What Are Your Favorite Soundbars? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 85 Old 11-12-2013, 06:16 PM - Thread Starter
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AVS Forum is planning a series of buying guides for the holiday shopping season, and we need your help. Each guide will include the top picks of AVS members based on reviews, threads, and—most importantly—your response to queries such as this one.

 

So, what are your favorite soundbars? Since this is for an upcoming buying guide, we're only looking for currently available models. Simply post a comment with the make(s) and model number(s) and any elaboration you care to add; we might even use your comments in the final buying guide. Perhaps you love the one(s) you own or those you've seen at friends' places. Either way, feel free to include more than one, but please limit your response to the best you've seen among currently available models. You can also consider price and value in your choices—a particular product might not be the absolute best performer, but if it's very good and its price is relatively low, that makes it an outstanding value and worthy of inclusion.

 

Thanks for helping us help others find the best AV products available today!

 

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post #2 of 85 Old 11-12-2013, 07:43 PM
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Now this is one I am really looking forward to....a soundbar is on my Christmas list!
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post #3 of 85 Old 11-12-2013, 08:08 PM
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The only sound bar I've ever hear that didn't like a wooden spoon on a garbage bin was the outlaw OSB-1, though it lacks connectivity and kind of ruins the product. The sonos's I've hear in-store and it was ok, thought the outlaw had much more bass and was an all around better performer.

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post #4 of 85 Old 11-13-2013, 07:14 AM
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Sonos PlayBar with wireless sub. By far the most bang for your buck!! Easily play all your music through this soundbar. Also you have the option to add wireless rear speakers?!?! Holy Crap THIS Thing is AWESOME!!! Kinda pricy but worth every dime.
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post #5 of 85 Old 11-13-2013, 07:33 AM
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In my living room i use a Definitive Technology SoloCinema XTR 5.1 Soundbar . I no its a high price sound bar but if you dont have space to use a 5.1 home theater system with all the speaker and knick knack ( receiver, bookshelf speaker ) this is what you want ! I buy it and i was not sure about my purchased but when i came back home and i listen my first movie i was amaze ! I think this is my best purchased ever.

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post #6 of 85 Old 11-13-2013, 10:34 AM
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Are passive soundbars like the BIC America FH-56 included?
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post #7 of 85 Old 11-13-2013, 11:16 AM
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If it wasn't for the high price I would highly recommend my current sonos playbar. I would also recommend getting the sonos subwoofer along with the playbar, and if you want to go surround sound I also have a pair of sonos play ones. Before I had the the sonos playbar I was using the Speakercraft CS3 which is a under the tv combination soundbar and subwoofer. I found the speaker craft to have decent sound for the price. But the remote for the speakercraft stinks its small the size of a credit card with bubble type buttons but if that doesn't matter to you I would recommend this sound bar.

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post #8 of 85 Old 11-13-2013, 01:16 PM
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With a retail price of $399 and a street price of $325, the Pioneer SB23W is my favorite. Wireless sub and bluetooth connectivity make it complete. Unlike some other soundbars, there is no HDMI and this unit is not designed to be the center piece of your system (where all components get hooked up to the soundbar). Instead, all components get hooked up to your TV, and your TV's digital audio out to the Pioneer soundbar. And Bluetooth connectivity lets you share your music from your phone/tablet.

It's absolutely the best in class in it's price range.

Oh ya.....and it's designed by Andrew Jones!

PS - I understand there were some problems with some initial units which have now been fixed.

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post #9 of 85 Old 11-13-2013, 03:06 PM
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I'm with Howard on the Pioneer. I purchased one directly from Pioneer and probably had one of the first delivered in the US. I have owned (and still own) a number of other units from a Yamaha @ $ 1,400 to a Vizio @ 97.00 and lots in between. Have also been fortunate enough to have been loaned a sample of some other high end sound bars for testing.

The Pioneer has the unique quality that it is the first sound bar that I have listened to that is good enough for music playback. Every other unit that I have tested had a major gap between the woofer and the soundbar with the soundbar rolling off at about 110hz to 140hz and the woofer rolling off somewhere between 70hz and 85hz. You don't notice this loss of almost an octave of mid-bass with movies or television. It makes music, other than just background music, unlistenable.

Oh yeah. The Pioneer has excellent dynamics. Good quick woofer (harder to find these days than even 25 or 30 years ago). To use an old stereophile expression, the speaker breathes. It does sound natural. Good enough that my wife and I have stored my Infinity tower speakers and sub-woofers and now are content to listen to music including opera and symphonic on the Pioneer speaker bar.

