The included optical cable is short.
The Sony HT-SF150 will be able to emulate most 5.1 home theatre systems' sound without forcing you to pay through the nose. With its brilliant amp and the company's no less brilliant tech, the device will be able to keep the audio crisp yet loud and detailed.
Bluetooth 4.2, HDMI, Optical in, USB
S-Master™ amplifier, S-Force™ Virtual Surround technology, 4 sound modes (Auto Sound, Cinema, Music, Standard), 2 sound effects (Night Mode, Voice Mode), Remote control included
90 x 6.4 x 8.8 cm
The 10- x 4-centimetre full-range speakers will be producing dynamic audio. The Virtual Surround Sound here is good enough to fill the entire listening space. You can use the Panasonic Music Streaming app to access and manage the model's settings via any smartphone/tablet.
You cannot attach the device onto walls.
Its space-saving profile makes the Panasonic SC-HTB208EBK the easiest decision to make when you're not working with too much free space. That said, even those who have enough space to put two units like this one will still find the device's premium sound attractive enough.
Bluetooth 2.1, HDMI, Optical in, USB
Bass Reflex™ speakers, Virtual Surround technology, 3 sound modes (standard, music, cinema), Remote control included
45 x 5.1 x 13.5 cm
The News, Movie, and Music modes will be able to enhance the audio depending on the picture/content you're enjoying at the time. Measuring 6.3 centimetres height-wise, the unit fits underneath most TVs. The mounting hardware that you need to attach the device onto walls is provided too.
There's no USB playback feature.
People with large TVs and sizable living rooms cannot go wrong with the Sharp HT-SB140(MT). The product's 150-watt output is loud enough to fill <50 square metres with robust stereo effects, deep lows, and detailed highs.
Bluetooth 4.2, HDMI, Optical in, AUX in
3 sound modes (News, Movie, Music), Remote control included
95 x 6.3 x 6.3 cm
The buttons on the side are easily accessible. The remote features more than enough separation between the keys, minimising misclicking and allowing you to control the model's settings without looking at the remote. The integrated sub lets you adjust the bass and treble outputs.
The sound modes are not that different from each other.
Bluetooth 4.2, Optical in, AUX in, USB
3 sound modes (Flat, Rock, Jazz), Remote control included
38.8 x 5.4 x 7.2 cm
3 years (registration required)
The Bluetooth module's range reaches 50 metres. It enables excellent transmission speeds and keeps the connection stable even with objects between the device and the sound source. The General mode will be making the bass prominent and the sound balanced.
The remote is not too ergonomic.
Though capping at 30 watts, the Bomaker Tapio beats most TVs' integrated speakers with ease. Plus, measuring only ~40 centimetres length-wise, you can toss the device inside most backpacks and, since its weight measures less than 1.5 kilogrammes, bring this thing with you to any gathering.
Bluetooth 5.0, Optical in, AUX in, USB
3 sound modes (General, Voice, Treble), Remote control included
41 x 6.6 x 9.5 cm
An Excellent First Impression
The Sony HT-SF150 soundbar raises the bar, both figuratively and semi-literally speaking. Though not much more expensive than most mid-range 'bars, this model's good enough to compete with the best in the business. From where we're standing, the tech here is what sells this product but we'll start somewhere else. You can debate until the cows come home but first impressions last, therefore appearance matters more than we sometimes care to admit.
With its slim and elegant profile, the model's making an excellent first impression, featuring soft edges and polished accents to make this device an excellent addition to most interiors, from modern to contemporary. Plus, the touch buttons are sleek and subtle, disappearing into the soundbar's housing to make the casing even more elegant and polished.
Sure, measuring 90 x 6.4 x 8.8 centimetres, with that "90" measurement referring to the model's length, this device is quite long, so you'll have to make sure there's enough space before the TV (though you can always mount this thing onto walls too). Also, the optical cable that comes with the package is pretty short, which means you'll have to take that into account too when placing the model but not too much since most people do not use optical cables these days anyway. What most people use nowadays are HDMI, Bluetooth, and USB and the device's not shipped without those.
Punchy Bass with Uncompromising Detail and Clarity
Like we've said before, what sells this product is the tech inside the unit. On that subject, we'll keep things brief and concise.
First, the model's fitted with an S-Master™ amplifier. The amp adds volume and richness to the sound yet makes sure that the audio remains crisp even at the speakers’ loudest. Second, you have the S-Force™ Virtual Surround Sound tech, making the sound more spacious and deep, emulating that cinema-style surround sound experience that immerses and envelopes you in the on-screen action. Third yet no less important than the first two are the model's Bass Reflex™ speakers, delivering punchy and robust bass without compromising detail and clarity.
