Best surround sound system: our pick of the best home theater systems, soundbars, and more

Get the best surround sound system set-up of your dreams with our pick of TV speakers and soundbars

best surround sound system Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System
(Image credit: Klipsch)

If you've invested in a great TV but still feel like there's something missing, you may be right. Whether you spend Friday nights watching action films or listening to your favorite tunes, the best surround sound system can unlock a whole new experience with boosted bass, room-filled sound, and more. As any film buff or avid gamer will tell you, the image is only half of the picture.

So if you’re looking to perfect your home cinema experience – especially at a time when the local multiplex isn’t a go-to option and more and more of the latest movies are streaming at home, you’re going to need a great sound system, too.

Surround sound gear has come a long way in recent years. The mess of cables and discrete speakers and stands that used to dot around our living rooms have given way to much tidier single-unit soundbars that sit underneath our TVs and beef up what the slim flat panels can’t produce themselves.

And yes, there’s still a lot to love about having speakers dotted around your room. Still, now they’re usually wireless in form and often offer upwards-firing Dolby Atmos sound, too, for an audio track that lives and breathes all around you – including from above.

If you’re looking to make a surround sound upgrade, we've assembled some of the best options for you below. Of course, if you're not so sure you need multiple speakers, you can check out our guide to the best soundbars (opens in new tab).

The best surround sound systems 2022

Samsung HW-Q950T Soundbar System

(Image credit: Samsung)

1. Samsung HW-Q950T Soundbar System

Best surround sound system overall

Specifications

Channels: 9.1.4
Components: 1 x soundbar; 1 x subwoofer, 1 x speakers
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Audio format: Dolby Atmos/DTX:X

Reasons to buy

+
Dolby Atmos
+
Adaptive sound and Q-Symphony for Samsung TVs
+
Energy Star certified
+
Wireless connectivity between soundbar, subwoofer, and rear speakers

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Soundbar system rather than true surround sound

Our favorite multi-speaker set-up for your home theater system and choice for the best surround sound system overall, the Samsung HW-Q950T is a modest and compact soundbar system that nevertheless provides a brilliant surround soundscape without taking up too much space around your living room.

Consisting of a soundbar equipped with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X technology, two upfiring rear speakers for overhead audio, and a wireless subwoofer, it's a winner when it comes to audio power. In addition, the tech allows it to tailor the sound to what you're watching in Adaptive Mode and Game Pro mode, depending on what you happen to be enjoying.

There's a bonus for Samsung devotees, too, as the soundbar is compatible with the Q-Symphony features of the brand's QLED TVs. To top things off, the HW-Q950T is the only entry on this list that's Energy Star certified, meaning that it consumes less energy overall.

Sony HTA9 7.1 Channel High Performance Home Theater System

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony HTA9 Home Theater System

Best wireless home theater system

Specifications

Channels: 7.1
Components: 4 x speakers
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Reasons to buy

+
Wireless connectivity between speakers and control box
+
Works with Google Assistant and Alexa
+
Adaptive audio technology

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive
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Only one HDMI input
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Optional subwoofer sold separately

Made up of just four wireless speakers and a control unit, the Sony Sony HTA9 Home Theater System is ideal for those who don't want to 'settle' for a soundbar but also don't have the luxury of installing a vast wired surround sound system in their living room. Whether you're dealing with a small space, an awkwardly shaped space, or you just crave simplicity, this could be the answer.

The downside of the HTA9 is the lack of a subwoofer included, but this can be purchased additionally if you want added oomph. On their own, however, the speakers are great, with 360 spatial sound mapping for adaptive audio in your space, Chromecast built-in, and capability with an existing Alexa or Google Assistant.

Really, despite being on the more expensive side, the HTA9 system is designed to get you started, and you can add more to the set-up with multiroom listening. While this particular product only works with particular models, you can take a look at our guide to the best subwoofers to complete your home theater.

JBL 9.1-Channel Soundbar System


(Image credit: JBL)

3. JBL 9.1-Channel Soundbar System

Best surround soundbar for versatility

Specifications

Channels: 9.1
Components: 1 x soundbar w/ 2 x speakers; 1 x subwoofer
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Audio format: Dolby Atmos/DTS:X

Reasons to buy

+
Works with Google Assistant and Siri
+
Wireless connectivity between soundbar, subwoofer, and rear speakers
+
Dolby Atmos

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one HDMI input
-
Soundbar system rather than true surround sound

The JBL Bar 9.1 is perhaps the most interesting option on this list, or at least the more creative. What at first looks like a standard soundbar hides a secret - its ends snap off, revealing themselves to be battery-powered, fully-featured wireless rear speakers!

