Earlier this week, we shared a cutting-edge home theater system that’s about as dreamy (and yes, expensive) as it gets. But you don’t have to spend tens of thousands to upgrade your home entertainment; just a soundbar and decent TV picture can work wonders on evenings binging Netflix, provided you buy the right equipment, of course. Which brings us to this relatively inexpensive combination of TV and soundbar.
This is about as basic as a home theater system can get – unless you count a TV as a home theater system in its own right. That’s something we’d advise you not to do: adding great sound to a great picture will enhance your enjoyment of just about anything you watch, from movies and live sports – even, say, to TV presenters who read the evening news.
The budget AV system
TV: TCL 55RP620K 55-inch Roku TV (about £299 / $546 / AU$997)
sound bar: Sonos Beam (Gen 2) Dolby Atmos soundbar (£449 / $449 / AU$649)
Total: £748 / $995 approx / AU$1646 approx
TCL 55RP620K 55-inch Roku TV
The TCL is a 55-inch set that uses the Roku platform, an excellent system that offers pretty much all the streaming smarts you could reasonably want – especially at this basso-profondo price.
There are no app gaps from the top services, with Dolby Vision and 4K support on Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and Apple TV. None of the four HDMI inputs are 2.1 (for the latest gaming standards), but the Auto Game Mode claims a lag time of 15ms, so it shouldn’t be a problem for all but the most hardcore gamers.
As far as picture performance goes, this TCL holds its own against sets that cost quite a bit more than its modest price tag. It’s a natural-looking image, capturing skin tones with a realism that’s hard to match near this budget. And, again for the price, this set has a fine ability to convey colors with nuance compared to some rivals. As we say, for the money you’re likely to invest, you’ll really struggle to better this TV.
Sonos Beam Gen 2 Dolby Atmos soundbar
The award-winning Sonos Beam Gen 2 might seem overkill at first glance, but we’re happy to spend a bit more on the sound here – the telly can give its all.
We were fans of the original Beam, of course, but the Gen 2 brings much more to the sonic party. The main feature is Dolby Atmos – and it’s surprisingly effective here, especially considering there are no upward-firing drivers. The Beam Gen 2 uses psycho-acoustic head-related transfer function (HRTF) technology to give the impression of height without having to go vertical. When listening to Atmos movies there is tangible movement, depth and space, which heightens the drama and sense of immersion. The soundstage is expansive and really enhances the cinematic scale and viewing experience of the 55-inch TV.
And, as we say in our review of the Sonos Beam Gen 2, it sounds incredible without using Atmos too, with more refinement, warmer highs and a wider dynamic range than its predecessor, consistently resulting in a richer, more nuanced and more varied listening experience.
Plus, if you ever feel the need and find the money to upgrade, you can simply add a pair of Sonos One SL as rear speakers to create a more conventional surround sound system that will sound great – or even a Sub Mini, if you want to boost bass.
While there are quite a few soundbars available for less than the outlay you’d need for the Sonos Beam Gen 2, we feel the extra investment is well worth it. Especially as this bargain TV (exclusive from Curry’s in the UK) is often available for less than the price shown here, so you might have a bit more in the pot to spend on sound. If you want a bigger or smaller screen, we’ve got more tried-and-true budget sets in our best cheap TV buying guide, as well as lists for the best 40, 42, and 43-inch TVs, best 55-inch TVs, and best 65-inch TVs .
The option to add on to the Sonos soundbar to create a more conventional surround sound system when/if you want it also makes this a stunning bargain for years to come.
These are the best budget TVs you can buy
Read our review of the Sonos Beam Gen 2
These are the best soundbars money can buy