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Best Soundbar for 2024 – CNET

Written by teobrito.com

soundbar-testing

At the AV Lab in New York City, I test soundbars head to head with a variety of reference equipment.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

CNET follows a rigorous, unbiased evaluation process for all of its soundbar testing, from simple stereo speakers to Dolby Atmos systems. In the CNET AV Lab, I do comparative testing, pitting similar soundbars against each other side by side.

I evaluate the performance of each soundbar with several different types of content, including movies, music, TV shows and games. I use several test scenes — including the opening of Mad Max:Fury Road for playback of the spatial audio standard Dolby Atmos for soundbars that support it. I also use the Thanator Attack scene of Avatar (26.53) to test a system’s dynamics and detail retrieval. 

When it comes to music, I use several CNET test tracks which you can find here in a Tidal or Spotify playlist. Tracks such as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Red Right Hand, with its deep bass and tenor vocals, help determine a system’s ability to track male voices in particular, without sounding congested. The song also helps with uncovering hidden details and the relative dynamics a speaker is capable of. Using both types of content — movies and music — I then grade the sound quality of each soundbar. I evaluate characteristics such as speech clarity, dynamics/volume, bass response and musical playback. 

CNET’s dedicated audio lab in downtown New York includes a selection of recent televisions (with HDMI eARC), plus Apple TV 4K streamer and Roku Ultra streamer, a Microsoft Xbox Series X and an Oppo UDP-205 4K Blu-ray player. I also use Roon music software to stream to individual devices or the Oppo player as needed.

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