The 5 Best Home Audio Systems of 2021

Find the best sound system for large rooms, small rooms and more

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The best home audio sound system can transform watching movies, TV, and sports at home into a powerful, immersive experience. They range from single soundbars to tiny stereo systems and full surround speaker setups.

If you just want a simple way to boost your TVs sound, we think you should just buy the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro. It's soundbar, two rear speakers and subwoofer will give you that cinema feel without too much hassle.

Factors like room size play a huge role in deciding the necessary power and wattage for your speaker arrangement, and other details should help you pick your perfect devices. Examples include thinking about whether or not you would like surround sound. Without further ado, take a look at our list of best home audio systems.

The Rundown
For those who do not want to commit to the hassle and space of a full home cinema system.
A bookshelf-style speaker with 50 watts of power.
Includes six black speakers and a ported down-firing subwoofer for clean booming bass.
That sweet middle ground of booming power and affordable price.

Most Popular: Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 DTS:X Soundbar

Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 DTS:X Soundbar
What We Like
  • Negates the need for a separate receiver unit

  • Solid sound quality


What We Don't Like
  • Less known brand

  • Sound quality pales to higher end systems

This massive 7.1-channel 600 Watt soundbar from Nakamichi delivers a powerful home audio experience for those who do not want to commit to the hassle and space of a full receiver system. While it might not rival a true system in terms of power and sound quality, it gives a rich and immersive surround audio experience that is perfect for people living in apartments or other small spaces. Our reviewer, Bill Loguidice, was particularly blown away by the immersive surround sound simulation with elevation. He found it played all his media great, ranging from music to TV shows and movies.

The bar has five sealed speaker chambers and a quad-core DSP chipset, creating an acoustic wideness that brings your media to life with DSP EQ modes. The system is complete with 13 tuned speaker drivers, as well as an included eight-inch downward-firing subwoofer for deep rich bass. The satellite speakers are wireless, as well, while the HDMI connected bar has 4K passthrough and plays Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital plus content.  

Channels: 7.1 | Wireless: Yes | Inputs: 3in/1 out (ARC) | Digital Assistant: None | Number of Speakers: 2

"We were blown away by how incredibly immersive these seven demos sounded on the Shockwafe Pro." — Bill Loguidice, Product Tester

Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro

Lifewire / Bill Loguidice 

Best for Small Rooms: Sony CMTSBT100 Micro Music System with Bluetooth and NFC

Sony CMTSBT100 MICRO MUSIC SYSTEM
What We Like
  • Versatile connectivity options

  • Expansive features in a small package

What We Don't Like
  • External media playback is limited

Suited for smaller spaces, the bookshelf-style, Sony CMTSBT100 Micro Music System has 50 watts of power, a built-in CD player, AM/FM radio, a USB input for your music playlist, Bluetooth connectivity and one-touch NFC, so you can stream music via your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

The brushed metal and old school style gives the CMTSBT100 a retro look. And while it may lack a native iPod dock, the USB port provides a 2.1 amp charging capability in case you want to simultaneously power your smartphone and play music from it.

But don’t expect too much raw power, as the device’s USB port can only read up to 250 songs and due to its power-saving functionality, powers down after a short period of inactivity.

Channels: N/A | Wireless: Bluetooth and NFC | Inputs: 3.5mm  | Digital Assistant: None | Number of Speakers: 2

"It’s a classy, classic look and should fit in well with most modern decor." — Bill Loguidice, Product Tester

Sony CMTSBT100 Micro Music System

Lifewire / Bill Loguidice

Best Intro: Logitech Surround Speakers Z506

Logitech Z506
What We Like
  • Inexpensive

  • Solid sound quality

What We Don't Like
  • Not wireless

  • Satellite speakers are a bit small

Our most affordable recommendation, the Logitech Surround Speakers Z506 is a wired two-channel sourced 5.1 and 3D stereo surround sound system that includes six black speakers and a ported down-firing subwoofer for clean, booming bass. Though the system lacks Bluetooth connectivity like our other recommended audio systems, the Z506 still comes equipped with 75 watts of balanced power, enough to fill a room with sound and even rattle a few windows. The speaker bass comes with a control dial that lets you easily adjust bass levels.

You’re not limited to only hooking the system up to your computer, as the package induces a 3.5 mm or RCA audio out allowing for an easy connection to your video game consoles, iPods, or any external source. While the speakers may work with game consoles and TVs, when connected, the audio produces only 2.1 audio quality without the surround sound.

Channels: 5.1 | Wireless: No | Inputs: 3,5mm, RCA | Digital Assistant: None | Number of Speakers: 4

Best for Large Rooms: Acoustic Audio AA5170 Home Theater 5.1 Bluetooth System

Acoustic
What We Like
  • Inexpensive 5.1 sound

  • Tons of connectivity options

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't offer the assurances of larger brands

  • Sound quality suffers at higher volumes

You might think that powerful multimedia audio sound systems would cost you an arm and a leg, but the Acoustic Audio AA5170 Home Theater 5.1 Bluetooth Speaker System 700W with Powered Sub represents a sweet middle ground of booming power and affordable price. The system comes with six speakers, providing great coverage of any room you put it in.

