Best Home Theater Systems
Now that the weather is starting to get a little colder, you might find yourself nestled all nice and warm under a blanket rather than on an outdoor adventure. For those cool nights indoors, watching a movie or binging a TV show with full functional surround sound will turn your living room into a movie theater, and you won’t even have to take out a loan for popcorn and soda! Many people think that these systems are too expensive or overly complicated, but that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. While there are some designs out there that will set you back a decent chunk of change, there are also some packages that come in at a very reasonable price tag.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 13 hrs of research
Comes with an acoustic optimizer for the best sound
- Yamaha YHT-4930UBL
- Pioneer HTP-074
- Energy 5.1 Take Classic
- Polk Audio RM6750
- Enclave Audio CineHome
- Onkyo HT-S3900
- Klipsch HDT-600
- Damson S Series
- Orb Audio
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Yamaha YHT-4930UBL
Comes with an acoustic optimizer for the best sound
Some users feel that the smaller speakers are less than ideal
This was our favorite pick because it checks off all of the boxes for a successful sound experience- it’s affordable, it comes from a highly trusted brand, and it’s easy to put together. Plus, everything you need to go from silence to mind-blowing surround sound is included in one compact box.Read more
Users will receive a receiver, a powerful subwoofer, and 5 mountable speakers to place around the room. For users that need speaker wire to be able to mount these around their room, Yamaha offers a package with the wires included at a slight upcharge. What makes this design unique is that it comes with an acoustic optimizer. Dedicated audiophiles know the exact spot to place all of the speakers for the best sound, but what about the rest of users? The acoustic optimizer senses the acoustics of the room and adjusts the speakers accordingly.
This unit produces 8 ohms, which is pretty standard for most living room options. It also THD percentage of .9, and and the closer of zero this number is, the better. It has a 6-1/2”100-watt subwoofer, and it also supported 4k ultra HD for your high-end TV. It supports hybrid-log gamma as well as Dolby vision so that your sound will match the sharpness of your picture.
One of the things that users loved most about this option is that it comes in at a pretty affordable price, especially considering that it comes from a recognized brand. It isn’t the least expensive out there on the market, but past users find this price point to be very fair.
If you want something that comes from a trusted brand that won’t break the bank, this is an excellent option. Plus, it comes with an acoustic optimizer to ensure you get the best sound even if you don’t quite know what you are doing.
Easy to set up and use
Can deliver up to 1,000 watts of power
Does not come with a Bluetooth adapter
User found that the wire included was too short and they needed to purchase more
Users by recognize Logitech as a company that has been bringing great computer products to the home since the early 1980s, so it’s no surprise they bring their innovative products to the living room. This package comes with all of the things that users will need to set up for an epic movie night, and it has a receiver that is easy to understand and use.Read more
Users that opt for this model will get one receiver, one subwoofer, and 5 small satellite speakers. What we like about the Logitech design is that the receiver is very small, and there are a few basic buttons on the remote that is perfect for novice audiophiles that sometimes can get lost in a sea of unclear buttons and settings. This unit comes with all of the things that you will need to get started right out of the box, and that includes wires. It doesn’t have Bluetooth capabilities like some of the others, but for a slight uptick in price, you can opt to have a Bluetooth adapter included in the purchase.
To ensure that you get the same quality sound like you would at a cinema, these speakers are THX certified, and offer 5.1 digital surround sound. They offer 500 watts of power under normal circumstances, which is just slightly less than the Yamaha option, but Logitech claims that under certain circumstances and with the right settings, they can deliver an impressive 1,000 watts of peak power.
The cost of this unit is surprisingly affordable, especially coming from a trusted brand such as Logitech. Keep in mind, however, that if you want it to have Bluetooth capabilities, you will have to dish out just a little bit more money- about the amount you would spend on a Blu-ray DVD.
This Logitech package is perfect for those that aren’t skilled and tested audiophiles, but they want to be someday. Users love that this design is small and compact, easy to use, and delivers incredible sound.
