The best budget soundbars of 2024

The best budget soundbars of 2024
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Bose Smart Soundbar 600 on a TV console from the far left side.
The best budget soundbars can provide a nice upgrade from your TV’s built-in speakers without breaking the bank.

With so many options to choose from, finding the best budget soundbar for your needs can be daunting. But you don’t have to shop alone. We’ve done the tough work for you, testing dozens of soundbars over several years to find the best models at every price point.

Our top pick, the Vizio V21d-J8, is one of the most affordable ways to upgrade your TV’s audio setup, while step-up options like the Yamaha YAS-209 offer more features, a dedicated subwoofer, and better performance at a price that remains budget-friendly.

Below you’ll find a versatile selection of options, from micro-sized models to Dolby Atmos ringers, with prices starting at just over $100 and maxing out at around $500. So skip the checkout line and peruse our list below to find the best budget soundbars for all needs.

Our top picks for the best budget soundbars

Best overall: Vizio V-Series V21d-J8 – See at Amazon

Best upgrade pick: Yamaha YAS-209 – See at Amazon

Best with Dolby Atmos: Bose Smart Soundbar 600 – See at Amazon

Best for surround sound: Vizio V-Series V51-H6 – See at Best Buy

Best compact model: Sonos Ray – See at Amazon

Best overall

Vizio’s V21d-J8 is the best budget soundbar for those who just want a simple and affordable audio solution that lets you set it and forget it. This all-in-one system offers solid entry-level sound in a sleek design that blends into your decor without the need to set aside space for extra speakers or a bulky subwoofer.

Like most modern soundbars, the V21 provides a simplified connection to your TV via HDMI ARC, letting you use your TV remote for power and volume controls. For those with older TVs, an Optical input is included as a backup, while support for Bluetooth lets you stream audio from a phone or tablet for a one-stop sound solution. The included remote lets you swap through settings like sound modes, inputs, and EQ adjustments as needed. The bar does not include a spare HDMI port but does offer an analog input for legacy audio devices.

With built-in woofers for low frequencies and basic stereo speakers, the V21 offers a moderate improvement over TV audio, with boosted dialogue and some added punch in action scenes. The lack of a separate subwoofer limits bass response, but support for DTS:X virtual surround sound helps the bar expand the soundstage beyond its 36-inch frame to create a more engaging and immersive experience.

As you might expect, the V21 doesn’t provide performance on the same level as pricier soundbars or multi-component home theater setups, but Vizio’s talent for delivering good sound at an affordable price is on full display here. If all you need is a budget-friendly way to soup up your TV’s sound, this value-packed bar is a great entry point.

Best upgrade pick

For those after a more thrilling sonic experience, the Yamaha YAS-209 is an excellent midrange soundbar that remains budget-friendly. It’s telling that this model has been floating around soundbar roundups for years and is the current champ in our main guide to the best soundbars you can buy. When it comes to offering great sound and features for a relatively modest investment, we haven’t found a system that beats it yet.

The YAS-209 offers easy connection to your TV over HDMI ARC while sprinkling in a surprising arsenal of extras, including Bluetooth and WiFi support, built-in Amazon Alexa for voice control, and even a spare HDMI input for connecting external devices. However, one unfortunate caveat is that while the bar can pass through 4K video with HDR, it doesn’t support Dolby Vision, one of the most popular formats. That said, the fact that we rarely see a spare HDMI port at this price at all makes this exclusion easier to forgive.

The 209’s rounded frame is wrapped in acoustic fabric for subtle style points, with accessible touch commands up top. At less than 2.5 inches high and 36 inches across, it’s an easy fit on most consoles and blends smoothly into the background. We do wish there was a full display up front, but given that we rarely found the need to make any audio adjustments, it’s another forgivable faux pas.

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The YAS-209 endears users most with its refreshingly full and balanced sound, offering a smooth and warm midrange, clear treble effects and dialogue, and plenty of punch via its included wireless subwoofer. While there’s no Dolby Atmos support, DTS:X virtual surround sound is included to expand the sound beyond its frame. Even in its standard mode, the YAS-209 delivers engaging performance that will ramp up everything you play.

Best with Dolby Atmos

Bose’s Smart Soundbar 600 is one of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars you can buy on a budget. And unlike the similarly priced Sonos Beam, the Bose 600 includes dedicated up-firing drivers for more potent overhead effects with Dolby Atmos content. This allows the bar to bounce sound off your ceiling to simulate audio coming from above.

When combined with Bose’s advanced acoustic design and virtual surround sound software, the result is a full and immersive audio experience. But the Smart Soundbar 600 offers much more than just Dolby Atmos. Its small but capable frame provides clear dialogue and balanced sound across genres and formats, making it a great system for whatever you play. 

The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 is shown on a black and brown console.
The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 has up-firing drivers to bounce sound off your ceiling.

