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Best Soundbars for the Money – A Complete Soundbar Buyer’s Guide

In Buyer's Guides, Soundbarby Jonah MatthesLeave a Comment

Soundbars have become increasingly popular over the years. Not too many years ago, soundbars were not all that common. There were some really cheap ones that sounded worse than built-in television speakers. And some extremely expensive ones that were bulky, not aesthetically pleasing, and still didn’t sound all that great.

However, the times have really changed. Manufacturers have really nailed down the design and performance of soundbars over the past few years. The prices have continually dropped and the quality has sky-rocketed into something that people probably would’ve never imagined.

And with the introduction to wireless surround speakers that integrate with soundbars, even the most old school audiophiles may be tempted to switch. Many high-end soundbars can now pair with separate wireless speakers to create a typical 5.1 surround sound experience with very minimal effort. For many people, this has provoked the thought of switching from a standard 5.1 surround sound to a complete soundbar solution with all components communicating wirelessly.

If you have never wanted to put in the effort to build a surround sound system, now you have the easy option of buying a nice soundbar and setting it directly below your TV. It’s extremely cost effective, simple, and is 10x better than the sound produced from most speakers built into flat panel televisions.

Best Soundbars for the Money

This is a tricky question because it really depends on your budget and what you are looking for. Yes, there are some great soundbars out there for under $300, but there are some others out there for $600+ that are much better and still completely worth the price.

Here is our list for the best soundbars for the money:

Continue reading for an in-depth analysis of each soundbar and why it was chosen. We go over the different specs, features, inputs, outputs, warranty, etc.

The more expensive the soundbar is, usually the more features it will come with. A lot of higher-end soundbars typically have features such as, HDMI inputs that support 4K and HDR passthrough, higher quality speaker drivers, support for additional wireless surround speakers, wireless audio streaming via Bluetooth, better-looking enclosures, and more. These high-end units are so complex that they are basically a compact A/V receiver with built-in speakers. They handle so much in such a relatively small enclosure; it’s just very impressive.

On the other hand, cheaper soundbars are still extremely effective at the main task of producing higher quality audio, but they may not have all the fancy features. They may be as simple as having a power cable, and an RCA, AUX, and fiber optic input. But this is plenty for a lot of people out there, they just want a soundbar they can set underneath their TV, connect a few cables, and have it working in under 5 minutes. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

What to Look for When Buying a Soundbar

There are a couple of different aspects to consider when puchasing a soundbar. Here are some general things to consider when looking at the recommended options in this article.

  • Where will the soundbar be placed? Set on an entertainment center below the TV, mounted to the wall, attached to the TV mount, etc.
  • What size soundbar do you need?
  • What features do you want the soundbar to have?
  • Do you want to use wireless surround sound speakers with the soundbar?

All of these things are pretty important when it comes to selecting a soundbar. It’s best to keep these things in mind because in the end, you want a soundbar that will completely fulfill all of your wants and needs.

Where Should a Soundbar be Placed?

Choosing where a soundbar should be placed is more of a personal preference. There are many different ways to set up and place a soundbar. Below are some of the general ideas and placement methods for different units.

  • Set it on the entertainment center below the television. This is the way that most people choose to use soundbars because it’s the easiest! Almost all soundbars can be used in this way, so basically, any unit will work for this method of placement.
  • Mount the soundbar to the wall. This method is also extremely popular. Mounting the soundbar on the wall directly below the television is a great way to hide cables and keep the soundbar and TV very close to each other. Note that not all soundbars can be mounted to the wall. Some have built-in mounting holes. some have separate mounting kits, and some don’t have any way to mount it at all. If the soundbar doesn’t come with mounting holes, or a kit to mount it with, then you can always use a universal soundbar mount bracket. This universal mount looks great and clamps the unit in place so it does not fall off.
  • Attach the soundbar to the TV mount. I personally love this method the most, especially when used in conjunction with an articulating mount! You will need a soundbar TV bracket mount. Basically, there are 2 brackets that attach to the current television mount. Then the soundbar is mounted to these brackets that are hanging below the TV. Of course, the soundbar will require mounting holes to properly attach everything. When used with an articulating mount, the soundbar will actually move with the TV! This way the television won’t be facing one direction while the soundbar is still pointed straight forward. Plus, it looks really cool too!
  • Should you place a soundbar above a TV? Generally, a soundbar should be placed or mounted around ear level. If it is above ear level, then it could cause the sound to not hit your ears properly and it may sound off. Also, some soundbars have speakers that fire in directions other than straight ahead, so this could also cause some different acoustical issues. However, some manufacturers say that mounting about a TV is fine for specific models. Generally, I don’t recommend mounting a soundbar above a television because, in most circumstances, it will both look and sound odd.

