With the exception of the Zvox Z-Base 580 (*Est. $500), which wins accolades from several top sources, most sound bars resemble a long, narrow tube. The Z-Base 580, on the other hand, is a broad, rectangular platform that is designed to be placed underneath your HDTV. Though it can't be hung on a wall, critics say this is vastly superior to traditional sound-bar design.
Reviewers loved the sound of previous Zvox sound bars and the Z-Base 580 is no different; experts report that the dialog clarity is second to none, the bass is surprisingly potent for a single-box solution, and the audio is distortion-free and decently expansive (for a sound bar). The Z-Base 580 includes digital signal processing, input switching, a front display and it accepts both digital and analog signals. After a brief initial setup, the Z-Base 580 also integrates seamlessly with your TV, powering up and down with the display. There's no HDMI port, however.
The Boston Acoustics TVee Model 30 (*Est. $600) is another solid option. Reviewers say the dialog clarity and all-around punch of the TVee Model 30 is great for a sound bar, but it sports a traditional design and uses a discrete wireless subwoofer rather than an integrated one. If you don't like the Z-Base 580's boxy build, or need a sound bar that can be wall mounted, the TVee Model 30 would be a solid alternative option. Experts also appreciate the TVee Model 30's Bluetooth support.
The Harman Kardon SB 16 (*Est. $600) looks and sounds absolutely excellent, but the subwoofer is huge and the features are sparse. There's not even a remote.
The Polk SurroundBar 6000 IHT (*Est. $450) is a worthy candidate for the bedroom, reviewers say. The sound bar delivers an excellent, distortion-free experience in smaller areas with lots of reflective surfaces, but critics report that it loses its oomph and virtual surround-sound chops in larger expanses and when played at higher volumes.