As TVs have become slimmer and slimmer, manufacturers have less room to fit in decent sized speakers. The result is that most of today's plasma, LCD and LED TVs have sound that's thinner than a cheese slice, and less tasty too.
If you can’t go the whole hog of adding a full surround-sound system to your lounge, a more compact solution is to opt for a soundbar instead. Here we've rounded up five models that will all make ideal companions for your goggle box.
Standing just 79mm tall, the Yamaha YSP-2200 is one of the slimmest soundbars around. What makes it so desirable however is the fact that it creates a much more convincing surround effect than its peers thanks to its use of Yamaha's sound-projection technology. This employs 16 steerable beam drivers, each one driven by its own 2W digital amp, to convincingly place sound effects high and low, near and far. Add in a subwoofer that creates deep and rich bass and you've got an ingenious alternative to a conventional all-in-one home-cinema system.
This hits the spot because it looks good, sounds good and is attractively priced. With its neat hexagonal shape, this soundbar visually stands out from the crowd. It's also compact enough to unobtrusively sit under most TVs. On the rear it has connections for optical and coaxial digital-audio as well as an analogue mini-jack. Bluetooth is also built-in so you can wirelessly stream music to it from a smart phone or tablet. It has onboard decoding for both Dolby and DTS, and its bass oomph is remarkable for such a small system. It delivers a wide soundstage too, and sounds great for both movies and music.
It took a surprisingly long time for Bose to get around to building a soundbar, but it was worth waiting for. It's one of the best-looking soundbars available thanks to its clever, clutter-free pedestal design, and also comes with a deliciously simple to use remote control. It has built-in decoding for Dolby Digital feeds and on the rear there are optical and coaxial digital-audio inputs as well as a pair of stereo-phono plugs for connecting up analogue gear. The Solo's bass is not as strong as systems that included a subwoofer, but it does have a decent amount of kick and the soundbar delivers a stereo soundstage that's wide and spacious.
If soundbars with Yamaha's sound-projection technology built-in are too pricey for your budget, you might want to look at this model instead. It may be the budget model in Yamaha's range and lack the surround-sound high jinx of its more expensive siblings, but it still puts in a great sonic performance. The unit has a built-in subwoofer to give it a more streamlined look, and around the back you'll find two optical and one coaxial digital-audio input. Few sound bars in the YAS-101's price range sound as rich, and the unit's Air Surround Xtreme mode does a great job of spreading out stereo audio to create a wide soundstage.
The pedestal design of this lets you place it under your TV rather than in front of it, which many people will prefer -- it's arguably a neater look than traditional soundbars. Inside there are two 1-inch tweeters, four 3-inch midrange drivers, and two bottom-mounted 5.25-inch subwoofers. It all adds up to potent audio-power, as the CS3 sounds remarkably poised and clear. Its bass oomph and low-frequency extension are also outstanding. The other bonus is that it has Bluetooth built-in, so you can wirelessly stream music to it from your smart phone or tablet.