Best Soundbars Under $200 for Movie Enthusiasts on a Budget
Do you want your family movie night to sound better than watching in an IMAX? Chances are you’re not in a position to make that happen if you’re reading this article.
However, what if I told you that you can enhance the audio quality of your so-called smart TV tenfold? And you can do this without spending more than $200 or hiring a professional to configure the system? Soundbars can be the solution.
Soundbars pack all the power of a multichannel system, some of them with the subwoofer included, without having to set up speakers in all corners of your living room. You only need to set up a single wide and slim bar, under your TV screen or thereabout, and you’re good to go.
8 Soundbars for Making a Significant Upgrade to TV Speakers
Table of Contents
- 8 Soundbars for Making a Significant Upgrade to TV Speakers
- Figuring Out the Numbers
- What to Expect from Affordable Models
The Yamaha YAS-108 cuts it close to the $200 mark. However, it comes with some very impressive features packed in an ultra slim design.
The input options include optical, aux, and HDMI. It can also connect to two devices at the same time if you take advantage of the Bluetooth streaming.
The DSP (digital signal processor) is DTS Virtual:X. This creates 3D surround sound effects without having to have 5 or speakers in your room (as you might be aware of, DTS and Dolby are always competing against each other for the best surround sound processing). There’s also very good dialogue enhancement for the money.
The built-in dual subwoofers enhance the surround sound by giving it a fuller audio profile. This soundstage can be used for movies, gaming, and watching live concerts to some degree.
What’s also interesting is that the YAS-108 comes with a gyroscope feature. This comes in handy if you’re using the keyholes for the wall mount. The gyroscope should help create an even sound distribution within the room.
This 2.1 channel soundbar may not seem like much but it’s a real steal at this price point. The wireless external subwoofer adds great bass definition. This makes the sound fuller and more intelligible overall.
You don’t even need high-speed car chase scenes, war movies, or anything with a lot of bang and cool special effects to appreciate the sonic improvement. In fact, those scenes may make you want to upgrade to a full home theater system because that’s not what soundbars are designed to ace, but just to get rid of the killjoy of thin-sounding TV speakers.
The soundbar also comes with its own controller so you won’t have to worry about pairing it with a HDMI ARC-compatible TV. Both the soundbar and the subwoofer are wireless which makes placement and line of sight easier to control.
The Vizio SB2821-D6 comes with Dolby Digital, DTS TruSurround, and DTS TruVolume. These three DSPs can squeeze a lot of detail out of most Blu-ray content.
The distribution of the sound waves throughout the room is balanced for a realistic and immersive experience in the comfort of your home.
If you’re looking to have your choice of wired or wireless connection, this TaoTronics soundbar may be just what you need. You can use AUX, optical, or regular RCA cables, or you can use Bluetooth to set up your sound system.
The advantages should be obvious at least in terms of placement and creating an unobstructed line of sight. But reduced cable clutter is not the only reason I like this system. The wireless subwoofer is a massive plus as it helps create a room-filling sound that adds depth and make everything more enjoyable.
Also nice is the LED display. The touch controls are easy on the eyes and quite functional. Another feature that’s worth every penny is the range of the 40W subwoofer. It can be connected from up to 30ft away, which gives you plenty of room to experiment with placement. Place it in a corner for more but less refined bass or with a good amount of space around it for less but tighter bass.
The Samsung HW-M360 is a 2.1 channel soundbar with an external subwoofer (the so-called 0.1 channel).
The wireless subwoofer seems really powerful. It offers great definition on the lower frequencies as well as give the soundstage a richer and more complete sound. Dynamic or action-packed movies, sporting events, and games sound a lot better than anticipated.
You can also use an optical cable to input digital sound signal directly from your digital devices such as DVD players and CD players. However, I found the Bluetooth connectivity to be enough in this case. For many people, getting rid of clutter is worth the slight sonic degradation.
The Samsung Audio Remote app is another cool feature. While the HW-M360/ZA doesn’t feature a controller, you can use the app and control the soundbar with your phone. It’s especially helpful since there’s no support for an HDMI ARC connection.
This is one of the more basic soundbars on this list. Despite the reasonable price, the sound is excellent and you get the assurance of buying something from a specialty audio company like JBL.
You won’t find any fancy features here. However, as long as you don’t turn the volume up to max, the JBL Boost TV soundbar gives you just what you need. Don’t worry about the lack of an external subwoofer, this soundbar produces more bass than many 2.1 soundbars. That’s because it’s a largish soundbar with bigger drivers.
