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 45 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 Vizio SB36512-F6 is the best soundbar under 500 dollars that we've tested so far. This soundbar is 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, and it's 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 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 being 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 too. 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 prefer a more customizable listening experience, then get the Samsung HW-Q60T. While its sound profile isn't as balanced right out-of-the-box like the Vizio SB36512-F6, it comes with a lot more sound customization features such as a graphic EQ plus presets so that you can find the best fit for your audio needs. While it can't support Atmos content like the Vizio can, it uses up-firing speakers directly on its bar, which is a more compact option if you don't have space for a satellite setup. It can also get similarly loud too, although it has more thumping and compression artifacts at max volume than the Vizio. Unfortunately, it doesn't support content like DTS-HD MA or 5.1 PCM. You can only stream audio to it using Bluetooth, which can be a bit limiting for some listeners.
Go with the Vizio if you're looking for a 5.1.2 setup with satellite speakers and Atmos support. However, if you like to really tweak and customize your audio, get the Samsung.
The best soundbar under 500 dollars 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 Sonos Beam is the best small soundbar under $500 that we've tested so far. If you don't have a lot of room on your TV stand, this 3.0 channel soundbar 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" or larger TVs, but 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 the soundbar's settings directly in the Sonos Controller companion app, and you can even set up alarms as well as link up all of your streaming services in one place so you can quickly search through all of your audio libraries in one go.
On the downside, 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, it still, unfortunately, lacks a proper EQ. It also doesn't support Atmos, and it doesn't have Bluetooth connectivity either, which is a bit disappointing. That being said, this compact soundbar offers an immersive sound experience that can be further upgraded in the future.
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.
07/08/2020: Replaced the 'Samsung HW-Q60R' with the 'Samsung HW-Q60T' for More Customizable Alternative category.
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.