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How to choose a sound bar for your TV

Find the best sound bar for your space and budget

Sound bars have always been an easy way to upgrade your TV’s audio. But these days they can do a whole lot more than just boost TV and movie sound. Want a little help wading through all the designs, features, and control options? We’ll cover what's available to help you find the perfect fit.

What type of sound bar is right for you?

Sound bars vary wildly in price — from under $150 for a basic plug-and-play model to over $2,000 for a handcrafted work of art. You can narrow the field significantly by asking yourself a few questions.

Are you looking for a full-on home theater experience, or do you just want to be able to hear the TV more clearly? Will you be using your sound bar to play music? Would you like for it to be part of a multi-room audio system? Is voice control important to you? And a simple but vital question you need to answer — where is it going to go?

Placement options

Most bars have a low enough profile that they won’t block your TV (or your TV's remote sensor) when sitting on a stand, but always check the height to be sure. If you want to wall-mount your bar, make sure it has keyhole slots or optional brackets.

Different sound bar placement options

Sound bars usually give you the option for wall-mounting with your TV, or they can simply be placed on a TV stand. Platform models sit under your TV.

Do you struggle to understand dialogue?

A sound bar will make your TV sound louder and fuller, so human voices will sound clearer too. But if you generally have trouble hearing dialogue over background sounds, look for a bar that offers dialogue enhancement. This makes voices louder and more prominent in the mix.


The Yamaha YAS-209 uses its Clear Voice mode to bring speech center-stage, making it easer to hear and understand. 

Surround sound effects 

In the past, a surround sound setup at home required a receiver and at least five speakers. That’s still the optimal configuration for home theater, but a sound bar can be a great solution for those who don't have the space or inclination for that kind of setup. 


Sound bars can simulate surround sound using advanced digital sound processing to trick your ears into thinking there are speakers all around you.

In a “true” surround sound system, the receiver decodes surround sound signals from movie and TV soundtracks and sends different sounds to each speaker in the system. Sound bars can also decode surround sound signals, but most are limited to 5.1-channel formats. And they distribute the sound differently.

A sound bar might have anywhere from two to thirteen (or more!) small speakers — also called "drivers" — built into its cabinet. Instead of sending discrete sounds to five different speakers, a sound bar takes the surround sound signal and splits it up between its array of built-in drivers.

Samsung HW-N850 up-firing

Sound bars that can decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X signals often have up-firing and side-firing drivers that reflect sound off your ceiling and walls to create a three-dimensional soundstage.

Many sound bars include wireless rear speakers or the option to add them for discrete surround sound. If being totally immersed in your content it the goal, opt for a system that allows for such expansion.

JBL Bar 9.1 Powered home theater sound bar with wireless subwoofer, wireless surround speakers, and Dolby Atmos®

JBL's Bar 9.1 includes 100% wire-free rear speakers that recharge when attached to the sound bar. 

Do you need a subwoofer?

If you really want to get the most out of movies and music, choose a sound bar that includes a sub or gives you the option to add one. Most sound bars are too slim to reproduce lower-frequency sound, so in many cases a separate wireless subwoofer is included.

subwoofer placement

You can place your sub almost anywhere near a wall outlet within wireless range of the bar.

Alternatively, some sound bars have a subwoofer output. This is helpful if you already own (or have your eye on) a sub you love.

More interested in hearing dialogue than feeling the rumble of bass? You can save money by choosing a sound bar without a separate subwoofer.

What about music?

Sound bars with built-in Bluetooth® let you stream music easily from your mobile device. Some sound bars even have Wi-Fi® capability for quick access to online streaming services as well as your personal digital music library.

A sound bar might also have a USB input, so you can load up a thumb drive with your favorite tunes, leave it plugged in, and listen to them anytime. A few sound bars support high-res music files.

Beyond the living room

Your sound bar can also play a starring role in a multi-room audio system. Many brands offer sound bars that can communicate with other music players, powered speakers, and receivers over a network connection, so you can stream wireless music throughout your home.

Here's the current list of options:


Wireless multi-room audio systems let you create different zones and control what's playing in each room with an app on your phone or by using voice commands.

