It turns out that diving into hours of gameplay is akin to taking a mental vacation, according to a researcher who studies the link between video games and psychology. For the most restful "vacation" possible, you'll want to check out the best soundbars for gaming, which, in many cases, are the best soundbars, period. That said, there are a few features that improve a soundbar's aptness for gaming, including size, connectivity, and sound quality.
The first thing you'll want to do is measure your desk, media stand, or both, if you intend to use your soundbar for both console and PC gaming. Although they generally boast a narrow profile, soundbars do come in different sizes, and as a general rule of thumb, a soundbar should be roughly the same size as your screen, if not a few inches smaller. For gaming, however, you'll also need room for your console, keyboard, mouse, etc. — so opt for sleeker, more space-savvy options when necessary.
Next, check the ports on your TV or gaming computer; this step is necessary to ensure that you can actually hook up your soundbar of choice. HDMI, optical, USB, and aux are all wire types you might encounter. On the other hand, if you're looking for a wireless option, make sure that both the soundbar and your device are Bluetooth-enabled.
Finally, there's the sound quality. For the most part, a soundbar speaker is similar to the best gaming headsets in that the number of drivers or channels will largely impact the quality. And just for a little decoding help when shopping: Channels are usually listed as '2.0' or '5.1' and so on. The number before the decimal indicates the number of channels, while the number after the decimal indicates whether or not there's a subwoofer. So a 2.0 soundbar will have two channels and no subwoofer, while a 5.1 soundbar will have five channels, plus a subwoofer. The latter, of course, will offer a more powerful sound experience.
Based on all that, check out the six best soundbars for gaming below.
1. The overall best gaming soundbar for TVs
For next-level play, the Samsung 2.1 gaming soundbar has smart sound technology and a "game mode" — a special setting that detects when you're gaming and optimizes sound effects. As a result, it's a great option for console players who want to immerse themselves in the action — especially since it comes with a powerful bass subwoofer, too. And while it's specifically designed for seamless use with Samsung TVs, it'll work with a wide selection of other TVs, as well. Thanks to the wireless Bluetooth connectivity, you can minimize wire clutter, stream music from your devices, and expand your sound system down the line. Keep in mind that this speaker has only two channels, but for a little more money, you can opt instead for a four-channel soundbar or a six-channel version. For the price, this is a buy that's hard to beat.
- Size: 2.77 x 35.72 x 2.1 inches
- Connections: Bluetooth and optical
- Sound quality: Dolby 2.1
One reviewer wrote: "Sound quality on this is impressive for just 2.1 Surround. You can also control the sub-woofer separately to get more/less bass as desired. From sports to movies to gaming the sound is really impressive."
2. The best budget soundbar
Looking to save some serious money? Despite its low price tag, the TaoTronics gaming speaker has more than a thousand five-star ratings on Amazon, making it a great, budget-conscious pick. Although there's no subwoofer or fancy technology, the speaker features dual 7-watt drivers, and reviewers report being pleased with the sound while gaming. There's also an audio port for your headset, a vibrant RGB light that you can customize with color modes and pattern settings, and a timer — perfect if you're trying to track spent gaming. You can also use it to play music from your tablet and phone.
- Size: 16.5 x 3 x 3 inches
- Connections: Bluetooth and 3.5mm aux
- Sound quality: dual channels
One reviewer wrote: "This speaker has great output sound for the price-point that it was listed at. I was impressed for a 7W speaker. The speakers control the room that it is in and is great for gaming on a PC. The bass is good on the device. Also, the LED backlight is a nice aesthetic feature."
3. The most versatile pick
The Bose Solo 5 has more audio connection options than most models, and it's also bold enough for the biggest TVs, but compact enough for a desktop or a small media console. And thanks to the unique dialogue mode — which makes every word stand out — it's an awesome way to upgrade movie nights. The Bluetooth connectivity allows you to stream your music from any device, and the flexible placement means you can put it on a shelf or mount it on the wall. Last but not least, there's the universal remote, so you can control your TV, gaming system, volume, bass, and Bluetooth connectivity. For a little more money, you can get a mounting kit and optical cable for a totally streamlined setup. In short, if you want a single soundbar for gaming, watching movies, and listening to music, this is the way to go.
- Size: 21.5 x 2.8 x 3.4 inches
- Connections: Bluetooth, optical, HDMI, 3.5mm aux
- Sound quality: Dolby 5.1
One reviewer wrote: "I was looking to purchase a sound system that wouldn't require running wires, or having units placed all around the room to improve the sound of my t.v. watching and video games. This bar was a piece of cake to hook up to my t.v. using the optic cable and has brought a real depth of sound to all our entertainment uses."
4. The sleekest option (& the best when you're short on space)
If you're short on space, the Sound BlasterX Katana is about as sleek as they come. Even though it packs five powerful drivers for extremely impressive acoustics, it measures roughly 23 inches long and 2.4 inches tall. As a result, it effortlessly fits underneath your monitor — or it can sit on top of smaller media consoles without overwhelming the space. In addition to its size, it also offers 49 programmable LED lights, a brushed aluminum finish, an intuitive remote control, and a wide selection of connectivity options. Finally, it even comes with a subwoofer for great, distortion-free bass.
- Size: 23.6 x 3.1 x 2.4 inches
- Connections: Bluetooth, optical, 3.5mm aux, USB
- Sound quality: Dolby 5.1
One reviewer wrote: "Best sounding speaker I've owned yet. [...] It fits perfectly in my compact corner desk space, which is why I opted for a soundbar to begin with. It's also extremely easy to unhook and move around so I have brought it into the living room for house parties. Finally, the RGB lighting is beautiful if you're into that sort of thing."
5. Worth The Splurge
Last but not least, there's the Sonos Playbar. Sonos is known for being one of the best speaker systems on the planet, and this soundbar is no exception. It's worth the splurge because it's mountable, connects over Wi-Fi for Sonos phone-app access, and uses a self-adjusting system that was tuned by Oscar-winning sound engineers. Speech enhancement makes movie-watching even better and "night mode" balances sound at low volumes, so you can hear dialogue without keeping other people in the house awake. In terms of gaming, it has nine drivers for full, gorgeous sound that'll put you at the center of the action.
- Size: 35.50 x 5.60 x 3.40 inches
- Connections: optical
- Sound quality: 9 drivers
One reviewer wrote: "Easy install, elegant looks, [and] high fidelity. We have a small 10'x12' game room for our Xbox 360 and Wii U. Each console is hooked up to a LG 47" LED TV. The video quality is fantastic but the sound left a lot to be desired. [...] My new Game Room/Home Theater system was complete. Installation took less than an hour from start to finish. No big bulky receiver, no running wires under the carpet or baseboards, and the wife approves!"