Whether you’re an audiophile, film fanatic, or even just someone who enjoys watching some series or movies here and there, a sound system upgrade is an effective and easy way of elevating your viewing experience. We’ve picked some of our favorite surround sound systems in all various formats (ranging from 5.1 to 11.1.4 configurations) with both wired and wireless options.
The Klipsch Reference R-26FA may not have all the bells and whistles, but it’s a reliable surround sound system with excellent audio quality and a vibrant aesthetic.
The Klipsch R-26FA offers an immersive 5.1 surround sound experience with excellent dynamic range.
The Sony CS series excels at creating a wide, balanced sound that can cover even large rooms with brilliant audio.
JBL Bar 9.1
The JBL Bar 9.1 is an excellent surround sound soundbar setup that offers versatile wireless connectivity as well.
The Samsung HW-Q950A is an immersive 11.1.4 soundbar setup that offers excellent sound quality across the board.
If you’re limited on budget, but still want premium sound – the LG LHD657 has a lot to offer.
While the built-in speakers found in TV sets built over the past few years are an exceptional improvement from those attached to televisions in the previous decade, they can only go so far in representing what’s on screen and translating it into an immersive experience. Countless hours go into the audio post-production process for your favorite movies and series. If you’re willing to spend the bucks on improving your TV’s size and pixel quality, even a basic sound system upgrade will help you get the most out of your home theater.
There are several options for upgrading your TV’s audio component, from Bluetooth speakers or wireless headphones to soundbars and surround sound systems, each with its own benefits and obstacles. Here, we’ll look at some of the best surround sound systems for your home entertainment setup.
We’re big fans of the Klipsch home audio products, and their R-26FA Home Theater System is easily one of the best on the market. For just over 1.2k, you can get your hands on this 5.1 surround sound system comprising a 12” subwoofer, left and right, center channel, and left and right surround speakers using 6.5-inch woofers and 1-inch tweeters.
The woofers are all magnetically-shielded, copper-spun, while the tweeters make use of aluminum compression to deliver crisp high-end. The standalone subwoofer fills the room with deep, impactful sound, and the 400W 12-inch driver is fully digitally powered. What makes this system really cool is the upward-firing drivers on top of the left and right channel tower speakers, directing sound toward the ceiling for an almost 360-degree experience.
This system is powerful enough to fill any space and sounds incredible doing so. The cutting-edge driver technology and quality speaker housing make a system that can reproduce everything from the rumbling low-end of an explosion to the gentle high-end detail of wind and rustling leaves. The Klipsch Reference R-26FA Home Theater System won’t disappoint if you’re looking for immersive sound. The flashy gold drivers may not suit every home theater, but they don’t scream ‘tacky’ either and hold appeal for many owners.
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The Sony CS-Series surround system is a setup built from various components in the CS range of surround sound speakers by Sony. This system is comprised of two 3-way floor standing tower speakers with 5.5-inch woofers, 1-inch tweeters, and a ¾-inch super tweeter, a pair of 4-inch woofers, two bookshelf speakers with 5.25-inch woofers and 1-inch tweeters, a center channel 4-inch woofer with a 1-inch tweeter, and a 10-inch subwoofer.
The wide selection of drivers between ¾ of an inch to ten inches placed within these speakers can deliver some incredible, full-bodied, and crisp audio. If placed correctly, this system can be one of the most immersive and interactive surround sound systems, capable of playing Dolby ATMOS-enabled media, but also sounds incredible for regular 7.1, 5.1, or 2.1 viewings, as well as music content.
For the Sony CS-Series SSCS3E surround sound system, I’d recommend using Sony’s STR DH-790 receiver/amplifier to feed the speakers, which has enough outputs to run the entire setup, plus an additional subwoofer if you want.
