These Budget Speaker Systems
Fit Under Your HDTV Set
Serious audiophiles might scoff but soundbars present a space-conscious, wallet-friendly solution for multichannel home theater surround sound that doesn’t require you to place 5 plus wire-showing speakers around your living room (translation: high spouse acceptance factor) And you don’t need to purchase an A/V receiver with a 5.1 channel systems. Plus, many of them have hookups for iPods and gaming consoles. Some of the latest options include wireless subwoofers and Blu-ray players.
Soundbars are basically arrays of speakers that are designed to fit snuggly under your TV or mount attractively on your wall. To create a surround sound they bounce sound off of walls and use DSP chips to add delays and shape sound to deliver a pretty good version of surround sound depending on the characteristics of the room. Of course you could pay as much as $2000 for a high-end soundbar, but most likely you paid less than that for your HDTV, so it might not make much economic sense. Soundbars also don’t provide the full surround experience that you get with discrete speakers placed around the room but they do offer a reasonably good compromise. New soundbars are not introduced at the same rate as other faster-moving product categories like TVs and smartphones and some older soundbars are still popular choices. Here are some soundbars that won’t break the budget while providing a big step up from your TV’s built-in sound.
New Sony Soundbar Does 3D
The new Sony HT-CT150 delivers 340 watts, comes with a subwoofer, and even though it only simulates a 3.1 channel surround sound system, it uses HDMI ports to deliver Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. Users say the good selection of inputs makes the Sony HT-CT150, a 32-inch 3D sound bar, able to serve as a receiver with 3D compatible HDMI ports, which makes it a good value at $298 (Amazon). The CT150 does have a couple of downsides; the subwoofer is not wireless (a 10’ cable is included), all the connections are made through the subwoofer, and you need a line of site to the subwoofer in order to use the remote with it. In other words if you’re okay with placing the subwoofer next to the TV or cabinet, you shouldn’t have a problem however, if you want to put it next to the sofa, you may have a more of a challenge. On the other hand, reviewers seem to like this soundbar giving it 41/2 stars on Amazon.
Vizio Has Wireless Subwoofer and Adequate Sound
The Vizio VSB210WS sound bar is almost 2 years old and priced at $300. It comes with a wireless subwoofer which makes it easier to find the optimum location for it in the room. Expert reviewers say it offers a good value delivering an adequate job of opening up the sound. Users say they generally feel they got their money's worth.
Samsung Soundbar Only Has 2.1 Channels But Delivers a lot of Sound
The recently released Samsung’s HW-C450 AudioBar comes through with a wall-mountable, skinny soundbar with great 2.1 channel movie theater surround sound and a wireless subwoofer. Priced at $350, it packs 280 watts of power and users say it delivers a lot of sound. It offers quite a bit of value in a compact soundbar, but don’t expect to connect an HDMI cable, because it doesn’t have that port. Samsung does make a model with a Blu-ray player (HT-BD8200), and although it gives you DVD upconverting and internet streaming with Wi-Fi, it’s priced at $700.
JVC Offers 4.1 Channels and Wireless Subwoofer in Attractive Design
This product has been around for more than 5 years and HDMI connectivity is missing on the 220 watt JVC TH-BA1 but for around $250 (Amazon), the sound quality is impressive with a 4.1 channel soundbar and a wireless subwoofer. The only thing better than the sound quality, is the attractive design. Sure, it can fit under your HDTV, but it would look much better mounted up on the wall. It uses a single optical audio cable to receive digital audio from your Blu-ray, DVD, or TV.
Boston Acoustics Soundbar
Could Be a Good Value

For a good value in this price range, Boston Acoustics makes a TVee Model 20 soundbar with surprisingly simplistic, crisp surround sound. For under $300 you get a single-cable connecting soundbar with a 100-watt peak and a 6-inch wireless woofer. Some users complain it isn’t loud enough but it gets high-marks from audiophiles and is easy to use.
For A Few
(Quite a Few) Dollars More

For the price of the higher end soundbars you could probably get yourself a good discrete speaker system but if you do want a better soundbar we recommend you take a look at the Yamaha Digital Sound Projector YSP-4000 which will cost you around $1600 but will earn you more respect from audiophiles who come to visit. Yamaha also a $600 model called the YSP-3050 which also gets high marks for audio fidelity. Polk Audio sells a $900 soundbar, the SoundBar 360 DVD that gets good reviews but is starting to show its age. For our money, we’d probably go with a less expensive soundbar one like the Sony CT150 while we saved up for a discrete speaker system.
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