Update, 12/08/2022: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and have updated our budget bookshelf speaker pick to the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2.
What to Look For in a Budget Speaker in 2022
Different people have different needs, so we’ve included a few different types of speakers on this list. You’ll find bookshelf speakers, Bluetooth speakers, soundbars, smart speakers, and subwoofers.
The first thing you need to think about is what you’re buying speakers for. Bookshelf speakers can be useful for both music and movies, but a portable Bluetooth speaker isn’t going to work for a home theater. Think about what you’ll be using the speakers for the most and let this guide your decision.
Many speakers these days are either battery-powered or use their own power supply that plugs into the wall. For these, all you require is any sort of audio signal, and you’re ready to go. Bookshelf speakers, on the other hand, need an amplifier to reproduce sound.
While most of the speakers we’re looking at here are wireless, some like bookshelf speakers and subwoofers need cables. We’ll make sure to mention the cables you’ll need if they aren’t included in the box.
For Bluetooth and other wireless speakers, you also need to consider where you’re using them. If you’re mostly using a speaker inside your home, it doesn’t need to be that tough. That said, if you’re taking a speaker everywhere with you, make sure it has some protection from the elements.
Finally, while we’ve included a single bespoke smart speaker, other speakers can include voice assistant support that lets them integrate with your smart home. If you value this functionality, make sure any speaker you’re considering has it, as it’s tough to add later on.
What’s an acceptable price range for a budget speaker?
The term “budget” can mean different things to different people. In our case, we’re looking at speakers priced between $30 and $300. This also varies by category: for example, a pair of bookshelf speakers will cost more than a Bluetooth speaker.
Can budget speakers last a long time?
If a speaker is built well, it will last, regardless of how much you paid for it. Many budget speakers have sturdy builds, instead saving money by using cheaper audio components. As long as a company carefully chooses materials and parts, a budget speaker can last you a long time, as long as you take care of it.
Do budget Bluetooth speakers have a shorter range?
Most Bluetooth speakers have a range of around 33 feet (10 meters), though some can go up to 100 feet. A budget Bluetooth speaker usually has the same range as more expensive Bluetooth speakers, though you may find that the speaker starts to sputter and disconnect more often at farther distances.
- ✓ Straps make mounting to anything easy
- ✓ Processing makes for prominent bass
- ✓ You can pair two for stereo and more volume
- ✗ Need two for true stereo
The Tribit StormBox Micro is best described as a sort of speaker companion. Not only does the audio not disappoint, but it’s packed with features that make it easy to take it everywhere you go.
One of the best features of the StormBox Micro is an unassuming little strap. The photos on the Amazon page show this used to mount the speaker to a bike, but you can also use the strap to mount it to a backpack or almost anywhere else. If you like a personal soundtrack but hate headphones, this is a great compromise.
Though it isn’t as waterproof as some other speakers we’re looking at here, the StormBox Micro is IP67-rated dust and water-resistant. You don’t want to drop it into a pool, but if you take the speaker along on a rainy walk or bicycle ride, you don’t need to worry.
Thanks to a clever design and some digital signal processing (DSP), the StormBox Micro sounds bigger than you’d expect, with surprisingly decent bass given its small size. If you want your setup to sound even bigger, you can easily pair a second StormBox Micro for stereo sound and increased volume.
The StormBox Micro comes in a relatively standard black finish if you prefer your speakers on the understated side. If you prefer a dash of color, Tribit also sells the StormBox Micro in blue and orange color varieties.
Best Budget Speaker Overall
Tribit StormBox Micro
The Tribit StormBox Micro is an affordable jack-of-all-trades speaker that can bring your music with you anywhere you go.
- ✓ 20 hour battery life at 50% volume
- ✓ IPX5 water-resistant
- ✓ Capacitive touch panel is handy
- ✗ A little small for use as a home speaker
Bluetooth speakers typically endure rougher conditions than other speakers, so people don’t always want to spend too much on one. The DOSS Soundbox is a great affordable option, as not only does the speaker pack in all the features you need, but it’s more rugged than many of its affordable colleagues.