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3. Polk Audio T-Series Surround Sound System
Polk Audio is one of our go-to brands when it comes to home theater systems. The 5.0 surround system made up of various T-Series speakers is a powerful setup for those looking for immersive three-dimensional sound, even without the inclusion of a subwoofer. If you find that you need more low-end, you can always pair a suitable subwoofer to create a 5.1 config.
The Polk Audio T-Series Surround Sound System is made from two tower-style speakers with 6.5-inch drivers, 1-inch tweeters, a 6.5-inch bass radiator, two surround speakers, and a center channel each holding a 5.25-inch woofer, and 0.75-inch tweeter. Some older bundles came with a 10″ subwoofer included in the package, but it’s now available primarily as a 5.0 system. The driver sizes used here allow for incredible, dynamic low-end response and full-bodied, room-filling sound without drowning the tweeters, which provide incredible clarity with minimal distortion.
The Polk Audio T-Series Surround Sound System can be upgraded to a 7.1 or 9.1 using additional T-Series bookshelf-style speakers or used as is. Considering the quality offered here, this surround sound system is very well-priced and looks just as amazing as it sounds.
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The Samsung HW-Q950A surround sound system is a monstrous 11.1.4 channel smart home theater setup. Despite the enormous channel count, this surround sound system is incredibly easy to set up and doesn’t occupy too much space or need much calibrating.
The Samsung HW-950A surround sound system is comprised of a subwoofer, two surround speakers, one subwoofer, and four upward-firing drivers.
This speaker configuration allows for a Dolby Atmos compatible setup, projecting sound in a 360-degree fashion that can fill any room. The Samsung HS-950A also features a dynamic, adaptive sound that is calibrated specifically for the space you’re in, and there’s an automatic vocal clarity filter that is applied to every scene, making sure you’ll hear every word and never have the need to rewind again.
The HW-950A surround sound system works with smart features like Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and other virtual assistants, can form part of your smart home, and can be connected to your TV using HDMI or Bluetooth. If you’re using a Samsung TV, you can also use the onboard TV speakers to form an extension of the center channel. As for sound quality, the Samsung HW-950A surround sound system is easily one of the best on the market. However, it isn’t the most dynamic.
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The JBL Bar 9.1 system is one of our favorite surround sound systems. This discreet and compact system takes up very little space and can blend in with any home entertainment area while pushing loud and immersive audio.
The JBL bar 9.1 can connect directly to your TV or source device via Wi-Fi, Optical, or HDMI connections without the need for an external power amp. The Bar 9.1 is a soundbar-style system with a separate 10-inch subwoofer and two detachable left and right surround speakers. Each component needs its own direct AC power, but again, it can function wirelessly using Wi-Fi if your TV is internet-compatible. The JBL Bar 9.1 can also stream content using Apple Airplay, Bluetooth, or Chromecast.
As for sound quality, you can expect JBL’s classic well-rounded, and full-bodied sound signature, known as the Harman Curve, to offer incredible low-end response without compromising the detail within the high-end. The bar 9.1 is Dolby ATMOS-capable, though it functions incredibly well as a 9.1 system alone.
The JBL Bar 9.1 surround sound system is also a great setup to use for general home entertainment in the form of music, podcasts, or radio, not only for immersive films.
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The Yamaha YHT-4950U surround sound system is another all-in-one type of setup that includes a source device for all the speakers, a remote control, and some speaker wire.
This Yamaha surround sound system is classy-looking, compact, and really handy. You can connect to a variety of source signals, including CD, DVD, USB, Auxiliary cable, radio, and Bluetooth.
This Yamaha surround sound speaker system is incredibly dynamic, sonically. The frequency range of 28Hz to 28kHz, with a standalone 8-inch subwoofer, makes for great low-end response and clarity across the spectrum. This setup uses YPAO room optimization technology to analyze your listening environment and adjust the tonal qualities to sound as best as possible in any area. This system also supports Virtual Cinema, where you can place all five speakers in front of you and allow them to emulate rear-firing surround channels.