What kinds of connections do you need?

Most sound bars are completely self-contained, self-powered speaker systems. Many of them offer connections for different A/V components, along with several ways to play music — like having a receiver built right into the bar.

Your sound bar can act as a hub for all your different sources if you choose a model with the right connections. This is particularly useful if you have an older TV, or if your TV is wall-mounted and you don’t want a lot of cables hanging down from it.

Nearly every sound bar has an optical digital connection, and many offer 4K-compatible HDMI connections for more flexibility. If you have a multi-channel sound bar, using the HDMI connection ensures the best sound quality from Blu-ray soundtracks.

See our sound bar connection and setup guide to determine which type of connection is best for you.

For real home theater thrills, try a receiver and a passive sound bar

Passive sound bars get their power from a separate home theater receiver. They connect to the receiver’s front left, front right, and center channels via speaker wire. Aside from speaker terminals, you won’t find any connections on a passive sound bar. It’s more like a three-in-one home theater speaker than it is like a typical sound bar.

This type of setup elevates your sound bar experience and lets you take advantage of the processing power of a home theater receiver without filling your room with speakers and wires. It also makes it easy to build on your system by adding surround speakers. Depending on your receiver, you may have the option to add wired and/or wireless surround speakers.

Klipch Heritage714HTBWN.jpg

Klipsch's Heritage Theater passive bar is an attractive statement piece that combines three home theater speakers into one for a realistic front soundstage.

Alexa, turn up the volume!

Many sound bars have an option for voice control. Some are compatible with Alexa or Google Home — meaning you’ll need an Echo or Google device to use the voice control features. While others have that functionality built right in.

Harman Kardon Google

The Sonos Beam has built-in Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, letting you use voice commands to control the sound bar and even other connected Sonos gear.

Voice control a little too sci-fi for you? Most sound bars let you use your TV remote to make basic adjustments. And if your phone isn’t ever more than an arm’s length away, opt for a bar with app control.

Bose remote

I loved trying out Bose's Soundbar 700, and a big reason why was the cool contextual remote — it illuminates only the buttons you need for what you're doing.

Need help choosing?

Contact us today — our advisors would love to help you find the bar that suits your style and budget.

  • Mike struewing from Walton ky

    Posted on 2/9/2023

    Can I use a Bose cinemate speakers and a sub woofer on my new flat screen tv??? Or with a sound bar??? I used it on my old tv....

    Commenter image

    Colin M. from Crutchfield

    on 2/9/2023

    Hi Mike, that will depend on what A/V connections your new TV has available. I suggest double checking with one of our Advisors. If your previous system is no longer compatible with your new TV, they can point you towards current offerings that will. :)
  • Ferd from Ben Lomond

    Posted on 1/13/2023

    I have a very simple requirement. I have a Samsung UN46D6000 TV, which has an HDMI ARC port. The speakers are blown. I want a simple 2.1 channel soundbar that I can control the volume of which from my TV/Caimcast remote. I do NOT want to have to use a separate soundbar remote. And don't care about a subwoofer. No descriptions I see explicitly say "control volume with TV remote using HDMI ARC". Is that what I need?

    Commenter image

    Colin M. from Crutchfield

    on 2/9/2023

    Hi Ferd, the feature you're looking for is HDMI-CEC. It allows a sound bar to receive control commands from another device via an HDMI connection - like adjusting the volume with your TV remote. Here's a quick list of the sound bars we carry with HDMI-CEC that include a subwoofer. A popular 2.1 system that fits the requirements you mentioned would be the Polk React System. If you need any more help narrowing down the search, don't hesitate to reach out to one of our Advisors. :)
  • Noble from San Diego

    Posted on 1/8/2023

    Nice! Thank you for sharing informative and useful content.

    Commenter image

    Colin M. from Crutchfield

    on 1/12/2023

    No problem! We're glad to help. :)
  • tai nguyen from allen

    Posted on 3/2/2022

    What is the best soundbar for a great room with a vaulted ceiling?

