The combination of soundbar and PC for gaming is still unusual. The soundbars are usually used when the TV sound needs an upgrade. However, compact soundbars offer a lot of comforts and the best sound for gaming. We explain when soundbars can be useful for desktop computers or notebooks and which aspects you should consider when making a decision.
A Soundbar for the PC – What is the Benefit for Gaming?
A soundbar for PC gaming is no different from a classic soundbar in terms of how it works. It is an elongated and very slimly constructed device, through which you can create an impressive sound – both when playing movies or music, and when playing video games. Several speakers are integrated into the case, which provides a balanced sound experience in combination. Usually, an additional subwoofer for the basses is on board in addition to speakers for the bright tones. Many movie and music fans choose a soundbar as an alternative to a surround system with several speakers, since it is much more space-saving and usually also cheaper to buy.
However, the disadvantage of a soundbar is that the sound only comes from the front, whereas you can enjoy it from all sides with a surround system. However, a room is not always big enough to distribute various speakers – or you simply don’t want to worry about the exact alignment of the speakers and the subwoofer. In this case, the soundbar is a good choice, since you only have to buy one device and connect it to your computer. The sound of a soundbar can still be heard and provides the buyer with a much better acoustic experience than the often much too weak standard speakers. Thus, they create an immersive gaming experience.
Here are the most important advantages that the best gaming soundbars offer:
- Immersive Audio: The high-end models in particular offer you sensational sound thanks to novel technologies like Dolby Atmos and DTS. Due to the elongated design, they often have room for better drivers, which improves the sound.
- Flexible Use: Whether for movies, music, or just gaming, soundbars are a great choice for any purpose. Plus, they can be connected to pretty much any device, giving you even more flexibility.
- More Compact Setups: Even with the large 5.1 soundbars, you usually save quite a bit of space compared to normal home theater sets.
What is the Best Soundbar for Gamers?
Gamer Soundbar with Powerful Subwoofer
The Razer Leviathan supports optical audio, AUX, and Bluetooth signals and is ready to take on whatever your home theater or desktop has to offer. As you would expect from Razer, you get a black finish with a metal grille that hides two 2.5-inch midrange drivers and two 0.75-inch tweeters. This combination of midrange and tweeter delivers a continuous output of 15 watts, which is amplified by an external subwoofer with another 30 watts.
In addition to the standard controls, there is a Bluetooth button that syncs the Leviathan with your mobile device. There is also a button for the preset equalizer, which is used to switch between gaming, music and movie modes. The connections are limited to the optical audio input and AUX port, but you will find two brackets for wall mounting on the back.
The subwoofer is one of the biggest assets of the Leviathan. The small speaker puts out a surprising amount of pressure with its 5.25-inch driver and produces a rich, bass-heavy sound that doesn’t overdrive at the highest volume. Aside from a few tweaks in the treble, the overall quality of the Leviathan’s sound is more than good for the price. Regardless of how you connect the soundbar, the Dolby Pro Logic II codec converts any signal (analog, optical, or Bluetooth) into simulated 5.1 surround sound.
Great Soundbar with Many Connections
Without a doubt, the Samsung HW-Q80R is the best 5.1 soundbar currently available. It is very similar to the much more expensive Samsung HW-Q90R, but does not have satellite speakers. Still, it offers the same great design with a sturdy build and plenty of connectivity options at a lower price. Dolby Atmos is also supported, with side and top speakers on the soundbar, but no rear speakers like the Q90R.
This soundbar has the same balanced sound profile as the other Samsung models. It can run very loud without compressing or distorting and even has a built-in equalizer to adjust the sound to your preferences. Of course, bass lovers won’t be left out: you’ll love the deep, rumbling bass of the wireless subwoofer. And there’s no compromise on the clarity and presence of mids or highs here, either.
The side speakers give you a fairly wide soundstage, but the lack of discrete rear speakers results in a slightly less intense experience than what the Q90R offers. Overall, this model is a good choice if you’re looking for a great 5.1 soundbar setup with a subwoofer and don’t want to compromise much on sound quality.
The Samsung HW-Q90R is a great soundbar that is versatile for a variety of applications and is one of the best performing models. In addition to the very high-quality sound, there is a wide and very focused soundstage, making it work very well with pretty much all types of content. Whether it’s gaming, music, movies, podcasts, or anything else, the Q90R loves it all.
Plus, this 7.1.4 setup offers a full listening experience for supported content thanks to Dolby Atmos. Additionally, there are plenty of connectivity options, both wired and wireless – unfortunately, a 3.5mm or USB port is missing.
Of course, for this price, you also get premium build quality. So if you’re looking for a premium soundbar that has excellent performance and can be turned up regardless of the content you’re listening to, the Q90R is an excellent choice.
Bose Solo 5
Best Compact Soundbar Without Subwoofer
Looking for an alternative to the Razer Leviathan, but don’t have room for an external subwoofer? Then the Bose Solo 5 might be for you – an ultra-compact soundbar with remote control, simple plug-and-play design and adequate sound for its size.
