As seen in:
Bose
Acoustimass 10 Series IV
VIZIO
40-Inch, 5.1 Sound Bar System
Yamaha
5.1-Channel Home Theater
Sony
BRAVIA
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Good

Stands out for its versatility - from delivering room shaking explosions to crisp sounding whispers seconds apart. 5.1-channel sound. Setup process is extremely simple considering the amount of firepower that you're getting.

Regardless of how close or far away you are, the bass can be heard at a super high quality. Offers wireless Bluetooth connectivity that connects seamlessly with your smartphone.

The speakers are good for small spaces or ledges if your entertainment room can't fit some of the larger models. The subwoofer is made to be hung on the wall, which makes for a very elegant appearance.

Includes two different sizes of speakers to fit in all corners of your viewing station, which may become helpful if there isn't too much extra space.

Bad

On the more expensive end, but it's durability and longevity will end up saving you money.

The soundbar may be a little bit small for certain listening areas.

Won't be able to reach the volume levels of some of its higher priced competitors.

While it includes all the standard features of surround sound systems, don't expect it to match the Onkyo in terms of bells and whistles.

Bottom Line

The best on the market. Provides a surround sound experience that most people are usually accustomed to finding at the movie theater.

If you know at some point you're going to want to connect a wireless device to your stereo system, this modern gem may be worth the extra money.

Best value. It may not be loud enough to wake up the neighbors, but it will add crispness to your audio, making it an unbeatable purchase given its price.

A solid purchase due to its dependability and simple navigation, but if you are going to spend this much money, we recommend the Onkyo.

How we decide
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Products received from manufacturers
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Models Considered
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Experts Interviewed
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Consumers Consulted

Best Surround Sound Systems

Deciding on a surround sound stereo system among the hundreds of options can be overwhelming, so we've narrowed down the field to the top four contenders.

Products we Considered

Bose
Acoustimass 10 Series IV
VIZIO
40-Inch, 5.1 Sound Bar System
Yamaha
5.1-Channel Home Theater
Sony
BRAVIA

Considerations

Performance

While all surround sound units have a common end goal - to deliver quality surround sound - there are clear differences between the models in terms of performance. These differences include ones in the quality of the sound, in the loudness of the bass, as well as in the longevity of a given system.

Features

Some surround sound systems have extra bells and whistles that can offer you more than just sound. Examples of these features include remote controls, wireless and Bluetooth options, and risk reduction features.

Capacity

Surround sound systems come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Also, it is important to note that each unit comes with a different number of speakers. This makes it important to purchase the system that contains the total amount of speakers that you feel is necessary to improve your viewing or listening experience.

Price

With prices online ranging from right around $70 all the way up to a couple thousand dollars, surround sound systems span a very wide range in terms of cost. We took a close look at the units within each price range in order to ensure that you are getting the quality you are paying for.

Considerations

Performance

VIZIO SB4051-C0 40-Inch 5.1 Channel Sound Bar

What stands out the most about the Vizio unit is its bass. Owners of this systems are continually amazed at the quality the bass module produces. Regardless of how close or far away you are, the bass can be heard at a super high quality. The only main issue a few customers have is the size of the soundbar – they find it to be a little bit small for certain listening areas. Other than this, the unit sounds crisp and is extremely high quality.

Yamaha NS-SP1800BL

The sound quality of the Yamaha unit is substantially better than what you would expect given the price-point of this unit. While it won't be able to reach the volume levels of some of its higher priced competitors, this unit will engulf the living room with crisp, clear sound that will greatly enhance your entertainment experience.

Bose Acoustimass 10

The Bose provides a surround sound experience that most people are usually accustomed to finding at the movie theater. Its versatility, from delivering room-shaking explosions to crisp-sounding whispers seconds apart, makes the Bose one of the top surround systems on the market. Its other standout quality is the projection that it's able to attain. This may not be a huge benefit to most people, but it could make a difference for a consumer with an expansive floorplan.

Sony BRAVIA DAV-DZ170

Sony products are known around the world to be strong performers, and this Sony system keeps up the reputation. While it is not Sony's top selling product, we found it to be the highest quality surround system that Sony produces. The BRAVIA DAV-DZ170 is a quality sounding unit that can be blasted loud yet still maintain its clarity. While it doesn't quite reach the performance standards of the Onkyo, it is still a performance leader among most of its competitors.

The Bose provides a surround sound experience that most people are usually accustomed to finding at the movie theater.
Considerations

Features

A long lasting remote, wireless Bluetooth that connects to a smartphone, and a long sound bar are the differentiating features of the Vizio. Owners tend to have minimal problems setting up the unit and syncing it to their television volume controls, and from there the wireless features take over to provide a standout experience.

The feature that is most unique to the Yamaha is that its subwoofer is made to be hung on the wall. This is certainly a nice touch and makes for an elegant appearance when set up correctly. While a few owners have complained that the unit requires a surround amplifier, we found several that were available for relatively cheap. The fact that it not included in the box will actually save you money, as most systems offer this add-on for a handsome premium.

The Bose reputation is one of the best in the industry and has always been based on a unique approach to sound reproduction. Rather than talk about woofers, subwoofers, and tweeters, Bose talks about direction and experience. The technical detail is there for those that need it (subwoofers are 5.5 inch units, for example), but it's the ability to transmit a vast frequency range without distortion that is most impressive. Sound quality more than makes up for the minor hassle of dealing with wire installation.
 

