The 7 Best Home Theater Starter Kits to Buy in 2017

Bring the movies into your home

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.

The HT-S7700 offers you a superb audio experience with a full 5.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos experience thanks to one A/V receiver, five satellite speakers, one subwoofer, color-coded and pre-cut speaker cables and one subwoofer cable. With seven HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs, the system supports both TV and video projection without the need to swap cables. You’ll find WiFi, Bluetooth and Ethernet connectivity all standard and Onkyo’s free mobile app allows you to control the entire system from your phone or tablet.

Want to stream music from your computer? You’re covered thanks to the home network features. For those looking at future proofing, the Onkyo supports multidimensional sound for the latest 4K/60Hz games and movies, as well as HDCP 2.2 for future premium 4K releases from Hollywood, satellite broadcasters and Internet video streaming services. In other words, even if you don’t have a 4K-ready TV today, but your Onkyo system will be ready when you do.

Setting up the S7700 is a breeze, with all pre-cut wires matching the color on the receiver’s rear panel and even the color of the cables themselves. Once you’re set up, you’ll want to pop in a movie, kick up your feet and enjoy the full capabilities of the Dolby Atmos immersive audio experience. For the first time home-theater buyer, there’s no question the Onkyo will provide a fantastic and rich experience. 

When it comes to budget HTIB, inexpensive doesn’t have to mean cheap. The Yamaha YHT-4920UBL system offers a great sound experience and we call it small, yet formidable. Out of the box, Yamaha includes five satellite speakers, one 100w subwoofer and one audio/visual receiver. One notable omission that we found rather disappointing was the absence of WiFi. It’s a small price to pay and one that might make you look elsewhere, but for many first-time HTIB buyers, it’s not going to be a deal-breaker. The overall audio experience offers a wide-frequency response and Yamaha included a feature called Virtual Cinema Front that offers a surround sound-like experience if you’re unable to put at least one or two of the satellite speakers behind you. Wireless music streaming is possible via Bluetooth and with four HDMI inputs paired with support HDCP 2.2 (think 4K), there’s definitely room for growth.

Generally, when you consider an HTIB, you expect it to include an audio/video receiver. That’s not the case with the Orb Audio Mini 5.1, which lacks this crucial piece of equipment. However, the outstanding design and sound of the Orb earned it a spot on this list with the caveat that purchasing an additional AVR is a necessity. Included with the system are five award-winning Orb Audio Mod1X speakers, one Orb Audio subMini powered subwoofer and all the necessary wiring to connect the speakers and subwoofer. There’s no question about it, Orb’s speaker set looks like nothing else on this list. Full mounting options are included for both wall and ceiling, as well as optional table and floor stands for the optimal audio experience. Pair this home theater speaker set with any Denon or Onkyo receiver and you’re in for a ride.

These speakers aren’t huge (4 and 3/16” in diameter), but they don’t let size get in the way of producing brilliant stereo sound. The system requires a bit of setup and might require some wire strippers and a little know-how to get going. Unfortunately, that means there’s a little more room for error with the setup, but once you’re past that hurdle, you’ll hear audio that will make you forget just how tiny these speakers are against other models on this list.

Let’s say you’re the sort of person who wants the best home theater sound system and cost is no option. You’ll pay whatever it takes so you can finally watch Captain America: Civil War and hear every crash and bang of Cap’s shield with perfect clarity. If this describes you (and feel free to replace our pick with any amazing movie), then you need to take a long hard the Bose Lifestyle 650 Home Entertainment System.

The Bose Lifestyle 650 is the top-of-the-line 5.1 surround system from one of the most trusted names in audio. This system looks incredible with four small and sleek “OmniJewel” satellite speakers, a 21-inch center channel speaker, a subwoofer and a receiver. The system comes in both black and white, to help you match it to your room. These components combine to create an immersive 360-degree soundscape that will bring your movies, music and TV to life. On top of this, there’s an audio calibration feature, so you can fine-tune every sonic detail based on the shape and echoes of your room.

Most reviewers have been quite happy with the 650, but some have said there was an early software bug that created occasional disconnects between the receiver and speakers. Bose says this issue has been resolved with a software update and based on their reputation, we believe them.

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.

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.

Can you get 7.1-channel surround sound in your small studio apartment? Absolutely. While a sound bar system will never quite rival a traditional theater setup, those living in small spaces will be more than happy to sacrifice for fully functional home theater system.

Nakamichi offers one of the best sound bar surround sound systems on the market. It includes a wireless subwoofer, two rear satellite speakers, as well as a soundbar with Surround Effects Tweeters, five individually sealed speaker chambers and five DSP chipsets. Small spaces will come to life with 400 watts of sound delivering up to 104dB, while the eight-inch subwoofer provides ample compensation for this unit’s small size.

Your theater starter kit will keep up with the times, thanks to the latest firmware updates that deliver compatibility with Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital plus, bringing high fidelity audio resolution to your system. The sound bar connects to your screen with HDMI 4K passthrough, and even is compatible with Bluetooth.

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