However, its biggest performance drawback is a lack of bass response. With its small frame and lack of a dedicated subwoofer, powerful moments in your favorite films tend to lose some of their impact in the lower frequencies.

Luckily, the 600 has plenty of other tricks up its sleeve. Thanks to WiFi connection and Bose’s capable app, the bar lets you do everything from adding a Bose subwoofer or optional surround speakers to playing your favorite tracks from many of the best music streaming services. Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast, and Bluetooth are all on offer, while the 600’s built-in microphones with support for Amazon Alexa make it an effective smart speaker.

Like many bars this size, the Smart Soundbar 600 offers limited connection options, including only HDMI eARC or Optical support for TV connection, with no spare HDMI port. It also lacks support for DTS sound formats, but its TrueSpace virtual surround still does an impressive job with most audio sent its way. 

The Soundbar 600 isn’t cheap, but its combination of immersive and musical sound, Dolby Atmos up-firing drivers, plenty of features, and a chic design all add up to an investment that is (dare we say?) smart.

Read our Bose Smart Soundbar 600 review. 

Best for surround sound

When it comes to surround sound quality at this price range, you won’t find a better value than Vizio’s 5.1-channel wonder, the V51-H6. This entry-level surround setup makes you work a little for your investment, stringing sprawling wires from its included subwoofer to a pair of teensy rear speakers. But once you’ve got it up and running, it’s one of the easiest ways to upgrade your TV room for a baseline home theater experience.

The V51-H6 is a minimalist machine. There’s no WiFi or advanced smarts onboard, opting only for wired connections and basic Bluetooth streaming. You’ll find HDMI ARC for easy control via your TV remote, alongside Optical and analog inputs, but no spare HDMI port for plugging in a gaming console or Blu-ray player. Unlike pricier surround systems, the V51 doesn’t support Dolby Atmos or DTS:X 3D audio formats, either. At this price, though, none of that should matter.

A Vizio V Series 5.1 soundbar on a TV stand
Vizio’s V-Series audio system includes the soundbar unit itself (pictured above) along with a subwoofer and rear satellite speakers.

What does matter is that the V51-H6 is easy to use and sounds great. The slim package includes everything you need, neatly organized, from HDMI and power cables to the pint-sized surround speakers and the most adorable cube of a subwoofer we’ve ever laid eyes on. The remote’s Casio-esque digital screen lets you adjust everything from the EQ to the center channel, with basic digital feedback via an LED bar on its left-front face. 

The four-piece setup combines for clean, expansive, and relatively powerful sound. The sub and bar are remarkably in sync for budget components, and while the bass can get a little tubby, it adds just the right thump to action scenes. When compared to larger, more powerful setups, the treble can sometimes sound thin, but it never crosses over to sharp, and dialogue always remained clear in multiple test scenes. 

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At this price, you’re getting fantastic value. As long as you don’t mind a little legwork up front, the V51-H6 is the best budget soundbar for those who want a true 5.1 system without breaking the bank.

Best compact model

When we first heard the Sonos Ray, we were all but bowled over by its audio performance. Its tiny frame seems more like a futuristic portable Bluetooth speaker than a soundbar as you set it on your console, but Sonos proves that size doesn’t always dictate sound. 

The Ray’s audio signature is full, clear, and surprisingly smooth. Details pop with the kind of textural sparkle that borders on premium. Bass is subtle, but there’s more authority than you might expect in the lower midrange, lending some muscle to your favorite action flicks and dramas. The Ray is also a talented musical companion, balancing everything from jazz to electronic tracks with a deft hand. The sound signature occasionally obscures midrange performance when pushed too hard, but that was rarely an issue in testing.

A white Sonos Ray soundbar underneath a TV on an entertainment console.
The Sonos Ray is a pint-sized soundbar that’s perfect for buyers who need to conserve space.

The bar’s impressive sonic skills do come at a cost elsewhere. Most notably, there’s no HDMI ARC connection, offering only Optical input. That means the bar can’t accept high-bandwidth audio signals like Dolby Atmos. The other notable drawback is you can’t automatically use your TV remote for power and volume control, instead relying on the Sonos app to program your TV remote for IR commands. This is all the more complicated since the Ray doesn’t include its own remote.

Luckily, most TV remotes are compatible, and the intuitive Sonos app walks you through the full setup process. And since this is a Sonos device, the app can do much more, from controlling the bar’s audio and settings to connecting it with other Sonos speakers as part of a multi-room audio system or a full surround configuration — something virtually nothing else at this price can match. Sonos also makes music streaming a breeze, letting you play directly from the app itself, from third-party apps like Spotify Connect, or via Apple AirPlay 2.

In another Sonos quirk, there’s no Bluetooth on board, but WiFi’s higher streaming resolution and the swell of available streaming options mostly make up for this exclusion. The Ray’s unique functionality takes some getting used to, and it won’t be for everyone. But this mini bar’s killer sound and advanced features make it an excellent value proposition for the right buyer, especially for those already invested in the Sonos ecosystem.

