Technology

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

You don't have to spend a fortune to improve your TV's sound. These budget soundbars and soundbases are just the ticket.

Relying on your TV's built-in speakers is a bit like using the headphones that come bundled with your phone: sure, they do a job, but once you sample an upgrade you're never going back.

That's where soundbars and soundbases come in. These add far louder and better quality sound to your TV, but unlike dedicated speaker systems, it won't mean your lounge has to accommodate six extra boxes. Instead, the 'base or 'bar sits demurely under or beside your telly, quietly getting on with providing great sound.

So what should you look for when buying one? First of all, you'll need to decide whether you want a soundbar or a soundbase. They're very similar devices, but a soundbase is designed to double as a base unit for your TV – the screen stands on it. So if you've wall-mounted your set, you'll want a soundbar instead.

Bluetooth is a handy feature as it lets the soundbar/soundbase wirelessly play tunes stored on your phone. Some 'bars or 'bases support other wireless technologies like Apple AirPlay 2, and a few work with smart assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, too.

You should also look for a decent remote control, ample connections for your set-up and of course that all-important sound quality. But rest assured, all of the soundbars below sound sweet.

If you're buying a soundbase, you should also check it can support your TV's weight – this will be listed in the spec sheet.

The best part is that some of the best soundbars and soundbases don't cost a fortune, as our list below illustrates. We've got options starting from as low as £60.

Right then. Let's take a look at (and listen to) the best budget models around right now.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

1. JVC TH-W513B

On a really tight budget? This JVC is the one for you.

Connections: 1x optical, 1x coaxial, 1x 3.5 mm aux, 1x line-in aux | Remote control: Yes | Wireless: Bluetooth | Dimensions (HWD): 62 x 800 x 93mm | Weight: 220g

Pros

  • Well built
  • Decent for dialogue
  • Loud

Cons

  • Lacks bass
  • No digital optical cable supplied
  • Strident when loud

Costing just £60, this is one of the best soundbars around for anyone on a budget. Build quality is impressive, as are the connections and the addition of Bluetooth for wireless playback from a phone or tablet. It's simple to set up, and it sounds fantastic – there are four sound modes to choose from, each suited to a different genre of content. It also makes dialogue a lot easier to decipher, which is worth £60 of anyone's money.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

2. Sonos Beam

Sonos in a soundbar – and it's as good as that sounds.

Connections: 1x HDMI, 1x optical, 1x ethernet | Remote control: No | Wireless: AirPlay | Dimensions (HWD): 68.5 x 651 x 100mm | Weight: 280g

Pros

  • Enveloping sound
  • Compact and stylish
  • Superb streaming capabilities

Cons

  • Can sound harsh
  • More HDMI inputs would be nice

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 – namely, best soundbar in the highly-competitive £300 - £500 bracket. Highly recommended.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

3. Q Acoustics M2

Sonically superb, from the bass to the treble.

Connections: 1x RCA phono, 1x optical, 1x HDMI, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack | Remote control: Yes | Wireless: Bluetooth | Dimensions (HWD): 93 x 550 x 338mm | Weight: 580g

Pros

  • Crisp, punchy, detailed listen
  • Easy to use
  • Rugged, fuss-free design

Cons

  • Remote could be nicer

This is a soundbase rather than a soundbar, so the TV stands on top of it. And it's not just any soundbase – it's a What Hi-Fi? 2019 Award-winning soundbase. Sonic quality is top notch, with impressive vocal expression and a fantastic amount of spatial separation. It's so good, we would happily Bluetooth tunes to it and use it as a music speaker. It handles TVs up to 25kg, which should cover most 65in sets, and you can fine-tune the sound using the switches around the back.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

4. Yamaha YAS-207

A compelling and class-leading budget soundbar.

Connections: 1x HDMI, 1x optical, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack | Remote control: Yes | Wireless: Bluetooth | Dimensions (HWD): 60 x 930 x 108mm | Weight: 790g

Pros

  • Insightful, dynamic sound
  • Spacious, immersive performance
  • Slim, practical design

Cons

  • Treble a little unrefined
  • Midrange lacks solidity

A What Hi-Fi 2019 Award-winner for the best soundbar under £300, this Yamaha does a fine job of emulating a surround sound system, and deserves pride of place in most home cinema set-ups. Its soundfield is gloriously enveloping, and there are no fewer than seven sound modes to choose from, so you're bound to find one that suits your room and whatever you're watching.

You also get a dedicated subwoofer for extra bass. Add in some beautifully layered detail, and you've got a fine-sounding, great-performing soundbar.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

5. JBL Bar Studio

As excellent upgrade on your TV's speakers at an brilliant budget price.

Connections: 1x HDMI, 1x optical, 1x aux, 1x USB | Remote control: Yes | Wireless: Bluetooth | Dimensions (HWD): 58 x 614 x 86mm | Weight: 1,400g

Pros

  • Solid, punchy sound
  • Plenty of bass
  • Good range of features

Cons

  • Hardens at high volumes
  • Lacks timing and dynamics

Like the Yamaha, this affordable soundbar is designed to emulate the sound from a surround sound system, and it does so admirably. Bass is rich and punchy, and there's a decent amount of detail in the midrange too. It doesn't quite have it in the music stakes though – this is very much a TV sound enhancer, rather than a living room hi-fi speaker. But at this price, that's not really a complaint.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

6. Canton DM 55

An already great soundbase is now even more of a bargain.

