The 5 Best Budget Soundbars - Fall 2021 Reviews

Updated
Best Budget Soundbars
118 Soundbars Tested
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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 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 115 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: Sony HT-S100F

    6.3
    Mixed Usage
    7.2
    Dialogue/TV Shows
    6.4
    Music
    5.6
    Movies
    Channels
    2.0

    The best cheap soundbar that we've tested is the Sony HT-S100F. This 2.0 setup comes with an S-Force Front Surround feature advertised to help create a more immersive sound. It's also Bluetooth-compatible, making it easy to wirelessly stream audio from your mobile devices to the bar.

    Out-of-the-box, this soundbar has a neutral sound profile, though it lacks some low-bass and can sound a bit dark. It should still be suitable for listening to dialogue-centric content like podcasts and TV shows, and there's even a dialogue enhancement feature to help make voices clear and crisp. It also gets pretty loud, making it ideal for listening to music in large rooms and crowded parties.

    Unfortunately, you can't turn off the S-Force Front Surround mode, which could be a bit disappointing for some users. Also, this soundbar doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, and it lacks a Full HDMI In port, so you can't use it as a hub between different devices. If you're on a tight budget, it's still a solid upgrade over your existing TV speakers.

    See our review

  2. Best Budget Soundbar Under $200: Samsung HW-A450

    7.0
    Mixed Usage
    7.7
    Dialogue/TV Shows
    7.7
    Music
    6.1
    Movies
    Channels
    2.1

    The Samsung HW-A450 is the best budget soundbar under $200 that we've tested. This 2.1 setup offers a neutral, balanced sound profile out-of-the-box, making it suitable for lots of different types of audio content. It also comes with lots of sound enhancement features, including a graphic EQ and presets to help you customize its sound.

    This soundbar can get loud enough to fill up a large room or a crowded party. There isn't a lot of compression when you push it to max volume, either. It's also Bluetooth-compatible, so you can wirelessly stream audio from your phone to the bar.

    Unfortunately, this setup doesn't have a very impressive surrounds performance since it has to downmix surround content into stereo to play it. Also, it doesn't come with many inputs, so you can't connect it via HDMI ARC or Full HDMI In. That said, you can still plug it into your TV using the included optical cable.

    See our review

  3. Alternative With Atmos: TCL Alto 8i

    Channels
    2.1

    If you're looking for a soundbar under $200 that supports Dolby Atmos content, consider the TCL Alto 8i instead. While it doesn't come with a graphic EQ like the Samsung HW-A450, it can play Dolby Atmos content using the front-firing drivers built into the bar to bounce sound off the ceiling and back down towards you. Its default sound profile is a bit punchy and boomy, though its balanced mid-range helps to reproduce clear and detailed vocals and lead instruments. Since it lacks a subwoofer, it struggles to reproduce the thump and rumble in the low-bass, however. You can still customize its sound using its bass and treble adjustments as well as its EQ presets.

    If you want a soundbar with more sound enhancement features and a more neutral sound out-of-the-box, check out the Samsung. However, if you want a setup with Atmos support, consider the TCL instead.

    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
    7.0
    Movies
    Channels
    5.1

    The best budget soundbar that we've tested for under $300 is the Vizio V Series V51-H6. This 5.1 setup comes with a subwoofer and two satellite speakers and can get loud enough to fill spaces like large crowded rooms with sound. It also features an AUX port, meaning you can wire devices like your phone to the bar.

    It has a balanced and neutral sound profile, making it suitable for listening to a wide variety of audio content. Its balanced mid-range and dedicated center channel ensure voices and dialogue are clearly and accurately reproduced, so it's suitable for dialogue-heavy audio content like podcasts and TV Shows. It can produce a deep bass thanks to its subwoofer, so you can feel the deep thump and rumble in action-packed movie scenes or bass-heavy music. Additionally, there are EQ presets you can use to tweak its sound.

    Unfortunately, It doesn't have more comprehensive sound enhancement features like a graphic EQ to customize its sound. It also lacks a Full HDMI In port and doesn't support Dolby Atmos content which may disappoint some movie fans. However, it's still the best value soundbar if you're looking for a versatile choice.

    See our review

  5. Better-Built Alternative: Samsung HW-A550

    Channels
    2.1

    Check out the Samsung HW-A550 if you're looking for a better-built soundbar for under $300. Though this 2.1 setup doesn't have any discrete satellite speakers, and while its center channel performance isn't as good as that of the Vizio V Series V51-H6, it's better-built, with a metal grille protecting its drivers. This soundbar has a neutral sound profile out-of-the-box, making it suitable for listening to a wide variety of audio content. However, it lacks some low-bass, so you may not feel the deep thump and rumble in bass-heavy music or action-packed movies. Fortunately, there's a graphic EQ and presets you can use to customize its sound to your liking. It can also get loud with little compression at max volume, so your audio sounds clean at louder volumes. Unfortunately, it has to downmix surround content to stereo to play it, which doesn't sound as immersive, and it doesn't support Dolby Atmos.

    Get the Vizio if you're looking for a 5.1 soundbar with a better center channel performance. That said, consider the Samsung if you prefer a better-built and more customizable soundbar instead.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R: The Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R is a 2.1 soundbar that's very well-built and supports 4k passthrough. However, it has many compression artifacts at max volume, and it struggles to reproduce low-bass. 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 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. It also lacks a dedicated subwoofer and satellite speakers. See our review
  • Hisense HS218: The Hisense HS218 is a budget-friendly 2.1 soundbar with a neutral sound profile out-of-the-box. That said, its low-bass isn't very extended, so you may not feel the deep thump and rumble in bass-heavy music like EDM. See our review
  • Vizio V Series V21-H8: The Vizio V Series V21-H8 is a 2.1 setup with a slightly boomy sound profile out-of-the-box. It has some EQ presets, but unfortunately, it lacks a full graphic EQ. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Oct 15, 2021: Added the Hisense HS218 to Notable Mentions. Minor updates to the text; no changes in product picks.

  2. Aug 16, 2021: Replaced the Samsung HW-A650 with the Samsung HW-A550 as 'Better-Built Alternative' since the HW-A650 is above our price point.

  3. Jun 17, 2021: Replaced the TCL Alto 6+ with the Sony HT-S100F as 'Best Cheap' since the TCL is above our price point. Replaced the Vizio V Series V21-H8 with the Samsung HW-A450 as 'Best Under $200' since the Samsung is more customizable. Replaced the Samsung HW-T550 with the better-built 3.1 Samsung HW-A650 as 'Better-Built Alternative'. Added the Vizio V Series V21-H8 to Notable Mentions; removed the Yamaha YAS-209 since it's above our price point.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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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