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 over 75 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 TCL Alto 6+. While this 2.1 setup is quite simple and straightforward, it's still a viable option for listeners looking to upgrade over their existing TV speakers. The bar is decently well-built, and it even comes with a dedicated subwoofer.
Overall, it has a decently well-balanced sound profile, though some songs can sound a bit flat or dull. There are a few EQ presets available to help you customize its sound, and there's also a dialogue enhancement feature that can make voices clearer and crisper. The bar can get loud without a lot of compression, too, so you can also use it in a large room or at a crowded party.
Unfortunately, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, and it has a poor surround performance, so it may be disappointing for listeners who want to immerse themselves in their favorite movies. It also lacks a Full HDMI In port, so you can't use it as a hub between your devices. However, it's Bluetooth-compatible, so you can stream audio from your phone or tablet to the bar wirelessly.
The best budget soundbar that we've tested is the Vizio V Series V21-H8. This 2.1 model has a dedicated subwoofer that produces deep and boomy bass. It's decently well-built, and it's Bluetooth-compatible, so you can stream content from your phone to the bar.
Overall, it has a boomy, bass-heavy sound profile that adds an extra thump and punch to bass-heavy music genres and action-packed shows. If you prefer a different sound, a few EQ presets are available, including a dialogue enhancement feature that helps make voices sound clearer and crisper. There's also an auto-volume mode to help balance the volume level between different programs.
Unfortunately, while it gets pretty loud, there's a bit of compression when it's played at max volume. Also, it doesn't support Atmos content, and it downmixes surround content into stereo, so it may not be the best choice for an immersive movie-watching experience. That said, if you're on a budget, this is a solid upgrade over your TV speakers.
If you have limited space and want a soundbar that's slightly more compact, try the Bose Solo 5. While the Vizio V Series V21-H8 has a wireless subwoofer that can produce deep, thumpy bass, the Bose is a standalone bar, 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. Unfortunately, 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 something that packs in the bass but can support audio formats over its HDMI ARC port, get the Vizio. However, if you're short on space and you prefer something that sounds decent right out-of-the-box, go with the Bose.
The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is the best soundbar under $300 that we've tested. This 5.1 setup comes with a dedicated subwoofer and two satellite speakers to help create a more immersive listening experience. It can get loud without a lot of compression, so it's a solid choice for listening to audio in a large room or at a crowded party.
Overall, it has a balanced, neutral sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of audio content, and the sub helps add a little extra boom in the bass range. There are four EQ presets available to help you customize its sound, as well as auto-volume and dialogue enhancement modes to make voices sound more clear and crisp. It's also Bluetooth-compatible, so you can stream audio from your phone to the bar wirelessly.
Unfortunately, it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, which may be disappointing for some movie fans. It also lacks a Full HDMI In port, so you can't use the bar as a hub between your devices. However, this soundbar still offers a versatile performance at a more affordable price.
If you like to customize the sound of your soundbar, consider the Samsung HW-R650 instead. While its out-of-the-box sound profile is slightly dark compared to the Vizio V Series V51-H6, it offers a 7-band graphic EQ to give you lots of control over how it sounds. This well-built 3.1 setup comes with a dedicated subwoofer, and it can get loud without a lot of compression. There's also a dialogue enhancement feature and an auto-volume mode available. You can also stream podcasts or music from your phone or tablet to the bar wirelessly over a Bluetooth connection.
If you want a 5.1 soundbar with satellite speakers and a better-balanced sound out-of-the-box, check out the Vizio. However, if you like to customize the sound, consider the 3.1 Samsung instead.
11/20/2020: Replaced the Sony HT-S100F with the TCL Alto 6+ as 'Best Under $100'. Replaced the Yamaha YAS-209 with the Vizio V Series V51-H6 as 'Best Under $300'. Updated Notable Mentions.
10/20/2020: Replaced the Samsung HW-T550 with the Samsung HW-R650 to reflect pricing changes. Replaced the Polk Audio SIGNA S2 with the Vizio V Series V21-H8. Added the Samsung HW-T550 and the Polk Audio SIGNA S2 to Notable Mentions.
08/21/2020: Replaced the Yamaha YAS-207 with the Yamaha YAS-209. Added the Sony HT-X8500 and the Samsung HW-S60T as Notable Mentions.
06/22/2020: Added Samsung HW-T550 as 'Customizable Alternative' to the Yamaha YAS-207, and moved the Samsung HW-R550 to Notable Mentions. Replaced the TCL Alto 7+ with the Polk Audio SIGNA S2.
01/22/2020: Added the JBL Link Bar to Notable Mentions.
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 soundbar reviews under $300. 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.