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Best budget soundbar 2024: The top cheap soundbars to buy

Our pick of the best budget soundbars will help improve your home audio without breaking the bank

If you’re searching for a cheap way of improving your television’s audio, our advice is simple: buy the best budget soundbar you can afford.

Soundbars can elevate the quality of your telly’s sound significantly and, best of all, you can pick one up for a fraction of the cost of your fancy 4K TV.

We’ve tested numerous soundbars across a wide range of price points, and this article lists what we consider to be the best of them available for under £300.

The best budget soundbars may lack some of the bells and whistles offered by pricier models, but all of the options on this list have one thing in common: solid sound quality at an affordable price.

If you don’t know your 2.0 from your 2.1, or simply want to learn more about the features you can expect to find in a budget soundbar, we’ve put together a handy buying guide detailing everything you need to know before making a purchase.

READ NEXT: The best soundbars money can buy

Best budget soundbar: At a glance

Best budget soundbar under £100Creative Stage V2 | £80Check price at Amazon
Best compact soundbarSonos Ray | £249Check price at Amazon
Best cheap Atmos soundbarCreative Stage 360 | £200Check price at Amazon
Best budget soundbar and subwoofer for gamingRazer Leviathan V2 | £230Check price at Amazon

How to choose the best budget soundbar for you

There are a number of things to consider when shopping around for the best budget soundbar. Top of your priority list should be sound quality. If a soundbar doesn’t significantly improve your TV’s audio, there’s no point in spending your hard-earned cash on it.

Audio quality is affected by a number of factors, including the size and type of speaker drivers used, the audio formats supported and the number of audio channels a soundbar incorporates.

How many channels should a budget soundbar have?

The number of channels present in a soundbar is represented by two digits separated by a full stop. The first digit reflects the number of primary channels, while the second indicates the presence of a subwoofer to handle low-end frequencies. So, a 2.0 soundbar possesses two audio channels – left and right – while 2.1 bars add a third via a subwoofer.

Subwoofers are sometimes built into soundbars, but many come as separate units included in the price. Both types have advantages: soundbars with built-in subwoofers are more space-efficient, while standalone subs generally deliver fuller, more impactful bass.

Rarer at under £300 are soundbars with three or even five primary audio channels. A 3.0 or 3.1 soundbar features a central channel in addition to left and right ones and is generally better at delivering dialogue compared with its 2.0 and 2.1 counterparts. Meanwhile, 5.0 and 5.1 devices add a further two channels to create a surround-sound effect and really ramp up the immersion.

Those additional channels are most commonly incorporated via rear speakers connected to the soundbar wirelessly or with cables. You do sometimes find “all-in-one” 5.0 and 5.1 soundbars where everything is housed within a single bar, but you can expect to pay more than £300 for one of those.

READ NEXT: Save big with this month’s best soundbar deals

How important is power output for a budget soundbar?

Most manufacturers state the peak and average (Root Mean Squared or RMS) output of their soundbars in watts (W). Larger soundbars with more speaker drivers are capable of outputting bigger sound than their compact competitors but don’t worry too much about finding a bar with massive audio output.

The least powerful bar on this list, the Roku Streambar, is able to fill a reasonably sized room with sound.

What’s the best way to connect a soundbar?

Even budget soundbars offer a range of connectivity options and, generally speaking, the more ports present, the better.

The easiest way to hook up a soundbar to your TV is by using an HDMI cable. Ideally, both your TV and soundbar will have HDMI ARC (audio return channel) ports and, assuming they do, you simply connect the two to enable your bar to play audio from your TV and any devices connected to it. Some soundbars feature additional HDMI inputs, which are useful for connecting external devices such as games consoles or a Sky TV box if all of the ports on your TV are already in use.

Aside from HDMI sockets, most budget soundbars also give you the choice of connecting via an optical digital cable (also referred to as TOSlink or S/PDIF). This is generally the simplest method of connecting a soundbar to a TV that doesn’t support ARC. Analogue 3.5mm inputs are less common than they once were, but you’ll still find plenty of soundbars incorporating them.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are becoming increasingly popular inclusions in soundbars and not just the pricey ones. Wi-Fi-enabled bars such as the Polk React allow for the use of voice assistants – in the React’s case, Amazon Alexa – and can be incorporated into multiroom wireless speaker systems. Bluetooth is great for playing music and podcasts directly from your phone, laptop or tablet if you’re in the mood for a casual listening session.

