May 30, 2023

Need to consolidate the variety of bins beneath your TV? The reply is to go sensible. For instance, a sensible sound bar allows you to mix a voice assistant, music streaming and possibly even video streaming. You do not have to pay an arm and a leg for nice high quality both, with costs beginning at about $130.

Earlier than I present you the picks, it is value making a distinction between a sensible soundbar and a sensible TV. Whereas a sensible TV means the display has onboard streaming apps, a sensible soundbar often means the speaker has an onboard voice assistant — often both Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. The primary exceptions listed here are the Roku Streambar and Streambar Professional (beforehand the Good Soundbar), which do have streaming apps and an optionally available always-on assistant.

After all, all soundbars are designed for use with most TVs, whether or not both gadget is wise or not. However if you happen to’re in search of an all-in-one streaming speaker and voice assistant, these are the soundbars to purchase.

Learn extra: Greatest Good Audio system for 2023: Alexa, Google and Extra


The compact Roku Streambar plugs into your TV’s HDMI ARC port and works as each a 4K streamer and a soundbar. We have discovered the Streambar simple to arrange, and it sounds good for the scale, notably with dialogue. To make the soundbar actually sensible, the $30 Voice Distant Professional provides an always-on voice assistant that is useful for locating new reveals, and even the distant itself.

Learn our Roku Streambar overview.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Polk React with DTS Digital Encompass Sound is a single soundbar replace to one in every of my favourite sensible soundbars, the Polk Command Bar. Whereas it misses the subwoofer you’ll be able to at all times purchase an add-on one, and rears too. The 3D encompass sound know-how provides wonderful sound high quality and the Alexa onboard is responsive. However the Yamaha YAS-209 is value contemplating for its subwoofer and extra HDMI port, and it will probably usually be discovered for a similar value or lower than the Polk.

Learn our Polk React overview.

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The Yamaha YAS-209 provides wonderful sound high quality in a compact soundbar with Amazon Alexa voice management built-in. The mics work effectively in loud environments and you should utilize them whenever you’re streaming music. The soundbar provides DTS Digital:X encompass sound processing and a wi-fi subwoofer. The YAS-209 does not use the corporate’s MusicCast system, although, so you’ll be able to’t sync up with different Yamaha audio system. It is at present on sale for $230.

Learn our Yamaha YAS-209 overview.

Sonos Beam Gen 2 on a table
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

With the addition Dolby Atmos, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is now the midpriced sensible sound bar to get. It provides a alternative of both Alexa or Google voice assistant, and the Sonos ecosystem is among the finest music streaming platforms round. You might be lacking out on deep bass and not using a sub, however this compact speaker makes your motion pictures sound enormous with its digital encompass capabilities.

A sideview of a white Sonos Arc soudbar on a black TV stand.
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Sonos Arc is the grown-up model of the Beam and provides a lot of upgrades for the additional money. The primary is using devoted, upfiring Dolby Atmos audio system which supplies it an edge in motion pictures, and the second is extra drivers and a much bigger cupboard for higher bass efficiency. In any other case that is one other nice Sonos providing with the selection of voice assistants and the perfect music streaming ecosystem.

Learn our Sonos Arc overview.

How I check soundbars

At CNET I check audio tools from compact soundbars although to encompass sound speaker techniques, however whatever the gadget my methodology is basically the identical. I at all times evaluate merchandise in opposition to a number of reference gadgets which provide the perfect efficiency at an analogous value. 

Relating to soundbars, I wish to see how effectively a system performs with music in addition to with motion pictures, as most individuals will wish to do each. I watch from a handful of check scenes from 4K Blu-ray or streamed from a 4K streaming service (Vudu, for instance) and consider points corresponding to bass efficiency and dialog readability. I additionally use a lot of check music tracks and consider any streaming options corresponding to
and Wi-Fi. Techniques that may carry out effectively with each kinds of leisure that inevitably rating the best.

See my purchase a soundbar for extra of the options and different issues you must take into account when in search of a brand new system.

Good soundbar FAQs

What does a sensible soundbar do?

Whereas a sensible soundbar is often used to explain a soundbar with an onboard voice assistant, however it will probably additionally imply a soundbar that has video streaming capabilities, such because the Roku Streambar. A wise soundbar is usually used each as a streaming gadget and to regulate different sensible residence gadgets by way of voice. The 2 assistants which might be generally included with soundbars are Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. 

It is value noting that including a separate Google Nest mini or Amazon Echo gadget to an current, internet-connected soundbar can usually give the identical capabilities as a sensible soundbar. The added benefit is that it does not tie up your soundbar whenever you ask it a query.

Can you employ a sensible soundbar on any TV?

As most TVs today are sensible TVs it does not actually matter if the soundbar is wise or not, the mixture ought to nonetheless work nice. A wise soundbar will add voice capabilities to any system. The Roku Streambar can even work with an current sensible TV, and you’ll select both the TV or the soundbar as your predominant streaming gadget.

Are you able to select which voice assistant a sensible soundbar makes use of?

There are two kinds of sensible soundbar — one which provides a single voice assistant (often Amazon Alexa) and one which provides a alternative of both Google Assistant or Alexa. The Polk React and the Yamaha YAS-209 are two examples of Alexa-only soundbars, whereas Sonos merchandise provide each assistants.

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