Maybe you’ve gone out and splurged on a high-end TV only to realize its internal speakers are dinky. Or maybe you’re more interested in building the (wo)man cave of your dreams. Regardless of your motivations, it’s not uncommon to dread the act of researching, buying, and installing a home theater system on your own. Truth is, though, it doesn’t need to be such a daunting task. With a little help on the research side (that’s us), you can get yourself an easy-to-install system with modern features (like Bluetooth) for a reasonable price. Below, we’ve chosen a few systems that are well-priced, produce high-quality audio, and are user-friendly enough for the everyday Joe or Joanne to install without breaking a sweat.
Rock solid performance
This 5.1-channel system may not blow your mind, but it’ll blow other similarly priced competitors out of the water.
Touting two front speakers, two rear speakers, a center speaker, and a subwoofer, this system provides everything you need to set up a surround-sound system at home. The best part? It costs less than a fancy dinner for two at that overpriced new haunt in town. Capable of doing battle with sound systems twice its price, when it comes to Rockville, we say buy a ticket on this train while there’s still room.
- Syncs with Bluetooth
- Remote is intuitive and reliable
- Audiophiles: we know. This one’s not for you.
- Speaker wires could be a bit longer
Best With Towers
Speakers that tower above most
Looking for a bundle with tower speakers? This is one of the best ones money can buy.
Few names in the game are as well-respected as Polk. With nearly a half-century’s worth of success under their belt, the folks at Polk have demonstrated that they simply know what they’re doing. If you’re looking for a 5.1 system that can reproduce the whole frequency range accurately and do it at a more-than-reasonable price, here’s your pick.
- Crisp and dulcet high-end frequencies
- The system is quite easy to install, even for those with minimal tech know-how. This makes it a great gift for parents and older folks
- Heavy-duty construction ensures the system’s longevity
- If you have big pets at home, you’ll want to make sure the towers are secured so that your pets don’t knock them over
Best Compact Size
Raise the bar
Looking for a more streamlined setup? Keep it simple, silly.
With a wireless subwoofer, two wireless surround speakers, and a soundbar, this compact system offers a convenient surround-sound solution to those living in tight quarters. The patented Stereo Dimensional Array surround-sound technology creates a realistic soundstage in which each source seems sonically distinct. You don’t have to be an audiophile to know that when your system’s audio output sounds all blended together, that’s not a good thing, and this one ensures that’s not the case. Oh, and on top of that, you can use your TV’s remote control with this one, rather than having to add another annoying remote to the collection.
- Works very well for dialogue
- Installation is simple thanks to the plug-and-play configuration
- Easy to switch between pre-set sound modes for sports, movies, TV, etc.
- Built-in Chromecast integration
- Night mode is handy for those living in shared spaces
- “Forgets” its precise EQ settings when it enters sleep mode, so you’ll have to manually readjust those settings back to how you had them
Dive in to the experience
Ready to splurge? Here’s what to aim for.
Looking to have the emperor over for movie night? Time to pull out the stops. If you want to transform your living room into a theater for real, this is where you should look. With growling dual subwoofers (wireless), a soundbar that puts other soundbars to shame, and two 2-way rear speakers capable of reminding you of what sonic bliss sounds like, this system easily brings the ambiance of the cinema into your cozy home. Sure, it’s a bit costly, but considering the marvelous build quality of the hardware, the near-universal compatibility, and the expandable configuration, this system is nothing to sneeze at.
- Excellent frequency response
- The realistic sound stage makes music come to life
- Dual subwoofers make the low-end a mighty force to be reckoned with
- Great for those building an all-around entertainment lounge
- Yes, it’s a bit costly, but if you’re serious about high-quality sound, it’s worth every penny
The price is right
So maybe you’re not flush with cash, but maybe you’re struggling to get by, either. If you’re somewhere in between, this system offers the perfect balance between cost and quality.
Talk to a purist in the realm of high-end audio, and they’ll tell you a sound system of this price isn’t worth looking twice at. That’d be a poor assumption to make, though, because this setup from Fluance punches above its weight and then some.
If you’re looking for twangling highs, the neodymium balanced silk dome tweeters have you covered. Want smooth, silky mids? No problem — the 6.5″ woofers on the floor-standing speakers can make that happen. Touting a center channel, 2 wall-mountable surround speakers, and 2 floor-standing tower speakers — all housed in rugged wood, by the way — this 5-channel system will deliver. Do you want to land a bargain? Here’s your chance.
- Incredible cost value
- The sleek design can complement the decor of most homes
- Ruggedly built, so you can expect these to last a long, long time
- Doesn’t include a subwoofer, so to bring the low end to life, you’ll need to purchase one separately
Frequently Asked Questions
What it does mean if a home theater system is “5.1”? What about “7.2”?
Take those two numbers and add them together. That’s how many channels your system has. Since 5 + 1 = 6, a 5.1 system has 6 channels. The “5” tells you how many standard speaker channels it has, and the “1” refers to the number of subwoofers it has. If you apply the same logic to a 7.2 system, you’d gather that it has 7 standard channels and 2 subwoofer channels.
Please note that this number doesn’t necessarily mean the system you’re buying comes with that many speakers included. Rather, the number might mean “this is how many speakers you could use with this system, although you’ll have to supply some of them on your own.” Be sure to read the product description to be sure of exactly what you’re getting.
What is a subwoofer, and do I need it?
A subwoofer is a type of speaker specially designed to reproduce sounds in the lower end of the frequency range. Standard woofers and tweeters are designed to reproduce mid-range and high-end frequencies well, but they fall short at delivering those rumbling bass tones that give depth to your soundstage. Though you don’t necessarily need one, a subwoofer will bring movies, video games, and music to life.
Do I need to buy a receiver?
Most speakers require a source of amplification. Speakers that don’t have their own built-in amplification are referred to as “passive” speakers. Typically, you’ll amplify passive speakers by buying a receiver, which has its own amplifier built-in. Unless your speakers are referred to as “active” speakers, then yes, you’ll need to amplify your speakers.
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