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If you’re looking for the best soundbar for under 100, then you’ll want to read what I have to say here. In the following sections, we’re going to investigate whether you really can get acceptable sound quality from budget-friendly speakers. Spending less than a hundred bucks and getting something decent seems like a long shot, but in today’s electronics market, anything’s possible.
The Exciting Prospect Of Budget Soundbars
People who buy soundbars want a speaker that is discreet and provides decent quality sound for movies, TV, streaming, and music. The problem, though, is that they believe they have to spend big to get a passable experience. Soundbars for less than 100, many believe, just won’t cut it.
In my experience, however, that idea is a little outdated. While it may have had some merit in the past, manufacturers are now adept at scaling production and cutting unit costs. Process innovation means that you no longer have to compromise audio fidelity to get prices down. In theory, it is possible to get a reasonable sub-one-hundred-dollar device.
How To Choose The Best Entry-Level Soundbar
When you’re in the market for an entry-level soundbar, what should you be looking for?
First, check for signs that the manufacturer has invested in high audio quality. Look for something called “total harmonic distortion” or THD. This metric is a measure of the accuracy of the sound that the unit produces, relative to a benchmark. The figure should be under one percent if you want high audio quality. Above this level and speakers start to sound tinny or distorted.
Next, check to see whether the speaker unit comes with a sub-woofer for the bass and how loud it goes. Most sub-one-hundred dollar soundbars are 2:1: they have two regular tweeters and a subwoofer built-in. Because of the form factor of soundbars, the subwoofer is often the limiting feature. Bigger subs are better because they’re able to create longer-frequency, lower, more vibrant sounds, but the shape of most soundbars makes them a rarity.
Also, check the volume. Some soundbars get around speaker quality issues by limiting the noise range. You want a soundbar that will deliver around 100 dB for an average-sized family living room.
Finally, make sure that the soundbar you choose has the connectivity that you need. Most soundbars today come with USB, Bluetooth, and regular sound jack options, but you’ll still need to check.
Where Should You Place Your Soundbar?
The whole point of soundbars is to make speaker placement easier. Instead of having several different units all stood on their ends surrounding your TV, soundbars offer you a more discreet setup.
Soundbars, however, bring their own problems. Being so long and flat, there are only a few places you can put them.
The ideal place for a soundbar is directly underneath the TV. This position provides the best sound experience by aligning sounds so that they appear to come from the TV.
You can place a soundbar below freestanding televisions if you have a dedicated TV stand. If yours is wall-mounted, you can attach it to a section of the wall just below too. Finally, if you have space, you can place them above your wall-mounted TV also.
Try, if possible, to avoid putting soundbars to either side of the television or inside cabinets. You’ll reduce the overall quality of the audio experience.
What Are The Advantages Of Soundbars?
Speakers have been around for a long time and do the job, so why bother with soundbars? What are the benefits?
Ease of setup. Soundbars dramatically simplify home audio setup. With regular speakers, you have to wire up multiple units. 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems are particularly cumbersome. With soundbars, treble, and the bass all come from one, self-contained device.
Better sound quality. Even entry-level soundbars can produce better sound quality that the best standalone speakers. By combining different types of speaker in the chassis along with smart firmware, they can improve on any third-party single-speaker system.
Connectivity. Finally, there’s the connectivity. Manufacturers have put considerable thought into ensuring that soundbars are as easy to install as possible. Most come with a range of connectivity options for TV, multimedia, laptop, PC, and smartphone.
Can A Soundbar Replace 5.1 Surround Sound?
While a soundbar will likely be a massive upgrade over native TV speakers, it doesn’t offer the same experience as fully-fledged 5.1 surround sound. With a soundbar, you sacrifice ease-of-use for audio realism. Since soundbars contain all of the elements for audio in one physical unit, it necessarily emits sound from a single location. Quality may be high, but directionality is limited. Some manufacturers, however, do offer faux-surround technologies, as you’ll discover below.
FULOXTECH TV Sound Bar
Fuloxtech’s aim with its TV soundbar was to create a Bluetooth-ready device capable of delivering high-quality audio from wall-mounted TVs. To achieve this, it offers a range of features, including high-yield magnetic speakers and two large passive radiators for the bass. The result is a crisp sound that you would usually only find on high spec devices.
Fuloxtech has also made the device relatively simple to mount to the wall. The package includes two wall-mountable fittings that fit either above or below your TV, depending on your setup.
- Easy to install above or below your TV
- Attractive, minimalist design
- High-quality components for better sound
- Bluetooth compatibility
- Some users have experienced connectivity problems
- Not compatible with some makes of TV
- Poor customer support
VIZIO SB2920-C6 29-Inch 2.0 Channel Sound Bar
When Vizio was designing the SB2920-C6, it’s clear that they wanted to create something that would offer users a faux-surround sound experience but without the usual expense. The company, therefore, set about building a technology that would mimic the effect of surround, but that wouldn’t require the user to part with massive amounts of cash. The result was DTS TruSurround – a sound technology that mimics surround sound and realistically recreates the onscreen audio environment.
