Best Cheap Soundbar Picks of 2021

In the last couple of months or so, you have probably been watching a lot of TV. As you've been catching up on your favourite shows and films, it has probably occurred to you that your TV speakers do not quite match up to the crisp display. Now more than ever, you are probably considering setting up a 'home cinema' for a more immersive video and audio experience.

Enter soundbars. These standalone units will drastically improve your sound system setup. Now more than ever, explosions thud, dialogues get crispier, and you may even start to pick up details that you've never made out before. More so, most of the decent budget soundbar options are reasonably affordable. You don't really need to spend a lot of money to take your viewing experience to a whole new dimension.

Why Do You Need a Soundbar?

See, the modern television leans towards an ever so thin design; the thinner, the sleeker. With an average set only a few centimeters wide, there's really not enough room available in the chassis to house proper TV speakers. Great speakers are generally bulky, which makes it all the more challenging to find above-average built-in speakers.

A soundbar fixes the trade-off. Even a run-of-the-mill soundbar will more than likely outdo most TV speakers. They are typically inexpensive and quite simple to set up, yet they will normally deliver rich and detailed sound. Therefore, we have rounded up 5 of the best cheap soundbar options on the market for a more captivating sound system and an immersive home theatre experience altogether.

1. Best Overall: Vizio V21

Sale
VIZIO Sound Bar for TV, 36” 2.1 Home Audio Surround Sound System for TV with Wireless Subwoofer...
  • Performance 3 total speakers create louder, clearer, and more powerful sound
  • Wireless Subwoofer Experience deep, booming bass with the wireless subwoofer
  • DTS Virtual:X sound enhancement creates room-filling, floor-to-ceiling multi-dimensional sound
  • Bluetooth Stream music wirelessly from your phone or any compatible Bluetooth device
  • Easy Setup All audio cables included

If you are looking for the best cheap soundbar which still delivers unhurried, natural sound, the Vizio V21 is an excellent choice. This 36" long unit comes in the trademark sleek Vizio design, a basic black with a mesh cover, plus a textured plastic top that houses all the controls, with a remote control option.

V21 is a 2.1-channel soundbar, including a black wireless subwoofer with a down-firing driver and a rear port. The soundbar has an LED display with different colors corresponding to the selected sound mode and the volume level. It also has an HDMI ARC port, meaning you only need to connect one cable to your TV. It also has optical, Bluetooth, USB and two 3.5mm connections.

The V21's sound is brilliant. It features DTS Virtual:X compatibility, which simulates surround sound and does it remarkably well. The subwoofer produces basses that really roar. Dialogues sound quite clear and balanced. Music might not exactly sound dynamic, but you still get a natural sense of stereo sound. The Vizio V21 delivers a level of immersion that most users will definitely appreciate.

  •   Pros
  • Superb home cinema sound.
  • DTS Virtual X for enhanced immersion.
  • Versatile connectivity.
  •   Cons
  • Small subwoofer.
  • Lacks input color codes only on the remote's backside.

2. Best Budget: Yamaha YAS 209

Yamaha Audio YAS-209BL Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer, Bluetooth, and Alexa Voice Control...
  • Easy setup with HDMI or Optical cable and automatic subwoofer connection
  • Wireless subwoofer for deep bass and flexible placement. Center unit-36-5/8 × 2-1/2 × 4-1/4...
  • Clear voice for enhanced dialogue clarity
  • Alexa built-in for voice control of your sound bar, playing music, listening to news, setting alarms...
  • With Alexa, playing music is as simple as asking for a song, artist, or genre from Amazon music and...

The Yamaha YAS 209 is certainly one of the best cheap soundbars you can find on the market. It's an iteration of the YAS 207, spotting a new integration with Alexa enabled by two far-field microphones. Most importantly, it delivers the terrific sound we have come to expect from Yamaha, dynamic and punchy-especially the bass-while remaining quite crisp and well-balanced.

It's well built, rather solid, including a fabric cover. It's rounded at the edges, which gives it a sleeker design than its predecessors. The YAS 209 is only about 93 cm long and 6.2 cm wide, meaning it sits neatly in front of most TV sets without interfering with remote signals. Furthermore, it has screw holes on the backside for easy mounting on the wall. The top side houses touch-sensitive buttons, including an LED display, for various controls. You can alternatively use the Sound Bar Controller App to adjust settings or general use.

