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 80 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.
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.
The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is the best budget soundbar under $200 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.
If you're looking for a soundbar under $200 with more sound customization features, consider the Samsung HW-T550 instead. While this 2.1 setup doesn't have satellite speakers and its center and surround channel performances aren't as good as the Vizio V Series V51-H6, it has a full graphic EQ and presets, so you can really customize its sound to your liking. This well-built soundbar has a well-balanced sound profile out-of-the-box, and its subwoofer adds an extra kick in the bass range. It gets pretty loud without a lot of compression artifacts at max volume, so it's a solid choice for parties too. It also offers bass and treble adjustments, and its dialogue enhancement mode can make vocal-centric content like TV shows sound more clear and crisp. However, while it has a Full HDMI In port, it doesn't support 4k passthrough. It also can't play Dolby Atmos content.
If you want a more versatile soundbar with satellite speakers for watching surround content, check out the Vizio. However, if you like customizing the sound of your bar, consider the Samsung instead.
The best soundbar under $300 that we've tested is the Vizio SB36512-F6. This 5.1.2 setup comes with a subwoofer and two satellite speakers that help provide a more immersive listening experience. It gets pretty loud without a lot of distortion, so you can use it at parties or in large rooms.
Overall, it has a neutral sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different audio content, and the touch of extra bass helps bring action-packed scenes in your favorite TV shows to life. There are a few EQ presets to help you customize its sound, too. It also supports surround and Dolby Atmos content and is a very good choice for watching movies.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have a dialogue enhancement feature, which can help make voices in TV shows sound more crisp and clear. Also, the fabric covering the soundbar seems like it could rip or get dirty easily. That said, it offers a very good overall performance, and it's a solid choice for lots of different uses.
If you're looking for a soundbar with a more premium build quality that's under $300, try the Samsung HW-T650. While it doesn't have satellite speakers like the Vizio SB36512-F6 and doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, the Samsung is made of sturdy plastic with a sleek metal grille to help protect its drivers. It has a neutral sound profile that's suitable for most audio content. Thanks to its dedicated subwoofer, it can reproduce extra punch and boom that fans of EDM and hip-hop can especially enjoy. That said, it offers a fair amount of sound enhancement features to help tweak the bar to your liking, like EQ presets and an auto-volume mode. It can also get loud enough to fill a large or crowded room, and it supports Bluetooth if you like to wirelessly stream audio from your smartphone.
If you're a movie-lover and you're looking for a soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos for a more immersive audio experience, consider the Vizio. However, if you prefer a better-built soundbar with a metal grille design, try the Samsung instead.
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.
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'.
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.
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.
Aug 21, 2020: Replaced the Yamaha YAS-207 with the Yamaha YAS-209. Added the Sony HT-X8500 and the Samsung HW-S60T as Notable Mentions.
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.