If you’re planning to upgrade the sound on your TV, there are plenty of home theater systems available but the options can be overwhelming. But we’re here to help you break it down! The first thing you need to decide is whether you want a soundbar or a home theater system. For the best performance possible, nothing beats an AV receiver and a multispeaker Dolby Atmos setup, but if you just want something simple and affordable, a soundbar is the answer.
Soundbars are compact and offer a lot of performance in an affordable package. You can even get ones with advanced features like Atmos and Wi-Fi streaming. The one thing that isn’t typically possible is the ability to upgrade them — though some soundbars pair with optional, separate subwoofers and rear speakers. If you want to truly mix and match speakers, then an AV receiver is for you.
Receivers offer a lot in the box and, unlike soundbars, they have plenty of HDMI inputs to accommodate different sources. The ability to tailor your system as you see fit can also be an engaging hobby. If you decide to go the home theater route, you don’t necessarily need a set of surround-sound speakers, not initially at least. I ran a Marantz AV receiver in stereo with a pair of Bowers and Wilkins stand-mount speakers for about five years and didn’t feel I was missing out.
Whichever route you choose — soundbars or AV systems — there should be something here for you. These are the best home theater systems available right now. We’ll update this best home theater system list periodically as we review new products.
When it comes to bang for buck, it doesn’t get much better than the Roku Streambar home theater system. This speaker offers both a dialogue-enhancing soundbar and a built-in 4K streamer in one package. If you want more bass or surround speakers, the system is also upgradable. You can choose the speaker package.
Originally retailing for $1,200, the Klipsch Reference Theater Pack is currently on sale for a third of that. This set features big sound from a compact 5.1-channel surround sound system and it is a perfect home theater option for apartments or games rooms. This speaker system is excellent for movies and not bad for music either. Just add a receiver.
If there’s one thing we’re spoiled for choice for it’s affordable stereo speakers, and for $469 the bookshelf speaker 3030is offer excellent playback of both movies and music. While the $350 Elac Debut 2.0 B6.2s are a lot cheaper and more transparent, the Q Acoustics are more even-handed and have better bass response. This makes the 3030i more suited to a living room home theater situation, especially if you’re not using a subwoofer.
While the rotating speakers of the Vizio Elevate are cool, that system doesn’t offer the best bang for your buck within the company’s range. The Vizio M512a is a Dolby Atmos soundbar that includes 4K Dolby Vision, a subwoofer and rear-channel speakers, making it a sort of hybrid between a receiver-based system and a soundbar. It also provides incredible sound quality for music and movies for a hair under $500.
Despite the fact that there’s basically no 8K video available now, you still can buy an 8K-compatible receiver. Last year was a little fraught, however, as bugs meant that early models couldn’t pass 4K/120Hz video from the Xbox Series X. However, since summer 2021, Yamaha, Denon and Marantz receivers have been free of bugs, so you can buy with a renewed sense of confidence.
While the Yamaha RX-V6a with its striking looks and rock-solid performance is the best of the crop, it’s also out of stock at most places. If you need an 8K receiver right now then the TX-NR6100 is a worthy replacement. It offers a superior streaming suite — including Chromecast built-in — and better ease of use. It is a bit more expensive than the Yamaha, however, at $800 (versus $600).
If you demand the best Dolby Atmos performance from a single soundbar, it doesn’t get any better than the Sennheiser Ambeo audio system. It’s not cheap, and it’s not small, but if you want the best sound, this is it.