home theater system set up against brick wall
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Update, 12/07/2022: We have reviewed our recommendations and have updated our best wireless home theater recommendation with the VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Premium Sound Bar.

What to Look For in a Home Theater System in 2022

One of the very first things to consider when buying a home theater system is how many channels you want. You’ll see numbers like 2.1, 5.1, or 7.2. These denote how many channels and, in many cases, how many individual speakers the system uses.

The first number is the number of standard audio channels, while the second is the number of subwoofers. A 2.1 system, for example, has two speakers for stereo sound and a subwoofer for low frequencies. A 5.1 system would have left and right, a center channel, two surround channels, and a subwoofer.

Dolby Atmos adds a new dimension to the audio, quite literally. Atmos adds height, either through ceiling-mounted or, far more often, through upward-firing speakers. These add a dimension of height to the sound.

Generally, the more channels in a system, the more speakers it has, and the more complicated it will be to set up. This isn’t always the case, however. Soundbar systems usually have a central soundbar with satellite speakers and a subwoofer.

A system based on a soundbar will be easier to use but often won’t offer the same depth of sound that a system with individual speakers will. That said, soundbars have come a long way when it comes to sound quality, and the very best rival similar full-surround systems.

If you opt for a speaker-based system, one thing to keep in mind is whether it includes an amplifier or receiver. Many speaker systems leave it up to you to choose your own A/V receiver, so keep this in mind when budgeting for your home theater system.

Finally, all those speakers mean wires all over your living room—unless you opt for a wireless system. These are generally easier to set up, but they will cost more as a result.

With all this in mind, check out our recommendations for the best home theater systems.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I set up a home theater system?
Setting up a home theater system is easy, especially now. Most of the time, you only connect a single HDMI cable from your TV to the receiver or amp. Then you connect speaker cables from the amp to the various speakers. Many home theater systems these days are at least partially wireless, which makes setup even easier.
What wires do I need for a home theater system?
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Many home theater systems include all the cables you need, assuming you’re buying an all-in-one solution. In that case, all you’ll need are some extra HDMI cables. If you’re putting together your own system, see our guide to home theater wiring.
Can I connect two home theater systems together?
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Connecting two home theater systems isn’t typical, but it can be done, depending on what you’re looking to do. If your home theater systems support multiroom audio, you can connect them to play music throughout your home simultaneously.
Should I get a 5.1 or 7.1 home theater system?
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If you’re looking for basic surround sound, a 5.1-channel system will be plenty immersive for watching movies and TV. A 7.1. adds a pair of rear surround speakers, so you’ll hear more sound coming from behind you. This is the main benefit of choosing a 7.1-channel system over a 5.1-channel.
Can a soundbar replace a home theater system?
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Soundbars are constantly improving, adding subwoofers, satellite speakers, and support for technology like Dolby Atmos. A higher-end soundbar setup can easily replace a home theater system, and they’re often much easier to set up and use than a typical home theater setup.

Best Home Theater System Overall: VIZIO Elevate Sound Bar

family watching movie with vizio elevate system
Vizio

Pros

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X ready
  • Easy setup requires just a few wires
  • Self-rotating speakers are more than just a gimmick

Cons

  • Satellite speakers require wired connection

For a combination of ease of setup and use plus great sound, our overall pick for most people is the VIZIO Elevate Sound Bar for TV. It manages to cram 5.1.4 channels of Dolby Atmos-ready sound into a deceptively simple package.

Looking at setup, things are fairly simple. You have the base soundbar unit, two satellite speakers, and a subwoofer. While the satellite speakers require wires, you get a wireless subwoofer, which makes setting this system up an easy process.

While there are only a few speakers in this system, Vizio has equipped the Elevate soundbar with 18 individual speakers of its own. This helps give the system a depth and width beyond what you’d expect from a soundbar system.

Among these are four upward-firing speakers for Atmos and DTS:X. A pair of adaptive height speakers even automatically rotate to add even more depth to the sound of your TV shows, movies, and music.

The Elevate soundbar also has other smart features, including a remote with a backlit display, making it easier to use when you’ve got the lights dimmed. Chromecast built-in lets the soundbar double as a speaker for music, podcasts, and other audio as well.

You can place the speakers anywhere you like, but for wall-mounted setups, Vizio includes mounting hardware for both the soundbar and satellite speakers. All and all, VIZIO’s Elevate Sound Bar is a perfect package for most people.

Best Home Theater System Overall

VIZIO Elevate Sound Bar for TV

If you're looking for a set it and forget it home theater system but still want Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, this is it.

