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 nearly 30 soundbars and below are our recommendations for the best soundbars under $500 in 2020. 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 to date is the Vizio SB36512-F6. Thanks to its 5.1.2 Atmos compatible setup and good price-to-performance ratio, you'll be able to get a fully immersive listening experience for an affordable price.
Consisting of a soundbar, a wireless subwoofer, and two rear satellites with upwards-firing speakers, you'll get a well-balanced and neutral sound reproduction. The dedicated subwoofer can produce a good amount of extra thump and treble, making it suitable for streaming EDM or other bass-heavy music via Bluetooth. If you prefer, you can also use the aux cord, making it easy to play music from your phone or MP3 player.
Unfortunately, you're limited in placing this setup as the rear satellite speakers need to still be plugged into the wireless subwoofer. The side-firing speakers also don't really widen the soundstage, either. Despite not looking and feeling as premium as other 5.1 setups that we've tested, its low price point doesn't give it a cheap feel. This soundbar is a great, wallet-friendly choice with tons of features.
If you want a 5.1 setup but don't have room for dedicated rear satellites and like to be able to customize the sound profile of your speakers, get the Samsung HW-Q60R. It doesn't support Atmos like the Vizio SB36512-F6, and its surround performance isn't as good, but it feels more premium and better built and has more customization options like dialogue enhancement and a graphic EQ. While this 5.1 setup doesn't have actual rear speakers, it uses what Samsung calls Acoustic Beam to create a similar surround effect from the front bar itself. Unfortunately, this doesn't work as well as dedicated satellites, and it won't do as good a job at fully immersing you in sound.
Get the Vizio if you have the room for rear satellites and want a full immersive 5.1.2 Atmos experience, but if you're concerned about living room clutter and like to be able to customize your sound profile, go for the Samsung.
The Samsung HW-R650 is the best soundbar under $500 for dialogue that we've reviewed so far. Whether you're a die-hard fan of telenovelas or comedy specials, this versatile soundbar is a great choice for those who are focused on getting the best sound from speech-centric content.
Its premium build quality is reflected in its 3.1 setup, including its dedicated subwoofer and center channel. With its dialogue enhancement feature, those dramatic confrontational scenes between the good guy and the villain will sound steady and clear. The dedicated center channel is also a great touch for dialogue-heavy content too. Overall, it also produces a decent sound profile that's light on bass. If you want more control over the sound, this soundbar has a graphic EQ. The subwoofer can also be adjusted.
Unfortunately, even though this soundbar supports virtual surround sound, it'll still get downmixed to a stereo configuration, making your experience less immersive. It also doesn't support 4k 60Hz passthrough, although it offers a good selection of other inputs. However, there's Bluetooth support if you like to stream content from your phone. All in all, if you're on a budget and want the best for your dialogue audio, this soundbar is a great choice.
The best small soundbar under $500 we’ve tested so far is the Sonos Beam. If you're short on room, this soundbar has a relatively small footprint and should be able to fit between the legs of most 55 inch or larger TVs.
Its robust build quality and plain, rounded design offer a more immersive listening experience, thanks to its side-firing speakers. While this soundbar doesn't have a lot of inputs available, it supports Apple AirPlay. You can also cast to the soundbar via Wi-Fi. If you like a little more customization over your audio experience, this soundbar comes with sound enhancement features like room correction, dialogue enhancement, and both treble and bass adjustments.
The bass won't be as prominent as it lacks a subwoofer. However, this soundbar still produces a well-balanced sound profile. Unfortunately, it doesn't support any virtual surround sound format, so it'll downmix surround content to a stereo configuration. With its small footprint, this soundbar is a good choice for those who want that immersive sound experience but are space-conscious.
The best 2.1 soundbar under $500 we’ve tested so far is the Yamaha YAS-408, also known as the MusicCast Bar 400. With its wireless subwoofer, this soundbar is a good choice if you're looking for an affordable upgrade from your TV's built-in speakers.
While comparable to the Yamaha YAS-207 in terms of sound signature and performance, this soundbar is better built. Its sound profile is great for stereo content as it has great mid and treble performance. The subwoofer also packs a thumpy and punchy bass, making it versatile enough for any kind of stereo content. It's especially good for more speech-centric content like podcasts as it reproduces voice well. This soundbar offers a lot of connection options, too: you to cast via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi or play your content wired.
Unfortunately, there's some compression in the bass range if you push this soundbar to the max. You might even hear some distortion. However, you won't be able to tweak the sound, as it lacks sound enhancement features like an EQ. It also lacks an auto-volume/night mode, so it can't normalize volume when switching between content like TV shows and commercials. All in all, if you're looking for a straightforward 2.1 setup, this soundbar is a solid choice that offers good performance.
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.
03/09/2020: Minor text and structure changes. No change in recommendations.