It comes with one 4K, HDR-compatible HDMI input and an ARC-enabled HMDI output. Additionally, you also get optical, ethernet and Bluetooth connections. It uses DTS Virtual X: processing to deliver "surround" sound, which can be easily enabled from the remote. This feature can be turned off by enabling stereo mode, especially when you are listening to music. For the Bass Extension and Clear Voice, we would recommend that you simply stick to the preset sound modes.

  •   Pros
  • Spacious heavy sound.
  • Well-placed "surround" effects.
  • Crisp well-projected sound.
  •   Cons
  • Might be less room-filling.
  • Might struggle in stereo.

3. Best for Streaming: Roku Streambar

Roku Streambar | 4K/HD/HDR Streaming Media Player & Premium Audio, All In One, Includes Roku Voice...
  • Watch what you love: Upgrade your streaming with a massive selection of free, live, and premium TV,...
  • Built-in 4K streaming device: Enjoy an easy, fast interface with the newest and most popular...
  • Surprisingly big sound: Listen in awe as four internal speakers fill your room with clean, pure...
  • Smarter than your average soundbar: Roku Streambar produces sound well beyond its size with the help...
  • Simple sound settings: It’s easy to perfect your sound no matter what you’re...

For starters, this is not so much a bar but more of a brick. Therefore, you are unlikely to get a truly cinematic sound. Nevertheless, the Roku Streambar still does a terrific job at improving the sound from your TV.

This 35cm wide soundbar has a pretty sturdy build quality. It angles two-way from the direct listening position. It comes with several modes of connection, from HDMI and optical to Bluetooth and USB. The package comes with all the necessary cables, so you can try out different things and see what suits you best. Setting it up is also pretty straightforward.

You get as much as 4K HDR video at 60fps if your TV allows. That, plus a spectacular app lineup, makes this undoubtedly the best budget soundbar for streaming. It also comes with a voice-compatible remote with quick dial buttons for the ultimate viewing experience. Not to mention the complementary Roku app, which makes things even easier.

The sound is quite great when you consider this is a soundbar built within a streamer rather than the other way round. Sound quality is certainly decent, detailed and well-balanced, although you shouldn't expect it to be as dynamic or spacious as you would the sound from an exclusive soundbar. But this makes it great for family viewings since it can also double as a Bluetooth Speaker.

  •   Pros
  • The sound is well-projected.
  • Plenty of features.
  • Can get loud.
  •   Cons
  • The sound might not be particularly cinematic.

4. Best Value: Samsung HW-T550

SAMSUNG HW-T550 2.1ch Soundbar with Dolby Audio / DTS Virtual:X (2020)
  • 3D SURROUND SOUND - The captivating experience of DTS Virtual: X turns your living room into a...
  • BLUETOOTH MULTI CONNECTION - Seamlessly switch between two different connected smart devices
  • BLUETOOTH MULTI CONNECTION - Seamlessly switch between two different connected smart devices
  • SMART SOUND - The soundbar detects what you’re watching and automatically optimizes the sound...
  • OPTIMIZED GAMING SOUND - Connect your console to the soundbar to boost your gaming experience....

Samsung looks to extends its dominance in the home entertainment world beyond just TV sets. The HW-T555o is a testament that the brand is looking to uphold its fine reputation.

You get the soundbar, a wireless subwoofer, and a couple of connection cables right out of the box. It allows for HDMI, optical cable and Bluetooth connections to your TV, which means it supports Enhanced Audio Return Channel, or eARC-as is commonly referred to as. The main unit is made of plastic with a metal grille at the front. It's well built, and Samsung delivers a premium look on this cheap soundbar. We hate to break it to you, but Samsung has, unfortunately (or perhaps not?), ditched the 3.5mm jack for this option.

As you would expect from a Samsung soundbar, it produces excellent sound quality for the price. The sound profile is overall well-balanced, and you can also expect the bass to rumble. You also get Dolby Digital and DTS, but it lacks Dolby Atmos support. Dialogues are consistently clear with minimal to no distortion. The subwoofer certainly brings a deep, punchy bass to the table, making this arguably the best value for a cheap soundbar.

  •   Pros
  • The sound profile is well-balanced.
  • Well built.
  • 7-band EQ for custom sounds.
  •   Cons
  • Doesn't support Atmos

5. Notable Mention: Sony HT-X8500

Sale
Sony HTX8500 2.1ch Dolby Atmos/DTS:X Soundbar with Built-in subwoofer, Black
  • 7.1.2ch Dolby Atmos/DTS X with Vertical Sound Engine
  • Dual built-in subwoofers for deep bass
  • All sound upscaled close to 7.1.2ch audio
  • Seven different sound modes to enhance your entertainment experience
  • Voice enhancement for greater clarity

The Sony HT-X8500 embodies simplicity unlike any other of the best soundbars. It's an all-in-one unit, which means there are no separate components. This soundbar, at 89cm wide, fits just about everywhere. You can rest assured it will equally look as good, thanks to the cosmetic finish.

