A soundbar isn’t a gimmick. It’s an important component of not just a home theater system, but of any TV set up. As TVs get thinner and lighter, it’s nearly impossible to build in speakers with any kind of fidelity or resonance, so as we get ever closer to true “wallpaper” TVs, a reliable, high-quality audio solution is essential. That’s where soundbars come in.
In our opinion, the best soundbar you can get for under $500 is the. It’s easy to set up, a dream to use, and with outstanding audio quality that includes a slim freestanding wireless subwoofer, the Yamaha YAS-209 checks all the boxes.
But don’t think for a second that this is the only soundbar out there worth your money. We’ve curated this list with several other recommendations for you to check out, separated into the areas in which they excel, so you’ll have plenty of options to find the best soundbar under $500 for your setup.
The best soundbars at a glance
- Best soundbar under $500 overall: Yamaha YAS-209
- Best soundbar under $500 with subwoofer: LG SL4Y 2.1 Channel 300w Soundbar
- Best soundbar under $500 with Dolby Atmos: Vizio M-Series 5.1 (M51a-H6)
- Best soundbar under $500 with HDMI ARC: Bose Smart Soundbar 300
- Best designed soundbar under $500: Sonos Beam
- Smallest soundbar under $500: Roku Streambar
Best soundbar under $500 overall:
Why should you buy it? The Yamaha YAS-209 is the full package: Great sound, wide soundstage, a separate subwoofer for low-end rumble, and easy setup.
Who’s it for? Someone who wants it all; top-quality sound for the TV, plus extras like voice control and support for audio formats like DTS Virtual: X virtual 3D surround sound.
Why we picked the Yamaha YAS-209:
The Yamaha YAS-209 is everything you need in a soundbar, plus a bunch of features you didn’t know you wanted. It’s super easy to set up and even technophobes should be able to get this up and running in no time using an optical cable and wireless subwoofer connection.
With Alexa built-in you get a lot more versatility, too, since playing music is easy as asking and you can also get music and podcasts via Spotify Connect, as well as both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Alexa can also help out with classic voice commands like getting news, sports, and weather updates, she can create lists, and set timers and alarms of course, but there are also built-in controls for running the soundbar too. Ask Alexa to crank the volume up, play movies from Amazon Fire TV, and more.
The sound quality is fantastic. YAS-209 has DTS Virtual:X, which means it’s capable of 3D surround sound from just the single device. The overall audio quality is clear, and delicate sounds are easy to pick out. The bass when playing music was full and defined, and a welcomed upgrade. When watching TV, the dialogue is clear and easily cuts through, thanks in part to special settings which are designed to make your TV and movie listening as sharp as possible. Overall it gives you really panoramic sound.
What’s under the hood? This 200-watt 2.1-channel soundbar easily fills a space, and the powerful subwoofer gives you deep bass with flexible placement. Plus, six preset sound modes can adjust how your overall audio sounds, with options to highlight Movies, TV, Sports, Game Music, or Stereo.
This YAS-209 is also quite compact, running about 36-inches across (or 3 feet) and just 2.5-inches high. It can fit easily into almost any existing setup without much trouble.
Read our in-depth Yamaha YAS-209 review
Why should you buy it? If you want room-thumping bass that a soundbar alone can’t deliver, this LG model with wireless subwoofer can — and you can’t beat the price for this package.
Who’s it for? Anyone looking to get more than basic audio out of a soundbar; those who watch lots of movies and want the extra floor-shaking bass.
Why we picked LG SL4Y 2.1 Channel 300W Soundbar:
With powerful output and crisp, clear sound, this soundbar and subwoofer, you can’t beat this value. It allows you to add booming audio to your home theater with this wall-mountable 2.1-channel 300W soundbar and sub pair.
Built to deliver clean, crisp audio, this 2.1-channel 300W LG model also boasts Adaptive Sound Control which automatically adjusts settings for you. The compact but powerful wireless subwoofer is made to add oomph to the low end so you get intense bass you can feel.
With a convenient remote control, plus a Dolby Digital decoder, this soundbar and sub reproduce multi-channel audio for a cinema-style experience at home. It also doubles as a top-notch music speaker too, thanks to Bluetooth music streaming.