READ NEXT: Our favourite TVs to pair with your soundbar

Other things to consider before buying a budget soundbar

Think about what size soundbar suits your television setup best. You’ll want to make sure it fits in your AV cabinet and slots neatly in front of or under your TV without obstructing your view or getting in the way of any infrared sensor your telly may have.

If you plan on wall-mounting your soundbar, ensure that your chosen device supports mounting and comes with the necessary accessories to facilitate this. Many do, but it’s worth checking.

EQ options and different audio modes are also worth keeping an eye out for. A lot of soundbars will let you tweak the bass and treble, while others offer audio presets tuned for watching specific types of content such as music, films or sports. If you watch a lot of TV in the evening and don’t want to disturb the neighbours, a Night mode designed for low-volume viewing is particularly handy.

More advanced soundbars offer support for surround-sound audio formats such as Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. These multidimensional, object-based codecs are capable of adding height effects to a soundbar’s soundstage for a more immersive audio experience, but you’ll typically require additional speakers to make full use of them.

You may also come across DTS Virtual:X, which seeks to recreate a surround-sound experience without the need for those additional speakers, making it a great inclusion in budget soundbars.

How we test the best budget soundbars

When testing a soundbar, the first thing we focus on is the process of setting it up. Typically, that will mean placing it in front of a TV (or monitor), connecting it to a power source and the input source via included cabling or HDMI cables if not provided in the box.

We’ll go through all of its different connectivity options – Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI, stereo, optical etc. – and then proceed with assessing its sound quality across each supported method, across whatever channel configurations are possible, using a range of audio sources.

During this process, we’ll also dive into a soundbar’s settings and controls, including EQ presets where available, to thoroughly explore its complete feature set and ease of use. We’ll also check out the usability of the remote control or any other accessories supplied. Sound quality per pound of spend is king when dealing with a budget soundbar though, and that is our most important assessment.

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The best budget soundbars to buy in 2024

1. Creative Stage V2: Best budget soundbar with a subwoofer

Price when reviewed: £80 | Check price at Amazon

The Creative Stage V2 delivers everything you could want from a budget soundbar. The bar is sleek and compact, making it a great fit for most medium-sized TVs, while the discrete subwoofer adds welcome weight and richness to bass reproduction.

Audio quality is impressive and the two new sound modes – Surround and Dialog – are welcome additions to the package. Surround mode can’t match a true 5.1 setup – you wouldn’t expect it to at this kind of price – but widens the soundstage for an engaging, immersive experience. Dialog mode successfully enhances voices, which is particularly useful if you struggle to follow speech-heavy shows or films.

The Stage V2 is also one of the best-connected cheap soundbars around, offering optical, HDMI ARC, AUX and USB-C connections along with wireless streaming over Bluetooth 5.0. If you’re after a cheap soundbar with a discrete subwoofer, this is the bar to buy.

Read our full Creative Stage V2 review for details

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 160W; Dimensions (WDH): Soundbar – 680 x 100 x 78mm, subwoofer – 116 x 250 x 423mm; Weight: Soundbar – 2kg, subwoofer – 3.3kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical, 1 x 3.5mm, 1 x USB-C

2. Denon DHT-S216: Best budget soundbar for virtual surround sound

Price when reviewed: £199 | Check price at Currys

The Denon DHT-S216’s big selling point is its incorporation of DTS Virtual:X, an audio format that creates a sonic experience resembling surround sound without the need for additional speakers. It’s available while using two of the soundbar’s four sound modes – Movies and Music – and works extremely well, adding height and scale to audio to increase your immersion in the onscreen action.

The other two sound modes are less impressive, but useful nonetheless. The processing-free Pure setting delivers audio as intended by its creator, while Night mode decreases the dynamic range to improve low-volume listening. There are also three dialogue enhancement options available, all of which successfully accentuate speech.

Read our full Denon DHT-S216 review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 120W; Dimensions (WDH): 890 x 120 x 66mm; Weight: 3.4kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI, HDMI (ARC), optical, 3.5mm, subwoofer out

3. Sonos Ray: Best compact budget soundbar

Price when reviewed: £249 | Check price at Amazon

Sonos is one of the leading manufacturers of soundbars and the Ray is its most affordable option yet. It’s also the smallest, weighing under 2kg and measuring just 60cm across. That diminutive stature means the Ray can be incorporated into just about any TV setup, and the sound it delivers is guaranteed to be a marked step up from your telly’s in-built audio.

