Stiftung Warentest tests soundbars and finds clear winner

TVs usually lack good sound and rich bass. Soundbars are supposed to provide a remedy. Stiftung Warentest put the speakers under the microscope – with surprising results.

Modern TVs impress with pin-sharp images, smart TV features, voice assistants and much more. But the sound is often a problem. Especially more demanding movie fans and frequent viewers look around for an external soundbar in such a case. Stiftung Warentest helps buyers of soundbars with a current test.

Stiftung Warentest tests 20 soundbars

The experts at Stiftung Warentest tested 20 soundbars, including ten models with an external subwoofer for additional bass. They assessed the sound in listening tests, played music, speech and movie scenes. In addition, they tested the handling, power consumption and data protection of the devices.

The result: especially the expensive models performed poorly in the test. “Three speakers cost around 900 euros – none of them is good,” says the magazine “test” (8/2021). The two test winners, on the other hand, can be had for around 400 euros.

What matters in the test of soundbars

Soundbars fit comfortably across or under the TV and thus expand the home cinema experience. The flat speakers should be connected and ready for use in a few minutes without much cable clutter. They have everything on board to ensure good sound, in addition to the speakers and the necessary amplifiers.

Unlike traditional speakers, HDMI ports are especially important. The more of these connections are available, the more flexibly the devices can be used. If analog and digital audio inputs as well as USB and headphone jacks are also available, the equipment is almost perfect. Two soundbars in the test do not have HDMI, but an optical input. Others consume too much power or were devalued due to poor data protection.

Also interesting: Why does the volume of the TV constantly change by itself?

Since subwoofers are often quite large, the assumption that soundbars with an additional bass box have an advantage in terms of sound is obvious. But that’s not the case according to the experts: “Of the ten devices with a bass box, only two score with good sound, while three of the ten models without a subwoofer do,” the experts write.

According to the testers, the soundbars hardly create really good surround sound. True surround sound requires a home theater system with several speakers, usually five plus a subwoofer.

The test winner comes from JBL

The LG DSN8YG comes out on top in terms of sound. According to the experts, the device with a separate subwoofer sounds balanced and dynamic. However, it only scores satisfactory, among other things because it consumes the most power according to the test.

The test victory goes to the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam with built-in subwoofer. It costs 395 euros and convinced the experts with its lively, detailed sound.

JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam
Test winner: The JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam impressed the testers with its lively, detailed sound. Photo: Alexis Lecomte/Stiftung Warentest/dpa-tmn

Among the devices with a separate bass box, the Teufel Cinebar 11 2.1 Set for 400 euros comes out on top. It scored well with music and speech and also offers many options for sound optimization.