Best soundbars on a budget: boost your home cinema without breaking the bank

the sony ht-mt300 soundbar next to a TV
(Image credit: Sony)

A great soundbar can make a world of difference to your home cinema setup, boosting the puny speakers built into your TV. However, top-of-the-range soundbars can be expensive and finding a soundbar on a budget isn’t always easy. 

The best value soundbars offer a combination of incredible audio quality, good connectivity options, and attractive designs, all at a price that won’t put a huge dent in your bank balance. 

Finding the right soundbar on a budget can be tricky, though. There are lots of different models and brands to choose from — and a huge glut of budget soundbars available on retailers like Amazon (opens in new tab) at just too-good-to-be-true prices means you may be wondering if cheap soundbars are not worth the trouble. 

While some of these budget soundbars won’t offer the specs or performance you need, there are plenty out there that do — and many of the big, well-known brands also offer cheaper versions of their flagship soundbars. 

To help you make the right decision, we’ve rounded up the very best budget soundbars you can buy today — all currently available for less than $250 / £200. While these cheap soundbars won’t deliver state-of-the-art Dolby Atmos immersive audio or super-premium builds, we’ve taken a deep dive into the specs to ensure that you’re getting the right mix of performance and value for money.

the sony ht-mt300 soundbar and subwoofer

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony HT-MT300

The best budget soundbar (hunt it down!)

Specifications

Channels: 2.1
Connections: USB, Analog, Optical, Bluetooth
Subwoofer included?: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Bluetooth connectivity
+
Wireless subwoofer
+
Powerful sound

Reasons to avoid

-
No HDMI connectivity
-
Soundstage is a little narrow

The best budget soundbar you can find today is the Sony HT-MT300, which offers a compact and well-priced way to upgrade your home cinema setup. 

It has a very simple setup — all you have to do is plug it into your TV’s optical port — and its small size means the HT-M300 is ideal for smaller spaces. It’s a shame there’s no HDMI ARC connectivity, which would allow you to use your TV’s remote to control it, but the supplied remote control is really responsive and easy to use. 

The soundbar also comes with Bluetooth connectivity, so you can use it to stream your music. And, if you have a compatible Android phone, NFC support means you can simply place your phone on top of the soundbar to pair. 

The audio performance is much more accomplished than the HT-MT300’s low price might suggest, with a powerful soundstage that will do your favorite movies justice. The bass is powerful thanks to an included subwoofer, and though the soundstage is narrower than Sony’s higher-end soundbars, the HT-MT300 should offer a big improvement compared to your TV’s speakers. 

Sadly it's no longer widely available but it is such good value do your best to hunt one down...

the creative stage v2 soundbar and subwoofer

(Image credit: Creative)

2. Creative Stage V2

A great soundbar for clear dialogue

Specifications

Channels: 2.1
Connections: AUX-in, Optical-in, USB-C, Bluetooth
Subwoofer included?: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Can be used on a desktop
+
USB-C connectivity
+
Clear dialogue

Reasons to avoid

-
Will take up a lot of desk space
-
Not the best for music-only

If your living room is on the smaller side, the Creative Stage V2 is an excellent budget soundbar that provides crisp dialogue from a compact frame. 

Coming with a subwoofer, the Stage V2 can even double as a desktop PC speaker (provided your desk is big enough to hold it), thanks to a USB-C port. Your other connectivity options include optical in, HDMI, and a 3.5mm audio port, so you shouldn’t have any trouble hooking the bar up to your TV. There’s also Bluetooth support, should you want to use the soundbar for listening to music. 

While the soundbar isn’t big or powerful enough to fill a large room, the Stage V2 does a great job at making mumbling actors sound intelligible, thanks to a Clear Dialogue feature. We wouldn’t recommend using this bar as your main music speaker as the audio performance isn’t that strong — but when it's needed for making TV shows and movies sound clearer, the Stage V2 is a winner. 

the roku streambar

(Image credit: Roku)

3. Roku Streambar

This soundbar is also a streaming box in disguise

Specifications

Channels: 2.0
Connections: USB, HDMI 2.0 Out, Optical, and Bluetooth
Subwoofer included?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Doubles up as a streamer
+
Space-saving design

Reasons to avoid

-
No subwoofer included
-
Weak bass frequencies

Need something really tiny? Look no further than the Roku Streambar, which can easily squeeze into even the smallest of spaces. 

Its space-saving credentials are bolstered even further by the fact that the Streambar combines a soundbar and a 4K streaming box into one handy device, giving you access to free and paid channels and streaming services via Roku devices’ easy-to-navigate interface. 

While the audio performance isn’t perfect due to weak bass frequencies, it projects an impressively powerful sound, and you can boost the sound of the Streambar by adding Roku’s wireless subwoofer and rear speaker kits, making this soundbar one you can upgrade gradually. 

The soundbar can connect to your TV via HDMI ARC or an optical input, and there’s support for Bluetooth as well as a USB port so you can access music files saved onto a USB drive.

