Equipping your home theatre 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 dialog-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 25 soundbars so far, and below you'll find the best budget soundbars to buy in 2019. 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 stereo soundbar performs decently, especially considering its price, and is versatile enough for most casual uses at home. It's a good option for those who watch mostly TV shows or some movies from time to time, and has quite a few different connectivity options for compatibility with different home theatre setups.
This Sony soundbar has a pretty neutral sound profile and can get quite loud without compressing audio very much, which is good for a cheaper product. It also has a dialog enhancement feature so that you can still hear dialog well in action movies without having to turn the volume way up, which is nice if you like to watch your favorite films later in the evening. It also supports Dolby Digital content over HDMI ARC, so even though it downmixes to 2.0, you'll still be able to decode any DD Blu-rays you might have.
While the soundbar on its own is decent for the price, it doesn't come with a subwoofer. The slightly more expensive Sony HT-S200F has an integrated sub so it can produce deeper bass, but it sounds darker since it doesn't reproduce frequencies in the treble range very well. It's not the flashiest soundbar we've tested, but if you're looking for something cheap that'll do the job, the S100F is the best budget soundbar.
The best budget soundbar under $200 we've tested so far is the TCL Alto 7+. This soundbar set up comes with a dedicated subwoofer for deeper bass, so it's a better choice for movies than some of the cheaper models we've reviewed. It feels surprisingly well-built for a budget soundbar, with a durable plastic and metal build. It also comes with lots of cables and accessories, like a wall-mounting kit, which is quite nice at this price point.
It has a fairly neutral stereo frequency response like the Sony HT-S100F, but its treble range is further extended, so dialog sounds brighter and more present. It has a couple of EQ presets for movies, music, or news, and supports Dolby Digital over HDMI ARC with downmixing to 2.0.
While this soundbar can get very loud, it doesn't perform as well at max volume. It tends to create pumping and compression artifacts, notably in the bass range, but thankfully doesn't distort too much. Most people also don't tend to listen to music or watch movies at max volume either, so it shouldn't be much of an issue. All things considered, it's one of the best soundbars for the money; it's an alright soundbar for most people thanks to its numerous connectivity options, good build quality, and decent sound.
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.
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 a smaller TV and need a more compact soundbar to fit under it, get the Bose Solo 5. It doesn't have an HDMI port or a dedicated subwoofer, but it's quite a bit smaller and provides slightly better bass performance, even without a sub. It's a well-built 2.0 soundbar with a simple design of solid plastic and a metal grill on the front and sides. It has decent sound reproduction, especially for its size, though it's lacking in bass. On the upside, it reproduces vocals accurately, making it a good choice for watching TV shows or listening to podcasts in the house. It's a little lacking in connectivity options, and only has optical, digital coaxial, and a standard 3.5mm aux port, though this should be fine for most people.
Get the Alto 7+ if you need HDMI, but if you want something much more compact that has similar audio reproduction without a subwoofer, go for the Solo 5.
The best soundbar under $300 we've tested so far is the Yamaha YAS-207. It's a versatile soundbar that comes with lots of different connectivity options and even has a companion app you can download if you prefer using your smartphone instead of its remote. It comes with a separate subwoofer, sounds decent, and provides pretty good value for the price overall.
This soundbar has a surprisingly well-balanced sound that's bright enough to make dialog present and understandable while still delivering more bass than most of the budget options we've reviewed. It can get pretty loud without too much distortion, but does compress a bit at max volume. This shouldn't be a problem if you're just watching your favorite shows, though, and you can even enhance dialog to be clearer at lower volumes, which is nice.
Although the soundbar feels fairly well-built overall, it's covered with a mesh-like fabric that gets dirty rather easily and is prone to tearing, which could be a problem if you have pets around the house. It also doesn't produce as much bass as some of the more premium soundbar setups we've reviewed, but this is to be expected at this price point. All things considered, it's the best value soundbar and is likely to please those who want a reasonably well-performing soundbar for casual use at home without breaking the bank.
If you don't want to spend over $300 but want a soundbar that allows you to customize your sound, get the Samsung HW-R550. Its center channel performance isn't as good as the Yamaha YAS-207, meaning it may be harder to hear dialog, but it has more customization features. This 2.1 soundbar setup feels slightly better-built than the Yamaha, with a metal grill covering the front of the soundbar instead of fabric. Unfortunately, it sounds slightly dark, with an overemphasis in the bass range and a lack of detail in treble, though it offers a 7-band EQ which lets you customize the sound. It also has a dialog enhancement feature, a night mode, and bass adjustments in case you're worried about bothering your neighbors.
Get the YAS-207 if you have a hard time hearing dialog and want better center-channel performance, but if you want a more feature-packed soundbar that lets you customize your sound, go for the HW-R550.
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.
11/01/2019: Added Samsung HW-R550 as 'Customizable Alternative' to the Yamaha YAS-207.