- Best Mid Range Home Theater Speakers
- Best Budget Home Theater Speakers
- Best High End Home Theater Speakers
Best Home Theater Speakers
Building a custom home theater system can be a daunting task for those without extensive experience with audio equipment; indeed, even with hours upon hours of research, sorting the wheat from the chaff can be a challenge in an industry filled with buzzwords, confusing terminology, and sheets filled with graphs and numbers that seem like they would take a college degree to understand. Luckily, some of the best names in the industry, well-known or not, offer easy solutions for those without the experience or time to research a system piece by piece.
Ranging from 5.1 to full 11.4 setups and everywhere in between, manufacturers everywhere between the lauded Bowers & Wilkins and JBL, to little-known audiophile favorites like KEF, and budget-wonder brands like Monoprice offer full surround-sound systems that are built and tuned specifically to sound great as a single, cohesive system. This not only makes things easy for you, the buyer, it also ensures that the whole system will sound great together. However, not all who try succeed, of course, and those listed here have been chosen for offering superior value for the dollar and the ability to blend well as systems; no one component takes the stage over others, the subwoofers integrate well, and everything just works.
Not all systems are built equal, and you do usually get what you pay for, but when researching please keep in mind that audio products are highly susceptible to the phenomenon of diminishing returns: the higher you climb in the audio stratosphere, the smaller improvements you get with every jump up. The difference between the Monoprice 5.1 system and an entry-level offering from MartinLogan will be noticeable to anyone with ears, but going from Klipsch's Reference Series up to the Palladium probably won't be worth spending 10x the price unless you are a very discerning listener (or if you have money to spare and really like the look of the Palladiums; they are gorgeous). It's also very important to consider the size of your space; larger home theaters won't be served well by a system with satellites instead of floor speakers, and putting the JBL Synthesis Everest in a master bedroom is going to yield incredibly disappointing results, unless you just want to blow your windows out!
Be sure to consider all of these elements when making your purchase to ensure that you are satisfied with the money you spend, but above all, remember to enjoy your new system!
Best Mid Range Home Theater Speakers:
A good, realistic-sounding home theater system is hard to come by for under $1,000; however, once this price point is breached, a variety of options become available in both compact and full-sized formats, including systems that will likely sound almost as good as the finest speaker systems to all but the most discerning audiophiles. Listeners with the keenest ears for detail may want to reassess their budget and look into my high-end systems, or perhaps investigate the possibility of electrostatic speakers, but for those with more conventional tastes, the higher-end systems in this review will likely be your final glorious stop in the world of HiFi home theater, and the two full-sized systems on this list, the Klipsch Reference and MartinLogan Motion, when properly sourced and configured, can stand their ground even against much more expensive summit-fi equipment in terms of realism and coherence; in fact, many buyers might not even notice the difference, and Im sure many will prefer the powerful sound of the RF-82-II to the delicate and clinical sound of more expensive electrostatic setups.
For those who are slightly more budget conscious, or are looking for a system to accommodate a smaller space, the compact systems in this review offer excellent value, with performance approaching full-sized systems at their price points or above. These miniature wonders can do justice to both music and movies, and while a smaller system will never produce the same robust bass response as one outfitted with floorstanding speakers, anyone less fond of ultra-powerful bass, or just looking for a more intimate experience, can save quite a bit of money and still afford themselves an incredibly realistic and immersive home theater experience.
While the pickiest ears will always find a reason to spend more money, I believe that most buyers will find exactly what they want and need here in the Midrange list. If youve got the big bucks, and really want that last little edge of detail, realism, and window-rattling bass, head on over to the High End section, but if you dont feel like taking out a mortgage for your home theater, and just want a really good system for a reasonable price, read on. The systems on this list have been selected for offering the best bang-for-buck at their price point, and delivering the most capable sound for their particular form factor. They are listed here in terms of absolute sound quality, but please keep in mind that each system is designed to cater to a particular room size and sound preference; more is not always better.
MartinLogans Motion series offers excellent full-range response a variety of form factors. Those looking for impeccable sound with a classy presentation or even those who just want to keep their system discreet, need look no further than the speaker giants latest line, which produces a slightly warm signature with tight, punchy bass response across the board. Read Full Review
Fans of Klipschs dominating house sound will love the Reference series speakers, which offer a clean and effortless yet powerful sound that is excellent for home theater applications. Those looking to replicate theater-like sound under $5,000 would have to look hard at custom built systems to do any better than the bold sound of the RF-82-II system. Read Full Review
See it at:
Paradigm always offers a great deal in home theater systems, matching the sound quality of more expensive brands at a fraction of the price. In this case, Paradigms $1,000 Cinema 100CT system is easily a match for the MT-50, and bests all but the high-end of the full-size speaker setups in this list; it may even be preferred by those in search of a tamer sound than Klipsch tends to offer who arent willing to go all-in on a MartinLogan setup. Read Full Review
See it at:
B&W has done it again with this impressively discrete yet incredibly detailed system, challenging even some full-size speaker setups for spaciousness and coherence. If youre looking for a top-performing compact surround system catering to audiophile sensibilities, the MT-50 should be at the top of your list. Read Full Review
KEFs speakers are known in the hifi community for offering a clean sound at a great price. The KEF KHT3005SE-K2 is an excellent system with a big, smooth sound that is available for right around a grand, and produces sound comparable to big-name systems up to double the cost, even bettering KEFs own higher-end T series to some ears. Read Full Review
Best Budget Home Theater Speakers:
Home theater sound systems under $1000 are many in number and few in quality. Plenty of serious quality 2.1 systems are available in this range, but getting good sound quality in a 5.1 or bigger format at this price is more of a challenge. Fortunately, there are a few really great options that will satisfy the desires of most standard home theaters, some of which are truly incredible bargains, and there are even options for 7.1 systems that will do well in larger rooms and houses with open floorplans. In fact, unless really top-notch sound is a must, or you need to fill a bigger space, you can get serious quality for $400, and if you really just want bare bones surround sound, and aren't picky about quality, you can do it with a single bill, assuming you already have a receiver. The systems listed here offer either truly outstanding bang for your buck, or a sound signature that will appeal to many buyers, and are ranked in order of absolute sound quality.
