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Soundbar Test 2020: The best models in comparison


Cinema feeling in compact format?

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Soundbar kaufen: So finden Sie die richtige!

The right soundbar offers sonic entertainment and sells the bland TV sound once and for all from your living room. In the comparison test, we used 15 Models from inexpensive to expensive tested. We tell you what to look for when buying and which model we recommend as a test winner and price tip.

Soundbar Test 2020: The best models up to 800 Euro

Soundbars are always a compromise: Demanding film fans with tolerant roommates and neighbors will probably be more than 1. 00 Spend 0 euros and put a full-blown surround system with separate speakers in the TV room. Compact systems have completely different advantages for this – and a different target group. Therefore, we focus in this comparison test on the models of 100 to 800 euros and tell you which sound bars in the middle class have the most to offer in terms of sound and equipment.

So much for the start: Even the spatially inconspicuous compact loudspeakers can deliver an entertaining and sometimes even overwhelming sound that makes every neighbor flee. In the lower middle class, however, you have to reckon with losses and entry models by 150 Euros are only suitable for the bare essentials, but still play livelier than many TV speakers.

You can find a selection from our ranking in the following table. We present the complete test field with all ratings in the detailed best list . In this article, after the individual review of the test winner, the alternative and the price tip, you will find an explanation of our test procedure, and detailed purchasing advice, in which we explain all the important terms and tell you what you should look out for when buying. The conclusion is the correct placement of your soundbar.

Soundbars in the test (selection, as of April 2020)

test winner Price Tip

Product

Samsung HW-Q 80 R

Soundcore Infini Pro

LG SL9YG

LG SL8YG

Teufel CineBar Lux

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Price (ca).

649 Euro

230 Euro

500 Euro

415 Euro

799 Euro

Overall Rating

1.1 (very good)

3.3 (satisfactory)

1.4 (very good)

1.8 (good)

2.1 (good)

Rank

1st place

Place 12

Place 2

Place 3

Rank 6

Sound

1, 0 (very good)

2.4 (good)

1.4 (very good)

2.2 (good)

2.2 (good)

Furnishing

1.3 (very good)

4.0 (sufficient )

1.0 (very good)

1.0 (very good)

2.2 (good)

Handling

1.0 (very good)

4.3 (sufficient)

1.8 (Good)

2.3 (good)

1.7 (good)

Channels

5.1.2

2.1

4.1.2

3.1.2

4.1.2

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Test winner: Samsung HW-Q 80 R

  • Source : Amazon

    Test winner: Samsung HW-Q 80 R

    The Samsung HW-Q 80 R convinced in all matters in the test : Their sound is clear, voluminous and rich in effects, there is little missing in the equipment and the handling is also stable rk.

Benefits
Great sound
Class surround effects
Strong equipment

The Samsung HW-Q 80 R was able to convince us in all matters in the test. The only catch: It is quite large and, when it stands in front of a TV with a low foot, will cover the lower edge of the picture. Your sound is excellent: the Q 80 R is one of the loudest soundbars in the test, but its sound remained high Volume always full and pleased with a clear room effect, snappy treble sounds and deep bass thanks to the large subwoofer. We even had to turn the latter down significantly in the test. Film music envelops the listener and doesn't just come from a small angle from the front. Voices are present, warm and clearly understandable.

Blockbuster fans who are in the price range around the 700 Euro looking for the best sound, get it here. The Q 80 R, which is a 5.1.2 system, offers stereo speakers, one Center channel, drivers for the side channels that shine on the wall and drivers that apply effects to the ceiling. If you like, you can even add two wireless return channel speakers. It only misses cinch sockets at connections. And since it has two HDMI inputs, you can even connect two players. The HW-Q is multi-room capable 80 R but not, there is also no Airplay and Chromecast support. The price is quite high, but the performance is completely reasonable.

The best model in the price range up to 800 Euro: The Samsung Q 80 R sounds great, only the bass has to be tamed a bit. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Strong alternative: LG SL8YG

  • Source: Amazon

    Cheaper alternative: LG SL8YG

    The LG SL8YG scores in the test with a good multi-channel sound and excellent equipment.

Benefits
Good sound
Extensive equipment
Disadvantage
voices clear, but a bit cool

Surround effects could be better

Who wants to save money, but still a good one Multi-channel soundbar (3.1.2) searches, finds it with the LG SL8YG . Your sound mids are a bit thinner than the Q 80 R, but at least very clear. The voice presentation is cooler. Film music has sufficient width, but must still present the Q 80 R subordinate clearly. We really liked the height effect thanks to the two radiating drivers – Dolby Atmos leaves less impression here than with Samsung's Q 80 R. The bass is more than present, but it lacks some precision. If desired, it can be supplemented with return channel speakers.

