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Best soundbars and home audio for the holidays

Best soundbars and home audio for the holidays

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.

With a lot of folks still staying home, many of us have been spending more time hunkered down watching TV and listening to music. This year, it makes sense to gift the movie buff or music fan in your life with home theater gifts that take the night up to the next level. Maybe a streaming device or something to crank the audio capabilities of their smart TV up to 11. 

Or, if you have someone who’s really into vinyl on your holiday gift list, maybe you want to make sure their speaker system is as good as it can be. After all, you can’t skimp on sound quality when you have a library of old records. 

Whether it’s a soundbar for the games room, a new AV receiver for a movie lover’s home theater system or a new turntable for a music enthusiast’s living room, there’s a perfect gift here for practically everyone.

Before you buy: You might want to wait for some new products (and sales) that were just announced or expected imminently. 

  • New Amazon Echo speakers: Amazon has unveiled new Echo speakers, starting at $100. These models will start shipping on Dec. 2.
  • New Google Home speaker: The new Nest Audio, which replaces the original Google Home, also arrived in October.

And now, on to our gift guide for top audio gifts you can get right now.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Creative Stage offers everything you need for sound on a smaller TV or gaming system: HDMI, a separate subwoofer and a clear display. It also helps that the sound is light years ahead of other systems at the $100 mark. 

Read our Creative Stage review.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Vizio V21 is a 2.1-channel soundbar which offers a host of connections including HDMI. Stepping up to $200 gets you better sound than the Creative can muster plus a wireless subwoofer. No more wires trailing across the room! 

Read our Vizio V21 review.

The Roku Streambar is an all-in-one entertainment system with a streamer and a speaker in one. It offers 4K video output and excellent dialogue reproduction in an easy-to-use unit. If you want to upgrade a loved one’s older TV, this is the best way to do it.

Read our Roku Streambar review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Sonos One has been around for a little while now but it’s so versatile that I’ve seen it anywhere from living rooms to shops to restaurants. For $200 it offers excellent sound, great multiroom capabilities and the choice of either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant onboard voice control, and it’s AirPlay compatible, too.

Read our Sonos One review.

Fluance RT82

Best affordable turntable

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Fluance RT8X range offers excellent value for vinyl fans, with the RT82 sitting right in the sweet spot. It includes convenience features like a speed switch, height adjustable feet and auto-stop. In our breakdown of five $300 turntables, the Fluance came out on top. It sounds great and it’s built to last.

Read more.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 speakers offer a taste of the high end in a relatively affordable bookshelf speaker model. They offer a tidy build, front-firing reflex ports for better flexibility and a detailed, enjoyable performance for a TV or movie night. Partner it with a high quality amp or receiver for the best results.

Read our Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When the Vizio SB36512-F6 came out it proved that you didn’t need to spend a grand to get an Atmos soundbar, you only needed half that. Unlike the still-great Sonos Arc, the Vizio includes both a wireless subwoofer and dedicated rears for the best surround sound experience. 

Read our Vizio SB36512-F6 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Onkyo TX-NR696 is the best receiver of 2020 so far. It offers a wealth of features including numerous streaming options — including Chromecast built-in — and it sounds good in the bargain.

Read our Onkyo TX-NR696 review.

Read more: Best holiday gifts under $500

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