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The easiest way to set up or upgrade an existing home theater system is to invest in a soundbar. TVs have become thinner and lighter, which is mostly great, but that weight reduction often comes with lower-quality built-in speakers. The best soundbars can make up for that lost audio quality, adding crispier highs and deeper bass in one compact, easy-to-install package.
Although soundbars are often the cheapest way to upgrade your home theater system, they can get expensive. Luckily, you don’t need to break the bank just to get decent audio in your den or living room: The best soundbars under $300 offer serious value, upgrading your audio system for cheap. Some of the best soundbars under $300 even come with technology like virtual surround sound, built-in streaming services, and smart assistant connectivity (i.e. Alexa and Google Home). In other words, don’t let the cheap price tag fool you; the best sub-$300 sound bars pack a punch.
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Read on for some of the best soundbars under $300 to buy right now, plus a few tips on choosing the right one for your setup.
What Are the Best Cheap Soundbars?
When it comes to cheap soundbars, it’s important to do some shopping. At this price point, some soundbars really are cheap and not worth your money, while others are worthy of any home theater. Here are a few tips for finding the latter variety.
Size: Many shoppers opt for a soundbar because they’re compact and easier to install than a surround sound system. Before buying your new soundbar, consider where it will go (maybe mounted below the TV or just placed on the TV stand), measure the intended space, and check the soundbars’ dimensions to make sure they’ll fit.
2.0 vs. 2.1: Unlike traditional home theater sound systems, soundbars (usually) combine all audio elements into one package. The two most common setups are stereo (2.0) or stereo + subwoofer (2.1). 2.1 systems are typically better, offering deeper bass for soundtrack music and on-screen action, although there are a few 2.0 soundbars that are great too (and you can always supplement a soundbar with a separate subwoofer).
Bluetooth support: Your soundbar will always be connected to your TV with a cable, but many of the options on this list support Bluetooth. This lets you connect your phone, tablet, or computer to the soundbar and stream music to it wirelessly, which is nice if your home theater setup is in a living room or common area and you want to play DJ for yourself or guests.
The Best Soundbars Under $300
Below are some of the best cheap soundbars under $300, including compact surround sound options and affordable soundbar/streaming combination devices.
1. Sony HTX8500
Sony’s HTX8500 tops our list because it supports Dolby Atmos, an advanced audio technology that’s basically the next major update to surround sound.
Full-sized Dolby Atmos home theater systems require you to place seven or more speakers equidistant from one another and pointing at the place you’ll be sitting in order to get the best results. This soundbar uses a “virtual sound engine” to achieve a similar effect by pointing speakers forward, leftward, rightward, and upward, reflecting sound waves off the walls and ceiling.
This soundbar has seven pre-set EQ modes for common uses like gaming, watching movies, the news, and sports. There’s a separate “voice enhancement” feature, which decreases background noises, so you can hear people speaking more clearly.
In terms of ports, Sony’s soundbar has one HDMI input, one optical audio input, one HDMI output, and a USB port. If you plan on using the soundbar’s Dolby Atmos features, you need to connect it to your TV’s HDMI ARC (audio return channel) port. The HTX8500 also supports Bluetooth, so you can stream audio from your wireless devices — phones, tablets, and laptops — when you’re not watching TV. You can also use Bluetooth to wirelessly stream audio from some Sony TVs.
If you’d like a surround sound experience but don’t have too much space, Sony’s HTX8500 is the right choice.
2. Roku Streambar Pro
BEST SOUNDBAR & STREAMING DEVICE
Roku’s Streambar Pro packages the brand’s industry-leading streaming device in a high-quality, affordable soundbar. With virtual surround sound, the compact soundbar outperforms its $150 price tag and makes an easy fix for any sub-par TV speakers.