3. Pioneer HTP-074
Offers great sound with little subwoofer distortion
Provides HDMI ports
Some users wish it was able to get a little louder
Sometimes the unit needs to be powered down and restarted to work
Pioneer is one of the first companies to hit the market producing speakers for radio equipment as far back as 1938, is it comes to no surprise that they are coming in at the top of our list. This package includes all of the components that you will need to set up an impressive soundscape right in your living room, and it comes in at a very reasonable price point.Read more
This package includes a receiver with a remote, a subwoofer, and 5 satellite speakers. It comes with Bluetooth technology built into the receiver so that users will be able to listen to their favorite music through the speakers without the need to go through the television. It also has a USB port mounted to the front so that users can play music off of other wired devices such as iPod and MP3 players.
The receiver is able to deliver impressive sound in 5.1 Dolby, as well as Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Pro Logic II, and Dolby digital plus. It only offers 6 ohms- which is a little peculiar for living rooms models that typically offer 8 ohms standard. However, it has a THD rating of .7 percent, which is pretty impressive considering that this unit comes at a very affordable price point.
What we love about the Pioneer HTP-074 design is that it delivers impressive sound, but it still comes in at an affordable price point. It isn’t the least expensive option by any means, but it is a great system that runs about in the middle of the road.
For those that want to purchase something that will be able to deliver superior sound without breaking the bank, this is an excellent option. It is important to note that users will have to spend a little bit of time sitting down with the user manual, but the end result will be well worth it.
4. Energy 5.1 Take Classic
Easy to set up
Offers great sound
Slight distortion at first, Energy states that the speakers need about 50 hours before they are ‘broken in’
Energy might not exactly be a household name such as Yamaha or Pioneer, but they are worth checking out. This Take Classic system one an editor’s choice award from CNET back in 2009 for providing great audio sound at a reasonable price point. If you are in the market for something that is a little more on the affordable side without sacrificing quality, the Energy 5.1 Take Classic is worth a look.Read more
This package includes a central channel, a subwoofer, and four mountable satellite speakers. The downside to this option is that some of the things that you will need to use it right out of the box are not included with the base box. In order to be able to use it right out of the box, you will need to upgrade to the package that includes the starter kit that comes with mounting tools and speaker wire.
The Energy 5.1 Take Classic delivers 8 ohms of sound, which is pretty standard for these types of packages. It can achieve a decibel level of about 89, which is about the same volume as Boeing 737! Each satellite speaker weighs just under 3 pounds (for easy mounting), the receiver is small and compact and weighs about 3.2 pounds, and the subwoofer weighs 19.7 pounds.
The big takeaway from the Energy 5.1 Take Classic is the price tag. This is one of the most affordable packages out there on the market. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that this unit isn’t ready to go right out of the box. Users will either need to purchase their own wire separately or opt for the Energy bundle that includes mounting hardware and wire.
This is an excellent choice for users that have smaller rooms and that don’t want to spend the higher price point on designs for epic movie rooms. While it may be a little bit smaller than most, it is still capable of delivering crisp sound without breaking the bank.
5. Polk Audio RM6750
Offers 6.1 and 7.1 surround sound capabilities
Users especially love the performance of the subwoofer
A little pricey
Doesn’t come with a receiver
Some feel it needs more low-end power
It wouldn’t be a party if Polk Audio didn’t make an appearance at least once. This company has been in the business of bringing superior sound directly to your living room since they were founded in 1972 in Baltimore, Maryland. What we like about this package is that is capable of handling some of the most complicated and future-proof sounds out there on the market, so that you won’t have to update your speakers as sound design improves with time.Read more
Users will receive 4 satellite speakers, a central speaker, and a subwoofer. It is important to note that the receiver is not included with this package, which this means this unit is perfect for those that are looking to update their existing speaker but have no need to update their receiver.
This is where this unit really shines. While most designs out there on the market are only able to accommodate 5.1 digital sound, the Polk Audio RM6750 system is able to accommodate 6.1 and 7.1 surround sound to offer users a sense of depth with their sound, as well as keep up with improvements in sound design. The central speaker, as well as each satellite speaker, are composed of polymer composite cones that are about 3.25 inches to help reduce the distortion of sounds.
Audiophiles know that when they see the brand of Polk Audio, an expensive price point is soon to follow. While this isn’t the most expensive design out there on the market, it is still considered pretty pricey. However, the advanced technology in place means that as sound design improves with time, you will have no need to replace this speaker to catch up, which will save you a little bit of money in the long haul.