What Size Soundbar Do You Need?

Soundbar Size Based on TV Size

The size of a soundbar needed for a room is usually determined by a few different things. Ideally, you never want the soundbar to be wider than the TV itself, it would look very odd. Below are some general size comparisons for soundbars and televisions.

TV Screen SizeLength of Soundbar
40-inch and smaller12-28 inches
42-inch to 50-inch30-38 inches
52-inch to 60-inch40-46 inches
60-inch and bigger48+ inches

These are some generalizations, your setup doesn’t have to fit these specifications exactly. Remember, the TV screen size is measured diagonally, while the length of the soundbar is how long the soundbar actually is. Always check your TV model’s physical width before purchasing a soundbar. Ideally, you want the soundbar and TV to be very close to the same width.

Also, a bigger room will usually require more sound to completely fill it. So if you intend on using a soundbar in a larger room, then consider purchasing a longer and more powerful unit. This will help give the room a sense of fullness when playing audio.

What Features do You Want the Soundbar to Have?

There are many features included in modern soundbars. As mentioned earlier, some are as simple as having a power cable and a couple of different inputs. While other may have multiple HDMI ports, multiple, inputs, etc. It really depends on what you are looking for and what your current setup includes. Below are some of the features included with modern soundbars.

  • Audio Inputs: The most common audio inputs included on soundbars are an AUX, RCA, digital coax, and/or fiber optic. Every soundbar out there will have at least one or all of these inputs available.
  • HDMI Inputs: Some of the nicer soundbars will include HDMI inputs. This basically turns the soundbar into a video input switch or even an A/V receiver. Instead of changing inputs on the TV, simply switch the input on the soundbar. You may not want to use this feature if you already have an A/V receiver or you prefer to have everything connected directly to the TV. Depending on the quality of your television, you’ll need to check and make sure the soundbar is capable of 4K passthrough. If not, you could run into some resolution-based issues.
  • Wireless Inputs: Many soundbars will also include a way to stream audio wirelessly to the speakers via Bluetooth or Airplay. Airplay is rarer to have, but most units will include Bluetooth capabilities.
  • Number of Channels: Most soundbars have either 2 or 3 channels. A 2 channel soundbar will have a left and right audio channel. This is no different than a typical two speaker stereo system, it’s nothing too impressive. Now a 3 channel soundbar will have a left, right, and center audio channel. This is what makes a more immersive listening experience. You are able to uniquely distinguish between sound coming from the left and right, while the center channel is producing most of the audio soundtrack and dialogue. Take a look at our article comparing 2.1 and 5.1 soundbars to get a better understanding.
  • Wireless Subwoofer: Many, but not all units are able to wirelessly connect a separate subwoofer. This greatly benefits the listening experience because most soundbars are not capable of producing very low-frequency sounds (bass). With the wireless subwoofer, you get the low-end bass almost anywhere you can place the subwoofer. I like to place it directly behind the main seating area if possible.
  • Wireless Surround Sound Speakers: Some of the higher end models are now including the capability to connect separate wireless speakers to create a “5.1” surround sound system. These wireless speakers have their own power supply (sometimes they are even battery powered). They receive the audio signal wirelessly from the soundbar itself, no extra cables are necessary. Keep in mind, this feature will cost much more than any other.
  • Remote Control: Soundbars will always come with their own remote control. Some remotes are as simple as a power toggle, volume up, and volume down. While others are fully integrated universal remotes. With these, you can program it to control your TV, Cable Box, etc. However, you usually don’t have to use the included remote if you don’t want to. Most universal remotes and some cable box remotes allow you to program your soundbar as the audio device. In doing this, the remote will send out IR commands to raise and lower the volume of the soundbar without requiring the use of two separate remotes.
  • Front Panel Display: Surprisingly, this feature is extremely rare with soundbars. A lot of units only have a few LED lights to indicate the volume level. Some actually give no indication of the volume level at all! It’s definitely not essential, but a useful feature to have.

