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The 5 Best Budget Soundbars - Spring 2021 Reviews

Updated
Best Budget Soundbars
96 Soundbars Tested
  • Store-bought soundbars; no cherry-picked units
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Equipping your home theater system with speakers can cost a fortune. Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank to find a decent soundbar that can make watching TV or movies more exciting. Even some of the cheapest soundbars perform fairly well, especially if you watch a lot of dialogue-heavy content like TV dramas or like to listen to podcasts or audiobooks at home. Whether you're looking for a soundbar with a subwoofer for watching action movies or a small soundbar that'll fit under your TV, there's something for everyone in the budget range.

We've tested over 90 soundbars, and below you'll find the best budget soundbars to buy. See our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best soundbars under $200, and the best soundbars under $300.


  1. Best Cheap Soundbar: TCL Alto 6+

    6.5
    Mixed Usage
    7.0
    Dialogue/TV Shows
    6.8
    Music
    6.0
    Movies
    Channels
    2.1

    The best cheap soundbar that we've tested is the TCL Alto 6+. While this 2.1 setup is quite simple and straightforward, it's still a viable option for listeners looking to upgrade over their existing TV speakers. The bar is decently well-built, and it even comes with a dedicated subwoofer.

    Overall, it has a decently well-balanced sound profile, though some songs can sound a bit flat or dull. There are a few EQ presets available to help you customize its sound, and there's also a dialogue enhancement feature that can make voices clearer and crisper. The bar can get loud without a lot of compression, so you can also use it in a large room or at a crowded party.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, and it has a poor surround performance, so it may be disappointing for listeners who want to immerse themselves in their favorite movies. It also lacks a Full HDMI In port, so you can't use it as a hub between your devices. However, it's Bluetooth-compatible, so you can stream audio from your phone or tablet to the bar wirelessly.

    See our review

  2. Best Budget Soundbar Under $200: Vizio V Series V21-H8

    7.0
    Mixed Usage
    7.7
    Dialogue/TV Shows
    7.4
    Music
    6.4
    Movies
    Channels
    2.1

    The Vizio V Series V21-H8 is the best budget soundbar under $200 that we've tested. This 2.1 setup has a bass-heavy sound profile that's well-suited for thumpy genres like EDM or action-packed movies. That said, it can still reproduce dialogue in TV shows or podcasts quite clearly and accurately.

    While this entry-level soundbar doesn't have many inputs, there are two AUX ports as well as an Optical In and HDMI ARC port. It also supports Bluetooth, which is nice if you like to wirelessly stream audio from your smartphone. There are four EQ presets to help you customize its sound to your liking as well as bass and treble adjustments, dialogue enhancement, and virtual surround features available. The bar can also get loud, although there are some compression artifacts at max volume.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos, which may be a bit disappointing for movie fans who want a more immersive audio experience. It also doesn't support Wi-Fi, Chromecast, or Apple AirPlay connectivity. That said, the Vizio delivers a customizable sound and is a suitable choice for those shopping for a more affordable soundbar.

    See our review

  3. Alternative With Dolby Atmos Support: TCL Alto 8i

    Channels
    2.1

    If you're looking for a soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos, try the TCL Alto 8i. While it doesn't have as many sound enhancement features as the Vizio V Series V21-H8, and it doesn't support DTS, the TCL can offer a more immersive audio experience suitable for movies. Unlike soundbars that don't support Atmos, the TCL uses its front-firing speakers to bounce sound off your ceiling to create the illusion of height. This bar also has an integrated subwoofer that delivers punchy and boomy bass suitable for action-packed films or genres like EDM or hip-hop. Although its treble is recessed, the mid-range is well-balanced and flat, so vocals and dialogue sound clear. This bar also has a Full HDMI In port, so you can use it as a hub between your devices. Unfortunately, it has high audio latency over ARC, Optical, and Full HDMI In. Just like the Vizio, it lacks Wi-Fi, Chromecast, and Apple AirPlay support, too.

    Check out the Vizio if you're looking for a soundbar that supports DTS content and has lower overall latency. However, if Dolby Atmos support is a must-have, then consider the TCL.

    See our review

  4. Best Soundbar Under $300: Vizio V Series V51-H6

    7.6
    Mixed Usage
    8.3
    Dialogue/TV Shows
    7.8
    Music
    7.1
    Movies
    Channels
    5.1

    The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is the best budget soundbar under $300 that we've tested. This decently well-built 5.1 setup comes with a dedicated subwoofer and two satellite speakers that can help immerse you in your favorite audio. It also has a 3.5mm AUX port, so you can connect your smartphone to the bar using a wired connection.