Unfortunately, the Bose Solo 5 also lacks modern inputs like HDMI and doesn’t offer any features to improve the listening experience (via EQ or a room correction function). On the other hand, it supports Bluetooth and has an AUX port, so setting up your devices with this soundbar is easy.
Sound-wise, the performance is only convincing in the mids and highs. The Bose Solo 5 is a decent sounding soundbar when it comes to stereo content, but it’s not suited for a good surround sound experience. Still, it has pretty good and neutral audio reproduction, but this soundbar lacks some bass, which can be partially explained by the fact that it lacks a subwoofer.
Anyway, the Bose Solo 5 offers you a good alternative to the Razer Leviathan (same price range) if you are short on space and looking for a compact solution. However, if you want good bass, you should rather choose the Leviathan.
Best Smart Soundbar
The Sonos Beam is not only small and compact, but also smart and controllable by voice. The Sonos Beam is also one of the best small soundbars on the market.
It’s more versatile than most other small soundbars because you can expand your setup with a separate wireless subwoofer or satellite speakers. It also has a myriad of sound enhancement features (including room correction) and overall feels like a premium product.
Sonos has a great room correction feature that lets you adjust the soundbar’s audio depending on the room (unfortunately, it’s only available for iOS for now). Although the soundbar itself lacks a bit of bass, it has great audio quality overall and shines thanks to a balanced sound profile that’s great for a variety of content.
Unfortunately, setting up the Sonos Beam can be a bit of a hassle. You’ll need to download the Sonos app to your smartphone for it to work, but it doesn’t support Bluetooth. Therefore, you’ll either have to connect it to your Wi-Fi network or establish a wired Internet connection.
Also a bit annoying is the single HDMI ARC port. So if your TV only supports optical audio, you’ll have to use the included adapter. However, if the limited connection options aren’t a problem for you, you’re getting a very high-quality, expandable, and great-sounding soundbar for your gaming PC.
Yamaha Audio YAS-209BL
Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer
For some, this price range is even considered “entry-level” for soundbars. In any case, there is a very good audio reproduction, some settings to improve the overall performance and numerous connection options.
Regardless of whether you want to connect the soundbar to your gaming TV or stream content wirelessly via a compatible device: Overall, the YAS-209 offers strong performance for its price and as well as excellent value.
This soundbar has a very balanced frequency response that’s not only great for movies and gaming, but also for music. The bass isn’t quite as deep as some higher priced soundbars, but still provides a solid thump. As with most soundbars in this price range, Dolby Atmos is not supported, but you can enjoy Dolby Digital or DTS content via an HDMI or optical connection.
While this soundbar can get pretty loud, it tends to compress and distort at higher volumes, especially in the bass range. However, this shouldn’t be a problem for most unless you’re always cranking it up full blast during gaming. The soundbar also has a quality build, but is covered in a mesh-like fabric that collects a lot of dust and is sensitive.
The Sony HT-S200F is a 2.1 soundbar with an integrated subwoofer and amplifier. The part is not only stylish, classy and solidly manufactured, but also offers a decent sound for little money.
The 80W amplifier gives the S200F some juice and also a somewhat weaker bass. The subwoofer is located underneath the soundbar, while the two speakers responsible for the highs and mids are behind the front grille. Although the sound is definitely passable, this soundbar is obviously not a replacement for a home theater system.
However, for smaller TVs, the HT-S200F is perfect for enhancing the sound. If you want to use this thing on your gaming PC, you can use the included optical cable or Bluetooth for that.
As long as you stay realistic about the sound quality, you should be fine. Just keep in mind that these are small speakers and an integrated subwoofer that won’t blow you away. But the virtual sound technology Sony uses here works well and audibly improves the soundstage compared to your standard monitor sound.
For its size, the Sony HT-S200F sounds better than you might suspect. So if you only have a gaming monitor and want better sound in a compact space, check them out.
Important Criteria when Looking for the Best Soundbar for PC Gaming
Below, we’ve compiled some important questions regarding the best soundbars that you should ask yourself before buying:
- What’s it going to be: PC or console setup?
- What are the connectivity options? What ports does my desired model have and what are my end devices?
- What sound quality do you want? Can you compromise, or do you really want a strong bass?
- Design & Size: Will the soundbar fit into your setup?
- Price: How much do you want to spend?
Find enclosed a list of a few important things to think about when buying a new soundbar for PC gaming.
Number of Speakers
Depending on the model, a PC soundbar for gaming has different numbers of speakers. Less expensive 2.1 models are equipped with two stereo speakers and a subwoofer. This is usually sufficient for playing music in the office. However, if you like to play video games and want surround sound, you’ll get your money’s worth with a 5.1 model, which has 5 speakers in addition to a subwoofer. Versions with even more speakers, on the other hand, are more suitable for providing sound in larger rooms and create an even more immersive gaming experience.
It is highly recommended to buy a PC soundbar that is Bluetooth compatible. This way, transferring songs that are on a mobile device is particularly easy. However, it’s also worth taking a closer look at the integrated Bluetooth version: From Bluetooth 4.2 onwards, you can look forward to a flawless sound, since additional transmission standards are installed here to increase the sound quality.
