With the holidays approaching and Black Friday deals already in full swing, our team of audio experts at DXOMARK has put together something special for our readers. Courtesy of our partner Cobra, a French audio equipment retailer, we put a few premium soundbars from different brands through our rigorous analysis, testing their capabilities in various categories: immersion, musicality, dialogues, and in standalone.
We tested the six top-end soundbars from Devialet, LG, Samsung, Sennheiser, Sonos, and Sony, ranging in price from €999 to €2,300.
Like in our well-established smartphone and wireless speaker audio protocols, we tested these soundbars objectively and perceptually in controlled conditions using the movie and music use cases from our wireless speaker protocol.
First, a series of measurements were made in our anechoic lab to generate graphs for frequency response, THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise), and loudness tables. Then, perceptual evaluations took place in our dedicated apartment laboratory, in a living room setting, where all systems were tested comparatively at the same volumes and in the same conditions.
Soundbars that included satellite speakers were also evaluated in standalone mode. For each system, our audio engineers tested the multiple settings available in their respective apps and then chose the mode that was best suited for each use case (movie or music).
After having evaluated the contenders objectively in our anechoic lab and then perceptually in a real-life setting, the results are finally in. The battle was fierce, but ultimately the choice is yours: which will be your best pick?
Decent immersion for a budget
Our first contender, the LG S5QR system (€1,590), comes already packaged with a subwoofer and two satellite speakers.
Despite a decent surrounding sensation, elevation seemed limited and a lack of continuity between front and rear sound was noticed. Extension in the low-end was satisfying thanks to the subwoofer, but timbre didn’t seem really balanced in its default settings, as voice sounded a bit muffled, and the overall sound signature was deemed too dark, and uneven.
+ Subwoofer and satellite speakers included
+ Decent immersion
– Uneven sound signature
– Lack of balance
– Sounds compressed
Solid all-in-one system
Next up we have the Samsung HW-Q990B (€1,499) competing directly with the LG soundbar as an all-in-one system for a similar price.
With a clean and natural sound signature, watching movies and listening to music was a pleasant experience. Dialogues were intelligible in all circumstances, unaltered by the full dynamics. Great immersion, with a noticeable sense of elevation to top it all.
+ Rich and natural sound signature
+ Great immersion
+ Great dynamics
+ Budget-friendly all-in-one system
– Low-end might be a bit boomy by default
A multi-purpose ecosystem
Going up a notch on the price scale, we then tested the Sonos Arc soundbar (€999), to which we added a Sub (Gen 3) and two Sonos One as satellites, which can also be used as standalone speakers.
The Sonos system proposed a clean experience, with intelligible voices and a controlled low-end as well as natural dynamics. Decent immersion, with a sense of elevation slightly lacking but an impressive wideness for the soundbar alone.
+ Versatile hybrid system
+ Balanced sound with clear dialogue
+ Controlled dynamics and low-end
+ Pleasant sound signature for music
– Not the most immersive overall
– Slight global distortion
– Timbre could be richer
No satellite speakers necessary
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus
Next in line was the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus (€1,499), paired with the Ambeo Sub subwoofer (€699).
Performance was certainly impressive for a system without satellite speakers, thanks to an immersive virtual sound scene, including a great sense of elevation. Clean sound signature with a nice low-end, ideal for watching movies. In music mode, however, stereophony was not as wide as expected, and timbre also fell apart a little bit.
+ Solid standalone soundbar, even better with the subwoofer
+ Great immersion with an especially impressive sense of elevation
+ Great sound signature in movie, with controlled low-end
– Sounds quite compressed
– Not ideal in music mode
– Dialogues might sound less intelligible when virtual rear is solicited
The next system tested was the Devialet Dione (€2,300), once again a standalone soundbar, this time without a subwoofer.
For a system without subwoofer, the low-end was quite impressive, even if it sounded less controlled sometimes. The absence of satellite speakers didn’t impair immersion in the least. However, dialogues were not always very intelligible, and timbre didn’t seem balanced in a musical context.
+ Solid standalone soundbar
+ Great low-end without subwoofer
+ Great immersion without satellite speakers
– Dialogues are not always intelligible
– Lack of low-end control
– Sound signature not very musical
Immersion at all costs
Finally, the last system in this competition was the Sony HT-A7000 soundbar (€1,390), which we tested with an SW5 subwoofer and additional SA-RS5 satellite speakers.
By far the easiest system to set up, Sony didn’t require any dedicated app as all settings are directly accessible from the TV. Immersion was excellent, with good continuity from front to rear as well as a sweet sense of elevation. Unfortunately, timbre wasn’t very balanced either with movies or music, and the low-end especially lacked control, even taking a toll on dialogue intelligibility.
+ Great immersion, nice sense of elevation
+ Ease of setup
– Unbalanced sound signature, especially the low-end
– Sounds compressed
If you are concerned about the volumes you could expect with these sound bars, here are the maximum volume measurements, measured at 1m in our semi-anechoic chamber with the soundbar only (no subwoofer and no satellite speakers).
|Measured volume – Soundbar Only||Pink Noise||Hip-Hop||Electronic-Pop|
|LG S95QR||90 dB (A)||87 dB (A)||91 dB (A)|
|Samsung HW-Q990B||95 dB (A)||93 dB (A)||97 dB (A)|
|Sonos Arc||94 dB (A)||90 dB (A)||92 dB (A)|
|Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus||93 dB (A)||91 dB (A)||91 dB (A)|
|Devialet Dione||90 dB (A)||85 dB (A)||87 dB (A)|
|Sony HT-A7000||88 dB (A)||87 dB (A)||88 dB (A)|
That concludes our battle of some of the top soundbars worth considering when watching for Black Friday deals. Let us know in the comments which system you would choose to watch movies all winter!
Check out the English-subtitled video from our partner Cobra, who designated the best-performing soundbars of 2022 based on our testing measurements.