Soundbars have come a long way from being underpowered TV replacement speakers to now offering mind blowing 360 degree 3D surround experiences. And lucky as you are, $500 is a sweet spot for finding feature rich soundbar systems with exceptional audio performance.
The Samsung HW-Q800T is hands down, the best soundbar system you can buy right now under a budget of $500. And the Sony HT-G700 is the next best choice if you’re looking for the best TV soundbar bar under 500 bucks in [year].
CHANGE ORDER Top Soundbars For Less Than 500 Bucks: Quick Comparison
Samsung HW-Q800T||Check Price|
Sony HT-G700||Check Price|
JBL Bar 5.1 Surround ||Check Price|
Bose Smart Soundbar 300||Check Price|
VIZIO M-Series 5.1.2||Check Price|
Best Sound Bar Under 500 [year]: Reviews
1. Samsung HW-Q800T Soundbar
The Samsung HW Q800T soundbar system comes with a 5 channel sound bar (3 front firing and 2 top firing) and a wireless subwoofer. The system lets you add two wireless rear satellite speakers but you’ll have to buy them separately.
But even without the optional rear sats, this system gives you a blast while watching movies thanks to its powerful sub and ultra high quality soundbar speakers.
The soundbar has special top firing speakers, which Samsung calls ‘Acoustic Beam’, which are directionally tuned to produce a truly vivid soundscape.
Coming from Samsung, the sound bar system is a well built unit and has a minimalistic presence suitable for most rooms.
The HW Q800T supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X so you’ll never run out of options for watching objects based 3D surround content in either codec.
The system supports HDMI eARC which lets you enjoy lossless 3D surround audio from your playback device via your TV with an eARC port.
In case you’re connecting your Soundbar directly from your Blu-ray player, you can still pass through 4K HDR 10+ content to your TV.
If you happen to own a compatible Samsung QLED TV you’re in for some extra treat.
Apart from being able to control the Soundbar with your TV remote, Samsung’s Q-Symphony feature enables you to play the TV’s in-built speakers along with the soundbar system creating an additional source for a more immersive 3D surround environment.
The system has multiple connectivity options viz. 1 x HDMI eARC Out, 1 x HDMI In, 1 x Optical Input, WiFi and Bluetooth.
The Samsung HW Q800T has Alexa built-in for easy voice control and can be integrated into the Samsung SmartThings app if you happen to own other Samsung connected devices.
- Well detailed and vivid 3D audio experience
- 4K HDR10+ pass through
- Wireless rear satellite speakers are sold separately
2. Sony HT-G700 Soundbar
Well, play any Dolby Atmos content on this minimal sound system and you’ll blow away by the immersive surround effect created by Sony’s trickery.
It is really hard to imagine how the Sony HT-G700 manages to produce a perceived sound coming from rear and top direction with the absence of rear sats and top firing speakers.
So can it replace a full fledged home Atmos system with dedicated rear and top firing speakers? Maybe not but it comes very close.
The Sony HT-G700 will leave you hard pressed to notice any difference in terms of 3D surround effects against any Dolby Atmos soundbar system under $500.
Several noteworthy features make the Sony HT-G700 one of the best compact TV soundbar systems in the market.
Like the up-lifted audio which virtually creates a perception that the sound is coming directly off the TV instead of the soundbar.
And the Immersive AE (Audio Enhancer) button on the remote which instantly upscales any stereo audio into 3D surround audio
Both the soundbar and wireless Subwoofer have a solid build quality and look very premium.
The sub-woofer is powerful enough to produce heart thumping bass effects and being front firing, you can place it against a wall.
The HT-G700 supports 4K HDR video passthrough and HDMI-eARC ensuring you hear lossless 3D audio along with the best visuals.
The device has an Optical Input and also supports playback through bluetooth when connected to a compatible bluetooth enabled TV.
The Sony lacks support for voice control function or smart home integration with the absence of WiFi connectivity though.
Overall, the Sony HT-G700 delivers a well detailed and immersive audio experience from a compact setup.
If you want a vivid 3D surround experience without satellite or ceiling speakers, then the Sony HT-G700 is the best choice under $500.
