The Seeker: The Best 2022 Soundbars for Every Budget
September 01, 2022
Whether you're a sucker for “She-Hulk,” addicted to “All of Us Are Dead”, or just looking to annoy the neighbours with some boisterous bass, soundbars are the most effective and affordable way to enhance your home entertainment experience. This month, The Seeker looks at five great options to suit various budgets.
The Best Entry Level Soundbar for Beginners
HK$2,990 | Buy from TC Acoustic
Despite an underwhelming launch, mired by a low-frequency resonance buzz issue that Sonos soon rectified via a firmware update, this baby ‘bar offers a fantastic value entry point into both home cinema and Sonos' multiroom ecosystem. Gone are some of the higher-end features of the Beam (Gen 2) below, such as Dolby Atmos and HDMI eARC connectively. Core Sonos functionality remains with TruePlay tuning, Spotify Connect, and Apple AirPlay 2 all present and correct.
The Ray also loses the Beam's dedicated centre dialogue speaker, instead opting for a standard stereo complement of two tweeters and two mid-range woofers, powered by a quartet of class D amplifiers. While this configuration isn't ideal for surround sound positioning, we were impressed with the width of the soundstage this diminutive soundbar delivers.
The Sonos Ray can struggle at the lower end, and those looking for window-rattling bass may be left wanting. Thankfully, the long-rumoured Sonos Mini Sub recently appeared at the FCC and should be coming to market soon. Upgraders rejoice!
Sonos Beam (Gen 2)
The Best Compact Soundbar for Apartment Living
HK$4,499 | Buy from TC Acoustic
Sonos established its name with excellent-sounding, easy-to-use multiroom audio. Whilst their early forays into home cinema were a mixed bag (Playbar —- excellent, Playbase —- not so much), the original Beam caught the public eye —- and ear. With their second-generation iteration, myriad minor improvements add up to one of the most compelling packages on the market.
Gone is the dirt-magnet cloth front, now replaced with a much more attractive solid, perforated grille. Also new is the inclusion of Dolby Atmos three-dimensional object-based surround sound. While the Beam (Gen 2) lacks the up-firing height drivers of more expensive soundbars, it delivers an immersive soundstage that belies its size.
Couple this with Sonos' best-in-class control app, Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, and Google Assistant integration, and you have an unbeatable package suitable for small to medium living spaces. All Sonos soundbars are upgradable to a real surround system with the addition of a pair of Sonos or compatible IKEA SYMFONISK speakers placed at the rear.
Klipsch Cinema 600
The Best Soundbar for Movie & Music
HK$4,999 | Buy from TC Acoustic
On paper, the Klipsch Cinema 600 looks somewhat ill-equipped on the tech front. You'll find none of the bells-and-whistles of the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) and other pricier systems. No Dolby Atmos, no multiroom and no Wi-Fi means no Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2 or Google Chromecast or Assistant. You get support for old-school Dolby Digital, Bluetooth for streaming music and ungodly levels of bass delivered by a monstrous included 10-inch subwoofer.
Visually and audibly, the Cinema 600 could never be called subtle. The soundbar spans nearly 115 centimetres, making it ideal for TV 55 inches and up. At the same time, the gigantic, included subwoofer's menacing visual presence is outdone only by its massive sonic scale. Aurally, this simplistic 3.1 channel system proves that less is often more with crystal-clear dialogue, expansive soundstage, and proper cinematic bass response.
However, with music, this soundbar stands apart from the competition. The sound is full, natural, and engaging, with the coupled subwoofer working seamlessly with the patented Tractrix horns and mid-range drivers on the bar itself. Owners can upgrade the Cinema 600 to a true 5.1 system with the addition of the Surround 3 wireless speakers (HK$3,499/pair).
KEF LSX II
The Best Soundbar That’s Not a Soundbar
HK$10,980 | Buy from KEF Hong Kong
Okay, hear us out. This isn't a soundbar, but with the recent HDMI ARC upgrade to the venerable KEF LSX, the LSX II delivers one of the best home cinema experiences on the market. While being a music-first product, the agile KEFs are equally adept with movies and TV. You'll not find any support for Dolby or DTS cinema standards, even virtualised. What you get is one of the best stereo presentations on the market, with sonic clarity and soundstage that shames soundbars at twice the price (Devialet Dione, we’re looking at you!).
Despite the elevated entry price, the LSXs are about as future-proofed as you can get. Support for Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, UPnP, Bluetooth and Roon are all present, as is compatibility for all major music streaming services. These speakers don't lack shelf appeal and are available in five gorgeous finishes, including a special Soundwave edition from iconic British designer —- the late, great Sir Terrance Conran.
As with the Sonos soundbars above, bass heads might find the lower levels lacking but fear not, as KEF offers a range of compatible subwoofers. Unlike the Sonos, the KEFs are also compatible with third-party subwoofers.
Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage
The Best Soundbar When Money is No Object
HK$18,980 | Buy from J Select
For a company that has equipped its TVs with fabulous active speakers and encouraged customers to upgrade to 5-channel Beosound systems since the days of the CRT, the Danish manufacturer has been decidedly tardy to the soundbar party. It was well worth the wait and the Beosound Stage sounds good as it looks. Stunning!
Packing a whooping 11 active drivers, the Stage boasts a total output of 550 watts. Ensuring you'll never run out of power, even for the most demanding action scenes, when played loud enough to be heard back in hills of Hollywood, Dolby Atmos is present and truthfully renders soundtracks with equal measures of poise and aplomb. Connectivity is robust with Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, and Bluetooth support.
The Beosound Stage is as much a design statement as a technical marvel. Available in a range of attractive finishes with premium materials, the Stage is a quality option in every way that matters.
*Indicates the current street price and not the MSRP. Always check online for the best deals from a reputable retailer.
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