Television lovers can easily be overawed by their set's specs and forget one of the most important aspects of time in front of the telly - sound.
Having a powerful sound system is vital to getting the most from your TV time, and television soundbars are one of the best ways of getting a quality experience, as most TVs don't come with the kind of speakers built-in to match their price.
However, there are some points to consider for getting the right kinds of soundbar. The size of your TV, the size of the room and, importantly, how much you are willing to spend.
The best soundbars in 2018
To date many of the best models for most people come from big brand Sonos and the likes of Samsung, Bose and Sony.
For a truly premium soundbar you could expect to pay between £600 and £800, especially for high-end models from Sonos and LG. There are some decent budget bars for between £150 and £250, although at this level sound quality is noticeably reduced. If you want a full 5.1 audio experience you should also be prepared to splash even more on a subwoofer.
For our money, we loved the Samsung HW-MS650, which we found available for £405 from Amazon. While it wasn't noticeably better in audio quality than models from Sonos, the Samsung's slightly better value and all-in-one design just edged it.
Width: 41 inches
Samsung have truly taken on last year's soundbar boom with an impressive offering, the all-in-one Samsung HW-MS650 bar. As well as looking elegant in black or silver, the Samsung HW-MS650 sounds powerful and bassy as you would hope, meaning you should be able to enjoy your sound without a subwoofer and the added cost that brings.
It is also highly connective for a range of streaming options. It has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and an HDMI port for more sound options. It comes with a remote for those who prefer not to use an app, but also can be configured for multiroom audio (although the Samsung multiroom speakers have a look which I would call... divisive).
At just £349 it represents incredible value for such a powerful soundbar. There is also a curved option available for those who may own a curved 4K television, on sale also for £349.99.
Telegraph rating: 9/10
Width: 35 inches
Sonos is known for its sound quality, and the Playbar does not disappoint, sounding crisp and detailed compared to the competition. Sonos is effortlessly easy to set up, connecting through an optical cable to your TV. It can then connect through its wireless system to stream music from the Sonos smartphone app.
At £699 it is certainly not a cheap pick, but Sonos offers a 100 day guarantee if you find any issues with it. Sonos is arguably best designed for music lovers, especially if you are willing to splash more cash you can pick up a subwoofer or additional Sonos Play:1 speakers, which can now be voice controlled with Alexa.
Sonos does not offer Bluetooth connections in its setup, or HDMI connectivity. This can mean it cannot decode high-definition audio from some 4K Blue-ray players, but will have no problem with streaming services like Netflix.
Telegraph rating: 8/10
LG Atmos SJ9
Width: 47 inches
This LG Atmos SJ9 soundbar plays in the premium audio space, but unlike the Sonos throws in an added subwoofer in its main asking price, still very steep at £1,000. What you get is Dolby Atmos sound technology and 5.1 surround sound from ten speakers. It's a rich audio experience and we felt it matched the price tag.
It has two HDMI ports, however only one is designed for Dolby Atmos, meaning you might have to switch around your plugs if you want the premium sound from a games console, for example. It works with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, and comes with Google's Chromecast built-in, meaning you can stream straight from your smartphone or tablet.
It is a massive set up, however, meaning it could be out of place or too large for smaller TV sets.
Telegraph rating: 8/10
Width: 28 inches
Sonos' latest creation, the Playbase sits beneath your TV as a mount, rather than mounted on a wall. It's therefore a little larger than a standard soundbar, but delivers very similar to Sonos' Playbar at the same price of £699, meaning this model is certainly up there with premium soundbar models.
It has the same Sonos caveats - no Bluetooth or HDMI - but it's a stylish product, is quick to set up and use and delivers a rich sound experience. The Sonos app is quick to use and it can support a television with its own stand of up to 35kg.
Telegraph rating: 8/10
Bose SoundTouch 300
Width: 38.5 inches
The Bose SoundTouch 300 positions itself as a direct competitor to the Sonos Playbar, capable of pumping out impressive audio as a standalone device and leaving it on a par with its closest rival. You can add a wireless subwoofer, although this will bring your cost up by another £599.