Audio quality is nothing short of phenomenal given the soundbar’s size: mids are fleshed out, treble is crisp and clear and the soundstage is broader than you’d expect thanks to the incorporation of two wave-guides in front of the forward-firing tweeters. Connection options are limited – there’s no HDMI port or Bluetooth connectivity – and the lack of a remote means you’ll be using the Sonos app or your TV’s infrared remote to control the bar. But those limitations don’t detract from what is the best-sounding compact soundbar available today. If you want high-quality sound and have limited space, this is the bar for you.

Read our full Sonos Ray review for details

Key specs – Channels: 2.0; Total power output: Not disclosed; Dimensions (WDH): 559 x 95 x 71mm; Weight: 2kg; Connectivity: 1 x optical, Wi-Fi

4. Sharp HTB-SB110: Best standalone budget soundbar

Price when reviewed: £75 | Check price at Amazon

If you’re on a tight budget and don’t have the room to accommodate a subwoofer, this is the soundbar for you. It won’t win any awards for sound quality, but at this kind of price you wouldn’t expect it to. However, it does offer a decent range of connection options – Bluetooth, HDMI and optical are all supported (though no connection cables are included) – along with three sound modes designed for different content types.

Of the three EQ modes, Movie mode proved our go-to for pretty much everything as it delivered the best-balanced audio and widest soundstage and articulated mid-range frequencies most cleanly. By contrast, the News mode sounded overly congested and did little to enhance dialogue, while the bass reproduction of the Music mode was a little woolly.

With a maximum output of 90W, the HTB-SB110 packs a decent punch for a soundbar of its price and size, and we never found it wanting for room-filling prowess as we cranked the volume up. That power combined with a slim, lightweight design and affordable price tag helps position it as one of the top cheap bars on the market today.

Key specs – Channels: 2.0; Total power output: 90W; Dimensions (WDH): 800 x 62 x 62mm; Weight: 1.35kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical

5. Creative Stage 360: Best budget 2.1 soundbar with Dolby Atmos

Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at Amazon

The Creative Stage 360 may look like a very similar package to its cheaper stablemate the V2 and it is, save for one key upgrade: support for Dolby Atmos. Despite the inherent limitations attached to being a 2.1-channel system, the soundbar and subwoofer articulate Atmos soundtracks effectively. Height effects are a little vague but there’s great width to the sound produced and the Stage 360 is an immersive listen.

The bar itself is also more compact than the V2 and you get a couple of HDMI inputs instead of an AUX-in and USB-C port, which will probably prove more useful for most people. The 360 also offers a range of sound modes tailored for different types of content and there’s even an option that optimises audio performance based on whether you’re sat within 1m of the bar while using it connected to your PC or further away with it hooked up to your TV.

Atmos content is steadily becoming more widespread, making this budget bar a great choice if you want to take advantage of the latest and greatest surround sound audio format.

Read our full Creative Stage 360 review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 120W; Dimensions (WDH): Soundbar – 566 x 88 x 75mm, subwoofer – 115 x 250 x 422mm; Weight: Soundbar – 1.7kg, subwoofer – 3.4kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI (ARC), 2 x HDMI input, 1 x optical

6. Polk React: Best budget soundbar with Amazon Alexa

Price when reviewed: £249 | Check price at Polk

Smart soundbars are becoming increasingly popular, and the Polk React is the best budget option we’ve tested. It features full Amazon Alexa integration, providing access to a host of useful functions. Basic voice controls such as adjusting volume and switching sound modes are the React’s bread and butter, but there’s also support for more advanced features such as Alexa Communications and Multi-Room Music. Alexa is responsive, if a little loud at times, and only failed to pick up our commands when playing audio at full volume.

Sound quality is another strong point, with the React offering three modes in addition to a Night setting intended for evening viewing sessions. Movie mode is the bassiest and most immersive, Music mode shines when delivering mids and vocals, while Sports mode pushes bass right back in the audio mix to enable you to hear commentary perfectly.