Should You Get Wireless Surround Sound Speakers with a Soundbar?

As mentioned earlier, many higher-end units are now capable of pairing wireless surround speakers to create a 5.1 surround sound system (3 channels in the soundbar, 1 surround left, 1 surround right, and 1 subwoofer). This is one of the most sought out features for those really looking to increase the quality of their overall listening experience. Just keep in mind, currently, you are going to pay a premium for a soundbar capable of pairing wireless speakers and for the wireless speakers themselves. But, in my opinion, it’s completely worth it! In the grand scheme of things, a complete 5.1 wireless soundbar system will cost the same or maybe less than a traditional 5.1 surround sound system.

You should keep a few things in mind before buying a soundbar with this feature and the speakers to go along with it.

  1. Do I have room to place the surround speakers around the main seating areas?
  2. Do I have readily available power outlets for the surround speakers? 99% of these speakers will require a power source.
  3. Can you justify the price? You will likely be spending a pretty penny for both the soundbar and the wireless speakers? Is the convenience and easy setup worth it to you?

This amazing feature is still relatively new, but is picking up in popularity very quickly! This means that as time goes on, the price of these wireless surround speakers and soundbars capable of pairing them will steadily drop. Eventually, this will be a standard feature on most soundbars! If you have the budget for it, I would definitely get a soundbar with this capability! This is an absolutely amazing feature that greatly improves the listening experience for small to medium size rooms.

Best Soundbars for the Money – Recommended Soundbars!

Now that you are familiar on what exactly to look for, here are some of the best priced soundbars out there! This list includes units that have high quality speaker drivers, have great reviews, and are sold at a fair price. There aren’t going to be any $2000 soundbars here because that is an absurd price to most people, including myself.

1) Best Soundbar For the Money

Yamaha YAS-207BL w/ Wireless Subwoofer (Click for Current Price on Amazon)

Specifications (Speaker Drivers,
Output Power, etc.)
4x: 1-3/4″ woofers, 2x: 1″ tweeters,
100 Watts
Dimensions36-5/8″ width
2-3/8″ height
3-1/4″ depth
Inputs1: HDMI, 1: Digital Optical,
1: Analog Audio (AUX)
Outputs1: HDMI
Audio Channels2.1
SubwooferIncluded, Wireless
Driver: 6-1/4″ Subwoofer
Output Power: 100 Watts
7-1/8″ w x 17-1/4″ h x 15-3/4″ d
Weight: 17.4lbs
Wall MountableYES
Warranty2-Year Limited Coverage

The Yamaha YAS-207 is an outstanding soundbar for the price. It’s extremely well built, has amazing reviews from hundreds and hundreds of satisfied customers. This is why we have selected it as the best overall value soundbar! The sound quality is very impressive for the cost of this unit. It has very clear treble, strong bass, and great mid-range. Even though there aren’t any surround sound speakers, this soundbar seems to create a similar surround sound experience in certain rooms. This just goes to show the quality of the speakers drivers included in this unit! It’s definitely a great entry level soundbar for anyone looking to increase their listening experience.

2) Best Surround Sound Soundbar Package (This will surprise you!)

