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Best For Your Buck Product
Best bang for the buck
Yamaha
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Best Of The Best Product
Best of the best
Bose
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How We Decided
  • 79 Models Considered
  • 45 Hours Spent
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 151 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    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
    Rafe
    EXPERT CONSULTANT

    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.


    Rafe  |  Technologist, Product Review Professional

    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.

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    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.

    The key to a satisfying, low-frequency rumble from your surround system’s subwoofer component is placement. Experiment with different subwoofer placements until the sound feels right.

    Rafe
    Technologist, Product Review Professional
    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.
    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 $149, 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 $999, 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.

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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 $149 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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