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The Best Home Theater Systems in 2017: Top 10 Reviews & Buying Guide

For many people, the best home theater systems provide an excellent balance of good quality sound and easy installation.

In 2017, a top home theater system can give you a great audio experience to rival a more complicated setup. But, without the added complication of buying individual components.

This buying guide will give you the low-down on all you need to know to get yourself up and running.

First, I will give you a general overview of what an all-in-one system is, and some of the features you should be looking out for. After that, I will give a short review of some of my favorites, and finish by giving you a buying guide to the best systems around at the moment.

best home theater systems

Top 10 Home Theater Systems Comparison Table

What is a Home Theater System?

It may seem like a stupid question, but one of the most difficult things is to pin down exactly what a home theater system is.

The main idea behind a home theater system is to make it easy to improve the audio in your room. Allowing us to get theater-like sound - without needing a qualification in electrical engineering!

These systems are also known as home-theater-in-a-box - or HTiB for short.

I would say there are two main ways to get good quality audio in your home theater:

  1. to buy an AV receiver and a separate speaker package.
  2. to buy a home theater system.

This article isn't about the first option. If you want to buy an AV receiver or separate surround sound speakers, then go to the following articles:

However, for many people, buying a separate amplifier and speakers is too complicated. They want an easier solution. For them, the best option is to look for an all-in-one home theater system. Something that includes the amplifier and speakers all in one box.

This is what I will be looking at here.

Different Features of a Home Theater System

So, to recap, a home theater system will combine an AV receiver/amplifier and speakers in the same package. However, as we will see, what is actually included in the home-theater-in-a-box can vary. You should take your time and choose the right option for you.

So, what are some of the points to look out for?

Amplifier and Speakers

Every home theater system will include these. The main advantage of an all-in-one system is that you will be getting an amplifier and speakers designed to work well together.

You don't need to worry about matching the speakers with the amplifier. You don't need to be concerned with many of the technical details which confuse many people.

A package will usually include all the extras required to get it all up and running. Like speaker cable, for example. However, you may want to double check this. Obviously, if you are buying a wireless home theater system, then speaker cable won't be an issue!

Blu-ray Disc

HTiB With DVD or Blu-ray Player?

Some systems will include a Blu-ray player as part of the package – or DVD. This is often the case with the lower-end entry-level models.

If you need this, then identify those models which have a built-in player. I have included some here in the top 10 list.

The higher-end systems will usually concentrate on providing better quality sound. Therefore, they will have an amplifier and speakers, but nothing else. With these, you will need to provide a separate player, which you connect to the sound system. Or you can just use the sound from your TV.

This leads to the next point.

Connecting External Devices

This is where it can get a little tricky. The point of improving your sound is so that you can hear the audio from your devices. From your TV. Your Blu-ray player. From Netflix or Amazon Video. Or your games console?

You need to be clear what you want to be able to playback through the speakers - and then choose the right system that allows this.

Some systems will have one, or more, HDMI inputs. This will allow you to connect your games console or Blu-ray player. Or anything else that has an HDMI output. Some may have optical or coaxial audio inputs. Some may have all of these.

However, some systems are limited in their input connections. Some, especially the budget models with built-in players, may not allow any external devices at all.

Be clear on what you want to connect to your new sound system, and then buy the right product for your needs.

Surround Sound Speaker Layouts

As these systems are for home theater, most will come with surround speakers. The most common layouts are 5.1 and 7.1.

For example, a surround sound 5.1 speaker system has a center speaker, two front left and right speakers, and two rear speakers. The .1 refers to a subwoofer, which provides extra bass.

Some systems may not have surround audio and offer 2.1 or 3.1 speaker systems. My article on setting up surround sound gives more detail on these different layouts.

5.1 Speaker Layout 5.1 Layout for Surround Sound

In my list of the best HTiB systems, I only include those that offer a surround speaker layout of at least 5.1? Why? Because I think it’s the best way to hear movies!

