TaoTronics’ 40-inch, budget-priced soundbar had the tough job of being my review assignment hot on the heels of Bluesound’s outstanding Pulse Soundbar and Subwoofer combo. Bluesound’s package costs nearly $1,400. You can pick up the TaoTronics for less than $100, including sales tax. 

Can TaoTronics challenge Bluesound in this space? Not by a long shot. The budget price tag on TaoTronics’s speaker reflects its inexpensive components, limited feature set, and imperfect audio performance. But it succeeds where it needs to: It will undoubtedly sound better than the speakers built into your TV. And if you’re working with a tight budget or you just want better sound for a secondary TV that’s in the kitchen or some other less-critical application, it might be all you need. Let’s take a closer look at this soundbar’s hits and misses.

Budget build

TaoTronics’ soundbar is extremely light for its size, weighing in at about 3.8 pounds. Measuring approximately 40 inches wide, 2.5 inches high, and 3 inches deep, it will complement most 40-inch and larger TVs. The all-plastic fit-n-feel makes it feel, well, cheap.

There’s a small display and basic controls in the middle of the angled front grill. It’s a stark departure from the boring, rectangular design of most soundbars out there. The design looks good on a countertop, but odd when wall mounted.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at pictures, but the soundbar cannot not sit flush against a wall. The power cord protrudes from the back of the unit, so the manufacturer provides wall-mount spacers to accommodate it. This makes the unit stick out further than its dimensions suggest.

The sound bar cannot sit flush to a wall due to the power cord’s protrusion. Theo Nicolakis

The soundbar cannot sit flush against a wall because the power cord sticks out.

Mounting the soundbar to the wall is easy enough, thanks to the keyhole mounting slots on its back. TaoTronics provides the screws and hollow-wall anchors you’ll need, but they don’t provide a template to help you mark where you’ll need to put the screws.

The display screen can show the active input or volume and… that’s it. The display defaults to showing the active input. Raising or lowering the volume will show the volume level for a few seconds before returning to the active input. I suppose there isn’t much else for the display to do considering the soundbar’s limited feature set.

If you have average eyesight, you should have no problem reading the display from six to eight feet away. The display itself isn’t bright, which is a good thing in a dark room—you wouldn’t want it to compete with the TV for your eyes’ attention. But if you place below or in front of a TV that can pump out the brightness, like Vizio’s 1,000-nit 4K UHD P-Series TV I used for this evaluation, reading it will be challenging.