The Best Budget Soundbar

best budget soundbar

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

If we were shopping for a low-priced soundbar right now, the Vizio SB3851-D0 SmartCast 38″ 5.1 Sound Bar System would be at the very top of a very short list. Compared with the other budget soundbars we’ve tested, it boasts the best mix of weighty bass, smooth and natural midrange, and detailed high-frequency performance. It also offers fantastic wireless and wired connectivity, including support for Bluetooth and Google Cast, coaxial and optical digital audio, and HDMI (with Audio Return Channel).

Compared with every other soundbar we’ve tested in its price range, the SB3851-D0 delivers superior dialogue clarity thanks to its dedicated center-channel speaker, as well as better two-channel music performance and a better surround-sound listening experience with movies and TV shows. Unlike most of its competition, the SB3851-D0 ships with a pair of wired surround-sound speakers that plug into its wireless subwoofer. It also plays louder, with less distortion, which anyone with a larger living room will certainly appreciate. To top it off, this model features support for Google Cast—as well as Vizio’s own implementation of that technology, dubbed SmartCast—which provides access to a wealth of streaming audio services.

You could certainly spend more on a soundbar with even better performance—in fact, Vizio offers several models with larger drivers and deeper-reaching, more attractive subwoofers—but we think the SB3851-D0 delivers the best balance of sound quality and value in this price range.

Vizio SB4551-D5 SmartCast 45″ 5.1 Sound Bar SystemIf you’re willing to spend more—a lot more—for an upgraded soundbar experience, but you’d still like to keep it under $500, Vizio’s top-of-the-line 2016 SmartCast has a lot to offer. The main draw is its especially slim, high-performance subwoofer, which not only delivers deeper, richer bass than other soundbar subs but is also compact enough to hide under a sofa. In our tests the SB4551-D5 didn’t sound quite as good with music as our top pick, but its superior bass performance and dialogue delivery made for a more engaging movie- and TV-watching experience. It also boasts the same Google Cast capabilities we enjoyed in our top pick.

If you have a tighter budget, don’t need genuine surround sound, and wouldn’t benefit from HDMI with ARC, Vizio’s SB3821-D6 SmartCast 38″ 2.1 Sound Bar System is a great affordable option. Like the rest of Vizio’s 2016 offerings, it features Google Cast and Vizio SmartCast streaming capabilities and app control, which means it’s as much a wireless music player as it is an upgrade to your TV’s speakers. Other than the lack of HDMI with ARC, it has all the connectivity of our main pick, including Bluetooth and Google Cast. The SB3821-D6 also plays quite loudly with minimal distortion, so although it’s compact, you shouldn’t write it off as merely a model for smaller rooms. It’s also a good alternative if you don’t mind its lack of dedicated rear speakers and if our top two picks are unavailable.

The Yamaha YAS-106 Sound Bar with Dual Built-In Subwoofers is a great pick for anyone who doesn’t want a separate subwoofer. It packs dual 3-inch bass drivers, a pair of 2â…›-inch mid-bass drivers, and ¾-inch tweeters, and it delivers surprisingly powerful bass for such a small cabinet. In dialogue clarity it represents a huge step up from the built-in speakers of the vast majority of TVs, and with a bit of tweaking it still sounds pretty great for such an affordable sound option. However, it lacks some of the output and much of the high-frequency sparkle of the Vizio models, and its bass, while powerful, doesn’t reach as deep as our other top picks—though that’s to be expected from the lack of a subwoofer. This Yamaha model lacks Google Cast ability and a coaxial input, too, but otherwise matches our top pick’s connectivity options, including Bluetooth and HDMI with Audio Return Channel. But unlike the Vizio SB3851-D0, the Yamaha YAS-106 has HDMI ports that fully support Ultra HD and high dynamic range video pass-through. This is something to consider if your TV and source devices support the latest video standards.


Why you should trust me

For more than a decade now, I’ve been fortunate to review a wide variety of affordable consumer-level speakers, receivers, headphones, and home theater gear, as well as high-performance audio gear. I previously served as East Coast contributing editor for Home Entertainment magazine and editor in chief of HomeTechTell, and I’ve contributed to Big Picture Big Sound, Digital TV & Sound, Electronic House, HD Living, and Home Theater magazine. I currently cover gaming headsets, surround-sound speaker systems, and soundbars here at The Wirecutter, and I specialize in reviewing AV receivers, high-end audio, and home-automation systems for Home Theater Review and Residential Systems.