Some newer models may support the newer audio formats of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

If this is important to you, decide which speaker layout you want, and buy the model that provides this.

Power Ratings

This is an interesting one. When buying a separate amplifier and speakers, one of the main specs to look out for is the power rating.

The power rating gives a general guide to how loud a system will be in the room. And how well an amplifier will drive a set of speakers.

When it comes to home theater systems, my general advice would be to forget about power ratings. I have found that getting power ratings that allow you to compare one system with another is almost impossible.

Some manufacturers like Yamaha and Onkyo give power ratings like they do with their standalone AV receivers. They are specifications measured against an accepted standard. With these, you can compare one device with another.

Hi-Fi Speakers in flames

However, with these all-in-one systems, this isn't always the case. Sony and Samsung offer ratings which sound impressive because they are very high. However, they aren't measured against the same standards as those by Yamaha and Onkyo. In the real world, their systems probably won't be as loud as the specifications suggest.

Further still, manufacturers like Sonos, Bose and Enclave Audio don't offer any power ratings at all. In some ways, this may be the best way to deal with power ratings with these all-in-one systems.

The amplifiers and speakers are designed to work well together. They are designed to fill an average-size living room. As a rough guide, if your viewing distance is around 6-10 feet, then a home theater system should be suitable. Larger spaces will still be fine, but it all depends on how loud you want to have the sound. If you have more specific needs, then maybe an all-in-one system isn't the right choice for you?

Anyway, if you're interested, read the articles about AV receiver power ratings and matching amps and speakers. You will learn that power specs may not be as important as you first thought.

Top 5 Home Theater Systems Reviews

When buying home theater equipment, one of the most difficult things is narrowing down your choice. With all the options out there, looking for the best surround sound system can make your head spin.

Hopefully, the points above will have given you a better idea of what you are looking for. What I will do now is give you a rundown on some of my favorites. I've tried to include systems at a range of prices, so there should be something for all budgets. 

1. Onkyo HT-S9800THX Home Theater System

Onkyo HT-S9800THX Home Theater System

The Onkyo HT-S9800THX is from the top-end of the Onkyo home theater system range. Onkyo is highly-regarded for their AV receivers. They are also one of the few receiver manufacturers that produce a dedicated home theater system. Their background in making quality AV receivers should give you confidence in this system.

Onkyo HT-S9800THX Highlights

This is a 7.1 channel system, with support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Therefore, out-of-the-box it will support up to 7.1 surround sound or 5.1.2 if you want to play object-audio soundtracks. 7.2 and 5.2.2 surround layouts aresupported as it has a 2nd sub output, but you will have to buy another subwoofer.

Dolby Atmos support is rare for a dedicated home theater system. So, this is a killer feature if you want to experience this relatively new audio format.

It offers full support for 4K video, so you can be sure you will be able to watch Ultra HD through this device.

Onkyo HT-S9800THX Home Theater System Specifications
Channels HDMI In/Out Dolby Atmos? Network / Wireless?
7.1 (7.2 supported) 6+1 / 2 5.2.2 Ethernet / Wi-Fi / AirPlay / Chromecast / DTS Play-Fi / FireConnect
Receiver
(W x H x D)
Front / Surround Speakers
(W x H x D)
Center Speaker
(W x H x D)
Subwoofer
(W x H x D)
17-1/8 x 6-13/16 x 14-7/8 in (435 x 173.5 x 378 mm)
22.0 lbs
Front: 6-1/4 x 17-1/16 x 7-13/16 in (158 x 433 x 199 mm) / 11.7 lbs
Surround: 7-7/8 x 10-13/16 x 6-5/8 in (200 x 275 x 169 mm) / 7.7 lbs
17-1/16 x 6-1/4 x 7-13/16 in (433 x 158 x 199 mm)
11.7 lbs
14-15/16 x 17-1/2 x 16-7/8 in (380 x 444 x 429 mm)
12" cone / 125W / 34.2 lbs

This is a fairly powerful system which is rated at 100 W/Ch (8 Ohms, 20 Hz–20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2 Channels Driven). As discussed before, supplied power ratings for HTiB surround sound systems vary quite a bit. Onkyo uses standard power ratings so we can be sure it will pack a punch.

