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Cheap soundbars: These are our top 5 recommendations

TechCheap soundbars: These are our top 5 recommendations

The best cheap soundbars: Our recommendations
Sonos Ray
JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam
Samsung HW-Q610B
If you want more: Soundbars for 500 euros
Sonos Beam
Samsung HW-Q810B
Home cinema sound or just a soundbar?
Here’s what you should look for when buying a cheap soundbar
Cheap soundbar with Dolby Atmos: is it possible?
Connections: What do I need and what don’t I need?
How smart does a cheap soundbar have to be?
The perfect size for your living room
Soundbars can give a flat TV set more sound bang, but they can also be the start of a compact home cinema set-up. But can you do it with soundbars that don’t cost a fortune? We’ve tested all the relevant models on the market, and here we present our recommendations of the best affordable soundbars.

The best affordable soundbars: Our recommendations

Sonos Ray
Inexpensive entry into the Sonos universe

Number of channels: 2.0 | Connections / interfaces: Optical, Ethernet | Voice control: – | Dimensions (WxHxD): 559 x 71 x 95 mm | Price: 299 euros

Very good speech intelligibility
Easy to set up via app
Very compact
No HDMI, no Bluetooth
Only compatible with infrared TV remote controls
Only one optical input
With the Sonos Ray, you get one of the best value-for-money soundbars on the market. It costs around 250 euros and is particularly convincing because of its price-performance ratio. So you get a Sonos soundbar that you can easily connect to your Sonos speakers at home. The design of the Ray is simple and it has neither an HDMI input nor Bluetooth. Instead, the Sonos Ray communicates wirelessly with other Sonos speakers via Wi-Fi and with your TV via the optical input. Another practical feature is that the smallest sound bar from the multi-room experts measures just 56 centimetres.

Human voices sound great on the Sonos Ray, and for its size, it’s especially realistic in the low end that comes through in action scenes. Since it’s a Sonos system, you’ll also enjoy the manufacturer’s signature benefits: access to the Sonos Multiroom system, a comprehensive control app and the ability to customise the sound to your room via TruePlay (iOS only).

Current offers
Click here for our in-depth review of the Sonos Ray.

JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam
The smart soundbar as a perfect all-rounder

Number of channels: 5.0 | Connections / interfaces: HDMI-eARC, optical, Bluetooth, HDMI-In | Dolby Atmos: yes, virtual | Voice control: – | Dimensions (WxHxD): 709 x 58 x 101 mm | RRP: 399 euros

Good virtual surround sound
Many smart features thanks to Chromecast built-in
Room calibration
Low maximum volume
No DTS decoder
The trick of the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam is in the name. The small soundbar is supposed to “beam” the sound vertically and horizontally, reflect it there, and thus reproduce Dolby Atmos soundtracks. In our test, the result does not come close to the real 3D sound that Dolby Atmos soundbars with upfiring speakers deliver, but we can still attest to the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam’s good spatial reproduction. Unfortunately, the soundbar doesn’t get very loud and doesn’t quite manage to create a cinema feeling in exciting scenes.

An optical input and an HDMI-eARC interface are used to connect the TV. A second HDMI socket allows you to connect a Blu-ray player or a game console, for example. JBL soundbars do not have their own multi-room solution, but you can connect the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam with other speakers in your home using AirPlay, Chromecast and the corresponding Apple or Google applications. This makes it the perfect budget soundbar for those who already have a Chromecast or AirPlay speaker in their home.

Latest offers
Read our full review of the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam here.

Samsung HW-Q610B
Great sound at a great price

Number of channels: 3.1.2 | Connectors / interfaces: HDMI-eARC, HDMI, optical, Bluetooth | Dolby Atmos: yes, virtual | Voice control: – | Dimensions (WxHxD): 1030 x 57 x 105 mm (soundbar) / 184 x 343 x 295 (subwoofer) | Price (RRP/street price): 599 / approx. 300 euros

Good price-performance ratio
Balanced film sound
Subwoofer included in price
Many adjustment options
Atmos sound not very convincing
Poorly readable display
The Samsung HW-Q610B has the advantage that it can be bought directly as a combination package. With the HW-Q610B, you not only get a soundbar, but also a subwoofer. This provides more bass in your living room. Overall, the duo provides you with a precise and balanced movie sound, but the Dolby Atmos falls behind other models in this price range – despite the upfiring speakers.

