The best cheap soundbars make it possible to definitively upgrade your TV’s sound output without needing to spend hundreds on a full surround sound system. Most TVs have built-in speakers that can sound thin, weak and lacking in bass, so even an affordable soundbar can make a noticeable different to audio quality.
Although there are only a few models that deliver great quality at a shoestring price, you can take your pick from a pretty wide mix. We’ve got classic standalone soundbars, a soundbase you can place underneath your TV (in case the display isn’t raised high enough to clear a soundbar) and a versatile speaker you can run on battery power. To learn more about them, keep reading our fully-tested roundup of the best cheap soundbars.
What are the best cheap soundbars?
The best cheap soundbars are usually made by Vizio. It’s fair to say Vizio has cracked the code on how to make soundbars with the best performance for the price.
If you have a larger TV, go for the Vizio SB3820-C6. It’s 38 inches long and uses its size well to create a wide sound. It delivers full bass and crisp treble, making it easy to hear details in movies and TV shows. It’s well built and compares well even against more expensive soundbars. If you have a smaller TV or need to save a little more money, pick up the Vizio SB2920. It’s 29 inches long but still manages to create an impressive sound.
Both Vizio soundbars offer a multitude of ways to connect to your TV, although that doesn’t include HDMI; you’ll have to spend more money to get HDMI connections in a soundbar. You also won’t find Atmos support or other advanced features that could make the soundbar a real replacement for a home theater audio system. Both support Bluetooth streaming; the SB3820-C6 sounds better when playing music than the SB2920, if that’s a concern for you.
Read on for our full list of picks for the best cheap soundbars.
The best cheap soundbars you can buy today
The Vizio SB3820-C6 is the best cheap soundbar you can get, hands down. It’s a single penny under our £100 limit, and you’ll have a hard time believing you only spent that little on it — it doesn’t look nor sound cheap. Thanks to its two 2.75-inch drivers, it produces clear, resonant dialog and good bass for a unit without a subwoofer. The 38 x 3 x 3-inch unit is a good match for larger TVs, and the width helps it create a wide soundstage. It has plenty of power to fill your room with sound. In addition, It doubles as a very capable music speaker, too — something few soundbars under $100 can claim.
The SB3820-C6 has just about every way to connect to your TV or monitor that you could need, except HDMI. The included remote is also well built and handy — again something few cheap soundbars include. More expensive soundbars will produce more encompassing sound and come with a subwoofer, but the SB3820-C6 will meet the audio needs for most people.
If you’ve got a smaller TV, the Vizio SB2920 is the best cheap soundbar to get. It’s a real bargain. While on the small side for a soundbar, the 29 x 3 x 3-inch unit doesn’t sound diminutive — it creates a wide soundfield that gives the illusion of a much bigger speaker. It gets loud enough to fill a large room with and performs well on a variety of types of audio. It has solid bass performance — without a subwoofer, though you can add one for even more oomph — and clear, resonant vocals that make it easy to understand dialog happening on the screen. It’s also built solidly.
The main downside is that music streamed over Bluetooth is average at best, with the vocals getting lost in the mix. It also lacks HDMI, so you can’t connect your video sources directly to it.
If you want better sound, but don’t have a good place to put a soundbar, a soundbase — which goes under your TV stand — could be the solution. Pyle’s 20.6 x 12 x 3-inch PSBV600BT is one of the few soundbases you’ll find for under $100. The PSBV600BT uses its 12-inch depth to its advantage by including a woofer in the unit, which results in big, booming bass. It also has enough power to fill a large room with sound. With optical digital, 3.5mm and stereo RCA wired connections, along with Bluetooth for wireless, this Pyle soundbase is likely to be compatible with your TV. (However, it lacks HDMI.) The unit can support TVs up to 110 pounds.
The bass can overwhelm the treble and midrange, though, and dialog and vocals can get lost in the mix. The included remote is quite small and not very useful.
The 10.8 x 2.4 x 2-inch Torpedo Plus has something other cheap soundbars don’t: a 5.5-hour battery, which makes it convenient to take it anywhere you want to watch TV. The unit also has a sharp design, making it stand out from the field. The Torpedo Plus serves up clear dialog, but lacks any bass to speak of. The crisp treble tones help provide details in music and movie soundtracks. The Torpedo Plus creates a wide soundfield when you engage 3D surround mode.
Due to its small size, this soundbar is a better complement to a laptop or tablet than a full-sized TV. The soundbar suffered from interference when connected via Bluetooth and only features one wired connection option for 3.5mm. It also lacks a remote so you have to adjust the volume on the unit itself.
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. None of these cheap soundbars come with a subwoofer, but some deliver more bass — a key feature if you like the tactile rumble that comes when watching action scenes. Think about if you need a remote; only some of these include them.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the audio outputs on your TV or monitor. Since none of these cheap soundbars comes with HDMI, the next best option is optical digital or coaxial digital audio. If your set doesn’t offer those, look for a soundbar with stereo RCA or 3.5mm inputs. Another important consideration is the size of your TV — larger TVs look and sound best when paired with larger soundbars. But if your space is limited, a small soundbar is better than no soundbar at all.
How we test 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.