Five of the best sound bars for 2020 | Crutchfield

Five of the best sound bars for 2020 | Crutchfield

Sound bars are a great way to upgrade your TV’s thin, weak speakers to serious home theater movie sound, with a one-wire connection in most cases.

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TVs have gotten thinner and thinner, making them easier to hang on the wall and better looking in your space…but as a result, they sound worse than ever because of the design compromises inherent to cramming speakers into thin TV panels.

Sound bars offer an instant sound upgrade with minimal fuss. They’re easier to install than a wired surround system, and over the years they have gotten quite good at bouncing sound off your walls to create immersive movie surround sound. Many even fire upward, adjusting the timing to create Dolby Atmos and DTS:X overhead effects.

Our “Top 5” list for 2020 runs the gamut from an inexpensive, plug & play solution all the way up to our Holy Grail, the Sennheiser Ambeo, that does Atmos better than many wired systems we’ve heard.

Here are our favorites:
1. Yamaha YAS-209. This one features a nice little trick called DTS:Virtual X, which converts any audio signal in real time and does a convincing job of it. This is the sound bar we recommend for spare rooms, bedrooms, or for anyone who wants good sound without breaking the bank:

Watch our Yamaha YAS-209 video:

2. Sonos PLAYBAR. It sounds good, like all Sonos gear, and has the distinct advantage of integrating with the rest of your Sonos gear. You can even add a couple Sonos speakers as rear surrounds if you want.

3. Bose Soundbar 700. This one surprised us a little with how wonderful and room-filling its sound is. The bar alone has home theater sound, but you can add Bose rear surrounds and a bass module for the full experience.

4. JBL Bar 5.1. This model has clever little rechargeable rear surround speakers that need no wires whatsoever. You get a genuine 5.1 experience with this system, and the little rear speakers are easy to incorporate into any space.

Watch our JBL Bar 5.1 video:

5. Sennheiser Ambeo. This is an outstanding all-in-one system. It does brilliant Atmos and DTS:X overhead effects, sound amazing for 2-channel music, and does not necessarily need a separate subwoofer.

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  1. V2V on December 1, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    What do you think about Sonos arc. Most of my connections love those and getting arc soon.

  2. tdg223 on December 1, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Sonos arc?

  3. Navid Akbar on December 1, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    Nice and Concise, thank you

  4. Graham Woollam on December 1, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    Hi could i ask for your expertise regarding sound itself, its a big field and i guess it starts with your ears, as we get older our hearing diminishes starting with the high or treble starts to go first so back to the questions. i have recently purchased a LG smart uhd tv and was totaly hit with menus then sub menu’s.You are invited to adjust to your personal taste, which i thought i had done. !! then as we have satellite tv through a box they have menu’s and to be honest i am totaly frustrated as how the sound has peaks and dips realy frustrating for the viewer. !! cant hear the speech !! turn it up. then the action is to loud turn it down. i guess that all you receive from cable / sat are mainly recorded so if the sound i experience is bad at its transmission point then a sound bar can only reproduce to a greater level. your comments and thought please.

  5. Joe Rogan on December 1, 2020 at 7:53 pm

    Awesome review thanks! Should I buy the Samsung q60r, q60t or JBL 3.1. Which would u recommend? Thanks

  6. Garrett on December 1, 2020 at 7:55 pm

    Rtings gave the q80r soundbar a higher rating than the ambeo and saying its atmos effects are much better. I also heard the bose 700 is not that accurate for precise sound movements. It might have a wider sound stage but that doesnt mean it is better.

  7. Harrison Maynes on December 1, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    I’ve heard Yamaha Yas 108 can sound better then the 207/209. But yeah I guess it’s best to test in store

  8. Joe Nicolette on December 1, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    JBL Bar 9.1? Why is this never included in these comparisons…?

  9. Pacer on December 1, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Beosound Stage – Top value pick, not cheap but my god its good!

  10. Puneet Khurmi on December 1, 2020 at 8:04 pm

    Which one is better : Yamaha yas 209 or Polk audio magnify mini ?

  11. Doug Howting on December 1, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    Just picked up a JBL Link Bar and SW10 wireless subwoofer and am SERIOUSLY impressed by it. Very Powerful yet crisp and clear. It is almost unbelievable how loud it is even with only one light of volume lit on the front of the bar. And the built in android TV and Google assistant is a huge bonus!!


  12. J X on December 1, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    Why Samsung 90 is not in the list?

  13. John Martin on December 1, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    There’s not much point in saying that a plus to any soundbar is that you can add a subwoofer.
    One can do that with any soundbar.

  14. Viren Goel on December 1, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Sir, can you please tell if yamaha yas 209 good for large bedroom?

  15. sebas R on December 1, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    Where is Harman Kardon citation?

  16. Skidrow Black on December 1, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    listen to b&W, paradigm sound bars first. sennheiser and sonons are the only sound bars sounds good from your list.

  17. Geff Rota71 on December 1, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    I tried a few soundbars and found the Sonos Beam to be the best for making voices clearer as well as just being overall a great sound product without adding additional speakers. For someone over 65 with some hearing loss this soundbar made a big difference!!

  18. Joshua on December 1, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    It’s interesting that Yamaha is the budget pick. They once ruled the class with technology, sound and a fairly high price. But their YSP Inellibeam design was way ahead of everyone for simulated surround. What happened to them? Their YSP 5600 had 43 speakers with 7.1 virtual surround, Dolby Atmos and functioned as a action packed receiver. Oh well.

  19. BldgWha7 on December 1, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    $2,500 for a soundbar? LMFAO!!

  20. Mark Homiak on December 1, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    No Nakamichi???

  21. michael douglas on December 1, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    Hmm I see that you’re missing out on quite a few sounds bars from Samsung ,Lg ,Sony,Vizio and Nakamichi.

