Every year that new tech products are introduced, TVs are usually at the top of the list in terms of popularity and demand. While TVs are becoming slimmer and more advanced, sometimes the sound quality is disappointing.

A reasonable solution to disappointing TV sound takes the form of a sound bar. Sound bars are becoming more accessible and common as consumers look for ways to enhance their home theater experience. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help navigate you to your first sound bar purchase.

Sound Bars Buying Guide

Define Your Preferred Experience

As technology changes and improves itself every day, we are given the luxury of all-inclusive products. Sound bars are very versatile, and according to an article by CrutchField, some even have the features of surround sound speaker systems.

soundbars on a wall

The first recommended tip is to define your preferred experience. Are you simply looking for better audio quality, or are you a thrill seeker looking to turn your TV system into a surround sound experience? With the unique combination of features that sound bars have, your experience can vary greatly depending on your preferences.

Understand Your Placement

Like any audio equipment, placement is incredibly important for the best experience. Are you looking to place your sound bar under your TV, or are you more interested in mounting it on the wall. Different sound bars are better installed a certain way and understanding your placement preferences will help you narrow down to the most optimal choice.

Committing To A Budget

Building out a quality home theater system isn’t cheap, and deciding on a set budget is important. It’s easy to be consumed by the fancy audio electronics and before you know it, you won’t be able to return your expensive purchase.

TV with Soundbar

Setting a budget and making well informed buying decisions will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Understand that building out a sound system requires time, and that not all purchases need to be made in one day. Be realistic, and when your preferences adjust in the future, you’ll have the flexibility to make those changes because you did your due diligence and made well-informed buying decisions.

Don’t Be Scared To Try Them Out

Having the internet tell you that the sound is great is very subjective. Don’t be afraid to get out of the house to go to your nearest electronics store. Try out all the sound bars you’re interested in and make a list of the ones that you like.

A bonus tip is ordering online and having it delivered to your nearest store if the model isn’t available on site.

Top Sound bars Under $500

Sound Bar #1: Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1Ch 400W 45″  with 8” Wireless Subwoofer & Rear Satellite Speakers

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If you’re looking for one of the best sound bars under 500 dollars, consider the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro. The Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro is an homage to the Nakamichi brand name and heritage.

We positioned the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro under our Samsung HDTV and let us tell you that being blown away is an understatement. The 400 watts of power that delivers up to 104dB of sound is seismic, and is a clear example of when quality meets performance. It doesn’t just fill one room with sound, it fills the entire house with audio euphoria.

One of our criteria is design, and the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro is certainly one of the best designed sound bars we’ve had over the years. It’s sleek, slender, and is the very definition of sexy. We can’t count the number of times our guests and family have come over just to get that iMax-like experience.

We crossed paths with the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro through soundbar reviews and to decide if it was truly worthy of its place in our home theater, we put it up against one of our best speakers. We used both speakers simultaneously for a sound face-off, and the clear winner was the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro.

Without sounding too much like hardcore fanatics, we did experience a few let-downs with the sound bar. For Bluetooth pairing, this sound bar could definitely use an improvement. The sound bar works really well but only when it’s paired through Bluetooth.

The conclusion is that the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro deserves a 4.5 stars out of 5. It is by far one of the most impressive sound bars we’ve owned in the last several years.

Things We Liked

  • High quality sound
  • Beautifully designed
  • Great for all types of rooms
  • Better than many higher-end competitors

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Bluetooth connectivity isn’t great
  • Doesn’t do well with fiber optic output

Check it out on Amazon!

Sound Bar #2: VIZIO SB3851-C0 38-Inch 5.1 Channel Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer and Satellite Speakers

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It’s only natural that as a TV manufacturer, Vizio also made sound bars and the product of that is the VIZIO SB3851-C0. The sound bar comes with a wireless subwoofer and satellite speakers for an immersive experience for those looking for the best soundbar under 400 dollars.

We are not going to tell you that this sound bar works the best with Vizio products, because otherwise this wouldn’t be on our list. The VIZIO SB3851-C0 is a great addition to a number of TV brands and other audio equipment. Its flexibility is what drew our attention in the first place.

The wireless subwoofer is what sold us. One of the biggest reasons why we never decided to add surround sound to our home theater was simply because there were too many wires already. While cable management did help tremendously, the better solution would be wireless connectivity.

What made the deal even better was the fact that it’s all-inclusive, at a great price. For those that are looking for the best soundbar under 500, the VIZIO SB3851-C0 is probably what you’re looking for.

Soundbar reviews aren’t complete without discussing the sound. We’ve had a great experience with the sound quality and like many others, the feedback was very consistent. The VIZIO SB3851-C0 is one of the better sound bars we’ve owned in the last few years because what we got is what we read about.

