Best smart soundbar for 2022

Everything is “smart” these days, and if you want a way to combine your voice assistant, streaming music, and your TV, an all-in-one feature sound bar and what do you need. You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for great quality either. Many of the best brands start at just over $100.

Before showing you the options, it’s worth making a distinction between a smart soundbar and a smart tv. While a smart TV usually means it has streaming apps built-in, a smart soundbar has a voice assistant — usually Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. The exceptions here are the Roku Streambar and Streambar Pro (formerly the smart sound bar), which have streaming apps and an optional always-on assistant.

The compact Roku Streambar plugs into your TV’s HDMI ARC port and doubles as a 4K streamer and soundbar. We found the Streambar easy to set up and it looks good for its size, particularly with dialogs. To make the soundbar really smart, the $30 Voice Remote Pro adds an always-on voice assistant, useful for finding new shows, and even the remote itself.

Read our Roku Streambar review.

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The Polk React with DTS Virtual Surround Sound is a unique soundbar upgrade to one of my favorite smart soundbars, the Polk Command Bar. Although the subwoofer is lacking, you can always buy an add-on and rear as well. 3D surround sound technology offers excellent sound quality and the onboard Alexa is responsive. If you can afford it, it’s worth spending the extra $80 on the Yamaha YAS-209 for its subwoofer and additional HDMI port.

Read our Polk React review.

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The Yamaha YAS-209 delivers excellent sound quality in a compact soundbar with built-in Amazon Alexa voice control. The microphones work well in noisy environments and you can use them to stream music. DTS Virtual:X surround sound offers a rich effect reminiscent of surround speaker sound, and the smart soundbar comes with a wireless subwoofer of the articulated soundbar. Unfortunately, Yamaha’s YAS-209 soundbar doesn’t use the company’s MusicCast system, so it won’t sync with other Yamaha speakers. The YAS-209 is currently out of stock, but Costco’s identical version called the ATS-2090 may be available in its place.

Read our Yamaha YAS-209 review.

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With the addition of Dolby Atmos, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 is now the mid-priced smart soundbar to get. It offers the choice of Alexa or Google voice assistant, and the Sonos ecosystem is one of the best music streaming platforms out there. You might be missing out on deep bass without a sub, but this compact speaker makes your movies sound huge with its virtual surround capabilities.

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The Sonos Arc is the grown-up version of the Beam and offers a bunch of upgrades for the extra cash. The first is the use of powerful, dedicated Dolby Atmos speakers, which gives it an edge in movies, and the second is more drivers and a larger cabinet for better bass performance. Otherwise, this is another great offering from Sonos with its choice of voice assistants and the best music streaming system.

Read our Sonos Arc review.

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How do I test soundbars

At CNET, I test audio gear from compact soundbars to surround speaker systems, but regardless of the device, my methodology is pretty much the same. I always compare products with one or more reference devices that offer the best performance for a similar price.

When it comes to soundbars, I want to see how well a system performs with both music and movies, as most people want to do both. I watch a handful of test footage from 4K Blu-ray or streamed from a 4K streaming service (Vudu, for example) and evaluate aspects like bass performance and dialog clarity. I also use several test music tracks and evaluate all the streaming features like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Systems that can perform well with both types of entertainment inevitably score the highest.

see my how to buy a soundbar for more features and other things you should consider when looking for a new system.

Smart Soundbar FAQ

What makes a smart soundbar?

While a smart soundbar is usually used to describe a soundbar with a built-in voice assistant, it can also mean a soundbar with video streaming capabilities, like the Roku Streambar. A smart soundbar is often used as a streaming device and to control other smart home devices by voice. The two assistants commonly included in soundbars are Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

It’s worth noting that adding a separate Google Nest mini or Amazon Echo device to an existing internet-connected soundbar will generally give you the same capabilities as a smart soundbar. The added bonus is that it doesn’t mess up your soundbar when you ask a question.

Can you use a smart soundbar on any TV?

Since most TVs these days are smart TVs, it really doesn’t matter if the soundbar is smart or not, the combination should still work just fine. A smart soundbar will add voice capabilities to any system. The Roku Streambar will also work with an existing smart TV, and you can choose the TV or soundbar as your primary streaming device.

Can you choose which voice assistant a smart soundbar uses?

There are two types of smart soundbar – one that offers a single voice assistant (usually Amazon Alexa) and another that offers the option of Google Assistant or Alexa. The Polk React and Yamaha YAS-209 are two examples of Alexa-only soundbars, while Bose Smart Soundbars and Sonos products offer both assistants.

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