You can’t go wrong selecting a package from Polk Audio. This set is perfect for creating excellent soundscapes in your movie room, and they are designed in such a way that you won’t need to replace them as the tech in the media industry improves their high definition audio signals.
6. Enclave Audio CineHome
Easy to install
Does not require an audio receiver
Some found the remote to be unresponsive
Speakers glow bright blue- can be distracting when watching a movie
The Enclave Audio CineHome is different because this entire package does not need the addition of a receiver. This is the perfect addition for movie lover that might not know all that much about crafting the perfect soundscape. With this design, Enclave Audio does pretty much all of the words for you to deliver the best sound.Read more
Users will receiver 1 center speaker that also serves as a hub for all of your input cables, as well as 4 satellite speakers and 1 subwoofer. The great thing about this package is that it doesn’t come with the need for speaker wire that can sometimes be a little complicated and messy to install and hide. All of the speakers for this unit are wireless and need to be synced together in order to work.
This unit offered 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound and DTS. It is also capable of being upgraded to 5.2 with the addition of another subwoofer. It has an impressive 3 HDMI output to hook up to your TV, gaming devices, and stereo equipment. It has CEC/ARC support, and it has bipole rear speakers to offer more depth of sound even in larger rooms.
Due to the fact that this unit is made from high-quality components that offer superior sound, and it is able to be set up quickly right out of the box, the price tag is quite higher than many of the other devices that we have seen out there on the market. This unit cost about double of what many of the average priced design cost.
What we loved most about the Enclave Audio CineHome design is that it is really something that pretty much anyone can set up right out of the box with very little knowledge on how speakers work, or really even consulting an instruction booklet.
7. Onkyo HT-S3900
Easy to set up
Has an impressive 4 HDMI ports
4K HDR ultra HD compatible
Users found that the Bluetooth signal is only good for about 20 feet
Onkyo is a company that was founded in 1946 in Japan, and their name translates to ‘sound harmony’, so you know that you are receiving something from a company that has been in the business of crafting a perfect sound for many years. Users love that this unit is very easy to use, and comes in at a very affordable price point.Read more
This package from Onkyo includes one receiver, one subwoofer, and 5 satellites speakers to be placed around the room. What’s great about this unit is that it has Bluetooth capabilities so that you can connect all of the speakers without wires, but you also still have the option to run wires to each unit if that is what you prefer.
The specs on this model are just a little less than ideal when compared to some of the higher end options, but not by much. The positives of this unit is that is it compatibles with Dolby Digital, DTS HD, and 4k HDR ultra HD. It is also capable of supporting 5.2 surround sound if you happen to have an extra subwoofer. The downside to this unit is that it offers 6 ohms- which is less than the most other units on the market that offer up 8 ohms. It also has a THD (total harmonic distortion) of 10 percent- which is slightly higher than most, but again, not by much. We do like that this unit has an impressive 4 HDMI ports to be able to hook up all of your favorite gaming devices and Blu-ray players.
What we like about this design is that comes in at a price that is one of the most affordable packages out there on the market, and it still comes from a company that has been in the business of making household audio devices for over 70 years.
If you don’t have a lot of audio experience under your belt, or a whole lot of money in your wallet, the Onkyo HT-S3900 is a great place to start in building a great movie experience right in your living room.
8. Klipsch HDT-600
Some users compare the quality to Bose
Does not come with a receiver
Some users had difficulty mounting rear speakers
Klipsch might not have the immediate name recognition as a Polk or a Yamaha, but they have been in the business of making speakers since they were founded in Arkansas in 1946. This unit is great because it uses unique Klipsch technology and design to deliver excellent sound.Read more
Unfortunately, this box doesn’t come with the addition of a receiver. If you already have a receiver and are simply looking to upgrade your speakers, this is a great option. This box comes with one subwoofer, one central speaker and 4 satellite speakers. It also doesn’t come with the wires that you will need to hook up the satellites, the wire will need to be purchased separately.
