Budget soundbar guide: Top 5 soundbars under 200
So, you’ve just bought yourself a brand-new, super-slim 60-inch HD TV, and you can’t wait to show it off to your buddies.
But when you finally get your crew to come around for movie night, the sound lets you down terribly…it is just too flat!
I know how deflating this can be, especially when it dawns on you that you might have made a sloppy investment. But what can you do to salvage the situation?
In this post, I’ll tell you about the kind of magical impact that a soundbar can have on your TV sound quality. And I know just how tough the economy is right now, so I won’t trouble you with top-shelf models like the Bose 500.
Instead, let me interest you in a couple of bargain soundbar models that will help you save face the next time your pals crush in to netflix and chill...read on for more!
In a hurry? The test winner after 19 hours of research:
Last Updated: September 1, 2019
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best soundbars under $200 available for those who are interested in enhancing their audio experience. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best soundbars under $200 currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
What is a soundbar?
This is a long and slim electronic device featuring several individual speakers positioned side by side that can be mounted below your TV to enhance the sound quality.
It connects to your telly via a single cable to eliminate the need for loads of trailing wires as is the case with a home cinema system.
Soundbars offer the easiest way of boosting your TV’s sound quality by delivering high-precision audio without requiring a separate home theater system.
They are easy to set up and provide you with a virtual surround sound that your television speakers lack.
What do you need to know about soundbars?
Before you go out to buy a particular model, keep in mind that there are several features which improve the overall quality of the soundbar you’re acquiring.
The best soundbars under $200 will take your home entertainment level to the next level by offering more sound clarity and fidelity.
Be sure to take note of the following soundbar aspects when you go out shopping for a model for your home TV:
Soundbars enhance the sound quality of your TV. How do they do this...Well, soundbars basically comprise multiple speakers in one, whereby the speakers are fitted next to one another inside the bar and positioned in such a way to achieve surround sound.
This psycho-acoustic effect implies that the sound literally bounces off your wall, giving you the “punch”, you need to enjoy your music or movies.
Good sound quality from your soundbar also means that dialogues on TV and movies are clearer and easier to understand. Typical TV speakers often make speech sound muffled and inaudible. The majority of soundbars feature built-in subwoofers for that extra bass to greatly improve the listening experience.
However, the quality of sound from your soundbar won’t be as good as the one coming out of a home theater system. This is because of the many size concessions that limit the kind of fidelity offered by separate speakers.
As modern TV sets keep on getting sleeker and slimmer, the speakers are forced to the back or bottom, significantly reducing their size in the process. The problem is that speakers need to be bigger to deliver decent sound.
And it does not help that they are usually facing away from you. This results in a faint, often inaudible, sound.
Surround sound refers to the technique of enriching the depth and fidelity of sound reproduction using multiple speakers, which results in the sound “enveloping” the entire room. Soundbar technology achieves this without needing multiple audio channels.
Soundbars offer you a virtual surround sound that will simulate the speakers which would ordinarily be placed behind sofas and in corners on a traditional home theater system. Although the speaker won’t be as strong as a home cinema system, it saves space and is generally easier to set up.
In most cases, you’ll need just a single cable to connect your soundbar to the TV. While some models rely on optical cables, others utilize HDMI cables, which are more preferable.
This is because HDMI supports more audio formats compared to the optical interface, which also means that the sound quality is higher and more immersive with an HDMI cable.
HDMI-switching also makes it easy to shift between audio sources without having to re-route the cable. This will allow you to control the power and volume using a single remote and will turn your soundbar into an entertainment bar so that you plug in all components for easy control.
Generally, the more connectivity options on a soundbar, the better. Aside from HDMI connectivity, many soundbars come with RCA, as well as 3.5mm stereo connectivity.
Additionally, you can find models that offer wireless connectivity, allowing you to transmit sound from your TV, PC. smartphone, tablet, etc to the soundbar VIA Bluetooth or WiFi.
Sometimes, the bass from your subwoofer may not offer the kind of punch you’re looking for when watching an action flick. This is especially true if the model you’re using does not come with a dedicated subwoofer, and as a result, you might want to consider getting a sound base.
A sound base is no different from a soundbar, only that it is visibly thicker and has more room for bigger bass drivers and built-in amplification. If you want more bass without the trouble of installing a stand-alone subwoofer, a sound base might just offer a viable solution.
Although it will be tough to top the bass of a home cinema system or stand-alone subwoofer, it is a definite improvement from a soundbar as far as the bass is concerned.
Now that you have a better idea of what a good soundbar entails, we can go ahead and delve into the best soundbars under $200 available to you:
Best Soundbar Under $200
Polk Audio Signature Series S35
The Polk Audio Signature S35 has an impressive 4.7 out of 5 star rating on Amazon. It is designed to bring a huge boost to your TV’s surround sound and take the movie experience in your living room to a whole new level.
