When shopping for a soundbar, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the expensive options out there. Thankfully, you don't need to spend a fortune to find something that performs reasonably well. For less than $300, you can find a decent soundbar that meets your needs, whether you're watching the latest blockbusters with your friends and family or just listening to your favorite albums by yourself.
We've tested over 30 soundbars so far, and below you'll find the best budget soundbars to buy in 2020. See our recommendations for the best budget soundbars, the best soundbars under $200, and the best small soundbars.
The Yamaha YAS-207 is the best soundbar under $300 we've tested so far. This 2.1 setup offers great performance for its price point, especially if you're only looking for a soundbar for music and other stereo content.
Its sound profile is well-balanced and fairly neutral, and its wireless subwoofer provides decent bass as well. It has a fairly good amount of inputs as well, with two HDMI ports for your devices, and it even has a 3.5mm analog jack, which makes it easy to pass the AUX cord around at a party. You can also cast via Bluetooth if you prefer casting your content wirelessly.
Unfortunately, its design isn't the most appealing: it has a rather low-profile and a mesh-like fabric covering that gives it a cheap look. It can also easily be ripped and attract dust. If you're looking for a full surround setup to get an immersive listening experience, you won't find it with these soundbars, but under $300, that's almost impossible to do with any soundbar we've tested. Overall, if you're looking for a soundbar on a budget, this is a decent choice; just keep in mind that it doesn't come with an HDMI cable.
If you're on a tighter budget or don't want the hassle of figuring out which cables you need, consider the TCL Alto 7+, which comes with an HDMI cable, an optical, and a 3.5mm analog audio cable. It has the same 2.1 setup as the Yamaha YAS-207, but doesn't support any virtual surround sound format. Surprisingly, the build quality is superior to the Yamaha, with a mix of metal and plastic, while the subwoofer has a wooden enclosure. The overall sound is passable, but it does lack bass, which makes it sound a lot brighter. When pushed to higher volumes, there are some compression artifacts present in the bass range.
If you want better audio reproduction, go with the Yamaha, but for a cheaper option that has everything in the box, choose the TCL instead.
If you like to tweak your sound profile to the content you're listening to, then you might want to go for the more customizable Samsung HW-R550. Although it isn't as balanced or neutral-sounding by default as the Yamaha YAS-207, the Samsung has a 7-band graphic EQ as well as a subwoofer adjustment level, allowing you to cultivate the right sound signature to your preferences. The Samsung is also better-built and sleeker; its metal grill looks and feels better than the Yamaha's mesh-like fabric cover.
If you're looking for a good sound signature from the moment you take it out of the box, the Yamaha is a better choice. However, if you want to fine-tune your listening experience, choose the Samsung.
The best small soundbar under $300 we've tested so far is the Bose Solo 5. This simple soundbar is compact enough for travel and small enough to fit between the legs of most TV stands without obstructing your view of the screen.
Although mostly made from solid plastic, this soundbar has a good build. Its decently well-balanced frequency response reproduces accurate vocals and instruments, which makes it great for more dialogue-heavy audio like telenovelas or podcasts. If you like to listen to music streaming apps with your phone, you can also use Bluetooth to connect your mobile device to this soundbar, making it easy to share your music with others in the room.
However, this soundbar lacks thump and rumble. There's no way to adjust for more bass, either. It also doesn't have any HDMI ports which can be less versatile than the other budget soundbars we've tested so far. Still, if you're space-conscious and you're on a budget, this is a solid and inexpensive soundbar for small spaces.
If you're looking to upgrade from your TV speakers and would prefer using a soundbar that has an HDMI port, then get the Sony HT-S200F. It might lack a bit of detail compared to the Bose Solo 5, but it does have some neat features to improve the production of dialogue like Voice Mode. This soundbar also has an integrated subwoofer instead of having a wireless one like some options on this list, but its performance isn't necessarily better than the Bose. Its sound signature is also noticeably darker as it cuts off rather quickly in the treble range. You can always check out the Sony HT-S100F for a more neutral sound, but it definitely won't be as compact as the other Sony, and there are better options for its size. On the upside, the S200F can also play Dolby Digital files through its HDMI ARC port, which is great if you watch a lot of Blu-rays or content on some streaming platforms.
Get the Bose if you're fine using optical or line-in to plug your soundbar into your TV, but if you need HDMI for Dolby Digital support, get the Sony.
The best soundbar under $300 for bass is the TCL Alto 5+. It produces more bass than most soundbars we've tested in this price range, which makes it alright if you listen to mostly hip-hop and EDM or watch a lot of action movies.
This surprisingly well-designed 2.1 soundbar setup comes with a dedicated subwoofer and lots of cables and accessories in the box, like the TCL Alto 7+. It reproduces audio in a way that favors frequencies in the bass range for some extra punch, without totally drowning out sounds in the mid or treble range. It sounds less balanced than some of the other budget soundbars we've reviewed but still has a good high-frequency extension so it doesn't sound too muddy. If you don't have a lot of space for a soundbar, it's fairly small and should fit between most 55 inch TV legs.
Although this soundbar has good stereo dynamics overall, it does compress a bit in the bass range at higher volumes, and noticeably distorts even at normal listening levels. This tends to vary with what you're listening to, though, so you may find the bass performance differs whether you're listening to a movie with loud, rumbling explosions or a dubstep track with a deep, thumping drop. All things considered, though, it's still the best choice for fans of bass who are looking for a cheap soundbar set up.
03/27/2020: Minor text and structure changes. No change in recommendations.
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 soundbars under $300 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 reviews of soundbars 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.