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Best budget soundbar 2022: The best cheap soundbars to buy

Andy White
20 Apr 2022

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

If you’re in search of 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.

Save £20 on the Creative Stage V2

The Creative Stage V2 is our favourite budget soundbar and subwoofer combo, offering pretty much unbeatable value for money. It does a great job of boosting your TV's audio and offers up some extra punch courtesy of the subwoofer. Ordinarily retailing for £100, it's currently £80.
Was £100
Now £80

Best budget soundbar: At a glance

READ NEXT: The best soundbars money can buy

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.

READ NEXT: The best Bluetooth speakers

The best budget soundbars to buy in 2022

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

Price: £90 | Buy now from 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.

If you can live without USB-C connectivity and aren’t bothered about the additional sound modes, the original Stage 2.1 is an even cheaper option at just £70.

Read our full Creative Stage V2 review for details

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 160W; Dimensions: 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

Buy now from Amazon

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

Price: £199 | Buy now from 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: 890 x 120 x 66mm (WDH); Weight: 3.4kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI, HDMI (ARC), optical, 3.5mm, subwoofer out

Buy now from Argos

3. Sharp HTB-SB110: Best standalone budget soundbar

Price: £70 | Buy now from 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: 800 x 62 x 62mm (WDH); Weight: 1.35kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical

Buy now from Amazon

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

Price: £200 | Buy now from Creative

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: 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

Buy now from Amazon

5. Panasonic SoundSlayer: Best budget soundbar for gaming

Price: £250 | Buy now from Amazon

This soundbar from Panasonic was created in conjunction with the sound team behind Final Fantasy XIV Online and is aimed squarely at gamers. Its compact form means it can be easily slotted under a TV or PC monitor, and there’s support for 4K passthrough and both the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround-sound audio formats.

Sound quality is excellent, with three audio modes to choose from. RPG mode is optimised for surround-sound gaming, FPS mode focuses on delivering accurate positional sound to give you the edge when playing competitively, while Voice mode enhances speech, making it perfect for dialogue-heavy titles.

The built-in subwoofer isn’t able to produce the same level of low-end weight a discrete sub would, but not having to find space for another hefty piece of kit in your gaming setup is certainly appreciated.

Key specs – Channels: 2.1; Total power output: 80W; Dimensions: 431 x 132 x 52mm (WDH); Weight: 1.8kg; Connectivity: Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI input, 1 x HDMI output, optical

Buy now from Amazon

6. Polk React: Best budget soundbar with Amazon Alexa

Price: £228 | Buy now from Amazon

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: 940 x 120 x 50mm (WDH); Weight: 2.9kg; Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical

Buy now from Amazon

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

Price: £130 | Buy now from 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 that 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: 356 x 107 x 61mm (WDH); Weight: 1.09kg; Connectivity: 1 x HDMI (ARC), 1 x optical, USB-A

Buy now from Amazon

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

Price: £249 | Buy now from 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: Soundbar - 800 x 101 x 56mm (WDH), 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

Buy now from Amazon

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

Price: £239 | Buy now from 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: Soundbar – 950 x 110 x 70mm (WDH), sub – 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

Buy now from Amazon

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