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Best Overall: Paradigm Cinema 100 CT 5.1 at Amazon
"Designed from the ground up to deliver a theater-quality listening experience."
Best Value: Onkyo SKS-HT540 7.1 Channel Home Theater at Amazon
"A luxurious addition to your existing home theater."
Best for Audiophiles: Onkyo HT-7800 5.1-Channel at Amazon
"With support for 4K video playback and DTS:X technology for customizing dynamic range."
Best Wireless: Enclave Audio CineHome 5.1 Wireless Home Theater at Amazon
"An excellent option that eliminates the need for cables connecting each separate speaker."
Best Budget: Vizio SB3851-C0 at Target
"If you're looking to get a home theater audio system but don't want to break the bank, check out the Vizio 5.1.2 system."
Best Splurge: Definitive Technology Pro Cinema 800 at Amazon
"A top performer that punches well above its pay grade."
Best for Large Rooms: Onkyo SKS-HTC993THX 7.1 Home Theater at Amazon
"You’ll immediately fall for the immersive audio of this THX-certified system."
Best Compact: Monoprice HT-35 at Amazon
"Providing a deep bass...with room-filling sound and dynamic feel."
Best Design: Klipsch Reference Theater Pack at Amazon
"Delivers a pre-matched 5.1 surround sound experience that’s truly stunning, both visually and acoustically."
Best for Small Rooms: JBL Cinema 610 5.1 Home Theater System at Amazon
"You’ll find maximum value with these speakers in small to medium-sized rooms."
For serious gamers, having the best audio setup can mean the difference between winning and losing. The Paradigm Cinema 100 CT 5.1 surround sound speaker system is designed from the ground up to deliver a theater-quality listening experience. The bass and midrange speaker cones are made from Satin Anodized pure aluminum for a deep, punchy low range and clean, crisp mid-tones. The tweeter speakers have a wire mesh guard to protect them against dust and damage, preserving your highest tones.
Each speaker features ferrofluid cooling for better power handling, giving you a peak of up to 300 watts. The speakers and subwoofer have a super compact design and come with wall mounting brackets so you can customize your audio setup. With 5.1 channel audio support, you're sure to hear every enemy footstep, shot, and audio cue and gain the extra edge you need to win.
The 7.1-channel Onkyo SKS-HT540 speaker system makes a luxurious addition to your existing home theater. At under $350, this system could also fall into the budget category, but given the remarkable sound quality, it offers tremendous value. Note that you’ll have to purchase a separate A/V receiver, but even without it included, the price is a steal.
Off the bat, you’ll notice that the speakers and subwoofer are much bulkier than most systems. Still, many people are happy to sacrifice space for sound quality. Its two-way bass reflex front, center and surround speakers produce a 130-watt total output, and a 230-watt subwoofer includes a 10-inch cone driver. While its spring-clip wire connectors instead of higher-quality binding posts will remind you that some consider this a budget system, you’ll forget it the second you’ll hear its clear bass, mids, and highs.
The Onkyo HT-7800 5.1-channel system is powered by seven surround sound speakers and one subwoofer and it even comes with a receiver. With built-in support for Chromecast, AirPlay, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a slew of streaming music services, there’s never a shortage of ways to enjoy sound on the HT-7800 system. The two-way bass reflex front left and right speaker cabinets add Dolby Atmos technology for bouncing sound effects off ceilings. It also has support for 4K video playback and DTS:X technology for customizing dynamic range. Whether it’s a small or medium-sized room, the Onkyo is set up in under an hour, allowing you to focus solely on its outstanding sound.
Combining outstanding value and wireless setup, the Enclave Audio CineHome 5.1 is an excellent option that eliminates the need for cables connecting each separate speaker. The other six independent speakers work together for a total of 14 speaker drivers, delivering 360 degrees of HD wireless audio. The Enclave’s two Bipole surround speakers include two full-range drivers on opposite sides of the enclosed speaker, perfectly designed to spread sound throughout an entire room.
While wireless audio may be the highlight of the Enclave system, there’s a bevy of additional features to maximize value. Three HDMI inputs enable owners to connect a gaming console, Blu-ray player and a streaming device (Apple TV, Roku, etc.). Just download the Enclave Audio app onto your phone and stream music from any of your favorite services. Bluetooth connectivity is built in along with Googlecast, which connects to Google’s Chromecast hardware for an additional audio streaming option.
If you're looking to get a home theater audio system but don't want to break the bank, check out the Vizio 5.1.2 system. This home theater system includes a 36-inch soundbar, two rear speakers, and a wireless 6-inch subwoofer. The soundbar features two upward firing drivers so your music and movie audio doesn't get lost in furniture or muddled by bouncing off the walls. With the Vizio Smartcast app, you can turn your smartphone or tablet into a remote control for the speakers and stream your favorite songs, shows, and movie audio to different rooms when used with compatible Vizio components.
With Chromecast built-in, you can stream directly from your phone or tablet to share videos, pictures, and music with friends and family. You can also connect your Google Assistant device for hands-free voice controls and smart home integration. With both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, you can listen to your favorite songs from your phone or tablet without interruptions from calls or app notifications. Each speaker features a compact design for better placement options and to fit almost any modern decor. They also use DTS Virtual X technology to produce the cleanest audio possible. Vizio has also partnered with Apple to give you four months of Apple Music for free with the purchase of this speaker system.
At less than $1,000, there’s undoubtedly more expensive surround sound speaker options, all of which would be deemed a “splurge”. If money is no object, there’s no shortage of options that can range into the thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. However, for the sake of practicality, we’re focusing on “splurge” options for the everyman. Our top choice, the Definitive Technology Pro Cinema 800, is a top performer that punches well above its pay grade.
