If you’re new to the world of audio equipment, but your TV speakers definitely aren’t cutting it, you may want to test out an inexpensive soundbar. In this case, “inexpensive” means under $200.

Why choose a budget soundbar?

Budget soundbars make sense in a few different situations. If you’ve never owned audio equipment, it might be daunting to invest in a more expensive setup. Maybe you just purchased an expensive TV and need to save up money for a $1,000+ audio setup. On the other hand, you might already own a quality audio rig and want a cheaper option for your second or third TV. Whatever the reason, you’ll be hard pressed to find an inexpensive soundbar that sounds worse than your built-in TV speakers.

What should I look for in a budget soundbar?

There are a couple of factors to take into consideration when searching for the right budget soundbar. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Height

Something that you should consider pre-purchase is height. It’s important to select a soundbar that won’t cover your TV’s IR sensor, or cut off the bottom of your frame. Almost all of the soundbars listed below are between 2 and 3 inches, but it’s important to measure your TV’s height or plan to get risers. Nothing is more frustrating than setting up your soundbar and realizing that you can’t change the channel because it’s blocking your IR sensor.

Sound Quality

These soundbars are below the $200 threshold. That means you’ll sacrifice a considerable amount in the way of capability, but you can still find good sound quality. Most of these are 2.1 channels setups that either come with standalone or built-in subwoofers. It should be noted that built-in subwoofers at this price range will have less of a ‘rumble’ than standalone units. Be sure to check if each soundbar has DTS or Dolby Audio support for a more ‘immersive’ listening experience.

Connectivity

In general, soundbars have a few different connectivity options. You’ll find flexibility, even in lower end units. There’s nothing wrong with selecting a plug-in-and-go model, which is easiest to accomplish with HDMI ARC or optical-digital. But many soundbars offer Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity as well. You’ll want to pay attention to the output methods available on your TV to ensure you can connect the way you want.

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1. Polk Audio Signa S2 Ultra-Slim TV Sound Bar

The Polk Audio Signa S2 will feel like a significant upgrade over your TV speakers. It has a 2.1 channel setup and comes with a compact wireless subwoofer that produces powerful bass. The sound is overall satisfactory for its price range and Polk Adjust Technology helps clarify dialogue when watching a show. Where this soundbar struggles is surround sound.
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You won’t get an immersive experience, and this model is best used as a stereo sound unit. That being said, it’s an excellent build for a casual TV watcher who wants an improved audio experience. It’s difficult to argue with the quality of this model, especially compared to its previous iteration - the S1 - which also performed well but lacked an HDMI port.
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Pros
  • Wireless Bluetooth streaming
  • Easy installation
  • Connects to both 4K and HD TVs
  • HDMI ARC connection

Cons:
  • Does not support Dolby Atmos


2. SAMSUNG HW-T450 2.1ch Soundbar with Dolby Audio

Samsung’s HW-T450 is a starter 2.1 unit designed to compliment a Samsung TV. It has Bluetooth connectivity and setup is simple. This model gets loud enough to fill an average living room with your favorite tunes. The wireless subwoofer also produces a decent rumble. The HW-T450 is an excellent choice for a gamer due to a programmed Game Mode which optimizes sound to give you a directional advantage.
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The biggest difference in physical appearance compared to other Samsung models is the build quality. This soundbar is made of plastic with a mesh fabric covering. However, it is a strong contender at its price point.
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Pros:
  • Samsung One remote consolidates remotes for Samsung TV owners
  • Game Mode for optimized sound
  • Punchy bass
  • Bluetooth connectivity

Cons:
  • Lower build quality
  • No HDMI/ARC


3. JBL Bar 2.1 - Channel Soundbar

The JBL Bar exceeds expectations for a 2.1 channel setup. It sacrifices little in the way of performance with crisp highs and booming bass provided by the 6.5” wireless subwoofer. The 300W system includes Dolby Digital and JBL Surround Sound. As for connectivity, you’ll have a number of options. The JBL Bar 2.1 offers flexibility with a v1.4 HDMI input, Bluetooth connectivity, AUX, and USB wired connections. It also comes with JBL Sound Shift which allows you to seamlessly change connections, switching from your TV to your phone.
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Despite being one of the most powerful soundbars in its price range, the JBL has a slim profile, coming in at just over 2 inches tall. Overall, this is a soundbar that will impress your friends but won’t break the bank.
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Pros:
  • Dolby Digital and JBL Surround Sound
  • Multiple connectivity options
  • Powerful 6.5” wireless subwoofer
  • HDMI ARC

Cons:
  • Struggles at top volume
  • Only comes with optical audio jack included


4. YAMAHA SR-B20A Sound Bar

The Yamaha SR-B20A is an all-in-one soundbar that’s thin enough to sit below your TV, but is also designed to be mounted. It has two built-in subwoofers at either end that deliver satisfying bass, but won’t shake your floors in the way a standalone subwoofer might. The unit comes with DTS Virtual:X and four different sound modes, including one specifically designed for gamers. Connect via Bluetooth, HDMI, or optical.
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The unit comes with a remote, but can also be controlled using the Sound Bar Remote App from Yamaha. Never lose track of what’s happening in a scene again with Clear Voice for enhanced dialogue clarity. Overall, this is a perfect fit for someone keen on saving space with an all-in-one model.
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Pros:
  • Sound Bar Remote App in addition to physical remote
  • Multiple connection options including Bluetooth and HDMI ARC
  • DTS Virtual:X
  • Four different preset sound modes

Cons:
  • Advertised as easy to mount, but does not come with kit
  • All-in-one unit eliminates standalone subwoofer


5. VIZIO 2.1 Sound Bar SB3821

Vizio’s SB321 is an inexpensive soundbar that looks and feels like an expensive model. The 38-inch bar comes with a wireless 50Hz subwoofer that packs a punch despite its compact size. In addition to Bluetooth connectivity, the SB321 has optical and aux ports.
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Vizio is known for producing decent audio at a consumer friendly price point. The SB321 is no exception. Experience room filling clarity and impressive sound performance with support for Dolby Digital, DTS TruSurround, and DTS Volume. If you’re looking for a system that sounds great, and has a little more flair than its competitors, you won’t be disappointed.
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Pros:
  • Wall mount screws and brackets included
  • Dolby Digital and DTS TruSurround
  • Excellent build quality
  • Easy installation

Cons:
  • USB for WAV playback but not MP3
  • Confusing input selection display
  • No HDMI ARC



6. TCL Alto 6 2.0 Channel Home Theater Sound Bar

The TCL Alto 6 is undoubtedly designed with the budget savvy minimalist in mind. It’s easy to set up and sounds great compared to built-in TV speakers. In addition to several specialized sound modes, the Alto 6 has Dolby Digital for virtual surround sound. Wirelessly stream music by connecting your phone via Bluetooth.
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This model has HDMI ARC, USB, optical, and a 3.5mm AUX line-in. It pairs seamlessly with Roku and can be controlled using a Roku TV remote. Overall, this soundbar won’t blow you away but it’s a great option for under $100.
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Pros:
  • Roku TV compatibility
  • HDMI ARC
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Dolby Digital virtual surround sound

Cons:
  • No Dolby Atmos
  • No subwoofer


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