We’ve tested the Streambar Pro extensively — with and without Roku’s wireless speakers and subwoofer — and it has thoroughly impressed us. Voices are crisp and easy to understand, music is rich, and action sequences are dynamic — all without changing the volume, as is often necessary with stock TV speakers.
The built-in streaming device is exactly what you get with a Roku streaming device, including 4K quality and access to all the major streaming services, as well as apps like YouTube. If you currently have a streaming device plugged into your TV, this combo soundbar can streamline and de-clutter your TV setup (it certainly did for us).
Another extremely satisfying feature of the Streambar Pro is its remote, which is not only intuitive and reliable but also universal: Once you plug in the soundbar and complete the initial setup, the remote can power your TV on and off, meaning you won’t need to switch between audio and streaming remotes.
Buy:Roku Streambar Proat$149.99
3. TCL Alto 6 2.0
TCL’s Alto 6 2.0 is a great entry-level choice that has many must-have features, and will sound better than the speakers that are inside your TV.
This soundbar has Dolby Digital decoding, which means it creates clear, room-filling simulated surround sound, but doesn’t come with a subwoofer. TCL says the soundbar was designed to deliver on big volume, though, and you can get the Alto 6 2.0 in a bundle with a wireless subwoofer if you’d prefer a true 2.1 system. The soundbar has built-in “sound modes” that changes its EQ (equalization) based on the content you’re listening to.
The Alto 6 2.0 has an optical audio input and 3.5mm audio input, both of which can be used to connect the soundbar to your TV. It also supports Bluetooth, so you can wirelessly stream audio to it from your mobile devices. If you’re looking for a simple stereo soundbar to improve your home theater setup, the Alto 6 2.0 has you covered.
Buy:TCL Alto 6 2.0at$69.99
4. Bose TV Speaker
Bose’s TV Speaker is a soundbar that delivers on features, but comes in a very small size.
The soundbar is only 23.4-inches long, so it’s a great choice if you’re space-constrained. Despite its size, the soundbar doesn’t have any major shortcomings. It’s a 2.0 stereo soundbar, so it doesn’t have a subwoofer, or support surround sound. Bose says the TV Speaker has a pair of full-sized drivers (the part of a speaker or headphone responsible for producing sound), which produce higher quality audio. It has two custom modes: enhanced speech, to emphasize vocal tracks, and bass boost to add more low frequencies.
This soundbar has an HDMI input, optical audio input, and 3.5mm AUX input, so you have a handful of connectivity options. It also supports Bluetooth, so you can wirelessly stream audio to it from your devices. This port selection is pretty generous compared to our other soundbar picks, which is surprising given the TV Speaker’s smaller size.
If you don’t want to have a big, bulky audio system, but want better sound while you’re watching movies and TV shows, or listening to music, Bose’s TV Speaker is a good pick up.
Buy:Bose TV Speakerat$279.00
5. Yamaha YAS-109
BEST SMART SOUNDBAR
Yamaha’s YAS-109 is a 2.1 soundbar that has Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant built into it.
The soundbar has a pair of speakers plus two subwoofers, which should provide balanced sound with a fairly significant amount of bass. The YAS-109 also supports simulated surround sound through Dolby’s DTS Virtual technology, and can natively play high resolution (better than CD-quality) audio files without compression. The soundbar has a Clear Voice mode, which boosts the volume of dialogue to make it easier to hear.
The YAS-109 has an HDMI input, one HDMI output, an ethernet jack, a subwoofer out, an optical audio input, and a USB port, so you should have no problem connecting the soundbar to your TV. It also supports Bluetooth, so you can stream music to it wirelessly from all of your mobile devices.
What really sets this subwoofer apart is that it has a microphone, and supports Amazon Alexa. Once it’s set up, you can use Alexa to adjust settings like volume, control smart-home accessories, and stream music directly from select music streaming services without touching any of your other gadgets.
If you’d like a soundbar that improves your home theater system, and expands your smart home into your living room without a separate devices, you should seriously consider the YAS-109.
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