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 40 soundbars so far. Below, you'll find our recommendations for the best soundbars under $500 to buy. See also our recommendations for the overall 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 rumble, 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. 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 prefer a more customizable listening experience, then get the Samsung HW-Q60R. It doesn't support Atmos like the Vizio SB36512-F6, but it has a lot more sound customization options to help you find the best performance for your room. It's also a more compact option since its surround speakers are contained within the soundbar itself. While it doesn't sound as immersive with surround content as the Vizio, it gives you a full graphic EQ so you can tweak its sound profile to your heart's content. It also has a dialogue enhancement mode to help you hear your favorite TV shows more clearly. Its subwoofer is a little light on thump and rumble, though, and it can compress a bit in the bass range at max volume.
Get the Vizio if you prefer a full 5.1.2 setup with dedicated rear speakers and Atmos support; however, if you prefer something a little simpler that still provides lots of audio customization options, you'll want the Samsung.
The best soundbar under $500 for dialogue we've reviewed so far is the Samsung HW-R650. It performs very similarly to the Samsung HW-Q60R but provides better value for watching the news or dialogue-heavy TV shows due to its more affordable 3.1-channel setup. It has lots of sound enhancement features to help you get the right dialogue performance for your needs and feels well-built, too.
While it has a pretty well-balanced sound profile by default, it features a dialogue enhancement mode to help make voices clearer. It even has a 7-band EQ, on top of independent bass and treble level controls, so you can fine-tune the way it sounds in even greater detail. It supports both Dolby Digital and DTS surround content, and while it downmixes to 3.1, its excellent center channel performance can help make voices and dialogue sound clearer and more natural in movies or TV shows.
On the downside, this soundbar's bass doesn't get quite as deep as that of our top picks. While this shouldn't be much of an issue if you care most about dialogue performance, it can be a bit disappointing if you enjoy a good action movie from time-to-time. Its dynamic range control/night mode also only works with Dolby Digital content, so you won't be able to uniformize the volume of everything you watch, unfortunately. That said, it's still a great soundbar for dialogue, especially for the price, and is very easy to recommend overall.
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 can 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.
05/04/2020: Verification for accuracy, only slight changes to the text.
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.