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A soundbar, also sometimes called a media bar, is a type of loudspeaker which projects audio from a wide enclosure. For acoustical reasons, these devices are intentionally wider than they are tall – which fortunately also makes them an easier fit in the thin shelf under your television or mounted up around a room (without looking too obvious). For your computer, television, or home theater screen, soundbars not only perform perfectly for the job, but the best soundbars are also easily available under $500.
In our review of the best soundbars under $500 we asked customers and manufacturers all the facets we should be considering before ranking products onto a list, and the important factors they pointed out which we studied and considered are sound quality, the size of installation, and compatibility with other devices. Extra features including additional subwoofers, remotes, included cords, and mounting kits also increased the value of different products versus close contenders.
Our research into these products included many hours of contacting manufacturers (for each device), talking to verified customers, looking at schematics, and comparing the sound-system designs between multiple models. The best designs are organized below in a comprehensive chart outlining detailed descriptions as well as the pros and cons of the purchase. The buying guide contains explanations regarding the features you might have questions about, including examples of products which exhibit fine qualities per each feature. Additional frequently asked questions are answered below, as well as our final verdict: the top three soundbars under $500.
More features: simple setup with HDMI, optical or analog connection
One of the world’s first soundbars using DTS Virtual technology, the speakers from both the soundbar and included subwoofer create a 3D surround sound experience. What this means is that while watching a movie, this system will simulate intense sounds around and even above the listener.
The soundbar uses numerous speakers for different dimensions of sound at any point in a movie, along with a powerful subwoofer rated at 200W of total power. All components are mountable and come with a mounting kit and easy instructions. The rectangular subwoofer is 17 inches tall, and the soundbar is 36 inches wide, both components most ideal for wall mounting or resting under 40-inch flat screens.
Both the subwoofer and soundbar are wireless and Bluetooth capable for all your mobile devices (phones, laptops, desktops, and tablets). Additionally, any components which will connect to your television can also be connected to the soundbar using HDMI, optical, or analog connections (DVD-players, computers, and gaming systems).
This is a one-of-a-kind product with an equally unique design that you won’t find anywhere else. It is truly perfect for all listening needs.
What stands out?
DTS Virtual Technology for a 3D surround sound experience
Uses HDMI, optical, and analog connections
Longer 2-year warranty
What cons did we manage to find?
Additional subwoofer needs space on a shelf or mounting
More features: 3D Surround Sound System, included mount kit, 30ft Bluetooth capacity
This is a great soundbar to take a detailed look at. At 38.6 inches long, it’s about the size of your 40-inch flat screen TV, or perhaps even the shelf your television is above. Though by no means does this device have to be laid on the ground, and it comes with a step-by-step mount kit and tools (for overhead mounting).
This soundbar is slightly longer than your average example, and therefore works to set a precedent for the other products on our list; its length is equipped with 2x10w tweeter speakers (creating a room-filling sound of 105 decibels). The expansive audio allows for crystal-clear organic sound, and the built-in 2x bass reflex tubes add a richness to your movies, shows, and music. We’d compare this to the movie-theater experience, but for your home, it is far better than any theater.
The 3D Surround Sound System was designed with DSP technology for clarity and precision that will support all your devices. Cables include RCA, USB, Coaxial, and Optical inputs. The device is also wireless and Bluetooth capable (with a Bluetooth connectivity radius of 30 feet). For your home, office, etc., this model is very affordable without breaking the budget.
What makes it stand out?
3D Surround Sound System designed with DSP technology
This 25.6-inch soundbar is about the regular size you’d see if you went into your local electronics store. It’s designed to place under your TV or up on a wall mount or shelf and is HDMI capable for your TV’s HDMI ARC input.
However, what makes this model extraordinary is its wireless capability with automated voice control just by ‘Asking Alexa’. Using voice control, you can play music from Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartradio, and hundreds of streaming services (TV and Movies) through the included Sonos App. Use your phone like a remote, and pair devices to this soundbar when you’re changing from music to movie or from movies to games.
