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 65 soundbars so far. 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 so far. 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 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 like to customize your sound, consider the Samsung HW-Q60T. While its default sound profile is a bit darker than the Vizio SB36512-F6, this soundbar comes with a graphic EQ and presets that allow you to change the sound to your liking. It also comes with a dialogue enhancement and a night mode feature, and it supports 4k passthrough. Overall, this 5.1 setup is very well-built and has a premium look. It also has a good center channel performance, making it ideal for listening to dialogue-heavy content like TV shows and podcasts. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any height channels and doesn't support Atmos content, which may be disappointing for movie fans.
If you want a soundbar with a better-balanced sound out-of-the-box that supports Atmos, consider the Vizio, but if you like adjusting the sound to meet your needs, check out the Samsung instead.
The best soundbar under $500 for dialogue that we've tested to date is the Samsung HW-R650. Thanks to its dedicated center channel, this well-built 3.1 setup can clearly and accurately reproduce voices and dialogue from your favorite movies and TV shows. It supports Dolby Digital and DTS content, and it comes with lots of connectivity options.
Overall, it has a decently neutral sound profile suitable for a wide variety of audio content. If you like to customize the bar's sound, there's a graphic EQ available and a dialogue enhancement feature. You can also connect to it wirelessly via Bluetooth, making it easy to stream your favorite audiobooks and podcasts from your smartphone or tablet.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have height channels and doesn't support Dolby Atmos content, which may be disappointing for movie fans. Its bass also doesn't extend quite as deep as our top picks, even though it comes with a dedicated subwoofer. If you want to watch Dolby Digital Plus content, you can get the 2020 version of this soundbar, the Samsung HW-T650, which performs similarly but isn't as customizable as this bar.
The Sonos Beam is the best small soundbar under $500 that we've tested so far. If you don't have much 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 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 the soundbar's 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 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, it's 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 type of stereo content. It's especially good for more speech-centric content like podcasts, as it reproduces voice well. It offers many connection options and 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. Overall, if you're looking for a straightforward 2.1 setup, this is a solid choice that offers good performance.
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 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.