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 150 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.
The best budget soundbar we've tested is the Vizio V Series V51-H6. This 5.1 setup offers very versatile performance for its price, so it's a suitable choice for listening to everything from music to movies to TV shows. Unlike most setups in this price range, it even comes with two satellite speakers, which are designed to create a more immersive listening experience with 5.1 surround sound formats like Dolby Digital and DTS. You're likely to come across both on most streaming platforms, as well as certain Blu-ray discs. You'll have to wire these satellites to the subwoofer to get them to work, though, which adds some extra cables that aren't ideal for all living spaces.
Still, the bar offers a great sound quality at a wallet-friendly price. It offers a balanced sound out-of-the-box, meaning that voices and lead instruments in your favorite tracks are clear and present in the mix, and dialogue in TV and movies reproduces with detail. The sub brings plenty of rumble in the bass, so you feel your seat shake during intense movie scenes, just like at the cinema. Like most budget bars, it doesn't offer support for Dolby Atmos content to take advantage of more immersive audio formats, which you often find on streaming platforms. That said, if you don't watch a lot of Atmos content, it's a solid choice.
Depending on the setup of your living space, you might not have room for additional satellite speakers. In that case, there are plenty of options available in the budget range that can still meet your needs, the best of which we've tested is the Samsung HW-B550. It's a versatile bar with a dedicated subwoofer to bring the thump and rumble in action-packed TV shows and bass-heavy music genres. With its balanced sound, you don't have any issues following along with action on the screen, as dialogue is clear and present, and voices and instruments are accurate in the mix.
Like most Samsung bars, this setup comes with a lot of different tools to help you customize its sound. There are the standard presets and some bass and treble adjustments, but its 7-band graphic EQ lets you control the bar's frequency across the range. However, it's not as impressive as the Vizio V Series V51-H6 for movies. Without satellites, it can't reproduce sound effects with as much clarity, so you don't get the feeling that the action on screen is happening all around you. Instead, it seems like audio is focused to the space in front of you—which isn't very immersive. It's not a big deal if you don't watch a lot of movies, though. Also, 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.
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.
If you don't have a lot of space in your setup, a small bar like the Bose TV Speaker is a good alternative to our top picks. At under 24 inches in width, this premium-looking bar fits easily into your setup. You can connect it to a computer monitor, but with its HDMI ARC and Optical inputs, it's still designed for use with a TV. Despite its small size, it's a noticeable upgrade over standard TV speakers, and its 2.0 setup makes it ideal for listening to stereo content like music and TV shows. Its balanced sound means that voices and lead instruments are clear and present in your favorite songs, and you don't have any trouble following the on-screen action in TV shows.
Like most small soundbars, the bar can't reproduce the deep thump and rumble in the low-bass. It's not a big deal if you're mostly listening to vocal-centric content, like sitcoms, podcasts, and documentaries. Fortunately, the manufacturer sells compatible subwoofers, which is nice if you change your mind down the line or move to a larger space. Unlike the Vizio M Series M213ad-K8, it doesn't support Atmos content. 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.
If you're on an even tighter budget, another wallet-friendly option is the TCL Alto 6+, the best cheap soundbar we've tested. It's a simple 2.1 setup that doesn't have as many features as the pricier options on the list, but it's still suitable for uses like listening to stereo content like music and TV shows. It's even advertised as Roku TV Ready, so if you own a Roku TV, you can seamlessly control the bar with your TV remote. There's also a subwoofer included, which improves its bass reproduction.
Given its low price, it's not a surprise that its sound quality isn't quite as impressive as the more expensive options on the list, like the Bose TV Speaker or the Samsung HW-B550. Overall, it has a decent sound, with a fairly neutral response that ensures vocals and lead instruments clearly reproduce. However, there's some darkness in the mix due to its recessed treble, which is especially noticeable with high-pitched voices and instruments. Your customization options are limited, but there are three EQ presets on hand, including a 'TV' mode that enhances dialogue to make voices more crisp and clear in your audio. Overall, it's an upgrade over your existing TV speakers, but you can certainly enhance your listening experience if you're willing to spend a little more on your soundbar.
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'.
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.
Jun 03, 2022: Replaced the Sony HT-S100F with the TCL Alto 6+ as 'Best Under $100' since the TCL's price dropped. Added the LG SN6Y as 'Best Without Speakers'.
Apr 05, 2022: Replaced the Samsung HW-A450 with the Samsung HW-A550 after a price drop. Minor updates to the text for clarity.
Feb 04, 2022: No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
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.