The sound quality is otherwise outstanding here, with deep, punchy bass, while the midrange is warm and natural, with a sharp yet gentle high end. Volume-wise, these speakers can get reasonably loud but not enough to shake your house.
This system is one of my favorites and is relatively well-priced, considering the features and quality offered here. If you want one that’s practically the same, with the additional ability to connect with streaming services or use Wi-Fi to form part of a multi-room setup, check out the YHT-5950U model- the drivers and most other components remain the same.
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The Fluance Elite SX71WR surround sound system is one of the more affordable options on this list. While it still isn’t cheap, you’ll save a couple of hundred bucks (at least) compared to some other options on this list. Priced around $900, this surround sound speaker system offers incredible value for money and could easily pass as a system that costs thousands.
Housed in beautiful walnut cabinets, this 7.1 system delivers natural and silky sound quality with a wide dynamic range and minimal distortion at high volumes. They are also available in white and black finishes for no additional cost, and the main left and right tower-style speakers have removable grilles. The Fluance Elite surround speaker system can be set in a 7.1 configuration, although while the speakers look beautiful, I feel they can be a little bulky.
As for sound quality, these Fluance Elite speakers certainly sounded better than I expected. The low-end is rather thrilling, thanks to the 10-inch subwoofer, large driver diameters, and enclosure material. The midrange is tight and well-rounded, while the highs are crisp and well-defined, though they can sometimes be a little harsh. The Fluance Elite surround sound system offers quite a nice dynamic range, which not only enhances films but is great for music, too, and the 7.1 setup makes for a really immersive experience.
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Our budget-friendly option for this list is LG’s LHD657 surround sound system, which is a compact, 5.1-channel setup with modern, handy features for under $400.00.
This LG surround sound system is elegant and discreet, with smaller, low-profile speakers that blend in with your home entertainment area while being one of the most powerful.
The LG HD657 surround sound system has its own power amplifier/source device attached to the center channel, providing several connectivity options, including HDMI, Optical, Bluetooth, CD, FM Radio, and USB. This source device is reasonably small and fits in with the speakers, and is incredibly powerful for its size- pumping 1000W of power to the six speakers.
As for sound quality, these LG HD657 surround sound speakers are quite impressive for the price. The low-end is deep and punchy but could be a little more well-balanced, and the highs can be slightly abrasive at times, but with some fine-tuning/equalization, you can dial these in to sound great for the room they’re in. The LG HD657 surround sound system is also one of the most powerful setups on this list. 1000W of power gives you plenty of headroom to play with.
This system also works incredibly well for music playback from one of the various source signal options.
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Understanding Surrounding Sound & What to Consider When Buying
In this section, we will help you understand exactly what a surround sound system is, which is best for your requirements.
What is a surround sound system?
Ever notice how when you go to a movie theater, there are speakers spread across all the walls, sides, and back? These are surround sound speakers designed to expand upon the standard Left and Right stereo configuration to create a more life-like listening experience.
The viewer (you) can be placed right in the center of the action by panning sound effects, dialogue, ambient noise, and music in every direction around you, giving you a sense of perspective when watching a motion picture. For example, a gunshot in the distance in a war/combat film can be panned to the back left surround speaker, giving you an idea of how it would sound if you were in the scene on screen.
Different types of surround sound systems
Surround sound systems come in several configurations. Which setup you choose will ultimately depend on the space you’re working with, how immersive a sound you’re after, what amplification options are available on hand, and what your budget is.
Surround sound systems are labeled using a whole number, usually between two and eleven for home applications, and include a decimal point one after the whole number. The whole number represents the surround sound speakers in the system, while the .1 decimal indicates a subwoofer involved. Sometimes there is a second decimal, which represents upward-firing speakers. For example, a 5.1 surround sound system comprises five separate speakers and one standalone subwoofer. 5.1.2 would mean five speakers, one subwoofer, and two upward-firing drivers.