Nakamichi Surround Sound Soundbar - Smaller

Picture Provided by Nakamichi

Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1Ch DTS:X w/ Wireless Sub and 2 Rear Surrounds (Amazon Link)

Specifications (Speaker Drivers,
Output Power, etc.)
7x: Soundbar speaker drivers,
Quad-core surround processor,
Total Output power of 600 watts (including sub, and 2 rears),
105 dB of sound produced
FeaturesIncluded Wireless Subwoofer and 2 Rear Speakers,
Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision (Available April 2019,
LED Front Panel Display
Dimensions45.5″ width
3.3″ height
3″ depth
Inputs1: Digital Optical, 1: Digital Coax, 1: Analog Audio (AUX),
1: USB, 3: HDMI, and Bluetooth
Outputs1: HDMI (ARC)
Audio Channels7.1 w/ included subwoofer and rear speakers
7.1.4 (with firmware update)
SubwooferIncluded, Wireless
Drivers 1x: 8″ Downfiring Subwoofer
Frequency as low as 35Hz
9.5″ w x 20″ h x 12″ d
Weight: 19lbs
Surround Speakers (x2)Included, Wireless
Drivers (each) 1x: 3″ woofer, 1x: 1″ tweeter
5″ w x 8″ h x 5.4″ d
Weight: 2.8lbs
Wall Mountable
YES
Warranty1-Year

So in the nature of full disclosure, I haven’t actually heard of this company prior to writing this article. Because of this, I spent a tremendous amount of time researching this product and looking at different reviews. So here’s what I have learned.

This is an absolutely amazing product! The fact you can get a high-quality soundbar, wireless subwoofer, and 2 wireless surround sound speakers for under $600 is crazy! Some might think, “well, of course, you can, it’s a low-quality product”. Let me tell you, those people are very wrong.

All of the speaker drivers are high-quality and are driven by a quad-core sound processor. A firmware update (available April 2019) enables Dolby Atmos, TrueHD, DD+, Dolby Vision, and Nakamichi’s Spatial Surround Elevation (SSE). So in reality, you get a 7.1.4 surround sound system, in only 4 pieces of equipment, all together for under $600!

The surround speakers are very interesting because they double as “height” speakers. This means that they fire sound upwards. This enables them to work in a Dolby Atmos setup, which is very uncommon for soundbar systems. Some reviewers have described this as the best Soundbar Dolby Atmos system they have ever listened to, and it’s also cheaper than any onther complete system on the market.

3) Best Budget Soundbar (Under $200)

Vizio SB3821-C6.35 Soundbar (Must credit Vizio) - Smaller
Picture Provided by Vizio

VIZIO SB3821 w/ Wireless Subwoofer (Click for Current Price on Amazon)

Specifications (Speaker Drivers,
Output Power, etc.)
2x: 2.75″ full-range drivers,
Sound Pressure Level: 100dB
Frequency Response: 50 Hz – 10 kHz
Dimensions38″ width
3″ height
3″ depth
Inputs1: Digital Optical, 1: Digital Coax, 1: Stereo RCA,
1: Analog Audio (AUX), 1: USB, & Bluetooth
OutputsNone
Audio Channels2.1
SubwooferIncluded, Wireless
Driver: 5.25″ high excursion driver
Output Power: Not Given
8.3″ w x 9.1″ h x 8.3″ d
Weight: 17lbs
Wall MountableYES
Warranty1-Year

The Vizio SB3821 is definitely one of the best budget soundbars currently on the market. It has pretty decent drivers in the enclosure and even comes with a wireless subwoofer! There are plenty of inputs to choose from including Bluetooth. This isn’t a super fancy product, it’s very stripped down to the bare essentials. There aren’t a ton of different sized speaker drivers, there isn’t an intuitive app, or any built-in smart functions. This soundbar is completely meant to replace your TV’s built-in speakers and add some deep bass. This enhances the audio quality at an extremely fair price!

4) Best High-End Surround Sound Soundbar!

