The 6 Best Affordable Soundbars Today

A good soundbar can take your home entertainment experience to the next level. By delivering more powerful, nuanced audio than your TV‘s built-in speakers, soundbars let you hear the intense action of movies, the full depth of music, and the realistic sounds of video games.

But with so many models available, how do you pick the right affordable soundbar? In this buyer‘s guide, we compare the top-rated budget-friendly soundbar options to help you find one that fits both your space and wallet.

What Are Soundbars and Why Buy One?

Soundbars are long, slim speaker units designed to improve audio performance over your TV‘s speakers. Just place a soundbar in front of your TV, connect it via either HDMI or optical cable, and enjoy upgraded sound.

Compared to TV speakers, soundbars offer:

  • Surround sound – Soundbars produce audio in a 360-degree field so sounds envelop you, just like at the movie theater
  • Superior clarity – Hear clear, detailed dialogue for shows and movies without having to constantly adjust volume
  • Richer bass – Added bass brings powerful thumps in action scenes and pulse-pounding immersion
  • Flexible placement – Soundbars fit in front of your TV without needing stands or surround speaker sets

In short, a good soundbar augments the experience of movies, TV, music, and games. And contrary to popular belief, you don‘t need to spend thousands to reap these benefits. Affordable soundbars from $100 to $400 can still tremendously boost audio for most living room setups.

Below we highlight the top soundbars under $400 that deliver the most value right now based on reviews, ratings, features, and overall performance.

How We Chose the Best Budget Soundbars

We pored over expert soundbar reviews from sources like Rtings, CNET, and Wirecutter to select models praised for great audio quality given their affordable price.

We then compared specs and features to highlight soundbars that excel in critical areas like:

  • Speaker configuration – Number and type of integrated speakers/subwoofers impact audio fullness
  • Connectivity – Important to have options beyond just HDMI like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.
  • Audio formats – Support for advanced surround sound like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
  • Sound enhancement – Special modes for better clarity or audio adjustments
  • Setup and use – How easy is it to get going and tweak settings as needed
  • Design – Soundbars shouldn‘t detract visually from your overall setup

Finally, we singled out soundbars specializing in key buying factors – best overall, best premium look, best for music, etc. Read on for our top six recommendations.

The 6 Best Affordable Soundbars

1. LG S80QY – Best Overall

Key Features:

  • 3.1.3 channel configuration (left, center, right, two upfiring, subwoofer)
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
  • High-resolution audio up to 24-bit/192kHz
  • AI Sound Pro auto-adjusts audio based on content type
  • Sleek, minimalist design in black or white

If you want one affordable soundbar that does it all, look no further than LG‘s S80QY. Its impressive 3.1.3 speaker layout with dedicated upfiring drivers produces incredibly immersive Dolby Atmos surround. Voices come through with pristine clarity. Explosions hit with chest-thumping power thanks to the wireless subwoofer.

This soundbar analyzes incoming audio and automatically optimizes it via LG‘s AI Sound Pro modes. Plus high-res music playback over Wi-Fi reveals details you‘ve never heard before from Spotify or lossless services.

The only downside? Wall mounting is tricky due to the upfiring speakers. But placed in front of your TV, the S80QY delivers astonishing Dolby Atmos surround and audio adjustability that rivals soundbars double the cost.


  • Terrific 3D Dolby Atmos performance
  • AI audio enhancement optimizes all content
  • Hi-res music support lets you hear more detail
  • Integrates with LG TVs for enhanced control


  • Bulky; wall mounting not advised
  • No smart assistants built-in

2. Samsung HW-S61A/ZA – Best for Dialogue Clarity

Key Features:

  • 5.0 channel configuration (left, right, center, sides)
  • Dedicated center channel for clear vocal reproduction
  • Acoustic Beam technology widens soundstage
  • Alexa built-in for hands-free voice control
  • Metal grille and fabric finish for classy look

Among affordable soundbars, Samsung‘s HW-S61A/ZA stands out for making TV/movie dialogue more intelligible. Credit its dedicated center channel and Acoustic Beam tech that expands audio width for a spacious front soundstage.