It's an ingenious trick, and the central unit not only acts as the center, left, right, and overhead sound channels but also as a charging dock for the rear speakers. The detachable elements are intelligent enough to sense where they've been placed, matching the rear and rear-height ambient sound to any given scene. There's also a separate subwoofer to complete the package.

But of course, there's a catch. Though the JBL Bar 9.1 is an ingenious design and is worthy of a place in your living room for that reason alone, it does have some slight faults. For example, its front channels feel a bit narrow and don’t always give a clear sense of audio information flowing in from the left and right.

And yet, it’s hard not to find yourself enamored by its clever design, even if it’s not quite up there with what the top bar on this list is offering.

LG SN11RG 7.1.4-Channel 770W Soundbar System


(Image credit: LG)

4. LG SN11RG Soundbar System

Best 7.1 home theater system (runner up)

Specifications

Channels: 7.1.4
Components: 1 x soundbar; 1 x subwoofer; 2 x speakers
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Audio format: Dolby Atmos/DTS:X

Reasons to buy

+
Google Assistant built-in
+
Wireless connectivity between soundbar, subwoofer, and rear speakers
+
Dolby Atmos

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Soundbar system rather than true surround sound

The LG SN11RG is a soundbar system offering rear speakers as part of the package, giving you more than just audio from the front, but also to the side and above you with Dolby Atmos surround sound and from behind with the dual rear speakers. The wireless subwoofer adds booming bass to the mix.

There are plenty of other surprises, too. Upscaling low-quality audio sources is masterfully handled, while 4K and Dolby Vision pass-through make it an ideal match for any high-end TV that supports HDR. There's even Google Assistant support built-in for controlling smart home gadgetry - though we'd have liked to have Alexa is there, too.

If its price wasn't enough of a signal, be warned that this is one big soundbar. Measuring a little over 144cm, it's going to dwarf any TV below 65 inches, so you might want to think about other options if your TV is on the smaller side. Just two HDMI inputs feel a bit mean, too.

Definitive Technology ProCinema 6D 5.1-Channel Home Theater Speaker System

(Image credit: Definitive Technology)

5. Definitive Technology ProCinema 6D Home Theater Speaker System

Best 5.1 surround sound system

Specifications

Channels: 5.1
Components: 1 x center unit, 5 x speakers + subwoofer
Connectivity: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
True surround sound system
+
Subwoofer included

Reasons to avoid

-
No Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or smart home compatibility

Though many of the soundbar set-ups on this list are a convenient way to achieve a surround sound effect in your living room, the classic speaker systems will still be the first choice for many. Made up of a center channel, four speakers, and a subwoofer, the Definitive Technology ProCinema 6D will deliver the impact true audiophiles expect.

There are, of course, some downsides to going this way, and the most important may be logistics. Instead of working wirelessly like others on this list, the speakers will all need to be wired in order to communicate - which means a lot of wires to hide away. There are also no smart features or Bluetooth but, if it's sound quality you want, it's a great choice.

Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack Surround Sound System

(Image credit: Klipsch)

6. Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack Surround Sound System

Best budget home theater system

Specifications

Channels: 5.1
Components: 1 x center unit; 4 x speakers + subwoofer
Connectivity: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Good price
+
True surround sound system
+
Subwoofer included

Reasons to avoid

-
No Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or smart home compatibility

True surround sound systems are fantastic for boosting your home theater experience, but building one can get a little expensive over time. If you want something that will deliver you results straight away without needing to add rear speakers and more at a later date, this offering from Klipsch is one to consider.

It comprises six speakers in total - one center channel and four speakers to place around your space in addition to the wireless subwoofer - it's more customizable than some other surround sound systems simply because you have control over where you put them. In addition, the system contains an aluminum tweeter and high-excursion aluminum woofer cones for high-quality sound.

Of course, the trade-off for the price is that the Klipsch HT50 doesn't include Bluetooth connectivity or compatibility with smart home systems like Google Assistant and Alexa. But if this doesn't matter to you, then it's a good starter pack for the less tech-savvy who don't want to miss out on excellent audio.

