What can you expect from one soundbar nowadays? No miracles, but nevertheless more than before. Soundbars remain very popular products and manufacturers try to push boundaries time and time again. And not all in the same direction, by the way. You have a number of premium sound bars that use additional wireless speakers that you place next to your sofa. This brings you a lot closer to a surround sound, such as with a discrete speaker setup. Others offer something very compact, without a separate subwoofer.
Atmos at eARC
One of the main novelties of the latest batch of sound bars is eARC. Elsewhere on the site you will find more information about the advantages of the successor for HDMI-ARC – and to what extent it is relevant to you. Much will depend on how important you are Dolby Atmos it is no coincidence that it is the other big sign of the devices we are looking at in this file. Atmos offers you a surround display, supplemented with sound from the height. This creates a 3D sound reproduction. Nice for sound effects that take place in the top of the room (such as a helicopter flying overhead), but also to make the sound image three-dimensional and larger. With Atmos you are really in the rain and you hear thunders being positioned correctly. For a soundbar, Atmos is of course a bit more challenging, because such a device does not work with many speakers that are distributed throughout the room. That is why manufacturers use acoustic tricks to let sound come at you from all sides. Sometimes it works well, sometimes less. We notice that sound bars can create that 3D sound image at the front, but just behind and above you is still challenging without additional speakers next to your seat. In any case, it is important to take into account the built-in speakers when you place the soundbar. You should not slide a soundbar with overhead speakers completely under a TV, for example.
An option that you see with more and more sound bars: you can build a real surround setup with optional speakers. These are wireless speakers that you place next to and / or behind your sofa, and that play the rear channels as with a surround system. Not everyone likes extra devices at home, but in our experience they provide a significantly better experience with films. Note that those extra speakers are not too close to your ears and more or less radiate at ear height.
Streaming en multiroom
Most manufacturers have Google and Chromecast Airplay from Apple when it comes to streaming. This has a few positive consequences: connecting to the network is easy (via Google Home or the WiFi settings of your iPad / iPhone), you can use many streaming services, and you can pair the soundbar with other compatible speakers. Also from other brands. You can play a song with a tap from Spotify app, Apple Music, Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, YouTube Music, Play Music, SoundCloud and more. If you want to play your own music files, you use an app such as Hi-Fi Cast, BubbleUPnP or mConnect Player.
Internet radio? TuneIn has casting built in, as do countless other apps. In short, thanks to the Chromecast function you can actually play almost all music in a very easy way. AirPlay 2 offers roughly the same benefits. However, sharing the TV sound elsewhere in the house is only possible with a dedicated multi-room platform, such as from Sonos. You can control a Chromecast soundbar with your voice, but note: not every soundbar has a built-in microphone. If you want some background music quickly or know very specifically what you want to hear, then Google Assistant works fine.
What is the best soundbar at the moment?
In this file, we discuss five high-end soundbars from LG (DSN8YG), Samsung (HW-Q800T), Harman Kardon (Citation Multibeam 700), TCL (Ray-Danz) and Sonos (Arc). Below you will find the conclusions from each of the reviews, with a link to the full review.
The LG DSN8YG offers a lot for its price point. The soundbar may be the starter in LG’s premium line for 2020, the performance is already quite good. That should of course be the case, because 699 euros is not nothing. The stereo with center display is particularly good, with decent front height channels that still provide a 3D experience at a certain level. This gives you a much larger and more immersive sound image when viewing films and compared to typical TV speakers.
It could be better, but then you are talking about a more expensive soundbar with more advanced driver setups. The LG excels thanks to the many extras: Chromecast, Google Assistant and the effective room calibration function.
Read more in the full LG DSN8YG review
The HW-Q800T is not a cheap soundbar, but delivers quite a lot for its price. Q-Symphony for example, although that is of course only an added value if you also get a brand new Samsung TV. Do you have another television? The HW-Q800T is still recommended. It performs well on any TV with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, without sacrificing the ultimate 3D rendering you can get with top-notch soundbars.
We believe that many people will find the middle ground that this soundbar offers sufficient. You take a noticeable step towards a full-fledged cinematic experience, partly because the powerful sub provides the burly support to dramatize games and heavy action movies. That is something that a cheaper and smaller soundbar can be more difficult. Highly recommended for the spectacle seeker.
Read more in the full Samsung HW-Q800T review
TCL Ray-Danz TS9030
The Ray-Danz TS9030 may not make the best first impression in terms of design. Some elements look very plastic-like and appear cheap. We also fear that those acoustic lenses will accumulate a lot of dust in the long term, so don’t forget to dust. However, the performance of the TCL Ray-Danz is not bad.
Movies are presented powerfully and the surround mode is cleverly placed in a sound bubble. A big advantage is that this bubble is also available if you are in a large room, without walls nearby. The Ray-Danz works well regardless of placement. This is an excellent choice for large open living rooms where you are approximately three meters from the screen.
Read more in the full TCL Ray-Danz review
The Arc is a real tour de force. The soundbar performs well when you feed it with Dolby Atmos content and takes advantage of all the assets of the Sonos universe. Think of the broad support of streaming services, the ease of use and the multiroom function. The price is even quite competitive for the segment, although the price tag grows considerably if you want to expand the Arc with a Sub and two Sonos speakers. We immediately add that we think that because of the smart speaker setup you will less likely need Sub – although we will discuss this in depth in a follow-up review of an extensive Arc setup.
All in all, the Arc is a very successful soundbar that offers a lot and is very competitive. Although we can think of negatives. There is currently no way to display the rear Atmos height channels, something that Samsung’s HW-Q950T (or the HW-Q90R), for example, can. As always, Sonos opts for an Apple-ian easy to operate, which is just right for many people. But we would still like to have a little more control, for example, about the volume level of the top speakers. An option to upmix 5.1 to a virtual Atmos experience would also have been a nice extra. Still, we think the Arc has everything to become one of the most popular sound bars in the world. Not only is it a good choice for those already in the Sonos universe, but it is also a competitively priced soundbar that performs well against many rivals and has unique advantages.
Read more in the full Sonos Arc review
Harman Kardon Citation MultiBeam 700
The Citation MultiBeam 700 is not only a very handsome, stylish appearance that fits well in an interior due to its compact size. It performs well, thanks to a wide appearance and impressive bass performance. And that without a separate subwoofer.
The integration with Google Assistant and streaming via Chromecast and AirPlay 2 also provide very good streaming options. Multiroom is also possible. There are a few negatives, such as the occasional unwanted response from the microphone, but these do not stand in the way of a good assessment.
Read more in the full Citation MultiBeam 700 review
Who is the winner?
Choosing the best soundbar in this file is not easy. We must emphasize that there are quite a lot of devices on the market. What we are looking at here is an anthology of new and important mid-range devices. Later in the year we will probably compare the top-end models with extra speakers, but a number of devices (such as Samsung) are yet to appear on the market. Some sound bars are clearly designed for a particular usage scenario and do very well at it. The TCL Ray-Danz for example, is a really good choice if you want to experience a surround at a shorter distance. The Harman Kardon Multibeam also performs great given its price and size. The Best Buy is the LG DSN8YG, a soundbar that is especially convinced by its sound. The Samsung HW-Q800T does not perform worse, fits the SmartThings story and also looks a bit more refined, but costs a bit more. We would definitely recommend it with a new Samsung TV, because of Q-Symphony. The best soundbar in this test is the Sonos Arc. Despite a few tricky limitations (such as the lack of an upmixing mode) and a slightly higher price point, it puts down top performance and has excellent streaming and multiroom capabilities.