From what we could gather, everything runs about in the middle of the road in terms of performance. This unit isn’t breaking any new ground for what it can handle, but it isn’t falling behind in the pack. It offers a 5.1 channel capacity and puts off about 100 watts of power. The entire unit weighs just about 25 pounds, making it easy to set up in your living room. The satellites also are able to swivel 45 degrees, so you can ensure that you point them at just the right angle for the best audio experience.
The price of this unit runs about in the middle of the road. It isn’t the most expensive design out there, but it is far from the least expensive. Considering that this box doesn’t come with the benefit of a receiver that is included, the price tag may be a little too steep for some users.
If you are in the market for something that comes from a trusted company and has a long line of satisfied customers in its wake, the Klipsch HDT-600 will be an excellent addition the next time you host a movie night in your living room.
9. Damson S Series
Very easy to set up
Bluetooth capabilities make it easy to add more speakers
Sharp cubed speaker design
Some discovered some speakers stopped working after a few months
The thing we loved most about the Damson S Series is that it is a perfect option for those that know a little bit about audio equipment and want something that has great sound, but it also works for those newbies out there that wouldn’t know a USB port from an HDMI port.Read more
Users will receive 2 wireless satellite cubes, a soundbar, a subwoofer, universal power supplies, and a remote control. What’s great about this design is that all of the speakers sync via Bluetooth, so there will be no need to fuss with wires that can make your living space look sloppy and messy.
What we like about this option is that it doesn’t come with a receiver. However, this unit will still deliver excellent sound without the need to fuss with a complicated receiver. Where this unit really shines is in its ability to simply plug and play. Damson claims that all users will be able to go from the box to movie time in just under 10 minutes.
The drawback to this option is that it comes in at a slightly higher price point than some of the other options making our list. However, many users feel that the price is well worth it considering the ease to set up as well as the superior sound.
If you are in the market for something that offers a superior sound that is only found in some of the higher end designs and is easy to set up- this is going to be the perfect addition for your next movie night. Just keep in mind, however, that it comes in at a slightly higher price point than most.
10. Orb Audio
Users can select from a myriad of different color options
Easy to set up
Does not come with a receiver
For some users, the thought of hanging unattractive speakers in their perfectly decorated living room makes them hesitate a little bit when it comes to setting up surround sound. Orb Audio sets out to overcome that obstacle by creating speakers that not only deliver excellent sound but also look very sharp and trending in pretty much any room.Read more
Users will receive 5 small orb shaped speakers and one subwoofer. Unfortunately, this particular unit does not come with a receiver included. Users will simply have to use the receiver that they already have, or buy one separately from a trusted company.
The subwoofer that comes with this unit is the only thing that offers a little bit of extra bulk. It measures in at about 9 inches and has a sleek cube design that will look great in every room. What we liked about the satellite speakers that are included is that users can select from a myriad of colors that will match the decor of their room seamlessly. Colors include black, earth, bronze, copper, white, or steel.
Unfortunately, this unit comes in at a pretty steep price point that is almost double that of many of the other options found on our list. However, if you want superior sound in your movie room but don’t want to have to try and mask bulky and unappealing speakers throughout your room- this is an excellent value.
If you have been looking for something that offers up a superior sound and has a more appealing look to the speaker rather than the classic black and sometimes bulky options, the Orb Audio package will blend in perfectly in your living space.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
The accessories that are included with your home theater system are just as important as choosing the right film to watch. Most systems come with a receiver, a speaker system, and a subwoofer. In addition to the specific electronics included, we included a count of how many speakers come with the package. Knowing these details will make it easier for you to imagine how the system will fit your future home theater room. However, it should be noted that the Orb, Polk, and Klipsch systems on our list do not include a receiver.
While the necessary accessories are, for the most part, included, there may be some accessories that you would like to switch out. The most replaced theater accessory is the speakers. Aside from this, another accessory that is not included with any of the systems on our list, is a Home Theater Power Management System. While this is another investment, it will make your life much easier. With all of the inevitable upgrades that you will encounter with your system will come more cords, wires, and plugs. Much like a surge protector, this will keep all of your cords in one place and protect them from fluctuating electricity surges.