Why should you buy it? With increasing interest in Dolby Atmos audio formats for movies and programming, you need a soundbar that can deliver on the overhead audio feeling, and this one does.
Who’s it for? Cinephiles that are looking for a more immersive 3D audio experience, and those who are seeking out Dolby Atmos content.
Why we picked the Vizio M-Series:
The Vizio M-Series is a serious powerhouse. With compatibility for both Dolby Atmos, thanks to upward-firing speakers under the grille, and DTS:X surround sound, this soundbar delivers on balanced audio and power all at the same time.
With a 6-inch wireless subwoofer for strong bump and rumble, the Vizio M-Series also promises floor-to-ceiling virtualized 3D surround sound built into every bar, and smoother dialogue across the front soundstage thanks to a dedicated center speaker. This is one of the most immersive soundbars you can get for under $500.
The Vizio M-Series is ready for voice control and hands-free operation. Connect Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant devices via a hardwired AUX input or with Bluetooth. One last feature of this soundbar? Reviewers rave about how easy it is to get it set up — you’ll be having popcorn in front of the latest flick in no time!
Read our in-depth Vizio M-Series 5.1 soundbar review (M51a-H6)
Why should you buy it? Looking for the fidelity and clarity as well as the versatility using an ARC connection brings? This soundbar is ultra-easy to set up with a single HDMI cable.
Who’s it for? Anyone who doesn’t want to fuss with multiple cables or complicated connections, this soundbar is plug-and-play.
Why we picked the Bose Smart Soundbar 300:
Theis made to deliver on a wide soundstage, clear dialogue, and deep bass for content from movies, to music, and gaming. With built-in voice assistant support, you can connect your favorite digital butler for hands-free operation and instant smart home control–all from a soundbar that’s slim and compact.
Featuring simple, easy operation and set up, this is the kind of soundbar you can hook up for the older folks in your life, and not need to field family tech support calls. It’s also a great option for busy homes, since the Bose SimpleSync connection lets you link up with some Bose headphone models for late-night movie watching without waking the household.
This soundbar is super versatile, too, since it uses both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay 2.
Read our in-depth Bose Smart Soundbar 300 review
Why should you buy it? If you’re looking for audio equipment that doesn’t look dated, but you also want something that sounds great.
Who’s it for? Design buffs will love the smooth, swooping lines and compact size, particularly in the white colorway.
Why we picked the Sonos Beam:
Sonos makes killer speakers that sound great and look good, too. With a more rounded design and soft curves, the Sonos Beam looks a little more sculptural in your space. Particularly if you have a more modern space, adding the white version and wall mounting it, can mean it almost disappears, so the focus is on your content.
The whole Sonos system is designed to be the ultimate in multiroom audio, meaning you can add other speakers in your media room or all over the house and control them all from the Sonos app or using voice control. Since you have the option of talking to your digital butler via your Sonos Beam too, it doubles as a smart home portal as well, meaning it’s super versatile.
Sonos Beam is a bit of a more compact solution too; slightly shorter than a typical soundbar so if you’re looking to save real estate, the Beam can help. It can be either wall-mounted or placed under your flatscreen TV since it’s also quite thin.
Sound quality is paramount for Sonos, so you know this will sound good. Sonos says Beam was specifically tuned by “Oscar-winning sound engineers to emphasize the sound of the human voice so you can always follow the story”.
Indeed, Beam’s Speech Enhancement feature can be flipped on in the app to clarify dialogue when characters whisper or the action gets deafening. Four full-range woofers ensure you’ll hear the faithful playback of midrange vocal frequencies plus deep, rich bass. The Sonos Beam’s single tweeter drives crisp and clear dialogue. Three passive radiators lend warmth to the bass, while adjustable audio controls let you customize your sound. Five Class-D digital amplifiers plus five far-field microphones round out the specs.
Read our in-depth Sonos Beam review
Why should you buy it? The Roku Streambar is the smallest and most versatile soundbar package on the market today. Plus it’s got streaming built-in.
