A soundbar is a great way to upgrade your TV‘s audio and get a more immersive listening experience. Small soundbars are compact models that perfectly fit under your desktop or below your living room TV without taking up too much space.
Compared to full home theater speaker systems, small soundbars are way cheaper but offer powerful sound quality. With advanced audio technologies like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, modern soundbars can fill a room with vibrant sounds even without rear or satellite speakers.
When shopping for the best small soundbar, consider the following factors:
- Soundbar channels – This determines the number of speakers and audio quality. Models with more channels provide better surround sound.
- Connectivity – Check for HDMI ARC, optical input, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. These allow seamless connection to your TV and wireless devices.
- Size – Consider soundbars about 10 inches less than your TV‘s width for a perfect fit. Measure the area you plan to place it.
- Controls – Soundbars with remotes are easier to control. Some sync with your TV remote. Voice control is also ideal.
With many brands offering small soundbars today, it can be challenging to pick the best model for your needs and budget. To help you out, we tested and reviewed the top soundbars and recommend the following top picks:
1. Sonos Beam (Gen 2) – Best Overall Small Soundbar
- 5.0 channel soundbar
- Dolby Atmos 3D surround sound
- Capable of filling large rooms
- Voice control with Alexa and Google Assistant
- HDMI eARC, Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, and Ethernet connectivity
Our rating: 5/5
The Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is our choice for the best overall small soundbar thanks to its powerful sound performance and smart features.
With five speakers inside, it can deliver crystal clear dialogue and vibrant bass to fill even crowded rooms. The addition of Dolby Atmos enables 3D surround sound effects from overhead for an immersive experience.
It has Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2 wireless connectivity options. You also get the HDMI eARC port to connect seamlessly to your TV. Control is easy using voice commands, the Sonos app, or your TV remote.
Overall, the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) is a feature-packed soundbar that upgrades your TV audio to cinema-like quality. It‘s expensive but worth it for the superb listening experience.
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2. Roku Streambar – Best Budget Small Soundbar
- Built-in 4K streaming
- Dolby Audio processing
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
- Advanced audio engineering
- Voice remote included
Our rating: 4.5/5
If you want great audio upgrade on a budget, the Roku Streambar is our top recommendation. For less than $200, you get a compact 2.0 channel soundbar with smart streaming capabilities.
The Roku OS delivers an optimized listening experience with volume boost and clear dialogue. It has Bluetooth for wireless music streaming from your phone.
You can access a huge library of free, live, and premium TV through the Roku Channel Store. The included voice remote makes navigation easy.
Considering the affordable price, the Roku Streambar gives you premium sound quality and lots of entertainment. The only drawback is the bass performance could be better.
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3. Bose Solo 5 TV Sound System – Best Single Soundbar
- 2.0 channel soundbar
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Dialogue mode for clear voice
- Universal remote included
- Wall-mountable design
Our rating: 4/5
The Bose Solo 5 is a compact single-unit soundbar perfect for smaller TVs. Despite having just two internal speakers, it delivers much louder and clearer audio than your TV.
The dialogue mode brings voices forward. Bluetooth allows wireless music streaming. It comes with a universal remote for direct soundbar control.
While it lacks surround sound capabilities, the Bose Solo 5 gives a noticeable audio boost. The sound profile is well-balanced and ideal for everyday TV viewing.
For those with limited space, this affordable and well-built soundbar can instantly upgrade your TV sound. It‘s an easy plug-and-play solution without extra components.
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4. Polk Signa S2 – Best Soundbar with Subwoofer
- 5.1 channel sound system
- Includes wireless subwoofer
- Dolby and DTS decoding
- HDMI and optical connectivity
- Bluetooth music streaming
Our rating: 4.5/5
For adding powerful bass to your TV audio, we recommend the Polk Signa S2 soundbar. It comes with a 5-inch wireless subwoofer for deep low-end punch.
The 2.1-channel soundbar itself produces clear mids and highs. Combined with the subwoofer, you get room-filling audio with thumping impact.
It supports advanced surround formats like Dolby Digital and DTS. Connect it to your TV via HDMI ARC or optical input. You also get Bluetooth for wireless music playback.
If you want a cinematic listening experience from a compact sound system, the Polk Signa S2 is a great choice. The subwoofer completes the audio spectrum without taking up lots of room.
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5. TCL Alto 9+ – Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar
- 3.1 channel soundbar
- Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
- Wireless subwoofer included
- HDMI eARC connectivity
- Bluetooth and Chromecast built-in
Our rating: 4/5
With built-in Dolby Atmos support, the TCL Alto 9+ is our pick for the best small Dolby Atmos soundbar. It creates a 3D soundstage and makes movies or games more immersive.
The 3.1 sound system includes up-firing drivers and a wireless subwoofer for overhead and rumbling bass effects. You get clear spatial imaging even without extra surround speakers.
It has eARC HDMI for uncompromised Dolby Atmos signal transfer from your TV. Bluetooth and Chromecast allow music streaming.
Considering the affordable price, the TCL Alto 9+ packs decent audio technologies like Dolby Atmos. If you want a starter Dolby Atmos setup without the complexity, this easy-to-use soundbar delivers.
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What Are the Benefits of a Small Soundbar?
Here are some of the great benefits you can get from a small soundbar:
- Better sound quality – Small soundbars contain multiple speakers and audio technologies to produce clearer, richer sound with depth compared to your TV‘s built-in speakers.
- Loud, immersive surround sound – Advanced soundbars today can create enveloping 360° audio with virtual surround effects and 3D overhead sound.
