The best budget soundbases in 2021
Good news: there is a surefire way to get better sound out of your TV without filling your lounge with speakers – or even having to make space for a soundbar. It’s called a soundbase, and the beauty of it is that it’s wide, flat, and it sits directly underneath your telly, (as opposed to a soundbar that sits in front of it and thus requires more room).
A soundbase is a handy, space-saving solution for situations (read: room dimensions) where a ‘bar just isn’t practical, and if you plump for one of the ones listed below, it’ll give your TV far more oomph and quality in the sound department. If you like the look of one of the models, simply click on the attached, in-depth What Hi-Fi? review; you’ll soon know the product as well as if it were rested in the palm of your hand.
You can get HDMI or digital optical inputs, the option of wireless Bluetooth audio and a sizable boost in sound performance when it comes to TV or films. Interested? Course you are. And you should be, with this little lot. What follows is a roundup of the best budget soundbases we’ve tested.
Top 10 best budget soundbases in 2021
1. Sonos Playbase
Sonos is the original multi-room champion, with multi-room speakers, a couple of soundbars and this soundbase. So not only do you get better sound from your TV, you also get all the clever streaming functionality Sonos affords, and the ability to easily connect to a multi-room system and be upgraded to a full 5.1 system with the addition of a Sonos Sub and two Sonos Ones, Sonos One SLs, Sonos Play:1s (or even Play:3 or Play:5) speakers. The Playbase is solid and able to support TVs weighing up to 35kg. Sonically it’s a punchy, dynamic and fairly detailed performance, with only an occasionally harsh treble causing us some concern.
2. Sonos Beam
This is Sonos’s smaller, cheaper soundbar, but it’s no less impressive a device. It supports the Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Siri personal assistants, so you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to voice controls.
It also plays all sorts of streaming services, including Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon, Deezer and Google Play Music. And it works with other Sonos speakers, creating a multi-room system. Of course, you’ll probably want to connect it to your TV, where it will bring a sound quality that’s far superior to built-in speakers. We liked it so much, we gave it one of our coveted What Hi-Fi? 2019 Awards. In 2020, we had no choice but to give it the nod yet again – for the best soundbar in the highly-competitive £300 – £500 bracket. Highly recommended.
3. Roku Streambar
Think of the Roku Streambar as an upgrade on your TV, rather than an entry into proper home cinema, and it ticks pretty much every box. While it doesn’t quite ascend to five-star status, it easily nails the aspects for which it is most commonly going to be used: projection and clarity. The Streambar will work with any television with an HDMI input, outputting 4K HDR at up to 60fps for those with compatible sets. Everyone else will get 1080p Full HD, with lower resolution signals upscaled.
The bundled remote is splendid, and for an out-of-the-box boost to TV audio and older sets’ smart features, the Roku Streambar is extremely low risk for this price. In that sense, it’s something we can wholeheartedly recommend.
4. The Denon DHT-T110
The Denon DHT-T110 isn’t all that different from many other models here. It has a similar weight rating, similar size, and even looks similar. So why would you go for this over other soundbases? Easy. You listen to music. Although the DHT-T110 can handle movies well, it comes alive with songs and albums, showing off its best. For under $300, we don’t think you’ll find a better soundbar to stream music on.
Part of this is down to its superb bass, and it’s seriously good Bluetooth streaming capabilities. The codec, which is the software program that translates the 1s and 0s, really does a good job of making sure that wireless streaming (which can sometimes be a little iffy) sounds solid. While the DHT-T110 is far from the best soundbase available—it can’t sniff the Sonos Playbase for overall sound quality—its musical chops make it a solid choice. We’ve also spotted it at far lower prices than the one indicated, so be sure to shop around!
5. Creative Stage 2.1
Not everyone has heaps of cash to throw at a soundbar and if you’re looking to upgrade your TV’s audio, Creative’s Stage 2.1 soundbar is a cheap and cheerful solution. At only £80, it won’t break the bank and will vastly improve your TV’s audio output.
