Buying a soundbar that fits your needs can be more complicated than it seems, firstly because there’s a wide variety of functions and features to look at when comparing models. Not all soundbars are the same, and for this reason, you have to be extremely discerning when picking one. Compared to traditional home theatre / home cinema systems, soundbars are a more aesthetic option and more straightforward to install, especially if it comes with Bluetooth connectivity.
They can also be a more efficient solution than soundbases. What will be the best soundbar for your new 4K TV? What about the price? What will be the best soundbar for your money? We try to answer these questions and more with our reviews and guide. Here are the best budget soundbars in 2020.
Our selection of the best budget soundbars available in the UK market in 2020!
Choosing A Sound Bar That’s Right For You
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.
All you need to know about soundbars, in a nutshell
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 (these might be referred to as soundbases)
Besides cost, a soundbars advantage over a surround sound system is the 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.
Some of the best soundbar products available today, with prices ranging from £100 to over £500 – higher-tech ones cost more. The lower-priced models are an excellent choice as well and work very efficiently.
See also: What soundbar size should you buy?
Who Might Benefit Best with a Soundbar?
As each year passes by, televisions are designed to be smaller and are full of additional, modern technological features within them. Sadly, the newer TVs do not always output the best audio. Some of the newer TVs have speakers in the back, which could mean that the sound echoes upstairs instead right where you are sitting and watching the television. So, increasingly, customers have been selecting additional audio equipment to enhance the sound of their TV, like soundbars and home cinema systems.
Home theatres systems have some downfalls. They tend to be larger, and they take up a lot of space. They tend to have a lot of cables and wires, which could leave the TV area and the room looking hideous. Soundbars are made smaller but are made with better audio amplifying components – they are space-savers – perfect for an area that measures up to thirty square meters, cost less, and are easier to set up.
Ultimately, the more speakers you add to your soundbar, the more amplified sound you will have. If you add more speakers, keep in mind that you might end up with more wires/cables too, as each soundbar has its own set of cables.
If you enjoy watching movies and other shows (or you love to listen to the music stations) with high-quality sound, then a soundbar is probably the right choice for you. With soundbars, subwoofers, and speakers, you can even hear the words when actors are whispering.
Maybe you had experienced poor sound quality, with YouTube streaming on your television, for example, when someone recorded a video and had the volume turned down too low? If you watch YouTube videos or shows on your TV, a soundbar could improve the sound of a poorly recorded video/show tremendously. So, the shows or videos you really thought would be helpful or entertaining to you but were not due to poor audio – now, with soundbars available today – you can revisit those videos or shows and hear them.
As technology improves, individuals can find soundbar equipment that is capable of being connected to their android phones, tablets, etc. That means that you could share your new soundbar enhance audio sounds with your friends and loved ones right through your other devices too.
Therefore, if you are seeking quality products to enhance the volume of your TV but are limited to space and funds, soundbars might be the best option for you. They turn television audio into theatre-like atmospheres — easily.
A Soundbar or Home Theater System?
Even though each product might have the same objectives – to enhance the audio and sound quality of TVs or projectors – there are a few differences amidst the two types of systems. As we have previously discussed, Home Theaters require more space and could cost much more than soundbars. Soundbars, with subwoofers and speakers, can be purchased for a lot less money and are space savers – with the finest sound quality too – as other competitor’s products.
A Home Theater system is like that of the movie theatre system, where you might hear audio from every side of the room – front, back, and the left and right sides – like surround sound. Soundbars do not work like that, but they do send out sound at an enhanced volume, which is crisp, clear, and vibrant. An additional difference between the two different systems is installation and regulation of them – soundbars are easier to install and regulate.
Even if you are computer and tech-savvy, you might still want a system that is easier to install, right? Soundbars are simpler to install and regulate, so you might want to consider one of them; saves time, frustration, and money – all-in-one.
In a word, it is entirely up to you as to which system suits your home and financial needs the best. If you are still not sure which system works best for you, consider this fact: some folks believe that a soundbar is just a surround sound system with only one speaker, when, in reality, soundbars have more than one speaker. There are also more pros to soundbars than there are cons.
What size for your room?
