If you have bought the Xbox Series X or PS5, or have a powerful gaming PC in your lounge, you will almost certainly want to play with the best possible settings.
On the TV you will want 4K content with a 120Hz refresh rate giving you the best quality image and smooth gaming.
Then you will want support for all the latest high bandwidth audio codecs, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, which expand the traditional 5.1 surround sound with new height channels. You also have Dolby TrueHD (which then can have Atmos), which is a lossless format that promises to be identical to the movie studio's master recording.
Many mid to high-end new TVs will support 4K @ 120Hz, but they obviously don't have the speakers to support Dolby Atmos and you, therefore, have to resort to external speakers.
Any TV launched recently that supports 4K 120Hz should also have HDMI 2.1 ports, including one that supports eARC, the Enhanced Audio Return Channel.
You typically have two options. You can plug the console into the TV and then send the audio to your speakers using eARC. Or, you can plug the console into an HDMI 2.1 on a soundbar or AV receiver, and that will then handle the audio and passthrough the video to the TV.
With slightly older TVs that only had ARC, not eARC, it was often best to plug into the speakers first because ARC lacks the audio bandwidth to support various high-bitrate audio codecs such as Atmos etc.
eARC has largely eliminated this problem. This is just as well because for the past year or so there have been significant issues with AV receivers supporting 4K 120Hz, and there are almost no soundbars that support it.
However, things are improving, most AV receivers have fixed the ongoing HDMI 2.1 bug, and most people with AV receivers prefer to have all their devices plugged directly into the receiver, so you are not constantly switching HDMI ports on the TV.
For soundbars, there is still not much choice for proper 4K 120Hz passthrough so you are most likely going to have to rely on eARC.
Best Soundbars for Console Gaming with 4K 120Hz and HDMI 2.1 eARC
|Sony HT-A7000 7.1.2ch Dolby Atmos/DTS:X Single Soundbar with...||£1,300.00||Buy on Amazon|
|Sony SA-SW5 Premium Subwoofer||£699.00||Buy on Amazon|
|Sony SA-RS3S Twin Wireless Rear Speakers||£377.16||Buy on Amazon|
I am listing the HT-A7000 first because it is the closest you get to full 4K 120Hz support.
The HT-A7000 is the flagship soundbar from Sony. It is a 7.1.2 system consisting of two upward-firing drivers, two beam tweeters and five front speakers. Then a built-in dual subwoofer for bass.
It is possible to extend the system with a choice of 2 dedicated subwoofers the 300W SA-SW5 priced at £699 or the 200W SA-SW3 costing £449. Then you can add SA-RS3S rear wireless speakers costing £449, which would make the full system significantly more expensive than the above Samsung.
Like all the soundbars on this list, this supports eARC and can handle Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
One of the selling points of this soundbar is the 360 Spatial Sound Mapping technology which creates up to twelve phantom speakers from just four real speakers. I have not tried this soundbar, so can't comment on how effective it is.
What sets it apart from the other soundbars on the list is that it also has two HDMI 2.1 ports than can passthrough [email protected], [email protected], and Dolby Vision HDR. Unfortunately, it is not perfect as it doesn't support VRR or ALLM.
With a potential full system cost of £2450, it would be remiss of me to not suggest considering a proper AV receiver and speakers. AV.Com have a 5.1.4 Denon AVC-X4700H package for just £2100.
Klipsch claims to be the first soundbar with HDMI 2.1 passthrough for 4K 120Hz, 8K and Variable Refresh Rate. The VRR gives it an advantage over the Sony listed above but it is not perfect. While it supports a wide range of audio codecs, for some reason it appears to be missing DTS support and it also lacks room correction. DTS is less important than Dolby (for streaming services at least) but it is still quite disappointing.
Beyond those two issues, you have an impressive speaker with 1200W of power spread over 5.1.4 channels with a dedicated subwoofer and rear speakers.
|Samsung Q990B Soundbar Speaker (2022) - 11.1.4ch 3D Object...||£1,599.00||Buy on Amazon|
The Samsung HW-Q990B is more of a home theatre system than a soundbar, as you have the addition of two wireless rear speakers and a subwoofer.
Samsung class this as an 11.1.4-channel system, with the soundbar having 11 speakers and the rears two speakers each.
Disappointingly, the two HDMI inputs lack support for 4K/120p and Variable Refresh Rate. If you are a console gamer, you will want to plug the console into the TV using eARC to send the audio back to the speakers.
While £1600 is far from cheap, it is still over £800 cheaper than the Sony when you add all the extra speakers.
The Sonos Arc was launched in 2020 and is the premium home theatre solution from Sonos. As the name suggests, this also supports eARC with full support with everything up to Dolby TrueHD.
It has 11 internal speakers with 2 dedicated height channels compared to just 5 internal speakers on the Beam (Gen 2).
One downside, just like the Beam, there is only a single HDMI port and therefore no HDMI passthrough.
Both the Sonos soundbars can be paired up with a subwoofer and rear speakers for a more immersive experience.
|Sonos Beam (Gen 2). The compact smart soundbar for TV, music...||£402.50||Buy on Amazon|
The Gen 2 is the same basic design as the original Beam, but it has now been upgraded to support Dolby Atmos, eARC connectivity and a CPU that's 40% more powerful.
It is the smallest and cheapest soundbar on the list and could be a good option for anyone gaming on a smaller dedicated TV for gaming, such as the recent 43″ and 48″ options from Samsung / LG / Sony.
Last update on 2022-07-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API