These four top-shelf soundbars will bring your home theatre to life

By Adam Turner, September 21 2018

A great soundbar brings your movies to life, filling your living area with sound without the need to cram in lots of speakers.

If your super-thin television doesn't leave room for decent built-in speakers – and that's usually the case – a soundbar is the best way to beef up your audio on movie night. If your screen hangs on the wall then you can mount the soundbar below, or if your television sits on a stand then you can rest the soundbar in front.

Soundbars connect to your television via a single HDMI or optical cable to keep things simple. Some soundbars come with a wireless subwoofer which you can tuck away in the corner to really beef up those explosions; others include wireless rear speakers to offer more immersive sound.

As a bonus, today's best soundbars don't just play the audio from your television, they'll also stream from your music library and handheld devices or straight from the internet from the likes of Spotify. Some also include Amazon and Google's talkative smart assistants, so they can hang on your every word.

Bose Soundbar 700

Price: $1,200
Best for: Smaller rooms, keeping it simple

Unlike the others in this roundup the Bose Soundbar 700 is just a single soundbar, with the Bose subwoofer and rear speakers optional extras.

This makes the Bose a good fit for a smaller room where those extra speakers might be overkill. At only 50mm tall and 100mm deep, the Soundbar 700's slender build is designed to blend in – although the curved clean lines, wraparound metal grille and tempered glass top still give it a premium look.

The Bose Soundbar 700 is also a smart choice if you have other Bose wireless speakers spread around your home, as they work with multi-room audio for playing the same song in sync throughout the house. You can control the music from a smartphone app, or stream directly from your handheld gadgets via Bluetooth. Support for Apple's AirPlay 2 is coming in 2019.

In its quest to keep things simple, Bose throws in its backlit universal remote. This lets the soundbar control the devices attached to your television via HDMI, like disc players and streaming set-top boxes, so you're not constantly switching between a pile of remotes on the coffee tab.

The soundbar can also bring Amazon's Alexa smart assistant to life for controlling smart home gear as well as tapping into Amazon Music, with Google Assistant to follow down the track.

Sony HT-Z9F

Price: $1,500
Best for: Fans of highest-quality audio

Sony's premium soundbar takes things up a notch with the inclusion of a wireless subwoofer to beef up blockbuster movie soundtracks, while wireless rear speakers remain an optional extra.

This subwoofer takes movie night to the next level when it comes to immersive Dolby Atmos soundtracks – found on Netflix and Ultra HD Blu-ray movies – along with the rival DTS:X format which is on some movie discs. The trade-off is the lack of upwards firing speakers for that extra sense of height.

There's an Ethernet port for direct connection to your home network, plus you can can stream via Bluetooth or Google's Chromecast with support for multi-room audio. Audiophiles will appreciate that they both work with 24-bit audio, but the Sony adds LDAC high-def Bluetooth streaming and DSEE HX audio upscaling if you have a compatible Sony music player.

If the Sony HT-Z9F has a weak spot it's that it doesn't include Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, although this won't bother some people.

LG SK10Y

Price: $1,700
Best for: Dolby Atmos fans

The LG lifts movie night to the next level thanks to upwards-firing speakers which add a sense of height to blockbuster movie soundtracks, so passing choppers sound like they're flying directly overhead rather than somewhere around you.

These extra speakers help make the most of Dolby Atmos soundtracks but you miss out on rival DTS:X. You'll also find a wireless subwoofer in the box to beef up the bass, while wireless rear speakers remain an optional extra.

As with the LG and Samsung, this Sony soundbar features two HDMI inputs so you can attach devices like an Ultra HD Blu-ray player and Apple TV 4K. The soundbar then pays the sound while passing the picture through to your television. All three use 4K HDR passthrough including Dolby Vision to ensure you're still getting the best picture.

Like the other soundbars, the LG features "night mode" which boosts the dialogue while taking the edge off the explosions. This reduces the need for you to continually ride the volume controls when you're watching a late-night movie and trying to disturb the household.

This soundbar can also bring Google Assistant to life for answering your queries, controlling your smart home gear and tapping into Google Play Music, although we're still waiting for LG to enable Google Assistant in Australia. Meanwhile, you can stream music directly from your handheld gadgets via Bluetooth or Google's Chromecast with support for multi-room audio.


Samsung HW-N950

Price: $2,000
Best for: Immersive sound

This Samsung soundbar offers the most immersive sound of the bunch, with the higher price tag translating into more built-in speakers along with an includes wireless subwoofer and a pair of rear wireless speakers.

It's built to make the most of the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive high-end audio formats due to both upwards- and sideways-firing speakers, while even the rears send sound upwards. This plethora of built-in speakers make the Samsung the pick of the bunch when it comes to sound quality.

All this makes the Samsung a great option if you're looking for immersive sound but don't want to go the next step of actually installing downwards firing speakers in the ceiling.

Unfortunately the Samsung comes up short when it comes to smart features, lacking a built-in smart assistant or support for Chromecast and AirPlay streaming.

Also read: Choosing a 65-inch Ultra HD television

Adam Turner

Adam Turner is a seasoned Australian technology journalist and a frequent traveller to the world's biggest tech expos – so you'll pry his noise-cancelling headphones from his cold, dead hands.


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