By: Steve Murano
Last updated: April 2018
Looking for a way to dramatically improve your TV sound quality without spending a fortune on an audiophile-grade HiFi system? These sub-$500 sound bars can help. And they won’t take much space or need any complex setup.
Unlike the $100 sound bars we have looked at previously, most of the below models all come with a dedicated subwoofer for wall-shaking bass, a pair of rear speakers for true surround sound and feature a variety of connections, including HDMI, so you can easily connect your audio and video sources directly to the soundbar.
Our Top Picks in sub-$500 range
1. Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro is a 140W 7.1 channel beast. It comes with an 8-inch wireless subwoofer and 2 rear satellite speakers for truly surround sound. Perfect for larger spaces, it won’t feel out of place even in a standard-sized living room. Wireless subwoofer (that the rear speakers connect to) makes it easy to position the sound the way you like it.
Nakamichi might not be a household name, but this Japanese company has been around since 1948 and has ids known as an uncompromising manufacturer with attention to detail and performance.
Check the current price on Amazon here: Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro
2. Zvox SB500 sound bar is a perfect mid-range choice for someone who just wants great sound from a single source and doesn’t need a dedicated subwoofer and rear speakers. Lots of reviewers noticed that this sound bar really accentuates the dialogues and makes them much clearer and easier to hear. SB500 has the built-in subwoofer (though you can add an external one via the Subwoofer Out later, if you wish) and produces 140W of power.
Zvox is most well-known as the company that makes soundbases (pedestal style sound bars that you can put your TV on), but their line of sound bars is also quite good.
Check the current price on Amazon here: Zvox SB500
3. VIZIO SB3851-C0 is a 5.1 sound bar from a well-known TV manufacturer. It comes with a dedicated external subwoofer, a pair of rear speakers and covers the frequency range of 50Hz-19kHz. We wish it could go a bit lower and had an HDMI input, but for the price, it’s a very tempting offer.
Check the current price on Amazon here: VIZIO SB3851-C0
Here’s how our top picks compare to each other:
- Soundbar model
- Number of channels
- Rear Speakers
- Frequency Range
- Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro
- Wireless, 8"
- HDMI x2 (4K Pass Through), TV HDMI (ARC), Optical, Coaxial, Aux In, USB
- 150 Watts
- Shockwafe Pro features two HDMI inputs with 4K Pass Through
- ZVOX SB500
- Optical, Coaxial, Analog Stereo
- Latest revision of SB500 comes with a Subwoofer Out making it possible to connect an external subwoofer for even deeper bass
- VIZIO SB3851-C0
- Wireless, 5.25"
- Optical, Coaxial, Stereo RCA, 3.5mm In, USB
- A great budget-friendly choice for a surround sound system
One of the biggest gripes about modern TVs is the thin sound they often produce. And the reason is simple – with TVs getting thinner every day, there’s simply no room for properly sized speakers. And, unfortunately, there’s only so much you can do with a tiny speaker.
One of the most popular ways to fix the situation has always been installing a full-blown multi-channel surround sound system. Unfortunately, that has two major downsides:
And while for truly surround HiFi sound you still need to go the full system way, for many people that would be an overkill. Enter sound bars.
Sound bars offer an easier and usually more cost-effective way to greatly improve your TV- and movie-watching experience without the need for a lot of wires and a complex setup.
And with a budget of $500 or less, you’re really spoilt for choice.
What is a Soundbar and What To Look For When Choosing a Sound Bar
For information on how to choose a sound bar, head on to our previous article on the topic.
What to expect from a $500 sound bar?
Price around $500 is, probably, the sweet spot for sound bars. Anything much more than that and you might be better off looking at proper home theater surround sound systems. Going much cheaper, on the other hand, will in most cases mean a lack of external subwoofer, rear speakers and overall compromises in the sound quality. It will still, probably, be an improvement over your TV speakers, though!
Sound bars in the $500 range usually are about 38-45″ long and come with wireless subwoofer. Some models will also have rear satellite speakers that will have a wired connection to the subwoofer. Higher-end models, like Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro will have HDMI inputs, while others will stick to the tried and true optical, coaxial and 3.5mm audio connections.
You will usually get around 150W of power and most of the soundbars include Bluetooth capabilities, so you can stream music wirelessly from your smartphone, tablet or computer.