Too many home theater enthusiasts are willing to drop top dollar on a brand new television screen for their home theater, only to skimp out on audio immediately after. This is simple blasphemy.
Sound is what allows us to feel every explosion and hear every whisper, which means that if you are using integrated speakers you are missing out on a lot of the excitement. In fact, if you want a home theater to draw the envy of your friends, you need to start with the best surround sound system you can find.
There are a number of ways to build respectable home theater audio, but the easiest way to get started is with a “home theater in a box”, which will sometimes come with an audio receiver or a DVD/Blu-Ray player.
At the same time, buying speakers individually will give you much more control over the quality and features of your setup.
Many companies offer modular speaker lines, which allow you to meet somewhere in the middle by starting with a surround sound system, then trading up as you become more invested in the perfect sound.
For either case, your first step is to know what’s out there, which is why we’ve compiled a list of the best surround sound speakers for home entertainment systems. Read on below to browse our picks.
1. Orb Audio Mini 5.1 Home Theater Speaker System
Orb Audio’s Mini 5.1 Home Theater Speaker System is an unusual approach to home entertainment, as it offers an incredible room-filling sound in a highly compact package.
Despite being only four inches, the satellite speakers pack an amazing punch, and offer a surprisingly detailed midrange.
Their spherical design reduces distortion, making them one of the clearest speakers of their size. Their dimensions do limit max volume somewhat, but you can still get room-rattling sound.
The eight-inch sub offers some serious drive, but it can bottom out if you try push it too far. Thankfully, the low-end still sounds smooth in regular use.
Also, the sub has an adjustable crossover frequency knob that ranges from 50-200Hz, which can help take stress off the sub, or simply to better blend your sound.
One of the coolest parts of the orb design is that their satellite can literally be stacked on top of each other and parallel-wired to bolster their output. Unfortunately, the brass binding posts to connect the cables are not the most user-friendly option, as certain setups require specific cable gauges.
Simply put Orb Audio’s humble four-inch speakers shouldn’t sound as good as they do. Yet, they do. Their physical dimensions hold them back slightly in volume and deep low-end, but with careful placement in your room, you will find yourself pleasantly surprised by the power of these little speakers.
- Compact and stylish form factor
- Clear and distortion-free midrange
- Fully modular design
- Smaller sub somewhat lacks low end
- Awkward cable connections
- Requires tactful placement for maximum volume
2. Sonos 5.1 Home Theater System
Sonos is definitely a top of the line audio brand, but the awesome audio quality of their 5.1 Home Theater System can make it a little out of reach for casual enthusiasts à la Bose.
This bundle includes one Sonos Playbar, one Sonos Sub, and two Sonos Play:1 satellite speakers. But considering buying these parts separately costs about the same price, you can easily mix and match to save costs.
Going all-Sonos does offer some nice benefits though, one of the most notable being a fully wireless setup. This also allows you to add more Play:1 speakers for extra sound. The Sonos System can even serve as the framework for a multi-room sound system.
As for the sound itself, the Sonos Playbar sits front and center, and serves as three of the five speaker array. The Playbar itself carries nine separate speakers, and sounds clear and present.
It also serves as the receiver for its wireless sub and satellites, plus it syncs with the Sonos App to eliminate the needs for another remote.
A downside is that the Playbar only has a lone optical audio port, so you have to essentially use your TV as the receiver. This also means no support for DTS, which is a big deal at this price range.
But the Playbar can be connected to your home WiFi and then to its counterparts. The Sonos Sub is an omnidirectional low-end powerhouse that fills in the deep sounds where the Playbar falls off.
It has a unique force-cancelling design that reduces cabinet rumble. Its shape is also such that it can be placed against a wall or lying flat under a couch without issue.
The two Play:1 speakers provide powerful rear sound in a compact package. They are robust despite being the low-end of the Play line.
Ultimately, these speakers alone are only really worth the price tag if you fully utilize the Sonos System. But given the versatility of its ecosystem, almost anyone will benefit from this house-wide streaming system. And when you really do, it is a powerful feeling.
- Wireless design allows extra speakers to be cleanly added
- App-supported streaming
- Wide sound stage and clear audio
- High cost not reduced in bundle
- Only one optical input
- No DTS support
3. Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Theater System
Though a relatively unknown brand outside of the home theater world, Energy has earned a number of loyal followers by offering some of the best bang for your buck in a 5.1 system.
The boxy design and glossy piano black finish of Energy’s Take Classic are pretty minimal, but speak to the sheer cost-efficiency of these powerful speakers.
These speakers are compact and are easily mountable if you are short on space. The center and satellite speakers include both threaded and keyhole mounting options.
In terms of sound, the Energy Take Classic is nicely balanced and pleasant to listen to. The different frequencies don’t compete, and its sound stage stretches surprisingly wide.
