- Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2
Best All Round
- Samsung HW-Q950A
- Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers
The race to make thinner and thinner TVs has led to the speakers built into them being sized out. While every TV still comes with speakers built-in, they’re not particularly high quality. If you’re purchasing a high-end TV, you’re unlikely to want to settle for sub-par sound. While you can get reasonably good sound systems for pretty good prices, to get the best you’re going to need to spend more money.
To help you get the best available, we’ve drawn up a list of the best high-end soundbars in 2021.
- Huge soundstage with 11.1.4 channels
- Tunes the sound to your room
- Dedicated subwoofer
- Connectors: Optical, HDMI eARC, HDMI in, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2
- Surround Sound Support: All major surround sound formats excluding 5.1 PCM
- Channels: 11.1.4
The Samsung HW-Q950A is a fantastic soundbar system offering a massive 11.1.4 channel sound stage. This primarily comes from the soundbar itself but also from the dedicated subwoofer and pair of satellite speakers. The satellite speakers themselves have two of the vertical channels intended to bounce sound off the ceiling from behind you.
It can play all forms of surround sound audio, with the one exception of 5.1 PCM. The HDMI in ports can support 4K60HDR passthrough but does not support HDMI 2.1 which means no 4K120. For gamers, the best solution with this soundbar is to plug the console or PC directly into the TV and have the TV then send the sound to the soundbar via the ARC port.
- Connectors: Optical, HDMI ARC, HDMI in, USB, 3.5mm, Bluetooth
- Surround Sound Support: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS (Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD MA, 5.1 PCM on the non-ARC HDMI port only)
- Channels: 9.2.4
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2 is a unique soundbar that features not one but two wireless subwoofers. The soundbar itself has five standard audio channels including a central channel that helps make dialogue clearer. The dual subwoofers connect to the soundbar wirelessly while two satellite speakers plug into the back of each subwoofer. The satellites also feature upward-firing speakers for Dolby Atmos playback.
It supports a broad range of surround sound content, though not all is supported over the HDMI ARC port. While it does feature 4K60HDR passthrough, it doesn’t support HDMI 2.1 for 4K120. While the soundstage offers a broad range, the sound played tends towards over-emphasized bass and treble by default, though this can be customised.
- Room correction feature
- Unique subwoofer design
- Google assistant and Alexa built in
- Connectors: HDMI eARC, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, Optical (via an included HDMI adaptor)
- Surround Sound Support: All Dolby Surround sound formats and 5.1PCM
- Channels: 5.1.2
The Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers is technically a package of three different items which means if you want a smaller or more expansive package you can design it yourself. Each item connects wirelessly to the soundbar, though everything can also be connected via ethernet while the soundbar itself has 5 standard channels, it repurposes its two surround channels to assist the Left and Right ones when the satellite speakers are connected.
It features a room correction feature that listens to the sound balance with the setup in your room and then adjusts the speakers automatically to balance the audio optimally. Connectivity is minimal with a single HDMI eARC port and an ethernet port. Technically you also have an optical connector but that’s only when using the included optical to HDMI adaptor. The lack of full EQ may be a problem for some but the out of the box audio balance is good, especially with the room correction feature.
- Standalone soundbar
- Well built
- Support for all surround sound formats
- Connectors: Optical, HDMI eARC, HDMI in, Ethernet, RCA
- Surround Sound Support: All surround sound formats are supported
- Channels: 5.1.2
The Sennheiser AMBEO is incredibly expensive for a standalone soundbar but you get a lot of quality for the price. While it is “only” a 5.1.2 soundbar it offers support for all surround sound formats and has great connectivity, though the HDMI passthrough doesn’t support HDMI 2.1 for high frame rate 4K video.
While the front and side speakers are covered with a flimsy fabric grill, it is removable if you want to clean it or if you prefer the grill-less aesthetic. The use of phantom surround sound, bouncing sound off the walls and ceilings, does reduce the precision compared to a true 5.1.2 configuration, but the AMBEO uses it well. The bass from the integrated subwoofer is not as strong as a dedicated subwoofer would be, however, you can connect a discrete subwoofer via an RCA port.
That was our roundup of the best high-end soundbars in 2021. Have you recently bought a high-end soundbar? What sold you on it and what’s your experience been with it? Let us know down below.