By Lee Dunkley
The best cheap soundbars to boost your TV sound without breaking the bank — tested and rated
The best cheap soundbars bring a sonic boost to the sound from a TV's built-in speakers, with better-sounding dialog and bigger bass to make action movies come alive. Each of these sub-$200 models has been thoroughly reviewed for its ability to deliver a more engaging listening experience for medium-sized TV screens without bleeding your wallet dry.
Although they're packed with an impressive array of features and sound customization options, you may not get top-notch features like Dolby Atmos format support. But the sonic upgrade these low-cost soundbars bring makes them worthwhile all the same.
Read on to discover the right soundbar for you. And don't forget, you'll find lots more info in our in-depth standalone reviews, covering installation, customization, and performance. Just follow the link at the end of each product summary to learn more.
Top 3 best cheap soundbars
Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Best cheap soundbar overall: Creative Stage V2
This low-priced soundbar delivers clear, articulate sound, highlighted by powerful bass that the accompanying subwoofer handles with ease. There are built-in bass and treble controls, plus the bundled remote comes programmed with a variety of functions that simplify usage.
Best value cheap soundbar: Vizio V-Series 2.1 Home Theater Soundbar V21-H8
A superb, low-cost soundbar and subwoofer combo, the Vizio is well featured with inputs to hook up other media devices and compatible with numerous surround sound formats. Bass fans will enjoy the low end that comes out of the small subwoofer, and although it sacrifices control and precision, you can't grumble at the price.
Best cheap soundbar for beginners: TLC Alto 6
The TCL Alto 6 isn’t far behind the Creative Stage V2. It's packaged with a subwoofer that offers strong sound and smart features like Roku integration. We we're impressed with how forceful the Alto 6 Plus sounded in our testing and how easy it was to set up.
The best cheap soundbars you can buy right now
1. Creative Stage V2
The best cheap soundbar with a subwoofer
Size: 26.8 x 3 x 3.9 inches (soundbar), 4.6 x 6.7 x x 9.8 inches (subwoofer)
Inputs: Optical digital audio, 3.5mm, USB, HDMI ARC
Reasons to buy
+ Great value High sound quality Good connectivity
High sound quality+
Reasons to avoid
- Short subwoofer cable Plastic is a dust magnet
Short subwoofer cable-
Plastic is a dust magnet
The Creative Stage V2 soundbar is incredible value for money. In addition to a sleek soundbar with a relative bounty of connectivity, including HDMI ARC, the small outlay also gets you a dedicated subwoofer to help pump out impactful bass.
Sound quality is very good overall, and can be tweaked to match what you're watching. For instance, you can choose to boost the bass or treble at any time, and there are "Dialog" and "Surround" to try out as well. The latter doesn't provide digital surround sound per se, but does widen the soundstage for more exciting action scenes.
Read our full Creative Stage V2 review.
2. Vizio V-Series 2.1 Home Theater Soundbar V21-H8
A superb, low-cost soundbar and subwoofer combo
Size: 36 x 3.3 x 2.2 inches
Inputs: HDMI, USB, 3.5mm, Aux VA
Reasons to buy
+ Wide soundstage Lots of audio and input options Affordable
Lots of audio and input options+
Reasons to avoid
- Bass can overwhelm voices Dolby Audio support through optical digital only
Bass can overwhelm voices-
Dolby Audio support through optical digital only
Vizio has a variety of soundbar and subwoofer bundles to choose from, but our current favorite is the V-Series 2.1 Home Theater Soundbar V21-H8. The speaker itself has a nondescript, minimalist design that blends nicely into any home theater setup. There are numerous inputs to hook up other media devices, including televisions, gaming consoles, and any Alexa, Google Assistant or Sirismart speaker.
Bundled with the combo is a highly functional remote to enable playback, volume, and even DTS Virtual:X and DTS TruVolume, which help produce bigger and more encompassing sound. Staying in standard mode will also reward your ears with clear voices and rich mid frequencies.
Bass fanatics might enjoy the emphasized low end that comes out of the small subwoofer, but critical listeners won’t since it lacks precision and creates muddiness on certain songs and soundtracks.
Read our full Vizio V-Series 2.1 Home Theater Soundbar V21-H8 review.
