The 5 Best Budget Home Theater Starter Kits in 2023

It's easy to give your home theater sound system a budget makeover

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While home theater kits can be pricey, you can still find starter options that won't strain your wallet. Whether it's a traditional system with speakers and a receiver or a more modern soundbar, there are plenty of budget-friendly choices for enhancing your TV's audio while watching shows and movies or streaming music.

We've rounded up our top picks for the best home theater starter kits to help you decide which suits your budget and space.

Best Soundbar

Bose Smart Soundbar 300

Bose Smart Soundbar 300


What We Like
  • Bluetooth

  • Voice controls

  • Plug-and-play

What We Don't Like
  • Only one HDMI connection

  • No HomeKit support

  • No 4K passthrough

Bose has been one of the biggest and most trusted names in home audio for years, and their Smart Soundbar 300 is one of the best you can buy. It features four speaker drivers for room-filling audio. With Simple Sync or the Bose Music App, you can connect it to other Bose home audio products to play your favorite music or audio from shows and movies throughout your house. The app also lets you set up multiple user profiles, so if you have movie buffs, audiophiles, and TV fanatics under the same roof, everyone can create an audio setup that is right for them.

The Smart Soundbar 300 works with Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free voice controls and better integration into your smart home theater or home network. It also is compatible with Apple AirPlay and Spotify Connect to wirelessly stream music from your smartphone or tablet with or without an internet connection.

Along with a hardwired HDMI connection, you can use Bluetooth for a wireless audio setup; coupled with the soundbar's low profile, it's perfect for home theaters and living rooms that may be on the smaller side. The soundbar has a super-fast, plug-and-play setup, meaning you can connect it to your TV, plug it into the wall, and enjoy enhanced audio immediately. It also features a bass boost option for those deep, rich low tones that help make action or horror movies feel more intense.

Channels: 3.0 | Bluetooth: Yes | Physical Connection: HDMI or Optical | Digital Assistant: Alexa, Google Assistant | Waterproof: No

Most Compact

LG CM4590 XBOOM Bluetooth Audio System


Courtesy of B&H

What We Like
  • Easily fits on a shelf or mantle

  • 700W output

  • Bluetooth

What We Don't Like
  • No voice controls

  • Limited equalizer controls

  • Can't connect satellite speakers

If your living room is on the smaller side, or you don't want huge, clunky speakers clogging up your space, the LG XBOOM is an excellent option. This sound system has two speakers and a subwoofer measuring 12.4 x 8.1 x 11.2 inches, making them small enough to fit on a shelf, mantle, or dedicated table to free up floor space.

With Bluetooth and Sound Sync, you can wirelessly connect the system to your TV or mobile devices to reduce clutter for a clean-looking home theater. This system isn't just speakers; you can play CDs, listen to your favorite radio stations, or plug in a USB device to stream custom playlists. The auto DJ mode automatically removes the silence between songs for continuous music, making it great for parties or casual listening.

There are five preset equalizers for genres such as pop, rock, and classical, so your songs will sound their best whether you're listening to '60s beach rock or Beethoven. And just because this system is smaller, that doesn't mean LG skimped on power. This system has an impressive 700W output, meaning music and movies can be heard over party guests talking and ambient noise. Though if you have neighbors nearby who don't appreciate your music, you may end up with civil noise complaints.

Channels: 2.1 | Bluetooth: Yes | Physical Connection: USB, 3.5mm audio | Digital Assistant: No | Waterproof: No

Best for Larger Rooms

Yamaha YHT-4950U Home Theater System

Yamaha YHT-4950U Home Theater System


What We Like
  • Bluetooth

  • Automatic calibration

  • Four HDMI inputs

What We Don't Like
  • Not wireless

  • No voice controls

The Yamaha YHT-4950U home theater system is perfectly designed for living rooms and home theaters on the larger side. This system has a receiver, five speakers, and a subwoofer, so you can set up a custom configuration without purchasing additional speakers.

It also has a microphone that listens to ambient noise, automatically calibrating the system to deliver the perfect surround sound experience. While the speakers and subwoofers are wired to the receiver, you can use Bluetooth to connect the system to your TV or mobile devices wirelessly, or you can use one of the HDMI ports for a hardwired connection or 4K passthrough.

With up to 400W of output power, you'll get rich audio that fills the room or whole house, and Dolby audio support creates clean, clear sound for dialogue and high tones.

