Updated September 2013
Sound bars provide better sound for home theaters than you'll find built into any HDTV, and without the clutter of satellite speakers. But will you be satisfied with the compromises even the best sound bars ask of their owners? ConsumerSearch explores the alternatives to help you find the answer. Editors name the best sound bars, based on expert and user reviews.
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Sony HT-CT260
Sony HT-CT260

Best sound bar

Experts rave over the Sony HT-CT260 for its solid performance, versatility and features such as built-in Bluetooth. Its wireless subwoofer provides deeper bass than many sound bars in its class. The HT-CT260 offers a great all-around package and is relatively inexpensive.
See our full review

Est. $250 Estimated Price
Yamaha YSP-4100
Yamaha YSP-4100

Premium sound bar

If you want the best sound bar money can buy, look no further than the Yamaha YSP-4100. Sound quality is top shelf, and surround effects are more realistic than with any other sound bar of its type. The YSP-4100 is a little large for a sound bar, but its design draws lots of kudos. The features lineup is unsurpassed.
See our full review

Vizio S4251w-B4
Vizio S4251w-B4

Sound bar with true surround sound

The Vizio S4251w-B4 is a sound bar that's capable of producing true 5.1-channel sound. That's courtesy of its wireless rear speakers and subwoofer. Setup is more complicated and more cluttered than with a simple sound bar, but the Vizio S4251w-B4 delivers excellent audio for its price tag.
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Zvox Z-Base 580
Zvox Z-Base 580

Pedestal sound bar

The Zvox Z-Base 580 is a pedestal-style sound bar that's designed to serve as a platform for your stand-mounted, flat-screen HDTV. It earns high marks from reviewers and owners for its superb audio quality, simple setup and bevy of bonus features.
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Best Sound Bar Reviews: Runners Up

Sonos Playbar Est. $700

8 picks including: Amazon.com, DigitalTrends.com…

Yamaha YAS-101 Est. $250

6 picks including: Amazon.com, DigitalTrends.com…

MartinLogan Motion Vision Est. $1,500

6 picks including: About.com, Wired…

Boston Acoustics TVee Model 30 Est. $400

4 picks including: Amazon.com, DigitalTrends.com…

Polk SurroundBar 6000 IHT Est. $500

4 picks including: Amazon.com, Home Theater Magazine…

Yamaha YSP-2200 Est. $800

3 picks including: About.com, Amazon.com…

Harman Kardon SB 16 Est. $500

2 picks including: Amazon.com, CNET…

Sound bars are an easy audio solution for your home theater

Sound bars are one way to bridge the gap between built-in TV audio and what's produced by a surround-sound system with five to seven (or more) speakers plus a subwoofer. Sound bars are one-piece home-theater speaker systems that are sleekly styled and can be hung on a wall underneath a flat-panel TV, or placed on an entertainment center for TVs that are stand-mounted. They typically contain the center channel and left and right surround speakers, and use sonic trickery -- with varying degrees of success -- to produce a surround-sound field.

The price range for sound bars ranges from as little as $100 to as much as $2,000, depending on the features and audio quality you need or want. Some sound bars include a Blu-ray Disc player to create a complete home-theater-in-a-box solution. Many of the best sound bars also include a separately powered subwoofer to provide better bass. Some even add wireless rear-channel speakers to create a true surround-sound system. For most situations, the best sound bars will have all the necessary electronics built in. Passive sound bars that include only the speakers are also available, but those need to be used with a separate home-theater receiver or amplifier, just like a more traditional speaker system, and are not covered in this report.

Experts agree that sound bars deliver better sound than what is available from even the best TVs, but they also agree that even the best sound bars are a compromise. Sound bars are easier to hook up than a traditional surround-sound system, and, in the right setting, many can sound excellent and even produce a reasonably expansive soundstage. Most of the time, however, sound bars can't deliver the full surround-sound experience of more traditional solutions. Sound effects might be inaccurately placed, or the thumps, bangs and explosions in blockbuster movies could lack the oomph produced by a more robust surround-sound system.

Audio performance is one big concern when shopping for the best sound bar, but there are other considerations as well. Does the sound bar have a subwoofer or rear speakers? Is it wireless? What types of audio inputs does the sound bar have? Perhaps most important, is the price-to-performance ratio satisfactory? We kept all of those questions in mind as we sifted through numerous professional and user sound bar reviews to identify the best choices.

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