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The Best Soundbars for Your TV and Home Theater in 2021

Best Soundbars For Your Tv - And Home Theater?: Close Up Of A Soundbar Speaker

Updated:

The best soundbars for your TV and home theater system can take your listening experience to another level.

You can get build an excellent sound system in your living room with a humble little soundbar.

But, the big problem is there are so many to choose from.

Big ones, small ones. Cheap ones, expensive ones. Simple ones and more complicated models.

So, where do you start?

Well, to help you on your way, I will list a few of my favorites. All wrapped up in neat little categories to make your choice a bit easier.

How’s that for service?

You should remember that the perfect soundbar doesn’t exist. But the right one for your budget does.

And, take your time to consider the right features that you need for your room.

You don’t necessarily need to buy the most expensive one.

It might be that a cheaper model has all the features and performance that you need.

First, let’s take a quick look at the things you should consider before buying a soundbar.

Best Soundbars Comparison Table

Image Model Channels Audio & Video Inputs Audio & Video Outputs
Sonos Beam Soundbar
Sonos Beam 3.0 1x HDMI (ARC) None Check Price
Samsung Hw-Q950T Soundbar System
Samsung HW-Q950T 9.1.4 2x HDMI, 1x Optical 1x HDMI (eARC) Check Price
Taotronics Stereo Bluetooth Soundbar
TaoTronics TT-SK023 2.0 1x Optical, 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack None Check Price
Polk Audio S2 Soundbar
Polk Signa S2 2.1 1x HDMI (ARC), 1x Optical, 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack None Check Price
Yamaha Musiccast Bar 400 Soundbar
Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 2.1 1x HDMI, 1x Optical, 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack 1x HDMI (ARC) Check Price
Sonos Arc Soundbar
Sonos Arc 5.0.2 1x HDMI (eARC) (optical available via an adapter) None Check Price
Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 Soundbar System
Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 3x HDMI, 1x Optical, 1x Coaxial, 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack, 1x USB 1x HDMI (ARC) Check Price
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
Sennheiser Ambeo 5.1.4 3x HDMI, 1x Optical, 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack, 1x Mic Input (for calibration) 1x HDMI (eARC), 1x Subwoofer Pre-Out Check Price

How to Pick the Ideal Soundbar For You

The good news is that soundbars have never been so popular. Therefore, you have many to choose from.

The bad news is that soundbars have never been so popular. Therefore, you have many to choose from…

So, where do you start?

Here is a quick checklist of the issues you should think about:

  1. Price: the quickest way to simplify your choice is to set yourself a budget – and stick to it. There are simple budget stereo soundbars – but the best soundbars can compete with high-end home theater systems. The amount you are willing to spend will quickly narrow your choices.
  2. Number of Speakers: stereo only? 2.1 with a subwoofer? 3.1 with a center speaker? Dolby Atmos or dedicated surround sound speakers? There are many different types to choose from.
  3. Connections: how does the soundbar connect to your TV – and will you be able to hear all the audio formats you need? Also, do you want to connect different external devices too?
  4. Other features: do you want to connect via Bluetooth? Or Wi-Fi and Ethernet for internet access? Do you want to be able to access streaming services such as Spotify, Amazon Music, etc.? All these little extras can make or break your choice.

If you want some more detail on all these issues, check out my soundbar buying guide: How to Choose a Soundbar.

What Is the Best Soundbar to Buy?

Now that we have a better understanding of what to look out for – we need to find the perfect model.

I have suggested several categories and picked my favorite for each one.

This should make it easier for you to find the right model for you quickly. And to understand better the choices that you have.

In the price categories, I have gone by the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).

You should be aware that it is common for retailers to discount models below this price, especially during holiday sales and if a newer model is available.

Therefore, don’t be afraid to check out the best TV soundbars in a higher price bracket. You may find them available at a lower price than suggested.

Which is always good!

