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The best cheap soundbars in 2020

Best cheap soundbars
(Image credit: Pyle)

Home entertainment is more important than ever these days, and the best cheap soundbars will turn your living room into a mini theater without breaking the bank. Whether you want your favorite sports games to sound more true to life or want to get engrossed in the latest Netflix and Disney Plus shows, these soundbars will enhance your content at an affordable price.

Soundbars enhance the tinny sound you'll get out of most TVs, and are especially ideal for better hearing dialogue in movies and shows and enjoying extra oomph during big action scenes. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, whether you're binging on a giant TV or get your streaming fix from a laptop or monitor.

We tested five models that cost less than $100, judging them for sound quality, ease of use and design. Here are the best cheap soundbars you can buy right now. 

What are the best cheap soundbars?

The best cheap soundbars are made by Vizio. Vizio has cracked the code on how to make soundbars with the best performance for the price. 

If you have a larger TV, go for the Vizio SB3820-C6. It’s 38 inches long and uses its size well to create a wide sound. It delivers full bass and crisp treble, making it easy to hear details in movies and TV shows. It’s well built and compares well even against more expensive soundbars. If you have a smaller TV or need to save a little more money, pick up the Vizio SB2920. It’s 29 inches long but still manages to create an impressive sound. 

Both Vizio soundbars offer a multitude of ways to connect to your TV, although that doesn’t include HDMI; you’ll have to spend more money to get HDMI connections in a soundbar. You also won’t find Atmos support or other advanced features that could make the soundbar a real replacement for a home theater audio system. Both support Bluetooth streaming; the SB3820-C6 sounds better when playing music than the SB2920, if that’s a concern for you. 

Read on for our full list of picks for the best cheap soundbars.

The best cheap soundbars you can buy today

Best cheap soundbars: Vizio SB3820-C6 38-Inch 2.0 Channel Sound Bar

(Image credit: Vizio)

1. Vizio SB3820-C6 38-Inch 2.0 Channel Sound Bar

The best cheap soundbar overall

Size: 38 x 3 x 3 inches | Inputs: Optical digital audio, coaxial digital audio, stereo RCA, 3.5mm, USB | Bluetooth: Yes | HDMI: No

Full bass and crisp treble
Wide sound
Good for music, too
Lacks HDMI

The Vizio SB3820-C6 is the best cheap soundbar you can get, hands down. You'll have a hard time believing you only spent $100 on it — it doesn't look nor sound cheap. Thanks to its two 2.75-inch drivers, it produces clear, resonant dialog and good bass for a unit without a subwoofer. The 38 x 3 x 3-inch unit is a good match for larger TVs, and the width helps it create a wide soundstage. It has plenty of power to fill your room with sound. In addition, It doubles as a very capable music speaker, too — something few soundbars under $100 can claim. 

The SB3820-C6 has just about every way to connect to your TV or monitor that you could need, except HDMI. The included remote is also well built and handy — again something few cheap soundbars include. More expensive soundbars will produce more encompassing sound and come with a subwoofer, but the SB3820-C6 will meet the audio needs for most people. 

Best cheap soundbars: Vizio SB2920 29-inch Soundbar 2.0 system

(Image credit: Vizio)

2. Vizio SB2920 29-inch Soundbar 2.0 system

The best cheap soundbar for smaller TVs

Size: 29 x 3 x 3 inches | Inputs: Optical digital audio, coaxial digital audio, stereo RCA, 3.5mm, USB | Bluetooth: Yes | HDMI: None

Clear vocals
Deep bass without a subwoofer
Lots of input options
Only average for music
No HDMI ports

If you’ve got a smaller TV, the Vizio SB2920 is the best cheap soundbar to get. It’s a real bargain. While on the small side for a soundbar, the 29 x 3 x 3-inch unit doesn't sound diminutive — it creates a wide soundfield that gives the illusion of a much bigger speaker. It gets loud enough to fill a large room with and performs well on a variety of types of audio. It has solid bass performance — without a subwoofer, though you can add one for even more oomph — and clear, resonant vocals that make it easy to understand dialog happening on the screen. It's also built solidly. 

The main downside is that music streamed over Bluetooth is average at best, with the vocals getting lost in the mix. It also lacks HDMI, so you can’t connect your video sources directly to it.