The design catches your eye right off the bat, even if at first glance it appears to be just another speaker set available in black. Both movie dialogue and the respective soundtracks produced a deep bass that was definitively better than other options around the $1,000 price point. Unfortunately, the Definitive subwoofer won’t rattle your bones like some higher-end Bose or Klipsch models, but the experience is still immersive and wildly enjoyable. On a similar note, Definitive’s speakers won’t take you to full volume without distortion kicking in but there’s a handful of cinematic moments we just want to hear as loud as possible.
Definitive’s best described as detail-rich, preserving the fidelity of a soundtrack while allowing for all the simultaneous effects to be heard and enjoyed. The 300-watt subwoofer paired with the center speaker and satellites are all well regarded on their own but together they create an incredible value in high-performance audio. There’s little question you’ll end up feeling like the ProCinema 800 offers both value and a high-end experience that belies its price tag.
If it’s big sound you’re after, Onkyo’s SKS-HT993THX is the best surround sound speaker system. You’ll immediately fall for the immersive audio of this THX-certified system. Film soundtracks will sound rich and detailed, not unlike what you would expect when you’re are the theater. And you can take the volume all the way up — each individual speaker is wrapped in a solid MDF cabinet to prevent vibration.
Everything centers around the subwoofer that’s pumping out 125 watts of power through its 12-inch front-firing cone. Supporting the subwoofer are seven additional speakers, including three center speakers and four satellite speakers. The satellite speakers will fill a large room with sound thanks to their 5.1-inch woofers and one-inch tweeters. Each satellite speaker arrives with wall mounts that won’t sacrifice any aspect of audio clarity. The front and center speakers offer nearly the same dimensions with five-inch woofers and one-inch soft-dome tweeters for 360 degrees of sound.
If you need a surround sound system that won't take up a ton of space, take a look at the Monoprice HT-35. This system features four satellite speakers, a center driver, and an eight-inch subwoofer. Each satellite speaker stands just 7.5-inches tall and weighs less than three pounds. The center speaker measures 10.2-inches long and stands 4.3-inches high, weighing just three pounds. The subwoofer is a 12.2-inch cube and weighs less than 20 pounds. Having such lightweight and small speakers means that you can quickly and easily set them up or change the configuration without a fuss.
The backs of each speaker feature universal mounting holes for wall placement options when floor space is at a premium. While this system is small, it delivers big sound. The subwoofer gives you up to 200 watts of power for deep, punchy low ranges. The whole system supports 5.1 channel audio so you can adjust each speaker individually for the best listening experience.
The Klipsch brand is well known for its premium audio hardware, and their Reference Theater Pack delivers a pre-matched 5.1 surround sound experience that’s truly stunning, both visually and acoustically. The pieces are compact, with a minimal footprint that fits nicely in a small- or medium-sized room. But while the set can blend in size-wise, especially with the grills on, you can also opt to leave them off and let Klipsch’s signature spun-copper woofers catch the eye. The center channel and four satellite speakers all feature this unique construction, which, along with the horn-loaded tweeters, minimizes distortion and produces clean, detailed sound.
Delivering the low end is a down-firing eight-inch subwoofer with surprisingly powerful bass output for its size. Its frequency response ranges from 38 to 120 Hz and the amplifier is rated for 50-watt RMS (continuous power) and 150-watt peak power. The best part is that it’s wireless, giving you the flexibility to place it wherever it fits and sounds best in your room.
The JBL name can easily be characterized as a manufacturer of unmatched sound, and that’s exactly the case with the Cinema 610 surround sound system. With five voice-matching satellite speakers, each of which includes a three-inch driver and one-inch tweeter, the dialogue is crystal clear. The dedicated center speaker adds near-cinematic power and exceptional clarity for dialogue and sound effects.
The eight-inch subwoofer only adds to the overall excellent performance, especially when you consider it’s only putting out 60-watts. Bass feels deep and punchy without any vibrations. In fact, the whole system can withstand max volume without breaking a sweat. There are almost no hiccups or interference.
These speakers can be wall mounted (brackets are included) or placed on shelves. For the best possible sound, you’ll find maximum value with these speakers placed in small to medium-sized rooms.
Room size - Before you look at the power output of a set of speakers, consider the size of your room. If it’s on the small side, you might not need too much power and you can save a bit of money by buying a compact system. If, however, you have an expansive room to fill, don’t hold back. Go for a full-size, full-range system with an amplifier instead of a receiver.
5.1 vs 7.1 - A 5.1 channel setup consists of five small speakers and a subwoofer, while a 7.1 channel setup includes two additional speakers -- obviously. The additional speakers provide richer sound, but can get pricier. In most cases, a 5.1 channel setup is more than enough, but if you’re looking to splurge, a 7.1 channel setup can be very impressive.
Wired vs. wireless - A wired setup will have an edge when it comes to sound quality, but if you don’t mind sacrificing sound in the name of design, go for a wireless setup. (For tips on hiding those unsightly wires, read this.)
Doesn’t include input audio cables
If all you’re looking for is quality sound in your speaker system, our testers agreed this product hits the mark. “The sound quality is great,” reported one of our reviewers, “however the system visually is not attractive.” One of our testers was also disappointed that it didn’t come with the audio cables she needed, but did note that the overall setup was pretty straightforward. The bottom line: You’ll get a “robust sound quality” with this system, according to one of our reviewers, but the design feels “outdated.”
One of our testers described this system as “powerful, effective, [and] user-friendly.” However, the overall design and the fact that it’s not Bluetooth enabled will bother those looking for visual appeal, cautioned our reviewers. Our testers did note setup was simple. The takeaway? “The system is effective, it sounds great — but it has way too many cables,” declared one of our reviewers.