The Sonos beam is designed with one tweeter speaker and four mid-woofers for excellent sound within a 30-foot radius. Additionally, installing your own Play:1s left and right of the Sonos Beam (and configuring them in one group) would give you a 5.1 system for your home. Current sound quality is certainly movie-theater level and can also be made compatible with Apple devices and ‘Asking Siri’.
Why did it make our list?
Voice Controlled System
Wi-Fi connectivity through your network and phone/laptop
More features: wireless subwoofer, Bluetooth streaming
VIZIO’s 2.1 soundbar upgrades your current system (or lack of one) to premium audio with a 28-inch bar of crystal-clear sounding speakers and an additional square wireless subwoofer. This product guarantees surround sound for a room up to 30 feet in length with less than 1% harmonic distortion.
It’s wall-mountable and comes with instructions and an easy-to-use mounting kit. Additionally, it looks great on a raised shelf, sitting beneath your 30-inch flat screen or built into your long entertainment system. Soundbar and subwoofer are designed with Dolby Digital technology for cinema, broadcast, DVD, Blu-ray, and all other streaming content.
The sound quality is also Dolby rated, utilizing DTS TruSound and DTS TruVolume for revolutionary surround sound that delivers an organic pitch, bass, and volume for a more enjoyable multimedia experience. Between your home or the local movie theater, with this soundbar, you’ll feel like you’re getting the same high-class sound experience every time. Its wireless and Bluetooth capable connectivity allow pairing with all your phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers throughout your home in a 30-foot radius.
What makes it stand out?
1 soundbar with an extra subwoofer
Comes with a mounting kit
Compatible with wireless and Bluetooth capable devices
More features: built-in Bluetooth, wireless subwoofer range approx. 60ft, easy-to-install
This is another 38-inch soundbar ideal for long ceiling mounting or underneath your 40-inch flat screen – however, long shelves and television cabinets (entertainment systems) also make this soundbar look great.
Its 100-decibel surround sound is created through a long soundbar with tweeter speakers and a wireless subwoofer with a range of 60 feet (subwoofer dimensions are 8¼-inch squared; sits ¾-inch off the floor).
This model is manufactured to guarantee crystal clear quality with less than 1% harmonic distortion, which very few products can boast. It’s designed for premium audio with Dolby Digital decoding, taking the sound of the movie theater and bringing to your home with additional DTS TruVolume and DTS audio-post processing.
The wireless remote makes for convenient volume input and audio controls (Bluetooth included) which will link up to all your mobile devices, laptop computers, desktops, and Bluetooth or wireless capable systems.
There are no additional outputs to make this a 5.1 system. However, it is an exceptional 2.1 system which guarantees surround sound for a room approximately 30-feet in length. It would look great in your home and perform even better for all your music to movie-watching needs.
Why is it special?
Premium audio with Dolby Digital decoding
Compatible with wireless and Bluetooth capable devices
More features: remote control, built-in Bluetooth, optical audio input (digital); Coaxial audio input (digital); 3.5 mm aux input (analog)
This 21.6-inch soundbar is perhaps one of the smallest options available, but still with amazing high-powered speakers. It’s capable of producing much better sound than your regular TV or portable speakers and can connect digitally using optical audio inputs or analog using coaxial audio inputs. Put more simply, the Solo 5 is designed to play audio from any sources connected to your television; no need to disconnect and reconnect devices, so they run into the soundbar.
Because of its size, it’s very easy to mount below any sized TV, and it looks good. It would also look just as great seated on a shelf, in an entertainment system, or in front of your television resting on the same platform.
A universal remote control (comes with the purchase) makes it easy to link all devices through your TV and controls your bass, volume, connections, and Bluetooth/wireless settings.
All in all, this ‘one-box solution’ provides excellence for any home movie system, office, bedroom television, or gaming room. The sound quality is phenomenal surround sound in a 15-foot long room or so and has settings to provide crisper dialogue for your favorite TV programs or deeper bass for scary and dramatic films.
What makes it stand out?
Audio for any devices connected to your television
Comes with a universal remote
Multiple advanced sound settings
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?