In some systems, connectivity can be limited, but there will be few issues here as it is a normal AV receiver. It has 6 HDMI inputs on the rear, one input on the front and 2 HDMI outputs. There are several inputs on the rear for connecting a range of different devices. You will find component and S-Video inputs, optical and coaxial digital audio inputs, and several analog stereo inputs.

This top-end model is also THX® certified. This means it has been engineered to very high standards for the best audio quality. 

Thumbs Up   

  • Dolby Atmos / DTS:X
  • THX certification
  • Numerous input connections
  • Powered Zone 2
  • Supports HDR10, Dolby Vision™, BT.2020, 4K/60 Hz and HDCP 2.2

Thumbs Down   

  • The included speakers are designed for a 7.1 configuration. Dedicated Dolby Atmos speakers aren’t included, you must buy these separately. However, you can use the extra surrounds as your height speakers in a 5.1.2 configuration.
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2. Bose Lifestyle 650 Home Entertainment System

Bose Lifestyle 650 Home Entertainment System

When it comes to AV technology, there’s no doubt that Bose has many ardent fans. Unlike many AV companies, the look of their product is as important the performance. Their products aim to marry style with the latest AV technology, and they seem to be able to win customers for life. The Bose Lifestyle 650 Home Entertainment System is their current home theater system. It is definitely aimed at the top-end of the market.

Bose Lifestyle 650 Highlights

The Bose Lifestyle 650 is a 5.1 surround sound home theater system. The speaker for the center comes in the form of a 21" soundbar which houses five precision speakers.

The front left/right and surround left/right are called OmniJewel satellite speakers. These are small speakers with a 360-degree sound field and are designed to be smart and unobtrusive in your room. The rear speakers are also wireless.

Last, but not least, the Acoustimass bass module. Another wireless speaker which, at 12.8" high, is also designed to complement your room – rather than overpower it.

Bose Lifestyle 650 Home Entertainment System Specifications
Channels HDMI In/Out Other Inputs Network / Wireless?
5.1 5+1 / 1 2 x Optical / 2 x Coaxial / 2 x Analog L/R Ethernet /Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / NFC
Console
(W x H x D)
OmniJewel Speakers (each)
(W x H x D)
OmniJewel Center
(W x H x D)
Acoustimass Wireless Bass Module
(W x H x D)
15.98 x 2.56 x 10.16 in (406 x 65 x 258 mm)
8.8 lbs
1.84 x 5.77 x 1.84 in (46.5 x 146.5 x 46.5 mm)
0.78 lbs
21.34 x 1.9 x 1.84 in (542 x 48 x 46.5 mm)
2.66 lbs
11.61 x 12.8 x 11.61 in (295 x 325 x 295 mm)
30 lbs

The brain of the system is the console. This is where you connect the front wired speakers and any external hardware. There is a useful number of 5 HDMI inputs on the rear (plus another on the front), and one HDMI output to connect to your TV. All the HDMI ports fully support 4K/60 video sources with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2.

You also have 2 optical digital audio inputs, 2 coaxial digital audio connections and 2 stereo analog inputs. That’s a decent number of connection types which should cover most requirements.

To top it all off, you can control your system with the free SoundTouch app

Thumbs Up   

  • Modern, compact design
  • Plenty of input connections
  • Wireless surrounds and bass module

Thumbs Down   

  • No option to add extra speakers for 5.2 or 7.1
  • It’s not cheap!
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3. Yamaha YHT-5920UBL Home Theater System

Yamaha YHT-5920UBL Home Theater System

The Yamaha YHT-5920BL Home Theater-in-a-Box System is a 5.1-channel surround sound system. It comes at the top of the Yamaha home theater system range but is aimed at the mid-range of the market. As Yamaha make many high-quality AV receivers, this system is essentially an AV receiver bundled with a 5.1 compact speaker package. 