While the Sony DAV-DZ170 includes all the standard features of surround sound systems, don't expect it to match the Onkyo in terms of bells and whistles. A few owners we surveyed pointed out the USB port on the unit's front side which greatly limits confusion when trying to attach an iPod or other music source. Along with an auto calibration that assists in optimizing speaker placement, this is a simple surround sound unit that is very easy to set up and navigate.

The Bose company doesn't focus on woofers, subwoofers, and tweeters, per se. It focuses on direction and user experience.
Rafe
Expert Consultant
Rafe
Technologist, Product Review Professional

Rafe Needleman has been testing and writing about technology products for over 20 years. He has evaluated hundreds of products as editor of CNET and reviews/editorial director of Yahoo Tech.

Considerations

Capacity

VIZIO SB4051-C0 40-Inch 5.1 Channel Sound Bar

Although the sound bar is 40 inches, the Vizio doesn't take up too much space given that it is only a four-piece set. Its wireless feature makes it convenient to set up and avoid already placed furniture. Finally, it only comes in at about 30–35 pounds so it will be easy to carry to the TV room upon arrival.

Yamaha NS-SP1800BL

The Yamaha is also around 30 pounds. Including a small sound bar, four small speakers, and only an 8-inch subwoofer, this unit is easy to readjust and move around a room if you aren't satisfied with the aesthetics. The speakers are good for small spaces or ledges if your entertainment room can't fit some of the larger models.

Bose Acoustimass 10

The main Acoustimass Module is a large (about 16.5 x 8 x 25 inches) and weighs 35 pounds. Fortunately, the remainder of the unit is small and light, so setup is relatively painless. Once installed, you'll find it worth the effort. The six different pieces can comfortably provide a movie theater-type experience in a large, dedicated space. Having said that, the system is adaptable enough for more modest rooms.

Sony BRAVIA DAV-DZ170

Given its 15½ by 13-inch subwoofer, this Sony surround system is hefty. It may not be as eye opening as the Onkyo, but the seven-piece set will definitely be noticed next to a TV. It does include two different sizes of speakers to fit in all corners of your viewing station, which may become helpful if there isn't too much extra space. This unit weights about 40 pounds.

The Bose Acoustimass 10 system is best served by a larger space for a theater-type viewing experience.
Considerations

Price

VIZIO SB4051-C0 40-Inch 5.1 Channel Sound Bar

The Vizio comes in at $339, which is a great bargain considering its Bluetooth capabilities and its simple installation. If you know at some point you're going to want to connect a wireless device to your stereo system, this modern gem may be worth the extra money.

Yamaha NS-SP1800BL

Coming in at $162, the Yamaha is the least expensive of the bunch by a fair amount. While it may not feel like an IMAX cinema when watching an action thriller, this system will still exponentially increase the quality of sound coming from your TV or from any other device that it is hooked up to.

Bose Acoustimass 10

For $899, you'll get to transform your TV-watching from an activity to an experience with this surround system. If you are looking to not only hear what you are listening to but also to feel it, we recommend the Bose without hesitation. We strongly believe the extra investment is worth it, and given the unit's reputation for durability, it may end up saving you money in the long run.

Sony BRAVIA DAV-DZ170

At $229, we believe the Sony is a solid purchase due to its dependability and simple navigation. Reviewers often praise how easy it is to sync and hook up to other devices, and its performance is above reproach. The sound quality and reputation of Sony make this unit an instant top contender, but if you're looking to go all out on a top-line surround sound system, we recommend going with the Onkyo.

While it may not feel like an IMAX cinema when watching an action thriller, the Yamaha will still exponentially increase the quality of sound coming from your TV.

Best of the Best

The Bose Acoustimass 10 Series IV is the best surround sound speaker system out of the top contenders that we analyzed. Though it depends on the size of the room and how close you live to your neighbors, this unit will change your viewing experience. This system is also far and away the most physically attractive of the bunch. With large, professional looking speakers that stand up tall, the Bose will without a doubt make your sound system visually stunning.

The system will do the best job of surrounding your entire room with sound, and it has the ability to be turned up extremely loud. If you're looking for a movie theater feel and want to be able to hear ever pin drop featured in a film, the Bose is your best bet.

Best of the Best
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If you're looking for a movie theater feel and want to be able to hear ever pin drop featured in a film, the Bose Acoustimass 10 is your best bet.

Best Bang for your Buck

If your TV speakers are poor and you're simply looking to clarify dialogue and be able to increase the volume of your viewing experience, the Yamaha should be your purchase. Its unbeatable price of $162 and easy transportability make it perfect for a cozy den or smaller TV room.

While it may not be the most visually appealing - small with somewhat odd shaped speakers - the columns will be able to squeeze behind furniture almost undetected, and the quality of your sound will be noticeable after the first usage.

This unit may not wake up the neighbors, but it will add crispness to your audio, making it an unbeatable purchase given its price.

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The team that worked on this review
  • Amy
    Amy
    Writer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Editor
  • Jasmin
    Jasmin
    Operations
  • Jimi
    Jimi
    Product Analyst
  • Ben
    Ben
    Operations