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. It's a decent and simple setup that includes the soundbar itself and a wireless subwoofer. The aesthetic is unassuming, with most of it being plastic and covered with a mesh-like fabric. Unfortunately, the fabric does collect dust pretty easily and can rip, but it shouldn't be an issue for most people. For connectivity, there are two HDMI ports, optical, 3.5mm analog audio, and a USB, but this last can only be used for software updates. Bluetooth is supported too if you want to stream music or a podcast.
This soundbar has a neutral and accurate sound profile. Some may find it a bit light on the bass, but you can always add more by adjusting the subwoofer. Since there aren't any up-firing speakers or rear satellite speakers, only virtual surround sound format like DTS Virtual:X is supported. Unfortunately, we found that it sounds better with it off and just sticking to the stereo imaging.
Overall, if you're looking for a soundbar on a budget, the Yamaha YAS-207 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 actually 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's 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're unsure about the sound of the Yamaha YAS-207, then consider the Samsung HW-R550, which offers considerably more options to fine tune the sound to your taste. It has a better build quality, but similar to the Yamaha, it doesn't have any up-firing or satellite speakers. The overall sound signature is dark, as the bass is quite heavy, while the treble lacks detail. But as mentioned, Samsung does offer a good amount of sound enhancement features, including a 7-band graphic equalizer. Unfortunately, Samsung didn't include an HDMI cable either, but there are mounting brackets if you want to wall-mount it.
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 reasonable.
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 for a small soundbar that you can plug into your TV with HDMI, go for the Sony HT-S200F. It sounds less detailed than the Bose Solo 5, but has a Voice Mode to help bring out the dialogue when listening at lower volumes, and supports Dolby Digital through its HDMI ARC port. While the Sony has an integrated subwoofer in the soundbar itself, unfortunately this doesn't actually result in much better bass performance than the Bose. It also cuts off quite abruptly in the treble range, giving it a dark and muddy sound. If you want something that sounds a bit more detailed but still has HDMI, consider the Sony HT-S100F, though it's a lot wider and less compact.
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.
11/28/2019: Minor text and structure changes, no change in recommendations.
11/01/2019: Added Samsung HW-R550 as 'Customizable Alternative' to the Yamaha YAS-207.