s one advantage: Sony’s new Bravia XR TVs integrate soundbar controls in the onscreen Quick Settings menu, so you can easily make adjustments without reaching for the soundbar’s remote or your phone. 

              A full review of the HT-S2000 is in the works, and once that’s completed I’ll be able to offer a more definitive verdict. In the meantime, Sonos recently dropped the price of the Beam (Gen 2) to around $399, which is a new low price and a potential reason to choose it over Sony’s soundbar.

              Today’s best Sonos Beam (Gen 2) deals

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              Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine.  

              When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.

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