The 7 Best Home Theater Starter Kits to Buy in 2018

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If you’re serious about getting the very best movie or TV experience in the comfort of your living room, you need a home theater system. The good news is we’re taking the work out of hunting down the speakers, the receiver, the cables and putting it all together in one convenient list. Home theater starter kits, also known as home theaters in a box (HTIB), offer everything you need for the best audio experience on your own. Surround sound? Check. Receiver? Check. Let’s take a look at some of the best options you can grab today.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Yamaha YHT-4930UBL

Beyond having quality components, good sound, and an easy installation, a good home theater kit should give you everything you need to quickly set up your future center of entertainment. Quality kits will also give you the ability to expand down the road if you feel like the kit itself isn’t enough. For the top pick, the Yamaha YHT-4930UBL system is an affordable option that provides a complete entertainment package with great sound.

The kit comes with a set of six speakers, enough to produce the typical 5.1 surround sound experience that immerses viewers. The four satellite speakers and front speaker all feature 2.35” full range drive cones for clear and full sound. The subwoofer sports a 6.5” driver and 100w output to fill out the lower frequencies TVs alone can’t produce. In total, the system can output 750 watts of power. The sound is optimized using Yamaha’s YPAO system, which adapts to the home theater space. Each speaker connects to a TV or projector using standard A/V cables that come with the kit. For music streaming, the receiver is Bluetooth compatible as well.

On the visual side of things, the kit’s receive is capable of full 4K when connected to a compatible TV or projector. A 4K pass-through is also available to feed a 4K signal to the TV while the kit’s receive is off. It is Hybrid Log-Gamma and Dolby Vision compatible, both of which can enhance the visuals for a more realistic display. Finally, the kit comes with a limited two-year warranty. 

Best Design: LG Electronics CM4550

Home theater kits are all about sound and video quality, but you shouldn’t have to sacrifice on the looks and feel of the kit itself. Since you can stylize your home theater to your personal tastes, it’s nice to have a kit that will add an accent of sleek, elegant or modern decor into the space. The LG Electronics CM4550 offers both a unique presence and large sound that is great for home theaters and music entertainment setups alike.

The 2.1 channel kit comes with two primary speakers and a subwoofer for a total of 700w output power. For music playing, the system has an Auto DJ feature that completely shuffles songs from your USB stick, smart device or CD. The kit also comes with traditional audio inputs for other TV and projector models. Two dual USB ports are compatible with a variety of music and entertainment devices.

Add additional LG speakers for traditional surround sound setups as you expand your home theater equipment. The speakers work with compatible LG HDTVs to keep the sound in sync with the screen at all times. For damage, the limited warranty lasts for a whole year from the date of purchase. 

Best Budget: LG Electronics CJ45 Home Theater System

You don’t have to sacrifice sound quality even if you need to watch your spending with the LG Electronics CJ45 Home Theater System. Short on space? The CJ45 has a convenient modular design that fits into a variety of environments and includes two main speakers, a small sub-woofer, as well as a stylish main unit and control panel. No matter if you prefer streaming your songs or you’re a vinyl junkie, this speaker system can play your favorite songs with a standard analog stereo auxiliary input as well as two USB ports. You can even stream music wirelessly from your smartphone, thanks to built-in Bluetooth technology. Get your friends in on the action, too – three different people can connect at once to seamlessly build a party playlist. Don’t forget to try the Karaoke Creator feature that suppresses the vocal track of a song, so you can have your chance to show off your pipes and entertain the party in the process. 

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best home theater starter kits for under $500.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Enclave Audio CineHome HD 5.1

Enclave Audio CineHome HD 5.1
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The Enclave Audio CineHome HD 5.1 wireless audio home theater system is also a fantastic system. Like the other “wireless” entries on this list, there’s no true wireless solution, just less centralized clutter of wires behind the TV. The Enclave set includes one center speaker/receiver, two front speakers, two smaller rear speakers and a subwoofer. The setup is a snap. Just connect the center speaker to the TV via HDMI, plug each satellite speaker into a wall outlet and, thanks to instant pairing connection, you’re ready to go. Did you notice the catch? You still have to plug each satellite speaker into the wall outlet thereby eliminating the Enclave as yet another truly wireless solution. Aside from that, each wall connector for the satellite is 2x3 inches which can cause some headaches if you have anything else plugged into an outlet.

One other niggle is the delayed startup time from the moment you hit the power button. The price won’t get you the very best in audiophile quality, but this system rivals the Onkyo for overall sound reproduction. You can add extra speakers for 7.1 for down the line, something not available from most of the competitors on this list. And, music fans will be happy to know that wireless audio is simple with any phone or tablet via Bluetooth.

Best Sound: Bose Acoustimass 6 Series V Home Theater Speaker System

Bose Acoustimass 6 Series V Home Theater Speaker System
Courtesy of Amazon.com

When it comes to sound, few manufacturers can top Bose for quality and consistency. If sound quality is your top priority and you’re shopping for a home theater system, you’d be silly to not look at the Bose Acoustimass 6 Series V.

The Bose Acoustimass 6 Series V is one of the most popular sound systems for average-sized rooms because the five included speakers are highly compact, but still offer great sound. The five speakers can be set up to completely surround you or can be mounted on your wall next to your mounted flat-screen television. As for the sound, the system combines to provide lifelike effects at any volume level without any audible distortion. So the next time you watch Twister, the cow scene will scare you even more.

Amazon reviewers have been satisfied with this model. The only complaint is that the instruction guide is a little hard to read, and it didn’t make clear that you can only use the included Bose cables to connect the unit to your TV. But now that we’ve told you here, you should be all set.

Best Compact: Samsung HT-J5500W

It’s true that good things come in small packages, as evidenced by the Samsung HT-J5500W home theater system. For apartment dwellers, this kit will fit snugly into the nooks and crannies of your home. The subwoofer is the largest piece of the set as a 10-pound, 11.7-inch cube. The other components are slim and lightweight (all roughly one pound each) for easy placement in your family room. But despite their size, they still pack the punch of Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround sound.

With built-in Wifi, you can sync and stream your favorite apps, TV shows and games, or connect your devices with Bluetooth. The Samsung also includes a built-in 3D Blu-Ray player, turning your family room into a cozy 3D theater. The only downside is the minimal port space — it has only one disc slot, USB, and HDMI Output — which is the sacrifice you make to capitalize on space.

Best Splurge: Onkyo HT-S7800

For consumers with a "go big or go home mentality, the Onkyo HT-S7800 is the system for you. Onkyo’s reputation speaks for itself, offering top quality at a fair price. The HT-S7800 is a standard 5.1 system with 8 HDMI inputs​ and supports up to seven speakers and two subwoofers if you want to expand. Rest assured, the initial kit provides a remarkable audio experience. The two front speakers cleverly bounce audio channels off strategic points in the room to create that immersive Dolby-Atmos surround sound, and the subwoofer packs a good punch for the bass.

The Onkyo system supports every music-streaming app you can name, along with Chromecast built-in and Airplay for your PC and smartphones. As a bonus, the Onkyo receiver even supports 4K, so your system won’t become outdated so quickly once VR technology takes over.