Vocals come through loud and clear whether it‘s news anchors or actors whispering. The lack of a subwoofer helps maintain even midrange clarity too with minimal boominess.

While you don‘t get the spectacular overheard effects of Dolby Atmos, the S61A/ZA still envelops you in an open, room-filling sound. And having Alexa built-in means you can switch inputs or adjust volume without the remote.

If your top priority is understanding dialogue during late night viewing without blasting volume, this Samsung soundbar shines.


  • Superb vocal clarity from dedicated center channel
  • Acoustic Beam expands front soundstage
  • Alexa smart assistant handles basic requests
  • Wall-mountable with included hardware


  • Light on bass without a subwoofer
  • No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X

3. Vizio V21t-J8 – Best Budget Dolby Atmos

Key Features:

  • 2.1.2 channel configuration (left, right, center, two upfiring, subwoofer)
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual:X support
  • 100 dB max volume with punchy bass
  • Bluetooth and HDMI ARC connectivity
  • 36-inch size fits most TV setups

Movie buffs on a tight budget should check out the Vizio V21t-J8. It packs wireless subwoofer-assisted bass plus upfiring Atmos speakers…all for around $170!

Despite the low cost, this soundbar fills a room. DTS Virtual:X processing creates a fairly wide soundstage while Atmos effects add pleasing immersion. The integrated sub hits surprisingly deep to underscore action scenes. Dialogue also remains clear thanks to the dedicated center channel.

You don‘t get a ton of fancy features – just Bluetooth music streaming and a basic remote. But for the money, the V21t-J8 outputs exciting, cinematic audio that outperforms most budget soundbars.


  • Impressive Dolby Atmos audio at low cost
  • Good bass presence from wireless sub
  • DTS Virtual:X signal processing widens sound
  • Compact 36-inch size fits smaller TV setups


  • Limited wired connection options
  • Basic remote lacks ability to fine tune

4. JBL Bar 2.1 – Best Under $300

Key Features:

  • 2.1 channel configuration (left, right, subwoofer)
  • 300 watts peak power
  • JBL Surround Sound modes
  • HDMI ARC, optical, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Deep bass from 6.5-inch wireless sub

JBL is trusted brand for speakers, and they deliver pleasing audio quality with the JBL Bar 2.1 soundbar. A wireless sub paired with angled full-range drivers projects plenty of detail and direct sound into your room.

Bass lovers will dig how the Bar 2.1‘s large subwoofer conveys impact down to a claimed 40Hz. JBL‘s proprietary surround processing also spaciousizes movies and music by bouncing audio off walls.

For music, the Bar 2.1 streams over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with punchy clarity. Its multiple inputs accommodate most TVs and media players too. Overall this versatile soundbar pumps out dynamic audio that belies its reasonable price.


  • Big wireless subwoofer pumps out deep lows
  • Direct angled drivers increase immersion
  • Solid music playback features with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Surprisingly full, powerful sound


  • No Dolby Atmos or DTS:X
  • Soundstage narrower than 5.1 systems
  • Remote feels cheap

5. TCL Alto 9+ – Best Under $250

Key Features:

  • 3.1 channel configuration (left, right, center, subwoofer)
  • Dolby Audio decoding
  • Voice enhancement mode for dialogue
  • Roku TV ready with automatic audio sync
  • Subwoofer-assisted bass

Among the most popular TV brands, TCL makes equally great affordable soundbars like the Alto 9+. It builds on the respected Alto 7+ by adding a voice isolation mode and center channel for better dialogue intelligibility.

This soundbar has convenient integration with TCL Roku TVs. But used with any television, the Alto 9+ projects highly listenable sound enhanced by Dorby Audio surround-sound processing.

Bass output receives a welcome boost from the included wireless subwoofer as well. While music performance falls short of audiophile standards, for under $250 this TCL soundbar still elevates movies, streaming shows, and gaming.