LG's SL8YG is also excellently equipped, in addition to the HDMI output, it only has one HDMI input and also no cinch Sockets, there are USB ports, Chromecast and multiroom support.

The LG SL8YG does a good job in the test. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Price-performance tip: (anchor) Soundcore Infini Pro

  • Source: Anker

    Price-performance tip: Soundcore Infini Pro

    The Soundcore Infini Pro from Anker is a recommended base -Model for bargain hunters who are completely satisfied with good stereo sound.

Benefits
Decent stereo -Sound
Low price
Disadvantage
Little equipment
No multi-channel sound

If you don't care about space-filling sound, but are simply looking for a solid stereo soundbar that sounds much better than any TV speaker, the Soundcore Infini Pro from Anker. Due to its 2.1 system, it does not contain any side and height channels, which leads to a rather narrow and frontal sound image. The integrated sub creates enough physicality, but it lacks the power of full external subwoofers – it plays a little soft and dull. We find the mids to be successful, voices are warm and full, but could be a little clearer. The music display is at best satisfactory, here, for example, the Teufel CineBar Lux more.

When it comes to equipment, the Soundcore leaves a lot behind. After all, it has an HDMI input and an HDMI output as well as a Toslink socket. However, it lacks network capability, a display, expandability, DTS support and much more. However, she should more than satisfy down-to-earth demands due to her still good sound.

The Soundcore Infini Pro offers good performance for little money. Picture: Simon Kirsch

This is how we test sound bars

Our test procedure has a completely subjective and an objective component. The sound rating is purely subjective and flows with 50 percent in the overall grade: Two editors check the soundbars together in our test room and assess the surround effect, channel separation, the voice representation, Clarity, bass and the music presentation of the sound bars. In short: we listen to us and say how good they sound in the test environment. Are voices too thin and cold, too thick and dull or just right? Are they diffuse, or middle and present? Does the bass have volume and support the action without humming? Does the sound envelop or is it very central and rather narrow? These are questions that are included in the assessment alongside others.

Some sound bars offer different sound profiles. We tried them out and always chose the one that sounded best to us. We stream music via Bluetooth, we play movie scenes from a UHD Blu-ray disc. We usually connect the soundbars directly to the Blu-ray player – we only use ARC or an optical connection if the soundbar does not allow otherwise.

30 percent get the soundbars for their Furnishing. Here we record, for example, the number of interfaces (HDMI, optical, coaxial), whether there is Bluetooth and a network connection, whether there are USB ports and whether the soundbar can be expanded (subwoofer, rear speaker). The basic format support (Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Atmos) is part of the rating, as is any media player.

The category Handling we evaluate with 20 percent. Here we assess the material selection and build quality of the soundbars, check what the remote control is like (if available), whether it has a display and whether there are voice assistants. There are also points for a measuring system. You can find a detailed list of the most important features recorded by us in the detailed view of our soundbar leaderboards.

Soundbar Test 2020: In the price range between 100 and 800 Euro there are very different models. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Purchasing advice sound bars: What do 5.1.2, 3.1 & Co. mean?

In addition to the pure output power, the number of channels or drivers is the most important indicator for the qualitative classification of a soundbar. Not every loudspeaker with promising technical data sounds good in practice, but sound bars, the specs of which don't give much hope before buying, will in most cases not have any positive surprises for demanding listeners.

Basically, you should ask yourself the question of what the soundbar should do before buying. Are you a film fan and want to experience blockbusters with rich bass and surround effects, but still looking for a rather compact system? Or do you mainly watch conventional TV programs and want more sound quality and better intelligibility? In the first case you need a multi-channel soundbar with subwoofer, in the latter case a stereo soundbar is sufficient.

You will find the identifying numbers in our leaderboard and in the manufacturer's product description . There you can find out how many channels the soundbar has. 3.1.2 means: There is a center speaker in the center of the soundbar, which is framed by two stereo speakers. The last number refers to the two height channels, which are supposed to provide more spatial sound and are often used in Dolby Atmos-certified systems. The middle number indicates a subwoofer. A 5.1.2 system also has radiating drivers on the sides, which should improve the impression of surround sound.

It is important to note that not every multi-channel soundbar has clearly designed drivers for side / height effects. Samsung's Q 70 R for example, a 5.1 soundbar, uses a speaker bar in the lid to control the sound to the sides. And the Samsung Q 60 R with 3.1.2-channel system no large dedicated ceiling speakers, such as those found in LG's SL8YG, but also uses a speaker bar with many small outlets. You can hear the difference: LG's mid-range soundbar separates effects more clearly and differentiable.

