/>
X
Why you can trust ZDNet ZDNet independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNet Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNet's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNet nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNet's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.

Close

The 5 best cheap soundbars: Great audio for less

What is the best cheap soundbar? The Hisense HS205 is ZDNet's top pick based on an analysis of specs like price, audio processing software, connectivity, smart features, sound quality, assembly, and more.
taylor-clemons1.jpg
Written by Taylor Clemons, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

A cheap soundbar doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice cool features like voice controls, Dolby Atmos, or Bluetooth connectivity. There are plenty of affordable options out there from brands like Samsung, Roku, and LG to enhance your TV's audio without draining your wallet. 

While none of these products will be capable of 5.1 or 7.1CH audio, you'll still get top quality sound with fewer channels; one pick even comes with a subwoofer and satellite speakers to make an affordable home audio system. We've chosen some of the best cheap soundbars available after reviewing their features to help you decide which is the best fit for your space and budget.

Also: The best soundbars: Turn it up

Hisense HS205
Hisense

Channels: 2.0 | Power: 60W | Connectivity: HDMI. Optical, AUX, Bluetooth | Dimensions: 2.4 x 37.4 x 4 inches | Dolby audio: No

The Hisense HS205 is a compact, affordable soundbar that still delivers big sound. It connects to your TV via HDMI ARC, optical cable, AUX cable, or Bluetooth, and it comes with a wall-mount kit to fit in better with minimalist home theaters. With 3 different equalizer presets, your movies, music, and shows will sound better than ever. The movie mode boosts bass for more impact during dramatic scenes, the music mode creates richer mid and high tones, and the news mode boosts dialogue so you never miss an important line. The soundbar is also Roku-ready, meaning it works with the Roku remote and companion app for more efficient streaming and even voice controls

Pros:

  • Multiple connectivity options
  • EQ presets
  • Wall mount kit included

Cons:

  • No native voice controls
  • No Dolby support
LG SK1
LG

Channels: 2.0 | Power: 40W | Connectivity: Optical, AUX, Bluetooth | Dimensions: 3 x 25.6 x 3.5 inches | Dolby audio: Dolby Digital

If your living room is on the smaller side, the LG SK1 is the best soundbar for your setup. It measures just over 2 feet long and 3.5-inches wide, making it fit on a shelf, a mantle, or a TV stand. The dual speakers produce up to 40W of power for richer, cleaner audio than TV speakers alone; though if you have a compatible LG TV, you can connect an optical cable to the soundbar to take advantage of the Sound Sync feature. 

This uses both the soundbar and your TV's speakers in tandem to create surround sound audio without the need for extra equipment. It features Bluetooth connectivity for wireless setup as well as auto-updates to keep things running smoothly. 

Pros:

  • Auto updates
  • LG Sound Sync
  • Dolby Digital

Cons:

  • No HDMI output
  • No voice controls
Samsung HW-A450/ZA
Samsung

Channels: 4.1 | Power: 65W | Connectivity: Optical, Bluetooth | Dimensions: 2.1 x 33.9 x 2.9 inches | Dolby audio: Dolby Digital

The Samsung HW-A470 bundle is an excellent way to step up your home audio without breaking the bank. You'll get a four-speaker soundbar, two satellite speakers, a receiver unit, and a wireless subwoofer for under $200. The 4.1CH system gives you up to 65W of deep, rich audio that's perfect for movies, shows, and music.

And with wireless Bluetooth connectivity, you can set up the speakers however is best for your space; and the built-in adaptive sound settings automatically adjust things like volume and balance so that background music doesn't drown out important dialogue. It supports both Dolby Audio and DTS for virtual surround sound to provide a more cinematic experience.

Pros:

  • Dolby support
  • Subwoofer and satellite speakers included
  • Built-in equalizer

Cons:

  • No HDMI ARC connectivity
  • No native voice controls
TCL Alto 8i
TCL

Channels: 2.1 | Power: 260W | Connectivity: HDMI, optical, AUX, Bluetooth | Dimensions: 2.6 x 39.4 x 5 inches | Dolby audio: Dolby Atmos

Dolby Atmos is the gold standard for immersive and cinematic audio, and with the TCL Alto 8i, you can add this technology to your home audio setup without having to spend a fortune. You'll get a truly impressive 260W of audio power from the treble speakers and dual integrated subwoofers.

And Dolby Atmos will provide you with room-filling, rich audio that will feel like it's coming from all directions without the hassle of setting up extra equipment. And being from TCL, it's perfect for pairing with one of their Roku TVs for elevating your streaming experience. 