Yamaha YHT-5920BL Highlights 

The home theater speaker package that comes with this system comprises of compact black gloss speakers. The center channel and satellite speakers have 2 ¾" full-range cones. This smaller size will provide unobtrusive speakers which won’t take over your room.

The subwoofer has a 6 ½" cone and is rated at 100 watts. It should offer enough bass for movies and music, without taking up too much floor space.

All the speakers are wired.

Yamaha YHT-5920UBL Home Theater System Specifications
Channels HDMI In/Out Other Inputs Network / Wireless?
5.1 6 / 1 1 x Optical / 2 x Coaxial / 4 x Analog L/R / 4 x Composite Ethernet / Wi-Fi / Bluetooth / AirPlay / MusicCast
Receiver
(W x H x D)
Front / Rear Speakers (each)
(W x H x D)
Center Speaker
(W x H x D)
Subwoofer
(W x H x D)
17-1/8 x 6-3/8 x 12-3/8 in (435 x 162 x 314 mm) (w/o antenna)
17.9 lbs
4-3/8 x 6-7/8 x 4-5/8 in(111 x 174.5 x 117.5 mm)
2-3/4" (70mm) full-range cone / 1.3 lbs
10-7/8 x 4-3/8 x 4-5/8 in (276 x 111 x 117.5 mm)
2-3/4" (70mm) full-range cone / 1.61 lbs
11-3/8 x 11-1/2 x 12-7/8 in (289 x 292 x 327 mm)
6-1/2" (165mm) cone / 100W / 17.6 lbs

The receiver doesn’t have as many input connections as most of their dedicated models. But, there are still more than many home theater systems offer. There are 6 HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI output. All with 4k Ultra HD pass-through and HDCP 2.2 support.

On top of that, you have 1 optical audio, 2 coaxial audio, 4 analog audio and 4 composite video inputs. There is also a single composite video output.

This receiver also offers support for Yamaha’s MusicCast wireless multiroom audio system. Therefore, not only do you get 5.1 sound in your main room, you can stream audio to MusiCast speakers around your home. 

Thumbs Up   

  • Yamaha make quality AV receivers
  • Compact speaker package for smaller rooms
  • Can extend to multi-room audio with MusicCast
  • Reasonable power specification
  • Good value for money

Thumbs Down   

  • No HDR10 / Dolby Vision support
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4. Enclave Audio CineHome HD Wireless Audio Home Theater System

Enclave Audio CineHome HD Wireless Audio Home Theater System

If you are looking for a completely wireless surround sound system, then you will be excited by this option. The Enclave Audio CineHome HD Home Theater System has no wires to connect the speakers to the main unit at all. Plus, it delivers 24 bit/96kHz audio, which should satisfy many of the audiophiles out there. 

Enclave Audio CineHome HD Highlights

The hub of this system is the CineHome HD Smart Center Channel speaker. It’s not just the center channel speaker for the system, it holds all the system controls, inputs and outputs.

There are a reasonable amount of inputs. Three HDMI inputs, 1 optical audio input and analog 3.5mm. Not the most you will find, but this will be fine for many people. Heck, there’s even an assistance lamp on the rear for those times you are fumbling around in the dark. Cool.

Enclave Audio CineHome HD Home Theater System Specifications
Channels HDMI In/Out Other Inputs Network / Wireless?
5.1 3 / 1 1 x Optical / 1 x Analog 3.5mm Bluetooth / Chromecast
Supported Processing Front Speakers Surround Speakers Subwoofer
HDMI 3D / ARC / 4K / DTS Digital Surround 5.1 / Dolby Digital / Dolby Digital Plus / Dolby Pro Logic II Dual 3.5"(80mm) drivers / 0.78"(20mm) fabric dome tweeter Bipole design 8.5" (217mm) cone

There are two solid-looking front speakers with dual 80mm drivers. The surrounds are smaller but are a bipole design which will create a wide sound field at the rear. The 8.5" subwoofer finishes off the system, and it is great that the system is upgradeable to 5.2 with the addition of another sub if you wish.

