- VIZIO V-Series 5.1 VOV51H6
Best All Round
- Samsung HW-A450
- TCL Alto 8i 2.1
As the race to make thinner and thinner TVs has progressed the space available for a decent included speaker system has reduced. While all TVs still have included speakers, they’re often rear-facing and not particularly clear or powerful. With the simple addition of an external soundbar, the sound quality from your TV can be enhanced. While you can obviously get fantastic results if you’re willing to spend a lot on a full surround sound system, even budget soundbars are capable of enhancing your experience.
To help you get a good deal, we’ve drawn up a list of the best budget soundbars of 2021.
- Bluetooth sound
- Surround sound feature
- Metal grill
- Connectors: Optical, HDMI ARC, USB, Bluetooth
- Surround Sound Support: Dolby Digital (subsampled to stereo)
- Channels: 2.0
The Sony HTS100F is a decent budget soundbar offering two wide-set speakers and a bass reflex port. The wide speakers are designed to offer a surround sound style effect with Sony’s S-Force Pro system, however, this feature can’t be disabled if you don’t want it always on. While the bass reflex port does help to improve lower-level volumes, the lack of an integrated or dedicated subwoofer means that you can’t get a full-sounding bass.
Connectivity-wise, the HTS100F is basic, it offers an optical connector, USB, Bluetooth, and HDMI ARC. Unfortunately, it does not support HDMI passthrough or have more than one HDMI port so it can’t act as a hub for your other devices. Dolby Digital surround sound content can be played but is down-sampled to stereo as this system lacks true surround sound capabilities. Audio is well balanced for clear speech but can’t be adjusted with pre-sets or with a manual EQ.
- The Bass Reflex system helps to support lower frequencies
- Ideal for dialogue
- Reasonably loud
- Lacks bass
- Can’t turn off the surround sound feature
- No HDMI passthrough
- Dedicated subwoofer
- Bass boost feature
- Can be controlled with one remote with compatible TVs
- Connectors: Optical, Bluetooth, USB
- Surround Sound Support: Dolby Digital, DTS (down-sampled to 2.1)
- Channels: 2.1
The Samsung HW-A450 is a decent soundbar with a dedicated subwoofer for improved bass. Out of the box it’s configured for clear speech, but this can be further enhanced or alternatively adjusted with EQ pre-sets and a full graphic EQ. The bass levels from the included wireless subwoofer can also be adjusted independently.
Connectivity is minimal with Optical, Bluetooth, and USB. There is no HDMI port for ARC connectivity, this means that except with specifically compatible Samsung TVs you will need a separate remote to control the TV and audio. The lack of Dolby Atmos support is disappointing but somewhat expected as this soundbar lacks the ability to bounce sound off the walls or ceiling for a simulated surround sound experience. The fabric grill is of low quality, feeling loose, thin, and easily damaged.
- Graphic EQ support
- EQ presets
- Subwoofer is wireless
- No Dolby Atmos support
- Thin fabric grill
- No HDMI ports
- 4K60 HDR Passthrough
- Automatic volume levelling
- Dual integrated subwoofers
- Connectors: Optical, Bluetooth, HDMI ARC, HDMI, 3.5mm, USB
- Surround Sound Support: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS, 5.1PCM (down-sampled to 2.1)
- Channels: 2.1
The TCL Alto 8i 2.1 is a single soundbar system with dual integrated subwoofers. The inclusion of subwoofers means that bass is enhanced over models lacking the feature, however, to fit them in a soundbar, their range is reduced meaning they can’t reproduce deep thumpy bass.
It offers a decent range of connectivity, with both an HDMI ARC port and an HDMI passthrough so you can connect your TV and a second device. It even supports 4K60HDR passthrough, so you won’t lose out on image quality. A decent range of surround sound signals are supported, though these will be subsampled down to 2.1. Specifically for Atmos content, designed for sound bouncing off walls and ceilings, the performance is weak given the purely front-firing nature of the soundbar.
- Three EQ pre-sets
- Bass and treble adjustments
- HDMI passthrough
- High latency
- Weak Atmos performance
- Lack of low bass
- Dialogue enhancement feature
- Dedicated subwoofer
- Dual satellite speakers
- Connectors: Optical, HDMI ARC, 3.5mm, USB
- Surround Sound Support: Dolby Digital, DTS
- Channels: 5.1
The VIZIO V-Series 5.1 VOV51H6 is an excellent soundbar system for those with the space. The soundbar itself has three channels: Left, Centre, and Right, you also get a subwoofer and two satellite speakers. The subwoofer connects wirelessly to the soundbar, and the satellite speakers connect to the subwoofer for both sound and power.
The subwoofer provides a full bass response for a deeper bassline. Vocals are clear through the centre channel but can be enhanced further with audio enhancement settings and EQ pre-sets per your preferences. While it does offer an HDMI ARC port it does not offer dedicated HDMI in ports for HDMI passthrough.
- The subwoofer provides full bass
- Four EQ presets and a number of audio enhancement features
- Low latency
- No Atmos Support
- No graphic EQ
- No HDMI in port for passthrough
That was our roundup of the best budget soundbars in 2021. Have you recently bought a budget soundbar system? What sold you on it and what’s your experience with it been? Let us know down below.
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