Top Compact Soundbar

One of the main reasons why many people are attracted to soundbars is that they are discrete. You get to improve your living room’s sound but don’t need to fill your living area with ugly boxes.

I think speakers look great, but I’m strange like that.

So, if you want a discrete speaker, then it makes sense that you would be interested in a small and compact soundbar. Some soundbars are getting bigger and bigger these days.

If that’s what you want, then the Sonos Beam soundbar might just fit the bill.

The Beam is the new little brother (sister?) of the larger Playbar and Arc. It is more compact but still offers excellent performance by which Sonos is known.

Apart from the size, one of the main advantages is the introduction of an HDMI ARC connection. I have discussed the benefits of this connection type on this page already, so it could be something that makes a difference for you.

This soundbar has voice control from all the major players – Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri – via Apple AirPlay 2.

Like other Sonos products, the core integration is Ethernet or Wi-Fi to connect to your local network. Of course, this allows you to access several online streaming services, plus you can create a network of other Sonos speakers throughout your home.

Finally, don’t forget that you can add a Sonos Sub and surround speakers to create a 5.1 system – with the Beam at its heart.

One thing to consider before you buy, Sonos speakers don’t support DTS audio. This isn’t a problem for most people, but it can be a headache for some.

Sonos Beam

Top Compact Soundbar: Sonos Beam
Sonos Beam Soundbar
Image Credit: Sonos
Sonos Beam Features
Channels 3.0
Subwoofer None – compatible with the Sonos Sub. Or connect any sub via the Sonos Connect or Sonos Amp
Surround Speakers None – compatible with the Sonos One, Play:1, Play:3, Play:5, One SL and Amp
Network / Wireless 1x Ethernet, Wi-Fi
Audio / Video Inputs 1x HDMI ARC
Audio / Video Outputs None
UHD / HDR Support N/A
Voice Control Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple AirPlay 2
Dimensions (W x H x D) 25.625 x 2.70 x 3.94 in (651 x 68.5 x 100 mm)
Weight (lbs/kg) 6.2/2.8

Alternative Choice

Bose Smart Soundbar 300

Bose Smart Soundbar 300

With four full-range drivers and a central tweeter, this small soundbar will fit discretely below any TV. It offers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 support and has an HDMI ARC and optical input.


Best 5.1 Soundbar

The best soundbars offer a fantastic array of different speaker configurations. Many have built-in surround sound and up-firing speakers, and these can work very well.

However, I will always recommend installing dedicated rear speakers in your room for the best surround sound atmosphere. This will always give the best immersive experience.

So, for the best 5.1 soundbars, I have only considered those models with dedicated rear surround speakers.

While there are a few good options, my choice is the Samsung HW-Q950T.

This impressive soundbar is an update on the popular Q90R soundbar and offers a 9.1.4 speaker layout.

In the bar itself, there are three front-firing speakers for the left, right and center channels.

This soundbar also has two speakers at each end for side and width effects – and two up-firing speakers to reproduce front height sounds.

The dual wireless rear speakers have two drivers each – one for direct surround sound and the other to bounce height effects from your ceiling.

There is support for DTS:X and Dolby Atmos soundtracks – and the inclusion of an eARC connection allows for sending high-resolution sound from your TV.

If you want the simplicity of a soundbar but a home theater system’s performance, this is a great choice.

It is about as close as you will get to an immersive surround sound movie experience without buying an AV receiver and a surround sound speaker package.