Sonos Playbar - Best Soundbar for Surround Sound - Smaller

Sonos Playbar w/Optional Sub and 2x: Sonos One Smart Speakers (Click for Current Amazon Price)

Specifications (Speaker Drivers,
Output Power, etc.)
6x: 3.15 woofers, 3x: 1″ tweeters,
9 dedicated amps, No Output Power Given
Dimensions35.5″ width
5.6″ height
3.4″ depth
Inputs1: Digital Optical, 1: Ethernet,
Wi-Fi Audio Streaming
Outputs1: Ethernet
Audio Channels3.0 (5.1 w/optional wireless subwoofer
and Sonos One smart speakers.
SubwooferOptional, Wireless
Drivers 2x: 6″ Oval Shaped Subwoofers
Output Power: Not Given
15.9″ w x 15″ h x 6.3″ d
Weight: 35.27lbs
Wall MountableYES
Warranty1-Year

The Sonos Playbar is probably one of the most talked about soundbars on the market. It has been mocked for its price because the full bundle comes in around $1600 (and Sonos rarely does sales on their products). For that price, you could get a full home theater in a box package with 5-7 great quality speakers, an A/V receiver, and the necessary cables.

Now, what makes the Sonos Playbar worth it? Well, the quality of their products makes it completely worth it. Everything about the Playbar, subwoofer, and Sonos one smart speakers are of high quality. From how they are designed, the components used, the material quality, to the easy to use app interface and wireless streaming sources. This product is easy to set up, sounds amazing, and does its job very well. However, one of the downsides is the short 1-year warranty period for their products wth such a high price. But, their defect rates seem to be lower than others.

5) Best Smart Soundbar

Sonos Beam - Best Smart Soundbar - Smaller

Sonos Beam (Click for Current Amazon Price)

Specifications (Speaker Drivers,
Output Power, etc.)
4x: Woofers, 1x: Tweeter,
5 dedicated amps, No Output Power Given
FeaturesBuilt-in Alexa voice control with 5: Far-field mics.
Dimensions25.6″ width
2.7″ height
3.9″ depth
Inputs1: HDMI (ARC) or Digital Optical Adapter
1: Ethernet, Wi-Fi Audio Streaming w/ Apple AirPlay
Outputs1: Ethernet
Audio Channels3.0 (5.1 w/optional wireless subwoofer
and Sonos One smart speakers.
SubwooferOptional, Wireless
Drivers 2x: 6″ Oval Shaped Subwoofers
Output Power: Not Given
15.9″ w x 15″ h x 6.3″ d
Weight: 35.27lbs
Wall Mountable
YES
Warranty1-Year

I hate to recommend another Sonos soundbar, but they really got it right with the Sonos beam. With smart technology emerging into the market place at extremely reasonable prices, this product integrates with one of the most popular voice control services. Adding Alexa capabilities to this more reasonably priced unit was a great move by Sonos. Customers report that it recognizes commands very well even while at far distances.

Even though this is the cheaper little brother to the Playbar, the audio quality is still superb, just like all of Sonos’ products. The sound is crisp, clear, three-dimensional, and has a surprising amount of bass response for being much more compact. It is also capable of wirelessly pairing with the Sonos Subwoofer and Sonos One smart speakers to create a full 5.1 surround sound. However, for a few hundred dollars more, you could get the Playbar and simply add an Echo Dot to integrate Alexa. But that’s your choice to make.

6) Best Simple (No Subwoofer Necessary) Soundbar

Samsung HW-MS650/ZA (Click for Current Amazon Price)

Specifications (Speaker Drivers,
Output Power, etc.)
6x: Woofers, 3x: Tweeters, 9 dedicated amps,
Frequency Response: 39Hz-20kHz,
RMS Power: 180 watts
FeaturesConnects wirelessly to select Samsung TVs,
Built-In Subwoofer, Works with Alexa
Dimensions41.73″ width
3.07″ height
5.14″ depth
Inputs1: HDMI (ARC), 1: Digital Optical,
1: Analog Audio (AUX), 1: USB, & Bluetooth
Outputs1: HDMI
Audio Channels3.0 (5.1 w/optional wireless subwoofer
and wireless surround speakers)
Wall Mountable
YES with included kit
Warranty1-Year

The Samsung HW-MS650 is a simple, all in one unit, with great sound quality! It has many speaker drivers capable of handling a high frequency range. This eliminates the need for a subwoofer, however, you may purchase a wireless subwoofer and surround speakers separately, if you would like.

