When it comes to recreating the bombast of a theater in your home, audio is as equally important as a big screen. Finding the best home theater system to match your TV can be difficult, with different speaker sets vying for your attention and space.
We’ve reviewed our recommendations and are confident these are still the best home theater systems you can buy.
What to Look For in a Home Theater System in 2024
One of the very first things to consider when buying a home theater system is how many channels you want. You’ll see numbers like 2.1, 5.1, or 7.2. These denote how many channels and, in many cases, how many individual speakers the system uses.
The first number is the number of standard audio channels, while the second is the number of subwoofers. A 2.1 system, for example, has two speakers for stereo sound and a subwoofer for low frequencies. A 5.1 system would have left and right, a center channel, two surround channels, and a subwoofer.
Dolby Atmos adds a new dimension to the audio, quite literally. Atmos adds height, either through ceiling-mounted or, far more often, through upward-firing speakers. These add a dimension of height to the sound.
Generally, the more channels in a system, the more speakers it has, and the more complicated it will be to set up. This isn’t always the case, however. Soundbar systems usually have a central soundbar with satellite speakers and a subwoofer.
A system based on a soundbar will be easier to use but often won’t offer the same depth of sound that a system with individual speakers will. That said, soundbars have come a long way when it comes to sound quality, and the very best rival similar full-surround systems.
If you opt for a speaker-based system, one thing to keep in mind is whether it includes an amplifier or receiver. Many speaker systems leave it up to you to choose your own A/V receiver, so keep this in mind when budgeting for your home theater system.
Finally, all those speakers mean wires all over your living room—unless you opt for a wireless system. These are generally easier to set up, but they will cost more as a result.
With all this in mind, check out our recommendations for the best home theater systems.
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✓ Dolby Atmos and DTS:X ready
✗ Satellite speakers require wired connection
✓ Easy setup requires just a few wires
✓ Self-rotating speakers are more than just a gimmick
For a combination of ease of setup and use plus great sound, our overall pick for most people is the VIZIO Elevate Sound Bar for TV. It manages to cram 5.1.4 channels of Dolby Atmos-ready sound into a deceptively simple package.
Setup is fairly simple with the base soundbar unit, two satellite speakers, and a subwoofer. While the satellite speakers require wires, you get a wireless subwoofer, which makes setting this system up an easy process.
While there are only a few speakers in this system, Vizio has equipped the Elevate soundbar with 18 individual speakers of its own. This helps give the system a depth and width beyond what you’d expect from a soundbar system.
Among these are four upward-firing speakers for Atmos and DTS:X. A pair of adaptive height speakers even automatically rotate to add even more depth to the sound of your TV shows, movies, and music.
The Elevate soundbar also has other smart features, including a remote with a backlit display, making it easier to use when you’ve got the lights dimmed. Chromecast built-in lets the soundbar double as a speaker for music, podcasts, and other audio as well.
You can place the speakers anywhere you like, but for wall-mounted setups, Vizio includes mounting hardware for both the soundbar and satellite speakers. All and all, VIZIO’s Elevate Sound Bar is a perfect package for most people.
VIZIO Elevate Sound Bar for TV
Best Home Theater System Overall
$600 $799 Save $199
If you’re looking for a set it and forget it home theater system but still want Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, this is it.
✓ Actual speaker-per-channel 5.1 setup
✗ No HDMI connectivity
✓ Multiple connectivity options
✓ 3D Stereo option makes stereo into surround sound
If you don’t want a soundbar, but still want the simplicity of a system based on a soundbar, the Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System is a fantastic option. You get everything you need all in one package but still have a complete 5.1-channel setup.
This THX-certified home theater system doesn’t feature Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, as there are no upward-firing speakers. That said, it does feature DTS and Dolby Digital, ensuring that everything you hear out of this system is crystal clear.
Unlike many « home theater in a box » solutions, the Logitech Z906 features one speaker per channel. That means you’re getting stereo, left and right, and left and right surround channels as well as a subwoofer.
The subwoofer here is substantial, given the overall price. You get an eight-inch driver powered by a 165-watt amplifier in the subwoofer, enough to add significant bass to explosions, thundering engines, or anything else that makes your movies more exciting.
One interesting inclusion in the Z906 is something Logitech calls « 3D Stereo. » This takes older movies and TV shows or any other stereo audio content and expands it to encompass the room via the surround channels. It’s a neat audio upgrade that not every home theater setup can do!
The Logitech Z906 doesn’t feature HDMI, but it does feature inputs for up to six devices split between analog and digital inputs. You get RCA analog, digital coaxial, and digital optical ports.
Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System
Best Budget Home Theater System
The Logitech Z906 packs a complete 5.1-channel home theater system into a single box, with only a few minor compromises for the price.
✓ Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
✗ Rear satellites connect to subwoofer via wires
✓ HDMI eARC makes connecting your TV a breeze
✗ No built-in voice assistant
✓ Rear satellite speakers make listening more immersive
✓ Second 3.5mm input lets you connect a smart speaker
Running wires from your TV to a soundbar is bad enough. Having to run wires for all the other speakers is often close to impossible. Fortunately, with the VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Premium Sound Bar, those worries are mostly taken care of for you.
This package consists of the main soundbar, a subwoofer, and two satellite speakers. Though that’s only four speakers, this system can handle not only standard 5.1-channel surround sound but also Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
While the M-Series soundbar is mostly wireless, it isn’t totally wireless. First, you need to plug the soundbar and subwoofer into the wall. Second, the satellite speakers aren’t wireless. Instead, they connect to the subwoofer, which is still much handier than running wires from the soundbar itself.