Connections: 1x optical, 1x coaxial, 2x RCA, 1x subwoofer out | Remote control: Yes | Wireless: Bluetooth | Dimensions (HWD): 68 x 545 x 300mm | Weight: 5,300g

Pros

  • Rich, expansive sound
  • Excellent build and finish
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • No HDMI

A rich, meaty sound with deep bass is the order of the day with this soundbase. But it's not all oomph – it also boasts a surprising level of agility and subtlety that raises it above its brasher rivals. It's well built too, with the sleek glass top adding a touch of class. And it supports TVs weighing up to 40kg. If yours is heavier, give yourself a pat on the back.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

7. Acoustic Energy Aego Soundbar

An excellent budget soundbar for smaller TVs.

Wireless: aptX Bluetooth | Inputs: optical input | Remote control: Yes

Pros

  • Expansive, solid sound
  • Small size and budget price is appealing
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Could be subtler and more dynamic
  • Not amazing with music

What if you have a small room, a small TV and a small budget but want a big, enjoyable sound? That’s easy: you take the Acoustic Energy Aego Soundbar for a spin.

The Aego Soundbar is compact, comprising a small bar and a wired subwoofer for just £200. Despite the budget price-tag, however, Aego's system doesn't feel cheap and the bar’s dimensions (just 50cm long and 7cm tall) are such that you can prop it right up close to your small telly or even desktop computer without obstructing the screen.

There's a pleasing solidity to the Aego's presentation. All in all, a great option for smaller homes.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

8. Cambridge Audio TV5 v2

A budget soundbase with plenty going for it.

Dimensions: (hwd): 10 x 73 x 34cm | Weight: 8.14kg | 3.5mm jack

Pros

  • Tight bass
  • Large, fluid dynamics
  • HDMI connectivity

Cons

  • Lack of display
  • Remote could be nicer

Sonically superb despite lacking a display, this 70 cm 'base feels a bit like Hal 9000 is staring at you from beneath your television. This will either make you leap with joy or cower away (if you remember the movie), but ergonomically it does mean you have no way of telling the numerical volume, or which EQ setting the soundbase is on.

Get past the divisive design elements, however, and the v2 offers nothing short of an excellent sound quality.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

9. Cambridge Audio TVB2

A fine budget soundbar that oozes versatility and a clear, detailed sound.

Dimensions: (hwd): Soundbar: 88 x 7.5 x 4.6cm, Subwoofer: 18 x 36.4 x 27.8cm | Weight: Soundbar: 1.63kg Subwoofer: 4.9kg | 3 x HDMI 1.4c inputs, 1 x HDMI 1.4c output with ARC, TOSLINK Optical, 3.5mm

Pros

  • Deep, tight bass
  • Clear, solid mids
  • Great integration

Cons

  • Outshined for subtlety and dynamics
  • Not the biggest sound

The task handed to Cambridge Audio’s engineers was to produce ‘one of the most discreet’ soundbars on the market, but ‘without giving anything away in terms of sound quality and power’.

They’ve certainly met the design brief. The TVB2 is a sleek bar housing two of the company’s fourth-gen BMR (Balanced Mode Radiator) drivers, and a compact, corner-friendly wireless subwoofer featuring a single down-firing 16.5cm woofer.

It’s as space-economical and TV-friendly as we’ve seen a soundbar/sub combo. The 88cm soundbar nicely fits a 42in TV and, at only 7cm tall, it shouldn’t block the screen if sat in front of it. Offering a big step-up in weight and solidity over a TV’s speakers, the TVB2 is £249 (down from £300) well-spent.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

10. Q Acoustics M3

An easy to use and affordable soundbar from the Q Acoustics stable.

Dimensions: (hwd): 100 x 9 x 12.5cm | Weight: 4.0kg | HDMI ARC, Bluetooth aptX, 2 x RCA, Optical input, 3.5mm

Pros

  • Clear, detailed and weighty sound
  • Smart updated design
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Timing and dynamics could be better
  • Booming bass
  • Competition from within

There's an awful lot to like in this Q Acoustics soundbar, currently available at a snip of its original RRP of £300. We gave it four stars at the asking price, but for £169 there's plenty of clear, weighty sound and user-friendliness on offer.

If you're a fan of weighty bass – even if it means compromising on a modicum of rhythmic timing – this may well be the 'bar for you.

Best budget soundbars and soundbases 2020: excellent, affordable TV speakers

11. Sky Soundbox

Sky and Devialet team up for this budget soundbar.

Dimensions: (hwd): 9.5 x 37.5 x 21cm | Wireless: Bluetooth | Inputs: 4K HDMI, USB

Pros

  • Clear, expressive, widespread sound
  • Well built
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Shape won’t suit all
  • No Dolby Atmos
  • Poor value to non-Sky customers

Currently available for £199 if you're a Sky VIP Diamond or Platinum Tier customer and £249 for all other Sky customers, if you've previously considered Devialet products too rich for your blood, you might want to think again. You can now nab this Sky/Devialet collaboration for £499 even if you're not a Sky customer – down from its original price of £800. Anyone familiar with the premium French hi-fi brand will know how much Devialet kit usually retails for.

Yes, it's kind of bulky, more like a large lunchbox than a bar, but it’s a box with a big presence. Don’t expect “surround sound” – do expect heft and guts, especially through the midrange, plus plenty of clarity and expression overall.