The speakers that come with most modern TVs don’t usually represent the top tier of sound quality, but if you want to improve your sound system, you don’t have to spend that much. A good soundbar can be a reasonable replacement for a full speaker system, and the soundbar models available now are smaller, more modern, and more expensive than they’ve ever been.
That doesn’t mean that every soundbar available for under $500 is going to offer the same level of quality performance. We’ve picked out 10 of the best soundbars available for under $500, and we’ll also help you understand what the specs and features you should be paying attention to are.
- 10 Best Soundbar under $500
- 1. VIZIO SB3821-C6 38-Inch 2.1 Ch Sound Bar
- 2. Sonos Beam Smart TV Sound Bar
- 3. TaoTronics Bluetooth Sound Bar Audio
- 4. Yamaha YAS-207BL Sound Bar
- 5. Wohome TV Sound Bar
- 6. Samsung HW-R550 2.1 Soundbar
- 7. BYL Soundbar
- 8. Polk Audio Command Sound Bar
- 9. Bose SoundTouch 300 Soundbar
- 10. TCL Alto 7+ 2.1 ChHome Theater Sound Bar
- Soundbar Under $500 Buyer’s Guide
10 Best Soundbar under $500
1. VIZIO SB3821-C6 38-Inch 2.1 Ch Sound Bar
Built on Cutting Edge Sound Engineering
A 2.1 sound system isn't exactly the same as a full surround sound speaker system, but they'll still be more than enough for a fully equipped home theater system. The Vizio SB3821-C6 offers a maximum sensitivity of a full hundred decibels, so it can absolutely fill a room with sound, and the separate subwoofer unit offers a lot of extra oomph to the bass: a choice that really excels with action movies and video games.
Setting up this soundbar won't be too much of a hassle either. A Bluetooth receiver is built right in, so you can connect to both your monitor and your phone or tablet for easy access to music, movies, and TV shows without cords having to get in the way. The design is worthy of praise too. It bucks ostentatious to create a sleek and stylish - but unassuming - soundbar equipped for a living room of any size.
2. Sonos Beam Smart TV Sound Bar
A Modular Hub For Your Entertainment Center
15 years after their first speaker debuted, Sonos is still one of the coolest brands in the business. The Sonos Beam soundbar is relatively cheap and sports a modular design that's intended to connect to other speakers, but it offers some decently heft sound performance all on its own too. But what really sets the Beam apart is how smart it is. A built in Alexa means it can operate as a smart speaker independent of any other source devices in your living room.
The Sonos Beam is one of the smallest soundbars available, but it's got some weight behind it. The soundscape it creates is immersive and enveloping, with an especially meaningful sense of bass quality. As far as streaming goes, Sonos has done a good job of roping in as many different services as possible. As more and more devices are tied into a single ecosystem, it's nice to see something more wide open.
3. TaoTronics Bluetooth Sound Bar Audio
A Cheap Soundbar That's Not Cheaply Made
TaoTronics is known for one thing above all else: producing cheap headphones and speakers around. This TaoTronics soundbar isn't the most feature rich soundbar available for under $500, but it is definitely the best value around. This soundbar bears a retail price of well under a hundred bucks but managed to pack in two passive radiators to complement the bass delivered by the four full range drivers.
This soundbar even offers full wireless capabilities, so you can connect over Bluetooth without having to worry about making sure that cables are properly plugged in. The design is pretty slick for such a budget soundbar too - taking a traditionally dark and classy soundbar design and skewing the angles just so to create one of the most attractive soundbar designs we've encountered. And if you'd prefer to not connect wirelessly, this soundbar also includes aux, coaxial, optical,and RCA inputs as well.
4. Yamaha YAS-207BL Sound Bar
Full Sound for a Small Price
The Yamaha YAS-207BL isn't the lowest budget soundbar on our list, but it does offer what may be the best value today. Its wireless design and Bluetooth support means that hooking up most modern devices are easy, but there's easy connectivity through HDMI or optical audio as well. But the killer feature here is undoubtedly the inclusion of a separate subwoofer. This is a 2.1 system through and through, and that alone puts it above most of the models on our list in terms of audio fidelity.
It also comes with a few pretty cool features. The virtual surround sound isn't going to match what you'd find from a true surround speaker setup, but it's better than any other surround options available in this price range. There's also a special mode for creating more definition to dialogue and narration and a remote control app for your phone.
5. Wohome TV Sound Bar
Delivering a 3D Audio Experience
The S9920 came out the gate with a retail price of around $100, but the fact that it comes from a lesser known manufacturer like Wohome means that they had to work harder to earn an audience. This soundbar makes use of the latest Bluetooth 5.0 protocol, and it also includes aux and optical outputs along with cables for wired connections. The sensitivity level is enough to fully fill your room, and there's even virtual 3D surround sound to create a more immersive living experience.