    Commenter image

    Colin M. from Crutchfield

    on 3/3/2022

    Hi Tai, You should still be able to enjoy great sound from a variety of sound bars if you have a vaulted ceiling. The main way a vaulted ceiling impacts a sound bar's performance if that bar has up-firing drivers. Sound bars with these drivers that support Dolby Atmos perform their best with a flat ceiling. Models with virtual surround sound and/or room correction can help make up for this. Great examples are the Bose Smart Sound Bar 900 or the Samsung HW-Q800A. I hope this helps!
  • Jerrie from Sarasota

    Posted on 2/4/2022

    Looking for a sound bar for elderly parents who are hard of hearing. Would like to have 2 side speakers (wireless?) where voice comes through so we don't have to crank the volume up on the whole sound bar.

    Commenter image

    Colin M. from Crutchfield

    on 2/7/2022

    Hi Jerrie! Your best bet will be a sound bar with dialogue enhancement. This help help clarify and add volume to those hard-to-catch lines. Adding wireless rear/side speakers will give you immersive sound, but won't help much with the dialogue. These types of speakers are dedicated to surround effects and your dialogue will still come from the center of the bar in most cases. I hope this helps!
  • Denise Fausett from Philadelphia

    Posted on 11/25/2021

    Need a sound bar that goes with a Sanyo TV .

    Commenter image

    Colin M. from Crutchfield

    on 12/1/2021

    We should have a ton of options that will work with most TVs. Just give our one of our friendly Advisors a call and they'll be more than happy to take a look with you.
  • Gary Olson from Bella vista Ar

    Posted on 11/6/2021

    What sound bar for movies and sports got 65 inch tv a ge want sound bar that I can add on later 800 dollar range

    Commenter image

    Colin M. from Crutchfield

    on 11/8/2021

    Hi Gary, Fortunately, there are a ton of bars that will fit neatly under a 65" TV and rest within that $800 price range. We'll want to walk through some additional feature considerations to narrow down the list. You can call or chat online with one of our helpful Advisors. They'll have some questions for you, but we can definitely get you pointed in the right direction. :)
  • Robert s Kerr from Jackson

    Posted on 4/14/2021

    hello, just bought the Klipsch cinema 600 soundbar with surround 3 rear speakers from you guys. i have a Sony XBR-65X950G tv. What settings should i use in the TV for best DD sound to the Cinema 600. I use Xfinity cable for TV service plus stream from TV apps. The Xfinity box also has different sound modes? The box is connect to the TV via HDMI. I plan on using HDMI arc between the TV and Cinema 600.

    Commenter image

    Colin M. from Crutchfield

    on 4/15/2021

    Sounds like we've got a few moving pieces. The best way to get everything tuned up and moving smoothly will be to give our Tech Support team a ring. They'll be able to walk you through the setup with you over the phone.
  • Commenter image

    Colin M. from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/4/2020

    Hi Garry, Not a problem! The Yamaha 209 has an extra HDMI input. You could connect the fire stick there, then use the ARC connection to link up to the TV. As far as placement, we usually recommend having the sound bar lined up directly below the TV. That being said, it couldn't hurt to test out the other placement to see if the sound still works for you. If it doesn't, you can test alternative positions until it feels just right.

  • Steve Serafin from Christiansted

    Posted on 10/20/2020

    We have a 75" LG UHD 4K TV that would benefit from a sound bar. Our TV room is the entire living room, front room, dining room, and kitchen so it can get quite echoey despite rugs, curtains, etc. to combat that. I think dialogue enhancement would be a big plus. We also enjoyed our surround sound setup with rear speakers and subwoofer in our previous house that we would like to emulate here. Rear speakers can be either rechargeable or 120VAC. We also have a 200+CD collection on a SONY 300 CD jukebox we would like to connect. The unit has both RCA outputs and a digital output (optical). I'm just learning about soundbars, so any advice you can give would be appreciated. Thanks in advance

    Commenter image

    Colin M. from Crutchfield

    on 12/4/2020

    Hi Steve, Based on your description, I think the JBL Bar9.1 would be a pretty solid match. It's got plenty of "oomph" for a large room, comes with a wireless sub, and two wireless rechargeable surround speakers. It's also got an optical input for the CD jukebox. If you have additional questions, don't hesitate to give one of our Advisors a ring.
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