Best cheap soundbars: Pyle PSBV600BT

(Image credit: Pyle)

3. Pyle PSBV600BT

Best cheap soundbase

Size: 20.6 x 12 x 3 inches | Inputs: Optical digital audio, stereo RCA, 3.5mm | Bluetooth: Yes | HDMI: None

Big booming bass
Includes subwoofer in main unit
Very loud
Voices lack treble and midrange

If you want better sound, but don't have a good place to put a soundbar, a soundbase — which goes under your TV stand — could be the solution. Pyle's 20.6 x 12 x 3-inch PSBV600BT is one of the few soundbases you’ll find for under $100. The PSBV600BT uses its 12-inch depth to its advantage by including a woofer in the unit, which results in big, booming bass. It also has enough power to fill a large room with sound. With optical digital, 3.5mm and stereo RCA wired connections, along with Bluetooth for wireless, this Pyle soundbase is likely to be compatible with your TV. (However, it lacks HDMI.) The unit can support TVs up to 110 pounds. 

The bass can overwhelm the treble and midrange, though, and dialog and vocals can get lost in the mix. The included remote is quite small and not very useful. 

Best cheap soundbars: TCL Alto 5 2.0 Channel Home Theater Sound Bar

(Image credit: TCL)

4. TCL Alto 5 2.0 Channel Home Theater Sound Bar

This cheap soundbar offers good vocals

Size: 31.5 x 2.6 x 3.3 inches | Inputs: Optical digital audio, 3.5mm, USB | Bluetooth: Yes | HDMI: No

Clear dialog
Very affordable
Lacks bass
Limited connections

Created by a company that’s well known for delivering good-quality cheap TVs, the TCL Alto 5 proves the point that you really don’t need to spend much to improve your TVs sound. For around $50, the 31.5 x 2.6 x 3.3-inch Alto 5 produces good overall sound with clear vocals, though without a subwoofer, the bass won’t wow you. It comes with a simple remote that allows you to adjust the volume, select an input and choose from three sound modes to tweak the sound, but you can’t individually adjust bass or treble. Because the Alto 5 lacks an HDMI port, you’ll need a TV with an optical digital audio output or 3.5mm output; it also has a USB input for playing music files.

TCL also offers the Alto 7, a larger version (36-inches wide), for under $100, and the Alto 5+, which comes with a subwoofer, for just a bit more than $100. 

Best cheap soundbars: Avantree Torpedo Plus

(Image credit: Avantree)

5. Avantree Torpedo Plus

Best cheap soundbar with battery backup

Size: 10.8 x 2.4 x 2 inches | Inputs: 3.5mm | Bluetooth: Yes | HDMI: None

Battery powered
Wide sound for size
Limited connection options
Doesn’t get very loud

The 10.8 x 2.4 x 2-inch Torpedo Plus has something other cheap soundbars don't: a 5.5-hour battery, which makes it convenient to take it anywhere you want to watch TV. The unit also has a sharp design, making it stand out from the field. The Torpedo Plus serves up clear dialog, but lacks any bass to speak of. The crisp treble tones help provide details in music and movie soundtracks. The Torpedo Plus creates a wide soundfield when you engage 3D surround mode. 

Due to its small size, this soundbar is a better complement to a laptop or tablet than a full-sized TV. The soundbar suffered from interference when connected via Bluetooth and only features one wired connection option for 3.5mm. It also lacks a remote so you have to adjust the volume on the unit itself.

How to choose the best cheap soundbar for you

The best cheap soundbar for you depends on the features, connections and size that will help you most enjoy watching movies and TV. None of these cheap soundbars come with a subwoofer, but some deliver more bass — a key feature if you like the tactile rumble that comes when watching action scenes. Think about if you need a remote; only some of these include them. 

You’ll also want to pay attention to the audio outputs on your TV or monitor. Since none of these cheap soundbars comes with HDMI, the next best option is optical digital or coaxial digital audio. If your set doesn’t offer those, look for a soundbar with stereo RCA or 3.5mm inputs. Another important consideration is the size of your TV — larger TVs look and sound best when paired with larger soundbars. But if your space is limited, a small soundbar is better than no soundbar at all.

How we test soundbars

We test soundbars for vocal clarity and low-end effects by watching a variety of movies and TV shows, including video in action and drama genres. We also listen to various songs ranging from rock to hip hop to acoustic to evaluate music performance. We benchmark volume using an app that measures decibels. Ease of use depends on how quickly and simply we can connect the soundbar to the TV and how easily we can make adjustments to the sound quality.