At an excellent price, the system includes an amplified subwoofer; five discrete independent channel input/output speakers suited for surround sound; Bluetooth connectivity for mobile streaming, an SD card input, flash drive MP3 player for assorted music playlists, an FM tuner to play your favorite radio stations, and 3.5 aux to RCA wires so you can start listening immediately.

The Acoustic AA5170 Home Theater uses only 700 Watts with a power frequency of 20Hz to 20KHz, packing a compact, yet powerful speaker package suitable for any home theater system (although static can occur if played too high). The AA5170 works fluidly with your personal computer/laptop, gaming system, digital media player, or any other audio/video device equipped with Bluetooth, RCA, or 3.5mm auxiliary interfaces.

Channels: 5.1 | Wireless: Bluetooth | Inputs: 3.5mm, RCA | Digital Assistant: None | Number of Speakers: 5

Final Verdict

The best home audio system for most people is the powerful Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 DTS:X Soundbar (view on Amazon). It has excellent audio quality, 4K passthrough, and impressive surround sound capabilities. For smaller rooms, the affordable Sony CMTSBT1000 (view on eBay) is a nice wireless option that won't break the bank.

Emily Ramirez has been writing for Lifewire since 2019. She's has a degree in Comparative Media Studies (Game Design) and wrote for MIT Game Lab as a blogger and narrative designer. She tested several of the home entertainment systems on this roundup.

Bill Loguidice has two decades of experience writing and reviewing technology. He's previously been published in TechRadar, PC Gamer, and Ars Technica. He specializes in home entertainment, smart home technology, and computers, tablets, and other devices.

FAQ
  • What do you need to build a complete home audio system?

    The core prerequisites for a home audio system are fairly simple: you really just need a receiver, a set of speakers, and some device to output sound (generally speaking a cable box, streaming device, or computer). Additional gear, like extra speakers or a subwoofer, are the next step towards perfecting your home theater audio.

  • Is a home theater audio set up good for music?

    The home audio systems on our list are universally great choices for listening to music as well as watching films or playing games. Broadly speaking, the best choices for music will include at least 5.1 surround sound and in some cases may also feature a sound bar.

  • How much wattage do my speakers need?

    Wattage output is generally only an issue in very large spaces, and for most people 50W should be more than sufficient to drive the volume they desire for their home theater system. As a rule of thumb, the more sensitive your speakers (how well they convert amplifier power into acoustics, measured in decibels per watt/distance), the fewer watts you'll need to drive them.

Sony CMTSBT100 Micro Music System

Lifewire / Bill Loguidice

What to Look For in a Home Audio System

Sound Quality

Sound quality can be a very personal feature—some people enjoy deeper bass while others prefer a more balanced sound. Different speaker systems have different sound profiles (which can also be tweaked slightly by repositioning speakers in your room). Most home audio systems will come with a primary or center channel speakers, a left and right channel speaker, and a subwoofer. This combination represents a good starting point for most home theaters, but a soundbar and subwoofer combo can also cut it for apartment dwellers.

"When you are listening to a hi-end stereo playback set up, you are immersed into the sound because the center of that stereo image surrounds you not just with audio, but it also gives you an extremely intimate experience as to how the musician or recording artist intended you to hear it." — Paul DePasquale, CEO of Tivoli Audio

Room Size

Power isn’t everything and wattage is often overrated. If your speakers are intended for a smaller space, you likely don’t need a full 7.1 channel setup; a soundbar or single speaker might do the trick. If you want to fill a larger room with sound, though, spring for something more powerful. Take a look at our overview of 2.0, 2.1, 5.1, 6.1, and 7.1 channel systems to get a good idea of your options.

Wired vs. Wireless

As with headphones, wired systems often deliver better sound, but their setup tends to be more complicated. If you’re willing to trade a little sound quality in favor of convenience, a wireless system is a good bet. Standard wireless connectivity is offered over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Some sound systems also come with NFC for pairing. Most separate subwoofers are also wireless, meaning they pair automatically with the rest of your sound system when you plug it in.

Polk T15 Bookshelf Speakers

About Our Trusted Experts

Emily Ramirez has been writing for Lifewire since 2019. She's has a degree in Comparative Media Studies (Game Design) and wrote for MIT Game Lab as a blogger and narrative designer. She tested several of the home entertainment systems on this roundup.

Bill Loguidice has two decades of experience writing and reviewing technology. He's previously been published in TechRadar, PC Gamer, and Ars Technica. He specializes in home entertainment, smart home technology, and computers, tablets, and other devices.

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