Best Budget Home Theater System: Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Sound

Logitech sound system set up in living room
Logitech

Pros

  • Actual speaker-per-channel 5.1 setup
  • Multiple connectivity options
  • 3D Stereo option makes stereo into surround sound

Cons

  • No HDMI connectivity

If you don’t want a soundbar, but still want the simplicity of a system based on a soundbar, the Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System is a fantastic option. You get everything you need all in one package but still have a complete 5.1-channel setup.

This THX-certified home theater system doesn’t feature Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, as there are no upward-firing speakers. That said, it does feature DTS and Dolby Digital, ensuring that everything you hear out of this system is crystal clear.

Unlike many “home theater in a box” solutions, the Logitech Z906 features one speaker per channel. That means you’re getting stereo, left and right, and left and right surround channels as well as a subwoofer.

The subwoofer here is substantial, given the overall price. You get an eight-inch driver powered by a 165-watt amplifier in the subwoofer, enough to add significant bass to explosions, thundering engines, or anything else that makes your movies more exciting.

One interesting inclusion in the Z906 is something Logitech calls “3D Stereo.” This takes older movies and TV shows or any other stereo audio content and expands it to encompass the room via the surround channels. It’s a neat audio upgrade that not every home theater setup can do!

The Logitech Z906 doesn’t feature HDMI, but it does feature inputs for up to six devices split between analog and digital inputs. You get RCA analog, digital coaxial, and digital optical ports.

Best Budget Home Theater System

Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Sound Speaker System

The Logitech Z906 packs a complete 5.1-channel home theater system into a single box, with only a few minor compromises for the price.

Best Wireless Home Theater System: VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Premium Sound Bar

VIZIO M-Series on pink and yellow background
VIZIO

Pros

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support
  • HDMI eARC makes connecting your TV a breeze
  • Rear satellite speakers make listening more immersive
  • Second 3.5mm input lets you connect a smart speaker

Cons

  • Rear satellites connect to subwoofer via wires
  • No built-in voice assistant

Running wires from your TV to a soundbar is bad enough. Having to run wires for all the other speakers is often close to impossible. Fortunately, with the VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Premium Sound Bar, those worries are mostly taken care of for you.

This package consists of the main soundbar, a subwoofer, and two satellite speakers. Though that’s only four speakers, this system can handle not only standard 5.1-channel surround sound but also Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

While the M-Series soundbar is mostly wireless, it isn’t totally wireless. First, you need to plug the soundbar and subwoofer into the wall. Second, the satellite speakers aren’t wireless. Instead, they connect to the subwoofer, which is still much handier than running wires from the soundbar itself.

There are two ways to connect the soundbar to your TV, with the intended connection being the HDMI port. This carries audio from your TV to the soundbar via HDMI audio return channel (ARC). Even better, this model features eARC, so you can pass Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision through to the TV, as well as control the soundbar with your TV remote.

If you don’t have a TV equipped with eARC or ARC, you can connect using the optical digital audio input. The soundbar also has a 3.5mm auxiliary port and a second 3.5mm port for connecting voice assistants like the Amazon Echo.

Finally, you can also connect using Bluetooth, which makes listening to music from your phone easy.

Best Wireless Home Theater System

VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Premium Sound Bar

The VIZIO M-Series 5.1 Premium Sound Bar may not be completely wireless, but in practice it might as well be. Throw in Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and you get an impressive soundbar with quirky features.

Best Dolby Atmos Home Theater System: Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite 7.2.4

Nakamichi sound system on grey background
Nakamichi

Pros

  • Works with Atmos audio from smart TVs
  • 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos audio in an easy to set up package
  • Processing adds wider sound to any TV audio

Cons

  • Expensive compared to similar options

Nakamichi produces several versions of the Shockwafe, but the Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite 7.2.4 is the perfect balance of channel count, features, and price.

This hybrid soundbar and speaker package consists of five main pieces. You get the main soundbar, dual 8-inch subwoofers, and a pair of rear speakers. Unlike many satellite speakers, the rear speakers are two-way, pairing a tweeter and a woofer for fuller surround sound.

The main soundbar faces two speakers outward instead of forward. Nakamichi says on its Amazon store page that this leads to a sound stage that is more than 35 percent wider than a standard soundbar. You get convincing surround sound in combination with the dual subwoofers and rear speakers.

As the category implies, this is a fullyย Dolby Atmos-capable surround sound system. Four upward-firing speakers bounce sound off your ceiling, adding realistic height differences into the sound field.

The Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite has HDMI capabilities allowing for 4K video, complete with Dolby Vision HDR passthrough. The HDMI ARC port also allows for Dolby Atmos from your TV, if it’s capable of outputting Atmos. This lets you use Atmos from Netflix and similar apps built into smart TVs.

If a 7.2.4-channel setup still feels too limited for you, you can always step up to the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2.4 model. It’s several hundred dollars more expensive, but you get an even richer soundscape due to the extra channels.