  22. BlindSide on December 1, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    Is this Yamaha any good was thinking of purchasing??YAMAHA YSP-5600BMK2??

  23. Master Algenis on December 1, 2020 at 8:17 pm

    How would you compare the Sony HT-ST5000 with the Sennheiser Ambeo?😊

  24. shiridesh kumar kadiam on December 1, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    What do you think of Bose tv speaker, can we add any sub woofer to Bose tv speaker similarly for an Ambeo sennheiser… I would be grateful if you could reply

  25. Alpine Wonders on December 1, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    thank you for squeezing more information into 8 mins 30 than many a reviewer does.
    I want to present surround sound nature shows in care homes with beamer, running from a pc, and music will be a large part of that. The JBL 5:1 would be the obvious choice because of the totally wireless rear speakers, but I read it`s not good for music because of the thin mid-range. Is it so far behind the others in that respect (at least to a degree that my typical audience would notice)? Thanks. Ian

  26. rahul bhageeradhan on December 1, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Can bose sub 500 paired with Ambeo?

  27. Shawn D on December 1, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    I am contemplating the Yamaha or the JBL. I like the JBL for the surround sound option. But on an overall comparison, which one actually sounds better when it comes down to tv / movie watching?

  28. Tim Gatesy on December 1, 2020 at 8:27 pm

    Clear, concise, and a formidable range.
    This video aided in refining my home audio search.
    Much appreciated.

  29. S on December 1, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks fo rthis review. I like 2 of the 5 you have listed here. (price based) and I am wondering if you’ve been able to review the TCL Alto 9+ 3.1 system. It’s relatively new and not a lot of information out there other then manufacturer’s marketing. I’m caught between the TCL,, the JBL 5.1, the and the Yamaha YAS-209BL.

  30. MoonWolf Worlds Outsiders on December 1, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    I got the LG SJ2 soundbar a few days ago i love it 160w great sound feels like i am at the movies Theaters 💯👍

  31. John Vawter on December 1, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    9.2.4 nakamichi

  32. Art Irwin on December 1, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    Have you noticed that the Yamaha with Alexa enabled won’t play music from Apple Music even if you have Apple Music set as your default music provider and working fine on every other Alexa device in your house and car?! I bought the Yamaha specifically for its Alexa integration, but my whole family uses Apple Music and we can’t play any of our playlists on it. I’m very disappointed and unless there’s a fix, I’m going to return it to Costco.

  33. MÓnu mÉena on December 1, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    Sony HT-s350 😊 best sounds bar money for value

  34. Daniel Longstone on December 1, 2020 at 8:36 pm

    Why did you choose the JBL 5.1 over the JBL 9.1?

  35. JSW on December 1, 2020 at 8:37 pm

    went with the bose 700 whole kit with 2 subs, no Atmos no worries everything you throw at the bose 700 package will sound awesome, not the case separates.

  36. Richard BYINGTON on December 1, 2020 at 8:37 pm

    What about the B&O stage soundbar

  37. Bob Mowbray on December 1, 2020 at 8:38 pm

    I currently have a Boise 10 cube + sub system, but I believe my HK receiver is about to go out. I’m thinking of changing to a sound bar system and putting my Boise system on eBay. Any suggestions on what to ask for it? Thanks and very informative video.

  38. Aww bollocks then on December 1, 2020 at 8:39 pm

    Click on the red dragon and you can see a floating OLED with its own integrated soundbar!

  39. Yoshimitsu on December 1, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    I got a TCL Alto 5+ for Christmas. The subwoofer is good, but the Soundbar itself sucks. It has no bass at all. I’m thinking of trading it for a 2.1 SB3621N-E8 Vizio Soundbar, which is actually what I want for Christmas, but I guess my parents thought that, Soundbars need to be the same brand as the TV to make it compatible. Which is true, but what they don’t know is, all Soundbars have their own remote.

  40. MERRITT MCKENZIE on December 1, 2020 at 8:42 pm

    This is a very helpful review. I’m interested in purchasing a sound bar/surround sound system for a small room in my home. I use this room as a work office. That said, I’d like a system I plan to connect to my 65” TV. As I do a lot of work video conference calls, I’d like to decide on a sound bar/surround sound system that can function great for voice audio (for calls) as well as for music listening and TV/movie watching (big sound & bass).

    Given the above, which of these systems would you recommend?

    Thank you.

  41. lyndell conley on December 1, 2020 at 8:43 pm

    Prices please 🤷

  42. Aww bollocks then on December 1, 2020 at 8:44 pm

    Dolby Atmos this Dolby Atmos that, I think people should be made aware if you buy any kind of Dolby Atmos soundbar or AV/receiver to use through streaming you need to get yourself at least £1,000 TV (lg OLED 2017+ or other brand oled makers 2018 or newer) the only other option to receive Dolby Atmos would be through a Blu-ray player!  and I don’t think most people want to start buying discs!
    The industry should be better regulated so people are not miss-informed or missguided,
    By far the most crucial aspect in a audio soundtrack no matter what movie you are watching is the Way It Is ‘mastered’, regardless what decoding you’re using PCM, Dolby d, Dolby d + or even Dolby Atmos!!!
    Click on the red dragon twice to hear/see what 2-channel audio sounds like.!!!

  43. Charles Stout on December 1, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    The only thing that keeps me from getting the Sonos Playbar for a home theater system is I really want to have 4 in ceiling Dolby Atmos speakers for a 5.1.4 configuration. So I’m think of just getting a 9 channel AVR.

  44. James Orsby on December 1, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    Is there much of a difference between the Yamaha YAS 207 and the Yamaha YAS 209? If so, what?… beside the Alexa addition on the newer one.