MartinLogan Motion 51 Speaker System

(Image credit: MartinLogan)

7. MartinLogan Motion 5.1 Speaker System

Specifications

Channels: 5.1
Components: 1 x center channel; 4 x speakers + subwoofer
Connectivity: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
True surround sound system
+
Subwoofer included

Reasons to avoid

-
No Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or smart home compatibility

Of the three true surround sound systems ranked on this list, the MartinLogan Motion 5.1 Speaker System sits in the middle, price-wise. That means that, if you don't want to compromise with a budget set-up, but aren't quite willing to splurge on something high-end, either, then the MartinLogan set-up could be for you.

The system consists of four speakers, a central unit, and a subwoofer, with MartinLogan opting for a matte finish rather than fabric. Though the speakers need to be wired, which is a knock on the convenience factor, wall mounting brackets are provided in the box to make things as easy as possible.

How to choose the best surround sound system for your home

best surround sound system JBL 9.1-Channel Soundbar System

(Image credit: JBL)

There are several things to consider when picking the best surround sound system for your needs. Chief among those is placement – do you have much room beneath your TV? And how about behind your sofa – is there room to set up the rear sound channels and plug sockets to power them from? 

If so, great – any of the picks above will suit your needs. If not, you might want to focus on the single-bar solutions up top, which virtualize the surround sound elements by bouncing audio off of the walls in your viewing room. Of course, mileage will vary depending on the uniformity of the space (a nice square room usually works best). Still, all the systems above have intelligent ways of tricking your ears into thinking sound is coming from all around you.

Perhaps worth equal consideration is the broader feature set. If you’re planning on playing lots of music through the soundbar, a built-in voice assistant, like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, might be helpful, letting you speak to the speaker to command it to play your favorite tunes at a whim.

Also, think about the TV you’re pairing it with – not just in terms of whether it’ll obscure the screen, but also what connection you’ll need. True audiophiles will be looking out for HDMI connections with an eARC feature – that lets your cables deliver uncompressed multi-channel audio, giving you pristine sound from all directions.

How much does a surround sound system cost?

We have intentionally included surround sound systems across a variety of price points on this list, as different households will have different needs and different budgets. The most expensive is the Sony HTA9 Home Theater System, which will set you back around $2000 at the time of writing. This isn't small change, but you are paying for the convenience of the system's wireless set-up.

On the other end of things is the Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System which, in contrast, costs just over $350. Bear in mind, though, that the Klipsch offering won't work with any smart home devices.

Do you need a receiver for a surround sound system?

If you're new to sound systems, then the question of whether your shiny new speaker set-up needs a receiver may crop up quite early. Older surround sound systems pretty much always needed a receiver for the best performance and, while they're still an option, many systems now operate without the need for one.

Soundbar systems (those with a bar, subwoofer, and 2+ rear speakers), which are becoming more popular, won't require a receiver at all.

For multi-speaker systems, however, it will depend on how traditional you want to get. A/V receivers are basically the glue that holds the rest of the components together, and so one may be needed for home theater systems. Before investing in one of these set-ups, ensure you have everything you need to get started.

What is the best surround sound system?

Speaker systems come in all shapes and sizes for all different types of rooms. Suppose you’re feeling particularly flush with cash and have the space to indulge your cinematic delights to the nth degree. In that case, you could consider something like the Sony HTA9 Home Theater System (opens in new tab) or Definitive Technology ProCinema 6D Home Theater Speaker System (opens in new tab). But the mess of cables, space required, and sheer expense makes that an unrealistic option for all but the uber-rich.

Instead, you can get great, cinema-like results with a great soundbar and wireless speaker combo like some of the sets listed above. We love the Samsung HW-Q950T Soundbar System (opens in new tab), or the JBL 9.1-Channel Soundbar System (opens in new tab) if you want something even more soundbar-like.

Caroline is the smart homes ecommerce editor for Livingetc, covering everything tech for the home, from smart speakers to air purifiers and everything in between. She is passionate about the role that technology and smart devices can play in daily life, enhancing the home without sacrificing personal style and carefully chosen interiors. In her spare time, she can be found tinkering with bulbs, soundbars, and video doorbells in an effort to automate every part of her small home. Previously, she lent her expertise to the likes of Expert Reviews, IT Pro, Coach, The Week, and more.