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The 5 Best Budget Soundbars - Spring 2023 Reviews

Best Budget Soundbars

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 well, especially if you watch a lot of dialogue-heavy content like TV dramas or 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 165 soundbars, and below you'll find the best soundbars under $250 to buy. See our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best soundbars under $200, and the best soundbars under $300.

  1. Best Budget Soundbar

    The best budget soundbar we've tested is the Vizio V Series V51-H6. It's one of the few setups available in this price range with discrete satellite speakers for an improved surround sound. With 5.1 audio formats like Dolby Digital and DTS, both of which are commonly found on streaming services and Blu-rays, you get an immersive, cinematic feel, as if your couch were dropped right in the middle of the action. The added subwoofer brings plenty of rumble in the bass for action-packed scenes. You'll have to wire the satellites to the subwoofer to get them to work, though, which isn't ideal for all living spaces.

    Whether you're listening to music, movies, or TV shows, the bar offers a great price-to-performance ratio. Its sound quality is especially impressive for the price, so voices and lead instruments in your favorite tunes are reproduced with clarity right out of the box. Dialogue is easy to follow, too, and Bluetooth compatibility makes it easy to stream podcasts, audiobooks, and other content right from your phone. While it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, that's pretty common for lower-price bars. Overall, it's a great pick that won't break the bank.

    See our review

  2. Best Budget Soundbar Without Speakers

    If you don't have space for satellite speakers in your living room, check out the Samsung HW-B550. It's another versatile bar available at a budget-friendly price, and since it lacks satellites, it's more compact overall. It's a great choice for listeners who want to control how their bar sounds since it has a 7-band graphic EQ for customization across the range. You'll also find the standard bass and treble adjustments, as well as some preset modes to easily switch between sounds. If you prefer a plug-and-play bar, you'll be happy to know that it reproduces voices and instruments with clarity right out of the box, so you may not need the customization tools in the first place.

    Like the Vizio V Series V51-H6, this soundbar can playback 5.1 surround sound formats like Dolby Digital. Its dedicated sub brings the rumble in the bass, and you can easily follow along with the action on screen thanks to its clear reproduction of dialogue. That said, without satellites, you don't get the same immersive feel. Sound effects don't seem like they're coming from all around your room— rather, it just seems like they're coming from a speaker placed in front of you. It's a much less cinematic feel, but if you don't want a ton of surround sound content, you may find it's a fair trade-off. Plus, if you move to a larger space down the line, you can always add a separate rear speaker kit from the manufacturer, which is handy.

    See our review

  3. Best Budget Standalone Soundbar

    Living in a studio apartment? Low on space? A standalone soundbar might be the best option since it packs sound into an all-in-one package that's available without a bulky subwoofer to take up extra space in your room. The best we've tested in the budget range is the Vizio M Series M213ad-K8. It comes in a unique trapezoidal design, and its 2.1 setup means it's ideal for listening to stereo content, including most music and TV shows. You get a pretty clear sound right out of the box, so the dialogue on screen is clear and easy to follow. Without a sub, you don't get the same rumble in the low-bass. It's not noticeable if you mostly listen to content without a lot of bass mixed in, like dialogue-centric TV shows and sitcoms, but it's not ideal for those who love bass-heavy EDM and hip-hop.

    It's a pretty unique bar, as it's one of the only offerings in its price range to add Dolby Atmos support. However, since it's a 2.1 setup, it has to downmix both Atmos and 5.1 surround sound formats like Dolby Digital into stereo to play them. The resulting sound isn't immersive, and sound effects seem like they're coming from a speaker placed in front of you rather than from speakers placed around you, like at a movie theater. It's nice that it offers the flexibility to enjoy Atmos every once in a while—but if you're an avid movie buff, you'll want to stick with a better-performing bar like the Vizio V Series V51-H6 or even the more expensive Vizio M Series M51ax-J6, which offers Atmos support.

    See our review

  4. Best Budget Small Soundbar

    For those with smaller-sized living rooms, the Bose TV Speaker may be the better choice. It's a compact soundbar available at a budget-friendly price, with a great sound to improve your listening experience. At less than 24 inches in width, it can fit beneath your TV or PC without issue. Plus, it's Bluetooth-compatible, making it easy to stream audio from your phone to the bar. With streaming platforms and Blu-rays, you can enjoy 5.1 surround sound content with this bar. Of course, as a 2.0 setup, it has to downmix it into stereo to play it, which doesn't sound quite as immersive.

    There are also some customization tools on hand to switch up its sound, though they're limited. You can adjust its bass, and there's a dialogue enhancement tool on hand. The Sonos Ray is a good alternative if you want something with more enhancement tools, like room correction, but it is a bit more expensive. That said, unlike the Vizio M Series M213ad-K8, neither bar supports Atmos content. However, if you don't watch a lot of height content and want a smaller bar, you may find they're a better choice overall.

    See our review

  5. Best Cheap Soundbar Under $100

    If you don't want to spend much on a soundbar, check out the TCL Alto 6+. As the best cheap soundbar we've tested, it makes a solid choice for those who are new to the soundbar space. Though it sometimes retails for over $100, you can often find it at a more affordable price point. With a dedicated subwoofer, it can bring more thump and rumble in the bass than other cheap bars, most of which come as standalone setups. As a result, it's a good pick for bass-heavy music like EDM and hip-hop.

    As a 2.1 bar, it's ideal for listening to stereo content, which includes most music and TV shows. Voices and lead instruments are clearly reproduced. Audio sounds a bit dull due to the dip in the treble, especially compared to the Bose TV Speaker, but this is typical for cheap soundbars. It can also playback 5.1 surround sound content like Dolby Digital, though it has to downmix it into stereo to play it. This simple plug-and-play bar is a good way to upgrade your TV's sound without breaking the bank.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Vizio V Series V51x-J6: The Vizio V Series V51x-J6 is the next generation of the Vizio V Series V51-H6. It's a versatile bar with similar performance; however, it doesn't reproduce quite as much low-bass. You might find it a better value if you don't care for the rumble in your audio. See our review
  • TCL Alto 8i: The TCL Alto 8i is one of the few bars in this price range that supports Atmos content. Like the Vizio M Series M213ad-K8, it doesn't reproduce a very immersive sound, and its standalone design means there isn't a lot of rumble in the bass. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. Mar 28, 2023: Confirmed picks; minor text updates for clarity.

  2. Jan 27, 2023: We've updated the text for clarity, though no changes in product picks were necessary.

  3. Nov 29, 2022: No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.

  4. Sep 30, 2022: Replaced the TCL Alto 8i with the Vizio M Series M213ad-K8 as 'Best Standalone'. Added the Bose TV Speaker as 'Best Small'.

  5. Aug 02, 2022: Replaced the Samsung HW-A550 with the Vizio V Series V51x-J6 as 'Best Under $200' and the LG SN6Y with the Samsung HW-B550 as 'Best for Small Rooms'. Updated Notable Mentions.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cheap 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 the best value soundbars. 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.