The VIZIO SB3851-C0 was a great purchase, but we did wish that the subwoofer was slightly better. During our first few uses, crackling was pretty common and although the issue has died down, it still comes up from time to time.

For the quality and price it provides, we give the VIZIO SB3851-C0 4 stars out of 5. We would have definitely bumped it up to a 4.5 but the inferior subwoofer swayed us otherwise.

Things We Liked

  • High quality room filling sound
  • Wireless subwoofer
  • Comes with table stand and wall-mount options
  • Great for smaller rooms

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Subwoofer quality is not as great
  • Bluetooth may have hiccups

Check it out on Amazon!

Sound Bar #3: Klipsch R-10B with Bluetooth 

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The Klipsch R-10B is a great soundbar for those looking for the best soundbar under 300 dollars. We added the Klipsch R-10B to our collection not too long ago and are very pleased with the purchase.

One of the features that drew us to the Klipsch R-10B was its wireless connectivity. We’ve had a number of issues in the past with other Bluetooth soundbars due to compatibility issues but so far, the Klipsch R-10B pairs very well with everything we’ve given it. The Klipsch R-10B ranks very high in terms of versatility.

The Klipsch R-10B was very easy to set up and delivers great crispy sound. The subwoofer comes with a remote control that allows programmability and convenience. The bass was amazingly deep and certainly did very well with a couple of movies we tested it with.

The Klipsch R-10B is very active, and will turn on when your TV is on and also turns off when it’s inactive. This was another feature that convinced us to buy the Klipsch R-10B. The Klipsch R-10B is a combination of quality, versatility, and convenience that not many other competitors have.

As said previously with the other sound bars, although Bluetooth connectivity is great, it does come with flaws. We can recall a few instances where our neighbors were able to connect their Bluetooth to our sound bar and unbeknownst to them, they were playing music in our room. Bluetooth is certainly one area they need improvements on but other than that, we were very happy with our purchase.

For a great soundbar for the money, the Klipsch R-10B takes the take. It deserves 4 stars out of 5 from our experience.

Things We Liked

  • Very versatile with other devices
  • Automatic power on and power off when idle
  • Subwoofer comes with remote control
  • Gorgeous sound and deep bass

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Bluetooth needs improvement
  • Does not have sound equalization

Check it out on Amazon!

Sound Bar #4: Orb Audio Booster One Soundbar Alternative – Hammered Earth

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The Orb Audio Booster One was an alternative that was fun to experiment with when we were looking for other options. The Orb Audio Booster One is designed to be the best of both worlds through the unique blend of a sound bar and the performance of a high quality audio system.

Although we were looking for top soundbars less than 500 dollars, the Orb Audio Booster One didn’t fit that bill. Despite that, it is still one of the best soundbar alternatives that we’ve owned.

The Orb Audio Booster One definitely exceeded our expectations as far as sound quality goes. For a soundbar alternative, it certainly delivered on its promise as a hybrid audio device. The Orb Audio Booster One arrived in beautiful and protected packaging which eased our worries as this soundbar alternative was somewhat pricey.

Yes, the Orb Audio Booster One looks very different than your average soundbar, but we loved the design. It was different yet effective, and we were certainly ready to grow out of our comfort zone. The Orb Audio Booster One is very space friendly so for those out there that are looking to save on space, the Orb Audio Booster One is great for that.

We’re very pleased with the Orb Audio Booster One but we were disappointed when it didn’t have integrated wireless capabilities. We felt that for a product that was looking to bring the best of both worlds, wireless connectivity should have been included. Other than that, we still highly recommend the Orb Audio Booster One.

The Orb Audio Booster One is one of our most memorable experiences so it deserves 5 stars out of 5. For anyone that’s sick of the traditional soundbar, we recommend giving the Orb Audio Booster One a try.

Things We Liked

  • Great soundbar alternative
  • Beautiful and clean sound
  • Well protected and beautifully packaged
  • Amazing bass

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Price can be discouraging
  • Looks may be unappealing to some

Check it out on Amazon!

Sound Bar #5: JBL Cinema SB400 Soundbar Speaker System – Black

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The JBL Cinema SB400 Soundbar was something we went out of our way for at the recommendation of a friend. It has its highs and lows but overall, we were satisfied with our experience.

The JBL Cinema SB400 Soundbar comes with a wireless 200 watt subwoofer. The sound bar offers the option of either wired or Bluetooth connectivity, which is nice considering how Bluetooth connectivity can pose a number of problems. The JBL Cinema SB400 Soundbar can be set up in a variety of ways but we found that the best installation method is mounting it on the wall.

