Best budget soundbars Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best budget soundbars you can buy in 2021.
Have you found that despite choosing a top-spec TV and streaming high-quality content, your 'home cinema' experience still lacks a certain something sonically? The good news is that you can do something about it without spending a fortune just by adding a soundbar to your setup.
Relying on your TV's built-in speakers is a bit like using the headphones that come bundled with your phone: they do a job, but once you sample an upgrade, you're never going back.
- Best Dolby Atmos soundbars 2021: the best Atmos TV speakers
That's where soundbars come in. These add far louder and better quality sound to your TV but, unlike dedicated speaker packages, your lounge won't have to accommodate six chunky boxes. Instead, a soundbar sits demurely beneath your TV, quietly getting on with levelling up its sound.
So what should you look for when buying one? Bluetooth is a handy extra feature as it allows the soundbar to wirelessly play tunes stored on your phone. Some 'bars support other wireless technologies like Apple AirPlay 2, and a few work with smart assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, too.
You should also look for a decent remote control, ample connections for your set-up and of course that all-important sound quality. But rest assured, all of the soundbars below sound good – you can read the full, in-depth review attached with each if you need further information. And, you can always visit our dedicated guide on how to choose and set up a soundbar for some extra tips and advice.
The best part is that some of the best soundbars on the market don't cost a fortune, as our list below illustrates.
Right then. Let's take a look at (and listen to) the best budget models around right now.
Delivering Dolby Atmos from a small chassis is no mean feat and the Sonos Beam Gen 2 achieves a convincing, immersive performance without so much as a vertical speaker in sight. Instead, when watching Atmos content, two of the soundbars five front-facing arrays are dedicated to reproducing overhead and surround sounds. With its hefty processing power, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 uses psychoacoustic HRTF (head-related transfer function) technology to give the impression of height without needing to get vertical.
While genuine overhead sounds are perhaps a stretch too far for this petite performer, its virtual delivery of the Atmos format outstrips any similarly priced soundbar and even a few that are more expensive. The Beam Gen 2 offers an enveloping, spatial soundscape with rich, detailed audio as well as tangible motion and depth.
Not that many soundbars at this price point come with networking capabilities, but this being a Sonos product, the Beam Gen 2’s ability to integrate into a wireless multiroom system is fundamental to its design. This means you can stream to the Beam Gen 2 from a handheld device using Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect is built-in too. There will also be a forthcoming upgrade to add support for Amazon Music Ultra HD audio, which will give access to lossless 24-bit/48kHz tracks as well as Dolby Atmos Music.
Despite the lack of upward drivers, if space and budget are limited there isn't a better Dolby Atmos soundbar that we'd recommend.
Read the full review: Sonos Beam Gen 2
This is the original model of Sonos's smaller, cheaper soundbar, and although it has been supplanted by the Beam Gen 2, it's still an impressive-sounding device, unmatched in its price bracket, and packed with great features.
It supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri personal assistants, and its WiFi connectivity means it has excellent integration with streaming services, including Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon, Deezer and Google Play Music.
As a Sonos speaker, it works with other products from the brand and can be added to a multi-room network or a surround system. Of course, you'll probably want to connect it to your TV, where it will bring a sound quality that's far superior to built-in speakers. We liked it so much that we gave it one of our coveted What Hi-Fi? 2019 Awards. In 2020, we had no choice but to give it the nod yet again – for the best soundbar in the highly competitive £300 - £500 bracket.
If you do fancy saving some money and want the still-excellent original Beam, you'd best act fast because it's officially been discontinued. Who knows how long the stock will last?
Read the full review: Sonos Beam
Think of the Roku Streambar as an upgrade on your TV, rather than an entry into proper home cinema, and it ticks pretty much every box. While it doesn’t quite ascend to five-star status, it easily nails the aspects for which it is most commonly going to be used: projection and clarity. The Streambar will work with any television with an HDMI input, outputting 4K HDR at up to 60fps for those with compatible sets. Everyone else will get 1080p Full HD, with lower resolution signals upscaled.
The bundled remote is splendid, and for an out-of-the-box boost to TV audio and older sets’ smart features, the Roku Streambar is extremely low risk for this price. In that sense, it’s something we can wholeheartedly recommend.
