Best smart soundbar of 2023

A sound bar Not only improves the sound profile of the TV, but helps consolidate the box count on your TV stand. The best soundbars let you combine a voice assistant, music streaming, and maybe even video streaming. You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for excellent quality either, with prices starting at around $130.

Before showing you the choices, it’s worth distinguishing between a smart soundbar and a Smart TV. While a smart TV means the screen has built-in streaming apps, a smart soundbar usually means the speaker has a voice assistant — usually either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. The main exceptions here are Roku Streaming Bar and Streambar Pro (formerly the Smart soundbar), which feature streaming apps and an optional always-on assistant.

Of course, all soundbars are designed for use with most TVs, whether either device is smart or not. But if you’re looking for an all-in-one streaming speaker and voice assistant, these are the soundbars to buy.

Learn more: Best smart speakers for 2023: Alexa, Google and more


The compact Roku Streambar plugs into your TV’s HDMI ARC port and functions as both a 4K streamer and soundbar. We found the Streambar easy to set up and it sounds good for its size, especially with dialogue. To make the soundbar truly smart, the $30 Voice Remote Pro adds an always-on voice assistant, handy for searching for new shows, and even the remote itself.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Polk React with DTS Virtual Surround Sound is a unique soundbar update to one of my favorite smart soundbars, the Polk Command Bar. Even though the subwoofer is missing, you can always buy an extra one, as well as rears. The 3D surround sound technology provides excellent sound quality and the built-in Alexa is responsive. But the Yamaha YAS-209 is worth considering for its subwoofer and additional HDMI port, and it can often be found at the same or lower price than the Polk.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Yamaha YAS-209 delivers excellent sound quality in a compact soundbar with built-in Amazon Alexa voice control. The mics work well in noisy environments and you can use them when streaming music. The soundbar offers DTS Virtual:X surround sound processing and a wireless subwoofer. However, the YAS-209 doesn’t use the company’s MusicCast system, so you can’t sync with other Yamaha speakers. It’s currently on sale for $230.

Sonos Beam Gen 2 on a table
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

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

Side view of a white Sonos Arc soundbar on a black TV stand.
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Sonos Arc is the adult version of the Beam and offers a number of upgrades for the extra money. The first is the use of dedicated, upward-firing Dolby Atmos speakers, which gives it an edge in movies, and the second is more drivers and a larger subwoofer for better bass performance . Otherwise, it’s another great Sonos offering with the choice of voice assistants and the best music streaming ecosystem.

How to test soundbars

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

When it comes to soundbars, I want to see how well a system works with music as well as movies, since most people will want to do both. I watch a handful of test scenes from a 4K Blu-ray or streamed from a 4K streaming service (Vudu, for example) and evaluate aspects like bass performance and clarity. dialogues. I also use a number of test music tracks and evaluate any streaming features such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Systems capable of working well with both types of entertainment inevitably get the highest scores .

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

Smart Soundbar FAQ

What is a smart soundbar for?

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

Can you use a smart soundbar on any TV?

Since most TVs these days are smart TVs, it doesn’t matter whether the soundbar is smart or not, the combination should still work wonderfully. 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 soundbars: one that offers a single voice assistant (usually Amazon Alexa) and one that offers a choice between Google Assistant or Alexa. The Polk React and Yamaha YAS-209 are two examples of Alexa-only soundbars, while Sonos products offer both assistants.

More Home Entertainment Tips


Back to top button