It is also excellent with dialog from movies and TV and can run you out of the room when playing a movie with lots of dynamics (Avengers/Stark Trek/etc).

I know that I see many people recommend a small multi-channel system over a sound bar. I assume that is because these people feel if you don't have audio from multiple channels from all around you are missing something. I fall into the category of someone who prefers good, accurate sound, with no terrible sonic flaws from a single source than mediocre or sometimes atrocious sound from multiple speakers. I know from other forums that this is very much a minority view of things, so please take my recommendation of the Pioneer knowing my preferences.

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post #10 of 85 Old 11-13-2013, 04:05 PM
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Without doubt, the ZVox ZBase 580. With built-in bass drivers, night modes, and optical, stereo analog, and digital coax inputs, it's got it all. It's one piece, which means your TV up to 120-ish pounds can sit on top of it without rattling.

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post #11 of 85 Old 11-13-2013, 09:50 PM
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My Yamaha 2200 I love the most.
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post #12 of 85 Old 11-13-2013, 10:49 PM
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After listening to a variety of soundbars I settled on the Sony HT-CT660. For a few hundred dollars, the sound is actually quite good for what it is -- certainly far better than the built in speakers in my 60" Panasonic plasma. (But it doesn't hold a candle to the discrete multi-channel setup in my theater room. smile.gif )

It's bit of a pain to mount a soundbar on the wall and route all the cables through the wall to the TV, but the extra work definitely helps with the WAF. It makes for a very clean look.

BTW, there are products available that are designed to help run video/audio cables through the wall for TVs and soundbars, just google for "flat panel in wall cable management". Mine is by PowerBridge and I'm very happy with it.
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post #13 of 85 Old 11-14-2013, 06:36 AM
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I plan to purchase Goldenear SuperCinema 3D Array on Black Friday. I have been in the hunt for a really good sound bar for over a month now. I have probable listened to more than a dozen soundbars and so far the Goldenear has impressed me the most. I already have a Pioneer Elite receiver so built in amplification was not necessary for me. I will let everyone know my opinion after installation.
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post #14 of 85 Old 11-14-2013, 08:31 AM
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The Sony ST7 is a great soundbar but is a little costly.
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post #15 of 85 Old 11-15-2013, 02:04 PM
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I'm about to move into a townhouse and looking for a small system. Since I'll have neighbors on both sides of me, I'd prefer a nice clear sound with some punch at low-mid volume. The soundbar will be connected to a HK receiver via optical. I've been looking at Orb speakers until I heard about the Pioneer and Sonos soundbars with Bluetooth sub. Any suggestions?

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post #16 of 85 Old 11-15-2013, 10:16 PM
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B&W Panorama, excellent for voice and can easily fill a room. Not inexpensive but to my ears, the best soundbar on the market.
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post #17 of 85 Old 11-16-2013, 11:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [Irishman] View Post

Without doubt, the ZVox ZBase 580. With built-in bass drivers, night modes, and optical, stereo analog, and digital coax inputs, it's got it all. It's one piece, which means your TV up to 120-ish pounds can sit on top of it without rattling.

Let me raise my glass to the ZVOX 555 -- it lacks the sheer audacity of the 580 but does a fine job filling the room with satisfying bass. I bought it for the same reasons Irishman acquired his 580 -- one box, plenty of inputs -- does what is important well and doesn't take over the entertainment center with wires and other boxes. And I paid like $350 with shipping included. Crazy good deal. My friends keep looking for the subwoofer until I cue them in.
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post #18 of 85 Old 11-16-2013, 11:51 AM
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I also have the ZVOX 555 so i did an A/B with the B&W Panorama. Both good choices, i would suggest the Panorama for the audiophile.
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post #19 of 85 Old 11-16-2013, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orbitron View Post

I also have the ZVOX 555 so i did an A/B with the B&W Panorama. Both good choices, i would suggest the Panorama for the audiophile.

For those new to the sector I think it is important to keep in mind that any soundbar will not stand up to a good 7.1 system. For example Bose does well, but $2500 is frosty -- IMHO any number of multispeaker systems do better for half of that. Soundbars have their place and really add to a system, but personally I reserve my Golden Ear listening for the theater room.

Another feature of the ZVOX 555 is that it has a subwoofer out plug, so if someone just has to reach deeper for bass satisfaction, there are any number of fine subwoofers to choose from.

Anyway, ZVOX is great.

