Best surround sound system: our pick of home theater speakers, soundbars, and more

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

Included in this guide:

best surround sound system: Klipsch HT50 surround sound system mounted on wall around tan leather sofa
(Image credit: Klipsch)

You’ve got the flashy new TV, and your eyes have never been happier. But you know you need the best surround sound system to unlock the ultimate experience for your ears. As any good film buff or gamer will tell you, the image is only half the picture, and if you don’t have great sound to go with it, the magic is gone.

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, 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 yeah, 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.

The best surround sound systems 2022

LG SN11RG 7.1.4-Channel 770W Soundbar System

(Image credit: LG)

1. LG SN11RG 7.1.4-Channel 770W Soundbar System

Best surround sound system overall

Speakers: 1 x soundbar; 1 x subwoofer; 2 x speakers
Audio format: Dolby Atmos / DTS:X
Bluetooth?: Yes
Voice control: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 2.5 x 56.7 x 7in
Weight: 15.9lbs
Reasons to buy
+Easy wireless speaker set up+Excellent positional audio+Powerful sound
Reasons to avoid
-Very long-Cheaper, similar options

The LG SN11RG is a soundbar that offers rear speakers as part of its package to truly envelope you in sound. So not only do you get audio coming from in front, to the side, and above you, but with the LG SN11RG, you get two dedicated speakers to put behind you to blast you from that angle, too, as well as adding additional overhead audio oomph.

Convincing cinema experience

As a result, it’s one of the most breath-taking sound setups of any package on this list. With booming bass coming from its separate subwoofer, the extra discrete channels allow the LG system to nail a sense of direction from its sound stations.

It’s got plenty of other surprises too. Upscaling low-quality audio sources is masterfully handled, eARC support makes it future-proofed for the high-resolution audio sources to come, while 4K and Dolby Vision pass-through make it an excellent match for any high-end TV that supports the rich HDR format. There’s even Google Assistant support built-in for controlling smart home gadgetry – though we’d like to have Alexa in there, too.

A big one

As if its price wasn’t enough of a signal, this is one big soundbar. Measuring a little over 144cm, it’s going to dwarf any TV below a 65-inch size, meaning you might need to think about your options if your TV is smaller. Just two HDMI inputs feel a bit mean, too. It’s not as enormous as the Ambeo – the separate rear speakers spread some of the load in that regard and help deliver superb surround sound. But it’s still got width to spare – and a price tag to match.

SAMSUNG HW-Q950T/XU 9.1.4 Wireless Sound Bar

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung HW-Q950T/XU 9.1.4 Wireless Sound Bar

Best 9.1.4 surround sound bar system

Speakers: 1 x soundbar; 1 x subwoofer, 1 x speakers
Audio format: Dolby Atmos/DTX:X
Bluetooth?: Yes
Voice control: Alexa
Reasons to buy
+14 channel support+Alexa built in+Q-Symphony support for Samsung QLED TVs
Reasons to avoid

Another of our favorite multi-speaker set-ups, the Samsung HW-Q950T is a modest and compact system that 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, two upfiring rear speakers for overhead audio, and a wireless subwoofer. Still, it is a winner when it comes to audio. In addition, the tech allows it to tailor the sound to what you're watching in Adaptive Mode, and Game Pro mode will do the same for console players in your household.

There's a bonus for Samsung devotees, too, as the soundbar is compatible with the Q-Symphony feature of Samsung QLED TVs. In-built Alexa smarts top things off, allowing you to control the system using just your voice.

JBL 9.1-Channel Soundbarundbar System

(Image credit: JBL)

3. JBL BAR 9.1-Channel 820W Soundbar System

Most versatile surround sound system

Speakers: 3 + subwoofer
Audio format: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X
Bluetooth?: Yes
Dimensions: 2.4 x 34.8 x 4.7in
Weight: 8lbs
Reasons to buy
+Great space saving design+Clever transforming feature+Solid battery life on satellite speakers
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks inputs-Directional audio placement isn’t always clear

The JBL Bar 9.1 is perhaps the most interesting option on the list and the most 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 from the JBL Bar 9.1, with its central unit not only acting as your center, left, right, and two overhead sound channels, but also a charging dock too. Moreover, with the speaker ends attached, you get two additional front-facing and overhead Atmos channels.

But when they snap off, you can position them behind you, and they’ll intelligently know to change their output to match the rear and rear-height ambient sound of a given scene. Note there’s a separate subwoofer included that completes the package.