Channels: 5.1 | Bluetooth: Yes | Physical Connection: Four HDMI ports | Digital Assistant: No | Waterproof: No

Best for Parties

Samsung MX-T70 Sound Tower

Samsung MX-T70 Sound Tower

Best Buy

What We Like
  • Dual Bluetooth pairing

  • Splash resistant

  • Karaoke mode

What We Don't Like
  • No voice assistant

  • Heavy

  • No HDMI inputs

The Samsung MX-T70 is the ultimate party speaker system. This tower speaker has a built-in 10-inch subwoofer for deep bass and bi-directional speakers to fill your house or backyard with rich sound. It also has integrated LED lights that can be controlled with the Sound Tower app, allowing you to change lighting effects, colors, and sound equalizer settings. And with two microphone inputs, you can set up a karaoke corner for more ways to have fun with friends.

Bluetooth connectivity lets you pair up to two devices and seamlessly switch between them, so you can keep the music playing even if you encounter dead batteries, connection issues, or lame playlists. The tower speaker is also splash-resistant, protecting it from accidental drink spills or splashes from the pool.

The speaker has a 1500W power output that will let you rattle the neighbors out of bed, but if you want even more power, you can pair several tower speakers together for the ultimate backyard party system.

Channels: 2.0 | Bluetooth: Yes | Physical Connection: 3.5mm audio input, RCA | Digital Assistant: No | Waterproof: Splash resistant

Best Design

LG LHD657 Home Theater Speaker System

LG LHD657 Home Theater Speaker System


What We Like
  • Bluetooth

  • Region-free

  • Sleek tower speakers

What We Don't Like
  • No voice controls

The days of clunky home theater speakers in faux wood cabinets are long gone. The LG LHD657 system features four sleek tower speakers and a low-profile receiver to complement almost any decor and add a touch of sophistication to your living room or home theater.

Each tower speaker has a smooth, matte finish for understated style, and the subwoofer has a compact, discrete build that lets you tuck it out of the way without sacrificing power. The receiver lets you connect to the TV in various ways, including Bluetooth for wireless streaming, HDMI passthrough, optical cable, or composite input.

If you're a movie buff, you can play both PAL and NTSC format discs, which means you can import films from Germany or rare anime box sets from Japan and watch them without issue. There is even a mic input for setting up a karaoke party with friends when you can't convince them to sit through all three Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition films. 

Channels: 5,1 | Bluetooth: Yes | Physical Connection: 3.5mm audio input, Optical, Composite, RCA, HDMI | Digital Assistant: No | Waterproof: No

What to Look For in a Home Theater Starter Kit

Wireless vs. Wired

Many new home theater starter kits feature Bluetooth connectivity. This lets you wirelessly connect the receiver, speakers, or soundbar to your TV or set up satellite speakers, making them perfect for smaller or oddly-shaped rooms. Wired systems offer more stable connections between the receiver and speakers or the receiver and your TV but aren't ideal for smaller spaces where wires could cause clutter or trip hazards.

Bluetooth Connectivity

Bluetooth connectivity allows a wireless connection to your TV and lets you stream music from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop without a hardwired connection. Some systems and soundbars also have a tap-to-stream feature where you touch your device to the soundbar or receiver to share music instantly.

Speaker Size

Bigger isn't always better when it comes to speakers. Large speakers are great for larger rooms or use as statement pieces in your decor, but they don't necessarily have more powerful audio output. Small speakers are great for tucking away on a shelf or mantle for a more understated look but can sound tinny and weak. You'll want to pair the speaker size you need for your space with a receiver or soundbar with decent output wattage: Something in the 150-200W range is perfect for most rooms.

  • Should you buy a home theater system or a soundbar?

    That depends on what you want the system to do. Most soundbars nowadays eliminate the need for multiple satellite speakers by combining several drivers into a single unit. They're great for enhancing TV and film audio as well as music, but can lag behind traditional systems when it comes to creating true surround sound. Traditional systems with a receiver and speakers allow you to customize your setup and avoid annoying echoes that can come with tall ceilings or narrow rooms, but they also require much more space to set up.

  • Do you need a subwoofer with a soundbar?

    Not necessarily! Some models have subwoofers built in or use bass reflex ports to simulate subwoofer functions. More high-end models come packaged with dedicated subwoofers that provide an enhanced bass boost or use downward-firing drivers for bass you can feel as well as hear. You'll have to decide if you want a cinema-like experience with deep, bone-rumbling bass or if you just want richer low tones while listening to your favorite Spotify playlists.

  • How do you choose a good soundbar?

    There are a ton of different factors to consider when shopping for a new soundbar, chief of which is the size of your space. You'll want to get a soundbar that isn't too small or large so it can fit under your TV or be easily wall-mounted. You also want to see how many speaker drivers it has to get the best audio in your living room; the more drivers, the more nuanced the sound. You should also consider connectivity, since wires can cause trip hazards and be an eyesore in smaller home theaters and living rooms.

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