When it comes to watching movies or just regular TV programmes, there’s a surprising amount of people who underestimate the importance of good audio.
TVs nowadays are designed to be as thin as possible, and this, therefore, limits how good the audio can be. Some of the more premium Sony TVs use a fancy technology called Acoustic Surface Audio, where the screen is the speaker. These TVs have three actuators behind the screen vibrate to create acoustics that move with the picture, plus twin subwoofers for bass depth.
However, this technology will never compete with a decent dedicated audio solution.
For more affordable TVs, the audio is generally poor. It may be OK for casual viewing of TV, but you lose out on a lot of the enjoyment that decent speakers bring.
Quite often, an affordable TV will sound quite harsh and tinny. The audio can be very unbalanced and it can make dialogue difficult to hear properly.
In almost all scenarios, I think it is a good idea to upgrade your TV with some form of dedicated audio system. Obviously, if you have a big expensive Sony TV, you don’t want a budget soundbar, so you will want match up your TV to speakers sensibly.
Soundbars are the most convenient way to upgrade your audio, they fit nicely under your TV and provide 2.1 audio all in one unit. There are even some excellent surround sound soundbars.
This guide is for budget soundbars and will provide a good upgrade to the affordable to mid-range TVs.
Best Budget Soundbar: Things To Look For In A Soundbar
When it comes to soundbars, things are rather simple.
However, there are a few functionalities that can make your entire experience a lot better, so let’s take a look at what you should be looking for in a soundbar.
Just a soundbar, or a woofer, too?
To begin with, you should see whether the model you’ve chosen is just a soundbar or a soundbar with a subwoofer.
Make no mistake, a good soundbar will get you deep bass without a subwoofer, but having a dedicated subwoofer always makes things better.
Note that a subwoofer will very likely increase the price, especially if it’s a wireless one.
However, it’s usually worth it when you want a bit more bass and don’t want messy cables all around your room.
Virtual surround is a thing
Next, you should check whether you’re looking at a 2-channel or a 5-channel soundbar.
Yes, even though 5-channel systems tend to have satellite speakers behind you, some higher-end soundbars do a great job of recreating the experience of a 5-channel system.
Within the budget range, however, chances are you’re looking at a 2-channel subwoofer, but if you can spring for it, by all means, go for virtual five channels.
HDMI ARC adds Convenience
Even though most of the soundbars you’ll come across do have this covered, you’ll want to make sure the model you go for has ARC or Audio Return Channel.
This allows you to use a single remote for both your TV and your soundbar and lets you connect them with a single HDMI cable, provided you have a CEC-enabled TV.
Make sure you can stream from your phone
Last but not least, you could consider some additional functionalities. For example, you could come across customizable voice levels or in the case of most modern soundbars – Bluetooth.
While the soundbar is primarily used for your TV, Bluetooth connectivity can let you stream music from your smartphone or tablet on that same soundbar, without connecting any extra cables.
Other soundbars have network connectivity and can stream from online services. Many now also have Alexa or Google Assistant built in. However, these features all add to the cost.
Best Budget Soundbar 2023 Guide
With all of this out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the best budget soundbars on the market today.
1) Sony HT-S100F: Check Price On Amazon
We’re kicking things off with the Sony HT-S100F. This is a very wallet-friendly soundbar that has a slim profile and fits rather well in front of just about any TV set.
One thing you’ll note is that this is a two-channel soundbar that has no subwoofer.
Well, Sony decided that they don’t want you to pay for a subwoofer, and instead, they’ve opted for a Bass Reflex speaker, which delivers surprisingly punchy bass without any compromises in clarity and details.
And yes, it does a great job, and the bass you get from the HT-S100F is rather good.
It’s not just the bass – Sony has implemented their S-Force front surround technology which attempts to emulate surround sound using only two channels.
Unfortunately, you don’t get the same experience as a dedicated 5.1 system, but for a budget soundbar, the sound you get is surprisingly clean and good.
Now, Sony does have a habit of putting as many extra features in their products as they possibly can, and the HT-S100F is no exception.
To begin with, you do have HDMI ARC, which lets your TV and your soundbar communicate with just a single HDMI cable.
This makes things rather convenient, and so does the inclusion of Bluetooth and USB. When you don’t want to use your TV as a source for audio, you can either stream from your smartphone or tablet or connect a USB device and use that as a source.
Overall, the HT-S100F is a great, compact, wallet-friendly choice for anyone looking for a quality soundbar that doesn’t take up a lot of space.
- Compact design that saves space
- HDMI ARC support
- Bass Reflex speaker
- No dedicated subwoofer
- Surround sound isn’t all that immersive
2) Polk Audio Signa S2: Check Price On Amazon
Polk Audio is no stranger to the world of budget home audio. The Signa lineup has three soundbar models, and the Signa S2 sits at the top of the range.
This is a budget soundbar that comes with a pretty good subwoofer, as well as Polk’s Voice Adjust technology and Dolby Digital decoding.
The main thing about the Signa S2 is that it’s a low-profile soundbar that sits at only two inches tall. It won’t be blocking your TV’s remote, and it’s still large enough for some great speakers to be placed inside.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding promises room-filling sound, and to some extent, you do get it. It’s not as good as a dedicated system, but that’s not the point either.
We also mentioned the Polk VoiceAdjust technology which helps make dialogue a bit clearer, something that’s critical with movies and shows.
