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When it comes to home theater starter kits, you want booming, crystal clear audio, plus surround sound, recreating the feeling you’d get in the cinema. With the right audio system, you can transform your TV or projector into a realistic home theater, immersing yourself in a movie and bringing it to life.
Before purchasing, you’ll want to consider the system’s accuracy and quality of sound, size, wireless or Bluetooth capability, and number of inputs, allowing you to connect all of your devices to your sound system with ease. However, one of the major factors when shopping for home theater kits is price, as home entertainment shouldn’t have to break the bank. If you’re shopping for a new kit on a budget, we’ve reviewed the best home theater starter kits under $500. With an impressive array of options from top brands such as JBL, Logitech, and Pioneer, we’ve rounded up the best options for every preference.
Here are the best home theater starter kits for under $500, and they also look fantastic alongside one of the best 65-inch 4K TVs from our list. No matter your preference, you can find the right sound system for your home.
Great value for money
Use Bluetooth to stream music from your phone
Good sound quality and easy installation
Only really works well in smaller spaces
No wireless capabilities
If you’re looking for a sound system on a tight budget, the Acoustic Audio 5.1 could be for you. At 700 watts, it gives you the power you need, but isn’t going to annoy the neighbors. This six-piece system features one subwoofer and five full-range six-inch satellite speakers. Installation is simple and you can connect via Bluetooth, useful for playing music on your phone, but Wi-Fi isn’t an option. It features an enhanced bass design, front panel controls, and five input/output channels. (You can also input a USB and an SC card.) The result is impressive, clear sound quality, especially when it comes to bass.
The design, basic speakers featuring an orange on black color choice, which look fine but may not win points in the style department. It also includes a remote control. Although the Acoustic Audio may not have all the bells and whistles of a more high-end product, it’s one of the best sound systems in its price range, offering quality sound that won’t hurt your wallet.
Wireless subwoofer and amazing audio, especially for voices
Sleek, unobtrusive design
Not a true surround sound system, unless you add satellites
Plastic exterior may be off-putting to some
If you prefer the discreet and unobtrusive look of a soundbar over that of a bulky surround sound system, consider the JBL Bar 5.1. It offers the backing of a well-loved brand, JBL, plus amazing sound quality from Dolby Digital and Dolby Pro Logic II. It’s not every day you see totally wireless surround sound capabilities from a soundbar, so it wins points for design as well. The soundbar features two additional speakers that can be fastened to the end of the main bar or they can be disconnected to create the surround sound effect, offering ten hours of audio before they need recharging.
Setting up the device is easy, and within minutes you’ll be up and running. The sound of the JBL is top-notch, especially when it comes to voices. With strong bass and sharp treble sounds, this soundbar was created with movie buffs in mind, not necessarily for music listeners.
If you prefer the look and feel of a soundbar, consider the JBL for your home theater kit.
8" subwoofer with built-in receiver packs a huge punch
1000 watts peak power
Adjustable LED lighting modes are fun for parties
Only offers RCA cable connection points, not USB or HDMI
Assembly can be confusing
The Rockville HTS56 is one of the best home theater starter kits on a budget, offering 1000 watts peak power, clear, dynamic sound, and ease of use. It contains an 8" subwoofer with built-in receiver, one center channel speaker, and four front and rear channel speakers, made from wood paneling with black plastic front panels. The subwoofer produces impressive bass, with the overall sound quality being above and beyond what you’d expect from its price point.
From a design perspective, the black speakers contain LED lighting, which can be customized to seven different colors or select multi-lighting mode, fun when entertaining. A remote control is also included, with the volume on each speaker able to be independently changed.
While we’re impressed with the Rockville overall, it’s worth noting that it only offers RCA connection points, not USB or HDMI. Assembly can also be confusing, but for the price, it’s worth the hassle.
Clear, crisp sound in a small package
50 watts peak power from a 5.1 speaker system
Lacks wireless capability
No wall mount option
If you’re looking for speakers for a desktop, gaming system, or even a small TV, the Logitech Z506 could suit your purpose. They’re affordable, with a stylish design that will look great on your desk—plus, the sound quality is phenomenal from such a small package. It offers 50 watts peak power, a true six-piece surround sound setup, and easy to use controls. The down-firing subwoofer creates a powerful bass and dedicated left, right, and center speakers ensure your sound is accurate and even.