Samsung HW-Q950T

Best 5.1 Soundbar: Samsung Hw-Q950T
Samsung HW-Q950T Soundbar
Image Credit: Samsung
Samsung HW-Q950T Features
Channels 9.1.4
Subwoofer 1x 8-inch Wireless
Surround Speakers 2x 2-Way Wireless Rear Surround Speakers
Network / Wireless Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Audio / Video Inputs 2x HDMI, 1x Optical
Audio / Video Outputs 1x HDMI (eARC)
UHD / HDR Support 4K/60p, 4:4:4, HDCP2.2 / HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision<
Voice Control Amazon Alexa
Soundbar Dimensions (W x H x D) 48 x 2.7 x 5.4 in (121.9 x 6.8 x 13.7 cm)
Soundbar Weight (lbs/kg) 15.7/7.12
Surround Speaker Dimensions (W x H x D) 4.7 x 8.3 x 5.6 in (11.9 x 21.1 x 14.2 cm)
Surround Speaker Weight (lbs/kg) 4.6/2.08
Subwoofer Dimensions (W x H x D) 8.3 x 15.9 x 15.9 in (21 x 40.3 x 40.3 cm)
Subwoofer Weight (lbs/kg) 21.6/9.79

Alternative Choice

VIZIO Elevate Sound Bar

Vizio Elevate Sound Bar

A fully-featured soundbar that supports a 5.1.4 speaker layout. This system supports both DTS:X and Dolby Atmos sound and comes with four upfiring speakers for that 3D experience in your room.

It has three HDMI ports for connecting your external devices plus it also supports Bluetooth and Chromecast streaming.


Best Budget Soundbar Under $100

If you are on a tight budget, then a soundbar in this price range is an excellent place to start.

You can’t go wrong at this price and will still get a noticeable improvement in your TV sound. Which, after all, is the point.

My choice for the best soundbar under $100 is the TaoTronics TT-SK023 Bluetooth Stereo Soundbar, available from Amazon.

This is a simple stereo-only model – so no fancy extra speakers and subwoofers. But, for many people, this is all that is required.

You can connect to this soundbar via Bluetooth, a stereo RCA line out, or an optical audio connection.

It also comes with a wall-mount kit if you want to place it on the wall – and a remote control for making adjustments from the comfort of your chair.

TaoTronics TT-SK023 Stereo Soundbar

Best Soundbar Under $100: Taotronics Tt-Sk023 Bluetooth Stereo Soundbar
TaoTronics TT-SK023 Bluetooth Stereo Soundbar
Image Credit: TaoTronics
TaoTronics TT-SK023 Features
Channels 2.0
Subwoofer None
Surround Speakers None
Network / Wireless Bluetooth
Audio / Video Inputs 1x Optical, 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack
Audio / Video Outputs None
UHD / HDR Support N/A
Voice Control None
Dimensions (W x H x D) 31.5 x 2.36 x 2.36 in (80 x 6 x 6 cm)
Weight (lbs/kg) 3.9/1.76

Alternative Choice

Vizio SB2020n-G6

Vizio Sb2020N-G6 Soundbar

Another excellent small soundbar that won’t break the bank. Although not for a big living room, you can quickly improve your TV sound with this stereo soundbar that connects via optical or a 3.5mm analog connection.


Top Soundbar Under $200

If you can stretch to the next price point, you start to get a bigger sound experience.

At this price point, you may get a subwoofer as part of the package. This will add extra weight to the overall sound that you just won’t get from TV speakers.

My choice for the best soundbar under $200 is the Polk Signa S2 2.1-Ch Ultra-Slim Sound Bar.

Polk is well-known for its home theater and hi-fi speakers, so you know you are buying from a brand that knows how to make good speakers.

This model is a slim design that measures just over 2-inches in height. Depending on your setup, this might be a useful point.

A soundbar mustn’t block your screen at all. So, if you are tight on space, this might be ideal.

It’s a compact soundbar but includes five full-range drivers to deliver a substantial sound experience.

And it comes with a subwoofer to help the low-end bass.

But that’s not all – this is the first soundbar with a subwoofer to make the list.

So, you get a compact wireless subwoofer that won’t take up too much space – but will help to beef up the sound.

