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Best budget soundbars 2021: excellent, affordable TV speakers

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 your 'home cinema' experience still lacks a certain something sonically despite choosing a top-spec TV and streaming high-quality content? 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.

That's where soundbars come in. These add louder more direct and better quality sound to your TV but, unlike dedicated speaker packages, your living room 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 convenient extra feature as it allows the soundbar to wirelessly play tunes from your phone. Increasingly soundbars support other wireless technologies like Apple AirPlay 2 smart assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, too.

You should also look for a decent remote control, ample connections compatible with 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.

Sonos Beam soundbar

(Image credit: Sonos)

1. Sonos Beam

Sonos in a soundbar – and it's as good as that sounds.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connections: 1x HDMI, 1x optical, 1x ethernet | Remote control: No | Wireless: AirPlay | Dimensions (HWD): 68.5 x 651 x 100mm | Weight: 280g

Reasons to Buy

Enveloping sound
Compact and stylish
Superb streaming capabilities

Reasons to Avoid

Can sound harsh
More HDMI inputs would be nice

This is Sonos's smaller, cheaper soundbar, but it's no less impressive a device. It supports the Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri personal assistants, so you're spoiled for choice when it comes to voice controls. 

It also plays all sorts of streaming services, including Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon, Deezer and Google Play Music. And it works with other Sonos speakers, creating a multi-room 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. Highly recommended. 

Read the full review: Sonos Beam

Roku Streambar soundbar

(Image credit: Roku)

2. Roku Streambar

This streamer-cum-soundbar represents very good value

SPECIFICATIONS

Connections: HDMI 2.0a (ARC), optical, USB 2.0 | Remote control: Yes | Wireless: Bluetooth 5.0 | Dimensions (HWD): 6 x 35.5 x 10.7cm | Weight: 1.1kg

Reasons to Buy

Direct, well-projected sound
Great feature list
Can go loud

Reasons to Avoid

Doesn't sound cinematic

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

Yamaha YAS-207 soundbar

3. Yamaha YAS-207

A compelling and class-leading budget soundbar.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connections: 1x HDMI, 1x optical, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack | Remote control: Yes | Wireless: Bluetooth | Dimensions (HWD): 60 x 930 x 108mm | Weight: 790g

Reasons to Buy

Insightful, dynamic sound
Spacious, immersive performance
Slim, practical design

Reasons to Avoid

Treble a little unrefined
Midrange lacks solidity

Another What Hi-Fi 2020 repeat Award-winner, 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

JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam soundbar

(Image credit: JBL)

4. JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam

This compact soundbar won’t blow a hole in your budget

SPECIFICATIONS

Connections: HDMI in, HDMI out (HDCP 2.3 compliant, eARC & 4K HDR passthrough), Ethernet, Optical | Remote control: Yes | Wireless : Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, Google Chromecast, Alexa, Google Assistant | Dimensions (HWD): 58 x 710 x 100mm | Weight: 2.8kg

Reasons to Buy

Big, full-bodied presentation
Dolby Virtual Atmos
Multi-room options

Reasons to Avoid

Could be more detailed
Dynamic expression poor
Slovenly sense of timing

For anyone wanting a big sound or hoping to fill a big room with a small soundbar for a reasonable amount of money, the JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam could be the ideal candidate.

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

JBL Bar Studio soundbar

5. JBL Bar Studio

As excellent upgrade on your TV's speakers at an brilliant budget price.

SPECIFICATIONS

Connections: 1x HDMI, 1x optical, 1x aux, 1x USB | Remote control: Yes | Wireless: Bluetooth | Dimensions (HWD): 58 x 614 x 86mm | Weight: 1,400g

Reasons to Buy

Solid, punchy sound
Plenty of bass
Good range of features

Reasons to Avoid

Hardens at high volumes
Lacks timing and dynamics

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

Cambridge Audio TVB2 soundbar

6. Cambridge Audio TVB2

A fine budget soundbar that oozes versatility and a clear, detailed sound.

SPECIFICATIONS

Dimensions: (hwd): Soundbar: 88 x 7.5 x 4.6cm Subwoofer: 18 x 36.4 x 27.8cm | Weight: Soundbar: 1.63kg Subwoofer: 4.9kg | 3 x HDMI 1.4c inputs, 1 x HDMI 1.4c output with ARC, TOSLINK Optical, 3.5mm

Reasons to Buy

Deep, tight bass
Clear, solid mids
Great integration

Reasons to Avoid

Outshined for subtlety and dynamics
Not the biggest sound

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 money well-spent.

Read the full review: Cambridge TVB2

Sony HT-SF150 soundbar

(Image credit: Future)

7. Sony HT-S100F

A budget friendly soundbar that's a step up from your TV’s speakers

SPECIFICATIONS

Connections: HDMI, optical, USB, ARC | Connectivity: Bluetooth version 4.2 | Sound formats: Dolby Digital, Dolby Dual mono, LPCM 2ch | Dimensions: 6.4 x 8.8 x 90cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to Buy

Looks and feels premium
Impressive scale and width
Inexpensive

Reasons to Avoid

Slightly muffled presentation
Could have more punch

If you're looking for a simple, constructive step up in sound from your TV's in-built speakers, Sony's S100F offers a significant sonic enhancement for little outlay. Indeed there's almost no other competition worth considering for under $100.

Despite its low price point, the S100F 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 S100F 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 S100F 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

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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