Best budget soundbars Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?’s round-up of the best budget soundbars you can buy in 2021.
You’ve probably been watching a bit more TV in the past few months. OK, a lot more. Never has the term ‘home cinema’ been more relevant, and the good news is that if you’re realising the sound coming from your TV doesn’t quite match up to its crisp colours and inky blacks, you can do something about it.
See, 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 far louder and better quality sound to your TV but, unlike dedicated speaker packages, your lounge won’t have to accommodate six extra boxes. Instead, ‘bar 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. We’ve got What Hi-Fi? approved options starting from as low as £60, you know…
Right then. Let’s take a look at (and listen to) the best budget models around right now.
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, 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. Highly recommended.
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
Like the Yamaha, 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 £200 – 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 42in 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 £249 (down from £300) 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 £200. 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
There’s an awful lot to like in this Q Acoustics soundbar, currently available at a snip of its original RRP of £300. We gave it four stars at the asking price, but for £169 there’s plenty of clear, weighty sound and user-friendliness on offer.
If you’re a fan of weighty bass – even if it means compromising on a modicum of rhythmic timing – this may well be the ‘bar for you.
Read the full review: Q Acoustics M3
Costing just £60, this is one of the best soundbars around for anyone on a budget. Build quality is impressive, as are the connections and the addition of Bluetooth for wireless playback from a phone or tablet. It’s simple to set up, and it sounds fantastic – there are four sound modes to choose from, each suited to a different genre of content. It also makes dialogue a lot easier to decipher, which is worth £60 of anyone’s money.
Read the full review: JVC TH-W513B
See all our soundbar reviews