Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 System
Best surround-sound speaker package under $500
While a TV screen may be the first thing people notice, sound quality is what makes a proper home theater complete. There are plenty of options when it comes to buying a home theater sound system — from AV receivers and multispeaker setups to simpler-yet-still-powerful soundbars — but we’ve got you covered.
Soundbars offer a lot of performance in a compact package and cost much less to get up and running than a speaker system. You can even choose one with advanced features like Dolby Atmos and Wi-Fi streaming. Some soundbars offer an upgrade path including optional subwoofers and rear speakers, though if you want to truly mix and match speakers, an AV receiver is for you.
Receivers offer a lot in the box and, unlike soundbars, they have plenty of HDMI inputs to accommodate different sources. You can even start with just a couple of stereo speakers — and I did this for a couple of years without feeling I was missing out. Yet, given you can get a full 5.1.4 Klipsch system for under $500 you don’t really need to wait.
Whichever route you choose — soundbars or AV systems — there should be something here that will improve your home entertainment experience. These are the best home theater systems available right now. We’ll update this list periodically as we review new products.
When it comes to bang for buck, it doesn’t get much better than the Roku Streambar home theater system. This speaker offers both a dialogue-enhancing soundbar and a built-in 4K streamer in one package. If you want more bass or surround speakers, the system is also upgradable.
Read our Roku Streambar review.
If there’s one area where we’re spoiled for choice, it’s affordable stereo speakers, and at $279 the Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2s offer excellent playback of both movies and music. They offer a transparency that’s unlike anything else near the price. While the Q Acoustic 3030is are more even-handed and have better bass response, they’re also $550.
Read our Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2 review.
While the rotating speakers of the Vizio Elevate are cool, that system doesn’t offer the best bang for your buck within the company’s range. The Vizio M512a is a Dolby Atmos soundbar that includes 4K Dolby Vision, a subwoofer and rear-channel speakers, making it a sort of hybrid between a receiver-based system and a soundbar. It also provides incredible sound quality for music and movies.
Read our Vizio M512a-H6 review.
You may not be able to watch 8K video right now, but it’s still worth buying an 8K-compatible receiver — especially if you’re a gamer. The TX-NR6100 is a great receiver, with excellent sound quality and an unbeatable superior streaming suite, including Chromecast built-in.
Read our Onkyo TX-NR6100 review.
If you demand the best Dolby Atmos performance from a single soundbar, it doesn’t get any better than the Sennheiser Ambeo audio system. It’s not cheap, and it’s not small, but if you want the best sound, this is it.
Read our Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar review.
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