When is a soundbar not a soundbar? It's a fair question, because I tried quite a few soundbars in the $200 - $350 range and I didn't like what I heard. What I did like instead was the Jawbone Big Jambox. Granted it's a very narrow soundbar, but it serves the same purpose with excellent sound quality and isn't that what makes it a soundbar?
Let's start with its most distinguishable feature, its size. It's only 10 inches wide compared to about 3 feet wide for a typical soundbar. It's 3.6 inches tall by 3.1 inches deep and at 2.7 pounds, it's very chunky and substantial, but a very portable soundbar. It has dual precision-tuned drivers and dual passive bass radiators that produce clear and deep sound that you just wouldn't expect from such a small package.
Depending on your setup, you have the option of connecting a stereo audio cable to the audio input on the right side of the Big Jambox, which will work well for a TV. If you are using a projector, you would likely prefer to use a bluetooth transmitter on the projector, placing the Big Jambox on the wall, or on a short table, just under your projector screen. The bluetooth is a breeze to setup. Just press and hold the pairing button to engage pairing mode, then start the pairing process on your bluetooth transmitter. After a few seconds, you'll hear a very pleasant woman tell you the pairing is complete. You can keep her around for a number of other prompts if you like her or change to someone else or eliminate the prompts altogether.
Now to the most important aspect, the sound quality. As I said, I wasn't at all happy with the other soundbars in the same price range. I listened to a variety of music, including classical, hard rock, vocals and acoustic guitar. All sound excellent on the Big Jambox. Even more important, watching movies was very enjoyable with a natural sound that had me forget I was listening to a short, stubby soundbar. Even the bass is impressive -- actually very impressive considering there's not a separate sub-woofer to deal with. It still sounds good while playing loud, though not too loud. It's very good for 10 - 15 feet away, but I'm not sure it would perform well if you have a very large home theater.
The Big Jambox can't produce surround sound, but you won't get surround sound, at least not good surround sound, with other soundbars in this price range either. You also don't get a separate sub-woofer, but I think you'll be happier with this sound, including the bass, than you would be with another economy soundbar. I did listen to a $700 soundbar that sounded better all around than the Big Jambox, but that's quite an unfair comparison. At this price range, the Big Jambox does not disappoint!
Besides the compact size, the Big Jambox has a rechargeable battery that lasts for 15 hours. You can run it off the adapter, but you have the option to place it anywhere without worrying about a power cord. With the bundle I bought, a convenient carry case was included. So, if you want to take your portable projector to your friend's house, you can easily take your portable soundbar with it.
What you won't get with other soundbars is a speakerphone when you pair with your smartphone. This is so portable that while you're not watching a movie or playing a game, you will want to listen to music on this through your smartphone. When a call comes in, the music is interrupted and when you answer the call, the music pauses and you'll be talking on a full size speakerphone.
Overall, I highly recommend the Big Jambox as an excellent alternative to the standard soundbars in the $200 - $350 range. The Big Jambox retails for $299, but can be found for less. I just bought mine at Costco for $249 with a free carry case. Run, don't walk, while they're still in stock!