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The best sound bars

In the last few months, I’ve played with several sound bars. Here are my picks

Over the past year, I’ve been tested a lot of sound bars. Frankly, my TV speakers weren’t cutting it, and I was eager to see what options are out there for us less-than-rich audiophiles. I was priced-out of all multi-speaker surround-sound systems, but was happy to see simpler options for just a couple hundred bucks. But I’ve been burned by inexpensive speakers before; I was concerned about distorted sound at loud volumes and excessive bass.

I was happy with the three set-ups listed below. If find more, I’ll add them to this list.

1. Yamaha YAS-207 sound bar

A sound bar capable of creating virtual surround sound without all the extra speakers.

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-207comes 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.

2. ZVOX AccuVoice sound bar

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. There are six levels of this AccuVoice function to choose from; if you don’t have a problem hearing what actors are saying it’s also just a well-balanced, great-sounding speaker. The ZVOX comes in five colors and can be programmed to be controlled by your TV’s remote. Or you could plug it in via an optical audio input or a 3.5mm headphone jack.

3. Soundcore Infini 2.1 Channel sound bar

My favorite budget pick is the 35-inch Soundcore Infini from Anker. The 2.1-channel speaker—with two tweeters and two built-in subwoofers—provides deep bass and crystal clear high tones. Plus it lets you stream music via Bluetooth from your Smartphone, and comes with a remote to switch between audio modes. The sound bar can be hooked up to your TV via optical, digital coaxial, or AUX and comes with a wall-mount setup. The 2.2-inch tall speaker also features a dialogue mode similar to that of ZVOX, boosting the mid-range to enhance the dialogue. I have to say, ZVOX’s execution is superior.

4. Fluance AB40 Soundbase sound bar

The Fluance AB40 Soundbase is a 90-watt sound bar that’ll make anything you watch better. Similar to others in this list, the Fluance AB40 creates a wide, virtual 3D surround-ish sound without needing all the extra speakers in the room. The speaker is 26 inches wide, 14 inches deep, and less than 4 inches tall. It’s encased in a wood cabinet and weighs only 24 pounds. You can connect devices via Bluetooth, 3.5mm Aux cable, or the included optical cable. It doesn’t include an HDMI port, so keep that in mind if that’s your preferred way of plugging in your speakers. There are two color options—Black Ash and Lucky Bamboo.

5. Polk Command smart sound bar

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.