This soundbar also includes two bass reflex tubes. It's obviously not the same as having a full 2.1 sound system, but it does add quite a bit more heft to the stereo bass performance. This soundbar comes with a dedicated wireless remote control but also offers built-in controls so you can adjust volume and inputs directly from the soundbar itself.
6. Samsung HW-R550 2.1 Soundbar
A Sound Bar Tailor Built for Gaming
Samsung proves that they create not just some of the best TVs and phones but some of the best speaker systems too. And while this is a soundbar that will really benefit you if you already own Samsung products (it offers seamless integration with Samsung TVs), it's a great choice for any home. It comes with a dedicated and separate wireless subwoofer and clutter free wireless connectivity for the main soundbar unit also.
But Samsung's soundbar comes with some cool features built right in as well, so you won't have to spend too much time tweaking your settings. A dedicated game mode puts more emphasis on in-game effects so you have more sensory tools when facing down opposition, and the Smart Sound experience creates some finely tuned settings based off of the content that you're watching or listening to.
7. BYL Soundbar
Bestisan doesn't offer the best raw power for a soundbar under $500, but it bears a tag of under $100, and JBL has included some smart features that help shore up some of those unavoidable issues. It uses the latest 5.0 version of Bluetooth for better connectivity with all of your streaming devices and delivers full 360 degree sound. Surround sound this isn't, but it's still a whole sight better than most budget stereo soundbars.
And if you like to fine tune your sound to your exact specifications, it's easy with this soundbar. Built in memory allows you to save a profile exactly the way you want it and cater your sound to suit your preferred listening experiences. And it might not be the most lightweight or compact soundbar that we've seen, but the wedge style form factor allows it to comfortably fit underneath even a shorter TV.
8. Polk Audio Command Sound Bar
Polk is a speaker brand that's synonymous with quality for most audiophiles, but just because their sound design is so strong doesn't mean that they truck exclusively in high end luxury speakers. The Polk Audio Command soundbar offers support for both Dolby and DTS surround sound, and the inclusion of an Alexa speaker means that the Polk Audio Command really can serve as the command center for your entire living room or home theater.
This isn't proprietary either. Support is also available for Fire TV. If you like more talky programs, the voice adjust technology will give you clearer and crisper dialogue without getting crowded out by music or ambient sound. This model from Polk Audio even comes with its own wireless subwoofer - a choice that gives quite a bit of extra juice to the bass levels. And with dual HDMI 2.0a outputs, it's ready to handle 4K content.
9. Bose SoundTouch 300 Soundbar
A lot of premium manufacturers are imitating the design of the Sonos Beam, but the Bose SoundTouch 300 is perhaps the best of the bunch. It's fully wireless, incredibly sleek, and stylish in a way that can either take center stage or take a back seat to your other sound system components, and its modular design makes it easy to expand this soundbar with satellite speakers and a subwoofer. For those on a budget of under $500, this is a luxury soundbar, and that really comes through in the audio quality.
Most people who are hooking a soundbar to their TV are going to be listening to a lot of dialogue, and the SoundTouch 300 soundbar can help with that by offering greater clarity and a superb balance between vocals and effects. Then there's PhaseGuide technology, which offers a smart sonic soundscape that builds off the fundamentals of surround sound.
10. TCL Alto 7+ 2.1 ChHome Theater Sound Bar
Need a soundbar that can best keep up with the bombastic explosions of your favorite action movies and AAA games? The TCL Alto 7+ is definitely up to the task. This is a 2.1 soundbar system, and there's a sense of weight to the bass the amplifier delivers that really separates the audio quality of this soundbar from the rest of the herd. And with the drivers devoted solely to the mids and highs, you can count on some exceptional treble sound quality also.
And you won't have to constantly fine tune the settings either. A number of presets are available, allowing you to seamlessly transition between explosive films and more dialogue driven television without having to perform any tweaks. Everything on this soundbar is fully wireless, so you can stream content directly from your phone and don't need to worry about a nest of cables building up.
Soundbar Under $500 Buyer’s Guide
If you’re looking for a soundbar on a budget, there’s no need to get too worried. $500 may be a meager amount to spend on a full surround sound system, but whether you’re listening to music or watching a movie, you can get a soundbar that fits your needs for under $500. We’re going to quickly walk you through the important features you can keep in mind so you can have a better experience with your home entertainment center.
When looking for a soundbar under $500, you basically have two options to choose from in terms of the sound stage. A typical 2.0 system simply features two speakers packed into the bar itself. This approximation of surround sound splits up sound frequencies into a left and a right channel, and while it offers some sense of imaging, it’s not going to be nearly on the level of actual surround sound.
A 2.1 soundbar under $500 is fundamentally going to be the same in design, but it also features a separate subwoofer. Usually taking the form of a cube, a subwoofer packs in one larger speaker that handles the duties for bass and other lower frequencies. If you’re listening to music or watching a movie, a wireless subwoofer can add a whole lot more depth. Not only does it handle the responsibility of the bass, but it also lets the speakers within the bar to focus on what they do best and provide a better sonic experience in the mids and highs.
