Amazon Basics 2.1 Sound Bar Review (2018): Better sound for less

The Amazon Basics 2.1 Sound Bar is a basic sound bar. From Amazon. Blessed be the tech product whose name actually describes what it is.

Here's what else it is: A 31-inch sound bar that does what it does pretty well, and does it for $99. It's also a "2.1" sound bar, meaning it's got two channels of speakers (left and right), plus a subwoofer. Not a separate, external subwoofer, mind you. Instead, it's built into the sound bar.

Plus this one has a few features you won't find in other similarly priced sound bars.

All in all? Not a bad product for just under a hundred bucks. Still need more before buying? Read on.

See at Amazon

Amazon Basics 2.1 Sound Bar

More basics on this basic Amazon Basics sound bar: It's got a 2.7-inch downward-firing subwoofer. It spits out the bottom of the sound bar itself, and that explains the rather large feet that lift the body of the sound bar about three-eighths of an inch above whatever surface you place it on. Air needs room to move, and the sound needs room to escape. (Three speakers per channel make up the mids and highs on the front end.)

That brings the overall footprint of the sound bar to 31.5 inches wide, about 3.2 inches tall, and 3.5 inches deep. It's not the most svelte sound bar in this class (that title belongs to Vizio), and it's got a full on power brick that you'll have to hide away somewhere. But the power cable itself has enough length to it to keep from being too big a negative. The front end is covered in that sort of speaker mesh stuff that's fine until it's not.

The downward-facing subwoofer

The downward-facing subwoofer on the Amazon Basics 2.1 Sound Bar.

If you prefer to do the wall mount thing, Amazon has included the proper hardware in the box. (I'm using it on a hanging mount, and the included screws work just fine for it, too.)

There are nicely placed physical controls atop the sound bar, so you don't have to use the remote control if you don't want to. And there's a blue LED hidden in the front face that indicates when you're changing volume, and it blinks if the sound is muted.

For inputs, you've got optical (which is preferred, of course), RCA, 3.5mm aux, and Bluetooth 2.1. There's no HDMI, and you're very unlikely to find it at this price point (Because lawyers and licensing). That also means there's a pretty good chance you won't be able to control the volume level with whatever remote control you're using. But, hey. $99.

The remote control itself isn't anything to write home about. It's got buttons for all the things, allowing you to switch inputs and adjust playback on the fly. For some inexplicable reason, the Bluetooth input button is huge. I'd have preferred the mute button to get the additional real estate. But it works, and Amazon included a couple of Amazon-branded AAA batteries. Thanks for not cheaping out on that.

As for the sound, it's about as good as you'd expect for a $99 sound bar. It's almost certainly better than the TV to which it is attached, and louder, too. What's interesting here is that Amazon has included three EQ presets -- "Standard," "News" and "Movie." The latter is the only one with any real bass, and it's where I've left things throughout my testing time. Standard is OK, but still somewhat hollow, and I have to question the sanity of anyone who prefers the bassless "News" setting. But options are always good, even if they won't necessarily be used. There's also just enough stereo separation to remind you why even a cheap sound bar is better than a TV's internal speakers.

The bottom line

This is exactly the sort of sound bar you should expect for $99. It's basic. It sounds better than your TV, most likely. And while it's not quite good as Vizio's offering regarding looks and sound quality, it definitely gets the job done.

4.5 out of 5

And the addition of three preset EQs is a nice, if not necessary, touch.

See at Amazon

Phil Nickinson