Soundbars can be a decent option when you don’t have the room for a full home theater setup. You also don’t have to spend thousands to get a good performing product that'll do a better job than most TV speakers. Whether you need a full Atmos setup or a good 2.1 system, there’s a lot of options available at a decent price point.
We’ve tested over 25 soundbars and below are our recommendations for the best soundbars under $500 in 2019. See also our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best Dolby Atmos soundbars if you watch a lot of movies, and the best budget soundbars if you’re on an even tighter budget.
The best soundbar under $500 that we’ve tested so far is the Vizio SB36512-F6. It's a full 5.1 setup with a wireless subwoofer and two surround speakers. It gives you an immersive feel when watching movies thanks to the speakers’ localization, and it even supports Atmos for the illusion of height. This soundbar also has a great stereo performance and plenty of connection options.
The wireless subwoofer provides adequate bass that has an extra punch while the bar delivers a very well-balanced audio reproduction, which is suitable for a wide variety of content. It also supports most audio formats and is able to play content wirelessly via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and it even has Chromecast built-in.
Unfortunately, this setup doesn’t feel and look as premium as other 5.1 setups we’ve reviewed, but it's to be expected at a lower price point. You also need to wire the surround speakers to the subwoofer, which can be constraining if you don’t want wires around your couch. The app is also quite slow and seemed to be hard to use. Nevertheless, for a full 5.1 soundbar system, the Vizio gives the best bang for your buck and can provide good performance regardless of what you’re listening to.
If you don’t have room for a full surround setup with dedicated rear speakers like the Vizio SB36512-F6 and like to play around with your product settings to get a more tailored listening experience to your preferences, get the Samsung HW-Q60R. It doesn’t have dedicated surround speakers and can’t play Atmos content like the Vizio, but it's better built and has more customization options like a dialog enhancement feature and a graphic EQ. This soundbar also has what Samsung calls the Acoustic Beam, which acts as integrated surround speakers.
Get the Vizio if you want a more immersive listening experience, but if you have restricted space in your room and like to play around with an EQ to get the sound signature just right to your preferences, get the Samsung instead.
The best soundbar under $500 for dialog we’ve reviewed is the Samsung HW-R650. It's practically identical to the Samsung HW-Q60R, but without the Acoustic Beam for surround content. It's also noticeably cheaper, so if you're only looking for a soundbar for voice-oriented content like audiobooks, podcasts, or TV shows, this is a great option. Its 3.1 speaker configuration offers a dedicated center channel which makes voice clearer in movies, which is great.
The overall sound quality of this soundbar is good thanks to a well-balanced audio reproduction. It can also get pretty loud, so you won’t have trouble hearing voices. It has a dialog enhancement feature, which helps with making speech clearer regardless of the volume. This, along with the night mode, will help people that have trouble listening to voice content at low volume.
However, this soundbar isn’t as versatile as other options on this list and doesn’t support Atmos content due to its lack of up-firing speakers. Some people may also feel like it's a bit disappointing on low-bass, but this shouldn’t impact dialog too much. On the upside, it's a great 3.1 system setup that's very well-built and stylish.
The best small soundbar under $500 we’ve tested is the Sonos Beam. It packs quite a lot of punch for such a small soundbar. It's easy to fit on your TV table, between the legs of your TV, or even on a desk. It's also quite easily upgradable with a wireless subwoofer and rear speakers, though that would bring the price point higher than $500. The bar by itself still has decent overall performance.
The sound profile of the Beam bar is very neutral and well-balanced, although a bit bright, which can help with dialog. Voices are very well reproduced and are clear and easy to understand, especially when using the dialog enhancement feature. It also has a night mode which helps making dialog even clearer at low volume. This soundbar also has a useful Room Correction feature that applies small corrections to its sound delivery, depending on your room.
Unfortunately, the bar by itself lacks a bit of sub-bass, so although it might be good for dialog, it won’t be as versatile for bass-heavy music and action movies. There are also no Full HDMI ports or DTS support on this soundbar, meaning you can’t use it as a hub for most of your devices. Nevertheless, the Sonos Beam is a good soundbar that offers decent performance, especially for its small size factor.
The best 2.1 soundbar under $500 we’ve tested is the Yamaha YAS-408BL; it's also known as the MusicCast Bar 400. It's a good performing soundbar that comes with a decent wireless subwoofer that delivers a good amount of bass. It's noticeably better-built than the cheaper Yamaha YAS-207, but the performance isn’t that much better.
Its sound profile is great with stereo content, with an extended bass for a thumpy and punchy experience on top of having great mid and treble performance. This will result in great performance regardless of the stereo content you listen to. It can also get pretty loud, although we don’t recommend pushing the bar to its limits as there's some compression in the bass range and you might hear some distortion as well.
This soundbar also lacks sound enhancement features like an EQ, although it might not need one if you’re looking for a neutral sound reproduction. However, it lacks a night mode, which would have been useful. On the upside, it has tons of connection options, whether you play content wired or wirelessly. If you don’t care about the metal grill and just want a straightforward soundbar that offers great performance, you can also check out the cheaper Yamaha YAS-207.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best soundbars under $500 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 soundbar reviews under that price point. 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.