It features a slim design that allows for various placement arrangements, whether below or in front of your TV without interrupting viewing on the screen. The S35 is only 4.5 inches tall with a slender profile that allows it to fit in spaces that other center channel speakers cannot.
This fantastic speaker delivers a crisp and clear dialogue on TV with an excellent soundstage. Apart from its retro design and charming looks, it comes with a host of superior features that stamp its name among the best budget soundbars you will find today.
The S35 comes with a dedicated double power port technology at the back of its build that makes for a smooth sound profile in the listening position. These further offer a larger surface area via an extended bass port, helping to eliminate sound distortion, turbulence, and deliver a deeper and more musical bass impact.
You get a Terylene dome tweeter that is responsible for delivering detail and clarity when it comes to high frequencies of around 40kHz. This guarantees realistic simulation for both vocals and instrumentalists, resulting in a high-resolution audio performance.
The Polk audio signature S35 is also compatible with many Dolby and DTS sound technologies. It has been designed to reproduce a clear, realistic, spacious, and enveloping sound, whether you plug it into a vintage rig or a brand-new digital processor.
A dynamic balance Acoustic array on the S35 ensures that it produces a full-range sound that is clean and rich, irrespective of what you are watching. This is made possible by examining the speaker’s electro-acoustic and mechanical system for improved geometry and selection of material.
Additionally, it highlights and cancels out any issues that may interrupt the overall speaker’s performance.
For just under 200, the Polk audio signature series S35 is, without a doubt, an exceptional center channel speaker that delivers an outstanding performance.
If you are looking for a good-looking, resonant, and quality soundbar, this will be a great choice to improve the home entertainment experience.
Best TV Soundbar Under $200
Bose Solo 5 TV Soundbar Sound System
If you are looking for a TV soundbar, the Bose Solo 5 is among the most compact stereo systems that you will come across. It is designed for individuals who might not have enough space for a complete home theater system in their living rooms.
Measuring just 7cm tall and 55cm long, the Solo 5 can easily fit under your tv set. And despite this compact build being one of its strong points, it also offers a disadvantage. This is because the size of your TV will have an impact on the sound profile.
Technically, a smaller television will more likely benefit from the Solo 5’s features compared to a larger set. Not to mention that this soundbar lacks as far as the bass is concerned. Eventually, you might lose out on the proper sound effects experience in an explosion or other action sequences.
To the front is a black grille, while the top and sides are made of black plastic to result in an overall lightweight build. Two drivers are positioned on the rear end of the device and angled in such a way to offer a full sound field.
Overall, it has a relatively simple design that enables it to sit under your TV set with minimal hassle. You won’t find any unnecessary switches and buttons on the Solo 5 to complicate its operation.
It also has LED indicators that light up when certain functions are being used and when you increase or reduce the volume. With a 4.0 out of 5 star rating on Amazon, this tv soundbar comes with an exciting array of features that any movie freak will appreciate.
The Bose Solo 5 is a quality soundbar that uses a universal remote that is half the system’s size but offers double the functions. This means it can be utilized as a universal remote for your TV, Blu-ray player, as well as other infrared devices.
For just under $200, the Solo 5 comes with a range of connectivity options for this price range. These include auxiliary and coaxial inputs, as well as optical and built-in Bluetooth to stream your music.
Voices are well projected with good clarity, you won’t need to use the dialogue mode included in the soundbar. The overall presentation has more solidity to it, unlike the thin, hard sound you get from many slim TVs.
The midrange is direct and focused, with a crisp treble. Generally, the Bose Solo 5 will improve the quality of sound but its small dimensions tend to limit its performance.
Overall, the Bose Solo 5 is a plug-n-play device that involves pretty simple operations with no new equalizer or sound settings.
Although you won’t get the best sound quality, it is a viable option for boosting the sound profile of a smaller TV.
Best soundbar with standalone or built-in subwoofer under $200
Yamaha YAS-108 Sound Bar
Our Rating: 89/100
If you are in the market for a high-performance soundbar with a built-in subwoofer and comes at an affordable price, the Yamaha YAS-180 is a great point to start.
It makes use of the DTS Virtual X technology that offers an enveloping sound profile in your home and has a 4.1 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.
The YAS-108 measures 35 by 5.1 by 2.1 inches with rounded edges. Its encased in a black mesh which gives it a modest design. Given that it doesn’t feature a stand-alone subwoofer, this soundbar is quite space-saving.
But don’t be fooled by its small size - YAS-108 packs enough power to engulf a medium-size room and this can be credited to the double 2.1-inch woofers, two 3-inch onboard subwoofers, as well as two 1-inch tweeters.
This results in just the right level of bass to add resonance to dialogues, and if you are looking for more boom, a wired connection allows you to add a separate subwoofer.