Now, with the 4 on-board sound modes (Auto Sound, Cinema, Music, Standard), you can optimise the listening experience depending on the content you're consuming. To add more, you can also choose between Voice and Sound modes, depending on when you're enjoying the content and the current environment.
Bottom line, the Sony HT-SF150 does not sound that different from 5.1 home theatre systems yet will cost you much less than these systems.
Sitting Between the TV Stands
Though the preceding product is difficult to compete with, the Panasonic SC-HTB208EBK is brilliant in its own right. To start with, the device measures 45 x 5.1 x 13.5 centimetres, with these numbers representing length, height, and depth respectively. Sure, featuring 13.5 centimetres depth-wise, the model's pretty fat yet still thin enough to fit underneath most small TVs, especially thanks to the reduced length. Considering only name brands, this device is easily among the most compact units we've looked at.
The product looks pretty stylish yet discreet, stylish enough to compliment most décors yet discreet enough to make sure the unit does not stand out, disappearing into its surroundings when necessary. The buttons have been moved to the right side, making the model's housing smooth and polished, featuring clean lines and uninterrupted forms.
With the reduced size, you'd expect the people behind this device to somewhat sacrifice the sound output but, on the contrary, this is where the product's not trailing behind its more sizable and more expensive competition at all. The sacrifice here is that you cannot attach this compact soundbar onto walls, which's unfortunate but, let's be honest, most customers do not secure soundbars onto walls anyway.
Besides that, the Bluetooth 2.1 module is somewhat outdated yet good enough to let you connect the device to most smartphones and, using the Panasonic Music Streaming app (available on iOS and Android), control the 'bar from a distance without even using the supplied remote. The remote is pretty good too though, comfortable and ergonomic yet also compact.
Filling the Entire Listening Space
From the output perspective, the device caps at 80 watts, which's, theoretically speaking, not that great but the two 10- x 4-centimetre full-range speakers make the amp robust enough to produce dynamic and lifelike sound. The Virtual Surround tech here is nothing to sneeze at too, filling the entire listening space whilst the three sound modes allow you to choose the sound that suits the picture the most. Aside from these two, there are also the Bass Reflex™ speakers, giving you deep lows and creating an honest space perception. The stereo effects this device can produce will make movies come alive, with clear acoustics and bright tones.
Long story short, we have no qualms putting the Panasonic SC-HTB208EBK among the best soundbars under 100 quid thanks to its space-saving design and excellent sound output.
The Sharp HT-SB140(MT) looks sharp, we'll begin there. Yes, measuring 95 centimetres length-wise, this device might stretch the entire entertainment centre. At the same time, capping at only 6.3 centimetres where both height and depth are concerned, the model's slim and low profile can fit underneath most screens without obscuring the picture, making the device barely noticeable when looking at the TV. Tabletop placement aside, this elongated unit can be mounted onto walls too, not something that most people will be entertaining but it is always nice to have the option available to you nonetheless. What's also nice is that the mounting hardware comes with the package so that you can install the device without purchasing anything separately.
Going back to that "sharp" statement we've made before, we're primarily referring to the model's smooth and polished top, though the company's subtle yet noticeable iconic logo in the middle and discreet buttons above the logo also add to this sharp aesthetic.
Sure, even considering the 6.3-centimetre height and depth, some people might find the device's 95-centimetre length unnecessary. But the length also hides and enables its 150-watt amp, which's pretty huge since drawing and outputting this much energy, the unit is able to fill the largest spaces (as long as 50 square metres) with the loudest, most audible presence.
Three Modes too
Setting the model's length aside, its flaws conclude with the nonexistent USB playback feature, somewhat unfortunate but, between Bluetooth 4.2, HDMI, Optical in, and an AUX in, you'll have enough connectivity options available to you. The Optical input will receive the sound even from the cheapest, oldest TVs, whilst the HDMI bus will cover modern displays. The auxiliary (AUX) port will allow you to connect the soundbar to most PCs and laptops, whereas the BT module will let you use the device with smartphones and tablets too.
Where audio is concerned, the model's biggest strength is the peak 150-watt output that we've addressed before. Having said that, the device also adopts pre-set EQ settings, with News, Movie, and Music modes enhancing the audio and allowing you to adjust the sound to suit the content. You can use the handy remote that is supplied with the product to switch between these modes and manage the model's remaining settings.
To sum this up, as long as you don't mind the long design, the Sharp HT-SB140(MT) will be able to enrich your interactions with the TV, from watching the news to enjoying your favourite movies and listening to beloved tracks.