The soundbar has a variety of inputs making it perfect for all sorts of setups. It’s super small and lightweight, too. As for sound quality, it’s extremely impressive: it’s great at the low end, crisp and detailed at the high end and delivers an engaging listen overall. Although it won’t provide the same surround-sound experience as more expensive setups, the Creative Stage is a great choice if you don’t have huge amounts to spend.
6. Yamaha MusicCast Bar 400
The Yamaha MusicCast Bar 400 is a 2.1-channel soundbar with an included active wireless subwoofer and it performs well with both movies and music. Its discreet and well-made design offers the company’s MusicCast built-in, as well as good bass.
There’s no Dolby Atmos or DTS:X support and you’ll only find one HDMI input, but there is voice control via Alexa and there is also the option to buy this soundbar without the wireless subwoofer if you’re on a budget.
7. Sony HT-ZF9
The Sony HT-ZF9 is a compact and very well made 3.1-channel soundbar that not only supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but it offers 7.1.2 surround sound through effective virtual sound processing. Other features include 4K HDR and Hi-Res audio support, as well as built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Chromecast.
Its interface can be confusing and while the HT-ZF9 can’t compete with soundbars that deliver immersive audio in a more traditional fashion, the HT-ZF9 has a lot to recommend. Movies and music both sound good, while Sony’s application of digital signal processing to create a virtual immersive experience is often very successful.
8. B&O Beosound stage
The Danish audio masters have done it again with this soundbar, where ‘it’ is ‘pack an astounding amount of sound into a small, stylish unit’. The Beosound Stage is actually B&O’s first soundbar, and it’s been worth the wait.
There are 11 drivers hidden behind is stylish Kvadrat cloth finish, producing a hugely impressive wall of sound – angled drivers give the audio height, while a range of tweeters and woofers add width and depth. It can get incredibly boomy without the need for a subwoofer, too.
The amount detail is just excellent, and its a deft touch with everything from dynamic action scenes that pan across the screen to subtle speech. It squeezes every drop of audio quality from soundtracks thanks to Dolby Atmos compatibility, and does feature a noticeable boost to the spatial positioning of audio compared to simpler soundbars, though don’t expect it to offer a full surround experience like the Samsung Q90R below.
9. YAMAHA SR-B20A
If you’re looking for the best soundbar under £250, your journey has ended. The audio quality here is excellent for the price, adding so much more balance, clarity and depth than budget TV speaker could ever hope to produce. And despite this soundbar being not even as wide as your average 32-inch TV (meaning it’s just as at home with monitors as TVs), the sound has really impressive width and stereo positioning. The dynamic range is great too, in everything from movies to games. It’s even pretty good with music, and has Bluetooth for easy streaming.
It’s really simple to set up, too – it has a single HDMI ARC port for easy TV connection (which enables control from your TV remote), or twin optical connectors, or even a good ol’ 3.5mm jack. The remote is awkward, but there are also controls on the top, and a great app you can use to make mode adjustments. This thing is cheap, versatile, discreet and sounds great. We love it – our complete Yamaha SR-C20A review goes deeper into why.
10. SAMSUNG HW-Q950T
If you want the scale of the cinema at home, in the most convenient package possible, the Samsung HW-Q950T is it. This is a four-box system, meaning you’ve got the soundbar, a subwoofer, and two rear speakers. That’s a bit more to set up and get positioned than most options here, but they’re all wirelessly connected, so it’s not a lot of hassle ultimately. And the results are pretty astounding – when it comes to the 3D effect of object-based audio (such as Dolby Atmos) adding surround sound and even height, no other soundbar option is more convincing.
It’s not just about scale, though – the dexterity of the sound here is top-notch as well. From the smallest element of the soundtrack to the largest, it all gets picked out and presented clearly and precisely. It can deliver subtle scenes with a light touch, then instantly turn on the big noise for a shock moment, if that’s what a movie asks.
