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What features make the best surround sound system? A well-rounded system starts with excellent sound quality, meaning great detail and range, with plenty of low-end sounds without losing the mids and highs you’ll need to round out a truly cinematic, immersive experience. Next, the best home theater speakers should also work together and match the size and acoustics of your space.
No matter how impressive the audio quality of each speaker is on its own, the proper tuning makes a big difference when it comes to true 5.1 channel surround sound. Modern audiophile speaker systems should offer convenient audio inputs and minimal latency, so they can deliver consistent sound and a cinematic experience when watching movies or gaming. This is important if you’re on the lookout for a set of surround sound speakers to deliver immersive sound and a cinema experience when viewing films, playing music, or gaming.
Keep reading to learn more about the best surround sound speakers on the market and how to choose the best speakers for your needs.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: They are a simple set with a power rating of 700 Watts. They can produce a strong and clear sound and play media from a USB or SD card. The set includes a remote control for added convenience and a built-in FM tuner for listening to the radio.
This 5.1 channel Home Theater System from Acoustic Audio is a Bluetooth-enabled, wireless surround sound speaker set that owners will be able to stream music from smart devices such as their phones and tablets. The speaker system has a power rating of 700 Watts, so it gets pretty loud. It also has a built-in FM tuner for owners who would like to listen to music from their favorite radio station. It comes with remote control for convenient operation, and its powered subwoofer offers up to six independent RCA inputs for users to connect multiple sound sources. Unfortunately, once turned off, it will reset its volume and other settings.
The set also includes a USB and an SD card input to play music from removable media and comes with all the necessary cabling to get everything to work. The sound quality produced is also pretty good, as the speaker set has a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz. The system also automatically converts stereo sound to 5.1 channel surround sound, but users also have the option to revert to stereo if they wish to do so.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: It has a wide range of connectivity options and includes two subwoofers that deliver thunderous bass levels. It also supports cinema-like sound technologies and is Bluetooth compatible for seamless audio streaming.
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra speaker system consists of a soundbar and up to four modular surround speakers that are ideal for creating the ultimate surround sound setup. Its soundbar boasts three channels, and since it comes with dual 10-inch subwoofers, they deliver impressive bass levels. The system features support for both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision technologies to deliver object-based multi-dimensional audio, so buyers can expect to enjoy a cinematic sound experience right at their home. Its soundstage is also pretty wide, so if properly set up, owners will be able to enjoy 360° surround sound. However, some previous owners weren’t happy with the slight delay in the sound they experienced on multiple occasions.
The two wireless subwoofers that are included in this set can let out deep thundering sounds without getting distorted even at high levels, and since its smaller speakers can also be attached to operate as a pair, the set still works for users who have a relatively small living room. Dialogues are sharp and clear thanks to the soundbar’s dual center channels, and with support for Bluetooth aptX, users will also be able to stream music from their smart devices right through to the sound system. The system can get as loud as 110dB and offers a wide range of connectivity options, including four HDMI ports and an optical and coaxial input.
Award: BEST FOR CINEMATIC SOUND
WHY WE LIKE IT: Its satellites and center channel are very compact, but they deliver a cinematic sound that is ideal for movie lovers. Owners will also be able to connect up to six active inputs.
The Logitech Z906 is a 5.1 channel surround system that consists of very compact satellite speakers and offers impressive flexibility as it can handle up to six connected devices. It delivers a decent 500 Watts of power, but this can peak up to 1000 Watts. Movie lovers will be happy to hear that the set is THX certified, meaning it can deliver a cinematic sound experience. It also delivers impeccable 360-degree sound thanks to technologies such as DTS Digital Surround and Dolby Digital, but unfortunately, it does not feature any support for WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity.
This speaker system is also pretty well built, and its console features a set of orange LEDs that represent each speaker to indicate whether or not they are currently active and if the input is in stereo or surround sound. Also included is a small remote that allows users to adjust the volume, switch between six active inputs and change the tone settings. The sound produced gets loud enough to fill a typical-sized living room, and its subwoofer does not struggle to hit thunderous bass levels even at low volumes. All the speakers have grippy feet to hold them well in position, and getting them set up and connected is pretty easy to do.