Unlike the Sonos, the Bose is capable of running optical, HDMI and HDMI Arc inputs. HDMI Arc allows the SoundTouch 300 to decode all 4K formats and should allow you to use one remote for the whole system for sound, whether that's from an attached streaming device like Roku or a games console.
We also loved the look of the Bose SoundTouch 300, and its fellow Bose multiroom speakers complete the look too.
Telegraph rating: 7.5/10
Width: 20 inches
For many people, £500 or more is too much to splash on a TV audio system. While your set's sound isn't great, you only need a bit more bass and clarity to feel like you are enjoying the kind of sound experience your TV should offer. This is where a simple set up like the Sony HT-MT300 comes in.
In terms of sound quality, it will start to get a little tinny on the details when you push it too loud, but for smaller TVs or for something less imposing than a big soundbar it is a brilliant budget choice. For under £200 you get a subwoofer as well, but one niggle is you can't control the Sony from your TVs main remote. This is the one of the best soundbars for under £200 that we have tried out.
Telegraph rating: 6.5/10
Bose Solo 5
Width: 21.5 inches
For a small soundbar for the bedroom or a smaller TV, the Bose Solo 5 is an interesting prospect. It's an attractive little speaker that can easily be tucked away. It can reach sounds loud enough to happily outclass any TV speaker, and has an extra Dialogue mode to make speech sound clearer than many soundbars, great for those a little hard of hearing.
It can also connect via Bluetooth and has a helpful universal remote, meaning you can control the TV, music and connected devices from one controller.
Telegraph rating: 6/10
Pick a size
First, size. Many soundbars come in set sizes, which is great if you have a 45-inch plus TV, as they will look just right. For example, Samsung's HW-MS650 soundbar is 40-inches, which will suit larger TVs.
However if you only have a 35-inch model or don't have the space you may prefer a smaller model, such as Sony HT-MT300 at 22 inches. However, this slimmer size will also affect sound.
Check your connections
This is key for making sure your soundbar can do everything you ask of it. Usually you just want the sound coming through the soundbar, so most soundbars will connect via your TV using HDMI connections.
Sonos, however, mainly uses optical cables to connect to your TV. These stream most audio formats and work with older TVs and modern 4K TVs. It is simpler to set up, however some 4K Blu-ray players may cause it to lose surround sound.
Most people will also want to be able to pair up their soundbar to their smartphone or tablet to play music. Lots of soundbars come with Bluetooth, but others pair up through your Wi-Fi, which can be more useful as it is not interrupted by phone notifications.
Sound base or soundbar?
There are broadly two types of soundbar available. Slim soundbars, which sit either under your wall-mounted TV or under a TV stand, and sound bases, which act as a stand for your TV as well as a soundbar.
Sound bases can look a tad large and unwieldy, but do deliver great sound.
Most soundbars come with the option to add a subwoofer speaker to create an immersive, 5.1 audio experience. This can be great to building up the surround sound from your TV, however this will significantly add to the price. Sonos subwoofers cost around £649, while Bose subwoofers add £599.
Others are now an all-in-one design, meaning you don't have to add additional speakers to get closer to all-round sound.
Other key points
- Bluetooth: Not all soundbars come with Bluetooth connectivity and may instead connect with wireless.
- Remotes: Some soundbars come with remote controls, others pair with your TV remote.
- Sensor blocking: Be careful where you place your soundbar, as they can easily block the sensor for your TV remote.
- Multiroom: Most modern soundbars can be set up as part of a multiroom audio experience.
After trying out some of the best soundbars out from the last year, we still think the Samsung HW-MS650 is one of the best soundbars we have heard now at an excellent price of under £400. With this model you get immersive sound, although there are plenty of new soundbars set to come out in 2018 which we plan to test, so they may yet take the top spot in future.