Read our full Polk React review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 2.0; Total power output: 100W; Dimensions (WDH): 940 x 120 x 50mm; Weight: 2.9kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical

7. Creative Sound Blaster Katana SE: Best budget single-unit soundbar for gaming

Price when reviewed: £300 | Check price at Creative

Best budget soundbar - Creative Sound Blaster Katana SE

Compact, colourful and capable of crisp, well-balanced audio, the Katana SE is our favourite gaming soundbar if space is at a premium. It’s small enough to slip under most monitors and doesn’t come with a separate subwoofer so you don’t have to tuck a chunky unit away under your desk. It’s also very well connected, with optical, HDMI and USB-C inputs allowing you to hook it up to your PC, laptop or TV with minimal fuss.

Sound quality is impressive too, with virtual surround sound reasonably effective given the limitations of a 2.0-channel setup and plenty of ways to customise your audio experience. That customisation extends to the Katana SE’s LED lighting too, which won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but is an essential inclusion for some gamers.

Read our Creative Sound Blaster Katana SE review for more details 

Key specs – Channels: 2.0; Total power output: 90W RMS, 180W peak; Dimensions (WDH): 650 x 109 x 78mm; Weight: Soundbar – 2.67kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical, 1 x 3.5mm, 1 x USB-C input, SXFI-out

8. Roku Streambar: A budget soundbar with 4K streaming capabilities

Price when reviewed: £80 | Check price at Amazon

The Roku Streambar is unlike any of the other options on this list in that it’s both a 4K HDR media streamer and soundbar in one package.

The bar grants you access to Roku OS, which is packed full of content and among the most intuitive streaming platforms around. There are thousands of apps and services available, including all the big hitters such as Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video, along with every free UK catch-up app you could wish for.

Although it’s a 2.0 bar, Roku says it performs like one with a central channel thanks to “multi-channel decoding capabilities”. We were certainly impressed by how it sounds. For its size, the Streambar gets very loud and is able to deliver a wide soundstage that’s full-bodied and rich in detail. And if the default sound profile isn’t to your liking, the Roku OS offers a few different presets to play around with.

It may seem like a rather niche product, but for those who don’t already own a soundbar or media streamer, the Roku Streambar comes with a glowing recommendation.

Read our full Roku Streambar review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 2.0; Total power output: 64W; Dimensions (WDH): 356 x 107 x 61mm; Weight: 1.09kg; Connectivity: 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical, USB-A

9. Panasonic HTB-490: Best budget soundbar for bass

Price when reviewed: £250 | Check price at Amazon

While we weren’t blown away by the HTB490’s overall sonic performance, its wireless subwoofer delivers the best bass response of any cheap soundbar we’ve tested. Low-end frequencies are handled with precision and there’s plenty of power too, with the sub putting out 160W in addition to the 80W amplification for each of the soundbar’s full-range drivers. Cinematic action sequences benefit tremendously from the subwoofer’s impressive impact and this is particularly evident at higher volumes, at which the HTB490 is very capable of filling a medium-sized room.

The Panasonic HTB490’s other big strengths are how easy it is to set up – the soundbar connects to the wireless sub automatically when both are plugged into the mains – and how slender it is. With a height of just 56mm, it can be slipped under most TVs and look relatively discreet while there. The Creative Stage 360 remains our pick of the cheap 2.1 soundbar and subwoofer combos on the market but if it’s a truly weighty bass response you’re after, the HTB490 is the superior option.

Read our full Panasonic HTB490 review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 320W; Dimensions (WDH): Soundbar – 800 x 101 x 56mm, subwoofer – 171 x 363 x 382mm; Weight: Soundbar – 1.9kg, subwoofer 5.7kg; Connectivity: 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical, USB-A, Bluetooth 4.2

10. Yamaha SR-C30A: Best budget compact soundbar with a subwoofer

Price when reviewed: £249 | Check price at Richer Sounds via eBay

If space underneath your TV is at a premium but you’ve got room to accommodate a reasonably large subwoofer for added low-end impact, this is the budget soundbar for you.

The bar is small but perfectly formed and a big step up from your TV’s audio output when it comes to detail, mid-range positivity and crisp articulation of higher frequencies. The accompanying subwoofer, which can be positioned vertically or horizontally, delivers a hearty low-end punch while remaining controlled and rhythmically astute. Dialogue is particularly well-handled, with voices proving characterful and nuanced even during the most hectic on-screen action. Connectivity is decent too, with Bluetooth support in addition to a pleasing number of physical options, including HDMI (ARC).

You won’t get quite the same sonic scale from the SR-C30A as you would with one of the larger, more potent bars on this list, so it’s not the best choice if you’ve got a big living room or massive TV. But those with modestly sized sets and cosy viewing spaces will struggle to find as compact and capable a soundbar for under £300.