    It has a great stereo frequency response that delivers extra boom and punch suitable for bass-heavy genres like EDM or action flicks. It's still balanced enough for most audio content and can reproduce voices clearly and accurately, which is great for podcasts. It also has EQ presets so that you can tweak its sound profile to your liking. If you like to listen to audio at high volumes, this soundbar can get loud, which makes it an excellent choice for large or crowded rooms. It also supports Bluetooth and has low latency over its ARC and Optical In port.

    Unfortunately, it lacks a Full HDMI In port and doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, which can be a little disappointing if you love to watch movies. While the satellite speakers have a fair surrounds performance, they're very bass-heavy, so your audio could sound a bit boomy or muddy. That said, If you're looking for a versatile soundbar on a budget, it's a suitable choice.

    See our review

  5. Better-Built Alternative: Samsung HW-T550

    Channels
    2.1

    If you're looking for a bar that feels more durable and sturdy, take a look at the Samsung HW-T550. While it doesn't have satellite speakers and its center and surround performances aren't as good as the Vizio V Series V51-H6, the Samsung has a better build quality. This 2.1 setup has a balanced sound profile that delivers extra warmth and boom to your audio. It has a very neutral mid-range, and even though it lacks a dedicated center channel, it can still reproduce dialogue in your favorite TV shows clearly. Thanks to its graphic EQ and presets, you have a lot more control over its sound. This bar also has a Full HDMI In port, so you can use it as a hub between your TV and another device like a gaming console.

    Try the Vizio if you want your setup to have satellite speakers for a more immersive audio experience. However, if you're looking for something better-built and with a graphic EQ, consider the Samsung instead.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R: The Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R is a 2.1 soundbar that's better-built than the Vizio V Series V21-H8 and supports 4k passthrough. However, it has a lot of compression artifacts at max volume and it struggles to reproduce low-bass. See our review
  • Sony HT-S100F: The Sony HT-S100F is a cheap 2.0 soundbar with fairly versatile performance, but it isn't as well-balanced and doesn't support as many audio formats as the TCL Alto 6+. See our review
  • Vmai 2.1 Channel Sound Bar: The Vmai 2.1 Channel Sound Bar is a cheap entry-level soundbar with a balanced sound profile that's ideal for watching TV. However, it only supports PCM content, and it can't downmix surround content. See our review
  • Polk Audio SIGNA S2: The Polk Audio SIGNA S2 is a 2.1 soundbar with an excited, v-shaped sound profile, but it doesn't have a full graphic EQ for sound customization. It also downmixes surround content into stereo to play it. See our review
  • Sony HT-S200F: The Sony HT-S200F is a budget soundbar setup that includes an integrated subwoofer and performs alright overall, but it sounds noticeably dark and muddy. See our review
  • Sony HT-X8500: The Sony HT-X8500 is a 2.1 setup with an integrated subwoofer that can play Atmos and DTS content, but it has trouble reproducing low-bass and sounds a bit boxy. Unlike the Vizio SB36512-F6, it also lacks a dedicated subwoofer and satellite speakers. See our review
  • Yamaha YAS-209: The Yamaha YAS-209 is a 2.1 soundbar with a well-balanced sound profile and an extended bass, but it can't support Atmos content, and it doesn't get as loud as the Vizio SB36512-F6. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Apr 20, 2021: Moved the Vizio V51-H6 and HW-T550 to the 'Best Soundbar Under $300' category to better reflect their current pricing and removed the Vizio SB36512-F6 and Samsung HW-T650 as they are currently not available at this price point. Added the Vizio V Series V21-H8 and TCL Alto 8i to the 'Best Soundbar Under $200' category.

  2. Feb 19, 2021: Removed the Vizio SB3220n-F6 from Notable Mentions as it's no longer available. Also verified the accuracy and availability of our picks.

  3. Dec 15, 2020: Replaced the Vizio V Series V21-H8 with the Samsung HW-T550 as 'Best Under $200'. Removed the Samsung HW-R650 due to changing availability and added the Samsung HW-T650 as 'Customizable Alternative Under $300'.

  4. Nov 20, 2020: Replaced the Sony HT-S100F with the TCL Alto 6+ as 'Best Under $100'. Replaced the Yamaha YAS-209 with the Vizio V Series V51-H6 as 'Best Under $300'. Updated Notable Mentions.

  5. Oct 20, 2020: Replaced the Samsung HW-T550 with the Samsung HW-R650 to reflect pricing changes. Replaced the Polk Audio SIGNA S2 with the Vizio V Series V21-H8. Added the Samsung HW-T550 and the Polk Audio SIGNA S2 to Notable Mentions.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best budget soundbars for most people to buy. We factor in the price (a cheaper soundbar wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no soundbars that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our soundbar reviews under $300. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. No soundbar is perfect. Personal taste, preference, and listening habits will matter more in your selection.

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