- Enhanced dialogue and vocals – Special modes on soundbars boost voice clarity so you can hear every word clearly.
- Powerful bass – Some compact models include a wireless subwoofer for adding thundering low frequencies that TV speakers lack.
- Sleek, space-saving design – A small soundbar conveniently fits right below your TV or monitor without needing stands or tables.
- Simpler setup and use – Soundbars connect directly to your TV via one HDMI cable. No receiver or complex speaker wires needed.
- Multiple connectivity – Most soundbars feature Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HDMI ARC, optical input for connecting your TV, mobile devices, gaming consoles, and streaming sticks.
- Affordable price – Good quality small soundbars cost significantly less than a complete surround sound system. Entry-level models start around $100.
How to Choose the Right Small Soundbar
With many soundbar options available, selecting the right model for your needs is important. Follow these tips when shopping for a small soundbar:
Consider the Dimensions
- Measure the length of your TV stand or entertainment center shelf where you plan to place the soundbar.
- Look for a soundbar that‘s around 2" less wide so it can fit comfortably. Soundbars meant for 32-50" TVs are compact.
- Wall-mounting is also an option if you have limited floor space. Some soundbars come with keyhole slots or can be mounted using a third-party bracket.
Match the Soundbar Channels to Your Room Size
- Entry-level 2-channel soundbars work well for smaller rooms under 300 sq.ft.
- For medium to large rooms, look for a 3-channel or 5-channel soundbar with a dedicated center channel for clear dialogue.
- If you want surround sound from a single soundbar, get one with Dolby Atmos or DTS:X which can produce immersive 3D audio.
Consider the Audio Formats
- Basic soundbars only support standard Dolby Digital and DTS formats. This is sufficient for TV, streaming, or Blu-ray media.
- For latest surround formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the soundbar must have HDMI eARC connectivity.
- If your TV only has optical output, get a soundbar with an optical input or HDMI to optical adapter.
Look for Usability Features
- Soundbars with a full-function remote are easiest to set up and control. Voice-enabled remotes are even better for hands-free use.
- Models with built-in streaming apps, Bluetooth music, and voice assistants offer greater versatility and smart connectivity.
- Optical and HDMI-CEC allow your soundbar to automatically turn on/off with the TV. Auto source-switching is another useful capability.
Read Reviews About Sound Quality
- Look at reviews to judge real-world sound performance for movies, music, and TV shows.
- Consider clarity, volume levels, bass response, and surround effects. Test soundbars personally if possible.
- Entry-level models may lack bass or surround sound. Paying more gives you better audio technologies.
Setting Up and Connecting Your Small Soundbar
Installing a soundbar is quick and easy. Here is a step-by-step guide:
1. Position the soundbar: Place it centered below your TV. For wall mounts, install at ear level when seated. Keep wired subwoofers nearby.
2. Connect to power: Use the included power adapter to plug your soundbar into an outlet. Turn it on.
3. Connect to TV: Use a single HDMI ARC/eARC cable from the soundbar‘s HDMI OUT to your TV‘s HDMI ARC port. This carries both audio and video signals.
4. Connect external devices: Use additional HDMI ports on the soundbar for your Blu-ray player, streaming stick, or game console. Some soundbars have optical digital input for TVs without HDMI ARC.
5. Pair wireless subwoofer: The subwoofer will automatically sync but you can also manually pair it with the soundbar using the pairing button.
6. Configure settings: Adjust audio settings on your TV like enabling HDMI-CEC, ARC, and disabling the built-in TV speakers.
7. Download soundbar app: For added settings and controls, download the brand-specific soundbar app to your phone. Connect it to the soundbar‘s Wi-Fi.
8. Optimize positioning: Place the soundbar directly in front or angled toward the central seating area for balanced audio across the room.
Tips for Getting the Best Sound from Your Soundbar
To optimize your listening experience, follow these handy tips:
- For better speech clarity, enable the dialogue enhancement or voice boost mode on the soundbar. This makes TV and movies easier to understand.
- Turn on the virtual surround mode to enjoy an immersive soundstage and spatial effects from content. Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbars don‘t need this.
- Adjust the bass and treble settings in the soundbar app to get the sound profile you prefer. More bass brings thump and impact.
- Use the included soundbar remote to control volume. Place the soundbar at moderate volumes to avoid distortion.
- Position the soundbar slightly angled toward your seating area, not straight down facing. This widens the soundstage.
- For wall mounts, place the soundbar just below TV level. The sound will be more balanced compared to installing near the ceiling.
- Keep the soundbar free of obstructions which can muffle the audio output. Reflective surfaces can also affect sound quality.
- Place wired subwoofers close to the soundbar on either side of the TV stand to integrate the bass seamlessly.
- Update the soundbar firmware when prompted in the app. This keeps it up-to-date with the latest optimizations.
A compact soundbar offers an easy and affordable way to upgrade the audio from your flatscreen TV. Models from trusted brands like Sonos, Bose, Roku, and others provide clear stereo or surround sound in a minimalist form factor.
Look for key factors like the soundbar size, channels, connectivity options, and sound technologies when choosing the best small soundbar for your room and budget.
Aim for models with HDMI ARC to simplify setup and deliver uncompressed audio from your TV. Extra features like Bluetooth streaming and voice control also add convenience and versatility.
With a quality small soundbar, you can enjoy big powerful audio that fills the room for sports, action movies, and videogames. Dialogue will sound clearer for regular TV watching. It‘s a worthwhile investment to boost your audio entertainment.