Pros:

  • Dolby Atmos
  • Dual integrated subwoofers
  • Roku ready

Cons:

  • No voice controls
Roku Streambar Pro
Roku

Channels: 2.0 | Power: 36W | Connectivity: HDMI, optical, AUX, Bluetooth | Dimensions: 2.8 x 32.2 x 3.9 inches | Dolby audio: Dolby Digital

If you've cut the cord with your cable or satellite provider and moved exclusively to streaming, the Roku Streambar Pro is the best soundbar for your home theater. Not only does it provide enhanced audio, it has the Roku streaming platform built-in. You can get started binge-watching your latest Netflix obsessions and favorite movies right out of the box. It works with Siri, Hey Google, Alexa, and the Roku companion app for hands-free voice controls, plus the 4K passthrough lets you stream in ultra-high definition. And if your entertainment needs change in the future, you can expand your sound system with the Roku Wireless Subwoofer or Wireless Speakers for the ultimate home theater.

Pros:

  • Roku built-in
  • Voice controls
  • 4K passthrough

Cons:

  • No Dolby Atmos

What is the best cheap soundbar?

The Hisense HS205 is the best cheap soundbar based on our analysis of specs like price, audio processing software, connectivity, smart features, sound quality, assembly, and more.

Soundbar

Price

Connectivity 

Channels

Hisense HS205

$70

HDMI, Optical, AUX, Bluetooth

2.0

LG SK1

$80

Optical, AUX, Bluetooth

2.0

Samsung HW-A470/ZA

$150

Optical and Bluetooth

4.1

TCL Alto 8i

$150

HDMI, Optical, AUX, Bluetooth

2.1

Roku Streambar Pro

$180

HDMI, Optical, AUX, Bluetooth

2.0

Which cheap soundbar is right for you?

First things first, you have to make sure the soundbar is actually going to fit into your living room or home theater setup. If your TV is on a dedicated stand or wall mounted, measure the space beneath it to make sure the soundbar isn't going to crowd the area or simply not fit. 

You also need to make sure that the soundbar is going to be able to connect to your TV; even if you don't have a Bluetooth enabled TV, you can still connect many soundbars with HDMI, optical, or AUX cables. You should also check out features like voice controls if you have a smart speaker, Dolby Atmos if you want 3D virtual surround sound, and expandable wireless sound if you want to add more speakers or a subwoofer later.

Choose this soundbar...

If you want...

Hisense HS205

The best overall option

LG SK1

A soundbar for a smaller space

Samsung HW-A470/ZA

A soundbar with included speakers and a subwoofer

TCL Alto 8i

Immersive, Dolby Atmos sound

Roku Streambar Pro

A soundbar meant for streaming

How did we choose these soundbars?

Aside from checking prices to make sure each soundbar or bundle would be truly budget friendly, I looked at audio processing software like Dolby or DTS, connectivity, and smart features. Since these are "budget" picks, they won't have all the bells and whistles that their top-tier counterparts do, but a few do feature voice controls via Alexa, Hey Google, or Siri. Others use Dolby Digital or Dolby Atmos for more immersive audio, and many have Bluetooth connectivity for wireless setups.

Are soundbars worth it?

Soundbars are a great way to boost and enhance your TV's audio while watching movies and shows or streaming music. They're often more affordable than a traditional home audio set that requires a stereo receiver as well as speakers. They're simple to set up, too, using either an optical or HDMI cable or a Bluetooth connection if you prefer a wireless setup.

Where to place a TV soundbar?

TV soundbars should go just below the TV on a table or cabinet so it is facing you. This location is optimal since the sound will come from where you are looking. 

Does a soundbar have surround sound?

While soundbars offer exceptional audio, they do not offer the same surround sound effect as a traditional surround sound setup. Surround sound audio is best for home theater setups, or if you're a huge movie fan and frequently have movie nights. Otherwise, a soundbar will provide great audio for everything else. 

Are soundbars compatible with any TV?

Almost all are compatible. If the soundbar you have uses an optical cable, 3.5mm audio cord, or HDMI cable, it will work with your TV as long as there is a proper place to plug it in. And if you prefer a wireless connection, make sure both your TV and the soundbar support Bluetooth. Even if your TV is on the older side, most soundbars will work with it as long as you connect it properly.

Do I need an HDMI cable for my soundbar?

Not necessarily. While an HDMI cable is great if you want to take advantage of features like 4K passthroughs, you should be able to connect your soundbar to your TV with an optical cable, 3.5mm audio cord, or even Bluetooth. Just check your user manual beforehand to see which connections your new soundbar supports.

Are there alternative soundbars worth considering?

There are plenty of affordable options if you're looking to step up your home audio game. Below is a list of excellent soundbars that have decent price points but didn't make the main list.



Related

The best early Prime Day 2022 TV deals
Three Amazon Omni Series Fire TVs on a blue and white background. There is a basketball hoop and dinosaur behind the TVs

The best early Prime Day 2022 TV deals

TVs
The 5 best Netflix alternatives of 2022
zdnet-apple-future-apple-tv-mockup.jpg

The 5 best Netflix alternatives of 2022

Video Streaming Services
The 5 best pressure cookers of 2022
replace-this-image.jpg

The 5 best pressure cookers of 2022

Kitchen & Household