Our Top Pick for 2018: Sony HTXT1 2.1-Channel TV Base Speaker with Built-in Subwoofer
Read our full review.
As TV’s have gotten slimmer and slimmer, an unfortunate side effect that’s crept into the latest flatscreen models is the poor sound quality of their speakers. Because sound quality is affected by the nature of the acoustic space it projects from, the sleek designs of the modern TV has resulted in smaller speakers that just aren’t capable of reproducing high fidelity sound. A great alternative to the stock sound system equipped on your flatscreen is to supplement it with a sound bar, a type of loudspeaker that’s gained quite a bit of popularity in recent years. There’s a number of great products on the market, but this guide will outline the four best options for $200 or less.
Let’s Have a Quick Look of Our Top 4 Picks:
|Sony HTXT1 2.1-Channel TV Base Speaker with Built-in Subwoofer||607 Reviews||$199.00||Buy on Amazon|
|JBL Cinema SB200 60-Watt Soundbar with Harman Display Surround and Bluetooth||72 Reviews||$500.00||Buy on Amazon|
|VIZIO S3820W-C0 38-inch 2.0 Home Theater Sound Bar with Integrated Deep Bass||1,758 Reviews||$59.50||Buy on Amazon|
|BÖHM B2 Premium 60-Watt 40" inch Sound Bar for Flat Screen TVs with Bluetooth, Auxiliary, Optical &...||176 Reviews||$54.39||Buy on Amazon|
#1. Sony HTXT1 2.1-Channel TV Base Speaker with Built-in Subwoofer
Sony’s HTXT1 reigns as the Gold Pick for the best soundbar under $200. The HTXT1 offers huge sound in a compact, pleasing design. Sporting a sleek black finish, the glass topped speaker is designed to fit under your television, featuring an elevated chassis system that can support TVs up to 66 pounds. The HTXT1 brings crystal clear audio quality and maximum volume to the table and can fit just about any entertainment budget, making it one of the best values on the market.
The HTXT1 offers some of the best sound quality in its category, with 170 watts of power behind a 2.1 channel integrated surround sound. The elevated chassis system hovers the subwoofers above the surface the sound bar rests on, allowing low end frequencies to be fired downward for maximum sound dispersion. This innovative design allows the HTXT1 to provide an immersive audio experience with a full range sound and plenty of bass to spice things up.
The HTXT1 is designed so that your flatscreen TV can rest directly on top of the soundbar, making for an overall attractive design that ties your entertainment system together. The sleek, black rectangular design has a lightweight appearance and is fitted with a tempered glass top that increases its overall appeal. The use of simple lines and basic geometric forms gives the HTXT1 a modern look that is sure to compliment most TV’s on the market today.
In addition to premium audio quality, the HTXT1 comes loaded with a number of enticing features, including HDMI and Bluetooth connectivity options. Installation of this Soundbar is simple enough for even the least tech capable consumers, meaning this device will be providing users with great sound shortly practically straight out of the box. THE HTXT1 also comes equipped with a slick wand style remote that lets you adjust the speaker from afar, with controls for on/off, volume, input, mute and sound mode options. There is also an option to maximize the sound equalization to improve the sound quality of spoken dialogue.
The back of the unit features three HDMI inputs, an optical audio input, and an HDMI output that runs to the TV set. Compared to many other products in this category, the HTXT1 weighs heavy with connectivity options, whereas many devices would lock users in with only one or two inputs. By connecting the soundbar to the TV’s HDMI, users receive an enhanced functionality that allows the device to sense when your TV has been turned on and in turn powers on the speaker, adding an increased sense of convenience when using this product.
Despite all these connectivity options, the downside to Sony’s HTXT1 is the lack of support for a subwoofer, meaning you won’t be able to boost your bass frequencies at a later time. While this sound bar features two built-in subwoofers that offer a full, rich blend of frequencies, they won’t be able to project the power that aftermarket subs could bring to the mix if they could be connected to the HTXT1. That being said, this is only a minor complaint and the average consumer won’t be looking to add a ton of upgrades to their soundbar. Additionally, this product requires a few cables to function, and Sony has neglected to include them with the device itself. While they can be obtained easily enough, it is a bit of an inconvenience.
All these features combine to offer one of the best soundbars on the market that can be purchased for $200 or less. With a price tag that’s affordable for most consumers looking to boost up their sound system, the HTXT1 makes every dollar count with its myriad of features, including its aesthetically pleasing design, excellent sound quality, and wealth of connectivity options. While the lack of support to connect an additional subwoofer to this soundbar may turn away some shoppers, the overwhelming wealth of otherwise positive attributes make it a no brainer purchase for most consumers.
