The Vizio SB3621n-E8 is the best sound bar under $300 we have ever heard. If you want better TV sound, it’s the new budget benchmark. (Sarah Tew/CNET/TNS)

CNET: Best sound bars of 2018

If you’ve purchased your first wide-screen TV, you probably discovered that its built-in speakers didn’t sound that good — if it came with any at all. The solution? Get a sound bar system. They can cost anywhere from a couple of hundred bucks up to a thousand or more, but it’s money well spent in any case. These four are some of the best sound bars CNET has reviewed.

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Vizio SB3621

Product Review: https://www.cnet.com/products/vizio-sb3621n-e8/review/#ftag=CAD187281f

CNET rating: 5 stars out of 5 (Spectacular)

The good: The Vizio SB3621 offers excellent performance for an ultra-budget sound bar with great movie sound and toe-tapping music playback. The sound bar offers a decent selection of inputs including Bluetooth and will decode both Dolby and DTS. The sound bar and wireless sub feature excellent build quality and a seamless setup.

The bad: The LED display is not very helpful, and the WAV-file-only USB port is a little weird.

The cost: $114.99 to $148.00

The bottom line: The Vizio SB3621n-E8 is the best sound bar under $300 we have ever heard. If you want better TV sound, it’s the new budget benchmark.

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Yamaha YAS-207

Product Review: https://www.cnet.com/products/yamaha-yas-207/review/#ftag=CAD187281f

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding)

The good: The Yamaha YAS-207 offers excellent sound quality that is a step up from other budget systems. It offers a bevy of useful features for an affordable price. Build quality is excellent and includes a subwoofer made from MDF and not plastic. The simulated surround modes eclipse anything else available at the same price or less.

The bad: It doesn’t have an on-screen display for your TV.

The cost: $299.95 to $299.99

The bottom line: The Yamaha YAS-207 is an excellent sound bar package which offers sound quality which soars above others’ at the price.

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Samsung HW-K950

Product Review: https://www.cnet.com/products/samsung-hw-k950/review/#ftag=CAD187281f

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding)

The good: The Samsung HW-K950 is one of the best sound bars we’ve ever heard for both movies and music. The dedicated rear speakers deliver increased immersion compared to single-speaker designs. It’s cheaper than buying a Dolby Atmos receiver and speakers.

The bad: It’s expensive for a sound bar, and DTS support is limited. Dolby Atmos is only available on a limited number of titles compared with other surround formats.

The cost: $1,197.99 to $1,199.99

The bottom line: The Samsung HW-K950 combines the discreet looks and simple setup of a sound bar with truly impressive sound for both movies and music.

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Pioneer SP-SB23W

Product Review: https://www.cnet.com/products/pioneer-sp-sb23w/#ftag=CAD187281f

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding)

The good: The Pioneer SP-SB23W offers outstanding sound quality for a sound bar, particularly when it comes to the blend between the sub and the main cabinet. Performance is even more impressive considering the size of the tiny wireless subwoofer, which is easy to hide in the room. And there’s also built-in Bluetooth for wireless audio streaming.

The bad: The system’s style won’t wow you and the sound bar’s relatively chunky size might block your TV’s remote sensor. The included remote is mediocre and there’s no front-panel display for visual feedback while making adjustments.

The cost: $339.99 to $399.00

The bottom line: The Pioneer SP-SB23W is the best affordable sound bar if you care about sound quality, with its outstanding sonics making up for some of its design limitations.

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The following CNET staff contributed to this story: CNET contributor Steve Guttenberg, former CNET staff writer Matthew Moskovciak, Senior Associate Editor Ty Pendlebury and Senior Editor Laura K. Cucullu. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com

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