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 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 nearly 50 soundbars so far, 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 we've tested so far is the Sony HT-S100F. This entry-level soundbar from Sony can be a viable option if you're looking to upgrade the sound from your TV's integrated speakers without spending a fortune. The overall build quality is decent and it has a simple, straightforward design that's easy to set up.
While it sounds a bit muddy, this standalone soundbar still performs alright overall, especially compared to other cheap soundbars we've reviewed. It's not a top-of-the-line product, but it's an affordable option for streaming music over Bluetooth or watching some TV shows here and there. It can even downmix Dolby Digital surround content to stereo, which some cheap soundbars can't do at all.
Unfortunately, it's quite large for a standalone bar. It might not fit directly under your TV either, which can be an issue if you're tight on space. Still, if you don't mind it taking up a bit of room, it provides decent overall value for the price, making it the best cheap soundbar we've tested to date.
The best budget soundbar under $200 we've tested is the Polk Audio SIGNA S2. This 2.1 channel setup has an exciting v-shaped sound profile that brings out the bass and treble from your favorite tunes. It's also decently well-built and you can easily stream audio to it as it supports Bluetooth.
Thanks to its wireless subwoofer, you get a lot of bass that fans of EDM and hip-hop may especially enjoy. It also has a fairly well-balanced mid-range, which is great for TV shows or podcasts, and it can get pretty loud too, although some listeners may hear compression artifacts if you've got the volume cranked up to its max. There's a couple of handy features such as dialogue enhancement as well as an auto-volume mode that can help improve your listening experience. If you prefer to tweak your sound a bit, there are also EQ presets available as well as a bass adjustment feature which can help reduce some of the bar's overall boominess.
On the downside, this bar doesn't support DTS content and its fabric covering on the bar is prone to collecting dust or ripping. Its center channel also doesn't do the best job of producing clear, natural sound. If you're looking for another soundbar that has a slightly better center channel performance, take a look at the TCL Alto 7+. That being said, the Polk Audio SIGNA S2 still delivers good value overall and it's one of the best soundbars under $200 that we've tested to date too.
If you're looking for something that feels a bit more premium and is slightly more compact, try the Bose Solo 5. While the Polk Audio SIGNA S2 has a wireless subwoofer that can produce a deep, thumpy bass, the Bose is a standalone soundbar, which makes it easier to set up and start using right away. It also has a slightly more neutral sound profile and its center channel offers better performance for decently clear and neutral dialogue reproduction. On the downside, it doesn't have HDMI ARC support so it can't support Dolby Digital content through this input. It also doesn't have any sound enhancement features, which can be very limiting if you like to tweak your audio.
If you're looking for a soundbar that packs in the bass but can support audio formats over its HDMI ARC port, get the Polk. However, if you're short on space and you prefer something that sounds decent right out-of-the-box, go with the Bose.
The best value soundbar under $300 we've tested so far is the Yamaha YAS-207. This 2.1 setup comes with a dedicated wireless subwoofer that can producer much deeper bass than all the other options on this list. The newer Yamaha YAS-209 has even better bass performance, but it's still a bit more expensive, so it's worth snagging the 207 while you still can.
When it comes to sound, the stereo performance of this soundbar is quite surprising. Its sound profile is very neutral and is suitable for a wide variety of content, from classical music to horror movies. It supports most surround formats found on Blu-ray discs or content coming from streaming apps. It has a dialogue enhancement feature that can help make voices a bit clearer, and you can also adjust the subwoofer level to get a bit more bass.
While the soundbar feels decently well-built overall, it’s covered by a mesh fabric that feels like it could quite easily rip, and tends to collect dust. Nevertheless, it’s still one of the best affordable soundbars we’ve tested so far thanks to its impressive cost-to-performance ratio.
If you like to play around with your sound settings, check out the Samsung HW-T550. Although its default sound profile is slightly more bass-heavy than the Yamaha YAS-207, it comes with a nifty graphic EQ with presets so you can tweak it to your liking. It also feels slightly better built, too, thanks to its metal grills that cover the speakers, and it performs very similarly to the 2019 Samsung HW-R550. However, it has a worse surround performance, and it can't support 5.1 PCM content. It also lacks an AUX cable; however, if others want to share music from their phones, they can use its Bluetooth support instead.
If you're looking for something that sounds good right out-of-the-box or if you don't like to adjust your sound settings too much, the Yamaha is a better choice. However, if you want to be able to really customize your sound experience from a better-built soundbar, get the Samsung.
06/22/2020: Added Samsung HW-T550 as 'Customizable Alternative' to the Yamaha YAS-207, and moved the Samsung HW-R550 to 'Notable Mentions'. Additionally replaced the TCL Alto 7+ with the Polk Audio SIGNA S2.
01/22/2020: Added the JBL Link Bar to 'Notable Mentions'.
11/01/2019: Added Samsung HW-R550 as 'Customizable Alternative' to the Yamaha YAS-207.
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.