The Best Home Theater Speakers
In the world of home theater speakers, there are literally over a million possible combinations of speakers you could put together for your system. We have narrowed this down to just eight combinations of what we feel are the best home theater speakers in some popular price ranges. At Audio Advice, our staff loves to debate amongst ourselves as to what the best product is in just about any category. You can walk in our stores at almost anytime and our staff will probably be discussing the pros and cons of two or three products. It’s really a ton of fun and is one of the things that makes Audio Advice a great place to work. If you are looking for more reading materail about home theater systems, be sure to check out our Home Theater Buyers Guide, Best Home Theater Systems and our Best Home Theater Receivers article.
We wanted our home theater speaker packages to check off three boxes:
Great Dialog Intelligibility
First and most obvious, they need to provide great dialog intelligibility. This is key to enjoying home theater. If you can’t understand what the people on the screen are saying, it's just no fun.
Great at Playing Music
Secondly, we wanted the system to sound good playing music too. With music so easy to access these days, people are listening now more than ever. Music will typically play from your right and left speakers, plus your subwoofer, so the main right and lefts need to perform great for both music and home theater.
Easy to Install
Finally, we wanted all of these to be easy to install with no need to put anything inside a wall or ceiling. So for surround speakers, we have chosen bookshelf speakers or small floorstanding speakers, and for Dolby Atmos, we have used the types that you place on top of your main speakers to reflect off the ceiling. If you do have the ability to wire inside your walls or ceilings, please contact us as there may be a better option, especially for the Atmos speakers. We are happy to fine tune any of these to best match your room and installation skills.
Here are our top picks for the best home theater speakers:
- Best Wireless System: Sonos
- Best All-In-One System: Focal Sib Evo 5.1.2 System
- Best Home Theater Speakers under $1,000: Cambridge
- Best Home Theater Speakers under $2,000: Paradigm
- Best Home Theater Speakers around $3,500: Klipsch Reference Premiere Series
- Best Home Theater Speakers around $5,000: MartinLogan
- Best Home Theater Speakers for Music Lovers: Revel
- Best Home Theater Speakers for Flat Panel TVs: MartinLogan SLM or SLMX
Sonos pioneered the wireless speaker revolution over 10 years ago and continues to make great value, easy to use products. The heart of this system is the Sonos Playbar, an all-in-one speaker designed to fit under or above your TV. In this system, the Playbar delivers the left, center, and right channels.
We augment the deep bass with the Sonos Sub. This is a very cool designed powered, wireless subwoofer that really adds some great bottom end to the Playbar. Rounding out the rears are a pair of wireless Sonos Ones. This system works really well with a smart TV as the only connection you will need is an optical out from your TV to the Playbar. It is a good idea to make sure your TV outputs Dolby Surround from its optical jack as some models do not.
Sonos developed technology that lets you teach your TV’s remote control to the Playbar, so with a Smart TV, cord cutters will just need the TV remote.
Sonos TruPlay is a room EQ system developed by Sonos that just does a fantastic job of helping this system perform even better. We highly recommend you spend the 2 minutes time to run it.
Setting up this system should take just a couple of minutes and with it, you’ll get a bonus. With just a few button clicks you can reconfigure the Play Ones to be single room speakers and carry each one off to another room in your home to fill your house with music when you are entertaining. Yes, this system works great with streaming music, as the Sonos ecosystem gives you access to just about every streaming music service on the planet!
A great value, room filling sound, and super simple to set up!
Read our full review of the Sonos Playbar here.
Focal designs and manufactures all of their speaker systems in their factories in France. Their raw speaker components are so good, many well respected speaker companies purchase speaker parts from Focal. Focal also pushes the envelope pretty far with some speakers costing over 100k! At Audio Advice, we have found most all-in-one home theater speaker packages are just not very good, but that is the exact opposite with the Sib Evo 5.1.2 system.
The left and right speakers also have upward firing Dolby Atmos speakers built in, so you’ll be able to experience Dolby Atmos with this system. When we tested it, we could not believe how good it sounded for the money. We felt it rivaled some systems costing twice as much. The compact subwoofer may look small, but it really performs in a way that is different from what you would expect for the price. Instead of having one note boomy bass, it is fast, tight and reaches deep down, delivering a sound that is great for both music and movies.