Some sound bars can also be upgraded to an almost full surround system using optional back-channel speakers. And with some a missing subwoofer can be bought and connected either by cable or by radio.

Some sound bars such as the LG SL8YG and LG SL9YG have speakers on the top for height effects. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Stereo soundbars have the numbers 2.0 or 2.1: They have two front drivers (2.0) arranged on the right and left and are partly used by an integrated or external subwoofer (2.1) in the bass range. In a sense, these are the down-to-earth basic models for the news and crime scene, which should not create much controversy even in a tense neighborhood climate.

In addition, the manufacturers give the performance of the soundbars Watts. A higher number indicates a potentially more voluminous sound – but this is only an indication and not a guarantee. Nevertheless, the larger the room and the fuller the sound should be, the more powerful the soundbar should be. We not only recommend paying attention to the total output power, but also evaluating the performance of the individual channels. After all, even a large subwoofer is of little help to the center frequencies if stereo and center drivers are weak-breasted. This creates an uneven sound. A strong bass can hide it in individual cases, but it mostly seems out of place.

Samsung's HW-Q 80 R has full-fledged upward and sideways drivers. The smaller models Q 60 R and Q 70 R use a small speaker bar on the top for – depending on the model – height or side sounds. The sound is a bit more diffuse here. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Connect soundbar: You need these interfaces

How you connect the soundbar to the rest of your equipment depends on many factors in detail. However, our general recommendations for action are as clear as the reasons on which they are based are complicated. On the other hand, if you want to dive deeper into the why of sound design: In the next chapter, we will delight enthusiasts with the abysses of the confusion of specifications. Here are our quick tips:

  • Stereo soundbars can be connected directly to the TV next to the player: There is the so-called Audio Return Channel (ARC), which is part of specially designated parts HDMI 1.4 ports is. If the TV does not support ARC or the soundbar does not have HDMI, use an optical (Toslink) or a coaxial cable connection (cinch sockets).
  • Connect multi-channel soundbars directly to your player (such as the Blu-ray player). You forward the video signal from the soundbar to the TV. For this, the soundbar requires at least two HMDI ports, i.e. one input and one output. Additional HDMI ports allow the connection of additional players such as a game console. An audio return channel can usually be set up via the HDMI cable between the soundbar and the TV. The TV can control the soundbar via this. Usually, no additional cable is required to send the sound of the TV's internal apps to the soundbar, just a corresponding setting in your TV. If your TV does not have an ARC, connect an optical or coaxial cable in addition to the HDMI cable.
The variety of connections can vary depending on the model. We recommend using HDMI whenever possible. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

If you want to stream music from your phone to the soundbar, Bluetooth is useful. If the soundbar is network-compatible and offers interfaces such as Spotify Connect, Chromecast or Airplay – all the better, then you even save yourself a Bluetooth connection and control the devices via WLAN. In addition, some network-compatible sound bars also come with so-called multiroom support: This means that they can be easily networked with other multiroom-capable loudspeakers from the same manufacturer in order to play the music from the living room, for example in the kitchen. Well-known manufacturers of multiroom systems are Teufel, Sonos , Evil and Denon. However, a network connection entails occasional firmware updates: In part, we had to wait a few minutes in the test until the devices were ready for use.

For the home TV spectacle, however, you should use the Bluetooth connection rather not use. Because on the one hand, the A2DP Bluetooth profile used for audio transmission only supports two-channel sound and therefore actually falls flat for multi-channel soundbars, on the other hand, Bluetooth often has a noticeable latency of just below 200 milliseconds , which you would then have to correct by delay correction in your TV or soundbar – if the devices allow it.

We therefore only recommend Bluetooth for playing music. The codec aptX allows a theoretically higher transmission quality, but in our tests audio devices without aptX can sound great. Contrarily, there are models with aptX support that are not so convincing. You don't necessarily have to be guided by this specific codec support.

A subwoofer is not the same as a subwoofer: some bass speakers are barely noticeable, others grab really firm ones. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Heart of Specification Darkness: The ARC Abyss

Most users shouldn't have to fear any connection difficulties or quality losses with sound bars. In detail and in special cases, the matter can unfortunately be terribly complicated. Here are the backgrounds: ARC, the 2009 with HDMI 1.4, sounds like a great thing, but unfortunately there are many aspects the standard optional. For example, some TVs do not pass DTS 5.1 to playback devices and some soundbars cannot decode DTS even with ARC support.

