The Best Home Theater Systems
The term Home Theater or Home Cinema can cover a wide variety of options depending upon your budget, room size, how many people you want to entertain, and the way your room is constructed. In our Best Home Theater Systems section we have put together some options to help give you an idea of what you might expect at various price ranges. We asked many of the experts at Audio Advice for their opinions on what might be the best package for the categories here and came up with some great options for you to consider. If you already have a setup and you are looking to upgrade your Home Theater Speakers or Home Theater Receiver, be sure to check out our Best Home Theater Speakers and Best Home Theater Receivers articles.
Our Home Theater Buyers Guide is also available. This guide is a deep dive into how to purchase a new Home Theater System.
Questions to think through before you start
When thinking about what type of system might be best for you, we would like to suggest you consider a few things.
If you enjoy action type movies, consider planning for Dolby Atmos as the effects are astounding on some of the new movies coming out. You may not be able to do it all now, but it's not a bad idea to get something with the ability to add the Atmos speakers later. To fully experience a movie the way the director intended, you need some horsepower.
If your room is fairly large, you’ll need some decent sized speakers and/or good subwoofer(s). On the other hand if your space is very small, you can get impactful sound with a smaller speaker package.
You will also want to think about where to put everything. A TV on a stand with speakers free standing around it is certainly easy, but may not fit the design of your room. If making things disappear is important to you, consider smaller, bookshelf type speakers and a small subwoofer you can hide in a corner.
Our Criteria for the suggested packages
First, we figured you probably already have a TV, so we left that off. However, we do recommend a matching TV - you’ll notice we really love Sony TVs. We have been carrying them for 30 years and they consistently have the best picture. We also felt that you were likely to have some way to play movies be it a Blu-ray player, Roku, Apple TV, Firestick, Nvidia Shield, or many of the other great ways to get content these days. Finally, we did not include HDMI cables and speaker wire as part of the package since we are not sure what lengths you may need, but do not overlook this important component. To get the best picture from the new HDR feeds available on streaming and bluray, you’ll need the latest cables and great speakers benefit from good speaker cable. Yes, we know most TVs now have apps, but we think the extra $99 or so for an Apple TV or Roku gets you a far better experience, and remember, TV designers make TVs not apps, and the people at Roku and Apple are pretty good at making a great interface. Plus, in most cases, switching things is just a lot easier this way.
All packages include the bare minimum main 5 channels
Our systems focus on a speaker package that will give you at the bare minimum the main 5 channels (left, right, center, surrounds) and a subwoofer for that bass impact a real home cinema needs to have! Most of these will include a surround sound receiver, and in just about every case we picked one that will give you some room to grow with more speakers.
Double as great music playing systems
We also picked systems we felt not only did a great job for home theater, but also sounded great playing music, because we all like to spin vinyl or stream music from time to time.
Easy Room Calibration
Finally, we tried to recommend systems that included a great, and easy-to-use room calibration system. This can make a world of difference in how things sound!
Our speaker picks, since we think this section may appeal to those of you who like to do things yourself, are all freestanding and will not require you to run any wires inside your walls. As you get into more serious home theaters, we do feel wall and ceiling mounted speakers can offer you some better options, but we stuck to simple solutions that you could either put on a stand, table, or hang on the wall. If you're looking for a custom home theater, we offer a full suite of Home Theater Design Services.
Quick and Easy Receiver Set Up
Keeping the DIY individual in mind, we know there is nothing worse than spending an entire weekend trying to figure out how to get sound out of all your speakers - you know you’ve been there! This led us to pick receivers we felt were pretty straight forward to quickly set up and get great performance out of.
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.
Here are our top picks for the best home theater systems:
- Best Wireless Home Theater Systems for Smart TVs: Sonos
- Best Home Theater Systems for a Small Room With Dolby Atmos: Focal and Denon
- Best Budget Home Theater System: Cambridge and Sony
- Best Value Home Theater System: Paradigm, MartinLogan, and Marantz
- Best Value Dolby Atmos Home Theater System: Klipsch and Marantz
- Best Home Theater System for Music Lovers: Revel, MartinLogan, and Anthem
- Most Beautiful Home Theater System for Flat Panel TVs: MartinLogan and Integra
This is our only system with an all-in-one powered soundbar, but we felt we had to include this one as it is one our most popular combinations, sounds great for the money, and set up is a snap. The heart of the system is the popular Sonos Playbar. This system works especially well with a “smart tv”. Just make sure the optical output on the TV supports Dolby Surround as not all do. You simply run one optical cable from the TV to the Playbar, then you teach the Sonos Playbar the volume commands from your TV remote (don’t worry, its super easy) and you are ready to go. The Sonos Sub rivals some much more expensive subwoofers on the market and adding it and the two Sonos Ones for rears only takes about 2 minutes. Be sure to run Sonos TruPlay which will play a bunch of test tones while you walk around the room and make things sound even better. The only wires you will need are power cords and one optical cable (which is included). The really smart thing about this system is that with just a few button clicks on the Sonos app you can change the rear Sonos Ones to regular speakers and move them into your kitchen and porch when it’s party time at your house!
Read our full review of the Sonos Playbar here.
- Simple Set Up
- Sonos TruPlay
- One Remote Ease
- Great for streaming music from the Sonos App
- Not so easy to add a turntable
- Big Sound, Small Beautiful Speakers
- Huge Step Up from a Soundbar
- Denon Audyssey Room EQ
- Great streaming with Heos on board
- Easy to add a turntable with built-in phono input
- Beautiful British Sound, Low Cost
- Perfectly Matched Drivers all Around
- Sony’s Auto Calibration
- Chromecast and Airplay built in for streaming plus Spotify Connect
- You’ll need a turntable with a built-in phono preamp
- Great Canadian Design
- Perfectly Matched Speakers
- Best in Class Auto Set Up
- Easy Music Streaming with built-in Heos and Airplay
- Built-In Phono Input makes adding vinyl a snap
- Big and Dynamic Cinema Sound
- All Matched Speaker Drivers
- Marantz Power, Simple Set Up, and Great Room EQ
- Easy Music Streaming with built in Heos and Airplay
- Built In Phono Input makes adding vinyl a snap
- Revel Low Distortion Speaker Technology
- Curved Cabinets for Beauty and Low Resonance
- Anthem Power and Room Correction
- DTS PlayFi built in for streaming
- The Anthem does not have a phono stage, but someone at this level will want a separate phono stage anyway for better performance
- Slender Speaker Profile with Stunning Performance
- Perfectly Matched Drivers All Around
- Easy to Hide but Great Sounding Receiver
- With Chromecast, Airplay, WiFi, and Bluetooth you can stream anything
- Built in Phono section makes vinyl addition simple