Who’s it for? Folks with no space for a full-size soundbar or home theater package.
Why we picked the Roku Streambar:
If your soundbar hunt has you looking for the absolute smallest footprint you can find, look no further than the Roku Streambar. This versatile little TV speaker is both a Roku streaming device and a super-compact soundbar all in one small package. Though it’s compact, it still packs a surprising audio punch and wide soundstage. The bass is surprisingly strong for a soundbar of this size and it’s quite well balanced.
The Roku Streambar is super easy to set up, and it comes with the Roku remote which is quite handy and will link up so you can control your TV with it too. Play music to it via Bluetooth, plus this soundbar gives you the option of adding a Roku Wireless Subwoofer and immersive surround sound if you want to.
The speakers consist of four 1.9-inch full-range drivers, and they can handle audio formats including Dolby Audio. There are several sound modes including one that clarifies speech, and another to crank the bass. Voice leveling rounds out the specs here.
If you want to learn a bit more about Roku devices, read our article, What is Roku? The streaming platform fully explained.
Research and buying tips
- What does a soundbar do?
- Are budget soundbars any good?
- What should you look for in a budget soundbar?
- Do you need a subwoofer with a soundbar?
- Are there any wireless budget soundbars?
- Where should you place a soundbar?
- Do budget soundbars support virtual assistants?
- Are budget soundbars worth it?
A soundbar helps boost audio quality from a TV. Because many TVs are so thin and light, there’s no room for a quality built-in sound system, so that needs to get handled separately. A good quality soundbar will project audio farther and wider, and make it louder, give more depth to the sound and give you a better overall sound experience.
The short answer? Yes, they can be. It’s important to check out reviews of soundbars to make sure the actual user experience is up to par, but in some cases, there are lots of great options at a much lower price point.
You want to ensure a budget soundbar, like a more expensive option, sounds good, has good bass, and good volume projection. After all, if the soundbar barely has enough power to project beyond what your flatscreen TV can already do, there’s not much value in that. Other things to look for include a physical remote control (handy but often not necessary), voice control via Google or Alexa as well as multiple connectivity options so you know it will hook up properly to your TV.
That depends. If you have a very powerful soundbar that’s been finely tuned, then you may not also need a subwoofer. If you’re not the type of person that has to have floor-shaking bass, then a subwoofer may be lost on you. For some cinephiles and bass lovers, they want to squeeze out every drop from the low end and a dedicated subwoofer is often the only way to do that. If the TV you’re connecting to isn’t a primary screen that’s used all the time for movie watching, you may also be fine to skip the sub.
The market for home theater audio has come a long way even in the last few years. It’s now absolutely possible to find wireless soundbars with a budget price tag.
Soundbars are most commonly placed immediately below the TV. Depending on your setup and configuration, you can mount it to the wall, or place it on furniture underneath your screen. Placement immediately below the TV screen is optimal for the best soundscape. Placing a soundbar too high, such as above the TV, and you run the risk of sound simply bleeding off into the room. You want the audio coming straight towards you, so it’s also a good idea to double-check your overall room arrangement, and make sure your TV is centered in front of the main seating area, and at the optimal height for viewing.
Some budget soundbars do indeed support virtual assistant features. It’s getting cheaper and easier for manufacturers to integrate digital voice assistant smarts into a soundbar, and white honestly most of us expect that feature in any speaker nowadays too.
As with any major purchase you get what you pay for. If your budget is limited, a budget soundbar can still fill a need until you’re able to afford something bigger, better, and potentially more powerful. And these days, let’s be honest, with new technology coming out sometimes as often as once a year, it’s hard to predict what kinds of technological advancements there may be by the time you’re ready and have the funds to upgrade. A budget soundbar can last for many years, meaning if you choose to hang onto it or move it to another TV if you do want to upgrade, you should still be able to get plenty of use from it.
If you’re trying to save a few bucks just for the hell of it, you may end up disappointed in the long run. In short, it’s always best to do your research, check consumer reviews, and buy the best device you can afford.
If you’re still in need of guidance after perusing all the above topics, check out our expert guide to picking the right soundbar.
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