Best surround sound systems: the best home theater systems, soundbars, and more

Get the best surround sound system setup of your dreams with our pick of TV speakers, soundbars and more

sony 360 reality audio in a living room
(Image credit: Sony)

Investing in a great TV is the first step in creating the perfect home cinema set-up. However, if you feel like something is missing, then the best surround sound systems are an excellent way of punching up the audio soundtrack to everything from action movies and sports to your favorite tunes and podcasts.

Surround sound can unlock a whole new experience with boosted bass, room-filling sound, and more delights. But, 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 when the local multiplex isn't a go-to option and more and more of the latest movies are streaming at home- you'll need a great sound system, too.

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

And yes, there's still a lot to love about having speakers dotted around your room. Still, 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 want to make a surround sound upgrade, we've assembled some of the best options below. Of course, if you're not so sure you need multiple speakers, you can check out our guide to the best soundbars.

The best surround sound systems in 2023: tried and tested by us

Why you can trust Livingetc Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Sony HT-A9Livingetc badge – tried, loved

(Image credit: Sony)
Best wireless surround sound system

Specifications

Components: 4 x speakers; 1 x receiver
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect
Dimensions (speakers): H12.3 x W6.2 x D5.7in

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Only one HDMI input
-
Optional subwoofer sold separately

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

The downside of the HT-A9 is the lack of a subwoofer included, but this can be purchased additionally if you want added oomph. However, the speakers are great on their own, with 360 spatial sound mapping for adaptive audio in your space, built-in Chromecast, and compatibility 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 specific models, you can look at our guide to the best subwoofers to complete your home theater.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars - read our full review of the Sony HT-A9 Home Theater System

Monoprice SB-600 soundbar system

(Image credit: Monoprice)
Best 5.1 home theater system

Specifications

Components: 1 x soundbar; 1 x subwoofer; 2 x speakers
Connectivity: Bluetooth
Dimensions (soundbar): 40.6 x 4.3 x 3in
Dimensions (subwoofer): 0.4 x 9.4 x 16.5in
Dimensions (speakers): 2.8 x 2.8 x 5.9in

Reasons to buy

+
Dolby Atmos support
+
Good price
+
Subwoofer included

Reasons to avoid

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No smart home compatibility
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Rear speakers need to be wired together

Made up of a soundbar, subwoofer, and two rear speakers, the Monoprice SB-600 is the first soundbar-based surround sound system on this list, but it won't be the last. This is because this type of home theater system is simple and easy to install, tends to be less of a financial investment, and - with the help of technology like Dolby Atmos - can have a similar impact as older, bulky systems.

The SB-600's components can communicate with each other wirelessly, so you can place the rear speakers somewhere conveniently behind where you usually sit to watch TV. We will note that the two speakers need to be wired together, so bear this in mind.

The soundbar is the best-looking part of the system, which, as it's the thing that will be most on show, is good. Controls are simple and easy to use, and the sound performance is also effective. It's a slightly more budget-friendly option, so it might not blow hardened audiophiles away but will serve those who want surround sound without the complications well. 

Livingetc rating: 4 out of 5 stars - read our full review of the Monoprice SB-600 Soundbar System

LG S95QR Surround Soundbar

(Image credit: LG)
Best LG home theater system

Specifications

Components: 1 x soundbar; 1 x subwoofer, 2 x rear speakers
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Dimensions (soundbar): H2.5 x W47.2 x D5.3in
Dimensions (subwoofer): H15.9 x W7.9 x D15.9in

Reasons to buy

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Great surround sound with Dolby Atmos
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Good sound presets
+
Works with Alexa and Google Assistant

Reasons to avoid

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Soundbar and speakers on the larger side
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Expensive

The LG S95QR 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. In addition, the wireless subwoofer adds booming bass to the mix.

There are plenty of other surprises, too. 4K and Dolby Vision pass-through make it an ideal match for any high-end TV that supports HDR. Even Google Assistant and Alexa support is built-in for controlling smart home gadgetry. On test, our reviewer was impressed by how much the system improved not just action-packed movies and music but also dialogue-heavy shows.