Majority that Beats the Majority
Majority is not the biggest name in the audio business, which is why the company's Bowfell model is affordable yet much more impressive from most perspectives than the budget soundbars we're all used to. The device sounds pretty great considering the price tag, we can give you that much. Before that though, the model's strength lies with the most space-saving, compact, low-profile design. Measuring only 38.8 x 5.4 x 7.2 centimetres, this device is tiny, even compared to most TV soundbars that market themselves as compact audio solutions. You can fit this small unit underneath most TVs, beneath most screens' frames, and between most displays' stands. Even the smallest entertainment centres will have no issues housing this device.
The controls have been moved to the side too, something we've seen many times before, except that with most soundbars, that makes the buttons not as easily accessible as you'd want them. But here, thanks to the model's miniature stature, you can always access these buttons with comfort and matching ease. Not that you'd have to do that often though because the remote that's shipped with the device is even more comfortable, not too large but with ample space between the keys to minimise misclicking and to let you manage the soundbar's settings without even looking at the buttons.
Considering the model's tiny form factor, its 50-watt peak output comes as no surprise. Needless to say, this is not the output that can fill the largest rooms with loud yet detailed audio. Nevertheless, the integrated sub produces mighty sound, with bass frequencies and mids receiving this noticeable bump and vocal masking from low-end sound sources reduced.
Speaking of which, the device comes fitted with Bluetooth 4.2, Optical in, AUX in, and a USB port, so you'll be able to connect most audio devices to the soundbar, from MP3 players and memory sticks to PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, different screens, and more. As always, the ports are hidden behind yet, thanks to the aforementioned small size, are not as inconvenient to access as they normally are.
Now, going back to the sound, you can not only configure the bass and treble outputs but also switch between three pre-set EQ settings ((Flat, Rock, and Jazz) to personalise the output depending on the occasion. Though, to be fair, the modes are not as different from each other as one might expect.
Even with that, Majority Bowfell is something that different customers can and will appreciate, from its compact footprint to the convenient and accessible controls and interfaces.
BOMAKER Tapio I
The Bomaker Tapio is quite different, from its sleek metallic body to certain construction elements contributing towards improving the sound output.
First things first, the device measures 41 x 6.6 x 9.5 centimetres, much more compact compared to most soundbars, especially from the length standpoint. Add to the model's size its 1.5-kilogramme weight and the device doubles as this great Bluetooth speaker that you can bring with you anywhere you go. In fact, this is how you ought to look at this product first and foremost because, with its 30-watt output, the model's not that great compared to standard soundbars yet much more robust and dynamic compared to average BT speakers.
Because the unit has been designed with mobility aspirations, there are certain things here that you do not normally find inside and outside ordinary soundbars. First, you have the mesh fabric covering the two passive radiators and full-range speakers, improving the soundbar's transience and rumble and increasing sound permeability, making sure that the sound coming from the speakers is the same sound that you're hearing metres from the device. Second, there's the model's sleek metallic housing that we've mentioned before, adding style points and making the device look smooth and polished, unlike most budget soundbars that look boring and uninspired.
We cannot get behind the remote though because there are too many buttons and these buttons do not feature enough separation, so people with large fingers will have to press them with nails to avoid misclicking.
The remote's pretty bad but you can toss this thing away anyway as the updated Bluetooth 5.0 module and the DSP tech inside that module enables brilliant transmission speeds, stable and secure connections, and smooth long-distance transmission with low consumption, so you can use the smartphone to manage the device's settings. Adding more, the DSP tech makes sure that the sound field positioning is accurate and that the vocals are clear.
Again, capping at 30 watts, the max output is nothing to write home about. The sound modes are pretty great though. The General mode makes the bass more prominent and the sound more balanced to accommodate movies and TV shows. The Voice mode adds clarity to, you guessed it, the speaker's voice, making talk shows and news more consumable. At last, the Treble mode adds clarity to the music, so you can guess where this mode will prove most useful.
To conclude, provided you need both a Bluetooth speaker and a soundbar, the Bomaker Tapio is the model you do not want to miss.
What Is a Soundbar Under £100?
Home theatre systems are great except that the good ones cost above 300 pounds. What do you do when you do not have that much money to spare but are also not satisfied with the TVs' integrated speakers? You look into soundbars, that's what. Soundbars under 100 pounds are not budget, terrible models that you get when you look into loudspeakers with the same budget. These devices are able to produce great stereo sound, more than good enough to improve the listening experience without breaking the bank.
