It’s no secret that TVs generally need a helping hand when it comes to audio. In the race to be the thinnest, brightest, most feature-laden rectangle out there, not much room is left in the chassis for one of the most important parts: the speaker. Enter the cheap soundbar.
Built as a consumer gadget to replace your TV’s speakers (but without replacing high-end surround sound systems), soundbars—particularly the more expensive products—can outperform just about any tube on the market when it comes to audio.
If you don’t have hundreds or thousands of dollars to let loose on a high-end setup, don’t fret. We’re here to tell you that you can make your money work without having to suffer through under emphasized midrange frequencies and shoddy build quality.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on March 1, 2019, to account for price changes.
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The Vizio SB3621 C6 is the best cheap soundbar
If you’re looking to stay frugal while shopping around for a cheap soundbar, look no further than this Vizio model. It brings an insane value to the TV stand as a 2.1 soundbar system, but it’s not just a standalone soundbar. No that would be far too pedestrian, this package includes a wireless subwoofer.
Vizio SB3621 C6
While the design may be uninspiring to some, it’s inoffensive and easily blends into a wide array of living space layouts. Plus, this cheap soundbar supports Dolby Digital. Although it’s not quite as impressive as Dolby Atmos, it does add greater depth and spatial dimension to your home theater setup.
What you should know about cheap soundbars
- Not every option provides high-quality Bluetooth codec support, but that’s fine since most of them don’t perform as well as we’re led to believe anyway. That said, of the options provide aptX support.
- Subwoofers aren’t always included. But if you go for something like the Klipsch R-10B, which does include a woofer, your audio will benefit from clarity as there will be less auditory masking.
- While cheap soundbars are great, it’s worth being aware of future audio trends and knowing that 3D audio seems to be the way of the future, especially as it applies to home entertainment.
If you want a no-fuss setup, get the Fluance AB40
After getting this sound base through the door, all you have to do is plug it in via the power adapter, enter Bluetooth pairing mode on the AB40 and your phone, and you’re ready to stream your favorite music or movie. For those looking to expand a pre-existing system, there’s an available optical input but its use isn’t required.
Fluance AB40Full Review
The wooden cabinet has a nice finish but feels cheap. On the backside of the speaker is a side port that boosts bass response, giving a fuller sound to fill your living room. This is great for action flicks and works in tandem with the AB40’s bass mode, which can be toggled via the included remote.
If you’re looking to enjoy a movie with friends, make sure to seat your favorites toward the center of the sound bass’ speaker arrangement because being off axis makes audio sound distorted, which can be disorienting for long periods of time.
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The Klipsch R-10B provides optimal sound quality
This soundbar-subwoofer setup originally retailed for just shy of $500 and can now be had for $280. While it’s the most expensive cheap soundbar listed, listeners get a great value out of this aptX-supported system.
It provides a 250W peak power output, which means that things are going to get loud. Due to the dedicated subwoofer, though, the midrange frequencies aren’t masked. In fact, Klipsch set out to make midrange frequency reproduction a highlight of the R-10B, so that vocals can be clearly heard above the background noise.
Klipsch’s R-10B supports Dolby Digital Decoder, so your audio quality will sound excellent no matter the format. Not only does the unit sound good, but it also looks good. Plus, the soundbar can be mounted to a wall with proper equipment.
Gamers should pick up the Razer Leviathan
If you’re not one for gaming headsets, a gaming soundbar may be more your speed. In that case, invest in the Razer Leviathan; it’s a sleek, compact option for well under $300.
Despite the gamer-centric branding, Razer’s Leviathan is a shockingly competent soundbar for under $200. Bearing all the standard guts and features afforded by the other audio products in this price bracket, the Leviathan can be hooked up to your computer or TV to give it that extra audio boost to turn your setup into a media haven. Built with the idea that your space may be at a premium, the subwoofer is split out from the main body into a standalone 5.25 downward-firing unit.
Save the most money without sacrifice quality and get the AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel Soundbar
You really can’t get much more bare-bones than a piece of AmazonBasics equipment. However, this will easily replace your TVs lackluster speakers in a pinch—without emptying your wallet. It has three modes: standard, news, and movie. News focuses on dialogue clarity while movie mode is for a more cinematic effect.
AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel Bluetooth Sound Bar
We’ve opted to add the 2.1 channel system for under $100, but you can also pick up the subwoofer-less model for $70. The audio quality is easily the least-good of the bunch, but don’t take that to mean that it’s bad; on the contrary, it’ll blow your TVs on-board speaker units out of the water.
- LG SK5Y 2.1 Soundbar: This supports DTS Virtual and can perform 24-bit upsampling, but the quality is dependent on the original source.
- Polk Audio 2.1 Channel Soundbar: This soundbar-subwoofer combo includes Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding and allows listeners to adjust the soundbar’s voice levels.
- TaoTronics Soundbar: This 34″ 2.0 channel system can be connected optically or wirelessly, includes touch controls and a remote, and touts a modern design.
- Creative Stage Air: This soundbar is marketed as an under-monitor soundbar for desktop users, but it works well as a cheap option for your TV if you live in a small space, too.
- LG SK1: This 2.0-channel soundbar is similar to Amazon’s budget solution but is a bit pricier. It allows for a Bluetooth or optical connection.
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