Sony HT-CT150 Home Theater System
As the only unit with an included subwoofer, the HT-CT150 is an easy choice for the best sound among budget units; it may not have all the features like the NAXA NHS-2005, but when it comes to sound, the Sony wins handily. A former midrange unit relegated to budget status by Sony's more relevant wireless HT series, the CT150 packs a serious punch and delivers noticeably more detailed audio than competing products, perhaps in part due to its HDMI input, which offers transmission of higher quality audio than standard RCA on 3.5mm connections. Its treble response has a notch or two in quality over everything in this list, and while dialogue isn't its strongest point, it still has noticeably more detail and air to the midrange than the rest of its budget competition. The real difference, of course, is in the bass, as one can only expect when comparing sound bars with "built in subwoofers" to a true 100-watt remote floor woofer, and the CT150 definitely brings the goods. It manages to avoid overshadowing the midrange coming from the bar, but it definitely packs a wallop and can sound too bassy on occasion. This might be problematic if you live in an apartment building, duplex, or any residence that shares walls with a neighbor, as the woofer can put out some pretty serious vibrations, but anyone else is sure to be pleased by the real thump that this thing can put out. With this in mind, assuming your space can handle the bass, the HT-CT150 handily wins my recommendation for best sound bar on a budget.