Orbitron, I find myself listening to music more than I would have thought when buying the 555 -- do you listen to much music on it?
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post #20 of 85 Old 11-16-2013, 01:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drfreeman60 View Post

I know that I see many people recommend a small multi-channel system over a sound bar. I assume that is because these people feel if you don't have audio from multiple channels from all around you are missing something. I fall into the category of someone who prefers good, accurate sound, with no terrible sonic flaws from a single source than mediocre or sometimes atrocious sound from multiple speakers. I know from other forums that this is very much a minority view of things, so please take my recommendation of the Pioneer knowing my preferences.

Are you saying everyone's multi-channel setup sounds like crap?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Morgan View Post

BTW, there are products available that are designed to help run video/audio cables through the wall for TVs and soundbars, just google for "flat panel in wall cable management". Mine is by PowerBridge and I'm very happy with it.

The best way to do in wall is without any connection terminals at the wall. I use these http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00193U3O0/ref=oh_details_o09_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

But I connected all my sources directly to the sound bar for better sound.
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post #21 of 85 Old 11-16-2013, 01:57 PM
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Orbitron, I find myself listening to music more than I would have thought when buying the 555 -- do you listen to much music on it?[/quote]

Not at all, i don't like the ZVOX or Panorama for 2 channel music. I use the ZVOX for the 46" Sony on the right side of the room.
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post #22 of 85 Old 11-16-2013, 02:02 PM
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I see -- we have very different rooms. I find the ZVOX strikes a nice room filling resonance that lets the music flow out across the first level of the house without being uncomfortably loud at the source. All this while sounding dramatically better than in wall speakers scattered across the level.
Thanks for the photo, that cleared it up nicely.
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post #23 of 85 Old 11-16-2013, 03:06 PM
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I very much like the ZVOX for NHL Hockey and sports, the announcers come thru in the mix, good tonality.
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post #24 of 85 Old 11-17-2013, 01:01 PM
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My husband would like a sound bar for Christmas - but I feel like I have to learn a new language to make sure I get the right one. So how important are the optical & stereo & digital inputs, remote control, wireless vs wired. I have to keep it under $500 - but I"m a good shopper! (~" Our stereo is toast, we have a 50" Panasonic with Viera, and an Xbox 360. We have ipods & iphones, Mac etc.

Any and all advice would be GREATLY appreciated!!
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post #25 of 85 Old 11-17-2013, 04:50 PM
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Colour

My apologies if my comment sounded as if I was denigrating multi-channel in general. I was comparing the inexpensive multi-channel systems which typically do have attrocious sound to a sound bar which has the potential of at least having pretty good sound. If I had less than $ 500 to spend, I would select a soundbar from Pioneer, JBL, Sony or even Vizio over any HTIB's that I have heard.

Prior to moving to a condo a had a home theater with a full compliment of loudspeakers from Infinity from the early part of the last decade when they employeed Dr. Grenier for design (much as Pioneer currently uses the services of Andrew Jones). This was a wonderful 25' x 35' great room and movies were maginificent when played through $ 3,000 worth of speakers and about half that sum in electronics. However, with all of that, music was listened to in 2-channel where the sound was infinitely more accurate and lifelike.

Multi-channel has a purpose and when done properly can be very rewarding for home theater. My personal sentiments however lean towards accurate 2-channel or even monoraul audio as opposed to multiple channels of inferior audio.

David

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post #26 of 85 Old 11-18-2013, 12:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LDMFORRUBY View Post

My husband would like a sound bar for Christmas - but I feel like I have to learn a new language to make sure I get the right one. So how important are the optical & stereo & digital inputs, remote control, wireless vs wired. I have to keep it under $500 - but I"m a good shopper! (~" Our stereo is toast, we have a 50" Panasonic with Viera, and an Xbox 360. We have ipods & iphones, Mac etc.

Any and all advice would be GREATLY appreciated!!

Ruby

Many good choices for less (way less) than $ 500.00. Sonically, units that I am currently familiar with:

Pioneer Speaker Bar - to my ears, best sound of any sound bar at any price. However, 2.1 channel only, no psuedo surround effects. One digital and one analog input (should be no issue with the Panasonic). Early units had some issues with blue-tooth connectivity to things loke your iPhones, iPads, etc. appears to be resolved with all current units. Good with voices.

Sony 260 or 660 - both sound nearly identical. The 660 adds a little extra "oomph" to the bass and will play louder. If you play at normal listening levels, virtually no difference (none that my old ears can hear) in sound. Good with voices.

JLB / Vizio / Panasonic - I have not done any serious listening with the current crop of sound bars from these guys, but based on past experience and professional reviews, all should sound extremely good.