Who should get this

If you’ve noticed that the sound coming out of your TV speakers is borderline unlistenable, congratulations: You’re absolutely correct. With but a few exceptions, the tiny speakers crammed into today’s ever-thinner TVs are shrill, weak, and lacking in bass, and perhaps most important, they make the dialogue in today’s dense sound mixes all but indiscernible. The effect is worse with TVs whose itty-bitty speakers fire downward or, worse yet, backward and away from the listener.

For many people, the solution to this problem is clear: Upgrade to a full-fledged surround-sound setup with an AV receiver and an entry-level or high-performance 5.1-channel speaker system. Or even just a good stereo receiver and a pair of bookshelf speakers.

If that sounds like more effort (or more expense) than you’re willing to put into upgrading your listening experience, a good soundbar may be right up your alley. Don’t worry: Soundbars aren’t all as horrible as some people would have you believe. While it’s true that a component sound system will give you vastly better sound quality in most cases, the convenience and simplicity of a good soundbar may be more important to you than pure unadulterated audiophile-level performance. Although a premium soundbar will get you a lot closer to those component systems in terms of performance, 60 percent of respondents to a recent Wirecutter survey reported that they simply want an affordable option (ideally under $400) that outperforms their TV speakers.


How we picked

This guide to budget soundbars builds upon the hours of work that Chris Heinonen performed in his original guide. Thanks to Chris’s efforts, we could easily dismiss ultra-low-budget soundbar offerings from Insignia (Best Buy’s house brand) and others that failed to outperform stock TV speakers. That left us with a list of more recent releases, updated versions of our old picks, and a few wild cards thrown into the mix. With that list in place, we turned to experts at sites like CNET, Digital Trends, PCMag, and Trusted Reviews to whittle down the pack and eliminate any soundbars with obvious performance, ergonomics, or connectivity shortcomings.

What remained was a list of viable contenders from LG, Polk Audio, Samsung, Sony, Vizio, Yamaha, and ZVOX—12 models in all, although unfortunately we weren’t able to bring all of them in for evaluation due to availability issues, or simply the fact that the companies informed us they would soon be discontinued.

That left us with the Klipsch R-4B; the Polk Audio MagniFi One; the Samsung HW-J450; Vizio’s SB4051-C0, SB3851-C0, and SB3821-C6; Yamaha’s YAS-105 and YAS-203, and the ZVOX SoundBase.450. We also brought in the updated versions of our top picks from last year for this latest round of testing: Vizio’s SB3851-D0 and SB3821-D6, along with Yamaha’s YAS-106.


How we tested

Since I couldn’t set all of our prospective picks up at once, and since all of them had Bluetooth capabilities, I started testing the soundbars in our roundup myself, two at a time, both in my den and my bedroom. I then ran through the same four test tracks to gauge their relative performance with a variety of tunes: Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer’s “Willie of Winsbury”; The Allman Brothers Band’s “Blue Sky”; “Hey Ladies” by the Beastie Boys; Björk’s “Crystalline”; and the first track from Jethro Tull’s Thick As a Brick 40th-anniversary special-edition release.

I then turned to movie and TV performance, relying primarily on Netflix, with a focus on clips from Kill Bill: Volume 1, Lilo & Stitch, The Walking Dead, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the documentary series Planet Earth.

In all head-to-head comparisons, I relied on identical audio connections to ensure that, for example, soundbars equipped with HDMI input had no advantage over soundbars with optical-only connections.

I winnowed down the pack some and then brought in additional ears in the form of Dave Calhoun, a guitarist with more than 20 years of recording experience, and my wife, Bethany, who works in video production, audio editing, and communications. In practice, the Vizio SB3851-D0 proved to be such a clear winner in my initial testing that Dave and Bethany simply confirmed my suspicions and gave me additional thoughts on music performance and other features, such as dialogue enhancement and surround-sound processing. Our updated round of testing involved going through the same testing procedures, comparing new models with our previous top picks.


Our pick

Vizio SB3851-D0 SmartCast 38″ 5.1 Sound Bar System

The Vizio SB3851-D0 SmartCast 38″ 5.1 Sound Bar System may not be the biggest or loudest model in Vizio’s 2016 soundbar lineup, but it strikes the best balance between value and performance. Despite its somewhat narrow width, the SB3851-D0 delivers a wide soundstage and surprisingly powerful output while maintaining so many of the qualities that have made Vizio ’bars our favorites in past years.

