Sony vs. Bowers & Wilkins Soundbars: Which is Better?

When it comes to enhancing your home entertainment experience with powerful, immersive audio, Sony and Bowers & Wilkins stand out as two of the most reputable brands on the market. Both companies offer high-performing soundbars packed with features – but is one better than the other? This comprehensive guide compares Sony and Bowers & Wilkins soundbars across critical factors like sound quality, design, connectivity and price to help you determine which brand best fits your needs and budget.

Overview of Sony and Bowers & Wilkins

Before diving into the specifics of their soundbar offerings, it‘s helpful to understand Sony and Bowers & Wilkins as brands.

Sony Background

As a global electronics leader, Sony has been at the forefront of audio innovation for decades. The Japanese company manufactures a diverse range of consumer technology products including televisions, cameras, gaming systems and headphones in addition to speakers and soundbars. With cutting-edge proprietary technologies like Vertical Surround Engine for virtual 3D audio and extensive Research & Development resources, Sony continues pushing the envelope when it comes to immersive sound experiences in the home.

Bowers & Wilkins Background

UK-based Bowers & Wilkins may not have the same massive scale and output as Sony, but the company has established itself as one of the most respected high-end audio brands over its 50+ year history. Unlike Sony, B&W focuses exclusively on sound – having built its reputation on the performance and craftsmanship of its loudspeakers and other audio equipment used in some of the world‘s most advanced recording studios. The company takes a true specialist approach centered around acoustic engineering innovations that faithfully reproduce sound with exceptional clarity across the frequency range.

Sound Quality

At the core of any great soundbar is superior sound – so how do Sony and Bowers & Wilkins models stack up against each other?

Sony Sound Quality

From budget-friendly models to premium home theater setups, Sony soundbars are capable of producing very dynamic, well-balanced sound with excellent stereo separation and clear dialogue. Technologies like vertical surround processing help project audio with a stunning sense of space and immersion compared to flat sound coming straight from your TV speakers. Higher-end Sony models support advanced surround sound formats like Dolby Atmos for true cinema-quality 360-degree audio. While bass performance can vary depending on whether the soundbar comes with a built-in subwoofer or wireless sub, Sony systems make it easy to achieve punchy low-end impact.

Some key Sony sound quality features across models:

  • Vertical Surround Engine: Creates immersive 3D audio effect
  • Dolby Atmos & DTS:X: For advanced object-based surround sound
  • S-Force PRO Front Surround: Virtual surround processing
  • Voice Zoom: Enhances dialogue from TV shows & movies
  • ClearAudio+: Optimizes sound settings automatically

Bowers & Wilkins Sound Quality

From the lively bass response to the incredibly detailed highs, Bowers & Wilkins soundbars produce some of the most natural, realistic sound in their class. Their well-balanced tuning and dynamic range help replicate a truly life-like listening experience. Even without the surround sound sophistication of some Sony models with Dolby Atmos, the forgiving warmth of B&W‘s sound projects pleasing immersion. Key factors that enable Bowers & Wilkins‘ superior audio performance include high-end speaker components like Kevlar cone woofers and tweeters borrowed from the company‘s acclaimed stand-alone speakers, sophisticated signal processing maximizing clarity and detail, and sturdy cabinet construction preventing unwanted resonance. Vocals and mid-range frequencies shine through beautifully on Bowers & Wilkins systems.

Notable Bowers & Wilkins audio technologies:

  • FlowportTM: Special porting for smooth bass
  • ContinuumTM Cone: Blends materials for accurate mid-range
  • Dual-hybrid tweeter: Broadens high-frequency response

Based on their specific audio engineering strengths, both Sony and Bowers & Wilkins soundbars are capable of fantastic sound quality and immersive performances. However, for the most natural, high-resolution playback with stunning musicality across the entire frequency spectrum, Bowers & Wilkins systems earn the edge. The superior acoustic engineering and expert tuning that defines the B&W brand results in a listening experience that comes closer than Sony models to replicating the feeling of a live performance.


The option to add wireless rear speakers or a separate subwoofer down the line makes your soundbar much more future-proof. Here is how Sony and Bowers & Wilkins compare regarding expandable home theater configurations.

Sony Expandability

A standout selling point of Sony soundbars is their expandability – most models can easily be upgraded to full surround systems via Sony‘s flexible wireless speaker offerings. For example, Sony‘s SA series speakers can integrate over Wi-Fi with certain compatible bars to serve as rear surround channels in a setup with dedicated left, center, right and surround channels. This modularity makes it simple to start small with a basic Sony bar then build up to a more immersive configuration over time by adding components like:

  • Wireless rear speakers – Sony SA-RS3S
  • Wireless subwoofer – Sony SA-SW3
  • Rear speaker stands

With some higher-end bars like the HT-A9, Sony even offers matching wireless speakers and sub packs specifically design to sync perfectly. All components connect via Wi-Fi and are configurable through Sony‘s mobile SongPal app. This expandability adds tremendous long-term value.

