The best sound bars

Speakers to make your TV shows sound way more epic.

Sound bars that are music to my ears
Sound bars that are music to my ears.MILKOVÍ via Unsplash

More than a year ago I realized my regular TV speakers weren’t cutting it. My hours spent watching Battlestar Galactica and X-Files were dulled by muddled dialog and blaring musical overtures. I was priced-out of multi-speaker surround-sound systems and had been burned by inexpensive speakers before, but I remained optimistic that contemporary technology could provide clear, crisp sound for us less-than-rich audiophiles. That’s how I got started testing sound bars. The result of my studies: this list of speakers that maintain the integrity of sound even at high volumes. What’s even better, none of these cost more than a couple hundred bucks.

Yamaha YAS-207 sound bar
A sound bar capable of creating virtual surround sound without all the extra speakers.Amazon

The bar with the best sound quality is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most expensive piece of tech on this list. But the relatively pricey the Yamaha YAS-207 comes with some features the others don’t, like a separate wireless subwoofer to enhance the bass. It also comes with DTS Virtual:X built-in that virtually recreates surround-sound without the need for an entire surround sound setup. It reproduces a virtual height and depth that wouldn’t normally be possible with a single forward-facing speaker.

ZVOX AccuVoice sound bar
A sound bar for people that can't understand dialogue.Amazon

Then there’s ZVOX, a sound bar that enhances the dialogue by using digital algorithms to manipulate the audio signal and boosts just the voices. Basically, the sound bar lowers the background noise and raises the volume of the speaking. This makes it perfect for people that constantly ask “what did they say?” while watching TV shows or movies. If you don’t have a problem hearing what actors are saying it’s also just a well-balanced, great-sounding speaker. The ZVOX can be controlled by your TV’s remote and can be plugged in via an optical audio input or a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Polk Command smart sound bar
An Alexa-enabled sound bar that will elevate your watching and listening experience.Amazon

At first, I was skeptical about a sound bar that has Alexa built into the speaker. I listen to my TV super loud, so I didn’t expect the speaker to be able to hear my voice without me screaming. To my surprise, The Polk Audio Command Sound Bar heard my requests without me having to raise my voice. It also has great sound, features two HDMI inputs and it comes with a wireless subwoofer to enhance the cinematic sound quality. It features built-in Dolby and DTS surround sound, helps create clear, understandable dialogue in the content you’re watching, and lets you stream music. The speaker is wall-mountable and features the option to plug it into your TV via digital optical cable.