#2. JBL Cinema SB200 60-Watt Soundbar with Harman Display Surround
The JBL Cinema SB200 Soundbar ranks as the silver pick for this guide, weighing in with a number of features that make this speaker system a great buy. With a price tag just over $150, the SB200 is a great value that comes packed with primo sound quality and a straight forward design that will have no problem blending in with your TV. While the connectivity options for this device are designed with the plug and play crowd in mind, this soundbar will fit the needs of most shoppers looking to upgrade their entertainment system’s audio capabilities.
The SB200 is capable of producing excellent sound and packs a surprising amount of bass frequencies into its compact size. To generate maximum sound output, JBL has designed the SB200 with two 89mm subwoofers and two 25mm tweeters, giving this soundbar the edge on producing fuller sound. To help round out frequency response, a bass boost mode and a number of EQ modes have been included that allow the user to quickly and easily make adjustments to the overall tone of the sound output. Like many other soundbars, JBL’s SB200 features a virtual surround sound mode that expands on Harman’s Display Surround technology. This feature uses psychoacoustic trickery to fool the mind into hearing sound in three dimensions.
A quick look at the back of the SB200 is all that’s needed to confirm that this soundbar is designed as a stand alone unit to be used with your TV, and not as part of a highly customized sound setup. The connectivity options for this product are limited, offering only an optical digital input and a minijack. This system will appeal to customers looking for an easy to use system with a no-brainer installation, but more discerning customers looking to utilize their soundbar as an audio hub may be disappointed by the limited range of options.
The design of JBL’s SB200 would probably be the weakest element of this speaker system. While there are no serious flaws in its appearance, it just isn’t as sleek as the other soundbars on this list. While the other products in this guide sport modern designs with plenty of centerpiece appeal, the SB200 simply utilizes a classic speaker design that just doesn’t look as sharp. While there aren’t likely to be any customers who would consider this soundbar to be an eyesore, the all black, rounded design doesn’t bring any enhanced value to the table in terms of visual appeal like many of the other products in this guide do.
With a myriad of top notch features and plenty of audio power to back it up, the JBL SB200 is an excellent offering in the soundbar category. More economically friendly than our gold pick, the SB200 only cuts out a few features in exchange for the lessened price tag. While the connectivity options and visual appeal of this product may be somewhat lacking, the overall value of the SB200 makes it a worthy second choice for this guide.
#3. VIZIO S3820W-C0 38-inch 2.0 Home Theater Sound Bar
VIZIO’s S3820W home theater sound bar is the bronze pick of this guide, featuring a number of appealing qualities such as its pleasing design, high grade sound quality and a few different connectivity options. With a price tag under $150, VIZIO has packed a great value into this soundbar, delivering a product that is primed to replace your TV’s poor sound quality. While the S3820W doesn’t quite stack up to the first two entries in this guide, it’s a worthy soundbar with plenty to offer and the low price will appeal to customers who are less concerned with an abundance of features.
The S3820W comes equipped with a deep bass module to round out the speaker’s bass response and give it a fuller, more even sound. The soundbar packs 98 watts of speaker power, and is rated with less than one percent of total harmonic distortion, meaning this product can project crystal clear audio at high volumes. Also included is a number of user EQ modes that treat the sound to optimize the S3820W’s performance for different capacities. These include the DTS TruVolume mode, which normalizes the volume to a constant level, as well as the DTS TruSurround mode, which simulates surround sound.
VIZIO’s S3820W features a streamlined design, with a simple trapezoid shaped case and a black and silver color scheme. On the side of the soundbar is a number of controls such as power and volume, while a convenient remote control is also included which provides a few extra features not included on the speaker’s control unit. As an added bonus, the remote control comes ready to use out of the box as batteries are included. VIZIO has also included a pair of wall mount screws and and wall brackets to match, which means customers will be able to fix the S3820W to their wall with ease.
The S3820W comes equipped with a few options for connectivity, including inputs for stereo RCA, digital optical cable and coaxial audio cable, each of which can be used to hook the soundbar up to your TV. This soundbar includes serviceable bass frequency quality out of the box, but customers will have the option of boosting its low end capabilities by adding an external subwoofer later on. Additionally, the S3820W supports bluetooth connectivity, making it easy to pair your phone to the speaker for instant playback.
The S3820W is a powerhouse of a value, featuring good sound quality and a few connectivity options to give customers the ability to add on. With a pleasing design and the included wall mounts, VIZIO has delivered a speaker system that can easily serve as part of your central entertainment setup without detracting from its visual appeal, and the included accessories make the deal that much sweeter. While the sound quality isn’t quite up to par with some of the more expensive soundbars out there, the S3820W has plenty to offer and will provide most customers with what they’re looking for.
