Best Cheap Soundbar for 2022 – CNET

If you find that the built-in speakers inside your TV don’t sound good at all, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a full surround-sound system, then a soundbar is a perfect solution. A budget soundbar can make your TV sound better for under $200 — whether it’s for watching movies and TV shows or streaming music over Bluetooth.

The budget soundbar models highlighted here are ones that performed well in CNET’s hands-on tests — and one costs just $90. All of the affordable soundbars on this list have Bluetooth, HDMI and an optical connection making hooking up to a TV easy. It’s time to abandon poor TV sound and turn up the volume on a better binging experience!

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For $180 the V21 includes a wireless subwoofer, HDMI connectivity and both Dolby and DTS decoding. Like many of its stablemates this is an absolute movie machine, and an impressive speaker to stream music via Bluetooth as well.

Read our Vizio V21 review.

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The compact Roku Streambar offers a lot for your $130 (or even cheaper on sale). This is a fully fledged 4K HDR streamer with hundreds of supported services, plus the ability to connect over Bluetooth. It’s an instant upgrade on your TV speaker too, with excellent vocal clarity.

Read our Roku Streambar review.

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If you’re after a compact soundbar that offers Bluetooth, HDMI and great dialogue, the Yamaha SR-C20A has you covered. It also includes DTS Virtual:X for excellent simulated surround from a single box. 

Read our Yamaha SR-C20A review.

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Soundbars are able to make a lot of noise from a tiny box, but nothing can compare with the bass that a dedicated subwoofer can bring. The Creative Stage offers a lot for just $90, including HDMI cable connectivity, but it’s the wired subwoofer which makes the system really sing. This soundbar also offers Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port for playing MP3s from an external drive. It is end-of-life, after having been replaced by the Stage V2, but the Creative site lists the original as still in stock. 

Read our Creative Stage review.

Can a cheap soundbar sound any good?

TV speakers traditionally perform very poorly, so spending even just a little can improve your shows immeasurably. For around $100 you can buy something that doubles as a Bluetooth music streamer and a TV sound system. The quality of cheap sound bars has increased significantly in the past few years, and the addition of subwoofers at this level has also helped boost performance. Bass is something that no onboard TV speaker can offer. 

Is it worth spending more than $200?

All of the above soundbars will sound great and do so for a minimal amount of money, but there are advantages to increasing your budget. At $250, for example, not only will you get better audio experience and sound, but a better assortment of features, including a subwoofer as standard and a greater number of inputs. Some of the soundbars, such as the Sonos Beam, even have Amazon Alexa built-in. While the sky’s the limit to how much you can spend on upgrading your sound, the real sweet spot is between $300 and $400. See our list of best soundbars here, which includes models that offer state of the art Dolby Atmos audio effects.

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