3. TCL Alto 6 Plus
The best cheap soundbar with a wireless subwoofer
Size: 31.5 x 4.2 x 2.4 inches (soundbar), 12.8 x 7.9 x 7.9 inches (subwoofer)
Inputs: Optical digital audio, 3.5mm, USB, HDMI ARC
Reasons to buy
+ Wireless subwoofer Easy setup Roku TV integration
Roku TV integration
Reasons to avoid
- Not great for music Minimal sound adjustment
Not great for music-
Minimal sound adjustment
The Alto 6 Plus is even cheaper than the Stage V2, and it also has its own dedicated subwoofer — only this one is wireless. It’s powerful, too, proving more than capable of filling out movie action scenes or music playback with deep, rumbling bass.
The downside is that this low-end isn’t as tightly controlled as it is on pricier soundbar/sub combos, and your options for adjusting the sound profile are relatively limited. But we were still impressed with how forceful the Alto 6 Plus sounded in our testing, and its simplicity means that home theater beginners might actually appreciate how easy it is to complete setup.
Read our full TCL Alto 6 Plus review.
4. Roku Streambar
A compact and well-designed soundbar with 4K streaming
Size: 14.0 x 4.2 x 2.4 inches
Inputs: USB, optical audio
Reasons to buy
+ 4K streaming Clear, loud sound Compact design
Clear, loud sound+
Reasons to avoid
- Relatively weak bass No Ethernet port
Relatively weak bass-
No Ethernet port
The Roku Streambar is Roku's second soundbar outing, and just might be the company's best yet. This unique all-in-one device is both a compact soundbar and a 4K Roku streaming player at once, allowing you to enjoy great sound for shows and movies while tapping into your favorite streaming services all from the same hardware.
Don't let its size fool you, though — the Streambar delivers impressive sound for its size and price. Packing four 1.9-inch drivers, this small soundbar can easily fill a living room with crisp audio for your next Netflix or Disney Plus binge. And since you're getting Roku software inside, you'll be able to watch just about every streaming service out there, with an intuitive interface and an included remote for navigation. Better yet, you can pair the Streambar to the Roku TV Wireless Speakers and Roku Wireless Subwoofer if you want even more immersive sound.
Read our full Roku Streambar review.
5. Roku Streambar Pro
A soundbar with built-in Roku streaming
Size: 32.2 x 3.9 x 2.8inches
Inputs: Optical digital audio, HDMI ARC, USB
Reasons to buy
+ Simple to set up and use Decent bass without a subwoofer Wide sound
Simple to set up and use+
Decent bass without a subwoofer+
Reasons to avoid
- No Dolby Atmos support Sometimes sluggish streaming performance
No Dolby Atmos support-
Sometimes sluggish streaming performance
One of Roku’s earliest audio products, the Streambar Pro is an impressive device that stuffs a 4K Roku streaming player into a tiny soundbar. Virtual surround sound is available right out of the box to fill up your living room. Bass is decent considering there’s no subwoofer bundled with the package. It also comes with one of the most user-friendly remotes available, which features a button for voice search and headphone jack for private listening.
Lack of Dolby Atmos support will disappoint those seeking a more immersive listening experience. So will the sluggish performance when going through the menus and app. Nonetheless, to get quality sound and Roku functionality from a speaker makes this a sweet deal.
Read our full Roku Streambar Pro review.
6. LG SK1
A user-friendly and very cheap soundbar
Size: 25.5 x 3 x 7.5 inches
Inputs: Optical digital audio, 3.5mm
Reasons to buy
+ Aggressively priced Easy to setup and use Lots of input options
Easy to setup and use+
Lots of input options
Reasons to avoid
- Limited connectivity and power Mild bass
Limited connectivity and power-
Another good option for smaller TVs is the LG SK1. Its compact design only includes two speakers and claims a modest 40W power output, which is enough to outperform many TV audio systems.
The plug'n'play setup, simple interface and included remote also help streamline everyday usage, which might be ideal if you just want a better TV speaker without a ton of extras. Still, we'd recommend turning on the Bass Blast mode for some extra low-end punch, and you can connect a Bluetooth device if you ever want to use the SK1 as a music speaker as well.
Read our full LG SK1 review.
How to choose the best cheap soundbar for you
The best cheap soundbar for you depends on the features, connections and size that will help you most enjoy watching movies and TV. Some of these soundbars come with a subwoofer —a speaker dedicated to producing the tactile rumble that's evident when watching action movies. Think about whether you need a remote as some designs are better than others.