In addition to producing a balance of atmosphere-building high-frequency sounds, smooth and natural midrange, and satisfyingly weighty bass better than the competitors in its price range, the SB3851-D0 also leads the pack in connectivity (with the exception of the fact that its HDMI input doesn’t support 4K video or high-resolution audio, though few do). In addition to HDMI input and output, it features a 3.5 mm analog audio input, both coaxial and optical digital ins, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi support, the last of which facilitates its new Google Cast and Vizio SmartCast connectivity.

If you’re not familiar with Google Cast, you can think of it as a more open-platform version of Apple’s AirPlay, with a few technical differences. The short version: You use your phone, tablet, or laptop to control the content you want to hear, but that content streams directly to the Google Cast–enabled device (in this case, the soundbar) instead of to your mobile device. Essentially, the controller is your phone or tablet, and the soundbar is the speaker. Google Cast is available on a number of devices (including iOS devices), as well as in Google’s Chrome browser. Vizio SmartCast builds on the Google Cast platform with its own proprietary app, which not only provides direct access to a number of audio streaming services but is also a full-featured in-app remote control. It’s actually a lot more accessible than Vizio’s own physical remote. All of Vizio’s SmartCast devices have support for Google Home, too.

While some customer reviews have indicated problems with getting the SmartCast app to pair with Vizio’s soundbars, we had no such difficulty. I did the pairing over Bluetooth via my iPhone 6s Plus, network setup was quick and easy, and none of the Google Cast–compatible apps we tried, including Spotify Connect, exhibited any connection problems.

budget soundbars sb3821-d6

As with Vizio’s previous 5.1-channel soundbars, the SB3851-D0 comes with a pair of wired surround-sound speakers. These connect to the back of its wireless subwoofer via two 25-foot-long RCA cables. This design means that, unlike most soundbars, which rely on processing to deliver a surround-sound-like experience, the SB3851-D0 is actually capable of delivering sounds directly from the side and rear of the room. Best of all, switching between surround sound and stereo is as easy as disconnecting the speakers and pressing a couple of buttons on the soundbar’s remote, so if you want to enjoy a more cinematic audio experience on movie nights but are perfectly happy with stereo sound on a day-to-day basis, switching between the two modes takes only a minute or so.

Aside from the Google Cast and Vizio SmartCast capabilities, the biggest difference between the SB3851-D0 and last year’s SB4051-C0 is that high-frequency sounds have received a bit of a boost, and dialogue clarity is even further improved. We ran through several dialogue-clarity stress tests (including the Mines of Moria sequence from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), and the SB3851-D0 always had a noticeable advantage over the competition in this respect—not just against the older Vizio model, but also against all of the other potential contenders in our roundup. That’s due in large part to this soundbar’s dedicated center speaker, but also to its overall tonal balance. During the aforementioned scene, it simply did a better job of not only delivering dialogue with more clarity but also re-creating the atmospheric environments of Middle-earth.

Would a larger dedicated center-channel speaker as part of a full multispeaker component surround-sound system do an even better job? Absolutely. But for its size and price, the SB3851-D0 goes a long way toward creating a reasonable facsimile of a more expensive and complicated home theater system.

Another advantage is that the SB3851-D0 can deliver true surround sound from multiple sources with the simplest connectivity possible, thanks to its multiple inputs and HDMI Audio Return Channel support. If you’re not familiar with HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC for short), it basically means the HDMI cable connecting your TV and the soundbar is a two-way street: It can send video from any sources connected to the ’bar to the TV, but audio generated by the TV (via built-in apps) can also travel back down that same connection for the soundbar to play.

budget soundbars

So you can connect your cable or satellite box, your gaming console, and your media player to the inputs of the SB3851-D0 via HDMI, coaxial, and optical digital, and still enjoy surround sound from the apps built into your smart TV, if you have one. You may think it would be simpler just to connect all of your sources to the TV and run one cable from there to the SB3851-D0, but the problem is that most TVs will convert any incoming surround sound to stereo before passing it to the digital audio outputs. If this seems weird, that’s because it is. You have copy-protection rules to thank. So if all you can send to your TV is stereo, it sort of defeats the purpose of having a surround-sound-capable soundbar.

Bottom line: Unless you’ve done your homework to confirm that your TV can pass a surround-sound signal from an HDMI source, the only surefire way to guarantee you’ll be able to enjoy true surround sound on a soundbar is to use HDMI with Audio Return Channel (and to connect the HDMI sources directly to the soundbar itself). Separate optical and coaxial digital inputs on the SB3851-D0 mean you could potentially get surround sound from as many as four different sources.