They're compatible with most audio devices, loud enough to fill the largest living rooms, and compact enough to fit next to and, sometimes, even beneath the screen. Certain models are even compact enough to be used as portable Bluetooth speakers that you can take with you on camping trips and to different social gatherings. You can control them from considerable distances using the remotes that are supplied with these devices or any smartphone and the Bluetooth module that all these soundbars come fitted with. Likewise, you can connect these headphones for TV to them and enjoy movies without distracting people living with you.
What Features to Compare
This part is easy because there are various soundbars out there but soundbars under 100 pounds stick to the 2.0 type more often than not, meaning that these 'bars come equipped with two integrated speakers, producing stereo sound. When you go above 100 pounds, you can find models with extra speakers but we're not reviewing and, therefore, discussing them here. When you start looking into soundbars below 40 pounds, you start running into models that are not even packing two speakers and we would not recommend penny-pinching here because one speaker is not enough to reproduce a decent audio experience.
Total Power Output
Between two speakers, these soundbars can measure anywhere from 30 to 150 watts combined. Needless to say, the models skewing towards the right side of this spectrum will be able to produce louder audio but will also be drawing more power, whilst the ones that do not even go above 50 watts will not be filling up sizable rooms but will also be making the energy bills less scary to look at.
The more the merrier, except that you do not need that many ports these days. More often than not, Bluetooth, HDMI, and USB are enough, but you can also add an auxiliary (AUX) port and an Optical input to connect headphones and old screens that do not support an HDMI connection. Thanks to the Bluetooth module, you're able to connect smartphones and tablets to the soundbar, whilst the USB port will let you use flash drives and external hard drives as audio and video sources.
Most people place soundbars next/underneath the TV, so make sure that the model's size fits the space where you want to put the device. You can also mount most soundbars onto walls, even though that's something most users avoid because that's more hassle. That being said, the products we've reviewed here come with the mounting hardware, so we're not talking about serious hassle here.
The last spot goes to the most important aspect because all audio devices are only as good as the sound they're able to produce. This is where you need to be considering and paying attention to various factors, from the speakers' drivers to the model's construction increasing or decreasing sound permeability. You can have different sound modes and Surround Sound systems to make the experience more immersive and more tailored towards the content you're enjoying. From the model's bass output to the integrated amp, the intangibles here that can make or break the model's sound output are practically limitless.
Soundbars vs Loudspeakers
The integrated speakers that most TVs come adopting range from terrible to, at best, passable. When you have already spent a considerable sum to make the video experience as engaging, immersive, and enveloping as possible, you want to make sure that the audio part does not trail behind the visuals. So, when the subject arises, you have two options: soundbars and loudspeakers. Both devices/systems have advantages and disadvantages to them, which is what we've decided to discuss here.
More affordable. Good soundbars start at less than 100 pounds. Raise the limit to ~150 and you are starting to look into premium models. With speakers, you need two separate units and an AV receiver, so the entire system will cost you at least 300 pounds, usually more.
Less clutter. Soundbars are more compact than speaker systems, usually packing everything into one unit that measures somewhere between 35 and 100 centimetres length-wise and around 10 centimetres both height- and depth-wise. Sure, those models that reach ~100 centimetres are not necessarily that compact but even these units are producing less clutter because you're still working with one device, meaning fewer wires and a cleaner entertainment centre.
No gimmicks. 5.1 sound systems are great, except when they're not. Thing is, most TV shows are recorded in stereo, so those multi-speaker home cinema setups that people invest hundreds and hundreds of pounds into are reproducing pretty much the same sound that ~50-quid soundbars give you. When you're watching Bargain Hunt during lunchtime and the Great British Bake Off come evening, soundbars are more than enough.
Lacking high-quality surround sound. Yes, there are soundbars that come housing different Surround Sound systems and 3D modes but these do not add to the listening experience as much as 5.1 systems.
Emulating the cinema-style surround sound experience. Because you can position different speakers behind, before you, and to the sides, you can literally surround yourself with different sound output devices, making the experience more immersive and lifelike and quite comparable to what you're experiencing at cinema theatres. Plus, because most movies these days come in a Blu-ray format, meaning that they have been recorded for multi-channel audio systems to begin with, more speakers allow you to experience the movie's audio the exact same way the director wanted you to.
More flexibility. Yes, you can start with two speakers only, which's not enough to reproduce accurate and authentic surround sound. The upside is that you can build from there and turn the system into anything you want, from the compact yet underwhelming 2.1 to expansive 9.1, taking up the entire living room yet making sure that the audio never trails behind the picture.
Less newbie-friendly. In addition to more clutter and higher price tags that we have mentioned before, these systems are far less accessible to beginners than soundbars. More often than not, you have to set everything up, whilst soundbars can be plugged using different interfaces and put to good use right away.