Polk Signa S2 2.1-Ch Ultra-Slim Soundbar

Top Soundbar Under $200: Polk Signa S2 2.1-Ch Ultra-Slim Soundbar
Polk Signa S2 Ultra-Slim Soundbar
Image Credit: Polk Audio
Polk Signa S2 Features
Channels 2.1
Subwoofer 1x 5.25-inch Wireless
Surround Speakers None
Network / Wireless Bluetooth
Audio / Video Inputs 1x HDMI ARC, 1x Optical, 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack
Audio / Video Outputs None
UHD / HDR Support N/A
Voice Control None
Soundbar Dimensions (W x H x D) 35.43 x 2.15 x 3.22 in (89.99 x 5.46 x 8.18 cm)
Subwoofer Dimensions (W x H x D) 6.72 x 13.4 x 12.2 in (17.07 x 34.04 x 30.99 cm)

Alternative Choice

Roku 9101R Smart Soundbar

Roku 9101R Smart Soundbar

A stereo bar with built-in Wi-Fi and Roku player. Able to stream your TV in HD, 4K and HDR, this is a fantastic little all-rounder for those who want something simple to enhance their TV sound.

If you want something cheaper, you can also buy the Roku Streambar, a smaller version of the 9101R Smart Soundbar.


Top Soundbar Under $500

For the best soundbar under $500, I have chosen the Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 2.1-Ch soundbar.

You get some fantastic features in this soundbar system – plus the knowledge that Yamaha knows what they are doing when it comes to your home audio experience.

Notable features in this model are full 4K pass-through support for HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG.

Plus, you get support for Bluetooth in and out. While it’s common for soundbars to have Bluetooth streaming into the device – not many support an output too.

This means you can pair up some Bluetooth headphones and listen to the sound this way if you prefer – ideal for late-night listening.

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support give you more flexibility when it comes to virtual assistants.

This system also has support for Yamaha’s MusicCast Wi-Fi speaker system.

This means you can create a full 5.1 surround sound system by adding their MusicCast 20 or MusicCast 50 wireless surround speakers.

Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 2.1-Ch Soundbar

Top Soundbar Under $500: Yamaha Musiccast Bar 400 2.1-Ch Soundbar
Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Soundbar
Image Credit: Yamaha
Yamaha MusicCast BAR 400 Features
Channels 2.1
Subwoofer 1x 6.5-inch MusicCast 400 Wireless
Surround Speakers None – compatible with MusicCast 20 or MusicCast 50 wireless surround speakers
Network / Wireless Bluetooth (In & Out), Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2
Audio / Video Inputs 1x HDMI, 1x Optical, 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack
Audio / Video Outputs 1x HDMI ARC
UHD / HDR Support 4K/60p, 4:4:4, HDCP 2.3 / HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Voice Control Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
Soundbar Dimensions (W x H x D) 38-5/8 x 2-3/8 x 4-3/8 in (98.1 x 6 x 11.1 cm)
Soundbar Weight (lbs/kg) 6/2.72
Subwoofer Dimensions (W x H x D) 7-1/8 x 16-3/8 x 16 in (18.1 x 41.6 x 40.6 cm)
Subwoofer Weight (lbs/kg) 21/9.52

Alternative Choice

Klipsch Cinema 600

Klipsch Cinema 600 Soundbar

This powerful 3.1 system has a center speaker and a 10-inch wireless subwoofer. The available inputs are HDMI ARC, optical, 3.5mm analog and Bluetooth.


Top Soundbar Under $800

If you are in the market for a soundbar around the $800 mark, then you are spoilt for choice.

My pick in this price range is the Sonos Arc. It’s the successor to the hugely popular Sonos Playbar.

With soundbars, it can be tricky to say precisely how many surround channels they reproduce. However, you could say that this is a 5.0.2 channel soundbar.

Front left, front right and center channel. Then one speaker at each end for a surround effect. And two speakers on the top for up-firing Dolby Atmos duties.

In total, it has eight mid-range drivers and three tweeters.

A center speaker is ideal for getting excellent separation of the dialogue in a TV show or movie. Some people struggle with hearing what is being said in a film among all the music and sound effects.

