By: Steve Murano
Last updated: July 2017
Bought a new flat screen TV and ended up disappointed with the sound quality? Been using the TV for a while and want more powerful sound and clarity? Having a hard time understanding the dialogues in the TV shows and movies? Want to stream your smartphone’s music to a loud speaker wirelessly?
A sound bar will help you do all that and more. And you don’t need to spend a fortune to dramatically improve your TVs audio capabilities – there are plenty options in the sub-$100 range that will make movie and sports watching a lot more enjoyable. We’ve chosen 3 best sound bars under $100 that provide the best bang for your buck.
While you shouldn’t expect a HiFi sound quality, wall-shaking bass or a plethora of connectors on a $100 product (check out our list of best $500 soundbars), you will most likely feel the difference and upgrade your TV-watching experience with any of these soundbars.
Our Top Picks in sub-$100 range
1. Megacra S11Pro sound bar is 34 inch long and comes with a very respectable 40Hz-20kHz frequency range and Bluetooth 4.0 support for wireless connectivity. It’s a 60W soundbar and works best with 32-42 inch flat screen TVs.
Check the current price on Amazon here: Megacra Sound Bar
2. Joly Joy 40W sound bar is our favorite in terms of the looks. It’s slimmer and has a unique design compared to most other soundbars. The sound is great as well – it’s a 40W soundbar with slightly narrower frequency response range of 80Hz-20kHz.
Check the current price on Amazon here: Joly Joy 40W
3. Taotronics TT-SK15 sound bar is crowd’s favorite on Amazon. It comes in a popular 34-inch format with a 40Watt speaker. The unique feature of this model is the capacitive all-metal touch control unit in the middle of the soundbar.
Check the current price on Amazon here: TaoTronics TT-SK15
Comparison of 3 best sound bars under $100:
- Soundbar model
- Number of channels
- Rear Speakers
- Frequency Range
- Megacra S11Pro
- Optical, Coaxial, Line In, Aux In, USB
- 60 Watts
- Best for 32-42" TVs
- Joly Joy 40W
- Optical, Coaxial, 3.5mm Aux In, USB
- Unusual sleek and slim design
- TaoTronics TT-SK15
- Optical, Coaxial, RCA AUX, 3.5mm In
- Brushed metal touch controls on the front panel
Modern TVs are getting thinner and thinner every day. And while that makes them look better, it also, unfortunately, in most cases makes them sound worse.
Why is it so? Well, the thinner the TV, the less space the manufacturer has left to install the speakers, so they have to use smaller speakers. And, as a rule of thumb, a smaller speaker will most of the time sound worse than a larger one, especially when it comes to reproducing the low frequencies (the bass) and filling the room with sound.
A dedicated sound system fixes this issue, but is expensive and needs a lot of space in the room. A multi channel (5.1 or 7.1) system might also require professional installation, making the bill even higher.
A sound bar is a way of improving your TVs sound without breaking the bank and avoiding complex setup.
What is a Soundbar
A soundbar (or sound bar) is a set of speakers in a slim and wide enclosure. It’s usually positioned either below or above the TV (or, in a case of a soundbase, right underneath the TV set).
There can be any number of speakers inside the sounbar, but most popular models come with 2 speakers and go up as high as 7. Often, sounbars come with a dedicated subwoofer that can be placed anywhere in the room and will greately improve the low frequencies response, so important for games and movies.
What To Look For When Choosing a Sound Bar
Number of Channels
The number of channels simply means how many speakers are there inside the sound bar. You will most often see 2.1, 5.1 and 7.1 configurations, but there are many more variants available. The number before the dot means the number of speakers, while “.1” means that the soundbar comes with the subwoofer. A subwoofer is a special speaker designed to reproduce the lowest frequencies.
Keep in mind, that more speakers does not mean better sound. Traditionally, multiple speakers are used to create the “surround sound” effect when at least three speakers are placed in front of the listener and at least a couple are placed in the back and/or to the sides of the listener.
However, since with the soundbar design all the speakers are aligned in a single enclosure, even the best multi-channel soundbar will struggle to provide the surround sound effect that even the simplest dedicated multi-channel audio system will. Manufacturers try to overcome this limitation by using different technologies (some soundbars try to bounce the sound off the walls to make it appear as if there are additional speakers behind) but there’s only so much you can do with a single source of sound.
You will find that some (usually more expensive) sound bars come with separate subwoofer and rear speakers.
The reason subwoofer is often a separate piece of the set, is because to adequately produce the low frequency sounds the speaker diameter has to be quite big and won’t easily fit in the soundbar.
Bluetooth (AirPlay, WiFi streaming, etc.)
If you plan to use the soundbar for more than just watching the TV, you might consider getting a Bluetooth-enabled device. This way you will be able to stream music from your smartphone, tablet or computer.
As mentioned previously, the primary problem with soundbars is that they provide only one source of sound, which makes it very hard to create the surround sound effect commonly used in movies and music.
Soundbars that come with additional rear speakers try to overcome this limitation. They offer additional sources of sound and make it easier to achieve the desired effect.
Some higher-priced models also feature HDMI inputs which makes it easier to connect multiple audio/video devices directly to the soundbar.
What to expect from a $100 sound bar?
If there’s one thing that TV manufacturers cut corners on nowadays, it’s the audio. Most entry-level to mid-level TV sets have tiny speakers which might be perfectly fine for talk shows and the news, but don’t do any justice to modern movies, games and music.
A $100 sound bar will in most cases greatly improve your TVs sound and make movie and sports watching much more enjoyable. You can expect more volume, making it easier to fill the room with sound, and more definition, making the dialogues stand out more.
At this price point, you will probably be getting a 2-channel (in some cases 2.1) system without external subwoofer or rear speakers.
What you probably won’t get at $100 range
Don’t expect high fidelity sound at this price. The lack of an external subwoofer also means that the low end will probably be lacking. If you’re looking for a true surround sound experience, these 2-channel setups won’t be of much help.
For all that and more we suggest you up your budget to somewhere between $300 and $500. Our list of best sound bars under $500 will help you choose the best one.