Best soundbars under $100 of 2022

Best soundbars under $100 of 2022 thumbnail

If you’re skeptical about upgrading your TV’s audio, but don’t want to spend a lot of money, budget soundbars are a great option. Although a cheap soundbar won’t allow you to experience Dolby surround sound at theater quality, you will hear crisper dialogue and more detailed music thanks to these specially designed speakers. A soundbar that is small and affordable is a great choice for starting to experiment with home audio. They are easy to set up, use, and expand if you need to. And if you’re new to soundbar shopping, we’re here to help you pick one of the best soundbars under $100 suited to your needs and your living space.

How we selected the best soundbars under $100

In order to select the best soundbars under $100, we paid particular attention to audio specs, including Dolby Digital support and number of audio channels. To ensure that each model is compatible with most TVs, we also looked at connectivity, expandability and overall design. We also looked at the available special features and prioritized the most important like Bluetooth and WiFi compatibility. We looked at brands that are known for producing high-quality soundbars, such as Vizio. We also consulted our peers and first-hand user impressions to find the best budget-friendly soundbars.

Things to consider before buying one of the best soundbars under $100

What to expect

A soundbar that is affordable can help you get more out of your home’s television and film audio. Since the late ’90s/early 2000s, flatscreen TVs have been taking over the town and, while the overall viewing experience has vastly improved, the slim design of newer televisions means less room for suitably sized built-in speakers. Soundbars were designed to solve this problem. They are a compact, sleek speaker system that doesn’t distract from the flatscreen’s minimalist aesthetic.

While you don’t have to spend thousands on a soundbar, spending a few hundred dollars could make a big difference in terms of better fidelity, wider coverage, and multichannel options. However, if you want to stick with your budget want a soundbar now, focus on finding one of the best soundbars under $100 from a reputable brand, so you don’t spend more on replacements or repairs down the line.

Connectivity

Soundbars can bypass your TV’s built in speakers and provide better audio quality and greater coverage. To set up a soundbar and reap the benefits of it, you need to know the connectivity ports on your TV and the model you are looking at. Most soundbars use an HDMI port (and HDMI cables) to connect; however, if your TV was made over a decade ago, you might need to grab a soundbar with an optical audio port instead–luckily, most soundbars provide both.

Connectivity options for your TV will vary beyond standard HDMI and optical audio ports. Some models have additional HDMI output ports that allow you to connect Blu-ray players and gaming consoles to your TV. Some models will allow wireless connections via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, so you can connect other smart devices to stream music, podcasts or audiobooks.

Most units available for under $100 won’t be able to support more advanced connections like HDMI eARC, which is recommended for Dolby Atmos soundbars and necessary for processing Atmos audio encoded with uncompressed Dolby TrueHD audio. If you want to experience immersive Dolby Atmos surround audio, you will need to spend more. Some will allow you to connect a voice assistant such as Google Assistant or Alexa, so you can use voice control.

Dolby Digital and beyond

Most soundbars claim they support Dolby sound. However, this doesn’t mean that they support Dolby Atmos surround sound and other advanced spatial audio technologies. To do that, you will need a more robust model that has either physical upfiring drivers or the processing speed to virtualize such configurations. A more reliable and affordable soundbar will still support Dolby Digital, an audio codec that produces high quality sound across a 5.1-channel system. Dolby Digital does not require a 5.1 system. A 2.1-channel system is capable of processing the audio and formatting it to match the soundbar’s channel configuration.

DTSX is a multi-dimensional audio codec that can be considered Dolby atmos’ competitor. Most soundbars under $200 do not support DTS:X but might employ DTS Virtual:X, which attempts to mimic multispeaker surround sound using digital signal processing, simulating directionality and creating a larger, more detailed soundstage impacting music, dialogue, and SFX alike.

Expandable systems/audio channels

A single soundbar doesn’t mean one speaker. Even the simplest soundbars use multiple drivers to produce sound. Standard models have stereo sound, which is an independent left channel and right channel. This is also known as a 2.0-channel system. Some models use 2.1 channels, while others use a subwoofer externally to provide lower bass frequencies. These subs can be either built into the main soundbar, or as a separate unit. This is where an inexpensive model will limit its channels. However, other systems can include up to 7.2 channels. A 3.1 system will include a left, right and center channel along with an additional sub. A 5.1 system will have a main soundbar that contains the left, right, center, and sub channels. There will also be one subwoofer and two additional speakers that act in surrounds, rears, fills, or front fills to create a more immersive experience.