The eight-inch subwoofer packs an incredible punch while maintaining a clear sound. The sub has controls for volume, low-pass filter, and phase, although these are not properly set out of the box.
The sub can produce some ugly distortion when playing bass-heavy music, but does fine with the standard audio dynamics of a movie, as most entertainment systems are intended to.
For its price, the Energy Take Classic offers a well-tuned surround sound experience that will greatly improve your sense of immersion when watching movies.
Its design can feel a little plain, but if you just want great sound at a great price, then this is one of the best surround sound options you’ll find.
- Multiple mounting options
- Balanced sound with powerful low-end
- Low price tag
- Bare bones design attracts dust and fingerprints
- Settings need to be calibrated out of the box
- Sub needs to be turned down for music
4. Onkyo HT-S3800 5.1-Channel Home Theater System
Japanese manufacturer Onkyo offers an immense value to budding A/V enthusiasts with their HT-S3800 home theater bundle, that features not only a high-end speaker system but an audio receiver as well.
A receiver is a must-have for advanced setups, as it allows you to connect multiple sources into your sound system.
This receiver has plenty of inputs to work with, all of which are color-coded for easy identification. It can automatically tell which source is in use, and also provides Bluetooth compatibility for playing content from wireless sources.
The receiver also serves at the power source for the subwoofer. With this passive sub, the system does not have the same powerful kick as other units on this list. That said, it still rounds out the sound smoothly and matches the speakers’ volume.
So while clear and adequately loud, the speakers don’t reach that overwhelming level of volume that some crave. This is fine, as the lower max volume helps create the balanced sound that Onkyo is known for providing.
For the price, you will be plenty happy with the sound, especially since it comes with a receiver. This receiver is HDCP 2.2 compliant and HDR-ready, meaning you can display 4K HDR content through four different inputs.
This system is not without its faults, though, as it lacks any true EQ control (you can only balance treble and bass). The system also lags noticeably when switching between sources.
Ultimately, these are minor complaints when you consider the value this set offers. Good sound, solid build quality, and features like a handy remote are all factors that contribute to the HT-S3700’s status as a top budget pick.
- Included Bluetooth and wired audio receiver
- Clear and balanced audio
- User friendly color-coding
- Passive sub cannot deliver strong low frequencies
- No proper EQ control
- Slow to change sources
5. Paradigm Cinema 100 CT 5.1 Home Theater System
The Cinema 100 CT from Paradigm is a midrange surround sound system that aims to outperform entry-level gear that compromises its sound quality for price, as well as “high-end” systems (like the Bose Acoustimass 10) that attempt to overcharge for a similar sound quality.
The Cinema 100 CT definitely meets this goal, as this compact system delivers an incredibly powerful sound for under $1,000.
It is certainly not the cheapest system around, but it occupies that crucial space between entry-level gear that will be upgraded and that dream setup that’s always just out of reach.
In terms of sound, the Cinema 100 speakers stand out for their ability to produce audio that is both detailed and loud. Its five satellite speakers sound crystal clear, and are elegant and bright even at top volume.
These speakers definitely have the dynamic range to complement a thrilling cinematic experience, but what makes them unique is how well they handle music. The midrange makes voices and instruments sound present, and the robust satellite speakers are complemented beautifully by the massive lows from its eight-inch subwoofer.
The Cinema Sub really completes the sound, providing a deep booming bass that remains tight and controlled at any volume. You can fine tune its behavior with controls for phase, volume, and a small window for crossover.
All of this comes in a beautiful package too, as the speakers are compact, hefty, and stylish. The glossy piano black finish looks nice with the gentle curves of the satellites, and they resist the buildup of unwanted vibrations.
Unfortunately, the speakers’ low quality mounts do not match their high quality sound at all, and will be a frustration even if you try to replace them with a third party mounting system.
Likewise, the binding posts to connect your speaker cables need to be fed at a weird angle, which makes then harder to set up.
But these shortcomings are definitely nitpicks, as the Cinema 100 CT is undoubtedly a top choice in its price range.
- Rich and detailed midrange tuned for music
- Powerful yet compact subwoofer
- Durable and stylish build
- High price tag
- Low quality mounts
- Angled binding posts make wires tricky to connect
6. Yamaha YHT-4920UBL 5.1-Channel Home Theater
Yamaha is a name that is ubiquitous across any part of the audio/visual landscape, though it is probably most commonly found in one’s living room. For many enthusiasts, Yamaha’s home theater speakers set the bar for price and performance, and their YHT-4920UBL home theater in a box is a great starting point for those looking to get involved.
In addition to a great set of speakers, this home theater system comes with a supposedly entry-level receiver, the RX-V379. I say “supposedly” because this receiver actually offers a quite a few premium features.
