Best Budget Soundbars of 2024

Here are a few shopping suggestions to keep in mind.

• Make sure you can return or exchange the soundbar even if you listen to it in a store before buying it. Soundbars may sound very different in your home.

• Determine how many channels of sound you want. To simply enhance your TV sound, an inexpensive soundbar with 2.1 channels (two front channels and a separate subwoofer) will do nicely. But if you want true surround sound, choose a 5.1-channel system, which will have rear speakers.

• Decide whether to spring for Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. These newer immersive surround-sound technologies can give movies with specially encoded soundtracks a more dramatic, lifelike effect. This is usually accomplished with speakers that include upfiring drivers. Soundbars with this feature will have a third number in the channel designation. For instance, a 3.1.2-channel soundbar has three front channels, a subwoofer, and two upfiring channels. 

“When done well, especially with models that have front and rear height-enabled speakers, listeners can really get a three-dimensional sound experience,” says Rich Fisco, who leads electronics testing at CR. Sounds like a helicopter flying overhead can appear to be coming from above the listener.