It struggles to deliver quite as much nuance in the bass as it does elsewhere, and all of this technology comes at a steep price, but it’s the best at what it does, as our in-depth Samsung HW-Q950T review explores. We’ve also got a Samsung HW-Q950T vs B&O Beosound Stage guide, if you want to see exactly how this compares to our number one bar.
How to choose best budget soundbases
The basic design of a soundbase or a soundbar is creating housing that projects sound. Several speakers are put inside the one enclosure to create loud and intense sound, much like a surround-sound cinema. Additionally, some include a subwoofer. A special speaker that is designed to sound low pitched frequencies.
The quality of sound from a TV is generally pretty poor when compared to a soundbase. These are a few features that can affect the sound quality of your new soundbase.
Firstly, cone materials. Many are made from paper, aluminum, or polypropylene. The best quality sound comes from cones that flex the least.
Secondly, the shape and size of the enclosure. A larger enclosure can tend to distort the sound more than a smaller one will, due to the vibration it causes inside the box. That’s why manufacturers try to keep soundbase’s as compact as possible.
Although the technical details are important, listening to the speaker is the real way to determine the quality of the sound. The best way to know how it sounds before purchasing is to read reviews!
Also, if you want superb sound quality, take a look at home sinema systems and hi-fi systems.
Soundbar Vs Soundbase
Soundbar’s and soundbase’s are mostly the same in terms of technology and both work to enhance your home entertainment setup. A soundbar is pretty aptly named, as the shape is much like a long bar that usually sits across the base of your TV. Soundbars usually include their own subwoofer to enhance the bass due to their smaller speakers. If not, it will be quieter than a soundbase.On the other hand, soundbase’s are more rectangular in shape, often functioning as an under TV speaker.
They are also heavier than soundbars due to the w2eight they have to support. Soundbases can generally support a higher volume level due to their larger size allowing for larger speakers and integrated subwoofers. As they both function in a similar way, the deciding factor would be how much space you have and the features you would like.
It’s important to check the connections of both your TV and sound base before purchasing.
Includes connections can be HDMI, optical, Bluetooth, digital, and analog coaxial cables.
Additional Bluetooth or Near Field Connection (NFC) makes pairing the device with a smartphone easy, therefore allowing you to stream music.
If a soundbase that allows music streaming is essential to you, then make sure to purchase one with Bluetooth, NFC, or a specific USB or iPod port.
Soundbase With HDMI
Most modern sound bases and soundbars connect via HDMI cables, so make sure to check that first when choosing your model.
Many HDMI connections are also kitted with an Audio Return Channel (ARC) allowing a two-way audio connection between your TV and the soundbase, plus other devices such as a DVD player.
You will have seen above that sound bases aren’t cheap, but the price range varies so you can find one that’s more suited to your budget.
Different brands cost more or less, however more crucial factors include the number of internal speakers, the size of the device, materials used, and the features it has. Other features than can affect the price are:
- Whether or not it has an integrated subwoofer. If it does, it’ll cost more.
- If it has a display or not. Generally, versions with displays cost more.
- The number of output modes, such as movie, music, or TV mode.
- Whether it’s a soundbar or a soundbase. Soundbases tend to cost more due to more speakers.
- Whether or not you can connect additional speakers, such as with the SONOS model.
Some brands such as SONOS, pair super-compact devices with incredible sound and a multitude of extra features, making them far more expensive. However, more straightforward versions with equally excellent sound quality will be at a lower price. To make things simple, the most budget-friendly option would be our Best for Low Budgets rated soundbar from Panasonic.
With 6 soundbase covered, it should be pretty likely that you have an inkling of which model suits your style. Although their general functions are the same, you’ll have seen there is quite a variation in features, size, and price. These pieces of kit can transform usual hard-to-hear home movie time into incredible movie experiences from your own sofa. Likewise, music and TV shows are given the proper sound quality they deserve. If you’re still struggling with which version to buy, think about going for our Best Overall rated one; the Q Acoustics M2 Soundbar! It’s attractive, well-priced, and includes a bunch of extra features.