Bowers & Wilkins Expandability

While Bowers & Wilkins soundbars deliver phenomenal standalone performance right out of the box, expandability is admittedly more limited compared to Sony. Currently, only B&W‘s Formation Bar system offers wireless expansion capability through:

  • Formation Bass subwoofer
  • Formation Flex surround speakers
  • Formation Audio wireless transmitter

Together, these components allow you to set up the Formation Bar in different configurations including a 3.1 surround system with Bass sub or stereo paired setup with Flex speakers. An advanced proprietary wireless protocol called Formation Wireless Technology enables lossless audio syncing between units – even while streaming hi-res music content. However, given the specialist nature and cost of these Formation line accessories, your upgrade path isn‘t quite as flexible as what Sony provides through its interchangeable wireless speaker approach.

If you think you may want to tack on rear surround speakers or more beefed up bass down the line without swapping soundbars entirely, Sony offers the preferable expandability advantage.

Connectivity & Smart Features

Today‘s soundbars do a lot more than simply play audio from your TV. With built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, proprietary speaker configuration apps plus support for streaming music services and voice assistants, modern soundbars act as versatile entertainment hubs. Here‘s a breakdown of key connectivity & smart features offered by Sony and Bowers & Wilkins:

Sony Connectivity & Features

Packed with audio inputs like HDMI ARC/eARC and optical, Sony soundbars easily integrate into your whole home entertainment ecosystem while supporting 4K/8K HDR passthrough for the best quality movie and gaming visuals. Over Wi-Fi, Sony bars connect directly with services like Spotify, Chromecast, Amazon Music and more for Hi-Res streaming audio sans TV. Support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice assistants grants you convenient hands-free control.

Sony bars also work seamlessly within a full Sony AV setup thanks to proprietary cross-compatibility technologies not offered by rival brands:

  • BRAVIA Sync: Automatic turn on/off syncing and expanded control features with compatible Sony TVs
  • SongPal Link: Allows grouping of Sony soundbars with Sony TVs, Blu-ray players and wireless speakers for unified multi-room listening controlled via SongPal app

This tight-knit platform connectivity gives Sony bars a leg up when it comes to syncing with other Sony devices you may own.

Bowers & Wilkins Connectivity & Features

For easy use right out of the box, B&W Formation bars come equipped with HDMI ARC, optical input plus built-in Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect wireless streaming functionality controlled directly from their Formation Controller app. Alexa voice assistant support allows basic hands-free commands. An automatic room calibration process helps tailor audio to your specific room‘s acoustics. However, you won‘t find the same degree of proprietary platform connectivity that Sony offers. But Bowers & Wilkins soundbars focus more on pure lossless fidelity, especially for hi-res streaming content.

While Sony certainly provides impressive proprietary integrations between their products absent from Bowers & Wilkins offerings, both brands deliver excellent connectivity & smart features making their soundbars flexible additions to your existing setup.


Without changing locations, soundbars need to blend right in with your room‘s aesthetic. Let‘s explore how the designs of Sony and Bowers & Wilkins models compare:

Sony Design

Boasting simple yet modern designs intended to discreetly complement today‘s slim TV displays, Sony soundbars offer smart, neutral styling fitting for everything from minimalist living rooms to gaming dens. You won‘t find the lavish audio jewelry look characteristic of some rival soundbar brands – instead, Sony bars keep a low profile with their rectangular silhouette and matte black or gray color options, enabling them to disappear visually into the background of your space or TV stand while still pumping out serious sound. While not necessarily conversation-starters on their own, this subtle design philosophy promulgated by Sony gels better for homeowners wanting devices to fuse with room decor rather than command attention.

Bowers & Wilkins Design

Known for producing some of the most distinctive high-end speakers and headphones on the market, Bowers & Wilkins brings that same iconic avant-garde aesthetic to its soundbar collection with premium flourishes setting them apart from the pack. Clad in sleek silver metal speaker grilles rather than dull black plastic, B&W bars make a sophisticated style statement befitting the brand‘s storied British roots. The Formation Bar‘s gently curved front baffle and perforated wraparound metal casing add visual drama while damping unwanted resonances that could color sound. To buyers for whom industrial design carries real weight or have reservations about tech devices seeming too utilitarian for their living space, Bowers & Wilkins presents a welcome injection of furniture-grade audiophile flair.