Best Dolby Atmos Home Theater System

Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite 7.2.4

The Nakamichi Shockwafe Elite 7.2.4 takes the difficulty out of Dolby Atmos, letting you focus on enjoying movies and TV shows, not setting up speakers.

Best 7.1 Home Theater System: Klipsch Reference R-26FA

Klipsch Reference R-26FA on blue background
Klipsch

Pros

  • Dolby Atmos support built-in
  • Large floorstanding speakers and subwoofer for powerful sound
  • Black and copper color scheme looks great

Cons

  • Requires a separate A/V receiver

Most of the other systems we’re looking at in this guide aren’t traditional home theater systems. Soundbars and wireless systems can certainly make your life much easier, but they don’t offer the same sound quality as a traditional system like the Klipsch Reference R-26FA.

While this setup offers superior audio quality, it’s less an all-in-one system than a collection of great-sounding speakers. There is no wireless connectivity—and really no connectivity to speak of at all, other than speaker connectors.

The main highlight of this system is the pair of Klipsch Reference R-26FA floor-standing speakers, which feature built-in Dolby Atmos elevation channel speakers. These are complemented by a Klipsch Reference R-52C center channel speaker, R-12SW subwoofer, and a pair of R-14 bookshelf speakers.

The speakers use Klipsch’s Tractrix horn technology, which the company says makes for clearer high-end with less room reflection. Combined with the overall size of the speakers and the 12-inch subwoofer, you’re guaranteed room-filling sound.

In addition to the sound, the black and copper color scheme that marks Klipsch’s Reference line looks great anywhere. The speakers are guaranteed to last as well, as they’re covered by Klipsch’s five-year warranty.

Of course, as this is a collection of passive speakers (aside from the active subwoofer), you’ll need a receiver capable of 7.1 or 7.2-channel sound, like the Onkyo TX-NR5100.

Best 7.1 Home Theater System

Klipsch Reference R-26FA

Klipsch's 7.1-channel package takes the difficulty out of picking fantastic-sounding home theater speakers. Simply add the A/V receiver of your choice and you're on the way to home theater bliss.

Best 5.1 Home Theater System: Polk Audio 5.1 Channel Home Theater System

Polk sound system on blue and purple background
Polk

Pros

  • Tower-style stereo speakers are great for music
  • Dynamic Balance technology makes for clear, wide sound
  • Black-on-black finish looks classy everywhere

Cons

  • Separate A/V receiver required

If you already have an A/V receiver but want to upgrade your speakers, the Polk Audio 5.1 Channel Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer is a perfect option.

Like the Klipsch set above, this is a speaker bundle rather than a full home theater package. The centerpiece is a pair of T50 Tower Speakers. To round it out, you get the T30 Center Channel speaker, a pair of T15 bookshelf speakers, and the PSW10 subwoofer.

These Polk speakers use the company’s proprietary Dynamic Balance technology, which minimizes distortion and gives wider dispersion. This leads to wider, more accurate audio.

All the speakers are black, with black tweeters and cones. This lets them fit almost anywhere, meaning you don’t have to worry about whether they match your decor.

This is a 5.1-channel speaker, so you’ll need an A/V receiver like the Denon AVR-S540BT. If you already have a receiver with a higher channel count, you can always add another pair of bookshelf speakers to upgrade to a 7.1-channel setup.

Best 5.1 Home Theater System

Polk Audio 5.1 Channel Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer

If you want to start with a 5.1-channel system but keep the option of adding speakers for a 7.1-channel system, this is a great place to start.

The Best Subwoofers of 2022

 Bluesound Pulse SUB+ Wireless Powered Subwoofer
Best Subwoofer Overall
Bluesound Pulse SUB+ Wireless Powered Subwoofer
Monoprice 60-Watt Powered Subwoofer
Best Budget Subwoofer
Monoprice 60-Watt Powered Subwoofer
MartinLogan Dynamo 600 X
Best Subwoofer for Home Theaters
MartinLogan Dynamo 600 X
Rockford Fosgate Punch P3SD2-12
Best Subwoofer for Car/Best Shallow Mount Subwoofer
Rockford Fosgate Punch P3SD2-12
Klipsch R-12SWI
Best 12-inch Subwoofer
Klipsch R-12SWI
Klipsch Cinema 600 Sound Bar 3.1
Best Soundbar with Subwoofer
Klipsch Cinema 600 Sound Bar 3.1
Profile Photo for Kris Wouk Kris Wouk
Kris Wouk is a freelance tech writer and musician with over 10 years of experience as a writer and a lifetime of experience as a gadget fan. He has also written for Digital Trends, MakeUseOf, Android Authority, and Sound Guys. At MakeUseOf, he was Section Editor in charge of the site's Mac coverage.
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