If you are looking for a soundbar that is simply a speaker, not an Alexa-enabled, Google Home-compatible smart device, there are fewer options than you might think. Here are the best TV soundbars that are just soundbars.
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As often happens with “upgrade” features, they go to the higher-end models. The problem with this is that you might want a high-end soundbar in order to get the best, or at least the most sound, but in addition (or even instead) you’ll likely get a number of smart features.
What this means it that, similar to televisions, it’s a real challenge to find a great soundbar that isn’t connected in some way. It’s certainly possible to find budget soundbars without fancy connected features, but as you go up the ladder to the premium products, Alexa and other IOT features are more likely to be bundled in. Something high-end, like the Bose Smart Soundbar 700 might be a great speaker, but it has Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, built right into it, which is what we’re trying to avoid.
And, of course, some soundbars are inherently smart, as they come from company’s like Roku, who only works with smart, connected products.
While these things have their place, let’s find some great soundbars without any of the connected features that are so popular in 2021.
Some of the soundbar sold today not only have digital assistants built in, but they keep the assistants and their microphones on all the time, even when you are not using the soundbar. While voice activation and voice commands are quite useful, the prospect of an always-listening audio device is not appealing to many of us.
One model with this feature is the Yamaha YAS-209, which is otherwise a solid soundbar.
Best Non-Smart Premium Soundbar
If you want a strong soundbar with good audio and a subwoofer you should consider the JBL Bar 2.1. This is 2-channel model with a subwoofer, Bluetooth, and HDMI, that can take up to 300W of speaker power for serious volume. There is a great sound quality and overall excellent audio output, as confirmed by over 2000 positive reviews on Amazon.
The HDMI input input should not be discounted, as this is really useful for premium audio setups and it’s not something you can find on cheaper models (including most of those below).
This model has Bluetooth for connectivity, but no Alexa or Assistant features.
Best Non-Smart Soundbar With A Subwoofer
The Vizio V-Series 2.1 soundbar (model V21) is a great choice in a non-connected media bar that is complete with a subwoofer. It has low-key styling and a perfect $150 price point.
This soundbar lists itself as “Voice Assistant Ready” because it can work with Siri, Google Assistant and other applications using either the AUX input or Bluetooth, but it doesn’t have any of them built-in.
The subwoofer using a 5-inch design that is compact but still provides sufficient bass, just as the soundbar isn’t huge but can still produce up to 96dB of volume (well, you know sound pressure) in your living room.
And then, as bonus, you have Vizo’s Dialogue EQ, which improves the quality of spoken dialog in your shows and movies. With so many television shows having hard to understand dialog, features like this have become one of the most important things to look for in any audio upgrade.
Other features include HDMI, and then both DTS and Dolby and DTS decoding compatibility. A remote is included as well.
Best Non-Smart Soundbar Under $100
If you are buying on a budget then the Vizio 29″ soundbar is a great option. Normally selling for about $75, it has Bluetooth, a remote control, an optical in, and DTS compatibility, which means all your bases are covered. There is even a subwoofer connection if you already have one lying around.
This model (SB2920-C6) doesn’t have the volume levels of larger, more expensive units and it’s lacking Dolby compliance, but it’s a very popular 2-channel soundbar with strong reviews from people who need good sound but aren’t audio geeks.
This Vizio has no “smart” features and no connectivity options built in, but there is an auxiliary connection and Bluetooth, if you do ever want to connect it to something in the future.
This soundbar does not have HDMI, so you are a bit limited in your connections and have to use more conventional audio wiring or Bluetooth.
Used And Discontinued
For some time a good pick in a budget soundbar without any smart features was, ironically, the Amazon Basics 31″ Sound Bar. This was a 2-channel, Bluetooth soundbar that sold for under $200 and did the job rather nicely. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was popular, affordable, and simple to operate. It was released in 2016 but is no longer sold today.