Award: BEST FOR COMPACT SIZE
WHY WE LIKE IT: They are very compact and can be wall-mounted for convenient placement. Its down-firing subwoofer delivers good bass levels, and overall, the sound produced remains pretty accurate even at high volumes.
These speakers from Klipsch may look tiny, but they’re powerful enough to produce a sound that fills a small or medium-size room. The 5.1 channel surround speakers consist of four satellites with 3.5-inch drivers, a center channel with the same 3.5-inch driver but in a larger cabinet, and an 8-inch driver found in its subwoofer. The speakers are also largely directional, so owners will be better off aiming all the five speakers toward the seating area for an authentic surround sound experience. Still, the lack of support for Bluetooth technology may not sit well with users who prefer wireless streaming.
Dialogues are quite clear, and the sound produced remains fairly accurate even at loud volumes. Its down-firing subwoofer delivers room-filling low frequencies, and since the speakers use Tractrix Horn Technology, its high-end responses are also pretty good. Each speaker can also be wall-mounted as they all come with a keyhole mount and threaded insert.
Award: BEST FOR DIALOGUE
WHY WE LIKE IT: It is ideal for users who want to capture dialogues down to the most minute details and comes with proprietary technology to do so. It also has WiFi connectivity for seamless audio streaming and supports voice commands.
The Polk Audio MagniFi home theater system is a sleek set of speakers that consist of a soundbar, two surround speakers, and a subwoofer. They are all connected wirelessly and feature Polk’s proprietary SDA Surround Sound Technology to create an expansive soundstage and deliver a multidimensional listening experience. All the speakers can be wall mounted for convenient placement, and since the speakers support WiFi connectivity, owners will also be able to integrate them with a Google Home speaker to control playback through voice commands. This makes it a contender for one of the leading wireless home theater systems. Unfortunately, it does not include a graphic equalizer for owners to customize their sound levels. Despite that, compare 5.1 soundbars against 3.1 to see how much better this system is.
The speakers deliver clear dialogue thanks to Polk’s Voice Adjust Technology. Through this feature, owners will be able to adjust and optimize the voice levels for audibility. This feature can also be activated through the remote by pressing the Night mode button. The subwoofer delivers a satisfying thump, and users will have the option to alternate between three preset modes depending on what they’re watching.
Award: BEST FOR WIRED CONNECTIVITY
WHY WE LIKE IT: It has a decent array of wired connectivity options and offers four different sound equalizer modes to choose from. Owners will also be able to stream media wirelessly, and it also provides a wide soundstage.
This WoHome S99 Sound Bar and Subwoofer presents a simple solution to owners who want to experience a three-dimensional listening experience and rich bass levels courtesy of its 5.5-inch subwoofer. The soundbar has drivers at both ends to deliver clear mid and high-range sounds, and since it is up to 28 inches long, it has a pretty wide soundstage. Owners will be able to choose between four sound equalizer modes and optimize their audio for sports, gaming, music, or movie watching. However, some have complained that the speakers don’t get loud enough.
The soundbar has a decent array of wired connectivity options for users to choose from. These include a USB port, an AUX port, an HDMI-ARC input, an optical, and a coaxial input. Also, with support for Bluetooth 5.0 technology, owners will be able to connect to and stream media from their mobile devices.
Surround sound refers to an audio system that consists of multiple channels to deliver a multi-directional “dome of sound.” Typical true surround sound layouts include at least 5 channels on separate speakers. Some soundbars act as virtual surround sound speaker systems with multiple channels. Systems like Dolby Atmos and THX tuning produce high-quality sound from a compact soundbar or monitor speakers.
Surround sound for home theater systems is distinguished from regular speakers and stereo Hi-Fi bookshelf speakers by the way the individual audio channels work together in a surround sound speaker setup. Whereas stereo speakers project sound on either side of the listener, surround setups add front and rear directional sounds. Some systems include a center channel speaker, and some also use overhead audio to create a three-dimensional dynamic sound.
Home theater enthusiasts traditionally prefer systems with a dedicated center speaker, multiple directional speakers, and separate tweeters and subs. However, many newer surround sound setups use speakers with built-in subs.
Regular speakers, even the best bass Bluetooth speakers, on the other hand, are usually sold either singly or as a pair.
