What are the best budget soundbars under £100?
You’ve been saving your money for a long time now to get that new 60” flat screen TV. You’ve done the research, studied pixels, resolution, and contrast. You made your choice and shopped around for the best price. You buy it and mount it on the wall. Your mates come over to watch the big match, everyone is excited. But you’re in for a big disappointment, the thing sounds like an old transistor radio. Your buddy’s laugh at you, then head to the pub to watch the game.
Now, what do you do? You’ve spent your bankroll on the new set, so a high-priced surround sound system is out of the question. It’s time to do some more research and consider a soundbar. Even a small budget will get you big sound with one of the many low-cost soundbars on the market.
What Is A Soundbar?
A Soundbar is basically a low-cost alternative to an expensive surround sound system. There are two different styles of soundbars. The first one is just like it sounds, a bar of speakers. They are long rectangular units that either mount on the wall or sit on a shelf below the TV. Some soundbars are pedestals, designed for the TV to sit on top.
Besides cost, a soundbars advantage over a surround sound system is ease of installation and size. You must hire a qualified technician to install a surround sound unit, which can get costly, and you’ll need to make room for all those speakers. You won’t need a degree in engineering to hook-up a soundbar and they take up very little space.
Prices for soundbars range from around £100, £200 up £1,800.
Some Things To Consider
The first thing you want to think about is space. Is there enough room under the TV for a soundbar? If not, you might want to consider a pedestal system instead. The TV sits right on top of a pedestal. If looks are important, you might want to consider a soundbar made by the same company as the TV. Many are designed to look like an extension of the TV itself.
Are you mostly going to be gaming? Do you watch movies or sports? How about streaming music and will the soundbar double as your stereo system? No matter how you answer any of these questions, you can find a budget soundbar that will fit your needs.
Budget Soundbar Basics
When you look at budget soundbars most are very similar in performance with some subtle differences. Not so much with the more expensive units. Here we’re going to focus on the lower cost units and what features most share.
HDMI connectivity is the most common way to hook-up a soundbar to a flat screen. Most have one input and one output port.
A few years back most budget soundbars didn’t come with Bluetooth connectivity. Nowadays you would be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t have it. It makes for easy hook-up and gives you audio streaming capabilities from your cell phone.
Two more hook-ups common to budget soundbars are TOSlink digital audio input cables and the good old tried and true RCA type jacks, they are stereo only but simple and reliable.
Speakers and Channels
Speaker specifications can get confusing and much of the information is useless unless you are a true audiophile. Wattage and dB are the easiest speaker specs to understand. 50 watts and 100 dB of output, is the most common size of budget soundbars, which should be plenty of punch. 120 decibel is the pain threshold, so 100 dB should be plenty.
Most budget soundbars have 2.1 stereo output. Two speakers one subwoofer. If you want 5.1 or 7.1, 3D pass-through or even surround, you will need to buy a more expensive soundbar.
Most budget soundbars have built-in subwoofers, a few like the Vizio SB3821, come with an external wireless subwoofer. There are a few low priced soundbars that don’t have subwoofers, not everyone likes heavy bass. Also, most do not have tweeters, but the mid-range speakers do a great job of delivering clear dialogue.
Apples and Oranges
Will I be happy with a budget soundbar or should I wait and save some money so I can buy an expensive soundbar? The best way to answer that is to look at the different features expensive soundbars come with compared to a budget soundbar.
The biggest difference between the two are gizmos. Many higher priced soundbars come with all the whistles and bells. But do you really need something like 3d pass-through, unless you own a 3D capable TV, the answer is no.
Output and Sound
How about 450-watt speakers like the Sony HT-NT5 puts out. That depends on how well you get along with your neighbors. That’s way more power than most people need.
Soundbars with rear facing speakers succeed in creating a surround sound affect. You won’t find this feature on budget soundbars but many expensive ones offer rear facing speakers.
Many budget soundbars don’t have bass and treble control, bass booster, front display and remotes. Most soundbars sync with the TV’s remote and equalizer settings can be adjusted through it. A few expensive soundbars have a front display that shows the volume number only. Do you really need to see that?
With all the many digital devices and streaming options available now, some expensive soundbars come pre-installed with streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify Connect, and Tidal. You won’t find this option on budget soundbars.
Only a few TV’s on the market support 4K, so unless you’ve already put out the money for one, a 4K capable soundbar is not necessary. If you plan on hooking up a DVD or Blu-Ray player you will need to buy a more expensive soundbar because most budget soundbars have only one input HDMI.
It’s All About the Sound
Just like when you bought that 60” flat screen TV, you need to do some research before you buy a soundbar. There are many low-cost soundbars on the market that pack a wallop like their more expensive cousins. And just like any big-ticket purchase, it’s nice to go for a test drive first. Most big box appliance stores have rooms where you can give soundbars a listen.
The one thing that is certain, just about any budget soundbar will greatly improve the sound quality of any flat screen TV.