Many people bought flatscreen TV only to realize later that the sound quality produced out of their TV is horrible. Coming at merely few inches thin, there is no way you can get a decent quality sound out of flatscreen LED TV. You cannot technically rule that out, but definitely not at the sound bar prices that are mostly found in the market. Try playing some of the latest blockbuster movie from your DVD or Netflix and you will not enjoy any second of the experience. That is when the hunt for the best soundbar for TV begins.
The best soundbar for the money, in my definition, has to be one that cost the least for the purpose that it is supposed to serve. Soundbar is definitely not a one-to-one replacement of full set home theater system. Home theater systems are best for larger rooms while soundbar systems are best for smaller rooms. It is important to take note of this difference in order to set the right expectation when we are talking about the best soundbar for the money.
Included in the guide are 6 columns:
Please note that as new sound bar models are being released every now and then, this best sound bar list will change from time to time.
|Sound Bars||Audio Power Output||Warranty||Frequency Response||Input Types||Rating|
|Yamaha YAS-201||30W x 2 |
|2 years||150Hz to 20kHz (Sound Bar)|
35Hz to 150Hz (Sub-woofer)
|2 Optical Inputs||4.1 out of 5|
|Samsung HW-E450||134W x 2|
|1 year||20-20k Hz||3 HDMI Inputs|
2 Optical inputs
1 Digital Coaxial Input
1 Analog Input
1 USB Input
1 HDMI Arc
|4.1 out of 5|
|Sony HT-CT550W||133W x 2 |
|1 year||Not specified||3 HDMI Inputs|
1 HDMI Output
2 Digital Optical Inputs
1 Digital Coaxial Input
1 Analog Input
|3.9 out of 5|
In this edition, we consider only 2.1 systems. We reserve the 5.1 systems for another edition. Of all the soundbar models and brands available in the market, we narrowed down the candidates for the best soundbar for TV to only 3 models. The three are Yamaha YAS-201, Samsung HW-E450 and Sony HT-CT550W.
I’m sure that you are familiar with the three brands. Yamaha and Sony are both Japanese brands and they have been recognized for their fine quality when it comes to A/V entertainment system. Samsung, on the other hand, is a Korean brand who has recently wrestled away the throne of consumer electronics king from all the Japanese brands. While Japanese products dominate the world because of their superior quality products, Korean products, particularly in the electronics sector, dominate the world because of combination of aggressive pricing and market flooding strategy.
Nonetheless, these three best soundbars produce decent sound quality. All three models promise virtual surround sound experience by using their own technologies. Yamaha YAS-201 uses Yamaha’s very own Air Surround Extreme technology and supports Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II and DTS. Samsung HW-E450 uses what is referred to as 3D Sound Plus. Sony HT-CT550W uses Sony’s S-Force Surround Technology. Which of these proprietary technologies came out best? My pick is Yamaha’s.
One very important feature when considering a soundbar is the type of input source that is supported. Yamaha YAS-201 is equipped to take in only 2 digital optical input. Samsung HW-E450 supports 1 HDMI IN / OUT, 1 Digital Optical In / Out and 1 USB. Sony HT-CT550W supports 1 analog in, 3 HDMI IN and 1 HDMI OUT. Since we are talking about the best soundbar for TV, I do not see the USB support as important or vital. In this aspect, Yamaha YAS-201 offers less degree of flexibility and I see both Samsung HW-E450 and Sony HT-CT550W to be tied.
Winner: Samsung HW-E450
The other important parameter that every sound bar buyer should be concerned about is the sound frequency response. This is critical to the performance of any speaker system (including sound bar) because it gives you an idea on the kind of sound quality you can expect. Consumer grade speaker systems will typically state the frequency response as between 20Hz to 20,000Hz. However, looking at the range alone is quite meaningless.
What it tells you is the sound drivers will be able to reproduce any sound with a frequency between 20 to 20,000Hz, which is expected given the range audible to most adults. The better parameter should actually be the variance of the sound being produced at the different frequency range. Most sound bars, designed to be practical rather than an audiophile solutions, strive to minimize the variance of the midrange frequency.
However, this variance is a parameter that is rarely specified by the manufacturers and it is something that is best left to the reviews to reveal. Based on our testing and what we have been hearing, Yamaha YAS-201 stands out from both Samsung HW-450 and Sony HT-CT550W in this regard, particularly on the low range which is essentially to the quality of the sub-woofer itself.
Winner: Yamaha YAS-201
The next thing that is important in reviewing the best soundbar is the inclusion of separate sub-woofer. This is important because without which, you will almost certainly be missing out the heart pounding action when you are watching movies like James Bond. Fortunately, all the three models come with separate sub-woofer and they are all wireless sub-woofers.
The wireless sub-woofers for YAS-201 and HW-E450 are operating on 2.4GHz band while the 5.8GHz band is used for HT-CT550W. This is something that not many sound bar buyers would pay attention to but there are few consequences that you have to take note of. In case you are wondering, most of the WiFi systems that we have at home is operating at the 2.4GHz band. Newer WiFi routers support bands other than the 2.4GHz but unless you manually change the router setting, the default will likely be 2.4GHz. This makes 2.4GHz a much more congested band compared to the 5.8GHz band.
In laymen terms, this means that the likelihood of disturbance to the operation of your wireless sub-woofer operating at 2.4GHz will be higher. However, while operating on 5.8GHz band makes the wireless sub-woofer performance of HT-CT550W less susceptible to disturbance from the WiFi that you have at home, there is one thing you need to understand. The range of transmission in 5.8GHz is shorter compared to 2.4GHz and it has poor penetration across any brick wall.
As most sound bars are used within a small room, the range issue should not be a concern. This should only be an issue if you intend to place your sub-woofer further than 15m away from the main sound bar unit. So for the general use cases where the room size tends to be small and there can potentially be many WiFi transmissions around (especially for those living in apartments), Sony HT-CT550W is the clear winner.
Winner: Sony HT-CT550W
Last but not least is the output power delivered by these soundbars. Yamaha YAS-201 delivers a total output power of 160W while Samsung HW-E450 and Sony HT-CT550W delivers 280W and 400W respectively. However, experts caution against looking at the raw number alone as different manufacturers might be using different techniques to measure the output power. Nonetheless, if you prefer a more powerful bass, Sony HT-CT550W would be the clear winner here. But based on my personal take, the bass that is produced by Yamaha YAS-201 and Samsung HW-E450 are powerful enough especially if we are talking about smaller room deployment. But while YAS-201 uses less power, its bass frequency response is better defined compared to HT-CT550W.
Winner: Yamaha YAS-201 & Sony HT-CT550W (tie)
Price-wise, I guess only the Chinese would be able to compete with the Koreans. The same is applicable in this comparison as Samsung HW-E450 comes with the lowest price tag among the three. To most people with tight budget constraint, price is the single most important factor that determines best. Only you yourself know how much you are willing to fork out for your sound bar. If price is your biggest concern, you know who the clear winner is.
Winner: Samsung HW-E450
In terms of ease of use, all three are plug and play models. It means that after taking them out of the box, you should be able to set it up within minutes. But Yamaha YAS-201 stands out in this regard and with minimum number of possible inputs to plug into, you don’t even need to look at the manual to figure out where to plug the cable. Because of this and all the considerations above, Yamaha YAS-201 is my pick for the best soundbar.