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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Decent sound quality
Slim, sleek form factor
Cheap build quality
Limited bass response
Almost no bells and whistles
Buying an AmazonBasics product comes with the understanding that you’re getting passable quality, at a great price. The AmazonBasics Soundbar is no exception to that rule.
The AmazonBasics 31-inch soundbar is, as the name implies, a barebones option for those looking to build out a fuller sound for their entertainment system. At its core, it does everything you’d need: it takes audio from a variety of cables, projects sound that is ostensibly fuller than the small built-in speakers of your TV, and it even affords you Bluetooth connectivity for streaming media from other devices.
The design for the AmazonBasics soundbar is a non-feature. You already know it measures 31 inches long (Amazon has a knack for naming their products in completely utilitarian terms), but both depth and height are 2.5 inches. It’s virtually the smallest physical footprint we’ve seen from a soundbar.
The small size serves as a good look for the device, as it will sit under your TV (or on the wall) in as unassuming a way as possible. The whole device is smooth matte black with a soft mesh speaker lining. It sports six buttons on the top and a series of bright indicator LEDs. It’s meant to be a minimalist soundbar, and in our opinion, it achieves this goal really well.
Though build quality isn’t going to be your first concern with a device you mostly won’t move around, we do think it’s important to note that the soundbar seems to be constructed entirely of cheap, thin plastic. This has its pros and cons.
We were surprised at just how substantial the soundbar made our entertainment setups feel.
On the one hand, we don’t recommend being careless about wall-mounting, because a drop from any substantial height will likely ding the enclosure which could possibly hamper performance. On the other hand, the lightness serves as a positive because it adds to the slim, sleek form factor afforded to your setup.
Because it weighs just over three pounds, you most likely won’t need to drill into a stud to mount the soundbar, as most drywall should support the weight. It doesn't take much effort to pick it up and move it, it’s easy to slide it into whatever setup you need. We can’t speak to long-term reliability (we spent a week with the soundbar), but the low build quality doesn’t bode well on that front.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, connectivity is yet another feature that is just basic on the soundbar. But, in our opinion, this is a good thing for most people. What competitors like Sonos try to achieve by building an app, Amazon accomplishes by giving you the most basic options.
There’s a simple RCA in (red and white cables that you used to hook up to DVD players), a 3.5mm aux-in, and digital optical input. This last option is what we recommend for this unit, as it will allow you to transfer any surround or digital features from your TV. Thankfully, Amazon includes every cable you’ll need in the box (one for each input), so you can just choose whichever one works for your situation. From there, the remote and the buttons on top of the soundbar are very intuitive and don’t require any learning.
We’re a bit torn on sound quality when it comes to the AmazonBasics 31-inch soundbar. If you’re in the market for a soundbar, then the price point of this unit will probably indicate what you already expect—this speaker won’t offer a premium punch on the sound quality front.
There are only two full-range speakers included, and it only covers a frequency range of 90Hz–20kHz. This is missing a good 70Hz on the bottom end, and because the drivers can’t be larger than 2.5 inches, you might expect a thin sound. Fortunately, while it wasn’t the most striking sound profile we’ve heard, we were surprised at just how substantial the soundbar made our entertainment setup feel.
You’ll have limited range and stability with the dated Bluetooth 2.0.
Amazon clocks the loudness at about 90 decibels, which sounds about right. As long as you’re sitting on a couch in direct angle to the speaker, that 90 decibels go a long way. There are three sound profile settings: Standard, for the flattest response; Movie to help bolster more cinematic soundtracks; News, to give you a crisper response in dialogue.
These internal signal processing signatures were pretty subtle, but we did find that the soundbar shined with a surprisingly dynamic range at the Movie setting. One thing to keep in mind is that because the soundbar employs the somewhat dated Bluetooth 2.1, (Amazon doesn’t indicate what codecs are built-in) streaming wirelessly from your device will likely be thin with some possible lag in transmission.
Unlike offerings from Bose, Sonos, or even the smart options from Yamaha and Vizio, the AmazonBasics soundbar doesn't have much in the way of bells and whistles. Ironically, this is one of the few soundbars we tested without Alexa support. Amazon is probably hoping you’ll buy an Echo separately.
What competitors like Sonos try to achieve by building an app, Amazon accomplishes by giving you the most basic options.
What you do have is simple Bluetooth connectivity which was extremely reliable during our testing. You’ll have limited range and stability with the dated Bluetooth 2.1 spec, but because you’ll most likely only be connecting to the soundbar device when you’re in the same room, this wasn’t a huge problem for us. Otherwise, the soundbar has all the input and output options you’d expect, with none of the flashy apps or integrated sound-shaping of more premium options.
Barring off-brand or refurbished units, this is basically the cheapest soundbar that came across our desk that was at least slightly worth your time. The price typically hovers just below $70 (at the time of this writing, it was $68), and when you compare it to its closest competitors that have trouble breaking below $80, this becomes a clear bargain winner. There’s not a whole lot to convey here—if price is your main priority, this soundbar should be at the top of your list.
Vizio 29-inch: The closest unit we tracked down in price is the 29-inch soundbar from Vizio for about $80. You’ll get a reasonably better sound response with the Vizio, but in this case, you’re paying mostly for the brand name.
Yamaha’s ATS line: There are a few sizes and options (some with Bluetooth, some without) in the Yamaha ATS range, but you’ll have to pay about 50% more than AmazonBasics if you buy new. You can occasionally find a good refurb deal, and in those cases, you’ll get a great set of features for a decent price.
Sonos Beam: This is way out of the price range of the AmazonBasics soundbar, but if you are looking to push your budget further, you’ll get a much better range of sound, plus some great app integrations from Sonos’s cheapest soundbar. Though by “cheap” we mean $399, which already puts it a magnitude higher than AmazonBasics.
A good balance of performance and price
If you’re looking for the best sound quality available, or you need a host of flashy features, you won’t find that with the AmazonBasics Soundbar. But if you need something for an entry-level setup, or you want a speaker to help expand your TV’s limited dynamic range, this 31-inch soundbar can do the job.