The surround and up-firing speakers add extra surround sound magic, which can be quite useful in giving a 3D effect in your living room.

This is especially true for height effects when things appear to be above you – like with rain or helicopters.

It doesn’t come with a subwoofer, but you can add the Sonos Sub later if you wish.

I prefer the deep bass to be reproduced by a dedicated subwoofer speaker. But, if you aren’t used to having a subwoofer, then this soundbar should provide plenty of low end for you on its own.

Of course, buying a Sonos soundbar also gives you access to the Sonos world of wireless streaming. You have access to a wide range of streaming services, and it is easy to add multiroom speakers from their wide range of products.

You can even use a pair of wireless speakers – like the Sonos Five or One – as proper surrounds, which you can place in the room behind you.

This soundbar has limited inputs. You only get a single HDMI input for wiring to an HDMI ARC/eARC port on your TV.

If your TV doesn’t have one of these connection types, you can use the supplied adapter to connect to a digital optical audio output.

If the Arc is too big for your room, then you can think about getting the smaller Sonos Beam instead.

Take a look at my comparison of the Sonos Arc vs Beam for more details.

Sonos Arc

Top Soundbar Under $800: Sonos Arc Soundbar
Sonos Arc
Image Credit: Sonos
Sonos Arc Features
Channels 5.0.2
Subwoofer None – compatible with the Sonos Sub. Or connect any sub via the Sonos Connect or Sonos Amp
Surround Speakers None – compatible with the Sonos Five, One, Play:1, Play:3, Play:5, One SL and Amp
Network / Wireless 1x Ethernet / Wi-Fi
Audio / Video Inputs 1x HDMI ARC/eARC (optical available via an adapter)
Audio / Video Outputs None
UHD / HDR Support N/A
Voice Control Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, AirPlay 2
Dimensions (W x H x D) 45 x 3.4 x 4.5 in (1141.7 x 87 115.7 mm)
Weight (lbs/kg) 13.78/6.25

Alternative Choice

Bose Smart Soundbar 700

Bose Smart Soundbar 700

This popular audio brand updates its range with the best Bose soundbar to date. With four mid-range drivers and a single tweeter, this bar offers an eARC HDMI input and voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

Also available, at a lower price, is the Bose Soundbar 500.


Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar

When you get to a particular investment level, you can get an excellent soundbar system that can compete with an AV receiver and surround sound speaker package.

Maybe not the top-end products, but certainly the budget to mid-range models.

Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are relatively new audio formats that create a more 3D sound in your room.

You should get more sound appearing to come from above you – and more effects moving around the room.

Soundbars are slowly starting to add these features. But, to get the greatest effect, it works best with dedicated speakers behind you.

So, this is something I have looked for in this category.

My choice for the best Dolby Atmos soundbar is the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 soundbar system.

Nakamichi is a brand that has made some waves in recent years, and their systems come stacked with features. They begin to blur the lines between the best soundbars and full home theater audio systems.

The Shockwafe Ultra soundbar is aimed at those who want a full surround sound system in the room.

It offers a total of 18 speaker drivers across the whole package. That includes four 2-way rear satellite speakers – and not one, but two, 10-inch subwoofers.

Two subwoofers might be too much for a small room. But if you have space, it can help create a very even bass response for everyone in the room.

Of course, if you are someone who loves to crank up the bottom end and rattle the windows, then having two subwoofers will be a treat.

There is full support for the popular surround sound modes of Dolby Atmos and Dolby DTS:X in this system. This is rare for a package based around a soundbar.

Then, with the four surround speakers to install around your room, you really will get a fully immersive surround sound experience.

There are an impressive three HDMI inputs for connecting external devices – plus an optical, coaxial and 3.5mm mini-jack. That is almost as many options as some AV receivers.

Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 Soundbar System

Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar: Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 Soundbar System
Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 Soundbar System
Image Credit: Nakamichi
Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra Features
Channels 9.2.4
Subwoofer 2x 10-inch Wireless
Surround Speakers 4x 2-Way Rear Surround Speakers (connected via cables to the dual subwoofers)
Network / Wireless Bluetooth v4.1 aptX
Audio / Video Inputs 3x HDMI, 1x Optical, 1x Coaxial, 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack, 1x USB
Audio / Video Outputs 1x HDMI ARC
UHD / HDR Support 4K/60p, 4:4:4, HDCP2.2 / HDR10, Dolby Vision
Voice Control None
Soundbar Dimensions (W x H x D) 45.5 x 3.0 x 3.5 in (115.57 x 7.62 x 8.9 cm)
Soundbar Weight (lbs/kg) 7.27/3.29
Surround Speaker Dimensions (W x H x D) 5.0 x 8.0 x 5.4 in (12.7 x 20.32 x 13.72 cm)
Surround Speaker Weight (lbs/kg) 2.8/1.27
Subwoofer Dimensions (W x H x D) 13.5 x 20.5 x 12.0 in (34.29 x 52.07 x 30.48 cm)
Subwoofer Weight (lbs/kg) 23.4/10.61

Alternative Choice

JBL BAR 9.1

Jbl Bar 9.1 Soundbar System

A cheaper alternative with fewer frills but the essential features. Support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, a 10-inch wireless subwoofer and detachable wireless surround sound speakers.

There is also an older 5.1 version of this soundbar.


Best High-End Soundbar

For many people, buying a soundbar is a simple choice to make. They just want an easy way to improve the sound of their TV.

However, if you want the simplicity and flexibility of a soundbar, but want something approaching audiophile or hi-fi sound quality, then it’s not so easy.

While soundbars have many advantages, most can’t offer a traditional amplifier and speakers’ high-end performance.

However, some brands have tried to bridge that gap by releasing their best soundbars with top-notch audio engineering inside.

These soundbars don’t come cheap, but they offer an alternative to those who want excellent sound quality. You will need to invest some serious money for the best soundbars on the market.

My choice for the best high-end soundbar is the Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar.

The Ambeo soundbar is a monster, and you will need to consider where you can install it before you buy.

The unit holds an impressive thirteen speaker drivers – six 4-inch woofers, five 1-inch aluminum dome tweeters and two up-firing full-range drivers.

The six woofers and three of the tweeters are placed along the front of the bar. The final two tweeters are at each end to create width and surround effects.

Although it doesn’t come with one, there is a pre-out for connecting a subwoofer for extra deep bass.

An eARC HDMI connection will handle all the audio from your TV, and there are a further three HDMI inputs for external devices.

As you would expect with a high-end audio system, it supports all the audio formats you should need.

Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD for movies – plus LPCM 2.0 to 7.1, DSD and MPEG-H.

Sennheiser Ambeo

Best High-End Soundbar: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar
Image Credit: Sennheiser
Sennheiser Ambeo Features
Channels 5.1.4
Subwoofer None – although the soundbar is rated down to 30Hz
Surround Speakers None
Network / Wireless 1x Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.2, Chromecast
Audio / Video Inputs 3x HDMI, 1x Optical, 1x 3.5mm Mini-Jack, 1x Mic Input (for calibration)
Audio / Video Outputs 1x HDMI (eARC), 1x Subwoofer Pre-Out
UHD / HDR Support 4K/60p, 4:4:4, HDCP 2.2 / HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Voice Control None
Dimensions (W x H x D) 49.8 x 4.9 x 6.7 in (126.5 x 12.5 17.1 cm) – without feet
Weight (lbs/kg) 40.78/18.49

Alternative Choice

Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage

Bang &Amp; Olufsen Beosound Stage

A high-end model from this proven Danish audio brand. The Beosound Stage only offers 3.0 channels, but it produces some of the best audio quality in any soundbar.


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The Best Soundbar Systems For Your Tv And Home Theater
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About Home Cinema Guide

Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has worked as a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment.