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 40 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 is an affordable option for streaming music over Bluetooth or watching some TV shows here and there. It'll 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, which can be an issue if you're tight on space. If you don't mind it taking up a bit of room, though, it provides decent overall value for the price.
The best budget soundbar under $200 we've tested is the TCL Alto 7+. This 2.1-channel setup provides pretty good value for the price thanks to its fairly neutral sound profile and surprisingly good build quality. Both the bar and the wireless subwoofer feel quite well-built overall, especially compared to similarly-priced models we've reviewed, and even comes with all the different audio cables you might need.
This soundbar has a pretty well-balanced sound profile that's fairly versatile. It reproduces voices and dialogue accurately, which can help you hear your favorite shows more clearly. It doesn't produce much thump and rumble, unfortunately, which is a bit disappointing during action-packed scenes, but it still packs a decent punch. It can also get very loud, which is great if you're throwing a party or playing in a large room. It compresses quite a bit in the bass range at max volume, though, so you might not want to push it too far.
Unfortunately, this soundbar only supports Dolby Digital surround content, which can be an issue if you have Blu-rays that are DTS-only. It also doesn't have a full HDMI-in, so you can't use it as a connectivity hub between your different home theatre devices. The Yamaha YAS-108/ATS-1080 has a full HDMI input and supports both Dolby Digital and DTS, but it's more expensive and feels quite cheaply made. Overall, the TCL is one of the best value soundbars we've reviewed so far.
If you're tight on space, then you'll want to get the Bose Solo 5. It lacks quite a bit of bass compared to the TCL Alto 7+ since it doesn't have a dedicated subwoofer, but it's a lot more compact and is noticeably easier to set up. It's missing a few features and inputs, but its performance is still quite decent, especially considering how compact it is. It sounds quite well-balanced overall, and is versatile for a decent range of music genres and even TV shows. It's a good option if you're looking to upgrade from your computer or TV speakers, or if you just don't want to deal with the more complex setup of a multi-channel system.
Get the TCL if you want a 2.1 soundbar to setup with your home theater system, but if you're looking for something more compact, then go for 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're not sure whether you'll like the default sound of the Yamaha YAS-207, a more customizable soundbar like the Samsung HW-R550 is a good alternative. While it sounds a bit darker out-of-the-box, it has a nice graphic EQ so you can customize the way it sounds better suit your preference. It also feels better-built than the Yamaha, with a metal grill covering the speakers. If you prefer having a 3.1 soundbar with a dedicated center channel for a clearer reproduction of voices with surround content, you'll want to check out the Samsung HW-R650. It's usually slightly over the $300 mark, but if you do find it on sale, it's a better option overall.
If you prefer something you can just set up and forget about, the Yamaha is still a better option. For a more versatile soundbar that you can customize with better build quality, go with the Samsung.
02/21/2020: Only minor updates to the text and verification for accuracy; no changes in product picks.
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.