  • Clear vocal reproduction from center channel
  • Deep low-end extension via subwoofer
  • Links seamlessly with TCL Roku TVs
  • Great performance-to-price ratio


  • No support for latest surround formats
  • Music playback lacks refinement

6. Majority Bowfell Compact – Best Small Soundbar

Key Features:

  • 2.0 channel configuration (left, right)
  • 50 watts total power
  • Four EQ sound modes
  • Bluetooth 5.0 streaming
  • Sleek 16-inch design great for bedrooms/offices

If you need a super compact soundbar for space-constrained areas like bedrooms, Majority‘s Bowfell delivers. It measures just 16 inches wide yet still outputs decent audio quality. Dual 3-inch drivers flank a passive radiator tuned for bass despite no separate subwoofer.

Controlling everything is dead simple with handy top-mounted buttons for source, volume, power, etc. Or stream music wirelessly over high-quality Bluetooth 5 from your phone.

Obviously the Bowfell lacks the power and rumble of larger soundbars. But for the size and price, its audio and streaming chops excel as an improvement over anemic monitor speakers.


  • Extremely compact
  • Surprising bass impact from slim profile
  • Convenient top-mounted controls
  • Good bang for the buck


  • Underpowered compared to 2.1 or 3.1 models
  • No Dolby or DTS support

What to Know Before Buying an Affordable Soundbar

Your budget – Soundbar technology and features improve drastically above the $500 mark. In the affordable range covered here, spending more gets you extras like wireless subwoofers, streaming options, etc. Decide how much you can allot while keeping realistic expectations.

Room size suitability – Soundbars and subwoofers tuned for larger living rooms may overwhelm smaller bedrooms. Measure where you plan to install one and compare stats like driver sizes and RMS/peak wattage against each model‘s intended room capacities.

Needed connectivity – All soundbars have at least one HDMI ARC port for hooking up to a TV. Others add HDMI inputs to interface more products, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth for wireless streaming, optical/aux cords, USB playback, and so on. Consider what devices you want your soundbar to connect now (and down the road) to determine ideal ports.

Audio format support – Basic soundbars simply decode Dolby Digital for improved movie/TV playback. More advanced ones add Dolby Atmos (3D spatial sound), DTS formats, and even hi-res music support. If you want the utmost in surround sound immersion, factor in whether Atmos or other codecs are supported.

Sound customization – Many soundbars offer audio adjustment features like genre-specific EQ presets, dialogue enhancement modes, volume leveling, etc. If getting the best audio quality for different media is a priority, having extra tuning options helps.

Finding the Best Affordable Soundbar for You

Boosting sound over lackluster TV speakers doesn‘t have to cost a fortune. As this breakdown reveals, today‘s budget soundbars deliver impressive movie, music, and gaming improvements for $100 to $400.

Now that you know what features matter most when choosing an affordable soundbar, think about your priorities. Do you absolutely need deep bombastic bass or is clear, balanced sound more important? Will you stream lots of music wirelessly or simply plug into your TV?

Answering questions like these clarifies the best soundbar model for your exact needs and budget. Just don‘t overspend for unnecessary capabilities unless you plan on upgrading your whole system later. The soundbars here all provide great value upgrades.

Here are some closing recommendations based on common buyer needs:

Best overall affordable soundbar – LG S80QY for its unmatched mix of immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X performance, music playback features, AI-based audio tuning, and sleek modern design.

Best soundbar under $200 – Samsung HW-S61A for its clear-as-day dialogue reproduction courtesy of a dedicated center channel and Acoustic Beam technology.

Best for dialogue/vocals – TCL Alto 9+ wins for its center channel clarity and adjustable voice enhancement mode.

Best for big explosive sound – Either the LG S80QY with dedicated upfiring Atmos speakers or the JBL Bar 2.1 thanks to its high-output wireless sub.

Best Dolby Atmos under $300 – Vizio V21t-J8 if you want spatial overhead effects on a tight budget.

Streaming music listeners – Go with the JBL Bar 2.1 and its Wi-Fi/Bluetooth support.

We hope this guide helps you experience movies, music, TV and games in better-sounding glory. Let us know if you have any other questions about choosing an affordable soundbar!

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