Best surround sound system

Audio & Video Accessories

A great frustration for surround sound users is when crackling can be heard. Before ripping up the entire setup to start again, check to make sure the speaker wires are connected correctly in their sockets.

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Which surround sound system is best?

Watching streamed content or playing video games on television shouldn’t be a stressful experience. One of the biggest causes of frustration is when you can’t hear what’s going on. Sure, you could turn up the volume but in most cases, the default speakers won’t be enough.

That’s why you need to look at a surround sound system. By having the sound come from all around you, it makes you feel like you are in the thick of the action. The system doesn’t need to be large either. Even the modest-looking Samsung HW-Q800T Soundbar packs an explosive punch.

What to know before you buy a surround sound system

Speaker configuration

The most effective way to get a surround sound system in a room is to have the correct speaker configuration. For the best results, a surround sound system should have 5.1 or 7.1 channels. For obvious reasons, the more speakers you have, the better the surround quality will be. In 5.1 setups, you have five regular speakers and one subwoofer. In a 7.1 setup, you have seven speakers all around, with one subwoofer. 

Surround sound setup

There are generally two ways that you can go about installing a surround sound system. The most convenient way is to buy a “home theater in a box.” This will have the receiver (or amplifier) and the speakers bundled together in one purchase. For more customizability, you could buy the amplifier and the speakers separately, giving you the freedom of crafting your perfect setup as you wish. 

Audio input and output

The surround sound system will need an audio input to produce the sound. This can be from the television, DVD player or gaming console. It’s important to keep in mind which audio inputs the surround sound system is compatible with and the different outputs available on your devices.  

What to look for in a quality surround sound system

Dolby Atmos for great sound

A good quality surround sound system will have Dolby Atmos technology included. It is a fairly new technology that has been mainly used in 4K systems and streaming services. On some systems, you will see that it is rated as 5.1.2 surround sound. The extra two speakers are for Atmos and add additional sounds and effects.

Compatibility

It is important that the surround sound system is compatible with what you are planning to connect to it. A good quality surround sound system will have multiple ports and connections for a variety of devices. In most cases, you will be able to connect the television, video player and the gaming console at the same time. With the flick of a switch, you can cycle between the different audio inputs.

7.1 channel surround sound

For undoubtedly the best experience, a 7.1 surround sound system will deliver a deep clarity in sounds, effects and subtle noises. The seven speakers will go all around your viewing position, with the central subwoofer producing the heart-stopping bass. The extra speakers over a 5.1 surround sound will also have a higher frequency range, allowing for more audible sounds.

How much you can expect to spend on a surround sound system

The cost of a surround sound system will largely depend on the manufacturer, the model and the capabilities of the unit. Expect to pay around $400 for a 5.1 surround sound system. The 7.1 surround sound systems retail for a bit more; you could spend around $800 for a fully-featured unit.  

Surround sound system FAQ

Do you need a full surround sound or will a soundbar work?

A. This comes down to personal choice and the sound quality you are after. With a full 5.1 or 7.1 system, you have the corresponding amount of speakers. A soundbar’s quality is often excellent, but the surround sound is simulated (since there is only one speaker in front of you).

Can you add more speakers or from different brands?

A. In theory, this can be done, but keep in mind that you can’t add more speakers than what the amplifier is capable of. If it is a 5.1 system, you can only have one subwoofer and five surrounding speakers. That being said, you can replace blown speakers with that of a different brand.

What’s the best surround sound system to buy?

Top surround sound system

Samsung HW-Q800T Soundbar

Samsung HW-Q800T Soundbar

What you need to know: This is the perfect companion if you have a Samsung television.

What you’ll love: While it doesn’t have the seven speakers of a surround sound system, this soundbar does an excellent job of projecting 3D sounds across a room. It uses Dolby Atmos and DTS:X for the best experience and can be synced with other Samsung devices. It is also compatible with virtual assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa.

What you should consider: The Q-Symphony TV sound feature is only available with selected Samsung televisions.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top surround sound system for the money

Onkyo 5.1 Home Theater Receiver & Speaker Package

Onkyo 5.1 Home Theater Receiver & Speaker Package

What you need to know: This affordable set has everything you need.

What you’ll love: This compact 5.1 channel surround sound system packs a punch, supporting Dolby Atmos and DTS:X technology. It is a complete solution to clear sound and great quality when you are on a budget. It also has built-in Bluetooth, so you can stream audio from anywhere.

What you should consider: Due to its compact size, the unit struggles with larger rooms. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Fluance SXHTB-BK High Definition Surround Sound Home Theater Speaker System

Fluance SXHTB-BK High Definition Surround Sound Home Theater Speaker System

What you need to know: A robust model, it can inspire bigger systems.

What you’ll love: The two tower speakers included in the model are powerful enough for large rooms. It is a great starting point for high-end speakers and after a while, you might want to dive into a bigger system. It comes with two separate bookshelf speakers.

What you should consider: It doesn’t come with a dedicated subwoofer, and you’ll have to make the additional purchase for everything to connect together. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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