For those who prefer their audio gear to pull double-duty by making a strong aesthetic impression, Bowers & Wilkins clearly outclasses Sony with high-end flourishes that signal the remarkable acoustic engineering you‘re getting in one seriously special piece of hardware. However, Sony‘s smart minimalism also has its place for buyers wanting a bar easily blending into their decor.


Given the advanced audio technologies involved, soundbars require significant investment – making price an important consideration in choosing between options. Here is an overview of pricing tiers among Sony and Bowers & Wilkins bars:

Sony Pricing

Thanks to manufacturing scale Sony enjoys as a tech conglomerate spanning numerous consumer divisions, the company manages an impressively wide cost spectrum with soundbars ranging from just $88 on the low-end to over $1,200 for flagship home theater bars and full surround bundles. With models segmented across budget, mid-range and premium price points, Sony makes audio enhancement reasonably accessible even to cost-conscious shoppers:

  • Budget bars under $250: Models like HT-S20R pack great value including vertical surround processing, Bluetooth/Wi-Fi music streaming and HDMI connectivity
  • Mid-range bars $400 – $800: Bars like HT-A5000 step up audio performance with Dolby Atmos while adding premium touches like chrome accents and included wireless subwoofer
  • Premium bars over $1,000: Flagship models like HT-A9 with dedicated up-firing and surround speakers truly envelop you in sound thanks to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X while supporting hi-res music formats

Sony manages strong price-to-performance balance across its line – especially in lower price tiers where more cash-strapped buyers can still access innovative Sony audio technologies.

Bowers & Wilkins Pricing

As a luxury brand catering to exacting audiophiles, Bowers & Wilkins soundbars come at a premium exceedingly rare if not completely unattainable for casual listeners simply wanting improved TV audio. Their specialty boutique pricing aligned with high-end audio dealers places Bowers & Wilkins bars more in the realm of statement investment pieces or heirloom-grade kit for only the most discerning (or deep-pocketed) listeners. Currently, B&W‘s sole offerings fall into the luxury bracket:

  • Formation Bar: $1,199 MSRP
  • Panorama 3: $999 MSRP

Costs can rise even higher when pairing with Bowers & Wilkins‘ proprietary wireless bass modules and surround speakers from the Formation line pushing the total investment to over $3,000. So while these exceptional Bowers & Wilkins audio systems represent the pinnacle of soundbar engineering and performance, their staggering four-figure price tags limit accessibility primarily to ultra-enthusiasts for whom cost simply does not factor in.

Ultimately, Sony provides far greater price diversity making immersive audio enhancement more inclusive to real-world buyers even with limited budgets. However, Bowers & Wilkins‘ elite craftsmanship and obsession with acoustic excellence regardless of cost does yield the superior listening experience for those with the means.

The Verdict: Sony vs. Bowers & Wilkins Soundbars

Sony SoundbarsBowers & Wilkins Soundbars
● Fantastic immersive audio fueled by innovative virtualization tech● Superlative, natural sound quality with incredible detail
● Models ranging from just $88 – $1,200+ to fit budgets● Sleek, high-end design aesthetic
● Easily expandable into full surround systems● Seamless proprietary multi-room audio (Formation Bar + speakers)
● Tight integration with Sony TVs, speakers, consoles● Very limited expandability unless buying full Formation ecosystem
● Understated, discreet industrial design● Extraordinarily expensive luxury pricing from $999+

When it comes to selecting between Sony and Bowers & Wilkins soundbars, there are excellent options to suit different needs among both brands.

For shoppers wanting the most immersive Dolby Atmos/DTS:X audio within popular budget/mid-range price points from $250 – $800 – Sony is the way to go. Their audio virtualization technologies create impressively full, spatial surround sound that economically upgrades TV, movie and gaming experiences. And Sony‘s expandability via add-on wireless speakers provides outstanding future upgradability most competitors lack.

On the other hand, listeners for whom cost is no concern and seek the absolute highest fidelity sound performance in a statement-making design will find Bowers & Wilkins Formation bars utterly peerless. Their striking craftsmanship and resonance-controlling enclosures combined with custom driver arrays borrowed from the finest B&W loudspeakers reproduce audio with breathtaking realism on par with the sound quality of advanced hi-fi systems many times their price.

So whether you need an affordable audio enhancement boost or spare-no-expense sonic nirvana, Sony and Bowers & Wilkins have you covered with phenomenal soundbars befitting their legendary brands. Deciding which option best aligns with your listening preferences, budget, priorities for voice assistant/multi-room integrations and appetite for expandability will clarify the right fit. Thanks to the acoustic engineering might backing both companies, you really can‘t go wrong – only strike the ideal balance for your needs among two fantastic soundbar product ranges.

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