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The 5 Best Budget Soundbars - Spring 2024 Reviews

Updated May 16, 2024 at 12:42 pm
Best Budget Soundbars

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 190 soundbars; below, you'll find the best soundbars under $250. See our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best soundbars under $200, and the best soundbars under $300.

  1. Best Budget Soundbar

    The best budget soundbar we've tested is the Vizio V Series V51-H6. It's one of the only setups available at this price point with discrete satellites designed to improve the quality of 5.1 surround sound formats like Dolby Digital and DTS. It provides an immersive, cinematic feel with surround sound content, making you feel like you've dropped your couch right into the middle of the action. The added subwoofer also brings plenty of rumble in the bass for action-packed scenes. You'll have to wire the satellites to the subwoofer to get them to work, though, which isn't ideal for all living spaces.

    The bar offers a great price-to-performance ratio, whether you're listening to music, movies, or TV shows. Its sound quality is especially impressive for the price, so voices and lead instruments in your favorite tunes are reproduced with clarity right out of the box. Dialogue is easy to follow, and Bluetooth compatibility makes it easy to stream podcasts, audiobooks, and other content from your phone. While it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, this is common with bars in this price range. Overall, it's a great pick that won't break the bank.

    See our review

  2. Best Budget Soundbar Without Satellites

    If you don't have space for satellite speakers in your living room, check out the Samsung HW-B650. This soundbar has a dedicated subwoofer to improve its bass reproduction, but it's optional to add on satellites, making it a much better fit for smaller rooms. This 3.1 bar has a simple design similar to other models like the Samsung HW-B550, though it comes with an added center channel to improve vocal clarity in your favorite movies and TV shows. It's well-built, and customization tools like a graphic EQ are on hand to switch up its sound.

    There is one major tradeoff when it comes to soundbars without rear speakers, and it's most evident when you playback 5.1 surround sound formats like Dolby Digital. Since the bar lacks dedicated surrounds, it has to downmix this content into stereo to play it. The resulting sound is much less clear and real, as the bar can't replicate the feeling of sound effects in the space around your couch. It's not a huge deal if you don't watch much of this content in the first place, but more avid movie lovers will find a better experience with surround speakers.

    See our review

  3. Best Budget Standalone Soundbar

    Living in a studio apartment? Low on space? A standalone soundbar is a good alternative since it packs sound into an all-in-one package. The best we've tested in the budget range is the Vizio M Series M213ad-K8. It has a unique trapezoidal design, and its 2.1 setup means it's ideal for listening to stereo content, including most music and TV shows. You get a clear sound right out of the box, making dialogue clear and easy to understand. It also supports multichannel formats like Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital, though it has to downmix them into stereo to play them back.

    Compared to the Samsung HW-B650, this soundbar can't reproduce as much low bass, which is normal for a bar without a dedicated subwoofer. It's less noticeable if you mostly listen to content with little bass mixed in, like dialogue-centric TV shows and sitcoms, but it's not ideal for those who love bass-heavy EDM and hip-hop. The bass adjustment tool can bring a little more punch to the mix, but it can't adjust lower bass frequencies due to the lack of a subwoofer. Still, it may be a fair trade-off if you're low on space.

    See our review

  4. Best Budget Small Soundbar

    The Samsung HW-S60B/S61B is another great option for smaller living rooms. It's a standalone soundbar smaller than the Vizio M Series M213ad-K8 and less than 27 inches wide. It can fit beneath your TV or PC without issue. While it's a little pricier than some of the other picks on our list, it's often on sale, and you may find it worth it since it offers impressive sound quality for only a few extra bucks. Built-in Alexa offers hands-free control, too.

    This soundbar has great sound quality and many enhancement features to make the most of its sound. For example, you can access a graphic EQ to customize its sound. It supports many common audio formats, including 5.1 surround sound. It also supports Atmos, though it has to downmix this content into surround sound to play it. Without satellites, its sound isn't quite as immersive as with products like the Vizio V Series V51-H6. It also has fewer connections than bars like the Vizio M Series M213ad-K8, so without an HDMI In port, it can't support video passthrough. Still, for the size, this small soundbar packs a punch.

    See our review

  5. Best Cheap Soundbar

    If you want to spend less, check out the Hisense HS2100, which is the best cheap soundbar we've tested. While found just above the $100 price point, it's a solid choice if you're looking to upgrade from your TV speakers to something with a bit more punch and boom. Unlike other cheap soundbars, it comes with a dedicated subwoofer, which helps add bass to action-packed scenes and energetic basslines. Dialogue and instruments are still reproduced naturally, although they lack a bit of sparkle. Luckily, if this sound isn't to your taste, there are a few EQ presets to help you make the most out of it.

    Compared to pricier picks, this bar lacks a lot of bells and whistles. Its soundstage is decent at best, and while the bar can get loud enough to fill up a living room, there are compression artifacts at regular and max volume, which affects the clarity of your mixes. It also lacks satellites, so its surround performance isn't very immersive or dimensional. That said, it has ARC and Optical support, and you can even play Dolby Digital and DTS content, the latter of which is handy if you're streaming content or watching Blu-rays. If you want your bar to get loud with less compression, try the Sony HT-S100F. This 2.0 bar is a bit louder than the Hisense, and you'll get a clearer sound at max volume. However, it doesn't support the DTS format, and its default sound isn't as neutral or balanced.

    If you're interested in other similarly priced soundbars, check out our recommendations for the best soundbars under $100.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Vizio V Series V51x-J6: The Vizio V Series V51x-J6 is the next generation of the Vizio V Series V51-H6. It's a versatile bar with similar performance. However, it doesn't reproduce quite as much low bass. You might find it a better value if you don't care for the rumble in your audio. See our review
  • Bose TV Speaker: The Bose TV Speaker is a small soundbar that's a good alternative to the Samsung HW-S60B/S61B if you mostly listen to stereo content like music and TV shows. However, it doesn't support Atmos. See our review
  • Sonos Ray: The Sonos Ray is another great small soundbar alternative to the Samsung HW-S60B/S61B. It's a 2.0 device ideal for stereo content, but you won't find Atmos support. See our review
  • TCL Alto 8i: The TCL Alto 8i is one of the few bars in this price range that supports Atmos content. Like the Vizio M Series M213ad-K8, it doesn't reproduce a very immersive sound, and its standalone design means there isn't a lot of rumble in the bass. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. May 16, 2024: We've checked our picks for accuracy and product availability. However, our recommendations remain unchanged.

  2. Apr 03, 2024: We've replaced the Sony HT-S100F with the Hisense HS2100 as the Hisense offers a better overall performance.

  3. Mar 05, 2024: Due to pricing changes, we've replaced the Samsung HW-B550 with the newer Samsung HW-B650 and the TCL Alto 6+ with the Sony HT-S100F.

  4. Jan 09, 2024: The price for the Samsung HW-Q60C has risen above our threshold, so we've replaced it with the Samsung HW-B550.

  5. Nov 06, 2023: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q60B with the next-generation Samsung HW-Q60C.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the 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.