According to Yamaha, the YAS-108 produces a total of 120W of power, with 60W dedicated to the subwoofers while 30W powers the soundbar’s stereo drivers. When it comes to sound quality, it comes very close to its predecessor, the YAS-107.
The soundbar features just about all input options you’ll need, including Toslink optical, HDMI, Bluetooth wireless, and 3.5mm analog. But it does not have WiFi, meaning it won’t support Yamaha’s MusicCast music-streaming technology.
This soundbar also supports HDMI Audio Return Channel, so if your TV set is compatible, you’ll be able to transfer audio to the soundbar via a single HDMI cable. For this feature to function, you have to enable HDMI CEC on the Yamaha soundbar, as well as your TV.
The YAS-108 supports multiple Bluetooth connections, with Bluetooth 5.0 being standard on this soundbar. It also enables multipoint connections, allowing you to connect more than one Bluetooth device on the soundbar simultaneously. And you can further connect it to Amazon Echo if you have one at home.
This soundbar also comes with a transparent voice mode that makes dialogue and narrations on your TV crystal clear. The sound remains intact and you get to enjoy a deep and rich sound quality that improves your watching and listening experience.
Finally, the remote-control options on the soundbar are nothing short of excellent, especially for a model at this price range. The buttons on the remote are clean and have been laid out logically, with different colors to distinguish between them.
The most basic functions can be determined without even looking at the remote. When pressed, the LEDs on the soundbar will switch between bright, dim, and off, with the dimmer feature being notably useful when the device is mounted on the wall and the lights facing your direction.
If you are searching for an entry-level home entertainment device, the YAS-108 is one of the best soundbars with a subwoofer under $200 you will come across. It provides a superb sound quality that brings clarity to dialogue, as well as an enveloping effect with DTS Virtual: X.
The only fault is in its deep bass production, although this can be rectified by adding an aftermarket subwoofer. You can never go wrong with the Yamaha YAS-108 if you intend to take home entertainment to the next level.
Sound Bar, TV Sound Bar with Subwoofer by Vmai
Our Rating: 82/100
The Sound Bar TV soundbar with subwoofer by Vmai is another budget speaker that will be great for your TV set. It will hugely impact the sound delivery in your living room and take the whole music listening experience to a new level.
Vmai is an electronics manufacturer based in China that is focused on providing consumers with affordable yet high-performance products. This soundbar is just an example of how they combine cost-effectiveness with functionality in their products.
This speaker comes with a sleek design that features a jet-black surface with hexagonal sides. It is only 2.5 inches high, which makes it ideal to place in front of your TV without interfering with the viewing.
Alternatively, there’s a mounting bracket in the package that enables you to comfortably mount this cute soundbar on the wall below your TV. A luxury touch-button design on the side allows you to control the power and volume easily.
The 120W Sound Bar from Vmai will deliver a prominently better sound than the speakers on your TV. With the help of advanced technology, the audio produced is very clear with a detailed midrange, and the subwoofer delivers a powerful bass to help you make the most of a gripping home entertainment experience.
The fast Bluetooth 5.0 and DSP technology will enable a seamless transmission in long distances and stable connectivity. You can position the soundbar anywhere in the room and the fast Bluetooth connectivity allows you to play your favorite playlist on your phone or tablet from anywhere.
This speaker also features multiple input options to offer an overall straightforward setup process. Wired connections include Optical, Aux, HDMI ARC, as well as USB input that is compatible with TVs, tablets, PCs, projectors, Blu-ray players, amplifiers, etc. The package further includes a 5’ Optical cable and a 5’ RCA to 3.5mm cable.
You also get to switch between four different sound modes for your listening pleasure. These include Movie, Music, News, as well as 3D, and you can adjust them with the help of a remote control.
The remote also gives you the luxury of increasing or reducing the bass and treble to your preferred level. The soundbar will also shut down automatically after 10 minutes of being idle, saving on power in the process.
If you are interested in getting the best soundbar under $200 and are willing to try a brand which isn’t popular this will be a nice option for your home. It is easy to install and comes with an array of premium features that you wouldn't expect from such an affordable speaker.
Best budget soundbar under 150
VIZIO SB2821-D6 28-Inch 2.1 Channel Sound
Our Rating: 85/100
When it comes to notable players in the best soundbars under $150, VIZIO is not a name that may stand out, but it is definitely gaining traction, thanks to its highly durable models with top sound quality.
The SB2821- D6 sound bar is a good example of a soundbar that you can buy at a pretty decent cost yet still expect impressive performance, which explains its 4.2 out of 5-star rating on Amazon.
It features a relatively simple black design with dimensions of 28 by 3 by 3 inches and a weight of 3.85 pounds, allowing it to be mounted on the wall below your TV set easily.