This soundbar-only unit delivers high-quality sound for almost any environment. It is quite literally plug and play! Perfect for anyone looking for a great sounding unit with a super easy setup. No pairing a wireless subwoofer or wireless speakers to get everything up and running. Keep in mind, because there is no dedicated subwoofer, the bass performance will not be as great as other units with a dedicated sub. It’s good, but not amazing.

7) Best Compact/Low Profile Soundbar

Bose Solo 5 (Click for Current Amazon Price)

Specifications (Speaker Drivers,
Output Power, etc.)
No Info Provided
FeaturesUniversal Remote Included
Dimensions21.6″ width
2.6″ height
3.4″ depth
Inputs1: Digital Optical, 1: Analog Audio (AUX),
1: Digital Coaxial, & Bluetooth
OutputsNone
Audio Channels2.0
Wall Mountable
YES with kit (sold separately)
Warranty1-Year

The Bose Solo 5 is a pretty compact soundbar that still produces some impressive audio quality! Dialogue is dramatically enhanced with this unit, but don’t expect to hear any ground shattering bass. Because this soundbar is so small, the bass response will be far less than that of a bigger unit. This is a great replacement for the built-in TV audio and will provide a significant amount of mid-range and high frequency audio. Highly recommended for a smaller room!

8) Best Bang For Your Buck Surround Sound Package

Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2 Surround Sound Soundbar

Picture Provided by Nakamichi

Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch DTS:X w/ 2 Subwoofers and 4 Surround Speakers (Click for Current Amazon Price)

Specifications (Speaker Drivers,
Output Power, etc.)
7x: Soundbar speaker drivers,
Quad-core surround processor,
Total Output power of 1000 watts (including 2 subs, and 4 rears),
110 dB of sound produced
FeaturesIncluded 2 Wireless Subwoofers and 4 Rear Speakers,
Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision, LED Front Panel Display
Soundbar Dimensions45.5″ width
3.3″ height
3″ depth
Inputs1: Digital Optical, 1: Digital Coax, 1: Analog Audio (AUX),
1: USB, 3: HDMI, and Bluetooth
Outputs1: HDMI (ARC)
Audio Channels9.2.4 w/ included subwoofers and rear speakers
Subwoofers (x2)Included, Wireless
Drivers 1x: 10″ Downfiring Subwoofer
Frequency as low as 35Hz
9.5″ x 20″ x 12″
Weight: 19lbs
Surround Speakers (x4)Included, Wireless
Drivers (each) 1x: 3″ woofer, 1x: 1″ tweeter
5″ x 8″ x 5.4″
Weight: 2.8lbs
Wall Mountable
YES
Warranty1-Year

This choice is very similar to our best Surround Sound Soundbar Package. It’s the same exact soundbar, but it is paired with 2 – 10″ wireless subwoofers with 4 surround sound speakers! This in total makes a complete 9.2.4 surround sound system with Dolby Atmos! The subwoofers provide strong and deep bass that will be felt and heard. The wireless speakers create a high-quality and immersive surround sound experience that isn’t matched by many systems.

This type of system is unheard of at this price point! You will not find another similar soundbar package anywhere near the price for this system. So if you have the budget for it, then I highly suggest jumping on this purchase!

Conclusion

These are some of the best soundbars on the market and are sure to hold up for years to come. There are so many great soundbars, and we simply couldn’t list all of them! If you are interested in different home theater or home entertainment equipment, then check out our recommended products page!

Let us know what your favorite soundbar is and why! We’d love to hear your opinions!

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