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 80 soundbars. Below, you'll find our recommendations for the best soundbars under $500 to buy. Also, check out 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 Vizio SB36512-F6 is the best soundbar under 500 dollars that we've tested. It's a 5.1.2 setup that includes a soundbar, a wireless subwoofer, and two rear satellites with up-firing speakers. It has a neutral stereo frequency response with a touch of extra bass, making it well-suited for a variety of audio content. It's also Atmos-compatible, which can help create a more immersive experience of your favorite films and video games.
Thanks to its dedicated subwoofer, it can produce a deep bass that fans of EDM or action flicks can enjoy. It can get pretty loud, which makes it great for large rooms or crowded environments, and there's minimal dynamic range compression at max volume. If you prefer a slightly different sound profile, it has a few EQ presets that you can use to better enhance your audio experience. It also has an analog audio jack so that you can connect it to your turntable, and you can even stream your favorite audio content to it using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Chromecast built-in.
That said, it can be a little tricky to place this setup in your home as its rear satellite speakers need to be plugged into the wireless subwoofer to work, which is a little disappointing. Its side-firing speakers also struggle to widen its soundstage. However, while it can feel a little cheap due to its fabric covering and unremarkable plastic build, it still offers an all-around great experience for those working within a budget.
If you like to customize the sound profile on your soundbar to your liking, you may want to consider the Samsung HW-Q70T instead. While it has more compression at max volume than the Vizio SB36512-F6, it offers a graphic EQ and presets so you can adjust its sound. This 3.1.2 setup is well-built, but it doesn't have satellite speakers, so its surrounds and height channel performances aren't as impressive. However, its default sound profile is very neutral and balanced, making it suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content. It even offers a dialogue enhancement feature to help make voices sound more clear and crisp. You can wirelessly stream audio from your phone to the bar over a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection, too.
If you want a 5.1.2 setup with dedicated surround speakers and less compression at max volume, check out the Vizio. However, if you like to control the sound profile for your soundbar, consider the Samsung instead.
The best soundbar under $500 for dialogue that we've tested is the Vizio V Series V51-H6. This 5.1 setup comes with a subwoofer and two dedicated satellite speakers, and its dedicated center channel helps reproduce vocals clearly and accurately. You can easily stream podcasts and audiobooks from your phone to the bar wirelessly over a Bluetooth connection, which is nice.
It has a very neutral, balanced sound profile that's suitable for listening to lots of different audio content. There are dialogue enhancement and auto volume features to help make dialogue in your favorite TV shows sound more clear and crisp, and there are also a few EQ presets available. It also gets loud without a lot of compression, so you can enjoy TV shows and podcasts at parties or in large rooms.
Unfortunately, if you like watching movies, you may be disappointed that this soundbar doesn't support Dolby Atmos content. It doesn't support Wi-Fi, Chromecast, or Apple AirPlay wireless playback, either, so you can't stream podcasts to the bar over those connections. However, it offers versatile overall performance, and it's a solid improvement over your TV's speakers.
The Sonos Beam is the best small soundbar under $500 that we've tested. If you don't have much room on your TV stand, this 3.0 channel model manages to have a small footprint while still delivering a fairly well-balanced sound. Its compact size should also fit between the legs of most 55 inch or larger TVs. Still, if you decide you need an even better audio experience down the line, you can expand this setup by purchasing its subwoofer and satellites sold separately.
Although it has a plain-looking design, it has a robust and solid build. Its side-firing speakers help create a wide soundstage for a more immersive listening experience, while features like room correction and dialogue enhancement can further improve audio clarity. You can control all of its settings directly in the Sonos Controller companion app, and you can even set up alarms and link up all of your streaming services in one place so you can quickly search through all of your audio libraries in one go.
Unfortunately, since it doesn't come with a subwoofer, it struggles to produce low-bass. While it has bass and treble adjustment features that can help compensate for it, unfortunately, it lacks a proper EQ. It also doesn't support Atmos and doesn't have Bluetooth connectivity, which is a bit disappointing. That said, this compact soundbar offers an immersive sound experience that can be further upgraded in the future.
The Yahama YAS-408 is the best 2.1 soundbar under $500 that we've tested. It's also known as the Yahama MusicCast BAR 400 as it supports MusicCast, which allows you to stream your favorite audio to different rooms if you have compatible devices, but we don't currently test this feature. It also comes with a wireless subwoofer, which makes this a step up from your TV's built-in speakers.
It has a very neutral sound profile, and while it's similar to the Yamaha YAS-207 in this regard, it feels better built. It can reproduce a boomy bass, which is great for action-packed movies or musical genres like EDM and hip-hop. If you like to listen to vocal-centric content like podcasts or TV shows, it can also reproduce speech well. It can get loud, but there are some compression artifacts at max volume. You can even wirelessly stream your favorite content to the bar using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, it lacks a lot of sound enhancement features like an EQ or room correction. Its surround performance is also disappointing as it has to downmix this content into stereo to play it. It also doesn't support Atmos, which can be disappointing if you're a big movie fan. That said, if you're looking for a straightforward 2.1 setup, this is a solid choice.
01/12/2021: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q60T with the Samsung HW-Q70T as 'More Customizable Alt', as the Q70T supports Dolby Atmos content and has more connectivity options than the Q60T. Replaced the Samsung HW-R650 with the Vizio V Series V51-H6 as 'Best for Dialogue Under $500' since the Samsung is no longer widely available. Added the Klipsch Cinema 600, the Samsung HW-T650, the Roku Smart Soundbar, the Sony HT-S200F, the Bose Smart Soundbar 300, the Samsung HW-S60T, and the Samsung HW-T550 to 'Notable Mentions'. Removed the Yamaha YAS-207 from Notable Mentions due to changing availability.
11/06/2020: Added the Vizio V Series V51-H6 to Notable Mentions.
09/08/2020: Minor updates to the text; verification for accuracy.
07/08/2020: Replaced the Samsung HW-Q60R with the Samsung HW-Q60T for More Customizable Alternative category.
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 under $500 reviews. 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.