Here at the Strategist, we like to think of ourselves as crazy (in the good way) about the stuff we buy, but as much as we’d like to, we can’t try everything. Which is why we have People’s Choice, in which we find the best-reviewed products and single out the most convincing. While we’ve covered the best computer speakers, portable speakers, and home-theater projectors, here we’re zeroing in on the best sound bars, as reviewed on Amazon, to help you complete your home-entertainment system. (Note that reviews have been edited for length and clarity.)
Best sound bars under $200
“I bought this to replace my five-year-old Sony sound bar with a wired subwoofer. The sound is unbelievably better, and I paid more for the Sony! My wife loves it, and she never even pays attention to what I’m using for TV sound. It’s even better for playing music. The setup was easy; it took about ten minutes to get everything going. The wireless subwoofer is already paired to the sound bar. You can pick from factory settings such as Tru Sound, music, movie, or you can set the bass and treble to your own personal preference. This is an unbelievable sound bar for the price. Vizio truly raised the bar.”
“This sound bar needs to be on every TV I own! The all-in-one design (no separate subwoofer) completely transforms the junky sound generated by my TV speakers into an immersive listening experience. Wow! Okay, so I like it a lot. Beautiful rich sound, deep bass, great blast of volume when you want it, high-end look. Easy connection to the TV via one HDMI, then the TV remote controls the sound bar. Also has Bluetooth connectivity, so you can stream music from smart phone or tablet to the sound bar. Looking for a fantastic sound bar at a great price point? Look no further.”
“I have never bought something for my living room that made such a huge difference. This sound bar is not only sleek and elegant, it makes watching a show or movie all the more amazing. The sound quality is astoundingly good. If I turn it up too high, it’s like the walls are about to shake, and if there is shooting in the film, it sounds incredibly real! The setup only took me about five minutes, and now I will always have outstanding sound quality. It’s a must-have. Don’t spend hundreds on a system. This does the same thing, but cheaper and better.”
“As a musician, I am always looking for products that will enable me to blast some tunes when I feel the urge. I was also looking for a ‘centered’ and clear dialogue experience within the audio cacophony of the sound bar, when watching TV shows and movies. This unit does both very well. There is also noticeable spatial separation when using the 3-D mode for movies. For me, purchases usually come down to this: value for the money. Sure, you can get more by spending a whole lot more. For the money, it is an awesome product. I slave it (and the TV) to my fairly ancient Bose unit to take advantage of Bose’s realistic fidelity in the audio mix. That said, when playing through the Pyle only, (Bose muted/off) the sound is still just fine. If I needed more audio awesomeness, I would use my music-studio equipment, but that’s just a bit overkill for watching TV. Let the music move you.”
“You WILL NOT get a better sound system for less than this; I’m surprised it’s not worth at least $150. It’s bigger than I imagined, but it’s still very compact, fits very nicely on my dresser, looks great, and sounds even better. I hooked up a small subwoofer to it ‘cause the bass on the speaker itself isn’t that much to brag about (that’s my only negative comment about this thing), and now it’s as close to the movies as you will get without spending a chunk of change on a crazy system. Truly awestruck this technology exists in something like this. I’ve had a few sound systems in the past — even my own custom ones with receivers — and by far this is the BEST surround sound I’ve ever had! I find myself jerking my head to the left or right ‘cause I hear something, turns out it’s just the sound bar. Even songs I’ve heard a bunch of times sound new ‘cause I’m hearing things I literally couldn’t before. If you are electronically inclined or just appreciate great, quality sound, then I’m DEMANDING you go out and get this!”
Best sound bars for your fancy home-theater setup
“Look, I have a really nice 5.1 surround-sound system in my family room. Marantz receiver, in-wall LCR’s, Martin Logan Dynamo 700, RTI remote, all hidden in a closet and sending HDMI via baluns. With all the HDMI headaches I have dealt with, I decided to give the Sonos Playbar a try. I mounted it below my Sony XBR75X850C. Packaging amazing. Instructions amazing. Clean look with minimal equipment. Let me say this, the Playbar and sub really amazed me. Sound is awesome and exceeds my expectations. And I can have the world of music at my hands. Truly an amazing job by Sonos. Next, I plan on adding surrounds. Even works with my normal TV remote.”
“I rarely write reviews for purchases, but after buying the Shockwafe 7.1 and hearing it, I just had to write one. I honestly do not think you can get anything better at this cost. After trying out several sound bars, including the much famed Yamaha 203 and Vizio SB4551, I would say the Nakamichi simply outperforms them all. I am not an audiophile, but I do have an ear for music, and the sound reproduction from this is better than all. It almost blurs the line between sound bars and individual speaker setup.”
Best dialogue-enhancing sound bars
“I have had two previous sound bars that were not cheap, but I found I was often having trouble hearing the spoken words on a show and often had to put on the closed captions. Installed it yesterday and cannot believe the difference! This product delivers on every single representation in their ad! The sound rivals what you find when you go to a movie theater! Words come through crisp and clear and no need at all for closed captions! HIGHLY RECOMMEND this sound bar if you are like I was … often turning to my wife and asking, ‘What they say?’ Needless to say, she is also very happy with it!”
“Well, now you COULD buy a better-sounding ‘sound bar,’ but unfortunately, it would only sound better in the bass frequencies. The ZVOX with AccuVoice Technology is by far the BEST-sounding ‘sound bar’ when it comes to hearing dialogue. Period. In the few weeks that I’ve had my ZVOX, I can honestly say that I rarely (if ever) miss out on what the actors in movies are saying. This is even true when there is background music and the actors are whispering at the same time. Absolutely astounding sound! Before, I wouldn’t watch much TV because the TV’s built-in speakers are aimed at the back wall and the sound is hollow and extremely difficult to hear. But now I have my ZVOX! And, MAN! What an improvement! If you want the clarity of dialogue that only AccuVoice Technology can deliver … you’d be wasting your time looking somewhere else. ZVOX, you ARE pure sound!”
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