Selecting the best audio equipment can sometimes be considered a delicate art form. While you want to ensure that you select something that is going to give you the best sound possible in your living space, what exactly are the things that you need to look out for when determining superior sound? We typically determine a television is of better quality when the picture seems to offer brighter colors with limited distortion, deeper blacks, and a picture that looks like you could reach out and grab whatever is on the screen. How do you make those determinations when it comes to something intangible such as sound? Well, many of the factors that you consider when selecting the best speakers also apply in this instance. You want to select something that offers minimal distortion in the sound, that offers a wide range of high and low pitches (as well as volume), and that makes the viewer think that the terrible monster in the horror movie that they are watching is right in the room with them.
The three big things that we looked at when conducting our research involved three very basic things: wattage, THD, and ohms. Determining the right ohms (or level of impedance of the electrical current) is pretty simple when it comes to these products because they are typically only divided into 4 different categories: 2, 4, 8, and 16 ohms. Speakers that have an impedance of 2 or 4 ohms are usually used for car speakers, and 8 to 16 ohms are made for units used for television sets. Almost all of the speakers we found on the market have a rating of 8 ohms. If you find a set that has 4 or less, these aren’t going to be ideal for your need in your house.
Wattage is important because this affects how loud your speakers will be able to get. Low wattages can be a real dealbreaker for those that like to rock out hard in their living room. We found that units that had a wattage of anything over 500 were generally considered adequate to reach decibel levels of around 90 (which is the equivalent of a Boeing 737), and typically maxed out at about 1,000 watts for higher-end designs. For users that are concerned about staying green and conserving energy, some of the name brand options off an energy efficient setting to conserve on power when simply watching some old sitcoms or easy listening in the evening that doesn’t require the force of a jet engine.
THD, or Total Harmonic Distortion, may not be a term that you are familiar with, but you are most likely familiar with its negative effects. If you have ever watched TV on an old television set, you might have noticed that it may sound to be a little distorted. Sound travels through electrical components in order to reach your ear, and the less interference that it has with the components in which it travels means the sound will be clearer. The goal when considered THD is to find a number that is closest to zero. Therefore, in our research, we made sure to select designs that had a THD rating that was as close to zero as possible.
For those that have spent a good deal of money on their televisions and gaming devices want to ensure that they select speakers that will be able to be compatible. Lower end speaker will be able to function with these devices, but much of the high-quality sound will be lost once it makes its way through the electrical components. The last thing you want is to have speakers that aren’t able to produce the clear sound that your TV or gaming device is capable of. That’s why we made sure to keep our eye on speakers that would allow for HDR 4K passthrough, and had a good deal of HDMI ports for various gaming devices, stereos, and Blue-ray players. If you are spending a good deal of money for superior sound, one of the most important things you need to consider is how compatible it will be with all of your entertainment devices.
While home theater systems may seem extraordinary for some, we recommend that you sit down and do the math of how much you would be spending at the movies each week for you and your family. It will become quite clear that the system will end up paying for itself in less than one year (especially if you include the outrageous cost of snacks and drinks at the cinema). Each system on our list includes decent speakers and subwoofers, and most include a receiver.
We would be lying if we said these systems come cheaply but we believe that these top 10 systems are well worth the investment. If you are just starting out, a home theater system and a great set a bean bags is a great place to start. Little by little you can tweak your system and modify it to your liking.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Before shopping for all the accessories and screens, take a look at the size of your room. It will be quite uncomfortable if you end up with a screen that is way too big for your tiny room and hurts to look at it. Equally as important, is the size of the sound system. If you have a giant room and small sound system you will not achieve the movie theatre effect.
When setting up your theatre, you will want to think long and hard about where to place your speakers. One of our favorite locations is on the ceiling. Perhaps in the bend of the walls on the ceiling is ideal. Your guests will hardly even notice them, your animals and children won't be able to reach them, and the quality of sound will be light and airy.
Other Factors to Consider
Some might tell you that you may be paying extra for a well known and popular brand, but that isn’t always the case when it comes to audio equipment. The way the media is able to deliver sound is a science that constantly keeps changing and improving, and some of the well-known brands- such as Polk Audio and Pioneer- that have been in business since the old floor model radios hit the scene in the 1940’s know a thing or two about the science of sound. These companies not only offer designs that are able to be compatible with some of the top of the line devices out there on the market today, but they also have an eye on the future and make devices that will be better equipped to accommodate newer sound improvements as they come down the pike.