Better sound than these requires a substantial greater investment and that is no guarantee of sound quality. I actually have heard numerous sound bars costing two to five times your budget and the sound was anywhere from close to equal to dreadful. This includes one bar from a company that sort of started this whole thing costing about three times what you wish to spend to is only so-so. I also was fortunate (or unfortunate) to audition what was supposed to be the best sound bar available at about four times your budget. While it had a few pluses, it was outperformed by a unit costing less than $ 100 that I also still have around the house for comparisons. Lots of money does not guarantee improved audio.

David

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post #27 of 85 Old 11-18-2013, 12:29 PM
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Of the soundbars I've heard, they seem to fit into 2 categories. Entry level / Mid level. The only reason I say Mid level is that they simply can not give you an experience of enveloping surround. The one I would choose to have in my home, however, is the Sonos playbar.

1. It sounds as good or better than its primary competition (B&W and DefTech, etc.)
2. You can stream almost anything on earth through it (Sonos)
3. You can pair, through software, additional rear channels to create true surround sound.

This thing can not be beat IMHO.
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post #28 of 85 Old 11-18-2013, 03:19 PM
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The Sonos Playbar is a nice unit but it cannot be used with an existing surround system as a center channel speaker because it does not have a preamp input or speaker level input for center channel usage.

 

In my opinion, the finest sound and build quality can be found in the Horizon Series products offered by Leon Speakers.

Custom made to match your TV finish and size.

They offer an Ultra Thin model for the newer LCD/LED TVs and they also offer an audiophile version too.

Nothing compares to these sound bars for quality, fit, and finish.

But they are a bit pricey so be forewarned. 

You can also order them in any configuration you want. LR, LCR or just Center.

Starting prices are around $1,200.00 for a center channel and up from there.

 

Another top choice that is more affordable are the Episode Speaker Bars from Snap-AV.

These sound great and have a price starting at $300.00 for the smaller units up to about $900.00 for the big sound bar for the 55" and larger TVs.

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post #29 of 85 Old 11-19-2013, 04:57 PM
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OK, I admit it -- Irishman upset me. My ZVOX 555 was barely out of the box and he went and bragged up his 580. smile.gif

Not to be outdone I bought a 580 -- the 555 will go into the exercise area where I have never had decent audio.

Having listened to both at some length, the 580 wins. The bass is as low as the 555 (well it should be with two 6 inch woofers
rather than a single 5 on the 555 -- but the bass is so much more clear. Much more resolved. Remarkably so. The high end
is brighter. The way the 580 handles a sax is something to be heard.

At first I thought the 555 had more low end, but what I was hearing was the clearer rendering of bass by the 580. Less boomy.

The 555 is a fine machine, but even though the 580 is significantly larger it is more open and articulate.

Less cabinet resonance, better driver spacing -- I don't know, but I like it. Makes sense, it is really hard to get good bass from
a small cabinet, and the mid and treble speakers sound better with some separation. Just the way it is.
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post #30 of 85 Old 11-19-2013, 05:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Friendly Fire View Post

OK, I admit it -- Irishman upset me. My ZVOX 555 was barely out of the box and he went and bragged up his 580. smile.gif

Not to be outdone I bought a 580 -- the 555 will go into the exercise area where I have never had decent audio.

Having listened to both at some length, the 580 wins. The bass is as low as the 555 (well it should be with two 6 inch woofers
rather than a single 5 on the 555 -- but the bass is so much more clear. Much more resolved. Remarkably so. The high end
is brighter. The way the 580 handles a sax is something to be heard.

At first I thought the 555 had more low end, but what I was hearing was the clearer rendering of bass by the 580. Less boomy.

The 555 is a fine machine, but even though the 580 is significantly larger it is more open and articulate.

Less cabinet resonance, better driver spacing -- I don't know, but I like it. Makes sense, it is really hard to get good bass from
a small cabinet, and the mid and treble speakers sound better with some separation. Just the way it is.

I'm glad you like. smile.gif

Welcome to the 580 tribe.

Your experience with it new reminds me of a little trick I did. I installed the 580 under the TV in my HT room, and had some friends come in to listen to my system. The whole time I was playing just the 580, but they thought I was playing the Dave Matthews/Tim Reynolds Blu-Ray concert (wonderful recording - it's really transporting) through my mains (two full-size tower speakers). You should have seen their jaws drop when I showed them where the sound was coming from.

smile.gif

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Sonos Playbar Tv Soundbar And Wireless Speaker For Streaming Music , Sonos , Speakercraft , Sony Ht Ct660 46 Inch Sound Bar With Wireless Subwoofer , Zvox 580 Low Profile Single Cabinet Surround Sound System With Optical And Coaxial Digital Inputs , Pioneer Sp Sb23w Andrew Jones Soundbar System
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