The Soundbox is IPX5 rated, which means that while it can’t withstand immersion, it can handle jets and streams of water from any angle. If you’re looking for a speaker to bring to the beach, the Soundbox is a great choice, assuming you don’t toss it into the ocean.
Instead of the usual buttons, the DOSS Soundbox uses a capacitive touch panel for its controls. This lets you pause and resume playback, adjust the volume, change tracks, and answer and end calls using the internal microphone. You can even use the speaker with Siri or Google Assistant.
The Soundbox pumps out 12 watts per channel of stereo sound, and if you’re listening at 50 percent volume, you’ll get up to 20 hours of playtime. When it’s time to top up the battery, you can recharge with the included cable in three to four hours.
Best Budget Bluetooth Speaker
The DOSS Soundbox combines a unique touch interface with powerful sound for the size and nearly all-day battery life.
- ✓ 6.5-inch woofers and 120 watts of power make for great sound
- ✓ Ported cabinet means plenty of bass without a subwoofer
- ✓ Internal bracing reduces vibration
- ✓ Great for home theater as well as music
- ✗ Need an external amplifier
- ✗ Volume isn’t as loud as you’d expect from the wattage
When you think of a budget speaker, you’re probably imagining that there will be some significant sacrifices regarding sound quality. That may be true in some speakers, but it isn’t the case with the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2.
If you need some help decoding the name, it’s referring to the fact that there is a pair of speakers, each powered by a 6.5-inch aramid fiber woofer, which has been redesigned for this model. A one-inch soft-dome tweeter accompanies this to carry the high frequencies.
The cabinet is also slightly larger overall than the original model. This, combined with the forward-firing bass port, means that these can play frequencies down as low as 44 Hz without the help of a subwoofer.
Unlike some of the other speakers we’re looking at here, these speakers are passive, meaning you’ll need either a receiver or integrated amplifier to power them. They aren’t the most sensitive speakers, so even though they’re rated to handle up to 120 watts, they’re not as loud as others in their class.
Even though they’re not as loud as they could be, they still have plenty of volume on tap to fill a small or medium-sized room with music. They work great for home theater, and ELAC offers them bundled with the C5.2 or C6.2 center channel speakers.
Best Budget Bookshelf Speaker
ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2
With a redesigned cabinet and frontward-facing bass port, the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 are great sounding speakers with plenty of bass. They may not be as loud as you expect, but pair them with a great amp and you’re set.
- ✓ Special designed bass ports make for enhanced low end
- ✓ IPX7 waterproof rating makes it pool-safe
- ✓ 24 hour battery life
- ✗ Sound isn’t as good as larger speakers
Anker doesn’t just make speakers, but all kinds of chargers, cables, and other accessories. That said, the company’s Soundcore line of speakers has been popular for years now. While the company offers speakers from tiny to huge, our pick is the company’s update on its original—the Anker Soundcore 2.
The Soundcore 2 pumps 12 watts of power into stereo neodymium drivers. On the Amazon listing, Anker says it uses advanced DSP to make for thumping bass without distortion. This is enhanced by a bass port using a patented spiral design to make for even more powerful lows.
The Anker Soundcore 2 is the most waterproof speaker we’re looking at, with an IPX7-rated build. While these ratings are often provided by the manufacturer, not a third party, IPX7 means that the Soundcore 2 should be able to withstand immersion in up to one meter for up to 30 minutes without damage.
Inside the Soundcore 2, Anker has packed a 5,200 mAh battery that the company says can provide up to 24 hours of non-stop music. Anker doesn’t list the volume it used to get this figure, but if you’re listening at moderate volumes, the battery should easily get you through even longer days.
Best Budget Portable Speaker
Anker Soundcore 2
If you’re looking for a speaker that can handle any weather and isn’t going to run out of batter life when you least expect it, the Anker Soundcore 2 is a fantastic option.
- ✓ Larger size makes for better sound than older models
- ✓ Voice control makes choosing music easy
- ✓ Smart features work well with your smart home
- ✗ Optional clock costs extra
Voice-controlled assistants and smart devices haven’t quite brought the utopia we may have hoped for, but a smart home can certainly make your life easier in many ways. The Amazon Echo Dot works perfectly as a control center for your various smart gadgets, and it also happens to be a pretty handy little speaker on its own.