Are you looking for rich sound at an affordable price and don’t place quite as much value on 3D sound? Then the Samsung HW-Q610B is just the right soundbar for you. Depending on the price trend, the price for the soundbar is even less than 300 euros.

Current offers
Read our detailed review of the Samsung HW-Q610B here.

If you want more: Soundbars for 500 euros
If you have a little more budget at your disposal, it might be worth your while to spend a little more money on your soundbar. In the price range up to 500 euros, you can already find Dolby Atmos-capable soundbars and some with smart functions, such as a voice assistant. Here are our best recommendations!

Sonos Beam
So small and already capable of Dolby Atmos

Speaker power (manufacturer’s specification): 220 watts | Number of channels: 5.0 | Connections / interfaces: HDMI-eARC, Ethernet | Voice control: Alexa, Google Assistant | Dolby Atmos: yes, virtual | Dimensions (WxHxD): 651 x 69 x 100 mm | Price: 499 euros

Balanced sound
Amazingly effective virtual 3D sound
Expandable to a multiroom system
Space-saving
Only one physical audio connection
No pass-through possible
Despite its relatively small size, the compact Sonos Beam has a lot going for it. You can easily connect it to your TV via the eARC port and enjoy virtual Dolby Atmos. For a soundbar, it also impresses with its harmonious music playback. It can’t replace a pair of stereo speakers, but it’s an alternative if you don’t want bulky speakers in your living room. Apart from that, it has the same practical features as its big sister Sonos Arc, including TruePlay room calibration and operation via voice assistant.

Current offers:
Head here for our in-depth review of the Sonos Beam.

Samsung HW-Q810B
The best soundbar under 500 euros

Number of channels: 5.1.2 | Connections / interfaces: Wi-Fi, WLAN, HDMI-eARC, Bluetooth, optical | Voice control: Alexa, Google Assistant | Dolby Atmos: yes | Dimensions (WxHxD): 1111 x 60 x 120 mm (soundbar), 210 x 403 x 403 mm (subwoofer) | Price (RRP/ street price): 799 / 500 euros

Very natural overall sound
Good 3D sound performance
Integrated Alexa voice control
So far only available in black
Display difficult to read
In terms of sound quality, the HW-Q810B is one of the top mid-range Atmos soundbars. Its three-dimensionality and naturalness are particularly impressive. There is no shortage of smart functions, and everything is state-of-the-art in terms of picture technology. As the owner of a QLED TV, you also benefit from possible cool extra features, depending on the TV model. The optional addition of wireless rears is also a nice touch.

The RRP of the soundbar is just under 800 euros, but it is currently available at a much lower price. For around 500 euros, the HW-Q810B is a soundbar with a top price-performance ratio that you certainly won’t go wrong with in your living room.

Current offers
Click here for our detailed review of the Samsung HW-Q810B.

Home cinema sound or just a soundbar?
If you’re looking for a soundbar that really blows the sound out of your ears, then you should look in a higher price range. This includes, for example, top sellers like the Samsung HW-Q995GC. It’s number one in our soundbar best list and produces an impressive sound, but it’s also pricy. If you want to set up a proper home cinema at home, it’s best to look at soundbars with surround sets. However, if you just want a soundbar that improves your TV sound and you don’t want home cinema sound, then you’ll be fine with the cheap soundbars up to 500 euros presented here.

What to look for in a budget soundbar
Those were our recommendations for cheap soundbars. Now it’s up to you which soundbar you choose. We’ll give you a few criteria to help you decide.

Sound: How do you want your soundbar to sound?
First and foremost, you choose a soundbar to optimise the sound of your TV. But soundbars can of course also play music. However, their focus is usually on playing back films. Powerful bass and intelligible voices are more important than balanced sound.

If you’re looking for a soundbar that’s also suitable for playing the Spotify playlist in the evening, you should go for a model like the Sonos Beam. It is more balanced than the competition in the price range up to 500 euros.

Small and affordable soundbars can be just the right choice, especially in small living rooms.
Of course, you can also listen to music with an even more affordable soundbar. In the price range up to 300 euros, the sound is not quite as high quality as in the price range above. But you will still get good sound. If you choose the Sonos Ray, for example, you could expand your sound system after a while and buy more Sonos speakers and link them to your Ray in your Sonos Multiroom system. However, the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam offers better sound for around 300 euros.