If you are interested in a larger system but aren’t ready to commit, you can choose a soundbar you can add to. Some soundbars are standalone units and cannot be used with additional speakers. However, some (such as the Roku ) can support satellite speakers as well as a subwoofer made by the same company. No matter how big or small you want your system, or your investment, we have options in our picks for the best soundbars under $100.

The best soundbars under $100: Reviews & Recommendations

Best overall: Roku Streambar

Why it made it: The Roku Streambar can be used to launch your soundbar system. It has a streamer built in and you have the option to add a satellite speaker or subwoofer later.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 14 x 2.4 x 4.2 inches
  • Channels: 2.0
  • Connectivity: HDMI ARC, Bluetooth, Optical, Wi-Fi, AirPlay

Pros

  • AirPlay and Wi-Fi compatible
  • Integrated Roku player
  • Expandable

Cons

  • Bass is lacking
  • Volume is a bit limited

The Roku Streambar looks like a small, burrito-sized Bluetooth speaker. It is great for streaming audiobooks and watching TV shows. While it lacks the booming bass a 2.1-channel system provides, this soundbar can get quite loud despite its small stature, delivering a tested frequency response of 93Hz-17kHz from four 1.9-inch full-range drivers. And if you find you have the space and budget to expand, you can upgrade the Streambar by seamlessly integrating Roku’s Wireless Subwoofer and/or Wireless Speakers to make a true 3.1 or even 5.1 system with just a few minutes of automated setup.

Connectivity options include HDMI ARC, optical, USB, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi, and Apple AirPlay. And if you don’t have a smart TV or another streaming device, you get the added bonus of the Streambar’s built-in Roku streaming services and apps including Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, Youtube, Amazon Prime, and more (making it one of our favorite streaming devices).

EQ presets are Normal, Bass Reduction and Bass Off. You can also access Volume Mode settings such as Leveling or Night Mode to manage loud commercials and keep the evenings quiet. Speech Clarity can be used to isolate voices. You can choose from Off or Low settings, depending on your preferences and tastes.

Best TV soundbar: Polk Audio Signa Solo

Why it was selected: The Signa Solo soundbar prioritizes audio quality and offers a few EQ presets.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 3. 91 x 39 x 3. 59 inches
  • Channels: 2.0
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Optical, Aux

Pros

  • Wall-mountable
  • Music Mode
  • SDA digital surround sound

Cons

  • No HDMI port

The Signa Solo model is the most affordable offered by Polk Audio soundbar/speaker manufacturer. It has four 2.5-inch full range drivers with bass ports to boost low end. It is housed in a low-profile enclosure that can be sat underneath the TV and enhance what’s on it. This soundbar does not have an HDMI port, so it cannot accurately produce Dolby Atmos audio. However, it can connect easily via optical and has Polk’s SDA digital surround technology. This helps create a more immersive soundstage.

The remote can adjust volume, control bass, and select VoiceAdjust settings. It also allows you to raise dialogue above background noise and background noise for better clarity. The Signa Solo can be set to Movie or Music EQ mode, making it an excellent choice for anyone looking for a soundbar with Bluetooth speakers. If you’re interested in the Signa Solo but don’t want to take any chances when it comes to bass support, Polk also offers an affordable 2.1-channel system.

Best soundbar and subwoofer: TCL Alto 6 TS6110

Why it made the cut: The TCL Alto 6 is one of the only models that retail for around $100 and includes a standalone subwoofer.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 31.5 x 2.4 x 4.2 inches
  • Channels: 2.1
  • Connectivity: HDMI, Optical, Bluetooth, USB, Aux

Pros

  • Included Subwoofer
  • Bluetooth Connectivity
  • Roku TV-ready

Cons

  • EQ options are limited
  • Cannot adjust bass

The Alto 6 subwoofer and soundbar with 2.1 channels is affordable and easy to set up and use. It offers multiple connectivity options including Bluetooth for wireless streaming, and Aux inputs to connect to older devices. EQ presets are Movie, Music, TV mode, and Enhance Dialog. The 6 can also decode Dolby digital audio, downmixing 5.1 surround sound into 2.1 stereo sound.

