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 30 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.
Unfortunately, since it doesn't have a wireless subwoofer, it doesn't perform very well with low bass and lacks deep thump and rumble. On the upside, it's a very affordable option if you only want to stream music via Bluetooth and if you only watch TV shows or movies here and then. It even supports Dolby Digital content, but it will be downmixed to stereo due to the speakers' configuration of the bar. It's an overall very straightforward bar but does a good job if you're not looking for a top-of-the-line product.
If you're only looking to upgrade the sound from your TV's integrated speakers 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 2.1 setup comes with a dedicated wireless subwoofer, and its design feels surprisingly sturdy for its price point. It also comes with many accessories and cables, which are welcomed as well. The bar also supports Bluetooth, which is very useful when you just want to play music off your phone.
Sound-wise, the Alto 7+ is quite surprising for a soundbar under $200. Its subwoofer performs decently well, which will provide a bit more thump and rumble than some cheaper models that don't have a wireless sub we've tested so far. A few EQ presets are available, giving you a bit more control over its sound to suit your preferences. It even supports Dolby Digital content, but you'll need to use its HDMI ARC port, and everything will be downmixed.
Also, while this bar can get very loud, it's not recommended to push it to its limits, as there's a lot of pumping and compression artifacts in the bass range. On the upside, it has a decent dialogue enhancement feature to help make voices a bit clearer and offers a decent overall performance for people who don't want to break the bank.
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. However, if you're able to stretch your budget by a little bit, the JBL Link Bar is a noticeably better bar than the Yamaha, but it isn't under $200. It has a better stereo frequency response and has a lot of HDMI inputs, while still supporting DTS and Dolby Digital on ARC, HDMI, and optical as well.
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 doesn't have a dedicated subwoofer or HDMI ports like the TCL Alto 7+, but it's noticeably easier to set up. Its performance is quite decent, especially for its small size, which is perfect for people for very small soundbars. This soundbar is well-built, while still being affordable. It lacks a few features and inputs, but if you're looking to upgrade from your computer or TV speakers, this soundbar will be a good option if you have limited space. It's also a great option for people who don't feel like figuring out more complex setups.
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. It offers good overall value if you're looking for an entry-level product. Like some other options on this list, this 2.1 setup comes with a dedicated wireless subwoofer that packs a lot of bass, which is great at this price point. It supports most audio formats found on Blu-ray discs or content coming from streaming apps.
When it comes to sound, the stereo performance of this soundbar is quite surprising. Its sound profile is very neutral and is suitable for a wide variety of content. It also has a dialogue enhancement feature that helps make the voices a bit clearer. You can also adjust the subwoofer level, which is neat if you want a bit more bass. You can also easily stream content via Bluetooth with your phone. The bar can also get pretty loud, although we don't recommend using it at its max volume if you want the best audio quality.
Additionally, while the bar is well-built, it's covered by a mesh fabric that feels a bit cheap. It might be easy to rip and can get dirty by dust quite fast. Nevertheless, this is one of the best affordable soundbars and if you're not looking for a top-notch surround experience when watching movies, its stereo performance rivals some more high-end products.
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 is a good alternative. While it has a more bass-heavy and dark-sounding profile, it has a nice graphic EQ to help you customize its sound signature to better suit your preference. It also offers a good amount of ports, but the HDMI port doesn't do 4k passthrough, which is disappointing. The Samsung is also better-built than the Yamaha since its design doesn't have any fabric. It feels well-built and has a metal grill covering the speakers. You can also find the Samsung on sale under $200 quite often, and you might want to also check out the Samsung HW-R650 if you prefer having a 3.1 soundbar with a dedicated center channel. This soundbar is slightly over the $300 mark, but if you do find it on sale, it's a better option than both the R550 and the Yamaha.
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.
02/21/2020: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.
01/22/2020: Minor text and structure changes, added the JBL Link Bar to 'Notable Mentions'.
11/01/2019: Added Samsung HW-R550 as 'Customizable Alternative' to the Yamaha YAS-207.