Smaller surround-sound radius
Subwoofer not included or additionally connectable
More expensive model
Things to Consider
The remaining material in this buying guide was written to answer any additional questions the buyer might have about the features and functions of different soundbars. The following headings answer many common questions and advise on the products which exhibit the best features, and why these specific features perform so well. It is our hope this information assists you in the buying process and helps you find the perfect soundbar under $500.
What are the benefits of having a soundbar?
Cinematography is not just the art of piecing film and pictures together in one long movie or TV-series. In fact, that’s only a tiny piece of a bigger picture. One of the major elements of film are all the individual details which go into a soundtrack, score, or which underly dialogue in specific scenes. These sound bits weren’t only meant to be heard, they were meant to be experienced in high-definition so that they altered the viewers entire experience. A soundbar is the ultimate way of improving your movie experience, listening to music, and even playing games, where every moment you’re living the sound and feel you’re actually part of something bigger.
Regular television speakers will not deliver such crisp and organic sound. Additionally, they will not transport you the way a soundbar will.
What to expect from a soundbar under $500?
A soundbar is a cheaper alternative to mounted speakers around a room or your house and doesn’t require running multiple wires through walls or consecutively connecting multiple speakers. With soundbars under $500, you can expect sound quality equal to mounted speakers in a single room (usually 15 to 30 feet in length). Additionally, most soundbars come with one mounting subwoofer which provides greater bass on top of high-quality organic dialogue. Almost all soundbars under $500 will be fully compatible with all devices and offer RCA/HDMI connections – if these connections are not available, the devices can be linked to your soundbar through Bluetooth or a wireless network. Instructions are included for linking all components of your system. More expensive soundbars ($600+) will have multiple tweeter speakers. However, two the under $500 models on our list have excellent tweeters with phenomenal sound: the Wohome S9220 Pro and the Sonos Beam BEAM1US1BLK.
Features to consider before buying
Listed below are many of the features which make up your soundbar and its additional components. Before making your purchase make sure you’ve looked at each of the models features and then compared them to each other. Some of these most important features are sound quality (the higher the decibel rating, the better; additionally, subwoofers or tweeters provide additional surround sound) dimensions (will it fit in the space you want it?) technology (is it designed with the newest tech?), and even types of installation.
The quality of sound is going to be the number one factor in making your decision (or at least it should be). Discuss with your family, spouse, friends, or even with yourself, what kind of sound experience you’d like in the room you do the most movie-watching or music-listening. Also, consider that there are all kinds of different sound experiences. For instance:
Surround Sound – A surround sound experience is one in which the sounds and tracks you’re playing (or movies you’re watching) sound like they are behind, in front, and to the left and right of you. Surround sound adds one or more channels from loudspeakers and thus creates the sensation of sound coming from any horizontal direction 360° around the listener. Various surround-sound-based formats and techniques vary in reproduction and recording methods (the best is a 5.1 standard setup).
3D Surround Sound – Where a systems speaker can simulate sounds around and even above a listener. This effect is created with both a soundbar (with tweeter speakers) and a powerful subwoofer. Consider the Yamaha YAS-207BL or the Wohome S9220 for this effect.
Crisp/Organic Sound – Most televisions cannot produce the organic quality of a soundbar with its multiple speakers built to specifically enhance bass, dialogue, and soundtracks. All of the soundbars on this list will improve the clarity of your media; one of the most sound-specific models is the Bose 732522-1110 with its multiple advanced sound settings.
This is a feature which will depend most on you and the media setup you have in the room you plan to install the soundbar. First, figure out where you can install your soundbar and whether it will be mounted on a wall (above your TV or behind the couch or to the side of the couch, etc.) or if it’s going to be on a shelf or sitting in front of the TV. Next, measure that space and get the best dimensions for your ideal soundbar. Measure for length and width if you’re not wall-mounting your soundbar. Also, factor in models which come with square or rectangular subwoofer speakers.
Every product on our list comes with a mounting kit and easy instructions. However, the type of installation you’ll need depends on the room and your television. If you have an entertainment system with a TV inside, measure the space and see if a soundbar will fit.