Soundbar size:There are a number of factors that play into deciding which soundbar you should buy. Size will likely be prohibitive for most customers; you obviously need a soundbar that will suit your TV and space constraints within your entertainment console. And, because a soundbar is one of the centerpieces of your home theater setup, it has to look good and fit stylistically.
Then you have to factor in the size of the room you're dealing with, and the distance viewers would typically be sitting from the TV. If you're dealing with a larger space, it's probably best to target soundbars that come with a subwoofer — you'll surely appreciate the extra bass.
Connectivity:Connectivity is crucial too, both in terms of wired and wireless access. Not every soundbar comes with an HDMI port; some force you to make do with optical audio. That's perfectly fine if you want to use your TV as a pass-through, but those who are in dire need of more HDMI ports — because their capacity is limited between game consoles, streaming boxes and so on — will need to prioritize options that offer those additional connections.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the audio outputs on your TV or monitor. Although the majority of the soundbars now come with an HDMI port for audio output from your TV, but the LG SK1 offers optical digital only.
Pricing considerations:Obviously, price is a big consideration when looking for the best soundbars. Although there are always exceptions, big-name brands will typically command a bit extra, but generally speaking, the less you spend on a soundbar the greater the chance that sound and features will be compromised. Going for a budget option isn't always the best choice, as any money you save on your purchase won't do you much good if the sound quality is poor.
As the saying goes: timing is everything; and right now it's worth checking out the holiday season sales when many of our favorite models will bediscounted at online retailers, meaning you can bag a bargain for even less.
Contributions from: Michael Gowan
Next: For more TV and soundbar info, check out our helpful guides on choosing the right big-screen TV for you, the best TVs right now and how to improve your TV sound.
More: Yamaha unveils SR-C30A entry-level soundbar to rival the similarly priced Sonos Ray. While at the other end of the spectrum check out what we made of the most powerful soundbar we've ever heard in our Devialet Dione review.
How we test the best cheap soundbars
We test soundbars for vocal clarity and low-end effects by watching a variety of movies and TV shows, including video in action and drama genres. We also listen to various songs ranging from rock to hip hop to acoustic to evaluate music performance. We benchmark volume using an app that measures decibels.
Ease of use depends on how quickly and simply we can connect the soundbar to the TV and how easily we can make adjustments to the sound quality. We'll let you know if this process is particularly easy or difficult, though cheap soundbars pretty much never require specialist audio knowledge to set up.
Once testing is completed, we rate the best soundbars based on our five-point system (1 = worst, 5 = best). Products that hit nearly every mark are awarded an Editor's Choice badge.
Find outhow we testfor more information on our reviewing procedures
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As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.
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What new soundbars are coming out in 2023? ›
- Nakamichi Dragon. (Image credit: Nakamichi) ...
- JBL Bar 1300. (Image credit: JBL) ...
- LG SC9. (Image credit: LG) ...
- Samsung HW-Q990C. (Image credit: Samsung)
A cheap soundbar is the perfect solution for when you aren't getting the audio you'd like out of your TV. Whether it's for watching movies and TV shows or streaming music over Bluetooth, you can make your TV sound better for less than $200 with the best budget soundbars.What is the best soundbars to buy right now? ›
Best soundbar 2023: The best of the rest
- LG S95QR. ...
- Sony HT-A7000. ...
- Sonos Arc. ...
- Denon Home Sound Bar 550. ...
- Bowers & Wilkins Panorama 3. ...
- Samsung HW-Q800B. ...
- Bose Soundbar 700.
Soundbars: 6-16 years
A newer amplified soundbar, like a Sonos Arc, should not become obsolete anytime soon, though expect the hardware to operate for up to 7 years before needing a repair or a replacement.
The best soundbar we've tested is the Samsung HW-Q990B. It's the upgraded version of the Samsung HW-Q950A, and it offers more features and better out-of-the-box bass reproduction for outstanding overall performance.How much should a good soundbar cost? ›
There are also pedestal-style soundbars, called sound bases, that your TV can sit on, but they've become rare as TV sizes have become larger. Soundbar speakers are found in a wide range of prices. You can spend as little as $100 or more than $1,000. Many sell for $200 to $600.What are common problems with soundbars? ›
- No Power, Cannot Operate or Freeze.
- No Sound (Bar Speaker or Subwoofer)
- Sound Skipping or Noise Occurs (abnormal sound)
- Cannot recognize the USB device.
- Bluetooth pairing issues.
