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We’ve all been in front of the TV — catching a sports game, screening a movie, or pretending we’re at the live show on screen — without even realizing that increasing the volume isn’t making much of a difference. Don’t worry, you don’t need to throw out your TV set. Instead, adding a good sound bar can help enhance the sound that’s coming from your TV or the music that you’re streaming right away.
Upgrading to a new sound bar isn’t just about changing your theater speakers for louder, more exhilarating decks that’ll make it feel like you’re at an IMAX movie — it’s about the full soundscape, letting you in on the more intimate conversations and sound effects too, with clearer audio that could also reveal an important part of the plot you would’ve otherwise missed.
The speakers that came with your TV can still work for the time being, but they still aren’t in the same league as today’s best sound bars. Below, we’ve picked a few budget-friendly sound bars from today’s top speaker and audio brands that can work in any room, apartment or studio — all coming in at $250 or less.
Note: Prices for these sound bars may change at any time but reflect the under-$250 price tag at the time of publication.
What Are the Best Sound Bars Under $250?
Size: When you’re thinking about adding a new sound bar to your sound system configuration in your living room or home theater, check the dimensions of the speaker beforehand to ensure it’ll fit comfortably with the other items in your setup. That might include other speakers, a subwoofer and your television.
If you own a smart TV, the sound bar you buy should work seamlessly with your set, but they can vary in size and may not easily fit if your TV’s standing up with legs.
TV Compatibility: Have a smart TV? You should be able to use an HDMI cable or optical cable to pair it with your television set. Sometimes, the connection cords are included with the bar, but you might have to purchase them separately.
Remote: Now, tech companies have made it easier to control the sound of your bar from multiple devices, be it your phone or an included remote control. A majority of budget sound bars will all come with their own remote for ease of use.
Wall Mounts: If you want to clear up space on a console or already have your TV mounted to the wall, you can often also mount your sound bar. It’s up to you whether or not you want to elevate the bar or leave it on a surface, but many sound bars can be mounted.
Subwoofers: Subwoofers give you that ground-shaking boost when watching action flicks and listening to live shows. While most bars today sound great on their own, a subwoofer can be a great addition to your overall home theater system.
Sound System Pairing: Depending on the sound bar, you may be able to connect yours to other speakers and devices in the room for an immersive home theater sound experience. Companies like Sonos, Bose and others sell additional equipment that can be easily paired with a main sound bar.
Bose TV Speaker
BEST FOR SMALL HOME THEATERS
When you’re streaming a movie, no one wants to have to go back because they didn’t catch a line that changes the entire story. Enter the Bose TV Speaker. We’ve called it the “Best Bose Sound Bar,” because it’s compact and it produces crisp and clear conversations with Bose’s Dialogue Mode.
Bose’s TV Speaker is easy to set up in just about any room in the house. The bar itself measures 23.38 x 2.21 x 4.02 inches. Pick it up out of the box and you’ll feel that it’s pretty lightweight, too, at under six pounds, but if you want to mount it under your TV, you’ll need to buy a separate wall mount.
Like other sound bars on this list, the Bose TV Speaker has Bluetooth connectivity so you can use it as a speaker to stream music from your smartphone or tablet. The editor-favorite sound bar is also a well-reviewed option to add to your home: At press time, it has more than 2350 ratings on Amazon, along with an average 4.6-star rating (out of 5 stars). Go with it for an easy-to-pair sound bar from a company that produces high-quality speaker systems.
Looking for more Bose options? We’ve tested and recommend the Bose Smart Soundbar 300, because it sounds great and connects with Google’s voice assistant to control its setting.
Vizio Sound Bar for TV
BEST COMPACT VALUE BAR
You can find plenty of entry-level sound bars vying for a coveted spot in your home right now. But don’t let some of their compact designs fool you — even sound bars on the smaller side can still pack big sound and excellent clarity in an apartment space or a gym filled with loud fans and fitness equipment.
If you watch TV in a smaller room, you might try Vizio’s 3.7-pound sound bar. It’s one of the most compact units in this guide, spanning just 20 inches wide — a great size for bedrooms or areas where you want upgraded TV sound but can’t fit an oversized piece of audio machinery.
Want to switch from hearing what’s on your screen to what’s playing on your Spotify account? You can connect your phone to the Vizio bar, too, in your Bluetooth settings. This bar isn’t mountable, but you won’t have to rearrange your entire space for it on a table, credenza or shelf.
Sony HT-S350 Sound Bar With Wireless Subwoofer
BEST FOR MOVIE NIGHTS (POPCORN NOT INCLUDED)
For the most part, you can skip the complicated wiring and walls of speakers when setting up a home theater sound system — today’s sound bars and subwoofers are much easier to install in your space.
In fact, you don’t necessarily need a full system to get that movie theater-like surround sound feeling at home either. Some sound bar brands now offer bars alongside subwoofers that you can place, say, next to or behind your couch to really make it sound like you’re in the middle of the action when watching a movie.
This model from Sony includes its own wireless subwoofer to feel each and every roar and growl. It also comes with a remote, and you can toggle between different sound modes, whether you’re watching live sports or playing a game. There’s even a Cinema and Music mode, too, so you can really optimize the sound to any situation.
With Bluetooth, it will also work with any of your connected devices, so your movies will still sound good even if you are watching them on a laptop.