Read our full Yamaha SR-C30A review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 90W; Dimensions (WDH): Soundbar – 600 x 94 x 64mm, subwoofer – 160 x 364 x 335mm; Weight: Soundbar – 1.3kg, subwoofer 5.7kg; Connectivity: 1 x HDMI (ARC), 2 x optical, 3.5mm analogue input, Bluetooth 5.0

11. Groov-e Soundbar 75: Best budget soundbar under £50

Price when reviewed: £49 | Check price at Amazon

There’s a limit to what a soundbar costing less than £50 can do, but the Groov-e Soundbar 75 certainly improves on the sound quality of small TVs with weedy in-built audio systems.

It’s got a maximum power output of 75W which is more than loud enough to fill reasonably sized rooms and offers three EQ modes: Music, Movie and Voice. Movie is the best balanced for most content, but if you don’t find it to your taste, you can boost bass and treble as you see fit using the included remote.

Unlike most of the options on this list, the Groov-e Soundbar 75 doesn’t have an HDMI port, so you’ll be hooking it up to your TV using the optical cable that comes in the box. Bluetooth is supported too, allowing you to stream audio to the bar from your phone, while RCA, USB-A, and 3.5mm ports provide further connectivity options.

There are better picks for audio quality and features on this page, but as far as sub-£50 soundbars go, you won’t find better than the Groov-e 75.

Key specs – Channels: 2.0; Total power output: 75W; Dimensions (WDH): 500 x 65 x 103mm; Weight: 1.68kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x optical, 1 x RCA, 1 x Aux (3.5mm), 1 x USB-A

12. Sharp HT-SBW460: Best 3.1 soundbar with Dolby Atmos

Price when reviewed: £269 | Check price at Amazon

The Sharp HT-SBW460 is one of a limited number of budget soundbars to support Dolby’s surround-sound technology, Atmos, and it delivers surprisingly effective virtual height effects given its price. The bar uses four front-firing drivers to successfully convince your brain that certain sounds are coming from above you, and also does a great job of positioning effects to the left and right of the soundstage.

However, the soundbar does have one big weakness. The subwoofer that comes as part of the package is so boomy that its bass response overshadows what is otherwise a musical and detailed audio profile. Our reviewer resorted to plugging the bass reflex port with cleaning cloths to tone things down and once he’d done so, said the HT-SBW460 was one of the best-sounding bars he’d ever heard for the money.

So, if you don’t mind a bit of audio DIY, the Sharp HT-SBW460 is an attractive choice, but if you’d rather not tinker, you’re better off losing the extra audio channel and buying the Creative Stage 360 instead.

Read our Sharp HT-SBW460 review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 3.1; Total power output: 440W; Dimensions (WDH): Soundbar – 950 x 110 x 70mm, subwoofer – 240 x 240 x 415mm (WDH); Weight: Soundbar – 2.5kg, subwoofer – 5.4kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 2 x HDMI inputs, 1 x HDMI output (ARC), 1 x optical and coax S/PDIF, AUX-in, USB

13. Razer Leviathan V2: Best budget soundbar and subwoofer for gaming

Price when reviewed: £230 | Check price at Amazon

The Razer Leviathan V2 is the best way to level up your gaming audio on a budget and provides a tasteful splash of colour to your gaming setup, too. Support for THX Spatial Audio when connected via USB-C helps enhances your immersion when playing compatible games, while RGB lighting on the underside of the bar is pleasingly understated and highly customisable. In fact, just about every aspect of the V2 can be tweaked using either the Razer Synapse desktop software or the Razer Audio and Chroma RGB mobile apps.

USB-C is your only physical method of connection, which is a little disappointing, but there is Bluetooth connectivity and both the soundbar and accompanying subwoofer are compact so leave a reasonably small footprint in your games room or office. Should you be willing to sacrifice some audio oomph, the Razer Leviathan V2 X is even smaller and ditches the sub to hit a price point of just £100. But we recommend getting the V2 soundbar/subwoofer duo if you can; they sing best as a pair.

Read our full Razer Leviathan V2 review for more details

Key specs – Channels: 2.1 stereo; Total power output: 65W; Dimensions (WDH): Soundbar – 500 x 91 x 84mm, subwoofer – 220 x 220 x 242mm; Weight: Soundbar – 1.4kg, subwoofer – 3kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2, USB-C

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