Keep in mind that just because you’re investing in a soundbar under $500 doesn’t mean that has to be the end of things. With the simple addition of satellite speakers or rear speakers, a soundbar can serve as the hub for a surround sound system, and investing in a 2.1 system that features a wireless subwoofer can give you a lot more flexibility to build out your system without having to worry about loose cables.
When we discuss headphones, the frequency response is one of the biggest barometers we use for determining value, but there’s a reason why some of the bigger manufacturers don’t even list their frequency response. That’s because the full frequency response range doesn’t tell you the whole story on sound quality or imaging.
Since the drivers of microphones are projecting audio directly into your ears, having a model that features a wide frequency response range will create a better experience. The more dispersed audio of a soundbar – along with the price range for this list – means that you should temper your expectations a little more. Something within the ball park of 20 Hz to 20 KHz is good, but you can learn a lot more about overall sound quality from reading reviews and testing features out for yourself than you will be limiting your experience to frequency response numbers.
Sensitivity is used to measure how loudspeakers can get, but how much that’s going to matter to you is really going to be situational. For the vast majority of bedrooms and living rooms, just about any sensitivity level will do. If you’re looking to create a full cinematic experience, you may want to look at sensitivity levels that exceed 100 decibels – but at that point, you should consider looking at more serious speakers (preferably those accompanied with a wireless subwoofer) so that you can get the audio experience you deserve.
Keep in mind that sensitivity doesn’t refer to the absolute maximum volume a unit can reach but rather according to the volume where audio can be played without distortion. When measuring sensitivity, audiophiles will generally measure sensitivity in terms of the frequency variance at different decibel levels, but our simplified specs above should be enough for your first listening experience.
In 2020, the notion that a soundbar would be a smart soundbar is more an expectation than hope. Even budget soundbars will usually at least offer some level of Bluetooth support. With Bluetooth, you can tether speakers directly to your phone and use it to play audio from streaming apps like Spotify and Pandora. It’s a convenient solution that usually won’t raise the cost of a soundbar too much.
But the ability toe stream is just scraping the surface of what smart soundbars offer. Many of them make use of rudimentary A.I. to offer different sound modes and even adjust the audio tuning depending on what type of audio you’re listening too. Increasingly prominent are soundbars that come with a virtual assistant built in. Many soundbars have built-in Alexa or Google Assistant speakers that can respond to your voice commands. Others at least offer integration with Google Assistant and other virtual assistant platforms.
As we’ve said about, a typical 2.0 soundbar isn’t really going to qualify as surround sound, but all it takes is the addition of a dedicated subwoofer to provide musical performance that simulates the effects of surround sound without needing to replace some expensive components. In other words, if you have an inkling you might want to invest in a subwoofer and surround sound speakers, you may want to get in on the ground floor.
There are two big formats on the market that are worth your attention: Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are the two big contenders. They’re both a great choice – especially if you have a subwoofer – but they accomplish their goals in somewhat different ways. Where they approach things similarly is in the addition of a new dimension: height. Where traditional surround sound creates a sense of space within a vertical plane, both of these formats add height to the mix to create the impression of sound coming from above or beneath you.
Of course, the added dimensions mean that you’ll need more speakers and preferably a hefty subwoofer to really make the most of it. Also keep in mind that these are specific formats that need to be engineered, and that means that not all content is going to be compatible with the DTS:X or Dolby Atmos formats. Fortunately, they’re becoming pretty prolific, so finding content shouldn’t be a big issue.
We’ve already talked some about wireless connectivity, but there’s a likely chance you’ll want to hook your soundbar up directly to a source device too. With the input formats become more standardized, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about being able to connect a device to your sound bar, but it is worth your time understanding what these different formats off.
- Most modern video devices will come with an HDMI output, and you can be guaranteed that any soundbar in the past few years will offer it. For the most part, this is the output you should pay attention to. HDMI offers the best audio transmission available in consumer devices. Especially cool is HDMI ARC. HDMI ARC lets you use your soundbar in conjunction with your TV and control it with the same remote.
- Next to HDMI ARC, optical cables are the most common audio transmission format around. While the sound quality is a bit degraded. That said, a lot of older legacy devices only come with optical cables rather than HDMI outputs. If you want to connect your soundbar up to your old record player, keep an eye out for an optical cable. But for just watching movies or playing games, HDMI will definitively be the way to go.
Finding a soundbar doesn’t have to be a stressful affair. We’ve been diligent about digging up the best soundbars on the market in 2020, and you can rely on us to keep the list updated as need be. But we want to hear from you too! If you’ve had an experience with any of the soundbars on our list, we encourage you to reach out to us using the form below.