What’s even more impressive is the dialogue clarity. If you’re looking for Blu-ray quality, this is not the best option, neither is any soundbar. However, for any other movies, games, and especially online streaming sessions, this JBL really boosts your TV’s audio to another level.
If you’re looking for something that’s really budget-friendly, then you might want to check out the BlitzWolf Smart Soundbar. This is the most affordable soundbar I could find that still met most of my requirements in terms of audio quality and performance.
The soundbar is a 2.0 channel design. That being said, the absence of a subwoofer is more than compensated for. The 6 sets of input are the main highlight, as they allow you to use just about anything input options from regular audio cables with RCA connectors to HDMI and Bluetooth.
There are also four pre-programmed sound modes for specific scenarios – news, sports, movie, and music. You can use either the movie or sports modes if you’re planning to do some gaming.
The bass definition is still pretty good and with six speakers as part of the design, you can get quite the immersive experience in your living room. Last but not least, the compact design and the included remote add even more bang for your buck.
This 80W soundbar isn’t made by a top name, but it still delivers a very impressive and immersive sound. The soundbar is also compatible with most 40” and up TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony, and many more top brands.
The DSP technology seems a bit outdated these days. But keep in mind that an 80W soundbar is nothing to scoff at. Especially when it also comes with a built-in subwoofer that’s capable of excellent bass definition.
You can connect it via Bluetooth or by using an optical cable. Of course, coaxial and RCA cables are also supported. Those with older TV sets should appreciate the feature.
The sound clarity is more than ok. Unlike other soundbars, you can also tweak the settings on the bass and tweeter to customize the audio profile to best fill your room.
Another industry best soundbar under $200 is the Sony S200F. In addition to looking really sleek, this compact soundbar is packed with features. It comes with a built-in subwoofer and the amplifier has a maximum output of 80W.
You can use it with an HDMI cable if you want to make the most of it – adjust the frequency response or use your remote to make adjustments. If not, there’s also a remote control included.
Bluetooth connection is another option. You will notice that even though the output may drop a bit, a wireless audio connection isn’t always a bad thing. The sound clarity is still impressive for any Blu-ray movies.
The soundbar can also be wall-mounted. This should help with managing clutter and directing the sound at your favorite seat. Keep in mind that it’s a 2.1 channel design, so you will want as much coverage as possible. Moving the unit around can make a big difference.
Figuring Out the Numbers
A lot of soundbars today come with various number labels attached. They usually signify the number of channels, built-in subwoofer, and the supported Dolby or DTS DSP sound fields.
The first number usually tells you how many channels there are – left, right, rear, center, etc. The second number after the period tells you if there’s a subwoofer – which is known in the circle as the 0.1 channel. Sometimes there’s also a third digit after the subwoofer.
This will tell you if the soundbar comes with Dolby Atmos surround sound processing and the number of dedicated drivers used to create the unique Dolby Atmos immersive sound.
If you’re not getting a wireless soundbar, you need to understand a few things about the cable inputs. You will find either optical or HDMI input or both. An HDMI interface is preferable as it offers support for more audio formats. The optical input connects to the digital output of your upstream device.
You’ll need a Toslink cable (originally introduced by Sony). You may find another digital input in the form of an RCA connector. That’s for use with a 75-ohm coaxial digital or video cable.
HDMI can carry all signals: video, digital, and analog. It is today’s standard connection but it doesn’t necessarily make it superior sonically. In fact, most high-end components prefer to separate the signals for better isolation and fidelity.
What to Expect from Affordable Models
Finding a good soundbar under $200 is not that hard. Dolby Atmos soundbars are fairly cheap these days. They have amazing quality even at a lower price point.
That being said, you can’t expect Hi-Fi audio or 4K pass through. The more you pay, the more bells and whistles you’re going to get. Is a soundbar under $200 worth the money? – In my opinion, yes. It is definitely an upgrade over TV speakers. You can expect a warmer and more directional sound that’s closer to real life than the usually tinny sound of TV speakers.
Make the Most with Very Little Investment
Although certain technologies can make a huge difference in the tonal profile, you don’t always need to pay a premium to enjoy a rich and well-balanced sound during your favorite movies.
As you can see from my picks, sometimes less is more. Most of these soundbars are compatible with new and old TV sets and are very versatile in placement.