- Incredible Virtual 3D Engine
- 4K HDR Pass through
- No Smart Control Functions
3. JBL Bar 5.1 Surround Sound Bar
The JBL Bar 5.1 surround is a 5 channel soundbar and 1 subwoofer setup. While the earlier ‘JBL Bar 5.1’ had detachable speakers for rear surround, the ‘JBL Bar 5.1 Surround’ instead uses JBL’s MultiBeam technology to emulate 3D surround.
The system is quite large and bulky compared to other soundbar systems but considering the 550W power rating, it seems pretty reasonable.
The JBL Bar 5.1 surround is made for one thing and that’s delivering chest-thumping sound with an immersive 3D surround effect.
Although the soundbar doesn’t support object based sound like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, the MultiBeam technology makes up for it in a pretty convincing manner.
Most video services support Dolby digital and the JBL Bar 5.1 surround brings out the full potential out of it, especially when watching action movies.
Apart from being able to play content over bluetooth, you can connect the device over WiFi to stream content via. Chromecast and Airplay 2.
The JBL Bar 5.1 Surround has 1 x HDMI Input, 1 x HDMI ARC Output & 1 x Optical Input ports and supports 4K video pass through.
The JBL Bar 5.1 Surround is the soundbar system of choice for any one who wants a powerful life size sound along with a cinematic surround experience for 500 bucks.
- MultiBeam surround sound
- Powerful Sound Output
- Deep Bass
- Bulky size
- Absence of Dolby Atmos/ DTS:X support
4. Bose Smart Soundbar 300
The Bose Smart Sound Bar 300 is a 5 channel sound bar and although a wireless sub and a pair of Bose satellite speakers can be added to the system, you have to buy them separately.
Apart from this, the system does not support object based 3D surround technologies like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.
Yes, a $500 soundbar with neither 3D surround nor a sub may sound impractical but that’s until you turn on the Bose Smart Soundbar 300 and hear its outstanding audio performance.
The 4 full range speakers and a center tweeter on the sound bar produce a very neutral and open soundscape full of clarity and punch.
The bass is so full and defined that unless you really want to shake under the thump of a subwoofer, you’ll feel just fine without one.
The Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is just about 50mm tall making it very compact and unobtrusive. For its size, it outperforms most competition in delivering a very clean and wide sound output.
Another important area where the Bose Soundbar excels in its implementation of smart features such as the enhanced voice control feature which lets you even select the TV channel just by voice command with the help of in-built Alexa.
Also, you can connect compatible bluetooth headphones and speakers and listen to the audio discreetly or in another room in sync with the main soundbar audio.
The Bose Music App which is available for both iOS and Android enables you to play music on the soundbar from multiple streaming services and also from your local library.
Although the app connects with the soundbar seamlessly, it lacks many features for music management that you’ll be better off with just connecting the soundbar over bluetooth the regular way.
The device supports HDMI ARC and Optical Audio Input and although Bose doesn’t mention this, 4K video pass through seems to be present but HDR content cannot be passed through.
Overall, the Bose Smart Soundbar 300 strikes a chord with those who have a keener ear for high quality audio than a focus on 3D surround sound.
- Exceptional sound quality
- Compact design
- No support for Dolby Atmos/ DTS:X
5. VIZIO M-Series 5.1.2 Sound Bar
The VIZIO M-Series is the brand’s latest mid-range performer and it’s loaded with every feature that you can expect at this price point.
It is a 5.1.2 setup where you have a 5 channel sound bar (3 front firing and 2 top firing), 1 subwoofer and 2 satellite rear speakers. The speakers are well built with premium looking plastics and an elegant fabric knitting.
The remote control too feels premium to hold and has a LCD backlit display. The device has different EQ presents for gaming, music and movies.
This VIZIO M-Series 5.1.2 ensures that you lack absolutely nothing in having a true Dolby Atmos experience at home. With two top firing speakers in the soundbar and a powerful sub, the overall sound experience is very immersive and alive.
The output is pretty neutral but with more focus in the mid-range. The bass, although not earth shaking, is powerful enough to enjoy most action scenes.