There are no unknown variables when it comes to the performance of many of the current televisions and entertainment devices out there on the market today. Their parameters are clearly defined by wattage and ohms and THD. Ensuring that you select a package that meets all of the standards is a simple game of comparing numbers. However, the unknown element in crafting superior sound lies in a very important feature: the placement of the speakers. You simply cannot pop your satellite speakers up on the ceiling or wall where they look best and call it a day. One must first take into consideration the ear level of the viewer before determining the best place to put them in the room. The acoustics of the room is something that also needs to be considered before placing them. Luckily, companies such as Yamaha offer acoustic optimizers that use a microphone to measure the sound and acoustics of a room, and will automatically make adjustments to bring you the best sound possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sure, you may have paid for a top of the line 4K television, but all of those specs listed on the box only pertain to the picture. The speakers used on the front of the unit may be of high quality, but they will only deliver sound to the front of the room. For an epic movie experience, and to feel like you are actually there, sound needs to come from all different directions to trick your brain into thinking that you are actually there. If you are watching a horror movie, for instance, and there is a sound of a door slamming from behind, the sound will come from the back satellite speakers to make it feel like the sound actually came from behind you. Plus, the higher quality speakers will be able to deliver a sound with limited distortion, which will make the movie come to life even more so than if it just had a really high-resolution picture.
You might have noticed this number showing up everywhere- in television shows, movies, and in this instance- on speaker sets. So, what exactly does it mean? The answer to this question is pretty simple. The 5 is in reference to the channels- or the speaker satellites- offered with each set. If you notice, brands that claim their sets offer 5.1 channel sound also come with one main speaker and 4 satellites. The 1 in 5.1 is referencing the subwoofer. Therefore, 5.1 means that it includes (or is optimized for) 5 speakers and one subwoofer. Most movies and TV shows on the market offer sound that is in 5.1, but as time marches forward, that number is shifting to 6.1 and 7.1 for some of the big box office titles. Many of the higher end designs include 5 speakers, but it also allows for 2 additional channels if you intend on buying additional speakers.
This is another term you might have seen pretty much everywhere, but you don’t actually know what if is referring to. Dolby Digital is a laboratory that began compressing audio files in the early 1990’s. In fact, one of the very first movies to utilize this type of tech was the movie Batman Begins in 1992. Today, it has become a staple of how sound is compressed for almost all media. Since the original Dolby Digital, there are few more similar technologies that are used to transmit sounds, such as Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby Digital Live, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby AC-4, and Dolby TrueHD- which is used for most Blu-ray DVDs.
Absolutely! In fact, most gamers will tell you that the only way to truly play some of the best video games out there on the market is to ensure that you hook your system up to a great sound system. Consoles such as the PlayStation 4 allow users to tweak their settings to offer 7.1 channel surround sound for some games. Users will just have to ensure that the system that they select will have multiple HDMI ports in order to hook it up to your gaming system as well as your television and other media play devices.
Installation can be a little difficult for those that are new to the game, but most brands come with detailed instruction booklets as well as supplementary tools and tutorials that can be found online. Some users get a little bit overwhelmed at the sight of a spool of audio wire because it requires users have a basic understanding of how these units work. If you are reluctant to run wires all around your room (which can look a little sloppy if not done right), a Bluetooth option may be your best best. Bluetooth options eliminate the need to run wires from each individual satellite unit, but they do come with a drawback. Bluetooth can sometimes be finicky. You might run into an instance where their receiver simply does not recognize a speaker, and it can be frustrating trying to restart the system to get it to work with your entire system. While users struggle to try and hide sloppy wires, wires will not become unsynced when hooked up directly to the receiver.
No, you do not. In fact, some users prefer to select options that do not come with a receiver because that means they can select their own design that might be of a higher quality. Sometimes when you buy these units as a package, the receiver may not be of the highest quality. Think of sound like a body of water. The receiver acts as the processing plant that gathers all of the sound information and divides it up into separate parts. The wires that connect all of the speakers act as rivers that deliver the information to the speakers. If you have a faulty processing plant (or receiver) it means that some information may get lost along the way to the speakers, and you may not be getting the best sound as possible.
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