The 6 Best Soundbars for Under $500 in 2020

Improve your TV's audio without spending a fortune

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The Rundown
Best Wireless:
JBL Bar 5.1 at Amazon
"This wireless soundbar from JBl transforms into a complete home theater system."

The best soundbars under $500 should offer great audio for the price and serve as a starting point for a beginner home theater setup. Our top pick for this price range is the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 at Amazon. It's a powerful 600W soundbar with room-filling sound. It works great for 50-inch TVs and larger.

You should also take a look at our more general list of the best soundbars, particularly if you're in the market for high-end models. For the best affordable soundbars under $500, read on.

Most Popular: Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1

Forget rigging up multiple budget soundbars to create makeshift surround sound. The Nakamichi Shockwafe (yes, that's wafe — not wave) Pro 7.1 soundbar is here to get the job done. Serving up an eight-inch wireless subwoofer and dual rear satellite speakers, the soundbar adds true surround sound. All totaled, there are 11 speaker drivers and 600W of room-filling sound for a theater-like experience. At the heart of the soundbar are four 2.5-inch full range drivers on the left and right sides followed by dual 2.5-inch drivers in the center. Each satellite speaker features an extra 2.5-inch driver and silk dome tweeter along with one-inch drivers for left and right channels. Combined with the subwoofer's eight-inch side firing driver, the soundbar system fills up a medium to large room with no issue.

Measuring 45 inches in length, the soundbar isn’t the smallest in the category but it can comfortably rest beneath any 50-inch or larger TV. Controlling the sound while sitting on a couch or chair is done via the included remote. The rear of the soundbar features connectivity options including dual HDMI 4K pass-thru inputs as well as optical, coaxial, and analog inputs. 

Best Value: Bose Solo 5 TV

The Bose name requires little introduction in the audio world, and the Bose Solo 5 TV soundbar is a superb value for the quality of sound. Measuring 21.5 inches in length, the wall-mountable Bose is a one-piece soundbar that features no buttons since all controls are handled by the included universal remote. The controller manages the Bose unit, but can also take command of your Blu-ray player, connected Bluetooth devices (not including phone) and gaming systems. Setup is super simple with a lone audio cable connecting the Solo 5 directly to your TV. Beyond setup, features such as Dialogue Mode make the Bose standout with improved speech quality helping to make every spoken word easier to understand. Additionally, the Bose provides extremely flexible placement options, including underneath the TV, on a shelf or even mounted directly on the wall with an optional mount (sold separately).

Best Sound: ZVOX SB500 SoundBar

Don’t let the non-brand name fool you. The ZVOX SB500 Soundbar packs powerful sound that’s well worth a listen. Designed to work with televisions sized 50 to 90 inches in length, the 43.9-inch length of the ZVOX is well within the norm. Packed inside it are three two-inch full range speakers and dual four-inch subwoofers. A 140-watt class D digital amplifier assists the soundbar with finding its own natural sound. ZVOX’s MegaBass feature eliminates the need for an external subwoofer by utilizing digital processing tech to produce powerful bass. 

Whether it’s placed vertically or mounted on a shelf, the sound of the ZVOX will not be diminished. While many soundbars focus on musical audio, the ZVOX is second-to-none in its category for dialogue enhancement. AccuVoice technology incorporates the same technology found in hearing aids to deliver crystal-clear voices. Output leveling works to reduce the annoying sound of too-loud commercials by making loud sounds softer. Multiple inputs serve as homes for a variety of third-party audio devices including Chromecast or a multi-zone Wi-Fi audio system. 

Best Subwoofer: Polk Audio MagniFi Mini Soundbar System

Dismissing the small size of the Polk Audio MagniFi Mini soundbar system would be a mistake; it may be just 13.4 inches, but the soundbar serves up room-filling sound. Incorporated into its diminutive package are dual 0.5-inch tweeters and four 2.25-inch drivers. The 14.5-inch tall subwoofer adds a key component to the soundbar system delivering the kind of deep bass you can feel. Driving the audio experience is Polk’s exclusive Voice Adjust technology. By increasing volume and vocal clarity for crystal-clear dialogue, the Polk Audio MagniFi Mini works whether you're listening to action scenes, a rom-com, or the big game.

Set up in minutes, the soundbar’s universal compatibility connects to a TV, cable box, or satellite IR remote control. Wireless connectivity through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enables third-party support for devices like Chromecast, Google Home, and Roku. Additionally, the Wi-Fi works for streaming music from a smartphone or tablet. Streaming options like Pandora, Google Play Music, and Spotify can also connect via Bluetooth. All of the functions are controlled via a remote that manages volume, input, and sound modes. 

Best Gaming: Razer Leviathan Gaming & Music Soundbar

Although Razer is synonymous with PC gaming thanks to its wildly popular laptop lineup, it’s no surprise to see one of the brand's soundbars top the charts. The Leviathan, the company’s elite gaming and music 5.1 soundbar, measures a mere three inches high, making it unobtrusive in front of a monitor. Contained within its small frame are two 2.5-inch drivers and two 0.74-inch tweeters that produce booming sound. The 10-inch high subwoofer adds an extra 5.25-inch downward firing subwoofer with two full-range drivers and tweeters. Combined together with aptX technology, audio quality on the Razer is downright exceptional. That’s good news for gamers who want room-filling sound with each fired shot or mission passed.

Disappointingly, the soundbar lacks a remote control which reduces its use to just more than a few feet away. Without a third-party application for smartphones, the only way to control volume or input is directly from the soundbar. That might be a hiccup for anyone who wants to use this in combination with a television. For PC gamers, it’s unlikely to be much of a drawback. What the soundbar does offer is NFC technology for fast pairing with smartphones or computers connecting via a single tap. 

Best Wireless: JBL Bar 5.1 4K Ultra HD 5.1-Channel Soundbar

The JBL Bar 5.1 is one of the most unique soundbars on the market. Not only is it wireless, but it also transforms into a full home theater system with two detachable, wireless battery-powered speakers. The two speakers let you set them up anywhere in your living room as left and right channel speakers, each with 10 hours of playtime. There's also a 10-inch wireless subwoofer for thunderous bass.

The system supports 4K devices and can hook up to a TV, receiver, game console, or other devices. On top of that, it comes with Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS audio enhancements to make movies, music, and games sound better.

Final Verdict

The best soundbar for under $500 is the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 (view at Amazon), a powerful soundbar that includes a wireless subwoofer and dual satellite speakers. It offers a great audio experience and works especially well with 50-inch TVs and larger. As a close second, we like the Bose Solo 5 TV (view at Amazon). It's a compact soundbar from a reputable brand at a price that's hard to beat.

What to Look for in an Affordable Soundbar

Design - Unlike surround sound speakers that can be tucked away, a soundbar is meant to sit front and center in your home. Luckily, soundbars are generally sleek, attractive pieces of technology — just look for one that’ll match your existing setup.

Sound quality - When possible, always listen to a speaker before you buy it. However, if you’re shopping based on specs alone, look carefully at a soundbar’s sensitivity rating (how loud it can get) and its frequency response (how high and low it can play). For an average speaker, the sensitivity rating should be around 88 to 90 dB, and a solid frequency response would be 65Hz to 20kHz.

Size - Soundbars come in a wide array of lengths, but the size you need will depend on the size of your TV. In general, for a 42- to 50-inch TV, you’ll want a soundbar measuring 38 to 45 inches; for a 50- to 55-inch TV, you’ll want a 50-inch soundbar; and for a 70-inch TV, buy a soundbar around 60 inches long.