How we test budget soundbars

A Vizio M Series 5.1 soundbar on an entertainment console under a TV.
We evaluate soundbars using an assortment of movies and TV shows.

To find the best budget soundbars, we tested multiple models for several hours each in various use cases. Our biggest focus is always sound quality, but we also weigh supported audio formats, connectivity, ease of use, and advanced features like WiFi streaming and smart assistant compatibility.

We also evaluate factors for daily use, from setup and size to reliability and convenience perks like an app for adjusting EQ and other settings. As often as possible, we live with each soundbar for multiple days, using it in various scenarios as our main audio device to find out what it’s truly like to own it.

For testing material, we use a carefully selected list of scenes from familiar films and TV shows. We look for a well-blended system across bass, midrange, and treble frequencies, as well as paying careful attention to dialogue delivery — especially when things get chaotic, but also during quiet moments. 

We also listen to a dedicated song list of tracks from multiple music genres and streaming services, including Spotify and high-resolution files over services like Amazon Music. We make sure to test each system for Bluetooth and WiFi reliability and audio quality, as well as the responsiveness and convenience of smart assistants like Amazon Alexa.

What to look for in a budget soundbar

The Bose Smart Soundbar 600 inputs shown on a wooden console.
You’ll want to ensure that the soundbar you buy has all the inputs you need to connect to your devices.

When shopping for the best budget soundbar, you’ll first want to look at connectivity. HDMI ARC or eARC are preferred for connection to a TV, as they offer higher bandwidth than digital optical connection, as well as the passing of CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) from most modern TVs, letting you use your TV remote to control basic controls like power and volume. For music streaming, you’ll want to decide if you need WiFi support or if Bluetooth will suffice.

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Next, we recommend looking at available audio channels. Many budget models will be limited to 2.0 (stereo audio) or 2.1 channel configurations (which include a low-frequency channel or separate subwoofer for bass). Some newer models go further, with support for an integrated center channel, which is denoted with a 3.0 or 3.1-channel configuration, or even 5.1-channel surround with satellite speakers. Moving up in price can get you into soundbars with Dolby Atmos support. Bose’s Smart Soundbar 600, for instance, supports 3.0.2 channel sound, which means it offers three front channels as well as two “height” channels to create a more immersive soundstage.

Regarding audio formats, many budget soundbars will support both PCM and Dolby Digital stereo sound as a baseline, while some go further, including DTS and DTS surround sound. Many of the best budget soundbars we test also include virtual surround sound formats like DTS Virtual X, which uses digital software to create a more immersive experience. This can offer a notable soundstage expansion but won’t be as effective as true multi-channel surround sound support.

Soundbars are also great for streaming music. The vast majority of budget soundbars offer at least some form of Bluetooth support to stream from your phone, while more advanced models include WiFi connectivity for streaming at higher quality from services like Spotify or Apple Music. 

WiFi connectivity may also enable support for digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. If smart features are important to you, you’ll want to see if your bar offers built-in voice control via onboard microphones for accessing at least one smart assistant.

Budget soundbar FAQs

A white Sonos Ray soundbar on a TV stand.
Even small soundbars can deliver better audio quality than speakers that are built into most TV.

Will a budget soundbar still sound better than your TV?

In short, yes. While there may be some crossover where the best TVs offer audio that can compete with some of the cheapest soundbars, for the most part, the best budget soundbars will deliver a notable upgrade over TV sound. This is due to various factors, including a soundbar’s location in front of the screen, its size and acoustic properties, and dedicated amplifiers and drivers. For these reasons, we always recommend shoppers consider adding a soundbar to their TV setup for an improved viewing experience.

How much should I expect to spend on a budget soundbar?

That depends on what you want. Our top pick for this guide costs just over $100, which we consider the baseline when shopping for the best budget soundbars. If you’re picky about sound, however, you’ll want to consider investing at least $200-300 for a more immersive and engaging experience. If you want more advanced features and support for sound formats like Dolby Atmos, expect to spend even more, but you can still get a great experience for under $500.

Can budget soundbars support surround sound and Dolby Atmos?

Yes. We included budget-friendly soundbar models on our list with surround sound and Dolby Atmos support. One thing to note is that while budget Dolby Atmos soundbars can offer a height element for a more immersive experience, without true surround speakers, these models may not be as immersive as soundbars that include rear satellites. For more information, check out our guide to all the ins and outs of Dolby Atmos. 

On the other hand, if you’re after 5.1 surround sound or higher, you’ll need to invest not only in a soundbar that supports these features but also in a dedicated space to properly place surround sound speakers so that they’re aligned with your main listening position.

In our experience, a budget surround soundbar is a great way to determine if a multi-speaker system is your preferred listening experience. If it is, you can always consider upgrading to a more powerful a multi-speaker surround sound system later. This is also why many bars from brands like Sonos, Bose, and Sony allow you to add proprietary surround speakers later.

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