While you can spend as little as $80 on a sound bar (or sound base), the sweet spot for this kind of speaker is around $300. For this price you can expect features such as Bluetooth and even a wireless subwoofer. Dialogue will sound so much clearer than you ever heard from your TV, and most 'bars include a dialogue-boosting mode as well. Here are our current favorites.
Polk Command Bar ($300)
The Polk Command Bar is part of a new breed of sound bars which include a voice assistant -- in this case it's Alexa. The Command Bar offers excellent performance for the price and with a bundled Amazon Fire Stick the system becomes a hands-free one-stop shop.
Polk Command Bar: a remote for a voice-operated product?
While these devices are designed to be operated by voice the addition of a remote for the Command Bar is actually very handy. Many assistants lose their ability to hear you when you crank up the volume, but if you press the Polk's Alexa button it's as if you said "Alexa". No more screaming!
The Vizio SB3621 delivers stellar performance for an ultra-budget sound bar. The sound bar offers a decent selection of inputs including Bluetooth and will decode both Dolby and DTS processing. The Vizio SB3621n-E8 sells for $150.
While it's been eclipsed a little by Polk's first Alexa sound bar, the Polk MagniFi Mini still offers a lot for the money, especially if you are tied to Google Assistant. Its "head unit" is compact at about a foot long, but for such a small speaker, it's able to belt out very good sound for both movies and music.
The affordable Boost TV is a compact speaker that offers Bluetooth connectivity in addition to an optical input. While it's essentially a glorified Bluetooth speaker, it succeeds at its No. 1 aim: making your TV sound better.
Here's a new twist: This sound bar is designed specifically to boost dialogue in movie and TV soundtracks. And it does the job very well, making it especially appealing for the hearing impaired. The Accuvoice is also one of the smartest-looking sound bars for the money, with a fully aluminum chassis.
Sure, it might not look as sleek as an integrated soundbar, but a good system made up of separate speakers and an inexpensive receiver can be cheaper than you think.
For example, the Andrew Jones-designed Pioneer SP-BS21-LR bookshelf speakers ($129/pair) reset the bar for what we could expect from budget-priced speakers. Couple these with a Yamaha RS-202 stereo receiver ($149) and you have a tidy, Bluetooth-ready system that can clobber any sound bar in its price range.