Yes, soundbars are worth it because they enhance your audio experience, far outperforming your TV speaker. They also come with a other convenient features that can incorporate other media devices in your home. Placed in front of your TV, a soundbar does an excellent job in improving the sound.Which soundbar has the best woofer for TV? ›
The Samsung HW-Q990B is the best soundbar with a subwoofer we've tested. It's a premium 11.1. 4 setup released in 2022 that's great for everything from TV shows to music to movies.What is the difference between cheap and expensive soundbars? ›
One of the most important factors that determines the sound quality of a soundbar is its number of channels. Entry-level soundbars tend to have two channels, a dedicated left and right channel for stereo sound, but as you go up in price soundbars generally are given more and more channels.
Which TV has best sound quality? ›
- Best Sounding TV. LG G1 OLED. SEE PRICE. Amazon.com. SEE PRICE. ...
- Best Sounding Upper Mid-Range TV. Sony X95K. SEE PRICE. Amazon.com. SEE PRICE. ...
- Best Sounding Mid-Range TV. TCL 6 Series/R646 2021 QLED. SEE PRICE. Amazon.com. ...
- Best Sounding Budget TV. Insignia F50 QLED. SEE PRICE. Amazon.com.
It seems, in most cases, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. Are soundbars better than TV speakers? A high-quality soundbar will always exceed a high-quality television in terms of audio performance. Poor-quality soundbars may sound worse than TV speakers.Which is better 2.1 or 5.1 sound bar? ›
2.1 is the best option for music-only listening and/or if you want a basic setup for upgrading your TV sound without a lot of speakers. 5.1 is the most common option for getting a home theater audio experience.Is it worth it to buy a soundbar with TV? ›
Yes, we think so! Whether you're looking to improve your TV's sound quality or want a better surround sound experience, a soundbar is a great option. Soundbars are relatively affordable and easy to set up, and they can provide a significant upgrade over your TV's built-in speakers.Can a TV be too old for a soundbar? ›
While most modern soundbars rely on an HDMI cable to connect to HDTVs and 4K TVs, there are still plenty of soundbars on the market with legacy audio inputs that will work with older TVs—and yes, that includes CRT (aka “tube”) TVs that are decades old.Is it OK to leave soundbar on all the time? ›
Just like any other speaker, you can damage your soundbar if you leave it on all the time. It can get overheated, pose a fire hazard, and unnecessarily use up energy. While it may seem convenient and harmless to keep your soundbar on all the time, you can shorten the lifetime of your investment, amongst other things.How far should soundbar be from TV? ›
For the best experience, we recommend placing the sound bar at ear level. Position the sound bar main unit on top of the table and right below the center of your TV. For models with a separate subwoofer, the distance between the sound bar main unit and the subwoofer should be less than 9.8 feet.What sound bar is better than Bose? ›
The Samsung HW-Q80R is a better soundbar than the Bose Smart Soundbar 700 by itself, though the Bose can easily be upgraded into the Bose Smart Soundbar 700 with Speakers + Bass Module.What can I use instead of a soundbar? ›
If you're a home-theater fan, then a surround-sound system is probably what you're after. Having a 2.1, 5.1 or an Atmos 5.1. 4-channel setup delivers an audio experience that can't be beat by a soundbar at any price. The sound is bigger and more enthralling, an advantage that's particularly important in large rooms.Do you need a soundbar for smart TV? ›
Why do you need a soundbar for your smart T.V? A soundbar is a significant investment to enhance your entertainment experience. If you invest in a soundbar, your cinematic experience will amplify, and you will have a much more unique experience of the content you are watching.
What size sound bar for 50 inch TV? ›
|Speaker length (in inches)||Recommended TV screen size|
|38 to 45||42-inch to 50-inch|
|50||55-inch to 65-inch|
|60||70-inch and larger|
Turn off or mute your television's internal speakers to allow your soundbar's quality sound to shine through. Use HDMI (ARC) or other high-quality cables to relay audio signals to your Soundbar. Adjust your equalizer settings, if possible, to ensure your soundbar is optimally programmed for your specific audio source.Can a soundbar be better than speakers? ›
Speaker sets offer better audio quality than soundbars. This is partly because of their size. But it's also because by placing speakers throughout a room, you can achieve genuine surround sound. Speaker sets are ideal for providing an immersive experience while watching movies or playing games.Is a longer soundbar better? ›
While you can always get the biggest one, it might not look so great if your TV is smaller than your soundbar speaker. Instead, you want a soundbar that is 5 to 10 inches shorter than your TV. For instance, your soundbar should ideally be up to 50 inches long if your TV has a screen size of between 55 and 65 inches.What do I need to know before I buy a soundbar? ›
- Where will it live? ...