We were happy that the JBL Cinema SB400 Soundbar came with a remote control for the added convenience. The soundbar does a good job for its intended purpose and was very easy to install. It’s designed to be very low-key so it’s incredibly nonintrusive, even if mounted on the wall.

The sound is superb, and does well with normal television as well as high definition media like movies or music videos. It did a great job surrounding our main theater room with warm, rich sound. It made us feel like we were in the movie theaters.

While we have had this sound bar for years, we started to notice issues coming up that weren’t there before. For one, there was a noticeable audio lag. A second setback included unclear audio dialogue.

While it may be due to wear-and-tear, as well as aging, we were not very happy with those issues. It is slightly on the pricier side so we expected better. However, we forgave it and still highly recommend the JBL Cinema SB400 Soundbar nonetheless.

It was a difficult decision but we give the JBL Cinema SB400 Soundbar 3.5 stars out of 5. Reliability is one of the most important factors we look for in a sound bar and we unfortunately didn’t receive that from the JBL Cinema SB400 Soundbar.

Things We Liked

  • Low-ley design
  • Euphoric sound quality
  • Surround sound experience
  • Added remote for convenience

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Wear-and-tear issues are expected
  • Pricier than other sound bars

Check it out on Amazon!

Sound Bar #6: Bose Solo 5 TV Sound System

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Bose was the brand we started with and the Bose Solo 5 has its own special place in our hearts. With the quality it delivers at a reasonable price, we highly recommend the Bose Solo 5 for newcomers.

By default, factory-standard sound quality in TVs are very poor. Even with our higher end TV models, where we expect the sound quality to be on par with the TV itself, we were often disappointed. We stumbled upon the Bose Solo 5 when we were looking for solutions.

The Bose Solo 5 offers Bluetooth connectivity that makes it easy to stream music from our devices. It comes with a universal remote that controls many features, such as the: TV, bass, and more. It pairs surprisingly well with other audio equipment and looks beautiful when placed under the TV.

Its lightweight design was another feature that sold us. We wanted something sleek, compact, versatile, and great sound quality. The Bose Solo 5 certainly delivered.

If you’re tired of unclear audio dialogue, we highly recommend the Bose Solo 5. It’s easy to set up and is considered a jack of all trades compared to other sound bars. The only complaint that we have is that the volume can sometimes be low and therefore, we’d have to sit closer to our TV to listen in.

Otherwise, we’re confident that the Bose Solo 5 is a wonderful addition to anyone’s home theater system.

We’ve had a seamless experience with the Bose Solo 5. We believe that 4 stars out of 5 is very deserving for the quality it delivers at its reasonable price point.

Things We Liked

  • Very affordable
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Enhanced audio dialogue
  • Has Bluetooth connectivity

Things We Didn’t Like

  • No USB connection
  • Quality doesn’t compare with other Bose speakers

Check it out on Amazon!

Sound Bar #7: Sony HT-CT770 2.1 Channel 330W with Wireless Subwoofer

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No review guide is complete without at least one Sony product, and the very last on our list is the Sony HT-CT770. The sound bar is an immersive cinematic experience like no other and is one of our most memorable home theater additions.

To say that the bass is heart-pounding is an understatement. The bass immersed us in our entertainment with comes with a wireless subwoofer to enhance that experience. It looks amazingly sleek and is a strong testament to Sony’s design quality as seen in all their products.

Like many other Sony products we’ve owned, the Sony HT-CT770 comes with a long life. Even after years of use and abuse, the sound bar still sounds as good as it did when we first purchased it. It does an amazing job crowding our room with an iMax-like experience, and enabled us to play our 4K movies with ease.

We bought the Sony HT-CT770 on impulse and certainly do not regret it. We’re movie fanatics and the quality it delivers for its beautiful design and reasonable price made us fall in love with it.

The only downside we’ve experienced is the unclear audio dialogue. It does well on certain TV shows but otherwise, we use the default sound from the TV. We expected more out of Sony within this department but we forgive this issue and would still recommend this to anyone.

We’re a big fan of Sony and although we’ve been very loyal to their products for years, we believe the Sony HT-CT770 deserves 4 stars out of 5. If it did better with its dialogue quality, we definitely would have been happy to give it a higher rating.

Things We Liked

  • Very reliable
  • High quality surround sound
  • Theater-like experience
  • Heart-pounding bass

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Audio dialogue quality not great
  • Requires occasional restart to fix temporary issues

Check it out on Amazon!

About the Author David Lahav

Hi, David Lahav Here. I'm Sound Out Media Founder and a BIG music gadgets geek. I love everything from futuristic music instruments to the silliest pig-shaped headphones. Welcome to my world!

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