VIZIO also took the time to develop a second technology: DTS TruVolume. One of the perennial problems with budget soundbars is the difficulty of delivering the same level of audio fidelity at all sound levels. VIZIO’s TruVolume tech modulates the speakers so that they produce a crisp sound, no matter what kind of strain you put them under.
Are there any issues with this product? The main problems are, frustratingly, to do with quality control. You could have a great experience with the SB2920-C6, but you might also wind up with a defective unit. If you get unlucky, nothing is stopping you from sending it back for a replacement, but it is a hassle.
- Less than 1 percent harmonic distortion
- 95 dB maximum volume without loss of sound quality
- Premium audio features such as DTS Tru Volume and DTS TruSurround
- Sound quality issues
- Lack of customer support
- Long-term reliability is an issue on some units
Soundbar, TaoTronics Sound Bar Wired, and Wireless
TaoTronics aimed to create a versatile soundbar solution that would enable users to get the most from their TV audio, without having to invest hundreds of dollars in expensive surround systems. The main benefit of the TaoTronics soundbar is the many ways in which you can use it. It comes with practically every connectivity option as well as dual operation models, including both remote and on-device buttons.
TaoTronics have also made it easy to put the soundbar anywhere you like. It comes with special fittings that let you hang it directly under a wall-mounted TV or connect it directly if you have a compatible device.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the TaoTronics, though, is the quality of construction. The electronics manufacturer takes a different direction from the others in its segment, offering customers a beautiful, metallic finish you’d usually only expect to see on much pricier models.
- Bluetooth connectivity
- Touch or remote control operation modes
- Robust construction
- Higher-than-average sound distortion
- No customer service hotline
2.1 Channel Bluetooth Sound Bar, Wohome TV Soundbar
The key driver behind the decision to create the Wohome TV Soundbar is value. The creators wanted a relatively unbranded product that would serve a purpose and, with a little luck, surprise its audience.
While the device does have its limits, which we’ll list below, it’s worth remembering that the product is dramatically more affordable than the competition. From a value perspective, it’s impossible to beat.
The soundbar itself features a 20W subwoofer and two equal-sized 20W full-range speakers. If you’re watching a thriller, you can crank the volume up to an impressive 97 dB and benefit from industry-beating sub-one percent harmonic distortion.
For a relatively low-profile brand, Wohome also offers surprisingly excellent customer service. There’s full technical support for all verified customers, a one-year warranty, and a 45-day money-back guarantee if the speakers don’t live up your expectations.
Are there any downsides? The main problem is the limited sound quality. For most people, it will suffice, but the audiophiles among you out there might struggle to enjoy it.
- Crisp sound
- Low harmonic distortion
- One-year warranty with a full 45-day money-back guarantee.
- Sound quality can suffer at higher volumes
AmazonBasics 2.1 Channel Bluetooth Sound Bar with Built-In Subwoofer
Also vying for a space in the budget soundbar market is Amazon’s own 2.1 Bluetooth-enabled product with a subwoofer as standard. Amazon Basics is a relatively sizeable 31.5-inch bar designed to enhance home TV systems on a budget, but is it successful?
Like practically all products in the Amazon Basics range, the brand’s soundbar does the job well. It comes with three sound modes, allowing you to adjust the type of audio the device delivers based on what you’re watching. “Standard mode” is for general viewing. There’s also “news” mode and a “movie” setting for richer bass and more dynamic contrast.
As with other models in this list, you get mounting accessories you need included in the box. The product also comes with a remote control. It is not compatible with universal or TV remotes, so you’ll need to control it separately.
As for volume, the performance is reasonable. The Amazon Basics soundbar will deliver 93 dB of relatively crisp sound but, remember, it doesn’t feature any proprietary technologies, so the sound quality might not be as high as you’d like.
The final noteworthy feature is the inclusion of Bluetooth v2.1 with a higher data rate. This tech helps improve the battery life of connected phones and tablets.
- Enhanced v2.1 Bluetooth technology enhances device battery life
- It offers three sound modes: standard, news, and movie.
- Delivers up to 93 dB volume
- Total harmonic distortion under 1 percent
- Not compatible with universal and TV remotes
- Basic sound quality
While the competition in the sub-one-hundred dollar soundbar market is fierce, there can be only one winner. And in my opinion, the victor is the Vizio SB2920-C6.
The reason for this is clear from the quality of the sound the unit produces. This product pips the others at the post because of the proprietary tech Vizio borrows from the rest of its product line. TruSurround, for instance, makes the SB2920-C6 a viable substitute for people who love 7.1 surround sound but don’t have space to implement it in their living room. And the DTS TruVolume technology delivers excellent quality audio across the entire volume range of the device.
The Vizio SB2920-C6 also ticks all the boxes that we identified earlier for what makes a quality soundbar. Thanks to the onboard technology, the sound quality doesn’t decline as you ramp up the volume. The speaker unit also comes with a fully-fledged subwoofer unit and has all of the connectivity that you could ever want.
If there was a reason not to use the Vizio, it’s some of the quality control issues people have had with the device. So if longevity is the number one issue for you, then you might be better served by TaoTronics’s offering. It offers the highest build quality you’ll find anywhere in the sub-one-hundred dollar soundbar category.