Being designed with gamers in mind, we love that Logitech included plenty of inputs, making it simple to connect multiple devices like iPads or a game console. You can also connect headphones directly to the speakers with a 3.5mm jack.
Unfortunately, the Logitech will take up a chunk of your desk space, since it doesn’t have wireless capability and there’s no option to mount on the wall, which would’ve been a useful feature to include. As long as you’re ok with that, these speakers may be just what you need for your desktop.
Amazing sound quality from a compact three-piece speaker system
Plenty of input options, plus Bluetooth
Premium sound from a well-known brand
Other similar products available at this price point
Sometimes, simpler is better. If you prefer a compact speaker system over one with five or six pieces, the Denon D-T1 may appeal to you. The system includes two bookshelf speakers, each with a 4.8" woofer & 1" soft dome tweeter, and a premium compact amp with capability for Bluetooth. The design is basic, but clean, and would fit into just about any household. We also like the inclusion of inputs, making it easy to stream music or hook up gaming systems. A headphone amplifier is also included, allowing you to enjoy premium sound without disturbing anyone else in the home. Installation is also easy, and a remote control is included.
The result is a powerful sound system that doesn’t take up much space, offering a powerful bass and rich highs and lows. If the appeal of the Denon brand name interests you, you’re sure to enjoy the premium experience of the D-T1. However, if you’re not fussed on brands, you can find similar products within this price range from other companies.
Stunning walnut design
Powerful 6.5" woofers
Quality build will last years to come
No subwoofer included
Perform best in large rooms
If you’re looking for a speaker with both style and substance, check out the Fluance SXHTBW. Before you even hear its impressive sound quality, you’ll notice the Fluance’s stunning looks. With a beautiful natural walnut design, the form and style of the speakers are both elegant and simple, which will look great in any room of the house. The speaker system offers one-inch neodymium silk dome tweeters, four-inch poly-coated midrange drivers, and powerful 6.5-inch woofers, creating a dynamic and high-quality audio experience. Both the highs and lows are incredibly lifelike, making them a great choice for just about any movie.
The powerful sound of the Fluance works best in large rooms, as it may be too overbearing in smaller spaces. With the inclusion of Dolby Surround and DTS systems, it needs plenty of room to perform at its best. It’s also worth mentioning that the system doesn’t include a subwoofer, so you’ll want to add one on–otherwise, your bass sounds will be lacking.
The Fluance is a top choice for many home theater enthusiasts, especially if you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional black speaker sets.
Compact size makes it ideal for small rooms or apartments
Impressive sound quality for an affordable price
Easy to install
Subwoofers can sometimes overheat
The Monoprice 10565 5.1 may be small in size, but it’s big in power. The system includes four satellite speakers, a center channel speaker and 8" injected cone subwoofer, which work together to create a clear, pleasing sound. Its small size makes it a great option for smaller rooms or apartments that don’t want to be blown away with bass—that being said, the bass and ranges of the system are better than you’d expect from a small product.
The design of the Monoprice may not be to your liking, with a simple black matte finish and not much pizazz. However, if you’re planning to place the speakers discreetly around the room, you may be fine if they don’t stand out. Also note that there’s no Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity.
This six-piece set is simple to install, with wall mounts included. For a small, but effective, home theater system, the Monoprice could be just what you need.
When it comes to our top pick, we love the elegance of the Fluance SXHTBW’s walnut design. Combined with a premium sound quality and speakers that are built to last, you’ll get years of value from the Fluance.
Katie Dundas is a freelance writer and journalist who has been covering tech for the past several years. She has thoroughly researched all products reviewed here.
Receiver - You’ll need a receiver to power your brand new speakers, and not all home theater starter kits will include one. If you don’t already have a receiver for your setup, be sure to factor one into your budget as they can run a minimum of a few hundred dollars. Additionally, ensure that your receiver is capable of supporting the standards you intend to use such as 4K HDMI or Dolby Vision HDR.
Size - Do you have the room for large speakers in your home theater? Consider purchasing larger speakers over small compact systems if possible. While compact systems can be great to save a bit of space, the laws of physics require larger speakers for a fuller sound.
Channels - Check to see if the system you are purchasing is stereo or surround sound. If you are looking to feel the action from all directions, pick up a 5.1 surround system, which includes five speakers and a subwoofer.