Complete 4-unit system with 9 total speakers. Offers Dolby 5.1 with Atmos and DTS:X spatialization. Soundbar includes separate woofers and tweeters. Subwoofer connects to 2 discrete satellites for enhanced stage. Allows Bluetooth music streaming.
Satellite speakers are not wireless.
Boasts excellent Dolby 5.1 sound performance with minimal physical footprint. Five individual units allow for physical separation. Subwoofer connects wirelessly. Impressive technology for natural, distortion-free sound.
Except for the subwoofer, the speakers connect via spring clips and speaker wire.
Has a great range of sound. More forgiving when positioning. Offers very good upgrade potential if you want to expand your system.
Doesn't come with a dedicated subwoofer. No A/V receiver.
Powerful, sharp sound. Has a 165-watt subwoofer. Can deliver up to 1,000 watts of power at times, with 500 continuous watts. Has 6 speakers and 6 inputs.
Some reports of duds or defects, so set up soon after delivery in case you need to return it.
Soundbar and subwoofer system outputs Dolby 5.1/DTS Virtual:X with only 2 physical units. Dedicated center channel enhances dialogue without compromising surround reproduction. Offers directional sound for vivid gaming.
Some might prefer separate speakers rather than a soundbar.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
When it comes to home theaters, 4K TVs get hyped a lot, but if you ask us, a good surround sound setup is just as important to the viewing experience as a high-resolution screen. Surround sound takes the multichannel audio from whatever you’re watching — cable box, Blu-ray player, or streaming box — and separates each channel into a different speaker, allowing you to hear dialogue more clearly, and you can hear explosions, vehicles, and crowds throughout the whole room. With the right surround sound system, you can add a whole new dimension to your video enjoyment.
Finding the right surround sound system can be tricky because there are so many different approaches across the market. While some people love the simplicity of all-in-one bundles, others prefer the massive sound of multi-speaker packages with speakers that are so big they’re basically furniture. Still, others prefer surround sound speakers designed for computers because they’re so good at creating big sound in small spaces.
Before you do any shopping, there are two big questions to answer.
To create proper surround sound, you’ve got two choices: you can go with a traditional receiver-and-speakers model and purchase each separately, or you can buy a preconfigured “home theater in a box” that includes everything you need for a modest, typical surround sound setup. If you opt to buy everything separately, you get a lot more choice, but bundles are usually a lot more affordable. Our take: if you’re outfitting an apartment, dorm room, or other small space, a home theater in a box is your best bet. If you’re building a home theater or need the absolute best audio quality available, plan on buying a receiver and speakers separately.
There are a number of ways you can set up a surround sound system, but the most popular configurations are 5.1 and 7.1 speaker systems. In a 5.1 speaker system, you have a center channel, left and right channels, side left and right channels, and a subwoofer (which is the .1 in 5.1). In a 7.1 speaker system, you have two additional rear channels. (And if you opt for latest-and-greatest audio technology like Dolby Atmos, you can add up to four additional channels in your ceiling.) Not sure how to decide? Here’s all you need to know: if you mostly watch streaming content or cable TV, a 5.1 system is perfect (they don’t broadcast in more than 5.1 anyway). If you watch a lot of Blu-rays or 4K Blu-rays, or you plan on building a system that supports Dolby Atmos, start with a 7.1-speaker system.
So, what can you expect in the box? That depends on what kind of surround sound system you buy.
These include five or seven speakers and a subwoofer. Speakers in these sets are big and bulky and can get quite loud. We definitely recommend buying surround sound speakers together because they’re often designed to match one another’s sonic qualities. When you’re ready to buy speakers for your home theater, plan on getting them all at the same time. Speaker sets for surround sound systems can range from $300 to $1,500, depending on how many speakers are included and the speaker quality.
These typically include five speakers and a subwoofer. The key difference here is in how much smaller these speakers are and how much quieter they are. “Quiet” may not be accurate here, though, because even the most modest home theater in a box or gaming speaker set should be enough for an apartment or small room.
Entry-level surround sound systems cost between $250 and $400. Systems in this price range are the best bang for your buck in surround sound — they cut a few corners but still bring enough power and audio quality to drastically improve your home theater experience. If you’re looking for a basic 5.1 surround sound system for a small- or medium-sized space, you’ll find your best options in this range.
Surround sound systems that cost between $400 and $1,000 are great for larger rooms or users who care a lot about high-end audio formats. If you watch a lot of action or sci-fi movies, or you like watching live concerts, it’s worth it to invest in a more expensive setup. You’ll get speakers that can deliver outstanding clarity at high volumes.
Systems that cost more than $1,000 are usually for hard-core home theater enthusiasts. Systems beyond this price point are typically sets of massive speakers coupled with receivers that have enough power to fill an entire basement or ballroom with sound. If you’ve got the money and you want a professional-quality home theater, plan on spending at least this much on your surround system.
Trust your own ears. When it comes to anything audio related, experts can often exaggerate about audio quality because it’s so subjective. What’s most important is that your surround sound system sounds good to you. If you don’t like how one sounds, return it and look for a better one. Conversely, if you find a system that works for you, go with it even if you’ve never used that brand before.
Invest in banana plugs to connect speakers to your receiver. Most modern receivers work with banana plugs, which are adapters for speaker wire that make connectivity easier. We are big advocates of banana plugs: they keep your speaker wire from corroding, they reduce the risk of accidental electrical shorts, and they make hooking everything up much easier.
A. Yes. Soundbars are useful for providing improved TV audio in situations where space is limited, but most soundbars aren’t able to produce the depth and quality of sound that a surround sound system can. Surround sound works best when the speakers are set up to literally surround you, and while many soundbars can emulate surround effects, in most cases, there’s just no comparison: surround sound systems are better.
A. Dolby Atmos is a new audio surround sound concept that’s becoming popular on both 4K Blu-rays and many streaming devices. Dolby Atmos takes an existing 7.1 soundtrack and adds two or four “height” channels; that is, it uses additional ceiling speakers to position sounds at specific places in your room, creating a much more immersive audio effect. To get Dolby Atmos, you’ll need a content source and playback device that support it and a surround sound system that’s compatible. In situations where it’s not feasible to use ceiling speakers, some users opt for “up-firing” speakers, which sit on top of existing speakers and play upward. At the end of the day, Dolby Atmos is worth it — in the right room it can make you feel like you’re in the middle of a rainstorm, and it sounds like the action is happening right in your viewing space.
A. While you technically can mix and match speakers from different brands in any surround sound system, we recommend against it. Surround sound systems use multiple speakers that are built to work with one another, and that typically means that they sound best together (and not great when third-party speakers are introduced). Unbalanced audio can be really distracting, so it’s worth it to buy a surround sound system with a complete speaker set.