Read the full review: Roku Streambar
Another What Hi-Fi 2020 repeat Award-winner, this time for the best soundbar under £300, this Yamaha does a fine job of emulating a surround sound system and deserves pride of place in most home cinema set-ups. Its soundfield is gloriously enveloping, and there are no fewer than seven sound modes to choose from, so you're bound to find one that suits your room and whatever you're watching.
You also get a dedicated subwoofer for extra bass. Add in some beautifully layered detail, and you've got a fine-sounding, great-performing soundbar.
Read the full review: Yamaha YAS-207
For anyone wanting a big sound or hoping to fill a big room with a small 'bar for a reasonable amount of money, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam could be just the ticket.
That said, the sound isn't perfect. Although we might nudge you towards the better all-round sonic performance of the Sonos Beam, that isn’t really comparing like for like – the Bar 5.0 Multibeam boasts a long list of wireless connectivity and, considering its size, it positively kicks down the door and tramples the furniture as it announces its presence in your living room.
Read the full review: JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam
This affordable soundbar is designed to emulate the sound from a surround sound system, and it does so admirably. Bass is rich and punchy, and there's a decent amount of detail in the midrange too. It doesn't quite have it in the music stakes though – this is very much a TV sound enhancer, rather than a living room hi-fi speaker. But at this price (remember, it's a mid-2018 model, so deals abound), that's not really a complaint.
Read the full review: JBL Bar Studio
If you've previously considered Devialet products too rich for your blood, you might want to think again, because you can now nab this Sky/Devialet collaboration for a significant discount even if you're not a Sky customer, with prices hovering around £250 – down from its original price of £800. Anyone familiar with the premium French hi-fi brand will know how much Devialet kit usually costs.
Yes, it's kind of bulky, more like a large lunchbox than a bar, but it’s a box with a big presence. Don’t expect “surround sound” but do expect heft and guts, especially through the midrange, plus plenty of clarity and expression overall.
Read the full review: Sky Soundbox
The task handed to Cambridge Audio’s engineers was to produce ‘one of the most discreet’ soundbars on the market, but ‘without giving anything away in terms of sound quality and power’.
They’ve certainly met the design brief. The TVB2 is a sleek bar housing two of the company’s fourth-gen BMR (Balanced Mode Radiator) drivers and a compact, corner-friendly wireless subwoofer featuring a single down-firing 16.5cm woofer.
It’s as space-economical and TV-friendly as we’ve seen a soundbar/sub combo. The 88cm soundbar nicely fits a 42-inch TV and, at only 7cm tall, it shouldn’t block the screen if sat in front of it. Offering a big step-up in weight and solidity over a TV’s speakers, the TVB2 is £299 well-spent.
Read the full review: Cambridge TVB2
What if you have a small room, a small TV and a small budget but want a big, enjoyable sound? That’s easy: you take the Acoustic Energy Aego Soundbar for a spin.
The Aego Soundbar is compact, comprising a small bar and a wired subwoofer for just £249. Despite the budget price tag, however, Aego's system doesn't feel cheap and the bar’s dimensions (just 50cm long and 7cm tall) are such that you can prop it right up close to your small telly or even desktop computer without obstructing the screen.
There's a pleasing solidity to the Aego's presentation. All in all, a great option for smaller homes.
Read the full review: Acoustic Energy Aego Soundbar
If you're looking for a simple, constructive step up in sound from your TV's in-built speakers, Sony's SF150 offers a significant sonic enhancement for little outlay. Indeed there's almost no other competition worth considering for under £100 ($100, AU$200).
Despite its low price point, the SF150 is a well-built speaker and wouldn’t look out of place perched beneath a TV that costs several times its price. Alongside HDMI ARC, it has an optical input supporting Dolby Digital, Dolby Dual mono and LPCM 2ch. There's also a USB port and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity for music playback from an external source too.
The SF150 also features Sony's S-Force Front Surround technology, which applies processing to give the acoustic impression of a more encompassing sound stage. While it's certainly is no replacement for surround sound, it does add a dramatic sense of weight and separation.
Sonically the SF150 paints with fairly broad brushstrokes, meaning dialogue can sometimes feel a touch muffled, and transients lack impact, but that should come as little surprise at this almost ridiculously low price. Anyone wanting a musical, finely detailed speaker should aim for a more sophisticated model, but for those looking for a quick and easy improvement to their TV, this budget bar is ideal.
Read the full Sony HT-SF150 review
See all our soundbar reviews