A legitimate home theater system isn’t something reserved only for the rich anymore. Video and audio tech is becoming smaller and more sophisticated than it’s ever been. Today, all you need is a decently sized room, some smart positioning, a quality TV, and good home theater speakers. That last component can be one of the trickiest aspects to deal with. The nuances of audio systems aren’t always as transparently understood as TV specs.
Fortunately for you, we’re here to lend a helping hand. We’ve winnowed down a list of the 10 best home theater speakers from all of those available in 2020. Our detailed reviews are further accompanied by a guide that will help you understand how to shop smarter when looking for good home theater speakers.
TL;DR - 10 Best Home Theater Speakers:
- Best Overall: Yamaha 5.1 Bluetooth Home Theater Box System
- Best Sound: Sony 7.2 Home Theater with Subwoofer Speakers
- Best Value: Rockville 5.1 Bluetooth Home Theater System
- Pioneer 5.1 Home Theater System
- VIZIO 46″ 5.1.4 Premium Home Theater System
- Klipsch HDT-600 Home Theater System
- Enclave HD 5.1 Wireless Home Cinema System
- Sonos 5.1 Home Theater System
- Onkyo 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos Home Theater
- Polk Audio Blackstone Home Theater System
1. Best Overall: Yamaha 5.1 Bluetooth Home Theater Box System
Yamaha's Home Theater in a Box gets right to the point with its name. For around $400 gets you everything you need to build out a home audio system for your theater room, and as long as you're willing to recognize that this is targeted as a budget option for entry level users, it can serve you well for years to come. The surround sound built in here is basic but incredibly functional, and setting up your new system is a breeze.
But the biggest strength on display is how it's built from the ground up for the future of media. Streaming capabilities are positioned front and center with this these wireless home theater speakers. The amplifier is undoubtedly the star of the show due to the fact that it supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Direct, and ethernet. If you want simple surround sound that's easy to use, it ticks all the right boxes.
2. Best Sound: Sony 7.2 Home Theater with Subwoofer Speakers
Sony's STR-DN1080 is quite the opposite of the Home Theater in a Box in practically every way. And while it's roughly four times the price, it's also arguably four times the value. If you want a home theater system that can literally make your entertainment room feel like a cinema, this could be well worth the investment. Granted, the seven speakers need a lot of room to work, but if you have the space, the sound quality is pretty much unparalleled.
Boasting a full 7.1 setup with Dolby Atmos speakers, tower speakers, bookshelf speakers and a sub. The amplifier here is doing some serious heavy lifting as well. It supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and includes a 4K passthrough so you won't have to sacrifice the highest level of video acuity for the sake of a top notch sonic landscape. These 7.1 home theater speakers also support practically any streaming format you can imagine. The only thing you'll need is a set of speaker stands.
3. Best Value: Rockville 5.1 Bluetooth Home Theater System
You'd have to look far and wide to find surround sound capable home theater speakers that offer the low price and comparable quality of the Rockville HTS56. The Rockville may offer rock bottom pricing, but it's a perfectly reasonable option for those with little space and a desire for entry level home theater systems. The volume for all of the speakers and the sub can be controlled independently with the remote, and the generally compact design of all the components allows you to accomplish more with less space.
And unlike many budget level entries in the market, the Bluetooth streaming allows you to get the full surround sound experience rather than only letting you pipe sound through the two front speakers. More traditional users will love the FM receiver, and the different LED modes allow you to create a light show to accompany your music.
4. Pioneer 5.1 Home Theater System
It's safe to say that the HTP-074 is Pioneer's counterpart to Yamaha's Home Theater Box System. Not only is it comparably priced, but most of the features line up as well. The wireless functionality here is one of the best around, although it doesn't come with Wi-Fi built in. But where it outmatches Yamaha's system is in the passthrough function that supports up to 6K connections. That means this system will be comfortably future proofed for the latest and greatest TVs for a long time to come.
A small but overlooked quality of life feature is the position of the USB output on the front of the receiver, allowing you to easily plug and play flash drives, and an ECO mode lets you minimize your energy usage while still getting access to high-quality sound performance.