In addition to having five HDMI inputs, the receiver supports Bluetooth, 4K (HDCP 2.2), 3D, plus DTS and Dolby True HD. Basically any common media format is at your disposal, which is exactly what a receiver should offer.
Of course, the versatility of the receiver wouldn’t be worth anything if they weren’t hooked up to high-end speakers, and Yamaha has definitely put together an impressive bundle.
This 5.1 system shines in true surround sound, with a left, center, right, and two rear speakers surrounding your couch. However, if your space is limited, the YHT-4920UBL also supports a “Virtual Cinema Front” array which allows you to place all six speakers facing you while they digitally recreate a 5.1 sound stage.
Either process is made much easier thanks to the included YPAO audio optimization kit. This is a microphone that pairs with your receiver to automatically calibrate your speakers to the acoustics of your room.
As for the speakers themselves, they are powerful and efficient when properly tuned, and will compete with far pricier setups in the right room size. The front speakers and center channel offer a clear midrange to carry voices and lead instruments, and the sound stage is incredibly rich.
The eight-inch subwoofer rounds out the sound well, but it gets a little distorted and muddy at higher volumes. Thankfully the sub has a dedicated volume knob, as that helps when you want to push the overall volume a little more without obscuring the audio.
If you eventually feel like upgrading to a more potent subwoofer, the YPAO kit will make recalibrating your other speakers to match an easy experience.
For that reason alone, the YHT-4920UBL is a great starting point for a surround sound system, but its solid feature set and price will generally make this a standout choice.
Price: $459.95 (13 percent off MSRP)
- Clear and present midrange
- Includes Bluetooth, 4K, and 3D-ready audio receiver
- Versatile speaker placement thanks to YPAO audio optimization
- Subwoofer distorts at higher volumes
- Includes low-quality speaker wire
7. Logitech Z906 Surround Sound Speakers
Though Logitech products are often assumed to be for computers and nothing else, their Z906 surround sound speakers pack enough of a punch to appear in your living room, media room, or what have you.
These speakers are small enough that you could fit the front three onto a desk, which makes them easy to set up. One small issue, though, is that the center channel speaker is just slightly taller than your average TV stand, so it might block part of your screen if your don’t have another place for it.
All around, the Z906’s build quality is decent, but the plastic casing sadly pales in comparison to the metal design of its now discontinued predecessor, the Z-5500.
Thankfully, Logitech does not cut corners in the sound department, as this system’s THX-certified sound is surprisingly powerful in any application. It sounds full and powerful when playing audio from a movie’s action sequence, yet has the refinement to reveal nuances in soft music.
Whatever you use them for, the Z906’s versatile satellite and center channel speakers offer a clear high-end and nice, rich midrange. The speakers are capable of reading Dolby Digital and DTS encoded audio.
The eight-inch subwoofer provides the deep low-end, and also houses the six different inputs, which encourage you to use these speakers with as many devices as possible. The sub delivers a deep, punchy sound, and can shake smaller rooms without issue.
This speaker set comes with a helpful and compact control console, which paired with a simple remote, offers a lot more flexibility.
Although this control console is helpful, it doesn’t replace a true home theater receiver, as it does not have ports for multiple video sources. Additionally, since none of the ports are HDMI, Blu-Ray sources will only be able to play on two audio channels without a receiver.
But for this surround system’s awesome price, you can upgrade to a proper audio receiver as needed, while still being able to enjoy high quality sound from first use. That makes it possibly the best surround sound starting point.
- Deep and balanced audio from up to six sources
- Low price
- Helpful and compact control console
- No built-in HDMI support
- So-so build quality
- Center channel speaker is taller than most TV stands
8. Vizio SB4051-C0 5.1 Sound Bar System
Though Vizio’s SB4051-C0 only comes with three physical speakers and a sub, its dual satellite speakers and 40-inch soundbar can more than handle five channels of audio.
Vizio’s awesome soundbar is the centerpiece of this sound system, as it takes the place of the three front speakers in a traditional setup, easily recreating the physical sensation of sitting in front of three speakers.
The back half of the setup is wireless. The two rear satellites are wired to the subwoofer, which then wirelessly connects to the soundbar.
Obviously, there is not yet such thing as a truly wireless setup, but this still majorly cuts down on cable clutter.
Adding to the theme of wireless, the soundbar has Bluetooth connectivity with aptX technology, allowing you to stream high quality audio from a phone or tablet.
No matter what source you’re playing from, the audio has a crisp and clear quality to it that makes it great to listen to. The system is DTS-compatible, and sounds best playing movies driven by action and dialogue. Music can sound a little imbalanced with a somewhat underpowered center channel, but it gets the job done.