Now play a source with 5.1 DTS Sound off, it may be that your TV does not pass it on via ARC or the soundbar cannot do anything with it. Unfortunately, the decoding capability of the Bluray player is also of no help in this case, since uncompressed PCM data stream (which can easily be transported with 5.1 channels using a current HDMI cable) is only passed on as a two-channel variant via ARC. In this case, you lose the multi-channel sound with a DTS 5.1 source in favor of a stereo sound (no problem with 2.1 sound bars) or hear nothing.

Another disadvantage For users of a high-quality multi-channel soundbar: ARC does not support the high-resolution, lossless sound formats Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master that are used on Blu-ray. ARC only transmits the lossy core of these formats, that is AC3 (Dolby Digital) or DTS, as you know it from DVDs. In individual cases, Dolby Atmos with height channel information can be output in a compressed Dolby Digital Plus container via ARC. But only a few devices support that. So you can't rely on it.

So if you have a little sound monster at home that you want to provide with the best multi-channel food, then connect it to best directly to the Blu-ray player. It either transmits the unchanged data stream and has it decoded by the soundbar or the player decodes the audio signal and sends it to your audio system in unchanged quality in PCM form.

An integrated subwoofer is better than nothing, but cannot keep up with external loudspeakers. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Light in the dark: eARC

The good news: The new standard eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel, mandatory from HDMI 2.1) solves at least all transmission problems, because eARC offers uncompressed 7.1 sound , Dolby Atmos and all other relevant high-end audio standards. Lip synchronization is also mandatory, in ARC it is only optional. In the test, we had no difficulties with the latter. However, eARC do not yet offer many sound bars and even fewer TV sets.

However, our recommendation for multi-channel system users has a small disadvantage, which we would like to mention: If your TV and your UHD Blu-ray player are capable of Dolby Vision (i.e. support dynamic HDR metadata), you should make sure before purchasing the soundbar that it is in addition to 4K, HDR 10 -, also offers Dolby Vision pass-through. Unfortunately, manufacturers do not always write clearly if Dolby Vision is not offered. Or you can connect the soundbar via ARC and lose the HD sound formats in return.

The size differences can be immense. (Samsung HW-Q 80 R behind JBL Studio Bar) Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Format support: Dolby, DTS and Co.

If you connect the soundbars to either the TV or the Blu-ray player as described by us, format support is actually negligible. In this case, the players decode the sound and pass it on to your soundbar. If your TV cannot do DTS, then the DVD or Blu-ray player will take care of it. Accordingly, a 2.0 or 2.1 soundbar receives two-channel PCM audio instead of DTS via every connection, a multi-channel soundbar receives the sound decoded by the playback device, which should master every required standard.

The decoding capability is only relevant in exceptional cases: For example, if the soundbar has an integrated media player that you would like to use to play films from USB or network storage. Or if you want to connect a multi-channel soundbar via ARC. A large format support also has a convenience aspect, because you then have to worry less about how to wire your devices. And if you are considering a model with height speakers, this should also support Dolby Atmos and DTS: X, because these standards hide the sound information for the height channels. Dolby Atmos is the more relevant standard. Despite this information, we consider the codec support to be negligible in most cases.

Some sound bars have integrated displays, which we find to be practical. The Teufel CineBar Lux screen is a bit thick. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Ease of use: remote control, app or button

Controlling a soundbar is also only an issue if it is not running optimally. In short: you control many sound bars simply with your TV remote control. The devices also switch on and off together with the television. Because the CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) standard, which is included in the HDMI specification, provides for cross-device control with just one remote control – provided the devices are connected via a current HDMI cable. In some cases, the soundbar remote control allows an easier change between sound modes and similar settings.

If the soundbar has no HDMI and is optically or coaxially connected, then you will look forward to a well-made remote control in the scope of delivery. There are differences here: Some manufacturers only provide a really cheap-looking and difficult-to-use mini remote control, while others display splendid specimens in brushed aluminum. In individual cases, a remote control is also completely missing and the soundbar can only be controlled via the app. Finally, the tedious walk to the TV bench remains: Every device we tested has housing buttons that work either capacitively or mechanically.

Between agony and joy: what the manufacturers imagine with a suitable remote control can be very different. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Android TV on the soundbar

Last but not least, when it comes to ease of use, whether or not there is an integrated media player in addition to Airplay and the like, which can be used to purchase a Fire TV for non-network-compatible TVs or make a Chromecast redundant. A full Android TV is running on the JBL Link Bar, which allows Kodi to be downloaded, for example. A media center on the soundbar? That sounds practical. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to start up the JBL soundbar, so you should not disconnect it from the power. The channel change was also a bit more cumbersome and sluggish.