Add in Bluetooth with aptX for two-channel music streaming, along with all of the streaming apps that Google Cast and Vizio SmartCast bring to the party, and this affordable soundbar boasts way more in terms of connectivity than you might expect from something at this price.


Flaws but not dealbreakers

Vizio SB3821-D6 SmartCast 38″ 2.1 Sound Bar System

As has been the case with every Vizio soundbar we’ve tested so far, the SB3851-D0’s biggest shortcoming is its remote. Tweaking the settings of the soundbar requires looking at the remote control’s tiny, low-contrast, non-backlit LCD screen, which we found virtually impossible to read without a flashlight. Thankfully, day-to-day operation was normally so easy, I found myself not needing this screen after the initial setup. This issue is also easier to forgive this year thanks to Vizio’s SmartCast app, which doubles as a remote.

That’s especially handy given that the SB3851-D0 has a number of settings you’ll need to tweak during the setup process, like the relative levels of the center, front left and right, and surround speakers, which is a little more than you’d normally have to deal with when setting up a soundbar. It’s certainly nowhere near as complicated as setting up a component surround-sound system with an AV receiver and separate speakers, though.

One additional tweak we had to make to the SB3851-D0: As mentioned above, its high-frequency sounds are boosted a bit compared with those of last year’s models. While we appreciate the additional clarity, Vizio may have gone a tad too far. The result is a somewhat thinner sound with some listening material, especially music. We found that dialing the treble setting down to -3 resulted in the best sound balance overall, but don’t take that as gospel; the right settings may be different in your room depending on size, shape, and so forth.

Lastly, note that the HDMI input and output are at this point a bit out of date. Unlike the Yamaha YAS-106 and a few other low-priced offerings, this Vizio model doesn’t support HDMI 2.0. So if you have a UHD TV along with a media player or other source capable of 4K and/or high dynamic range video content, you won’t be able to pass those sources through this Vizio soundbar. Nor does it support Dolby Digital Plus, an increasingly popular codec that most current streaming media boxes output.


Better bass, but higher priceVizio SB4551-D5 SmartCast 45″ 5.1 Sound Bar System

Our one other beef with the Vizio SB3851-D0 is that during the course of our work on this most recent update, it has gone in and out of stock a surprising number of times. Normally we would respond by recommending a similarly priced alternative with roughly equivalent features, but we haven’t found such a mythical creature, at least not yet.

So if you have your heart set on something like the SB3851-D0 and can’t find it for sale, you have two options: Either step down to something like our budget pick, or step up to one of Vizio’s higher-performance 2016 offerings, like the SB4551-D5 SmartCast 45″ 5.1 Sound Bar System. It’s pricey to be sure, but its slim subwoofer offers truly special performance given its svelte size.

At only 3½ inches deep, the SB4451-D5’s slim subwoofer takes up less than half as much space as the cubic subs included with most other soundbars. Yet it still delivers deeper, more cinematic bass than the bigger speakers do. The sub is designed for either vertical orientation or placement flat on the floor, and it serves as the point of connection for the surround-sound speakers. It’s so slim, in fact, that you can easily slide it under the sofa for a bit more of a tactile bass experience. Just note that under-couch placement may not be the most acoustically ideal location.

That isn’t the only difference between the SB4551-D5 and our top pick, though. The soundbar itself is also notably thinner, which does result in a somewhat different sound. While we found the high-frequency sounds of the SB3851-D0 to be a little too pronounced, we thought the SB4551-D5’s treble felt a touch subdued. This effect gave the entire system a rather midrange-heavy bent. A bit of tweaking to bring the high frequencies up in the mix helped a lot. If you don’t want to futz with custom settings, you can cycle through Vizio’s built-in EQ presets to see if any of them fit your room well. Vizio’s SmartCast app, which this soundbar also supports, makes that task a good deal easier.

In our extensive head-to-head audio-performance testing, we preferred the SB4551-D5’s less-expensive siblings for listening to stereo music. Despite being 7 inches wider than our top pick and budget pick, the SB4551-D5 didn’t appear to have a wider soundstage, and the middling treble performance kept songs from reaching their full potential. That said, the SB4551-D5 did win us over when we listened to movie and TV-show soundtracks, because of its excellent dialogue delivery and deeper bass performance.