The satellites have a slight emphasis on the low mids, and this blends nicely with the low end of the tight rumbly subwoofer. The subwoofer is one of the more present ones in this price range, which is confusing since Vizio claims it is only a 6-inch subwoofer. Nevertheless, the system delivers.
- Wireless subwoofer setup reduces cable clutter
- Powerful low-end
- Low price
- Center channel somewhat underpowered
- Remote control LCD is hard to read
9. Sony BDVE3100 5.1 Channel Home Theater System
Sony is equally well known for their video gear and audio gear. Their entry-level home theater bundle offers you a great choice from both fields, as this system includes both a full 5.1 channel speaker set and a Blue-Ray/DVD player.
In addition to providing Blu-Ray and DVD options for you to enjoy, this Blu-Ray player also connects to Wi-Fi, where the Sony Entertainment Network gives you access to Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Pandora, and more. The unit also has NFC and Bluetooth connectivity, extending the options even more.
The player can display Full HD content with a max resolution of 1920×1080, and offers both standard and 3D upscaling capabilities to optimize older media. it isn’t ready for 4K’s eventual takeover, but it doesn’t need to be in order to look clear and accurate.
The one recurring complaint about the player is that when turned off in the middle of a movie, it will not resume play where you left off, which feels like that should be a no-brainer.
Nevertheless, the Blu-Ray player is a great partner to the speaker system, as the wide variety of sources shows off the versatility of the speakers.
The satellite speakers sound fine for the price, and have some light EQ controls based on function (movie, video game, etc.) that change the balance of mids and highs.
The low-end is limited because of the compact wireless 7.1-inch subwoofer, and won’t give the same hardy rumble as larger units. It will, however, balance out the high-end sounds and make for a well-rounded audio experience.
One bummer is that the satellite speakers are hard-wired, which is convenient when you set them up, but not so much when you realize you cannot upgrade individual speakers easily.
Still, for a sub $300 home theater in a box, the BDVE3100 offers immense value. If you are in need of a new Blu-Ray player plus speakers that are Dolby TrueHD and DTS compatible, then Sony is a great option.
- Low price
- Includes Wi-Fi enabled Blu-Ray player
- Balanced audio can get quite loud
- Hard-wired speakers are hard to replace
- Blu-Ray player lacks resume play feature
- Low-end limited by smaller subwoofer
10. Polk Audio RM6750 5.1 Channel Home Theater Speaker System
While Polk may be best known for their high-end LSiM series, their RM6750 integrates into your home theater to provide seamless 5.1 audio for a whole room. These speakers are fairly plain looking, but are highly compact, making them an easy addition to any space.
Keyhole mounts make wall mounting the satellite speakers and center channel a breeze, but cable management is a little trickier because of low quality spring connectors.
Obviously, banana clips would be a better option, but as an entry-level speaker system, the RM6750 puts its sound quality first.
Polk signature sound has an emphasis on a complete midrange, which allows vocals and voices cut through the sound clearly. This works for music and movies, but is best served for cinematic moments overall.
The eight-inch subwoofer is clear, but a little boomy at high volumes. This can be remedied by the built-in controls for low-pass filter, volume, and an active crossover, all of which help fine tune your sound.
Sound grows slightly distorted at higher volumes, so this won’t be the perfect system for a larger room. But if it is the right size, you will be rewarded with a quality home theater setup from Polk.
- Powerful, clear midrange
- Compact and stylish design
- Easy to mount
- Speakers connected with cheap spring clips
- Sound distorts at high volumes
11. Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1
The Klipsch Black Reference is a 5.1 surround sound system that is compact in form, but not in sound. Its four mountable corner speakers sport their Tractrix Horn tweeter and a 3.5-inch driver each, while sporting a shockingly small footprint.
Pair these with a center channel speaker and a powerful wireless bass and you have the ingredients for a ready to go surround sound system that competes with some of the best.
At about $1,000, these speakers rely on their top rate sound to make them worth the hefty price tag. Those who know Klipsch well will not be surprised to find that this speaker easily proves its worth.
The downward-firing subwoofer easily fills the room with low-end sound. It is deep and rumbly without reaching boomy volumes that sound like overkill.
The tweeters use Linear Travel Suspension (LTS) to reduce distortion and enhances the highs that house the finer detail sounds that really bring a movie to life.
The one downside about this setup is that it does not come with an audio receiver, which it really should at this price.
It does come with a simple remote, and though this speaker is light on features, the good news is you don’t have to do any major tweaking to get it sounding good out of the box.
Simply position the speakers properly, get them all hooked into a sound receiver, and you are good to go.
- Small footprint
- Wireless subwoofer setup reduces cable clutter
- Powerful low-end
- No audio receiver included
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