Inexpensive soundbar with Dolby Atmos: Is it possible?
Most people are probably looking for a soundbar to enjoy their favourite films or video games. And that’s where 3D sound is particularly important, in addition to good speech intelligibility and thunderous explosions.

Real vs. simulated Dolby Atmos
When it comes to Dolby Atmos playback, you have to distinguish between two types: “real” Dolby Atmos, in which the soundbar throws sounds at the ceiling via upward-facing speakers and reflects them back to you; and simulated Dolby Atmos. Soundbars that only offer the latter do not have upfiring speakers, but use special software to create the illusion of three-dimensionality.

The HW-Q990GC is currently the best Dolby Atmos soundbar we have tested. But there are also all-in-one solutions, such as the Sennheiser Ambeo Max. But these cost considerably more.
If you are looking for a soundbar that also brings 3D sound into your living room, you won’t find it among the soundbars for up to 300 euros. However, many models, such as the JBL Bar 5.0 Multibeam, at least offer virtual Dolby Atmos. They don’t have upfiring speakers, so the sound doesn’t really reach you from above, but you can expect a convincing spatial effect. If you are willing to invest 200 euros more for your soundbar, there are already a few models that can play the additional Dolby Atmos sound tracks. Most models also have upfiring speakers. So they create a convincing 3D feeling, even if they can hardly compete with a Sonos Arc or Sennheiser Ambeo Max.

Among the soundbars up to 500 euros, there are also models that only offer virtual Atmos. This effect can also be convincing. We recommend paying attention to the upward-facing drivers when buying if 3D effects are particularly important to you.

Is good Dolby Atmos the most important purchase criterion for you? Then take a look at our list of the best Dolby Atmos soundbars and compare:

Connections: What do I need, and what don’t I need?
For the best sound – and this applies especially to Dolby Atmos soundbars – a soundbar should always come with an HDMI-eARC interface. This is because sound tracks with high bandwidths like Dolby Atmos cannot be transmitted via Toslink – i.e. an optical cable. What else is offered depends entirely on the model.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are possible for wireless connections. Physical connections can include additional HDMI interfaces for devices such as Blu-ray players, but also optical interfaces and connections for subwoofers and additional speakers. Additional HDMI inputs in particular are extremely practical because you don’t have to tediously wire your sources on the often difficult-to-access back of your TV. The soundbar simply forwards the picture information to the TV, while the sound is filtered out, so to speak, and played back via the soundbar. This is called pass-through in the jargon.

Before you buy a soundbar, you should find out about the connection options of your soundbar.
How smart does an affordable soundbar have to be?
Before you decide on a soundbar, you should weigh up for yourself whether you want to use smart functions with your soundbar or not. A voice assistant, such as the Sonos Beam, can be practical, but is not a must for most soundbars. Other soundbars, on the other hand, have Chromecast and AirPlay 2, which is especially handy if you already have a speaker at home that supports one of these integrations.

With inexpensive soundbars up to 300 euros, the range of functions is often somewhat more limited than with larger models. For example, the affordable Teufel Cinebar One does not have a control app like the Sonos Ray. If smart functions or app operation are important to you, you should definitely make sure that your new soundbar can connect to the internet.

Before you buy a soundbar, it’s best to measure how much space you have for your future soundbar to choose the right size.
The perfect size for your living room
Inexpensive soundbars are usually small and therefore recommended for smaller living rooms.

You may have already noticed this in the recommendations above: Most inexpensive soundbars are smaller models. The Teufel Cinebar 11, for example, is also in the price range up to 300 euros, but it is one of the larger models because it is somewhat wider. However, none of the models in the cheapest price range is more than a metre wide. This makes the more affordable soundbars perfect for smaller living rooms – and also for smaller TVs.

Many large soundbars can look out of place under smaller TVs and sometimes protrude upwards into the picture. The size of the soundbars thus serves as a very pragmatic criterion for the purchase decision. Check the dimensions – both width and height – carefully before you decide. The price range up to 500 euros is similar. There are more compact models, like the Sonos Beam, but also longer ones, like the HW-Q810B we recommend above. It’s wider than a metre and should therefore only be chosen if it fits under your TV.

Found that you have a little more space and budget for your new soundbar? Then here’s a list of all the soundbars we’ve tested:

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