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Best Sound Bars 2018: Sonos Playbar, Vizio SB3621, Samsung HW-MS650, And More

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As 2018 continues its cycle, televisions become even thinner. That is why most rely on sound bars to offset the apparent lack of audio quality.

Meeting Consumer Demands

These days, the first category buyers immediately look for when shopping for a new TV is its appearance and dimensions. It looks like the trend among manufacturers is to produce the thinnest displays. It becomes a race among brands to come up with a desirable design that uses up the least amount of space within a room.

Most consumers might recall a time when tech experts predicted that innovations with flexible OLEDs will result in almost paper-thin displays. Samsung and LG already have retail models of these so-called wallpaper TVs. Originally, engineers left enough space in the frame to house its speakers, but the ever-decreasing dimensions often result in a sound that lacks impact and weight.

This new dilemma spawned a market for sound bars to compensate for the poor audio. These compact speakers are ideal for users who lack the floor space to accommodate a full surround speaker setup. Interested buyers should closely check for features such as connectivity options, audio enhancement type, output power, and others. Furthermore, retail prices range from below $100 up to more than $1,500, depending on the brand and model.

Sonos Playbar

This WiFi-enabled sound bar is one of the few models that do not come with HDMI ports. It is equipped with nine speakers and can function as the front three speakers in a regular 5.1 surround setup. The Sonos Playbar's biggest caveat is its optical-input-only port, which can be a problem if the television does not have a built-in optical output port.

Vizio SB3621

What makes this particular audio product is its entry-level price tag. For a cost just a little over $100, users can enjoy excellent audio output via its speakers and wireless subwoofer for those deeper sounds. Owners are given two digital input options: an optical port, and a coaxial port. Bluetooth connectivity is likewise on board alongside a USB port that oddly only offers WAV playback and no support for the MP3 format.

Samsung HW-MS650

The South Korean consumer electronics manufacturer appears to have upgraded its audio arsenal after its acquisition of Harman. This sound bar flaunts nine speakers with a rated output of 20W each. Its HDMI port supports 4K and HDR. An optical audio input is likewise available alongside a 3.5mm audio port. Wireless connectivity support includes two-way Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Sony HT-ST5000

Not to be outdone by the competition, Sony delivers an upscale sound bar that supports Dolby Atmos audio enhancement technology. The HT-ST5000 gladly accepts multiple device connections with its three HDMI ports. Moreover, one of the three HDMI inputs sports Audio Return Channel (ARC) support. Other input options such as optical, Ethernet, and a 3.5mm port. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are on board with NFC pairing and support for various lossless audio formats.

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