#4. BÖHM B2 Premium 60-Watt 40″ Sound Bar
The BÖHM B2 tops this guide as the most economical option in its category, with a sticker price just a little over a $100. This slim 40 inch speaker delivers sound at up to 95 decibels, making it one of the more powerful soundbars in its price range. Boasting incredibly simple installation and a few nifty features, this product will appeal to a wide variety of customers. The serviceable sound quality and enticing price tag make the BÖHM B2 is an ideal product to beef up your sound system on a tight budget.
The BÖHM B2 comes packed with plenty of audio prowess, bringing a whopping 60 watts of speaker power to the table. This soundbar uses spatial time delay to simulate surround sound, delivering an immersive 360 degree playback system that will fill your room with jaw dropping audio. The B2 also comes equipped with a full frequency response range from 20Hz to 20kHz, meaning that you won’t have to sacrifice sound quality for the low price. That being said, the B2’s low end frequency response doesn’t quite stand up to some of the more expensive products in this guide, and this product doesn’t support additional subwoofers.
From a design standpoint, the B2 sports a serviceable aesthetic, housed in a slim rectangular case with minimal buttons and a front facing speaker. This soundbar comes in a classic all black color scheme, and should pair up nicely with just about any TV. While BÖHM doesn’t offer anything over the top in terms of physical appeal, the B2 has a nice clean look that will satisfy most customers and work with most design schemes. To give customers greater flexibility in terms of placement, the B2 comes packaged with its own wall mounts so it can be easily fixed vertically on your wall.
The B2 offers a few different options for connectivity, including optical, coaxial and auxiliary inputs. Bluetooth connectivity is also supported by the device, and users can easily sync their smartphone or other bluetooth enabled devices for instant playback. The lack of HDMI ports is an unfortunate trade up with this model, but there is still plenty of connection inputs to service the average consumer. An intuitive remote is also included for far away operation of the soundbar.
For the price, you would be hard pressed to find a better soundbar than BÖHM’s B2. With a range of connectivity options and impressive sound project capabilities, this soundbar is worth every penny and has what it takes to improve any entertainment system it’s added to. While the bass frequencies are a little lacking for this speaker, it more than makes up for it in price and total value, meaning the B2 is the perfect middle ground for customers who want better sound but don’t need theater level loudness at home.
Naturally, the most important element to take into consideration when purchasing a new sound system is the actual sound quality each device is capable of producing. It goes without say that no one wants to buy a speaker system with weak sound and low volume. You’ll want to take into consideration how loud you want your soundbar to be, while understanding that volume is affected by the size of the case a speaker is housed in, meaning that appearance and product size will be a factor that affects sound quality. Know your expectations when shopping so you don’t buy more (or less) than you need in the sound quality department.
In addition to volume capabilities, another element of sound quality that should be considered is frequency response. Due to the varied nature of sound bars, some speaker systems will feature a richer, more full sound while other products may be lacking certain frequency ranges, especially in the low end. Due to their relatively small size and stand-alone nature, many soundbars will offer less depth in the bass department, so you’ll want to give this some thought while choosing the right product. If low end is a high priority, you’ll likely have to shop for a higher end speaker.
Connectivity is a factor to consider that affects the longevity of your sound bar purchase depending on how you plan to use it. For customers who just want a quick and easy solution to getting good sound out of their TV, this won’t be a major feature that will affect your ultimate decision. But audiophiles will want to get the most connectivity options out of their soundbar, in order to fully customize their entertainment system in the future. With greater connectivity options comes the ability to add subwoofers or surround sound down the road, and devices that offer a wealth of inputs and outputs may have a longer lifespan because of this.
While function is the most important element to concern yourself with when shopping for the perfect sound bar, you will also want to take into consideration the visual appeal of each speaker system. If the sound bar is going to be a part of the central entertainment system in your living room, make sure you select one that will fit the overall design scheme of the room. While appearance is not the most important consideration, a slick design will make your soundbar that much more enticing and will help cement it as an important element of your home theater or living room.
Conclusion (Wrapping it up)
There are plenty of great options on the market for customers to consider when searching for the right soundbar to augment your TV, so be sure to carefully weigh the four considerations above before making a purchase. While cost is always a factor, all of the soundbars in this guide offer tremendous value for $200 or less. Sony’s HXTX1 offers the greatest value with a myriad of top notch features, but each soundbar listed here has something that will appeal to a variety of shoppers. Some shoppers require expansive features and theater grade sound, while others are just looking to supplement their TV’s built in speakers. Know what you’re looking for before you settle on a soundbar to assure you get the most value for your money.