Livingetc rating: 4 out of 5 stars | read our full review of the LG S95QR Surround Soundbar

The best surround sound systems: more top picks

Sonos Beam (Gen 2) System

(Image credit: Sonos)

4. Sonos Beam (Gen 2) System

Best Sonos surround sound bundle

Specifications

Components (depending on retailer): 1 x soundbar; 1 x subwoofer; 2 x speakers
Connectivity: Wi-Fi
Dimensions (soundbar): H2.7 x W25.6 x D3.9in
Dimensions (subwoofer): H15.3 x W15.8 x D6.2in
Dimensions (speakers): H9.7 x W6.9 x D6.9in

Reasons to buy

+
Alexa and Google Assistant built-in
+
Speech enhancement mode
+
Adaptive sound (requires iOS device)

Reasons to avoid

-
No Bluetooth
-
Only one HDMI input

Sonos doesn't offer a surround sound system as a single product but has a lot of bundles that allow you to use its products in tandem to create the same effect. This Sonos Beam package also includes the newest Sub Mini and two Sonos One SL speakers that can be used as rear units.

This set-up lets you make the most of Sonos' tech, including adaptive sound (which can only be used if you have an iPhone or iOS device), speech enhancement, and more. The Beam (Gen 2) includes Alexa and Google Assistant, and the One SLs can be placed in different areas of the home for multi-room listening.

Read our full review of the Sonos Beam (Gen 2) to find out more.

Samsung HW-Q950T Soundbar System

(Image credit: Samsung)

5. Samsung HW-Q950T Soundbar System

Best 9.1 surround sound system (runner up)

Specifications

Components: 1 x soundbar; 1 x subwoofer, 1 x speakers
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Dimensions (soundbar): H2.7 x W48 x D5.4in
Dimensions (subwoofer): H15.9 x W8.3 x D15.9in

Reasons to buy

+
Dolby Atmos
+
Adaptive audio
+
Energy Star certified
+
Alexa built-in (works with SmartThings)
+
Subwoofer included

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive

One of our favorite multi-speaker set-ups for your home theater system and choice for the best surround soundbar system, 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.

JBL Bar 9.1 Soundbar System


(Image credit: JBL)

6. JBL 9.1-Channel Soundbar System

Most versatile surround sound system

Specifications

Components: 1 x soundbar; 2 x speakers; 1 x subwoofer
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Dimensions (soundbar): H2.4 x W34.8 x D4.7in
Dimensions (subwoofer): H17.3 x W12 x D12in

Reasons to buy

+
Works with Google Assistant and Siri
+
Subwoofer included
+
Dolby Atmos

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one HDMI input
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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 acts as the center, left, right, and overhead sound channels and 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 offers.

Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack

(Image credit: Klipsch)

7. Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack Surround Sound System

Best budget home theater system

Specifications

Components: 1 x center unit; 4 x speakers 1 x subwoofer
Connectivity: N/A
Dimensions (center unit): H4.3 x W10.7 x D5.3in
Dimensions (subwoofer): H13.2 x W11.7 x D11.7in
Dimensions (speakers): H7.7 x W4.3 x D5.3in

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 be expensive over time. If you want something that will deliver results straight away without needing to add rear speakers and more later, 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, it's a good starter pack for the less tech-savvy who don't want to miss out on excellent audio.

Monoprice SB-600 Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 soundbar on black TV stand in writer's home

(Image credit: Future)

How we test the best surround sound systems

All recommendations that we give to our readers on products like the surround sound systems on this list are based on a combination of hands-on experience and industry knowledge. We endeavor to test and review everything that we include in our buying guides, but this is not always possible. The content will clearly mark where we have had this real-world experience with links to in-depth reviews. For more, head over to our article on how we create our buying guides.

The best surround sound systems are tested and ranked based on their ease of use, expense, versatility, and sound quality. Products are trialed in the writers' own homes rather than a lab environment to ensure that promises made by the manufacturers translate to the average home environment.

caroline preece author image
Caroline Preece

Caroline is the smart home editor for Livingetc, having written about technology for a living for the past ten years. Her passion for film, TV and music means that she takes her home audio very seriously, and loves digging into the granular details when testing products like the best surround sound systems. All of the recommendations in this guide are based on at-home testing by her or experienced freelancers, as well as industry knowledge.

How to choose the best surround sound system for your home

Sonos Sub Mini on the floor beside woman relaxing and two Sonos One SL speakers on the bookshelf

(Image credit: Sonos)

When picking the best surround sound system for your needs, there are several things to consider. 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 your viewing room's walls. Of course, mileage will vary depending on the uniformity of the space (a lovely 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 various price points on this list, as different households will have different needs and 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. Remember that the Klipsch offering won't work with any smart home devices.

JBL Bar 9.1 with end speaker detached

(Image credit: JBL)

Do you need a receiver for a surround sound system?

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

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

However, multi-speaker systems will depend on how traditional you want to get. A/V receivers are 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 start.

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), but the mess of cables, space required, and sheer expense means that it's not suitable for everyone.

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.