Many soundbars for the PC also come with an integrated USB port. Via this, you can plug in a USB stick or an external hard drive to play the music files stored on it. With most devices, this also works when the PC is not turned on. So if you feel like playing music in the meantime, a USB input proves to be very practical.
Some soundbars for the PC are also equipped with a classic volume control. This is especially handy for PC soundbars, since you don’t always have to adjust the volume manually via the computer’s settings – whereas with classic soundbars for living rooms, you’d reach for the remote control anyway.
Last but not least, the design of a PC soundbar plays an important role. Since you always have the good piece in view while gaming on the PC, it should of course be visually and color coordinated with the same. Fortunately, the retail market offers a wide variety of models, among which there is certainly a suitable one.
The elongated devices not only look pretty on the desk, but also deliver excellent performance when watching movies, playing video games and listening to music. Moreover, they are cheaper to purchase compared to a conventional surround system and also allow for a much less complicated connection.
FAQs on Soundbar for PC Gaming
Are Soundbars as Good as Surround Sound?
The short answer is no, but as with everything else in life, there are exceptions. A true 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system will enhance your sound experience primarily through the physical placement of the speakers in the room. You can specifically position two speakers behind you and create a true surround feeling. With most standalone soundbars, there’s only one place the sound comes from, and that’s directly from the front.
Of course, you can always add a soundbar to your surround sound setup. However, unless you’re comparing a soundbar directly to a full surround sound system, “real” surround sound is probably more impressive. That said, soundbars use a lot of tricks to greatly enhance your sound experience. Often, smaller speakers point in different directions to scatter sound around the room, simulating sounds from multiple directions.
Do I Need a Subwoofer?
It depends. If you hook up one of the best soundbars, audio playback will work without an additional subwoofer. The problem is that most soundbars are following the trend of TVs and getting thinner. Because of the way sound works, this means that the smaller physical space leads to weaker bass response.
So if you want better explosions while gaming or bass from your favorite music, a subwoofer is worth considering.
What are Dolby Atmos and DTS:X?
More and more of the best soundbars for PC gaming are using Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. These are competing surround sound technologies that simulate the immersive 3D audio you get at the movies. The big difference between Atmos and conventional surround sound is that you can hear sounds not only from side to side, but also from top to bottom. This is great for movies, but also for gaming.
The biggest difference between these two technologies will be the placement of your speakers. Atmos benefits from additional speakers added above you in a surround sound setup.
Of course, not all of you will be adding additional speakers. For this reason, some soundbars use upward-facing drivers to bounce sound off the ceiling to replicate this effect.
On the other hand, DTS: X doesn’t require your speakers to be in any particular configuration. Instead, you’ll probably need a compatible receiver or, in our case, soundbar to decide which channel to output a particular sound through.
Just see if your desired model already supports either of these.
What are Dolby Digital and DTS?
Dolby Digital and DTS have to do with how audio is digitally packaged and delivered. They are audio codecs that are specifically designed for and enhance surround sound.
What are Smart Soundbars?
Many new soundbars are compatible with voice assistant technologies like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. In most cases, however, you’ll need to add your own “smart” speaker to take advantage of this feature. Models like the Sonos Beam eliminate the middle man with built-in microphones and Alexa support, so you can use your voice to control the soundbar and use most of the features of an Alexa-based smart speaker like the Echo.
What Does the Channel Configuration Mean?
You will always see the channel specification on soundbars in the form of 2.0, 2.1, 5.1.2, etc. The channel configuration of the soundbar indicates how many discrete audio channels the soundbar has. The first number refers to the number of “normal” channels at “ear level”. The second number indicates the number of subwoofer channels. The third number indicates the number of height channels (e.g. Atmos).
As a rule of thumb, the higher the number of channels, the more immersive the gaming sound.
What’s the Difference Between a Soundbar and a Soundbase?
If you search for soundbars, you’ll see some models referred to as “soundbases”. The two models are similar – and may even have identical technological features – but they are not the same thing. Unlike a soundbar, a soundbase is specifically designed to be placed on top of a cabinet and support the weight of a TV. Because of their form factor, they cannot be mounted on a wall.
A soundbase has the same basic function as a soundbar, but is not a narrow bar that you place above or below your TV/PC. Because of the larger enclosure, a soundbase can generally produce better bass without the need for a separate subwoofer. However, this can also limit the usability of the unit: You can’t mount it on the wall, and TVs with legs far apart can’t be placed on it.
Do I Need an A/V Receiver for my Soundbar?
There are two types of soundbars: Active and Passive. An active soundbar is more or less self-contained. It has its own amplifier, digital signal processing, and volume control in the same cabinet as the speakers. Some active soundbars can even accommodate multiple HDMI sources. If you choose a model with HDMI support make sure it also supports audio return channel (ARC).
A passive soundbar, like a conventional speaker, relies on the amplifier of an A/V receiver. You connect the audio output of the gaming PC to the inputs of the A/V receiver and the passive soundbar to the speaker terminals of the A/V receiver. The A/V receiver amplifies the signal and sends it to the speaker.