For the price, it’s hard to find a soundbar that can do more for your home cinema setup than the Roku Streambar. 

the JBL Bar Studio

(Image credit: JBL)

4. JBL Bar Studio

A simple soundbar to improve your TV's speakers

Specifications

Channels: 2.0
Connections: USB, Analog, Optical, and Bluetooth
Subwoofer included?: No

Reasons to buy

+
Easy setup
+
Dolby Digital support
+
Bassy sound

Reasons to avoid

-
No HDMI connectivity
-
Audio performance isn't the best

The JBL Bar Studio is an easy-to-use soundbar that can either be placed underneath your TV or mounted on a wall. 

The smallest of three JBL soundbars launched in 2019, this compact bar comes with HDMI and optical connections, as well as Bluetooth support for music streaming. 

While it’s not the most impressive-sounding bar you can buy today, it offers a punchy audio performance that will easily beat your TV’s built-in speakers — it’s also pretty bassy, so the fact that it doesn’t come with a subwoofer isn’t the worst thing in the world. 

Support for Dolby Digital and JBL’s Surround Sound technology means this soundbar should be able to reproduce convincing movie soundtracks with a powerful delivery that belies its small size.

the Samsung HW-A450 soundbar and subwoofer

(Image credit: Samsung)

5. Samsung HW-A450

A stylish soundbar without a premium price tag

Specifications

Channels: 2.1
Connections: USB, Optical, and Bluetooth
Subwoofer included?: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Stylish fabric grille
+
Handy audio presets
+
Can connect to your TV wirelessly

Reasons to avoid

-
No HDMI connectivity

This soundbar from Samsung is well-reviewed at Amazon and though we haven’t tested it for ourselves, the specs are very promising.

It comes with a wireless subwoofer, and you have the option to add a couple of wireless rear speakers if you want to boost the sound even further. You can adapt the audio performance to your tastes thanks to a number of different presets, including Bass Boost and Game Mode, which should give your game soundtracks a sense of direction. 

You can connect this soundbar to your TV via Bluetooth, though you’ll probably find it best to hook the HW-A450 to your TV via its optical port if you want to avoid latency issues. 

It looks good too — unlike many budget soundbars, which are made from cheap-looking plastic, the HW-A450’s fabric grille looks chic and subtle. Beneath this grille is an LED display, which lights up when you interact with the soundbar. 

the polk audio signa s2 soundbar

(Image credit: Polk)

6. Polk Audio Signa S2

A slim bar that will suit any living room

Specifications

Channels: 2.1
Connections: HDMI, AUX, Optical, and Bluetooth
Subwoofer included?: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Slim build
+
Dolby Digital decoding support

Reasons to avoid

-
Lots of connectivity options
-
Surround sound not as convincing as multi-speaker setup

If you need a slim soundbar that can slot underneath your TV without blocking its IR receiver, the Polk Audio Signa S2 is well worth checking out. 

Inside this sleek, two-inch high bar are five full-range drivers, which should deliver a powerful sound when combined with the included wireless subwoofer.

You can combine the soundbar with pretty much any audio source, thanks to HDMI, optical, and AUX inputs, while Bluetooth support means you can play music from your favorite streaming services. 

According to the brand, its Polk Adjust technology means that you can customize voice levels for clear dialogue, while support for Dolby Digital decoding should provide a room-filling sound.

How to choose the best budget soundbar for you

If you're on the hunt for a cheap soundbar, there are a few things you should be looking out for. 

The first thing to consider is size. Do you want to place your new soundbar beneath your TV on a stand? If so, you'll want to make sure your prospective bar isn't so tall that it blocks your TV's IR receiver and stops your remote control from working.

Looking for something to suit a small space? Double-check the dimensions, or look into desktop soundbars that are designed to be connected to your PC. And don't forget — most soundbars can be wall-mounted to save precious space. 

You should also look into the connectivity options that come with your new soundbar. If you want to use your TV's remote to control it, you'll need a soundbar with an HDMI ARC or eARC port. Some TVs don't have HDMI ports (though this is rare nowadays), in which case you'll need a soundbar with an optical input. 

Bluetooth connectivity is also important if you want your soundbar to double up as a wireless speaker to play music from your smartphone. 

Buying a budget soundbar doesn't mean you have to put up with bad sound. Most soundbars will sound better than your TV's built-in speakers in any case, but be sure to look for models with support for codecs like Dolby Digital or DTS for extra fidelity. 

While most of the soundbars in this guide are 2.1-channel, you'll get a more powerful sound from models with more drivers inside. Most cheap soundbars won't have more than two drivers built-in, so look for soundbars that come with wireless subwoofers to boost the bass frequencies or models and you can add rear speakers for true surround sound. 

Olivia is TechRadar's Audio & Music Editor, covering everything from headphones to music streaming services. Based in TechRadar's London offices, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, Top Ten Reviews Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine.  In her spare time, Olivia likes gardening, painting, and hanging with her cat Ethel and golden retriever Dora.