Several customer reviews on Amazon note connectivity problems, including subwoofers that lose their wireless pairing, dropped Bluetooth connections, and difficulty setting up the soundbar with the SmartCast app. While we did have to use Wi-Fi for the app setup, none of the other issues have crept up in our extensive testing, although that could be a result of our running the latest firmware.

CNET’s Ty Pendlebury and Steve Guttenberg also seem to have had a good experience with the soundbar, writing, “The Vizio SB4551 belts out top-notch home theater sound for the price.” The review concludes, “The Vizio SB4551 sound bar offers an enveloping experience with movies that competitors can’t touch, while also including some tasty streaming features.”


For anyone on a tighter budget

Vizio SB3821-D6 SmartCast 38″ 2.1 Sound Bar System

The Vizio SB3821-D6 SmartCast 38″ 2.1 Sound Bar System is a great lower-budget alternative if you find the performance and streaming capabilities of our top pick alluring but don’t want to spend as much, or if you simply don’t want to fuss with extra surround-sound speakers.

The SB3821-D6 lacks HDMI connectivity, as well as the dedicated center speaker of its more-expensive siblings, but it does feature built-in Wi-Fi, support for tons of streaming audio services, and app control. It also sounds better than any sub-$200 soundbar we’ve tested to date. It’s a beautifully balanced sound device with great bass, solid midrange, and sparklingly detailed high frequencies that make it sound much larger than it actually is. As with the SB3851-D0, you may find that you need to turn down the treble settings a little to achieve optimal tonal balance, but that’s our only noteworthy nit to pick.

If you don’t care about the Google Cast capabilities of this year’s Vizio models, you could also save a few bucks by purchasing last year’s ultra-low-budget pick, the Vizio SB3821-C6 38″ 2.1 Sound Bar System, since it doesn’t seem to have been discontinued … for now. But we think most people will be happier with the SB3821-D6.


If you don’t want a subwoofer

budget soundbar yamaha yas-106

If you’re looking for an upgraded sound device but don’t want to (or can’t) place a subwoofer on the floor, the Yamaha YAS-106 Sound Bar with Dual Built-In Subwoofers impressed all our testers with its sound quality and compact size. The YAS-106 is relatively thick for a soundbar, owing to its pair of built-in 3-inch bass drivers, but it’s thin enough that it shouldn’t block your TV’s IR sensor. What’s more, it features a flexible-orientation design that allows you to wall-mount it (in which case it becomes taller than it is deep), further cutting down on clutter.

We loved the YAS-106’s substantial output. While we couldn’t get it to play as loudly as our Vizio picks, it never struggled to reach satisfying listening levels in my larger listening room. All testers deemed its dialogue clarity to be quite good. Although it doesn’t deliver bass as deep as that of a good sound pedestal, it still reached down to 60 hertz or so without much effort or distortion. It’s also one of the few soundbars in our roundup (other than the Vizio models) that support app control (in this case via the Yamaha HT Controller app).

Comparing the YAS-106 against our top-pick Vizio models, we found that it lacked high-end sparkle and sense of space, which was true of last year’s YAS-105 as well. It’s a bit heavy on the midrange, which worked well with the test song from Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer, but not so well with our Björk and Beastie Boys test tracks. To bring the YAS-106’s sound more into proper balance, we also had to turn down its bass quite a bit.

In previous versions of this guide, we’ve also included a sound-pedestal pick for subwoofer haters. If you’re not familiar with sound pedestals (also called sound bases), these devices are larger, deeper soundbar equivalents that rest under the TV instead of sitting in front of it. As of this update, however, we’ve decided to eliminate sound pedestals from this roundup, simply because the widely spaced and asymmetrical stands of our newer TV picks (and indeed most newer TVs) won’t sit stably atop any of the pedestals we’ve tested in this price range.


The competition

Before we get into the specifics of the soundbars that didn’t make our final recommendation list, we should point out that pretty much everything we tested sounded good on its own. That is to say, you wouldn’t be outright wasting your money if you bought any of them. But when we compared these with our top pick, all of them fell short in one way or another.

Although last year’s top pick, the Vizio SB4051-C0 40″ 5.1 Sound Bar System, is still around, we can’t recommend it over our new top pick since it lacks so many of the features we love in the new model. That said, you may want to consider looking at Vizio’s larger 2016 offerings, including the SB4551-D5 and SB4051-D5. These models not only feature larger drivers in the soundbar itself, as well as more sound output, but they also benefit from a new slim subwoofer that’s a big step up from the usual unattractive black box. The only reason we didn’t include them in this roundup is their price: Both models retail for a good bit more than readers told us they wanted to spend in our last survey pertaining to soundbars.