5. VIZIO 46″ 5.1.4 Premium Home Theater System
Height is a component that's often overlooked in terms of surround sound stereo systems, but it's certainly not an oversight where Vizio is concerned. The SB46514-F6 comes in at a little under $1000 and provides one of the best home theater layouts around if you have the space to make the most of what's on offer. Two overhead speakers round out the otherwise traditional 5.1 system, but the use of a soundbar for the center speaker ensures that you don't need a room the size of a commercial theater to make the most of it.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both built in, and it even offers native support for Chromecast, so it's easy to link up these home speakers to your existing home automation profile. The result is a clarity of sound that sounds equally as good for music or for dialogue heavy television. It's both loud and precise.
6. Klipsch HDT-600 Home Theater System
The Klipsch HDT-600 is one of the slickest looking home entertainment systems around. The glossy black finish and distinct curves allow these relatively small speakers to blend into the landscape, but you may just be inclined to let them take front and center stage. In the right environment, they look great. Fortunately, they sound great regardless of whether you decide to position them prominently or not.
There's a great sense of clarity and balance to the audio reproduction here. The mids and treble come in with a level of crispness that exceeds the relatively modest price point for this home cinema system, and the sub has a pretty impressive amount of kick to it as well. The inclusion of Klipsch's trademark horn technology really allows the tweeters and other components to sing. The speakers can also be aligned either vertically or horizontally and come with protective rubber pads.
7. Enclave HD 5.1 Wireless Home Cinema System
The Enclave CineHome HD is the first truly wireless home cinema to feature on our home theater review list, and it brings both some upsides and downsides. There's no doubt that the wireless functionality here is a great convenience. The Bluetooth technology powering these speakers gives you a lot of flexibility for how you can arrange for things without the need for unruly cables, and three separate HDMI ports mean you can comfortably hook up the receiver to a variety of different devices at once.
If there's a negative to the Enclave, it's that it can't quite match the sound quality of comparable wired models, but whether or not you really notice will come down to how much of an audiophile you are. It's still a solid improvement among most standard speakers, and the sub has a deep and satisfying rumble that really captures the lows.
8. Sonos 5.1 Home Theater System
Sonos has been the leader in the wireless streaming speaker market for years, and that's largely due to how refreshingly modular their speaker systems are. This 5.1 surround sound system offers everything you need to set up a home theater system in one convenient box. The included Sonos Ones can act as rear speakers or the left and right speakers, with the ability to add up to 9 Sonos Ones in total. While it may be on the expensive end of things, it's also easy to expand on and offers some of the best all around quality of life performance available in a wireless system.
One of the best features here is that both the Playbar and the primary speakers serve as Alexa hubs. That transforms your home theater not into just a stereo system but also a centralized hub for your virtual assistant. And as with all Sonos speakers, the sound quality here is immaculate, and you can rearrange the system in any number of different ways without worrying about losing connectivity.
9. Onkyo 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos Home Theater
Onkyos has created a truly serious Bluetooth home stereo kit for less than $600. This is easily one of the best bargains in the mid-range field, and it maintains an exceptional look as well. The textured wood exterior has a whole lot more personality than most of the surround sound sets on the market, but this system also has the performance to match. The HT-S5800 supports Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD.
There's some smart engineering going on underneath the hood here. Onkyos' claim to fame is their discrete amplifiers, and that allows them to replicate sound authentically regardless of the volume you're looking to play things at. Both the wired and Bluetooth systems are easy to hook up, and this speaker package makes use of the latest HDMI specs to make sure everything is appropriately in step with your Ultra HD capable television.
10. Polk Audio Blackstone Home Theater System
Polk is one of the most storied names in the speaker industry, so it's not surprise that the TL1600 doesn't disappoint. These are some nice budget home theater speakers that offer both a lot of style and some superior sound performance. And the fact that these are wall mountable home theater speakers means you have a lot of leverage to create a configuration that meets the standards and limitations of your home theater room.
And while the satellite speakers themselves aren't particularly large, the sound quality itself is. The subwoofer isn't going to offer the most substantive bass you've ever heard, but it's a good sight beyond what you should expect from a sound system of this price range. The satellite speakers, by contrast, offer significant clarity, and it's a clarity that can keep pace with the volume even when it's cranked up to full capacity.
