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 well, especially if you watch a lot of dialogue-heavy content like TV dramas or 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 135 soundbars, and below you'll find the best soundbars under $250 to buy. See our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best soundbars under $200, and the best soundbars under $300.
The best budget soundbar we've tested is the Vizio V Series V51-H6. This 5.1 setup offers very versatile performance for its price, so it's a suitable choice for listening to music, movies, and TV shows. It's also one of the few setups in its price range to come with discrete satellite speakers, which help create a more immersive surround sound with Dolby Digital and DTS content often found on streaming platforms. Out-of-the-box, it has a neutral sound profile with a little extra boom in the bass range, so vocals and lead instruments are clear and detailed in the mix.
Thanks to its dedicated subwoofer, it has a deep and extended low bass to help you feel the rumble in bass-heavy music and action-packed movies. Naturally, there aren't as many customization tools on hand as more premium models, but you still have standard features like a dialogue enhancement mode and bass and treble adjustments. Like most budget bars, it doesn't offer support for Dolby Atmos content, though.
If you're looking for an affordable setup without rear speakers, check out the LG SN6Y. Unlike the Vizio V Series V51-H6, it's a 3.1 setup that doesn't come with discrete satellites - so you don't have to worry about finding the space for those extra speakers. The LG is a simple bar with a dedicated subwoofer that adds extra punch and thump in the bass to help you feel the action in suspenseful scenes. Thanks to its balanced mids, dialogue is clear and present in the mix. You also get a similar selection of sound enhancement features compared to the Vizio - there's a dialogue enhancement tool as well as bass and treble adjustments.
However, the trade-off is evident when you listen to surround sound content like Dolby Digital, which is found on lots of movies on streaming platforms. Since it's a 3.1 setup, it has to downmix this content into stereo to play it, which doesn't sound as immersive as 5.1 setups like the Vizio. If you're low on space and mostly listen to TV and music, it's a solid pick, but movie lovers will want to stick with the V Series V51-H6 instead.
Living in a small apartment or a cramped dorm room? There are also budget-friendly soundbar options without a subwoofer, so they take up even less space in your living area. For example, the TCL Alto 8i is a versatile standalone bar with a compact footprint that doesn't take up a lot of space. It's one of the few setups in this price range that supports Dolby Atmos content frequently found on streaming platforms. Unfortunately, its height performance pales in comparison to more premium Atmos setups, but it's a good place to start if you don't want to spend too much.
With its balanced mids, dialogue is clear and accurate in the mix, so it's ideal for listening to vocal-centric content like TV shows and podcasts. However, its lack of low-bass is noticeable in action-packed scenes. You can customize its sound a bit thanks to its bass and treble adjustments, but at its best, it still can't replicate the same rumbling feel as setups with dedicated subs. Still, it's a fair choice for those with small living spaces.
Looking for an even more affordable setup? The best soundbar under $200 that we've tested is the Samsung HW-A550. It's a 2.1 setup with a pretty versatile performance for its price point. Its neutral sound out-of-the-box offers detailed and present vocals and lead instruments across the range. Samsung is known for its customization options, and this bar is no exception, with a graphic EQ in addition to its bass and treble adjustments so you can customize its sound throughout the range. It comes without satellites, so it takes up less space in your room, but its surround sound performance isn't as good as the Vizio V Series V51-H6.
One of the trade-offs for the lower price is that the bar doesn't come with a discrete center channel like the 3.1 LG SN6Y. While voices are clearly reproduced, they aren't as accurately localized within the soundstage as a result. Still, there are plenty of customization tools to enhance its sound, including a dialogue enhancement mode to make voices more clear and crisp in your TV shows.
Another wallet-friendly option is the TCL Alto 6+, which is the best cheap soundbar we've tested. It's a simple 2.1 setup that doesn't have as many features as the pricier options on the list, but it's still suitable for uses like listening to music and TV shows. It has a decent sound, with a fairly neutral response that ensures vocals and lead instruments are clear and present in the mix, though a bit dark due to its recessed treble.
Your customization options are limited, but there are three EQ presets on hand, including a 'TV' mode that enhances dialogue to make voices more crisp and clear in your audio. If you have a Roku TV, it's also advertised to work seamlessly with the TV's remote, so you can use it to control the bar's features. Overall, it's an upgrade over your existing TV speakers, but you can certainly enhance your listening experience if you're willing to spend a little more on your soundbar.
Jun 03, 2022: Replaced the Sony HT-S100F with the TCL Alto 6+ as 'Best Under $100' since the TCL's price dropped. Added the LG SN6Y as 'Best Without Speakers'.
Apr 05, 2022: Replaced the Samsung HW-A450 with the Samsung HW-A550 after a price drop. Minor updates to the text for clarity.
Feb 04, 2022: No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
Jan 07, 2022: Replaced the TCL Alto 6+ with the Sony HT-S100F since the TCL rose above $100. Replaced the Samsung HW-A550 with the Samsung HW-A450 as 'Best Under $200' since the HW-A550 has risen above $200. Added the Vizio V Series V21-H8 as an 'Alternative With HDMI ARC'. Added the TCL Alto 8i as the 'Best Budget Soundbar For Dolby Atmos'. Removed the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6 as 'Best Under $300' as its price rose above $300. Added the TCL Alto 6+ and the Samsung HW-A550 to Notable Mentions.
Dec 09, 2021: Replaced the Sony HT-S100F with the TCL Alto 6+ as 'Best Cheap' since the TCL reproduces more low-bass. Replaced the Samsung HW-A450 with the Samsung HW-A550 as its price dropped below $200. Added the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6 as 'Best Under $300'. Moved the Sony to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best budget soundbars and best cheap 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 the best value soundbars. 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.