With the help of world-renowned speaker designer Andrew Jones, Pioneers new 5.1 system offers cutting-edge speaker design at an incredibly affordable price. Perhaps the best 5.1 system to be had below the $1,000 price point, the companys affordable take on serious home theater delivers very respectable sound quality and fantastic bang for your buck. Read Full Review
The Energy Take Classic 5.1 is a well-known good bang-for-buck compact 5.1 system, and Energys solid warranty and consistent build quality make it worth a look, even with competition growing around on all sides, Thankfully, competition in recent years has dropped the price of the Take Classic, and it can now be had cheaper than ever, making it my top choice for a compact home theater system on a budget. Read Full Review
See it at:
Klipsch is better known for their high-end speakers, but the HD500 is a more than acceptable setup that can be had for much less than the thousands their Reference line can run for a 5.1 setup. Sporting the companys characteristic bold, forward house sound, its the cheapest way to get that explosive, truly theater-like Klipsch sound into your home theater. Read Full Review
See it at:
Onkyo is best known for their receivers, but they also happen to offer perhaps the best bang-for-buck home theater system in the business, and have been doing so for quite some time. Comparing favorably to systems up to double its price, the HT540 7.1 system is an excellent bargain and a great way to turn a living room into a home theater on the cheap. Read Full Review
See it at:
Known by savvy online shoppers to offer reasonable quality products at shockingly affordable prices, Monoprice scores a blow below the belts of seasoned audio companies with the 8247 5.1 system. It produces very acceptable sound for a rock-bottom price that cant be ignored by anyone looking for the cheapest route to true surround sound. Read Full Review
See it at:
Best High End Home Theater Speakers:
Choosing a high-end speaker package, especially if its your first time upgrading to speakers in this price range, is one of the more daunting aspects of assembling a top quality home theater. Even some of the more expensive speaker systems in this class can be a great value due to their outstanding performance, but there are also some systems with high-end price tags whose build quality and performance is more comparable to midrange systems.
That being said, its still a great time to be in the market for this type of system. With the current state of the economy, more and more ultra-high-end speaker manufacturers, who once catered exclusively to the most affluent audiophiles, are offering lower priced alternatives. These speaker packages and collections implement the bleeding-edge technologies developed for these companies prohibitively expensive exotica at prices that are within the financial reach of far more consumers.
These speakers, combined with the flagship products from companies whose primary market is more budget and midrange, make for a great range of options for the aspiring audiophile to choose from. The price of admission is still substantial, so its important to do your research and actually audition speakers to make sure youre getting the level of performance you pay for and the particular sound you prefer. This list will get you started with five excellent speaker systems that are worthy of audition for any high-end home theater.
While JBL's highest end speakers are a bit bright for some ears, there can be no doubt that the 11.4 Synthesis Everest system is one of the finest speaker setups known to man. Youll have to put up the price of a decent sized suburban home for the full package, but it includes JBL's highest quality loudspeakers, the Project Everest DD67000, along with their finest complementary components, and is sure to excite even the most highly trained ears. Read Full Review
The Paradigm Signature Collection is for those with pure no-nonsense sound in mind. Ringing in under $50,000 for a 7.2 setup, it is one of the more affordable complete summit systems available, and puts many more expensive systems to shame, especially in bass performance. Read Full Review
Bowers & Wilkins tick all the boxes with their 800 Series Diamond, especially if you opt for their famous Nautilus loudspeakers, some of the most beautiful sounding, and looking, speakers ever built. With their hypnotically detailed sound and handcrafted styling, the 800 series are one of the most popular choices for high-end mastering, most notably at the famous Abbey Road Studios, and will serve your home just as well as they have served the audio industry for decades. Read Full Review
The Revel Ultima 2 series is one of the most popular high-end speaker lines amongst audiophiles, both when choosing individual components or a full system, and they certainly earn their reputation. At around $110,000 for the full 7.2, they are not for the price-conscious, but their sound is every bit deserving of their reputation. Read Full Review
The Palladium series by Klipsch is a system bound to make a statement in any home, both sonically and visually. Easily one of the most impressive sounding and looking systems of its kind, the Palladium is for those seeking refinement on every level of home theater presentation. Read Full Review