But now that the economy is in such bad shape and audio-processing technology has gotten so much cheaper to develop, high quality audio manufacturers such as Onkyo, Yamaha and Sony have been working hard on creating bargain-basement audio lines... that still result in powerful surround-sound for smaller home theater environments.
The following home theater systems contain speaker configurations that may be small in size, but deliver big sound signatures to almost any smaller listening area you install them into.
Why it's best:
High-definition DVD fanatics will appreciate the value of a $379 home theater system that was designed to highlight Blu-ray movies and the 5.1 digital surround sound that accompanies Blu-ray movie soundtracks. Onkyo’s design team concentrated on creating their HT-S3200 system for the movie fan that needs three HDMI inputs for installing their vast assortment of high-def video components as well as including four DSP sound modes specifically for video game play.
This system also features the highly acclaimed Audyssey dynamic volume calibration that allows for optimum listening levels, no matter what audio source you happen to be listening to at the moment. The HT-S3200 contains DTS surround, NEO sound and four S-video connections, along with a muscular 8-inch powered subwoofer and five two-way speakers that handle all the mid-range and higher audio range of audio signals with agility. Read Full Review
Why it's best: A lot of home consumers need to purchase an audio system that includes plenty of surround-sound modes for movies, TV programs and video game play which are designed to elevate each type of various video sources to new heights of audio excellence. With that in mind, Yamahas engineers created the YHT-391 audio system with eight DSP programs that really do an excellent job of processing the best type of sound to go along with the different video sources of home entertainment. This system is priced at a very low $399 and contains five satellite speakers with one 100-watt subwoofer that does an amazing job of dispersing a good deal of low-end audio without displaying any noticeable noise distortion. The total weight of the entire system is a fairly light 57 pounds and includes 2 HDMI inputs, 4 A/V inputs and 1 A/V output, allowing you to hook up quite a few other video components to this exceptional home audio system. Read Full Review
Why it's best:
As a company with it’s eye on the lower-range audio consumer, Sony has continually designed audio components that deliver good sound while making sure that their product lines are extremely affordable. Their $350 HT-SS360 audio system features three HDMI inputs for quick accessibility and integration with your other high-def components, and the supplied remote control contains one-touch access, allowing easy control of all your other home theater components.
The full power that this system generates has been rated at more than 1000 watts and the five speakers have bass reflex enclosures for their speaker drivers which results in a much more direct audio signal to the sound environment. Dolby Digital decoding along with ProLogic and ProLogic II surround modes are also included in this very versatile and low-priced speaker system. Read Full Review
Why it's best: If you need a smaller listening area to be filled with a more impacting and full surround-sound audio stage, Panasonics SC-BT300 Blu-ray home theater system might be the perfect choice for you. Retailing at a low $450, this complete theater package contains two front tower speakers, five small cube speakers that create much bigger audio than you might expect from them, as well as a highly capable Blu-ray player. The 250-watt subwoofer, which is a highlight of this system, delivers sustained and adroit low-end that will help accentuate the sound effects occurring during any DVD movie experience. And since the included surround sound speakers are just a few inches in overall height and width, you will be able to hide the speakers extremely easily, turning your home theater into a room that is virtually uncluttered with speaker cabinets that can sometimes take up too much space. The two front tower speakers can also sustain a full 125 watts per channel, resulting in powerful and professional-sounding audio. Read Full Review
Why it's best:
An important element to include in the design of any full speaker system package is the ability for the consumer to easily calibrate exactly where to put the Left-Front speakers, the surrounds and the subwoofer into their smaller home theater room. Samsung’s design team were well aware of this essential need when they created the $499.99 HT-AS730ST speaker package.
They even included a very convenient auto sound calibration button on the included remote control that will allow you to easily set the proper distance between your speakers automatically by placing the supplied microphone in your favorite sitting area of your room and letting the digital receiver take care of the rest.
This system also features 3 HDMI inputs, 1080p pass-through support, 6 Dolby and DTS surround modes, 5 audio inputs, a sixteen-inch powered subwoofer and one HDMI output, effectively turning this budget-priced audio system into a very capable home theater set-up. Read Full Review