Don't get tangled in the myriad cables of a 5.1 surround system when you can get it all from a soundbar at less cost.
If space is at a premium, consider foot-wide Orbitsound T9, which teams up with a compact subwoofer to serve up much louder sound than its dinky dimensions suggest. True, it’s not the most subtle of audio performers – it’s best twinned with big, brash fare – but it’s among the finest in its bracket. The iPod dock (for the old 30-pin connector rather than Lightning) makes for a nice bonus.
Multi-room music company Sonos has never dabbled in home cinema before now, but the Playbar is a truly fantastic effort. Not only is it solidly built, ruggedly handsome and dead simple to set up, it produces a beautifully wide soundstage with movies. It also, naturally, works as a speaker in an existing Sonos home setup, making it as nifty with music as it is with Michael Bay’s latest explosion-fest. Read our review.
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JBL Cinema SB400
The Cinema SB400 is a powerful system combining a 120W soundbar with a hefty (it’s 10.5kg) 100W subwoofer. A trio of HDMI inputs gives you scope for hooking up several sources, and there’s also Bluetooth for wire-free audio streaming from smartphones, tablets and laptops. The sound is open and spacious, and should fill a mid-sized living room without too much trouble.
A soundbar with the proportions of a Matchmaker after-dinner mint chocolate, the LG NB4530A is a mere 35mm deep – surely not enough to deliver the sort of rich, warm sound we seek, nay demand? But fear not: the accompanying wireless subwoofer does a lot of the heavy lifting, resulting in a surprisingly full sound. A nice blend of design and performance – but there’s only one HDMI input, so if you have several sources to feed into it, you’ll need to use a hub or similar.
Yes, the Yamaha is pricey, but it’s one of the few soundbars around that can deliver power and virtual surround effects for larger rooms. Designed with TVs 50in and above in mind, it sports no fewer than 44 drivers behind its imposing grille, each bouncing audio around your room to deliver a pleasingly convincing 5.1 effect; there’s a real spaciousness to the sound here that smaller soundbars struggle to present. The four HDMI inputs mean you shouldn’t have any trouble hooking up all your sources, either.