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 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 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 mostly watch 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 soundbar should satisfy people who are looking for a product for simply improving the listening experience of TV speakers. It has a fairly neutral sound profile and can reach loud enough volumes for most uses. It also doesn't compress when pushed at max volume, which is good for an affordable product. It also features dialogue enhancement, which is great if you have trouble hearing voices in movies and TV shows. They'll be clearer and louder, even at lower volumes. This soundbar also supports Dolby Digital, so if you have your favorite movie on Blu-ray, you'll still be able to play it through the soundbar via HDMI ARC, but know that it won't be a great immersive surround performance due to 2.0 downmixing.
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.
Its sound signature is fairly neutral, but it performs noticeably better in the treble range than the Sony HT-S100F. This results in brighter sounding vocals and dialogue in TV shows. There are a few EQ presets as well, which offer a bit of customization depending on what type of content you're listening to. It even supports Dolby Digital over HDMI ARC, but don't expect a very immersive surround performance, since everything is downmixed to 2.0.
Unfortunately, if you like listening to movies or music at a very high volume, this soundbar might not be the optimal choice. Although it can get loud, it has trouble performing well when pushed to its limits. There's some audible compression, especially in the bass range. On the upside, its quite sturdy for a its price point and will offer decent performance for people who aren't looking for the most premium setup.
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 limited space or want to fit a soundbar between your TV stand legs, get the compact Bose Solo 5. It's a small soundbar that doesn't have HDMI ports or a wireless sub like the TCL Alto 7+, but it's a simple bar that offers decent performance for its size. It packs a decent amount of bass, even without a subwoofer. Also, the Bose is well-built for its low price point. This is a straightforward soundbar that doesn't have many features or more recent inputs, but will be great for people who are looking for something that is plug-and-play.
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. This soundbar has plenty of connection options, whether you want to use wired to your TV or even wirelessly via Bluetooth. It also has a dedicated app if you plan on using it often with your phone. This setup comes with a wireless subwoofer that offers decent overall performance and should please most users.
This soundbar has a surprisingly well-balanced sound that's bright enough to make dialogue 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 dialogue to be clearer at lower volumes, which is nice.
Although the bar is fairly well-built, especially for the price point, it's almost entirely covered by mesh-like fabric that doesn't feel very high-end. It's prone to tearing and can quickly become dirty and catches dust and pet hair. Also, even if it comes with dedicated wireless subwoofer, people might feel like it doesn't perform as well as more high-end products, and results in a bit disappointing low-bass. Nevertheless, this soundbar has one of the best performance to price ratios and will offer a great value for users.
If you're looking for something a bit more customizable and would like something with an EQ, get the Samsung HW-R550 instead. It might not be as good as the Yamaha YAS-207 to make dialogue clearer, but it has a 7-band EQ that allows you to play around with the sound and tune it to your preference. It's also better-built, as it has a metal grill covering the speakers and there's no sign of mesh fabric on this soundbar. On the other hand, its sound profile is a bit dark with overemphasized bass and a lack of detail in the treble range, but this can be corrected using the EQ. It also has features to enhance your listening experience like a night mode, which is useful.
Get the Yamaha if you have a hard time hearing dialogue and want better center-channel performance, but if you want a more feature-packed soundbar that lets you customize your sound, go for the Samsung instead.
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.
11/22/2019: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.
11/01/2019: Added Samsung HW-R550 as 'Customizable Alternative' to the Yamaha YAS-207.