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 25 soundbars so far, and below you'll find the best budget soundbars to buy in 2020. See our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best soundbars under $200, and the best soundbars under $300.
The best cheap soundbar we've tested so far is the Sony HT-S100F. This is a standalone entry-level soundbar from Sony that performs decently, despite its price. The soundbar itself is fairly unassuming. The top is covered with a faux-leather while the front grill is metal, all in a matte black color. The overall build quality is decent and you shouldn't have any issues with it. Do note, however, that the soundbar itself is quite large and won't fit between the legs of a 55 inch TV or smaller, so you may have to adjust the placement accordingly.
Without a dedicated subwoofer, though, you can expect the sound to lack the deep bass needed to produce that rumble and thump, and that's the case here. What you're getting is pretty barebones, but if you only watch TV shows with the occasional movie, this soundbar does have a few sound enhancement features to make it a better experience. Connectivity is also pretty limited, with only one HDMI ARC and a USB port. But it does support Bluetooth if you want to stream music from a portable device. Surprisingly, the soundbar can get pretty loud without any compression and supports Dolby Digital content. However, the latter gets downmixed to a 2.0 configuration and it's always on.
If you're only looking to upgrade the sound from the integrated speakers of your TV and you're on a tight budget, this soundbar will do the job.
The best budget soundbar under $200 we've tested so far is the TCL Alto 7+. This soundbar set up comes with a dedicated subwoofer for deeper bass, so it's a better choice for movies than some of the cheaper models we've reviewed. It feels surprisingly well-built for a budget soundbar, with a durable plastic and metal build. It also comes with lots of cables and accessories, like a wall-mounting kit, which is quite nice at this price point.
Its sound signature is fairly neutral, but it performs noticeably better in the treble range than the Sony HT-S100F. This results in brighter sounding vocals and dialogue in TV shows. There are a few EQ presets as well, which offer a bit of customization depending on what type of content you're listening to. It even supports Dolby Digital over HDMI ARC, but don't expect a very immersive surround performance, since everything is downmixed to 2.0.
Unfortunately, if you like listening to movies or music at a very high volume, this soundbar might not be the optimal choice. Although it can get loud, it has trouble performing well when pushed to its limits. There's some audible compression, especially in the bass range. On the upside, it's quite sturdy for its price point and will offer decent performance for people who aren't looking for the most premium setup.
If you watch a lot of movies on Blu-ray that only have DTS audio, then get the Yamaha YAS-108/ATS-1080. It doesn't have a separate subwoofer like the TCL Alto 7+ and feels less well-built, but has a full HDMI-in port on top of HDMI ARC so it can serve as a hub between your gaming consoles or Blu-ray player and your TV. It has an optical port and a standard audio jack for compatibility with even more devices and supports both Dolby Digital and DTS on ARC, HDMI, and optical. While the soundbar sounds okay overall, it doesn't have very extended bass, so it'll struggle to recreate the deep thump and rumble of action movies, but should still be alright for TV shows.
Get the TCL if you want something with a more durable design and slightly more bass, but if you prefer having more connectivity and audio format support options, then go for the Yamaha.
If you have limited space or want to fit a soundbar between your TV stand legs, get the compact Bose Solo 5. It's a small soundbar that doesn't have HDMI ports or a wireless sub like the TCL Alto 7+, but it's a simple bar that offers decent performance for its size. It packs a decent amount of bass, even without a subwoofer. Also, the Bose is well-built for its low price point. This is a straightforward soundbar that doesn't have many features or more recent inputs but will be great for people who are looking for something plug-and-play.
Get the TCL if you need HDMI, but if you want something much more compact that has similar audio reproduction without a subwoofer, go for the Bose.
The best soundbar under $300 we've tested so far is the Yamaha YAS-207. This soundbar has plenty of connection options, whether you want to use wired to your TV or even wirelessly via Bluetooth. It also has a dedicated app if you plan on using it often with your phone. This setup comes with a wireless subwoofer that offers decent overall performance and should please most users.
This soundbar has a surprisingly well-balanced sound that's bright enough to make dialogue present and understandable while still delivering more bass than most of the budget options we've reviewed. It can get pretty loud without too much distortion, but does compress a bit at max volume. This shouldn't be a problem if you're just watching your favorite shows, though, and you can even enhance dialogue to be clearer at lower volumes, which is nice.
Although the bar is fairly well-built, especially for the price point, it's almost entirely covered by mesh-like fabric that doesn't feel very high-end. It's prone to tearing and can quickly become dirty and catches dust and pet hair. Also, even if it comes with dedicated wireless subwoofer, people might feel like it doesn't perform as well as more high-end products, and results in a bit disappointing low-bass. Nevertheless, this soundbar has one of the best performance to price ratios and will offer great value for users.
If you're not sure whether you'll like the default sound of the Yamaha YAS-207, a more customizable soundbar like the Samsung HW-R550 could be a good consideration. This soundbar has a darker sound that's bass-heavy and lacking a bit of detail in the treble, but it does have tons of customization options, including a graphic EQ to tune it to your liking. There's a decent selection of ports; however, the HDMI port isn't a 4k passthrough, even if the devices at both ends support it. The general build quality of the soundbar and the subwoofer is also better, without any use of fabric that can tear over time.
If you tend to watch a lot of dialogue-heavy content, the Yamaha is still a better choice. For a more versatile soundbar that you can customize with better build quality, go with the Samsung.
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 budget soundbar reviews. 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.
12/23/2019: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
11/22/2019: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.
11/01/2019: Added Samsung HW-R550 as 'Customizable Alternative' to the Yamaha YAS-207.