There are two ways to connect the soundbar to your TV, with the intended connection being the HDMI port. This carries audio from your TV to the soundbar via HDMI audio return channel (ARC). Even better, this model features eARC, so you can pass Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision through to the TV, as well as control the soundbar with your TV remote.
If you don’t have a TV equipped with eARC or ARC, you can connect using the optical digital audio input. The soundbar also has a 3.5mm auxiliary port and a second 3.5mm port for connecting voice assistants like the Amazon Echo.
Finally, you can also connect using Bluetooth, which makes listening to music from your phone easy.
VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Premium Sound Bar
Best Wireless Home Theater System
$295 $330 Save $35
The VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Premium Sound Bar may not be completely wireless, but in practice it might as well be. Throw in Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and you get an impressive soundbar with quirky features.
✓ Works with Atmos audio from smart TVs
✗ Expensive compared to similar options
✓ 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos audio in an easy to set up package
✓ Processing adds wider sound to any TV audio
Nakamichi produces several versions of the Shockwafe, but the Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite 7.2.4 is the perfect balance of channel count, features, and price.
This hybrid soundbar and speaker package consists of five main pieces. You get the main soundbar, dual 8-inch subwoofers, and a pair of rear speakers. Unlike many satellite speakers, the rear speakers are two-way, pairing a tweeter and a woofer for fuller surround sound.
The main soundbar faces two speakers outward instead of forward. Nakamichi says on its Amazon store page that this leads to a sound stage that is more than 35 percent wider than a standard soundbar. You get convincing surround sound in combination with the dual subwoofers and rear speakers.
As the category implies, this is a fully Dolby Atmos-capable surround sound system. Four upward-firing speakers bounce sound off your ceiling, adding realistic height differences to the sound field.
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite has HDMI capabilities allowing for 4K video, complete with Dolby Vision HDR passthrough. The HDMI ARC port also allows for Dolby Atmos from your TV, if it’s capable of outputting Atmos. This lets you use Atmos from Netflix and similar apps built into smart TVs.
If a 7.2.4-channel setup still feels too limited for you, you can always upgrade to the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 model. It’s several hundred dollars more expensive, but you get an even richer soundscape due to the extra channels.
Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite 7.2.4
Best Dolby Atmos Home Theater System
The Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite 7.2.4 takes the difficulty out of Dolby Atmos, letting you focus on enjoying movies and TV shows, not setting up speakers.
✓ Dolby Atmos support built-in
✗ Requires a separate A/V receiver
✓ Large floorstanding speakers and subwoofer for powerful sound
✓ Black and copper color scheme looks great
Most of the other systems we’re looking at in this guide aren’t traditional home theater systems. Soundbars and wireless systems can certainly make your life much easier, but they don’t offer the same sound quality as a traditional system like the Klipsch Reference R-26FA.
While this setup offers superior audio quality, it’s less an all-in-one system than a collection of great-sounding speakers. There is no wireless connectivity—and really no connectivity to speak of at all, other than speaker connectors.
The main highlight of this system is the pair of Klipsch Reference R-26FA floor-standing speakers, which feature built-in Dolby Atmos elevation channel speakers. These are complemented by a Klipsch Reference R-52C center channel speaker, R-12SW subwoofer, and a pair of R-14 bookshelf speakers.
The speakers use Klipsch’s Tractrix horn technology, which the company says makes for clearer high-end with less room reflection. Combined with the overall size of the speakers and the 12-inch subwoofer, you’re guaranteed room-filling sound.
In addition to the sound, the black and copper color scheme that marks Klipsch’s Reference line looks great anywhere. The speakers are guaranteed to last as well, as they’re covered by Klipsch’s five-year warranty.
Of course, as this is a collection of passive speakers (aside from the active subwoofer), you’ll need a receiver capable of 7.1 or 7.2-channel sound, like the Onkyo TX-NR5100.
Klipsch Reference R-26FA
Best 7.1 Home Theater System
$999 $1099 Save $100
Klipsch’s 7.1-channel package takes the difficulty out of picking fantastic-sounding home theater speakers. Simply add the A/V receiver of your choice and you’re on the way to home theater bliss.
✓ Tower-style stereo speakers are great for music
✗ Separate A/V receiver required
✓ Dynamic Balance technology makes for clear, wide sound
✓ Black-on-black finish looks classy everywhere
If you already have an A/V receiver but want to upgrade your speakers, the Polk Audio 5.1 Channel Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer is a perfect option.
Like the Klipsch set above, this is a speaker bundle rather than a full home theater package. The centerpiece is a pair of T50 Tower Speakers. To round it out, you get the T30 Center Channel speaker, a pair of T15 bookshelf speakers, and the PSW10 subwoofer.
These Polk speakers use the company’s proprietary Dynamic Balance technology, which minimizes distortion and gives wider dispersion. This leads to wider, more accurate audio.
All the speakers are black, with black tweeters and cones. This lets them fit almost anywhere, meaning you don’t have to worry about whether they match your decor.
This is a 5.1-channel speaker, so you’ll need an A/V receiver like the Denon AVR-S540BT. If you already have a receiver with a higher channel count, you can always add another pair of bookshelf speakers to upgrade to a 7.1-channel setup.
Polk Audio 5.1 Channel Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer
Best 5.1 Home Theater System
$785 $1075 Save $290
If you want to start with a 5.1-channel system but keep the option of adding speakers for a 7.1-channel system, this is a great place to start.