If you shop around, you’ll see you can spend this much more on a soundbar system from many companies. Add in a receiver for around $500, and you’ll have a system that will blow the doors off any soundbar system!
- Giant Leap from a Soundbar
- Dolby Atmos Enabled
- Great Audio Performance
Cambridge Audio is a British based company that is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Their first product was a small integrated amp, designed to bring great sound to an affordable price point. That drive to produce incredible sound for the money still lives on at Cambridge Audio today. Their SX series of speakers fulfills that promise with sound far beyond their price.
We’ve put together something here that will fit into a small room with a pair of the SX-50s for the front, and another pair for the surrounds. The SX70 center delivers great dialog, and we round out the bottom end with their SX120 powered subwoofer. All of these speakers were designed from the ground up by their engineering team in London, and just like with all Cambridge products, months of listening tests were done to compare parts that might be used in the speakers.
The thing about Cambridge products that pulls you in, is just how true to the music they are. Maybe this comes from the fact that Cambridge has a live concert every single Friday afternoon at their factory! And one thing we have found that always holds true is that if a speaker can do music well, home theater is a breeze! You will not find a better value for under $900 for a complete system, and you can even move up to the slightly bigger and better performing SX60 for the fronts and still be out under 1K!
Paradigm is a Canadian company who has been known for decades for providing very high value speakers that are very true to the original recording. Being Canadian, they do have a bit a secret weapon in something not many people know about, the NRC. This is the Canadian National Research Center that is open to all Canadian companies to help exports. The NRC has a huge acoustics facility that Paradigms engineers have access to. This enables them to use both blind testing and science to design some amazing speakers.
The new Monitor series is the result of this, and every model is just spectacular for the money. In our best under $2,000 we are moving up to some pretty big tower speakers for the left and right channels. We use the matching center and smaller Atom Monitor bookshelves for surrounds. All of these speakers share the same woofers and tweeters for perfectly matched sound.
There is not a subwoofer in the Monitor series so we picked a sub from Paradigm’s sister company, MartinLogan. The Dynamo 600X uses some great room EQ technology to help it perform better in your room. Its bass is deep, tight, and fast.
This combination of speakers presents a big, full sound for full blown action home theater films and can deliver music incredibly well for its price. Paradigm has really set a new bar for value with this combination.
For over 70 years, the team at Klipsch has been making large scale speakers that give you the feeling of a live concert.. We’ve used their new Reference Premiere series of speakers for this Dolby Atmos package. This one will need a decent sized room as these speakers will give you the full impact of a well-done commercial cinema, and probably even better without the sticky floors and only your friends and family! We are using their big towers for the fronts, and to make Atmos easy, putting their upward firing Atmos speakers right on top of them. For the surrounds, we used a slightly smaller tower which gives you the option of adding another Atmos height channel the same way. The center is their large scale model 504C with 5 drivers. It will have no trouble handling the dynamics of a great movie. We wrap things up with the Klipsch 12” sub. Make no mistake, these speakers are all big and powerful, so we think this one will need a room at least 12’ by 15’ or bigger. To drive and control everything, we picked the Marantz SR6013 9.2 channel receiver. It has 9 amp channels so you can easily add those second Atmos speakers later.. The Marantz sound is hard to beat, plus when you couple it with their great Audyssey room EQ and super simple set up menu, it makes for a great receiver to compliment this powerful speaker package.
Our friends at MartinLogan are famous for their big electrostatic speakers that you can literally see through. For decades, they have made music lovers smile with their sound the has virtually no speaker cabinet coloration. A few years ago, MartinLogan started researching on how to bring the amazing electrostatic technology to a more conventional looking speaker design. This was the birth of the Motion series which uses a new technology for the tweeter. This folded diaphragm driver sounds very close to an electrostatic speaker with amazing clarity. Our around 5K system uses matched speakers all around that have the exact same Motion tweeter everywhere. This gives you a surround effect that is pretty scary with its accuracy and clarity. For this system we picked the Motion 40 towers for left and rights as we feel they are the best value in their towers. We use the matching bookshelf speakers for surrounds and matching center channel for the dialog track. Even the midrange/bass drivers are all matched in this setup. To keep Atmos easy, we picked their AFX which has the same Motion drivers and can just sit right on top of the towers.