Well-known soundbar products use around 50 to 200 watts, depending on the product you choose. If your space is up to around 15m2, you could purchase one that is 50 or 100 watts. If your area is more than that, like up to 25m2, you might want to consider buying one that is between 200 and 300 watts.
If your equipment is set to the standby mode, that will help you save more energy too. Generally, energy consumption is lower; between 0.3 and six watts, but it will depend on which model you select. Switched line filters also help consumers save energy with such products.
Read more: What soundbar size should you buy?
Where should it be positioned?
Preferably, soundbars should be positioned underneath your TV, if wall mounted. You can find mounts for mounting the soundbar online in places such as Amazon or Argos. If your TV is on a table or stand, make sure the soundbar sits underneath the screen to keep the sound in the same direction angle of the vision.
If you choose one with a subwoofer, ultimately, you will need to account for additional space for that too.
If you have a room that is not as long, additionally square, a soundbar would work more effectively. Why? Because in longer rooms, the audio waves are not able to reflect as well as they do in places that are squarer. Also, this might sound a bit odd, but it is interesting if you allow extra space behind your couch, soundbars work more efficiently too.
With subwoofers, it’s also recommended not to place them behind furniture, such as the couch. The best place to position a subwoofer is in an elevated location, close to the soundbar.
It is recommended to place a subwoofer approximately 8 to 12 inches away from any wall. They ought to additionally be positioned on a shelf so the sound will amplify better.
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 c and the good old tried and true RCA type jacks, they are stereo only but simple and reliable.
Features – What are They?
Will I be happy with a lower budget product or should I wait and save some money so I can buy an expensive one? The best way to answer that is to look at the different features expensive soundbars come with compared to the best 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 neighbours. That’s way more power than most people need.
Soundbars with rear-facing speakers succeed in creating a surround sound effect. You won’t find this feature on top affordable soundbars but many expensive ones offer rear-facing speakers.
Many top 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?
Do They Come with External Subwoofers, or are they Connected?
Typically speaking, the fundamental difference between different soundbar products is regarding the subwoofer, which is the speaker that boosts the audio – makes it more pronounced. Some of them have built-in subwoofers, and others are external, which require connections via inputs.
A Subwoofer with an External Speaker
These are typically positioned below the television or in front of the TV. Some folks might choose to place the subwoofer on the floor. However, the sound might not amplify as well in that location.
The Benefits and Downfalls of Soundbars with External Subwoofers:
- Higher quality sound
- Even more enhanced bass
- A subwoofer might require additional space
- Additional cords/cables to deal with and connect
Soundbar with a Built-in Subwoofer
With this type of soundbar, there are bigger models available. That is because there might be one additional speaker; the subwoofer – implemented with just low-frequency capabilities. The most significant benefit of this alternative is precisely how it is designed – as a space-saver. Also, it will only require one audio output connection – from the TV.
Conversely, this option does not create as much sound quality, since the integrated design might be overcome by the reflection of audio that comes from the subwoofer. As mentioned before, this kind of soundbar additionally does not provide as good of a surround sound encounter, which is possibly what you are looking for.
Therefore, our compilation of benefits and downfalls of a soundbar with an integrated subwoofer might be viewed like the following:
- It helps you save space in your TV room (or in your projector room)
- They cost more money
- Sound/audio quality is lower
- Surround sound effect is not as enhanced
Where to buy one
Some locations that sell these kinds of electronic products are electronic stores, which can be found via the Internet, such as at Amazon, Argos or Currys. In bigger towns/cities, brand-name stores like Richer Sounds sell some of the best soundbar products available.Tip: Make sure to read our reviews about our recommended products or the ones previous customers have purchased. That will prove very helpful.
Prices for soundbars, because of the vast array available today, can vary a lot. Some models with higher quality sound (and the name) could cost as much as £1,000.
Conversely, the more enhanced and the more features each soundbar has might be priced higher, like approx — £ 3,500. You might want to go over your budget and see which price range works best for you. The great news is – once you have your soundbar and the needed components, you are set for many, many years of awesome sound and entertainment.
Additional resource besides external links in the article:
Porter, Katie – Tech. (May 20, 2019). Soundbars vs. Home Theater Speakers – How to Decide. Retrieved from https://michaelkummer.com/tech/soundbars-vs-speakers/