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 2019. See our recommendations for the best budget soundbars, the best soundbars under $200, and the best small soundbars.
The best soundbar under $300 we've tested so far is the Yamaha YAS-207. It's better for movies and music than most budget soundbars we've reviewed, especially since it comes with a decent subwoofer. It can play content either wirelessly via Bluetooth or wired with an HDMI, optical, or regular audio cable.
This soundbar has a neutral and accurate sound profile that's especially well-balanced in the mid and treble ranges, which makes it great for TV shows with lots of dialog. It's a bit bass-light, especially in sub-bass, but has a Bass Extension setting you can activate, or simply adjust the level of the subwoofer to your liking. It supports DTS Virtual:X 3D surround, but we found it sounds much better when downmixing to stereo.
Although it feels fairly well-made overall, it's covered in a mesh-like fabric that collects quite a bit of dust and is prone to tearing, especially if you have pets. It also doesn't come with as many cables as the Alto line-up from TCL — this soundbar only comes with an optical cable, even though it also supports HDMI and line-in. That said, it performs better overall and is a solid option for movie or music lovers on a budget.
If you're looking for something even cheaper and don't want to have to buy all the necessary cables, then get the TCL Alto 7+. It doesn't support DTS like the Yamaha YAS-207, but it feels better-built and comes with a lot more accessories, like an optical, HDMI, and standard analog cable, as well as a handy wall-mounting kit. It lacks even more bass than the Yamaha, though, and tends to compress quite a bit at louder volumes, especially in the bass range. That said, it doesn't distort very much, even at max volume, and still sounds decent for most TV shows.
You'll want to get the Yamaha if you can afford it since it sounds better balanced overall, but if you're trying to keep costs to a minimum and prefer getting something that comes with everything you'll need to set it up right in the box, then get the TCL.
If you want a decent soundbar under $300 that offers more sound customization, go with the Samsung HW-R550. Its center channel performance isn't as good as the Yamaha YAS-207, but it offers better customization to fine-tune its sound profile. It's a fairly well-designed 2.1 soundbar setup that feels slightly better built than the Yamaha, though its smaller wireless subwoofer has a fabric front which may easily become dirty or damaged. This soundbar's sound reproduction is decent, but unfortunately it's slightly dark and lacks detail in the treble range. On the upside, it has good sound enhancement options, including a night mode and a 7-band graphic EQ, two features that the Yamaha lacks.
Get the Yamaha if you often have a hard time making out the dialog in your TV shows or movies, but if you want to be able to better fine-tune your soundbar's audio performance, go for the Samsung.
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 dialog.
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 dialog 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 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.
11/01/2019: Added Samsung HW-R550 as 'Customizable Alternative' to the Yamaha YAS-207.