We’ve become very fond of the new MartinLogan Dynamo sub series. They incorporate Anthem Room Correction to help smooth out the bass response in your room. We picked the 12” model for this, which even though it has a big woofer, is fast enough to keep up with the mains. Its performance is just unbeatable for its price.
This system will give you an emotional impact that will make you feel like the performers are in the room. With the super clear and accurate Motion tweeters, you get amazing separation of sounds, allowing you to hear deeper into the film or music. The very accurate design of the Motion series also lets you hear all of the emotion in the performers voices, which is key to drawing you closer into the movie. We can’t think of a better 5K combination for an involving cinematic experience.
- Completely Matched Speakers All Around
- Love the Motion Tweeter Technology
- Dynamo Sub Provides Super Accurate Bass
For music lovers at Audio Advice who also want a great home theater system, we usually put more emphasis on a great set of front channel speakers matched up to two fast and accurate subwoofers. Most music lovers are willing to put more into the main speakers for a 5 channel system as opposed to spreading out the investment over 11 speakers.
Revel has been lucky to be part of the Harman family which includes JBL Pro. This gives them access to some very serious speaker testing facilities where science and listening come together. The new F208s have really impressed us for a $5,000 pair of speakers. They are full range with great dynamics. Their curved cabinets virtually eliminate cabinet resonance for a very pure sound. But most of all, they just flat out get you involved in the music with the huge soundstage and great harmonic texture.
For the center and surrounds, we chose the matching bookshelf and center channel that use the same drivers, giving us a seamless surround experience. We did stray from the Revel brand on the subwoofers though. As we’ve said before, we just love the new MartinLogan Dynamo subs. We went with two pairs of their Dynamo 1100X 12” subs for this package. Coupling two subs with the Anthem Room Correction in the subs, just makes for wonderful musical bass, but when you need the slam for an action movie, two 12” well-controlled woofers can deliver!
Set this system up with a good power receiver or separates combination and be prepared to start dragging out all your old music to hear it again for the first time!
If you want great sound but have no floor space available, at first it will seem like you have a lot of choices, until you realize there are a lot of soundbars out there, but not too many really good, thin wall mount speakers that will let you get good stereo sound for music, movies and concert videos. MartinLogan has a great solution with their SLM and SLMX flat panel speakers. These are very thin, sleek looking speakers with their famous Motion Tweeter and carbon fiber woofers. You put one on either side of your TV, one below for the center channel (yes the tweeter rotates for this!), mount two on the side or rear walls and viola, no floor space taken and you’ve got a beautiful speaker that can do both film and music really well. Plus, we love the fact that you’ll have identical speakers for all five channels for immersive, matched surround.
We couple these with a Dynamo 600X subwoofer with Anthem Room Correction for the deep bass and it will be the only thing sitting on the floor, or perhaps you have a cabinet it can hide in.
This speaker package is one of the best sounding on wall systems we have heard as it provides real clarity, dynamics, and great stereo separation. If you have a larger room, we do recommend moving up to the SLMX or they also mate up better look wise with a 65” or better TV.
- Slender Speaker Profile With Stunning Performance
- Perfectly Matched Drivers All Around
- Best Solution for Discrete Flat Panel Sound
We hope these suggested speaker packages have given you a good idea of the performance you should expect at some popular price ranges. If you are shopping around for home theater speaker packages, be sure you are getting what these systems can deliver as we think they are very hard to beat! As we said, in some cases, especially for Atmos speakers, architectural built in speakers may be better. We are happy to discuss options with you to put together the system that will work the best for you.
Custom Home Theater Solutions
For those of you who are looking for a more custom solution, have some room challenges, or need more help with design, feel free to contact us. We can design a custom solution to fit your needs and give you some great installation guidance. We’ve been doing home theaters since they first came into the market over 30 years ago.
If you are lucky enough to live near our Raleigh and Charlotte North Carolina Audio Advice stores, we highly recommend you contact one of our local theater designers to help with your project. We can help you build the theater of your dreams from start to finish including installation.