For complicated fits, it’s best to mount your soundbar on a wall above or below your television set. Subwoofer speakers are best installed at the center of a room facing toward seats or couches. Although for the best surround sound experience, overhead installation is the best.
The Bose 732522-1110 is the easiest and smallest model to install (wall-mounted or sitting on a table top) which also requires the least connections for full device compatibility. Remember, installing devices (with cords) will change the parameters of your installation because your cords will need room also.
A good warranty will give you the security you need to receive your product and test it over an extended period of time. Consider models with warranties which are at least 1 year in length. This will give you plenty of time to learn how to handle your new device and to test it for any flaws or damage during shipping or manufacturing. The Yamaha YAS-207BL has the longest warranty (2 years) on our list.
Some extra features to consider are:
Remote control – Does the product come with a remote control? If it does, ask yourself if you need a universal remote control for multiple devices, and if the one included is universal.
Compatibility – Make sure you consider each soundbar compatibility and whether it will connect to your television or devices using cables or Bluetooth/wireless functions. For a household that doesn’t have a wireless network, it wouldn’t be wise to get a unit which only connects using WiFI. If you’re mostly getting a soundbar to play music, consider soundbars which predominantly use Bluetooth, as these models will be compatible with all your mobile devices.
Each soundbar is going to be different! For the full experience, there are soundbars which will not only connect via cords (HDMI, optical, and analog connections) but which will also connect to devices via Bluetooth and Wireless capabilities. One such system is the Bose 732522-1110 which is compatible with any device that will connect to your TV, as well as phones, computers, and tablets. With this particular system, you won’t need to purchase any additional cables (so long as you connect the speaker through your TV). Other soundbars will require extra cables (typically RCA and HDMI cables).
Installation usually involves inputting batteries or plugging in your device (all devices on this list are battery powered) and then mounting the unit on a wall or table-top. Wall-mounting kits and instructions come with every purchase and are usually very straightforward. You’ll need a drill or hammer for most installations.
With additional mounting subwoofer speakers (usually to the right and left of the seating area), you can expand most soundbars to a 5.1 surround sound system. A 7.1 system might require a professional’s advice, and they’ll probably want pictures of your room and specifications on the speakers you already have. Most manufacturers can be contacted for details like these.
From the above list, the following soundbars can be configured with additional speakers and expanded to a 5.1 surround sound system: the Wohome S9220, Sonos Beam BEAM1US1BLK, and the Yamaha YAS-207BL. Also, if a 5- or 7-channel system if your aim, it might be easier for you to get the whole audio set at once to add to your soundbar. There are many affordable options on the market right now, for example, these home theater systems under $500.
The only soundbar from the above list which has been configured to work with Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and other voice-controlled devices (apps) is the Sonos Beam BEAM1US1BLK. This model comes preset with the Alexa voice control but can be programmed over to other voice devices. Additionally, this model is not compatible via Bluetooth and instead requires a mobile network to connect to your television, games, and other devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets). Other models may be manually connected to work with Alexa and Siri, but they were not specifically designed this way and don’t include instructions for connecting voice control options.
These are the top models and choices for any buyer looking for an amazing soundbar under $500. If you’re having a hard time deciding the speaker for your space, setup, television, etcetera, no one could go wrong with these three highly-rated devices:
Yamaha YAS-207BL. With this product, the Yamaha soundbar and powerful subwoofer combine their intense speakers (with a crisp and organic sound) to create an intense 3D surround sound experience. Not only are all your devices going to be compatible with this soundbar, but your music and media will actually play as though its right beside you or directly above your head (that’s the 3D experience!).
Wohome S9220 Pro. This is a one-of-a-kind system for your home designed with high-tech 2×10 tweeter speakers. Together all sound components create an amazing surround sound experience for your music and media-watching needs.
Sonos Beam BEAM1US1BLK. This soundbar is our pick for wireless compatibility and voice control. It is compact yet powerful and can be easily upgraded to a 5.1 system if you add a sub and a couple of Play:1s, which all wirelessly connect.
Here you have it! We hope this guide will help you find your best soundbar under $500. If you know some other models that we overlooked, just let us know!