The included subwoofer does have a power cable but connects to the main bar wirelessly, so you don’t need to worry about TV proximity to get room-filling sound (though there are still things to consider when it comes to optimal subwoofer placement). If you have a Roku TV, the Alto 6 can be used with your TCL Roku remote.

Best small soundbar: Vizio SB2020n-J6

Why it made it: This soundbar from Vizio makes it easy to enhance your TV’s audio.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 2.2 x 20 x 4.4 inches
  • Channels: 2.0
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Optical, Aux, USB

Pros

  • DTS Virtual:X support
  • Voice Assistant compatibility
  • Price

Cons

  • Can distort at loud volumes
  • Does not support Dolby Digital

Vizio is one of our highly recommended brands when it comes to affordable soundbars and its most inexpensive option, the S6, is no different. This model is simple and straightforward and offers Bluetooth connectivity, Night Mode to balance audio during quiet times, and Bass/Treble adjustment. There are four EQ presets available, including Movie, Dialogue and Game modes. It does not support Dolby digital audio but can use DTS Virtual:X to add surround elements and virtual height to encoded content.

At just 20-inches long, this sleek soundbar will fit neatly under most televisions and is easy to connect or adjust. Yet it manages to pump 91 dB–impressive for such a small footprint. This compact unit is great for guest rooms, secondary TV sets, and first-time soundbar users. It is portable and can be taken with you wherever you go.

Best budget: Bestisan 60W Bluetooth Soundbar

Why it made the cut: The Bestisan soundbar is the only model on this list that retails for under $65, a budget-friendly steal that will still sound better than your TV’s built-in speakers.

Specs

  • Dimensions: 3.2 x 24 x 3.7 inches
  • Channels: 2.0
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Optical, Aux, USB, Coaxial

Pros

  • Enhanced Bass
  • Treble adjustments
  • Price

Cons

  • Sound quality is a bit lacking

The Bestisan soundbar delivers reliable sound at a fraction of what you would pay for other models. Although it won’t blow your roof off with its volume or provide high-quality audio quality, it is likely to sound better than your TV speakers and that’s worth the investment. This 60-watt soundbar supports sound with two 3-inch full-range speakers with bass reflex tubes to help bolster the bass. The soundbar comes with three presets for digital signal processing: Movie, Dialogue, and Music. You can also adjust the bass and treble using the remote control.

There is no HDMI port, but you can connect to Bluetooth 5.0 devices or use the digital optical sound port. You can use the onboard controls to play, pause and volume control. Or, you can look at the main unit which will display a different color LED light to indicate the current input selection. You can also mount the unit to a wall, so you can enjoy your music without taking up too much space.

FAQs

Q: Can you use a soundbar without a TV?

Yes, technically, you can use a soundbar without a TV, depending on the connectivity options. Bluetooth or Wi-Fi models can connect to smartphones, tablets, and other devices to stream music and podcasts wirelessly. To connect additional devices, you can also use the AUX and USB ports. Soundbars were designed to support television and film audio. So if you find yourself wanting to play music primarily, consider turning your attention to budget-friendly bookshelf or Bluetooth speakers instead.

Q: What does a subwoofer do with a soundbar?

Adding a subwoofer to a soundbar system supports low-end frequencies that the main unit may not be able to bolster. Subwoofers are essential for creating that bass-heavy, anxiety-inducing sound in sound design and scores. Some people can live with it, but it is a great upgrade option that can make for a truly entertaining viewing experience.

Q: Are cheap soundbars worth it?

Yes, a cheap soundbar is a great way to start making small improvements to your home audio system before committing to something more expensive. They may not be able keep up with the latest audio advances, such as spatialization and three-dimensional audio, but they can be used to introduce you to the possibilities of home system reinforcement.

Final thoughts on finding the best soundbars under $100

Better sound doesn’t need to cost a lot. As long as you set yourself up for realistic expectations and focus on function over luxury features, you’ll be able to find the best soundbars under $100. To ensure that your soundbar is compatible with your TV, consider connectivity and compatibility before you buy. You can then consider how many audio channels your TV requires and whether you plan to add more. For now, you can start with a basic soundbar that will enhance your TV-watching experience.

Read More