The top of the soundbar houses the touch-sensitive buttons for controls. You get two HDMI connections; an input one and eARC output, and optical digital audio input. It lacks an on-screen menu, instead going for LED lights to indicate different sound modes and selected inputs. But it comes with a remote that practically offers full control within a decent range.

Rather than a dedicated subwoofer, the HT-X8500 has two front-facing woofers. You also don't particularly need to calibrate this soundbar for virtual surround sound. You simply sit in front of it. Thanks to Sony's proprietary Vertical Sound Engine, the sound is undeniably cinematic, which improves Dolby Atmos for a crispier sense of broader height and width. The basses are also pretty punchy.

  •   Pros
  • Slim, sleek design.
  • Built-in dual subwoofer.
  • 3-dimensional surround sound.
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X compatible.
  •   Cons
  • Lacks upfiring drivers.
  • Lacks high-resolution audio capability.

How to Choose the Best Budget Soundbars

The best cheap soundbar is always going to be subjective, depending on your particular needs and preferences. Whatever the case may be, you should consider the following general when looking for a budget soundbar that ticks most of your boxes.

1. Features

Like any other device out there, budget soundbars are stacked with various features to improve their functionality. You might consider an option that comes with a subwoofer if you are looking for more bass, a favourite for people who like the rumble in action scenes. A soundbar's specifications are normally indicative of the amount of performance you can expect.

You can also contemplate if you want a soundbar that supports surround sound. For anyone looking for a full cinematic experience, a surround sound system is exactly what brings your room to that new level.

It's also important to consider if you want remote control in your unit. Not all budget soundbars on the market come with a remote, which is quite convenient if you want to tweak around the sound settings without moving from your couch.

What is Dolby Atmos?

If you have been looking into soundbars or home theatres, you've probably heard of Dolby Atmos before. You might be wondering what it actually means. This is one of several codecs that decode surround sound information. Typical surround sound uses channels to control which sound goes to what specific speaker.

Atmos doubles this up with object-based functionality, bouncing sounds off the ceiling to account for the vertical plane. Essentially, this feature allows you to have a clearer impression of where the sound you are picking up is coming from. You don't particularly need it, but it's definitely a cool addition if you are looking for total immersion, especially for TV shows or games.

2. Connection

You must also be keen to get a soundbar whose connection matches your TV's audio outputs. A chunk of the best cheap soundbar options don't have an HDMI port, making optical digital or coaxial digital audio the best output alternatives. The other options you can also consider are stereo RCA or 3.5mm inputs, which will equally get the job done.

3. Size

One might argue that size is ultimately an aesthetic factor, but there might surprisingly be a correlation between the size of the TV and the soundbar's performance. Large soundbars not only look better with large TVs but also seem to deliver much better sound. In any case, if you don't have plenty of space to go, it would only be sensible to get a smaller soundbar.

Frequently Asked Questions about Best Cheap Soundbars

1. What else do I require for a home theatre setup besides a soundbar?

Unless you really want to go for all the bells and whistles of a complete home theatre system, the best cheap soundbar more than suffices. But just in case that's what you want, you'll have to include a compatible AV receiver, as well as look into speaker arrangement. Just as important, you'll also need to examine your living room to find the most optimal way of using it as a home theatre.

2. Which one should I go for, wireless or wired soundbar?

It all depends on what you want from a soundbar. If you are someone who might want to customize their unit down the line, you are probably better off with a wired soundbar. You can easily expand or modify your setup since new speakers and receivers can be changed simply using cablesv. On the other hand, wireless soundbars and their components cannot be reconfigured for new hardware. Equally, a wired soundbar eliminates the likelihood of signal interference.

However, wired soundbars offer plenty of conveniences too. They are relatively easy to set up and reconfigure since you don't have any cables to deal with. This might also appeal to a buyer looking to avoid cable management altogether.

3. What can I get if I spent a bit more?

Whatever your current budget is, an additional $75-$100 can make a world of difference. You are likely to get not only an improved audio experience but also a more feature-packed unit that comes with more audio inputs. This also includes having Dolby Atmos as a standard or even Alexa built-in. Between $300-$400 is right about the ideal budget range to get a soundbar that delivers a captivating, immersive home cinema. 

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