Each speaker must be connected to mains power with the included AC power adaptors. Apart from that, the only cable required will be the HDMI output to your TV.

There is an Enclave Audio app which allows for the streaming of music from your mobile device or local network. It also supports Bluetooth and Chromecast.

Thumbs Up   

  • Fully wireless home theater speaker system
  • Attention to audio quality
  • Smart, modern design
  • Upgradeable to 5.2

Thumbs Down   

  • HDMI is only 1.4b. For 4K video, you will need to connect your Blu-ray to the TV and use the HDMI ARC to send audio to the speaker system.
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5. Sonos 5.1 Home Theater System

Sonos 5.1 Home Theater System

I thought twice about including this Sonos system here. Nothing to do with the quality, but because it doesn't fit into my traditional thinking on what a home theater system is.

Sonos is a multi-room wireless speaker system for the whole house, isn't it?

There's no receiver (as such). Where do you plug everything in? Where are all the wires? For an old so and so like me, this is waaaaay out there!

However, once I thought about it, I concluded that it fits exactly here. This is the future. Well, part of it at least. And it does many of the things any other home theater system does. So, why not?

Anyway, many people don't know that Sonos wireless speakers can double-up as a 5.1 surround sound system. Or was that just me? So, let's start again… 

Sonos 5.1 System Highlights

Did you know a Sonos wireless speaker system can double-up as a 5.1 surround sound system? No? Well, it can!

You can get a basic 3.1 setup using either a PLAYBASE or a PLAYBAR, which you can pair with a SUB. The PLAYBASE/PLAYBAR will act as the center, front left and front right speakers. The SUB will act as the…. subwoofer!

From this point, you can use the Sonos App to add surround speakers. These speakers can be:

  • Two PLAY:1s
  • Two PLAY:3s
  • Two PLAY:5s (gen2)
  • A CONNECT:AMP powering your own speakers

You just need to make sure the two surrounds are of the same type. Once the app has created your surround setup, you are good to go.

Sonos 5.1 Home Theater System Specifications
Channels HDMI In/Out Other Inputs Network / Wireless?
5.1 None 1 x Optical Wi-Fi
PLAYBASE
(W x H x D)
PLAYBAR
(W x H x D)
PLAY 1 / 3 / 5
(W x H x D)
SUB
(W x H x D)
28.35 x 2.28 x 14.96 in (720 x 58 x 380 mm)
18.85 lbs
35.43 x 3.35 x 5.51 in (900 x 85 x 140 mm)
11.9 lbs
PLAY 1: 4.69 x 6.36 x 4.69 in (119.7 x 161.45 x 119.7 mm) / 4.08 lbs
PLAY3: 10.6 x 5.2 x 6.3 in (268 x 132 x 160 mm) / 5.71 lbs
PLAY5: 14.33 x 8.03 x 6.06 in (364 x 203 x 154 mm) / 14 lbs
15.8 x 15.3 x 6.2 in (402 x 389 x 158 mm)
36.3 lbs

So, how do you get movie audio into the speakers? The PLAYBASE/PLAYBAR have an optical audio input. Connect the optical output from your TV into the PLAYBASE/PLAYBAR, and you will hear 5.1 Dolby Digital sound in your speakers.

One thing you should be aware of. You need to make sure that your TV can output 5.1 DD from the optical output. Some can, and some can’t. You might find this article on surround sound passthrough on TVs helpful. 

If you have a Blu-ray player you have two options:

  1. Connect the Blu-ray player to the TV via HDMI, and pass through the 5.1 DD via optical to the Sonos
  2. Connect the Blu-ray player to the TV via HDMI for the picture, and have an optical connection direct from the player to the PLAYBASE/PLAYBAR

So, even though the connection options are fairly limited, for many people this will be all you need to get surround sound in your living room.