The Klipsch R-4B two-way soundbar rocked with movies in my smaller bedroom, but in my midsize media room it just sort of got swallowed, greatly outmatched by the output of our top-pick Vizio. Also, when listening to music we all felt that the R-4B’s treble was a little too pronounced and edgy by comparison.

Polk Audio’s MagniFi One sounded surprisingly large for its small size, but unfortunately we all found it overly midrange-heavy. Interestingly, that characteristic may make it a good pick for someone with hearing impairments, since it gave a good kick to dialogue. We weren’t impressed with the MagniFi One’s adjustable voice-boost technology, though, as sometimes it hurt more than it helped. With music, the MagniFi One also struggled: It performed well with the Anaïs Mitchell and Jefferson Hamer test track, but it wasn’t much fun to listen to with anything else.

The Samsung HW-J450 2.1-channel 300-watt soundbar was a great match for my Samsung TV in terms of connectivity, but the simple fact of the matter is that it’s a small soundbar that sounds every bit its size. If you have a tiny room, it may be a solid pick, but overall, in both of my testing rooms, we found it to be weak, with limited bass output and a small stereo soundstage.

The Yamaha YAS-203 Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer remains a strong contender after all these years, and we love a lot about it. This model’s IR repeater is a big bonus, as is its compatibility with the Yamaha HT Controller app. Compared with our Vizio top pick, though, the YAS-203 struggled to reach satisfying loudness levels in my media room, and its subwoofer sounded a little more bloated and less controlled. The bigger problem—again, when compared directly with the Vizio—is that this Yamaha model sounded narrow and constrained with music, and its surround-sound processing didn’t add much to movies. The Vizio simply outmatched it in every meaningful way, except for the fact that we all agreed that the Yamaha’s midrange was smoother. Despite that, its dialogue clarity wasn’t as good as the Vizio’s.

As far as sound pedestals go, the highly lauded Pioneer SP-SB03 Speaker Base TV Audio System (designed by Andrew Jones), one of the most popular options under $500, is unfortunately discontinued.

We included the ZVOX SoundBase.450 in our previous guide as a top pick for people who could accommodate it. However, as time goes by and more and more TVs gain wide-set feet or unconventional stands, sound pedestals of this sort simply make less and less sense. That said, if you have an older TV with a flat stand, and you want a sound option with great bass and some of the best surround-sound processing we’ve heard to date, ZVOX’s devices are aces. Since we published the last version of this guide, the company has introduced a completely revamped line that also includes more traditional soundbars, which we plan to bring in for the next round of testing.

Professional reviews scared us away from another potential sound-pedestal pick, the Sony HT-XT1 2.1 Channel TV Base Speaker with Built-in Subwoofer. In its review, Digital Trends calls it “a little synthetic and brittle on heavier rock tracks,” and PCMag notes that “it lacks a bit of clarity in the mid-highs and power in the low-end, and its sound field isn’t particularly impressive in size.”


What to look forward to

The biggest omission from this round of testing is the new line of AccuVoice TV speakers and soundbars from ZVOX Audio, whose SoundBase.450 impressed us so much last year. We plan to rectify that as soon as possible.


Wrapping it up

For the third year running, Vizio stands as the king of the hill when it comes to low-priced, high-performance soundbars. The Vizio SB3851-D0 SmartCast 38″ 5.1 Sound Bar System isn’t the top of the company’s 2016 line, but we think this model strikes the right balance between price and performance.

If you don’t need genuine 5.1 surround sound or are looking to save a little money, the Vizio SB3821-D6 SmartCast 38″ 2.1 Sound Bar System is a great ultra-low-budget pick. Despite its price, this model offers some of the best stereo sound we’ve heard from any soundbar under $500. Its Google Cast wireless capabilities make it a more-than-capable music streamer.

If you want better bass performance with movies, the Vizio SB4551-D5 SmartCast 45″ 5.1 Sound Bar System and its compact subwoofer deserve consideration, though for most people the higher price might not be worth it.

Or, if you don’t want or have space for a subwoofer or sound pedestal, we love the Yamaha YAS-106 Sound Bar with Dual Built-In Subwoofers. Its bass may not be the deepest, and it could use an extra kick of high-frequency sparkle, but for the price it sounds fantastic.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

Twitter Auto Publish Powered By :