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 25 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 might not be the best option if you're looking for a full surround setup to get an immersive listening experience with movies, but under $300, that's almost impossible to do with any soundbar we've tested.
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, and it's rather low-profile and covered by a mesh-like fabric. This gives off a cheap look, and can easily be ripped on top of attracting dust.
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 prefer playing around with the sound profile depending on what type of content you're listening to, then get the more customizable Samsung HW-R550 instead. It might not have as neutral a sound right out of the box as the Yamaha YAS-207, but its app has a good 7-band EQ that allows you to fine-tune the sound signature to better match your preference. The Samsung also has a sleeker design and feels more durable thanks to the metal grill, which feels better than the Yamaha's fabric. You can also find it for under $200, as it's often on sale. If the frequent sale is also taken into consideration, then this 3.1 soundbar is an even better option and would be the best soundbar under $300, especially when it comes to dialogue.
If you want the best sound out of the box, the Yamaha is a better choice. But if you don't mind spending some time fine-tuning the sound, the Samsung is a better option.
The best small soundbar under $300 we've tested so far is the Bose Solo 5. It's a very simple soundbar with a straightforward, compact design, which makes it easier to travel with if needed. The bar isn't very wide, so it fits nicely between the legs of most TV stands, and it's short enough to not obstruct your view of the screen unless it sits flush against your TV bench.
This soundbar's frequency response is decently well-balanced. Unfortunately, it noticeably lacks bass, but this is common for a soundbar of this size without a subwoofer. On the upside, it reproduces accurate vocals and instruments and has a fairly neutral sound profile that's a good choice for TV shows with lots of dialogue.
Unfortunately, those who crave a bit of thump and rumble will be disappointed to know it doesn't come with any options to turn up the bass at all, meaning it may not be a great choice if you're a fan of action movies. It's also lacking HDMI, which makes it quite a bit less versatile than many of the other budget soundbars we've tested, even though it has optical and line-in and also supports Bluetooth. That said, it's still not bad overall, especially for the size, and is a fair choice if you need a small, decently inexpensive soundbar for the bedroom or to fit under a smaller TV.
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 the 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 Solo 5. 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+.
This soundbar 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.
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.
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.
01/27/2020: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
11/01/2019: Added Samsung HW-R550 as 'Customizable Alternative' to the Yamaha YAS-207.