Home Theater Speakers Buying Guide
Purchasing the best home theater speakers doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. Installing the home stereo speakers we’ve highlighted is generally easy, but there are some common questions that arise when we start talking about speaker systems. We’ll address the most common of these below.
What Do the Surround Sound Numbers Mean?
If you’re still getting accustomed to how a surround sound system works, the numbering system for channels can seem a bit overwhelming at first. It doesn’t need to be. Once you understand the fundamentals, you should be able to understand how they work pretty quickly. Any sound system can be quantified in a simple “a.b.c” format with the “c” being optional. That’s as true for a sound bar as it is for a proper surround sound system, so you can use the standards for any sound system you’re looking to set up.
- The “a” refers to the primary speakers. The most common number of traditional speakers is five. A center speaker, often taking the form of a sound bar, does much of the heavy lifting. Left and right speakers, which are two speakers are arranged in front of the viewer and two to the side of them (typically just a little bit forward), and these speakers triangulate to create a more expansive soundstage. More advanced home cinema systems offer seven speakers with the additional two rear speakers positioned behind the viewer for a more immersive experience.
- The “b” refers to the subwoofer – a speaker dedicated exclusively to providing the bass. Any top home theater speakers built for surround sound are going to employ a dedicated subwoofer. It not only allows you to get a deeper and more resonant bass, but it also allows the other speakers to be more specialized towards the higher registers. A single subwoofer is standard, but some higher end systems offer two. This usually takes the form of two drivers in a single unit.
- The “c” isn’t present in most sound systems, but it can add a whole lot of clarity to the soundstage. These speakers are designed to be mounted above the listener, such as ceiling speakers and they create a sense of verticality that would otherwise be entirely absent. If you don’t have speakers designed for vertical use, you should try to make all of your speakers as level as possible.
How Important is Wattage?
Wattage is a big deal in the speaker industry. The prevailing standard in the industry is that more expensive speakers tend to offer a higher wattage per channel, and there’s absolutely some value in that. After all, the more power you feed into a speaker, the louder it can go. But sheer wattage is only one part of the story. Higher quality speakers are more efficient speakers, and they can achieve a higher level of volume with less power. And the simple truth is that modern technology has reached a point where even the most powerful speakers don’t need that much power to work at a high capacity.
For our specs, we’ve identified the average wattage that each channel can produce consistently and perpetually. For the most part, most of these components are within a stone’s throw of one another. You generally don’t need to worry about wattage when evaluating your new speaker system, but if two models are otherwise comparable, you’d probably be better off investing in the one with a higher wattage listed.
What’s the Difference Between Optical, HDMI, and RCA?
Even if you have a wireless stereo system, you might still need to connect av receivers to your source. But finding the right connection can have a meaningful effect on the quality of your sound performance. While USB and other outlets can provide convenient access to digital media, there are three main inputs that allow you to connect to a physical source like a TV.
- RCA cables are the oldest and also the least efficient connectivity cords. They’ve been around for decades and tend to be prominent in older and more basic stereo models. Befitting their older design, these are analog components, and that means that they’re going to degrade the quality of high resolution audio files. They should only be used as a last resort on devices that don’t support any other connections.
- Optical cables are pure audio cables that offer a significant improvement over RCA. They can support 5.1 surround sound systems with practically no signal degradation, so you hear essentially what you were intended to hear. Optical should work perfectly well for most surround sound systems, but if you’re looking to hook up multiple components, you should prioritize the more important sources to HDMI.
- HDMI is an all in one video and audio cord that’s becoming more and more standard. HDMI cords have recently become far less expensive than they used to be, and outputs and inputs are pretty much standard in most recent TVs. It’s also the only type of cable that can truly deliver a 7.1 channel experience, and their ability to deliver video at 4K or even 6K makes them very well future proofed.
If you want to experience movies and music the way they were intended to be experienced, you simply have to invest in a surround sound system. Home theater speakers can lend a richness to your den or living room that you have to hear to believe, and you might be surprised at how economical and space efficient they can be. Happy shopping, and we hope you find what you’re looking for.If you liked our article on home theater speakers, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.