With support for Chromecast (with limited Google Home control), Apple AirPlay 2, and the most useful HDR formats (HDR10 and Dolby Vision), as well as an auto-calibration feature, it’s a brilliant system.

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.

Likewise, the audio from the rear channels can sometimes sound a bit lacking in definition, while it’s one of the stingiest bars on the list when it comes to its single HDMI input. 

And yet, it’s hard not to find yourself enamored by its clever design. It’s fun, a talking point, and a damn-sight better sounding than anything that’s going to come out of your lowly TV speakers, even if it’s not quite up there with what the top bars on this list would offer. It still comes recommended.

Klipsch HT50 Home Theater Surround Sound System

(Image credit: Klipsch)

4. Klipsch HT50 Home Theater Surround Sound System

Best value surround sound system

Speakers: 1 x center unit; 4 x speakers
Audio format: Surround sound
Bluetooth?: No
Dimensions: 6 x 5 x 12in
Weight: 5.5lbs
Reasons to buy
+High number of speakers for customisable placement
Reasons to avoid
-No Bluetooth or smart home connectivity-No Dolby Atmos

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, external subwoofers, and more at a later date, this offering from Klipsch is one to consider.

It comprises five speakers in total - one center channel and four speakers to place around your space - 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. However, if this doesn't matter to you, then it's a good starter pack for the less tech-savvy among us who don't want to miss out on excellent audio.

Sennheiser 5.1.4-Channel AMBEO Soundbar

(Image credit: Sennheiser)

5. Sennheiser 5.1.4-Channel AMBEO Soundbar

Best all-in-one surround sound bar

Speakers: 1 x soundbar
Audio format support: Dolby Atmos, DTS:X
Wi-fi: Yes
Bluetooth: Yes
Dimensions: 5.5 x 50 x 6.6in
Weight: 40.7lbs
Reasons to buy
+Sublime surround sound+Thunderous volume
Reasons to avoid
-Absolutely huge-Incredibly expensive

It doesn’t come cheaply – and you’re going to need a couple of weightlifters to help you carry it back from the shops – but if you want the very best all-in-one surround sound sound bar money can buy, you’ve got to pick up the Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar. If your back holds out, that is…

It’s an exquisite system, one that brings the cinema experience to your home and does it all from just one (albeit large) speaker cabinet.

The Ambeo 3D soundbar packs in a full 13 separate drivers – comprising six woofers and three tweeters on the front side, plus another couple of tweeters facing out to the left and right on each end of the speaker and finally two upward-firing drivers found on the top of the soundbar.

It’s these top-pointing ones that are the secret weapon – while the other speakers make it feel as though the sound is coming all around you, the top ones use Dolby Atmos technology to bounce audio off your ceiling, making it feel as if it is coming from above you, too.

A roll of thunder, a storm, or a helicopter overhead – Dolby Atmos brings it to your living room with vivid detail.

Is your AV cabinet sturdy? If not, you might want to start reinforcing it if you’re hoping to get the Ambeo in your home. Along with its wallet-whopping price tag, it comes with an equally gigantic footprint, too.

Weighing in at a hefty 18.5kg (around 40 pounds) and measuring 127cm wide, 14cm tall, and 17cm deep (49 x 5.3 x 6.6 inches, W x H x D), this is the sort of soundbar that dominates the space it is placed in, so be ready to make room for it.

It’s worth considering, too, that, unless your TV is wall mounted above the surface you expect to place the soundbar on, it is big enough that it could well obscure your view of the lower half of your TV. So check how high your TV’s feet lift it off your cabinet, and keep that tape measure handy.

If you can make it fit, though, the Ambeo’s wide range of connection options make it worth the hassle. It comes complete with three HDMI ports (including support for eARC – the future-proof audio standard that will support high-bandwidth, high-resolution audio streaming as it increasingly becomes available), Ethernet, and optical connectivity.

Pair that with its 500W amp, and this room-shaking soundbar has the power to blow your mind (and your windows out).

best surround sound system: Klipsch HT50 Home Theater Surround Sound System

(Image credit: Klipsch)

How to choose the best surround sound system for your home

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.

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 a custom cinema installation, with wall-mounted speakers and overhead Dolby Atmos channels, too hooked up to a beefy receiver to connect all your devices. 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 the sets listed above.

Caroline Preece
Caroline Preece

Caroline has been a part of the Livingetc team since 2021, offering expert advice on the best smart tech for your home. Passionate about interiors and how technology can be integrated into daily living without sacrificing aesthetics, in her spare time she can be found shopping for the latest accent pieces for her own space.