As far as the subwoofer goes, it does a pretty great job at delivering punchy bass whenever you need it to. There’s also the fact that it’s wireless, so you don’t have any unsightly cables going from it to the soundbar.
You do have additional functionality in the shape of a Bluetooth module, so you can easily stream music from a compatible device.
There’s even a dedicated music mode which can modify the soundbar’s equalizer settings for a better audio experience.
While we’re discussing modes, it’s worth mentioning Night Mode, which is a one-button mode that will lower the bass levels and use VoiceADjust to clear up the dialogue, allowing you to enjoy your movie without disturbing everyone in your home.
- Dedicated wireless subwoofer
- VoiceAdjust technology for clearer dialogue
- Bluetooth wireless streaming
- The length might make it too big for some setups
3) Sony HT-S350: Check Price On Amazon
If you’re willing to pony up a bit more for a great experience, Sony’s 2.1 channel HT-S350 should be one of the soundbars you’re looking at.
Even though slightly pricier than some of the other models we’re looking at on our list, it’s very much worth its asking price, and comes with a great feature set.
This being a 2.1 channel soundbar, you do get a dedicated subwoofer, and Sony included a wireless one, so no cables have to go from it to the soundbar.
However, this also means that you don’t get the Bass Reflex speaker in the soundbar that Sony tends to include in other budget models.
This allows them to include the S-Force PRO Front Surround speakers instead, which does a great job. Well, much better than the regular S-Force system, especially as far as immersion goes.
Overall, the sound is great, and you have punchy bass and very large, spacious sound. The 6.3” speaker unit on the subwoofer does a great job.
Sony did include HDMI ARC for a single-cable communication between your TV and the soundbar, as well as an optical input, and Bluetooth.
If your TV has Bluetooth, you can even connect it to the soundbar wirelessly, too, which is rather neat. Or, you can stream music from any Bluetooth-enabled device.
Last but not least, another part of why this soundbar is slightly more expensive is the build quality.
Not only is this a very sturdy, wall-mountable option, but Sony also included high-quality materials and paid attention to the finish – the front metal section looks nice. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the HT-S350 is a great choice.
- Wireless subwoofer and option for wireless connectivity
- S-Force PRO for immersive sound
- Excellent build quality and materials
- More expensive than what some would consider “budget”
- A rather large soundbar length
4) Creative Stage V2: Check Price On Amazon
Best Budget Soundbar 2023
The original guide from Make You City Sound Better recommended the Klipsch R-10B, which was launched about 10 years ago and is no longer relevant.
I have therefore replaced it with something more appropriate, the Creative Stage V2. I have previously reviewed the Creative Stage 360 and thought it was excellent. The Creative Stage 360 is a superior speaker, but the RRP is twice the price, and I therefore think the Stage V2 makes a better choice for a budget soundbar list.
|Stage 360||Stage V2|
|Soundbar Dimensions||565 x 75 x 88 mm||680 x 100 x 78 mm|
|Subwoofer Dimensions||422 x 115 x 250 mm||423 x 116 x 250 mm|
|Connectivity||HDMI ARC port, two HDMI 2.0 ports, Optical-in||HDMI ARC port, USB port, Optical-in, AUX-in|
|Driver||Custom-tuned racetrack drivers||Custom-tuned racetrack drivers|
|Peak Power Output||240W||160W|
The 50% increase in peak power is probably not worth paying double, but it is worth noting that the Stage 360 often gets discounted to $160/£150, and in this case, I’d go with the Stage 360.
Beyond that, the Creative Stage V2 delivers everything you could want from a budget soundbar. It has good connectivity with HDMI ARC and two input HDMI 2.0 ports. You also have Bluetooth for music streaming. The dedicated subwoofer allows it to achieve superior lows than an all-in open unit.
It then has some useful audio modes. The dialogue mode successfully enhances voices, which is particularly useful if you struggle to follow speech-heavy shows or films.
- Dedicated subwoofer
- Good connectivity options
- Great price
- A bit underpowered, which is to be expected at this price. Keep an eye out for Stage 360 discounts.
Conclusion – Best Budget Soundbar 2023
Even though it’s the most expensive of the bunch, the Klipsch R-10B soundbar comes out as the clear winner here.
Not only does it look stunning, but the sound is on another level, especially when you turn on the virtual surround functionality.
The dialogue is clear and crisp, the bass is punchy and quite intense, and overall you have great sound quality.
Also, the price is further justified by the inclusion of Bluetooth aptX which lets you stream lossless music with rather high quality, and the possibility to wall mount the R-10B.
I am James, a UK-based tech enthusiast and the creative mind behind Mighty Gadget, which I’ve proudly run since 2007. Passionate about all things technology, my expertise spans from computers and networking, to mobile, wearables, and smart home devices.
As a fitness fanatic who loves running and cycling, I also have a keen interest in fitness-related technology, and I take every opportunity to cover this niche on my blog. My diverse interests allow me to bring a unique perspective to tech blogging, merging lifestyle, fitness, and the latest tech trends.
In my academic pursuits, I earned a BSc in Information Systems Design from UCLAN, before advancing my learning with a Master’s Degree in Computing. This advanced study also included Cisco CCNA accreditation, further demonstrating my commitment to understanding and staying ahead of the technology curve.
I’m proud to share that Vuelio has consistently ranked Mighty Gadget as one of the top technology blogs in the UK. With my dedication to technology and drive to share my insights, I aim to continue providing my readers with engaging and informative content.