Like other types of speaker systems, however, surround sound units have a particular frequency response curve that defines the audio performance range of each speaker. Response curves vary among speakers at different price points. Still, a surround-sound layout will typically try for a wide-ranging frequency response that includes powerful sound on the low end but maintains clear high and mid-tones for movie dialog and music vocals.
As with other speakers, top-notch speakers for surround sound can include smart features, Bluetooth connectivity, and various types of input ports. Most multi-channel home theater surround sound units use wired connections, but some modern wireless systems provide impressive response and low latency performance.
Surround sound audio technology, pioneered for movie theaters and later adapted for home cinema, music listening, and gaming setups works by splitting audio output signals into multiple channels and relaying those channels to separate speakers or parts of a speaker unit that then play the sound in different directions. Modern digital surround sound can work with wired or wireless speakers, and systems such as Dolby Atmos help smaller setups deliver room-filling cinema-quality sound.
How surround sound works in practice depends on the type of system. A traditional true surround sound system uses a separate AV receiver, amps, and separate speakers placed all around the room. The speakers typically connect via RCA cables.
Less commonly, some home theaters use wireless speakers and a wireless subwoofer to save the hassle of connecting satellite speakers and overhead speakers via speaker wires. These wireless systems may still use a wired AV receiver and power cables.
The definitive technology for virtual surround sound involves splitting a digital audio stream into separate channels and playing the channels through a soundbar with multiple speaker drivers and a built-in subwoofer. Some models use upward-firing drivers to mimic the effect of overhead speakers. Soundbars and Atmos modules, on the other hand, use directional speakers and digital audio processing to produce multi-directional sonic performance with a compact design.
A new set of speakers with surround sound quality can profoundly enhance the home cinema viewing, gaming, and music listening experiences. If you’re considering a new TV, projector, 4K Blu-Ray Player, or smart TV equipped with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, THX, or other audio output with a multiple channel setup, you may want to invest in a system of speakers or a high-quality soundbar with the appropriate AV receiver, as well. This way, you’ll get to experience the amazing sound your new device can render.
You might also want to upgrade your home audio to a surround sound speaker system if you’re doing a home renovation and planning to turn a spare room into an entertainment center. Surround sound audio helps make your movie night stand out with movie theater sound and impressive performance when tasked with challenging game audio.
Gamers may want to consider surround sound speaker packages or an Atmos-equipped compact surround speaker to give themselves a break from headphones. These systems deliver smooth sound and precise localization without relying on extremely high volume levels.
Traditional systems with separate wired speakers generally last as long as the individual speakers. Speakers, in turn, vary greatly in terms of their longevity, but a bookshelf speaker pair and compact center speaker in the price range usually associated with quality home Hi-Fi systems will usually last at least 10-15 years.
A Bluetooth speaker or soundbar includes more complex electronics and might depend on a built-in battery. Modern Li-ion batteries in consumer technology typically last around three to five years or about 1000 charge cycles. Because of the more complicated systems they use, wireless speakers and smart home integration units may not have as long a life expectancy as the separate speaker and audio receiver units in a traditional surround sound speaker system.
Various factors can help determine the best surround sound audio system for your needs. Consider the intended use and the size of the space, the type of media, and your design and aesthetic preferences. Additionally, you might think about whether you’re looking for a traditional Hi-Fi system with wired speakers or if you want a wireless speaker system that can work with smart home automation.
The size and acoustics of the room help determine how much power output you’ll need from a Hi-Fi or surround sound speaker setup. Room size also helps determine the right speaker size. If looking to fill a space like a converted garage, living room, or loft, you may want at least a 10-inch sub. On the other hand, a smaller space, like a typical game room or bedroom, may not require a separate sub to serve as the best party speakers.
Surround sound configurations vary in how many speakers and channels they employ. You might want dual front and rear channels, overhead channels, and a large center speaker with a sub for the ultimate home cinema package. Of course, the complexity of a 7.1.2 system can be daunting, and many small soundbars create an impressive sound experience using a soundbar and fewer additional speakers. Alternatively, you can find big sound with our review of the Beats Pill+ speaker.
Different brands and speaker layouts may work best for movie soundtracks, different music genres, and game soundtracks. If you prefer a bass-heavy sound, then this can be a factor.
Speaker setups increasingly come with the option of integrating with a smart home automation system. If working with Amazon Alexa or other systems is a must, look for an AV unit with in-built Alexa integration, Google Home, or other IoT systems.