We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.


When you click on a retailer link on our site, we may earn affiliate commission to help fund our not-for-profit mission.Find out more.

17 Aug 2021

How much do you need to spend for a good sound bar?

Buying a genuinely impressive sound bar for less than £200 isn't impossible, but choose wisely if you're shopping at the cheap end of the market

Pick the perfect sound bar to partner with your TV and you'll be rewarded with crisp, immersive audio. To help you choose wisely, we've gone hands-on with 12 new sound bar models in the Which? test lab.

Prices for our latest on-test sound bars start at around £100 and rise to a hefty £800, meaning you're covered whatever your budget. Making up the list are new releases from Hisense, JBL, Philips and Samsung. The leader of the pack is a nailed-on Best Buy, but the worst sound bar we tried is plagued by muffled audio that'll have you cringing on the sofa.

Keep scrolling as we take a look at the relationship between the price of a sound bar and the average Which? test score. You'll also spot some links pointing to our expert sound bar reviews.

Tech tips you can trust - get our free Tech newsletter for advice, news, deals and stuff the manuals don't tell you

Are cheap sound bars any good?

You don't always need to spend big to find a sound bar that makes a noticeable difference to your audio setup. Take a close look at the graph below showing sound bar price vs Which? test score:

As you can see from our table of results, our expert testing has found eight sound bars (shown in red) worthy of Which? Best Buy status since the start of 2020.

The average price for all those Best Buy sound bars is around £550, which might be more than you're willing to spend on a living room upgrade. However, we've also uncovered a bargain Best Buy under £200 that impressed our expert listening panel. It'll serve up clear speech and a pleasing level of detail when your next movie night rolls around.

Buying a cheap sound bar is mighty tempting if you want improved sound for your TV, but we've seen plenty of sub-£200 models that simply aren't good enough. One of our lowest-scoring models on test this year was described as 'hissy, brittle and unclear' by one of our listeners.

Make sure you read our expert sound bar reviews if you're looking for a high-scoring bargain.

New sound bars in the Which? test lab

Philips TAB8505/10 (£224)

We like:lots of features

We don't like: complicated setup

Here's another mid-range sound bar to consider if you're aiming to keep costs fairly low. The Philips TAB8505/10 has Bluetooth support, wi-fi connectivity and support for multi-room streaming.

This sound bar is compatible with Dolby Atmos, an enhanced form of surround sound that's common on many popular streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+.

You can't buy this sound bar through the Philips website, so you'll need to check in with some other retailers. We've seen this model on sale at Argos (£224) and AO.com (£224).

To see if this budget-priced sound bar offers audio quality you'd expect from a pricier alternative, check our Philips TAB8505/10 review.

Samsung HW-A550 (£299)

We like:simple plug and play setup

We don't like: no support for Dolby Atmos

This mid-priced sound bar teams up with a separate wireless subwoofer. If you decide to invest in Samsung's optional SWA-9100S wireless rear speaker kit, you can create a full surround system. The HW-A550, which is best suited to 43-inch TVs and beyond, features a mini central display and physical controls.

You'll spot a pair of HDMI connections on the back of this model. One of those is ARC (audio return channel) compatible, so you won't need to attach a separate audio cable to your TV.

The original price of the HW-A550 has dropped to £299 on the Samsung website. Other retailers, including Argos, Currys PC World and Very, are matching that offer.

How does this £300 sound bar compare with similarly priced rivals? Our Samsung HW-A550 review has the answer.

JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam (£304)

We like: good sound, easy to use

We don't like: can be fiddly to use

This sound bar from JBL uses forward-facing speakers to offer a pseudo-surround-sound listening experience. It measures 71cm wide and can be mounted to your wall or placed underneath your TV. Physical controls on the MultiBeam let you control the volume, but you also get a remote bundled in the box.

Support for Alexa and Google Assistant means you can bark orders at this sound bar without having to leave the comfort of your chair. When it's not mirroring audio from your TV, you can use it on its own as a music speaker.

The JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam is £304 at JBL UK, but we've seen it cheaper at various retailers, including Amazon (£295.32) and AO.com (£299).

How did this sound bar perform when placed in front of our expert listening panel? Have a look through our full JBL Bar 5.0 MultiBeam review.

Samsung HW-Q700A (£699)

We like:easy to set up and use

We don't like:expensive, app takes some learning

This Samsung sound bar is part of a package that also includes a wireless subwoofer. It has Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity, as well as support for Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify so you can stream your favourite tunes through your smartphone or tablet.

The Samsung HW-Q700A supports the brand's Q-Symphony technology. If you've connected this model to a Samsung QLED TV, the sound bar will work in harmony with the TV's speakers to create a more impressive sound.

This sound bar is available directly from Samsung at £699. We've seen that other retailers, including AO.com, Currys PC World and John Lewis, are matching that price.

The Samsung HW-Q700A doesn't come cheap, so make sure you read our full Samsung HW-Q700A review before buying.

As part of our latest round of sound bar testing, we also went hands-on with the following models:

Cheap sound bars under £200 in the Which? test lab

Although there are plenty of sound bars under £100 fighting for your attention, paying more means added features such as a bundled subwoofer, voice control or a partner app for your smartphone.

For every affordable sound bar we test, we measure audio performance for films and music. Our listening panel also pay close attention to how clear speech is from all angles, so you know whether a sound bar will be good wherever you're sat in your living room.

To see which budget-priced sound bars we recommend, consult our guide on the best sound bars under £200.

Retailer prices correct as of 17 August 2021.