In its simplest form, surround sound would be a 2.1 setup consisting of left and right-channel speakers (like a traditional stereo system) and a subwoofer. This type of system is fairly common for home audio setups since it provides enhanced depth, warmth, and texture to the main left and right speakers, but doesn’t take up a crazy amount of space and is, of course, more budget-friendly, and it sounds great for listening to music, too.
Next, we have a 3.1 system, which is the same as a 2.1, with the addition of a center-channel speaker. After this, the next and most commonly-used setup would be a 5.1 system. Which is made up of left, right, center, left surround, and right surround speakers. After this, we have a 7.1, which is the same as a 5.1, plus a speaker on each side.
As far as home theatres go, we don’t often see setups larger than 7.1 systems, but the occasional Dolby ATMOS system occasionally creeps in, which is a legendary 360-degree surround sound setup. While ATMOS will give you the most immersive and life-like sound qualities, it is often rather expensive and needs lots of careful placement.
How to set up a surround sound system
The setup for your new surround sound system is firstly affected by the system you have (2.1, 5.1, 7.1, etc.), but some general strategies can always be followed. You’d ideally want to set up an equilateral triangle-type position between your listening spot and the left and right speakers, so they have placed an equal distance from each other, at the same distance you are from the TV.
The subwoofer should ideally be placed on the floor in the center for maximum effect. How you connect your surround sound system depends on the speakers and your source device and what connectors it supports. You may need to buy some cabling in some cases, though some systems on this list have their own built-in source unit and amplification setup.
Things To Consider When Buying A Surround Sound System For Your Home
When buying a surround sound system, it’s important to consider your room space. Historically, if we wanted thorough home entertainment surround sound, we’d have to accept that we’d be giving up a lot of floor space. Today that’s not the case, with soundbar systems and wireless connectivity both aiding in the reduction of space required. That’s not to say there aren’t still large, traditional surround sound systems, but there are now alternatives for those working with limited space.
Soundbar surround sound systems have become more prevalent in recent years, and with good reason. They offer an immersive listening experience but are still rather versatile and easy to move between rooms of your home.
Consider your amplifier needs too. Large, traditional surround sound systems will often need to be powered by an amp, while soundbar alternatives typically do not. Some traditional options also come with amplifiers as a part of their bundle. These can often be more affordable than opting for a different amp. Just consider the additional costs involved in systems that require you to buy an additional amplifier.
Frequently Asked Questions About Surround Sound Systems
Should I get a 2.1, 5.1, or 7.1 surround sound system?
Each configuration of surround sound has its own merits. 2.1 surround sound is essentially just a traditional set of speakers with a subwoofer. 5.1 surround sound adds additional speakers for a more immersive experience. 7.1 and 9.1 surround sound systems offer comprehensive audio coverage that is extremely immersive – while costing more, these systems can take your home entertainment experience to the next level.
Do I need a subwoofer in my surround sound?
Absolutely – and most surround sound bundles will include a subwoofer. If they don’t, we highly recommend adding one. A subwoofer is one of the easiest upgrades you can make to home audio systems.
Will I need an external amplifier for surround sound speakers?
This differs between models, and while soundbars typically do not require an amplifier, other configurations may. We recommend checking the product details for each product.
Do all surround sound systems use the same combination of speakers?
While there is a preference for certain configurations, not all surround sound systems have the same speakers. Some, for instance, may include floor-standing speakers, while others may include smaller bookshelf speaker style options.
How do I position my speakers for the best experience?
We have covered this topic comprehensively in a separate guide article.
Should I get a soundbar or traditional speaker setup for surround sound?
This is up to both personal preference and room space. Soundbars will typically have smaller drivers and not quite have the same overall depth to them as a standard speaker configuration. However, in recent years, soundbars have become very viable replacements, and what they do have in their favor is their compact nature, which means you don’t need a big space to get great sound.