The trend of voice control does not stop at current sound bars either. So some house the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. So: if you like to cheat with your equipment in the living room, here is your chance. We were scared by the lifeless robot voice of the Google Assistant, which sometimes speaks in LG's soundbar.

A display is also not to be scoffed at, as we do in the Have determined test. In particular, if you change settings frequently, you should be grateful for visual feedback. Some sound bars do not have a display, but only a few small LEDs on the top, others come with a mostly small and very coarse-resolution, but functional screen that does its job completely satisfactorily unmarried. However, we find the monster display of the Teufel soundbar a little over the top and intrusive.

Android TV turns your soundbar into a media center. The JBL Link Bar could react a little faster. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

Installation: prerequisite for the best sound

As with real stereo and surround speakers, there are locations for your soundbar that are not optimal. For example, you shouldn't sink a multichannel soundbar in the center compartment of your TV bank. Because here the side and height channels cannot unfold and you only get a rather dull and diffuse sound. Such devices belong in front of the television. However, some sound bars are so big that they partially cover TVs with low feet – you should check this before buying. Since the sound bars with side and height channels should also reflect sound waves from the wall and ceiling, the surround sound effect can decrease in very large rooms. The same applies to heavily subdued rooms in which a lot of fabrics hang.

Stereo sound bars are less problematic because they only shine forward. They should only reside halfway under your television; whether in the TV bank or on it is not so important.

If the soundbar comes with an external subwoofer, a bit of testing is required. Because there are so-called room fashions in every room. These are acoustically unsuitable places in which bass waves are amplified or reduced, depending on whether the sound waves reflected by the walls add up or subtract from your seating position. So if you have the impression that the subwoofer is weak or buzzing unbearably, always move the bass box a little bit until the sound is right in your seat.

If nothing helps, you can also set up acoustic absorber materials. Here carpet, curtains or a few pillows on the back of the sofa could help. In addition, many sound bars have a bass control: This does not prevent room modes, but may reduce the effect.

A few high-end products also score with measuring systems such as she knows from higher-priced AV receivers. In this case, set up a microphone at different listening positions, whereupon the audio system analyzes the “heard” frequency response and optimizes it using automatic equalizer settings. The more ideal the room conditions, the less such a room correction system has to intervene in the sound, which is always better.

Soundbars in the test

Samsung HW-Q80R Offer from BestCheck

  • Sound quality (1.0)
  • Facilities (1.3)
  • Handling (1.0)

LG SL9YG Offer from BestCheck

  • Sound quality (1.4)
  • Facilities (1.0)
  • Handling (1.8)

LG SL8YG BestCheck offer

  • Sound quality (2.2)
  • Facilities (1.0)
  • Handling (2,3)

Samsung HW-Q70R Offer from BestCheck

  • Sound quality (2.9)
  • Facilities (1.3)
  • Handling (1.0)

Denon DHT-S516H Offer from BestCheck

  • Sound quality (1.8)
  • Equipment (1,2)
  • Handling (3.8)

To the complete leaderboard

A measuring system (like the Bose Soundbar 500 offers) improves the sound at your sitting position. Picture: Simon Kirsch / CHIP

What is a soundbar?

A soundbar is a compact audio system that you can use in front of or under your TV. Depending on the model, sound bars offer stereo sound or multichannel sound – sometimes even with treble effects. Some models are supported by an external subwoofer.

How does the soundbar work?

A soundbar receives audio signals from your television, video game console or similar devices. Integrated sound transducers produce the sound. Since there are many speakers in modern sound bars, you can use wall and ceiling reflections to create convincing surround sound effects.

How do I connect a soundbar?

There are many options: We recommend connecting soundbars using an HDMI cable. If this is not possible, you can usually use an optical cable. Wireless music transmission via Bluetooth is also possible on many models.

What is an optical cable for?

An optical cable transmits data like other cables – but is less exposed to interference. However, the bandwidth is lower than with HDMI. Visually, for example, 5.1 signals can only be transmitted in compressed form – but this is often not a problem since the quality is sufficient.

What does ARC mean for TV?

ARC means Audio Return Channel: This is an audio return channel, via the television with HDMI 1.4 ports sound signals to a connected device how to send a soundbar. Although ARC uses HDMI cables, it uses the S / PDIF interface like optical connections, which only provides a limited bandwidth for multi-channel sound (AC3 / DTS). The same applies here: The quality is sufficient for most devices.

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