Take a look at this official Sonos video which shows how all the different Sonos speakers can be used throughout your home:

Thumbs Up   

  • No wires
  • Three front speakers merged into one compact device
  • Able to add extra Sonos speakers in other rooms
  • Upgradeable. Can start with a 3.1 system and add rear speakers later.

Thumbs Down   

  • Input connections limited to a single optical port. However, that may be all you need to get movie surround sound from your TV and DVD/Blu-ray player. 
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The Next 5 Best HTiB Systems

So, if that wasn't enough choice, I'll complete the top 10 home theater systems by summarising the next 5. You will find plenty more options here, including some budget models if the previous models are more than you are willing to pay. Depending on your budget/requirements, these are good choices, so don't rule them out:

Home Theater System Buying Guide

As you have seen, there are several HTiB all-in-one systems which will provide fantastic sound in any home. I don't want you relying on the sound from your TV speakers. That's boring! Get a proper sound system and really enjoy watching that movie. In 2017, the best home-theater-in-a-box systems can really take your movie viewing to another level.

At the start of this article, I went through some of the important points to look out for. However, that was a while back, and if you're like me, you've forgotten most of that already.

I'll now summarise those points, and highlight a couple of extra things you might want to consider:

  • Speaker Layout: which speaker configuration is best for your room? The standard surround sound layouts are 5.1 and 7.1. However, Dolby Atmos allows for height speakers and object-based audio. Maybe that is your thing? If you have a smaller space, a 2.1 or 3.1 speaker setup might work better?
  • DVD/Blu-ray Player: do you need a system that comes with its own disc player? Ideal for those who don't have a player yet, but not really suitable if you have one already.
  • Connections: which devices do you want to connect to your system? Some systems have limited connection options, so make sure you can connect everything you want to. Maybe allow for future purchases too? It is common for entry-level systems with built-in Blu-ray players to not allow for any other devices to be connected. They will also often have non-standard speaker connections so you can only use the supplied speakers.
  • Power: do you need a powerful system for a larger room? A bigger room might be better with a dedicated AV receiver and speakers. Generally, a home theater system is more suitable for a smaller space. As a rough guide, think of a viewing distance of 6-8 feet. Larger rooms will also work, but you may start to struggle to get the volume you want. Also, budget systems may not offer the volume and depth of sound of the higher-end models. You may need to consider paying extra if you think you might need more volume. As mentioned before, it's difficult to judge how much power each system offers, as some specifications are often not supplied. Using price can be one way of roughly judging how much power a system will have.
  • Wired or Wireless Speakers: a few years ago, you had no choice, but there are now some serious options if you want wireless speakers. Some will wonder if you can get the same sound quality as with using a good old cable. Others will care less, and can't wait to remove all those annoying speaker cables. Which are you?
  • Sound Quality: if sound quality is important to you, then a rule-of-thumb is you get what you pay for. Although, as in life, not always! It will probably come as no surprise if the higher-end models sound a little better than the budget home theater systems. And, if you are an audiophile, a separate AV receiver and speakers might offer what you are looking for - rather than an all-in-one system? There's no right and wrong here. We all have different views on what sounds good - and what is good enough. What sounds great to one person, won't be so good for another. I have friends who absolutely love the sound of their home theater systems. I might have another view! There's always a trade-off against what you are willing to pay. And, what you consider to be value-for-money.

Black Friday Deals Week is live, take a look at my list of the best home theater deals in 2017.

Conclusion

So, as you can see, buying the best home theater system can be a perfect way for you to get the surround sound experience.

As you probably know from reading the rest of this site - you have read every page, haven't you? - I think surround sound is fantastic. So, if these systems are the best way for you to get sound all around your living room, then go for it. You won't regret it.

If you want to keep the cost down. If you don't want to bother with too much setting up and configuration. If you don't want the headache of trying to choose matching amplifiers and speakers. Then, you're in the right place. An all-in-one home-theater-in-a-box could be perfect for getting a home theater setup that you will love.


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