The sound bar supports the latest HDMI eARC technology which allows you to stream lossless Dolby Atmos data from any eARC supported TV.
Apart from this, the system has dedicated ports, one each for HDMI In, 3.5mm AUX, Optical In and USB connection.
The system can act as an extended speaker for any of your favorite digital assistant devices like Amazon Echo or Google Nest.
Overall, the Vizio M-series stands as the best choice for anyone looking for a full fledged and feature rich soundbar with a truly immersive audio experience.
- Full-fledged home theatre experience
- Solid Built Quality
- No built-in digital assistants
Soundbar For Less Than $500 Buying Guide
Sound bars can come either standalone or with subwoofers & satellite speakers. And the sound bar itself is a set of individual speakers encased in a single body-usually facing different directions.
For example, consider a 3.1.2 Channel Soundbar system. A channel can be just one speaker or perhaps a pair of speakers dedicated to reproducing the same sound signal.
This means that we have 3 regular channels plus 2 top firing channels in the Soundbar and 1 discrete subwoofer.
With this knowledge, you can get a pretty good idea of how strong the bass and how realistic the 3D surround effect would be.
Object based 3D surround technologies such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X are meant to accurately recreate a 360 degree surround sound landscape. This includes experiencing sound from the top side (ceiling) and the rear side of your seating.
For this purpose, high end home theatre systems have dedicated speakers placed in the ceiling and in the rear side of the listening area.
Fortunately, many sound bars under $500 are designed to emulate ceiling speakers by bouncing the top channel off the ceiling using top firing speakers. This clever technique creates a perception that the sound is coming from above your head.
Not only this, some soundbars like the Sony HT-G700 can even create a perception of hearing sound from your back side even without having any rear speakers.
If you really want a truly enjoyable and accurate 3D surround experience while watching content, then always make sure that the soundbar supports Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.
HDMI ARC/ eARC
ARC means Audio Return Channel and eARC is basically ‘enhanced’ ARC. If your TV and Soundbar are connected through HDMI ARC ports, then you should be able control basic functions of your soundbar system using your TV remote.
But the problem with ARC is that when Dolby Atmos audio data is transmitted from the TV to the soundbar, the data has to be compressed thereby losing some audio quality.
This is where eARC comes in. HDMI eARC has a much higher bandwidth capacity and hence can transmit Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio data in a lossless manner to the soundbar system.
However, do note that even with HDMI ARC you can still hear very quality virtually 3D sound although it will not be as accurate as hearing Dolby Atmos through eARC.
High Quality Video Passthrough
Let’s say you are using your soundbar system as the main hub by connecting a TV, Blu-ray player and a Gaming console.
In case you want 4K HDR content on your TV, your soundbar should be able to get the 4K HDR video data from Blu-ray player and transmit the same to your TV without losing quality. This is generally called a ‘pass through’.
Some soundbar systems can pass through 4K HDR10+ content, some can only do 4K and some cannot pass through 4K content and instead they downsize the quality before transmitting to the TV.
This might not be a big deal if you don’t have a TV that can reproduce 4K HDR.
But in case you have spent your money on a high end display unit with 4K HDR or above, you definitely need a soundbar which can pass through that data from your source.
Final Words About The Very Best Soundbars Under 500
Sound bars are becoming more and more popular because of their compact footprints and incredible audio performance.
The best choice for the best TV soundbar for 500 bucks in [year] is the highly rated Samsung HW-Q800T soundbar system. Samsung has made this sound bar a top notch system in terms of audio quality and 3D spatial surround.
The Sony HT-G700 is an amazing soundbar that has impressed us with its plethora of audio trickery and the JBL Bar 5.1 surround stands unmatched in producing a earth shattering movie watching experience.
Finally, if you are the type who values audio fidelity more than anything else, then the Bose Smart Soundbar 300 is your best choice for a soundbar with bluetooth under $500.
Dave Pearson is a Canadian musician, sound editor, and audiophile. He is also the founder and owner of the website SoundProofGeek. On SoundProofGeek, Pearson offers advice and resources on audio equipment, including how to assess and improve audio quality, how to troubleshoot and repair audio equipment, and how to improve the music listening experience.