The outside of the Echo Dot is fairly simple, it’s a fabric-covered semi-sphere that displays the time. It may not look impressive, but it aesthetically fits in almost anywhere, and the true power lies inside the speaker.
While the Echo Dot is a smart speaker first, Amazon hasn’t forgotten about the audio quality. The latest version is larger than older models, allowing more room for speakers. As a result, the current Echo Dot sounds better than the older models, and they didn’t sound half bad to start with.
Using the smart features and the Alexa voice assistant, you can control lights, locks, thermostats, and more, but voice control is also great for your music. The Echo Dot prefers Amazon Prime Music by default, but you can set it up to work with many more streaming services by using the right Alexa skills.
You can opt for two basic versions of the Echo Dot—one with a clock, and one without. The clock-less model is slightly cheaper, but the clock is especially useful for some setups. It’s up to your personal preference in terms of which model to go for!
Best Budget Smart Speaker
Amazon Echo Dot
Forget about budget: the Amazon Echo Dot is one of the best smart speakers you can buy, it just happens to be affordable.
- ✓ Various sizes available to match your needs
- ✓ Multiple connectivity options
- ✓ Various sound modes for movies, music, and voice
- ✗ 40-inch as the largest size is a little small
Most of the speakers we’ve looked at so far come from an approach where making music sound good is the primary goal. If you spend more time watching TV and movies than listening to music, a music-centric speaker doesn’t really work best for you. Instead, consider a soundbar like the excellent Bestisan BYL S9920.
We’re looking at the 40-inch, 100-watt version, which is the largest in the range. If you’ve got a smaller TV or just want a quieter speaker, Bestisan also makes this model in 28-inch and 34-inch models, both with 80 watts of power. If your TV is larger, the 40-inch model will still be the best match.
There are a few different ways to connect the S9920 to your TV. You can connect wirelessly with Bluetooth, assuming your TV supports it, but this can be problematic with lip-syncing at times. Your best bet is to connect with digital audio via the optical connector or analog audio over the RCA connectors.
The Bestisan BYL S9920 doesn’t come with a separate subwoofer or provide a connection for your own subwoofer. That said, the soundbar uses DSP for various sound modes like movies and movies. Adjustable bass and treble let you fine-tune the frequency response for your room.
One neat touch that you often see in TVs but less so in soundbars is the dialog enhancer feature. This tunes the audio to let you hear voices, without turning up the soundbar so loud it bothers your neighbors.
Best Budget Soundbar
Bestisan BYL S9920
With models for everything from small bedroom TVs up to your main living room TV, the Bestisan BYL S9920 is great for movies and TV, especially the dialog enhancement feature.
- ✓ Compact size makes stowing each
- ✓ Adjustable crossover makes fine tuning bass simple
- ✓ Multiple ways to attach to an existing system
- ✗ Need to use a Y-adapter to use certain subwoofer connections
If you’ve already got a set of speakers you’re happy with but feel like are missing out on the bass department, a subwoofer is a great option. These can get expensive quickly, but the Monoprice 60-Watt Powered Subwoofer is a solid option at a solid price.
This subwoofer features a frequency range from 50 Hz to 250 Hz, meaning the midrange and highs from your other speakers remain untouched. You can adjust the crossover frequency between 50 Hz and 150 Hz to avoid low subwoofer rumbles from voices and other elements you want to avoid hearing low frequencies from.
I’ve personally used this subwoofer for several years, and it’s a very set-and-forget product. Plug it in, set the volume, set the crossover frequency to match your other speakers, and that’s about it. The subwoofer has an auto-on feature that means it will save power when not in use, then turn itself on when you begin using it.
This is an active subwoofer, so any amp you’re using doesn’t need a separate powered subwoofer output. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need a cable. Most amps and A/V receivers have a single RCA output for the subwoofer. This speaker has that connection but can also use left and right line-in or a speaker signal from your amp.
The Monoprice 60-Watt Powered Subwoofer measures 13.75 × 11.75 × 11.75 inches, so while it isn’t small, it’s more compact than most subwoofers, which means you can easily find a space to stow it away.
Best Budget Subwoofer