- What size sound bar should you get? ...
- What are active or passive sound bars, and why is that important? ...
- What are sound bar “channels” and how many do I need? ...
- What connections do I need? ...
- How will I control the sound bar?
Does a soundbar need a subwoofer? A soundbar doesn't need a subwoofer to sound good. Soundbars include multiple internal speakers that can sound great on their own, but a subwoofer helps produce low frequencies that many soundbars cannot.Are sound bars just as good as surround sound? ›
Superior Sound Quality
As great as soundbars can be, surround systems will usually provide a better listening experience. By positioning speakers all around the room, you really feel like you're in the center of the action, because you are!
- Best Soundbar Overall: Samsung HW-Q990B.
- Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar: Vizio Elevate (P513a-H6)
- Best Standalone Dolby Atmos Soundbar: Sonos Arc.
- Best Voice Controlled Soundbar: Bose Smart Soundbar 900.
- Best Budget Soundbar: Vizio M-Series 5.1 Premium.
You'll get the best sound quality via an HDMI cable. Most soundbars and TVs have an HDMI port. Keep in mind you need to use an HDMI ARC or eARC cable and port. If you don't have this, you'll need an optical cable in addition to an HDMI cable.Which is the cheapest Dolby Atmos soundbar? ›
- TCL Alto 9+ 3.1 Dolby Atmos Sound Bar. The TCL Alto 9+ is a highly compatible soundbar and subwoofer package that can work with a variety of streaming programs. ...
- Sony HTX8500 2.1ch Dolby Atmos/DTS:X Soundbar. ...
- TCL Alto 8i 2.1 Channel Dolby Atmos Sound Bar.
What is the best soundbar under $100 for music? ›
- Best Soundbar Under $100. TCL Alto 6+ SEE PRICE. Amazon.com. SEE PRICE. BestBuy.com. ...
- Best Standalone Soundbar Under $100. Sony HT-S100F. SEE PRICE. Amazon.com. SEE PRICE. BestBuy.com. ...
- Best Small Soundbar Under $100. Roku Streambar. SEE PRICE. Amazon.com. SEE PRICE. BestBuy.com.
When there's not much room for speakers, sound quality can suffer. Today's flat panel TVs bear little resemblance to the old analog sets of the past. They are thinner, and their frames (also known as bezels) are smaller as well. Old sets had lots of room for big speakers.Which device has best sound quality? ›
- Sony Xperia 1 III. ...
- Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. ...
- LG G8S ThinQ. ...
- Apple iPhone 13. ...
- Nokia 3310. ...
- LG V60 ThinQ. ...
- Apple iPhone X. ...
- OnePlus 9 Pro.
What is the best audio format for sound quality? The best audio formats for sound quality are uncompressed or lossless compression files—think WAV, FLAC, and M4A. That's because these formats retain the original sound quality, though you'll have to put up with the fact these files will be large.Is Samsung releasing a new soundbar in 2023? ›
Samsung announced three new soundbars—HW-Q990C, HW-S800B, and HW-G60C—at CES 2023. The HW-Q990C is Samsung's new flagship soundbar and a successor to the HW-Q990B, which was launched in 2022.Is Bose coming out with a new soundbar? ›
Dolby Atmos Meets Bose Spatial Technologies for the Ultimate All-in-One Wireless Speaker. September 7, 2021 — Today, Bose announces the new Smart Soundbar 900 — a Dolby Atmos® speaker that provides unmatched immersion for music and movies.Is a new Bose soundbar coming? ›
Compact Dolby Atmos Soundbar Packed with Exclusive Bose Technology. October 10, 2022 — Today, Bose announces the new Smart Soundbar 600 — a small, sleek soundbar that features Dolby Atmos® and proprietary Bose TrueSpace™ technology to deliver exceptionally immersive audio for its size.Is there a new Sonos sound bar coming out? ›
May 2022: Sonos announced the Ray soundbar, the company's most entry-level soundbar that costs $279 — which is $180 cheaper than the Beam (Gen 2) — but lacks support for Dolby Atmos. Read our review of the Sonos Ray.