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 125 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 Sony HT-S100F. This standalone 2.0 soundbar is best-suited for dialogue-centric content like TV shows and podcasts. It gets pretty loud without a lot of compression, making it a suitable choice for cranking up the volume at busy parties.
This soundbar has a muddy and slightly dark sound profile due to the recessed treble, but its balanced mid-range helps reproduce voices clearly and accurately. There's a dialogue enhancement feature to make voices sound more crisp, as well as an auto-volume mode to balance out the volume while watching TV at night. You can even stream podcasts from your phone to the bar via Bluetooth.
Unfortunately, this soundbar has a surround sound mode called S-Force Front Surround that you can't turn off. It lacks many sound customization features, and its surround performance isn't very impressive. However, if you're just looking for a simple upgrade over your TV speakers at a low price, it's a solid choice.
The best budget soundbar under $200 that we've tested is the Samsung HW-A450. This 2.1 setup is a good choice for TV shows and music, and it comes with lots of sound customization features. It's also Bluetooth-compatible, so you can stream audio from your mobile devices to play on the bar.
Thanks to its neutral, balanced sound profile, this soundbar is suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content. Its dedicated sub adds a little extra boom in the bass range, too. If you prefer a different sound, there are lots of customization options available, including a graphic EQ and presets.
Unfortunately, this soundbar has a very limited selection of inputs. There's an Optical In port to connect it to your TV, but you can't connect via HDMI ARC or Full HDMI In. As a result, you can't use it as a hub between different devices, which can be disappointing for some users.
If you're looking for a soundbar under $200 with ARC, check out the Vizio V Series V21-H8. Though its sound profile isn't as neutral as the Samsung HW-A450's, it comes with an HDMI ARC input to connect it to your TV. Thanks to its HDMI CEC support, you can even use your TV remote to control some of the bar's basic features. This 2.1 setup has a boomy sound profile with extra emphasis in the bass range, but vocals and lead instruments are still reproduced quite clearly. You can even customize its sound with its bass and treble adjustments.
If you want a soundbar with a graphic EQ and a more neutral sound out-of-the-box, check out the Samsung. However, if you prefer a boomy sound profile and want a setup with HDMI ARC, consider the Vizio instead.
The best soundbar under $250 we've tested is the Vizio V Series V51-H6. This 5.1 setup offers a very versatile performance for its price, with two satellite speakers that help create a more immersive surround sound. It's also Bluetooth-compatible, so you can wirelessly play music from your mobile devices on the bar.
This soundbar has a pretty neutral sound profile with a little extra boom in the bass range, making it suitable for listening to many different types of audio content. You can even use its bass and treble adjustments as well as its EQ presets to customize its sound. It also gets pretty loud, and there isn't a lot of compression at max volume, which is nice.
Unfortunately, this soundbar doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, which might disappoint some movie fans. It also lacks a Full HDMI In port, so you can't use it for high-quality passthrough. However, it's still a solid choice for music and dialogue-centric content like TV shows.
The best budget soundbar for Dolby Atmos that we've tested is the TCL Alto 8i. This standalone bar is one of the few 2.1 setups we've tested that supports Dolby Atmos content. It has front-firing drivers built into the bar to bounce sound around your room, creating the illusion of height.
Out-of-the-box, this soundbar has a slightly dark and boomy sound profile with a little extra emphasis in the bass range. Vocals and lead instruments are reproduced clearly, though, meaning dialogue in Atmos content is clear. There are even bass and treble adjustments available to help you customize its sound.
Unfortunately, there's no dedicated subwoofer, and this setup struggles to reproduce the low rumble in action-packed movies. Due to its 2.1 configuration, it has to downmix surround content into stereo to play it, which isn't as immersive-sounding. However, if you want a fairly versatile bar on a budget, it's still a solid choice.
Jan 07, 2022: Replaced the TCL Alto 6+ with the Sony HT-S100F since the TCL rose above $100. Replaced the Samsung HW-A550 with the Samsung HW-A450 as 'Best Under $200' since the HW-A550 has risen above $200. Added the Vizio V Series V21-H8 as an 'Alternative With HDMI ARC'. Added the TCL Alto 8i as the 'Best Budget Soundbar For Dolby Atmos'. Removed the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6 as 'Best Under $300' as its price rose above $300. Added the TCL Alto 6+ and the Samsung HW-A550 to Notable Mentions.
Dec 09, 2021: Replaced the Sony HT-S100F with the TCL Alto 6+ as 'Best Cheap' since the TCL reproduces more low-bass. Replaced the Samsung HW-A450 with the Samsung HW-A550 as its price dropped below $200. Added the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6 as 'Best Under $300'. Moved the Sony to Notable Mentions.
Oct 15, 2021: Added the Hisense HS218 to Notable Mentions. Minor updates to the text; no changes in product picks.
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.
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.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best budget soundbars and 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.