The package is delivered with a separate subwoofer, which will give your bass just the punch it needs to enhance your movie and music experience.
This is an amazing feature that you won’t find even in higher-priced models. It makes spending your money on this amazing speaker all the worthwhile.
The wireless subwoofer will deliver a deep and pronounced bass, which is just what you need when watching your favorite action flick. Everything from the low roars to the bass aspects in a song will be reproduced clearly for your listening pleasure.
Your whole room will be enveloped by a rich sound that will immerse you into the movie with vibrations from the audio.
Apart from connecting to your TV, these wireless subwoofers can also be connected to other devices like smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth or WiFi to act as the central entertainment hub.
The main speaker features a bar of LED lights on its side that show the volume level when it’s on. SB2821-D6 is also compatible with Dolby Digital sound, as well as DTS TruSurround and Truvolume, which goes a long way to show the level of quality you can expect from this economy model.
When it comes to connectivity, there is a 5’ digital coaxial cable and a 4’ digital optical cable that you can link to your TV. You also get an RCA, USB, and a stereo mini-jack for this purpose.
Despite the high-quality audio output that the SB2821-D6 provides, the soundbar may experience some setup issues, which can be a turn-off to many. Not to mention that it does not come with a remote control.
The VIZIO SB2821-D6 offers great sound quality and delivers on the bass. It has several superior features that will rival higher priced models and ensures that you won’t break the bank to acquire a new one.
Aside from the setup issues, this one is among the best budget soundbars you can get in the market. It comes with a 1-year warranty which will come in handy when the setup issues start to bother you.
Best soundbars under $200 - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Should I get a built-in subwoofer?
A: The choice between a built-in and stand-alone subwoofer in a soundbar will depend on the amount of bass you want in your living room. If you are a relatively quiet listener, a built-in subwoofer will do just fine; after all, you don’t want too much bass and the sound quality is balanced enough for you to enjoy your movies.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a boom in your bass, a built-in subwoofer may not be enough. As an alternative, you might want to get a separate sub to achieve the ideal depth of bass.
Q: Are soundbars as good as surround sound?
A: Soundbars offer an easy and convenient way of improving your TV’s sound profile. They are easy to install and provide a better sound quality compared to your TV speakers, although they are slightly limited compared to a conventional surround sound.
If you are serious about taking your home entertainment experience to the next level, a surround sound system will have a noticeable edge. Sure, it may be troubling to set up but it makes for more detailed sound delivery.
The sound will be more enveloping with clearer dialogues and the bass is very powerful; just what you need to get absorbed into the latest action blockbusters.
Unfortunately, a soundbar produces a weaker bass and the overall audio quality plays second fiddle to an actual surround sound system.
Q: Is a soundbar better than TV speakers?
A: Most TVs nowadays come with trashy speakers. This is because more emphasis is placed on image quality and producing a slim set, which leaves little room for good speakers. That’s why most people look to soundbars to upgrade the TV sound.
Soundbars are easy to install and don’t involve too much clutter of connecting wires and separate speaker units. There may only be one cable to plug into your TV to get it working.
Besides, soundbars provide improved dialogue clarity when watching a movie and the bass is also deeper and more defined when listening to a booming song. Generally, you’ll realize that soundbars offer better sound quality than TV speakers.
Some even come with separate subwoofers, which further improve the sound delivery, and the best part is that you don’t have to spend a lot to get a quality soundbar.
Q: Where should a soundbar subwoofer be placed?
A: The best placement of your subwoofer will depend on the kind of model you are acquiring. For instance, if your sub requires a direct wire connection to the soundbar, you might want to ensure that the wires are hidden wherever you choose to place the subwoofer.
This is because if you have wires lying carelessly across the floor, it is easy to repeatedly trample on them, which results in damage over time. Not to mention that the wires can easily trip you or turn into a chew toy for your pet.
Meanwhile, a wireless subwoofer is convenient because it can be positioned anywhere in the room you deem appropriate. Placing it in a corner may end up increasing the sound output, which makes the bass too loud; not what you want!
Technically, there’s no formula for establishing the best spot; it all boils down to preference. However, to find a sweet spot, you can try plugging in the subwoofer and turning on a movie with a good level of bass.
Sit in your favorite movie-watching spot and try moving the subwoofer around the room to find the ideal position. If you have roommates who you’ll be watching the movie with, try and see how the sub sounds in other spots that your friends will be sitting.
After it's all said and done, we recommend:
For a full audio experience when watching a movie or listening to music on your TV set, you might want to go for a quality soundbar model. These devices go a long way to improve the sound quality on your TV and save you the trouble and expense of installing a home cinema system.
If you are looking for the best tv soundbars under $200, the above-listed model from Polk Audio is a great option. Use it to transform those boring TV sessions into an entertaining and gripping experience.