The 10 Best Entry-Level Home Theater Systems

Jul 25, 2019

Category: Tech

Anyone interested in watching movies in the comfort of their own home knows they need two things: a television and either a media console (like a Blu-Ray player) or a streaming device (like a Roku stick). Of course, you could bypass the latter with a Smart TV, but you get the point. If you’re a true cinephile, however, you’ll realize that audio is half of the experience.

While there are plenty of TVs that come with built-in speakers or you can get a soundbar for relatively cheap, a true home theater necessitates the booming bass and crisp mids of a surround sound system. But what are you supposed to do if you’re not an expert on cinematic audio gear? Well, you can invest in an all-in-one theater-in-a-box system to get you started. We’ve wrangled up the ten best on the following list of entry-level home theater systems.

Photo: Bose Lifestyle 650

What Is A Home-Theater-In-A-Box?

Cinematic Audio

There are two specific things you’ll find in all complete “theater-in-a-box” systems: a complement of speakers and a receiver. The speakers — though they will vary in quantity, size, and type — are fairly obvious in their purpose: they’re the devices through which the sound is projected. Usually, a surround sound system will contain some combination of high- and mid-range speaker units and at least one subwoofer for bass — though that can vary depending on the brand, their technology, and the overall price of the system. These devices work in conjunction to create a full range of cinema-style audio. But they’re practically useless without a receiver.

Calling the second device a “receiver” is perhaps a bit misleading, as it actually functions more like a sort of middle-man. You see, the receiver acts as a control center, taking in audio and/or video signals, processing them, and sending them back out to your varying devices — in this case, your speaker group. All of the systems that appear on our list include both a speaker set and a receiver — or a device that eliminates the need for a dedicated receiver. However, not all surround sound systems come with one as a compulsory inclusion, so watch out if you plan to look around for alternatives. With that in mind, the following ten picks are some of the most impressive plug-and-play cinematic audio systems you can get with any budget.

Pioneer 5.1 Home Theater System

You don’t need deep pockets to get a home-theater-in-a-box that has all the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from modern technology — you can find them all here in this Pioneer home theater system. Including a suite of high-end speakers, this system comes with a receiver that can handle Ultra HD, HDR, 3D movies and video games, and even features Dolby-tuned audio and video for hi-res sounds and images no matter what you’re watching, listening to, or playing. And to put a cherry on top, it even features Bluetooth compatibility for wireless control. And that’s not even the full list of what this system has to offer.

Receiver: Pioneer VSX-325
Channel: 5.1

Purchase: $418

Yamaha 5.1 Home Theater System

Comparable to the previous Pioneer option in price and features, this Yamaha system has one big thing the Pioneer system doesn’t offer: YPAO optimization. YPAO is a system that automatically reads the space in which you’ve set up your speakers and will automatically optimize them for that space. That means, with just a simple plug-and-play system, you can get the best sound for the room of your choice. And if you ever move or switch rooms, it’s just as easy to optimize it again. Pair that with a full suite of speakers for surround sound, 4K Ultra HD support, and Bluetooth compatibility with a compressed music enhancer and this is one of the best bang-for-your-buck systems, bar none.

Receiver: Yamaha RX-V383
Channel: 5.1

Purchase: $460

Polk Audio Blackstone & Denon 5.1 Home Theater Package

Founded back in 1972, Polk Audio has been a trusted name in audio systems for about as long as they’ve been in business. And while other inexpensive options might come from relatively trustworthy brands with a wealth of item types in their repertoire, Polk has kept their focus almost exclusively on audio products, like home theater systems. That means they’re specially equipped to offer superb sound in a theater-in-a-box system. Take, for instance, their Blackstone & Denon system you see here. With a suite of compact, out-of-the-way speakers, this home theater system offers booming cinematic sound without looking gaudy or being too cumbersome. It also boasts five HDMI inputs for all your devices — like video game consoles or Blu-Ray players — supports 4K resolution, has Dolby support, and comes with Bluetooth compatibility.

Receiver: Denon AVR-S540BT
Channel: 5.1

Purchase: $500

Enclave Audio CineHome HD 5.1 Home Theater System

Whereas most traditional home theater audio systems require a receiver to act as a central hub, there are a few brands popping up nowadays that have realized the potential in smart technology to replace that outmoded format. Enclave is one such brand, as their CineHome HD system doesn’t utilize a traditional receiver at all. Rather, the Smart Center (a standalone device) replaces it altogether as a two-in-one receiver hub and speaker you can control wirelessly. Along with it are four smaller speakers and a subwoofer for booming bass. And it includes Dolby support, has a trio of HDMI inputs for all your high-definition devices, comes with its own app for easy on-the-go controls, and features custom tuning for the best sound every time.

Receiver: Enclave Smart Center
Channel: 5.1

Purchase: $800

Onkyo 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos Home Theater Package

Unless you’re familiar with home audio equipment on a fairly intimate basis, you’ve probably not heard of Onkyo. But let us be the first to tell you: they’ve got an exceptional grasp on the said technological gear category. A simple-to-use system with loads of built-in features, their Dolby Atmos-ready Home Theater Package is an exceptional home-theater-in-a-box that even the most inscrutable of audiophiles and film buffs can appreciate. Those features include things like eight built-in HDMI ports for all your peripherals, Bluetooth compatibility, and a wide suite of built-in technologies — ranging from Chromecast to Spotify and more. If you want a top-of-the-line system for a middle-of-the-road price, go no further.

Receiver: Onkyo HT-R695
Channel: 5.1.2

Purchase: $899

Sonos 5.1 Beam Home Theater System

The second setup on our list that does away with the need for a receiver altogether, the Sonos Beam Home Theater System is one of the most streamlined smart home-theaters-in-a-box on the market today. That’s because their system hinges on their Beam soundbar — a smart device that offers Bluetooth compatibilities, Alexa functionality, works with AirPlay 2, and looks as good as it functions. Better still, pairing it with your television is a snap and expanding your surround sound setup with more speakers is just as easy. Whether you’re just looking for a solid home theater audio setup or you want a multi-room speaker system, this kit is your absolute best starting point when user-friendliness and ease-of-use are your top concerns.

Receiver: Sonos Beam Soundbar
Channel: 3.1

Purchase: $1,300

Sony 7.2 Home Theater System

Sony has been making consumer electronics for a very long time — and that includes audio setups for music, movies, and video games alike. And since they have such a wide suite of offerings, it’s in their best interests to release home theater systems that work well in conjunction with their other gear — like their industry-leading PlayStation 4 console. And they’ve managed exactly that with this 7.2-channel home-theater-in-a-box. One of the most comprehensive systems on our list, this system boasts a whopping nine individual units — ranging from a booming subwoofer to a Dolby Atmos-equipped receiver — that will make you feel like you’re in a full-sized IMAX theater inside your own home. It also supports 4K video, HDR, and more. It’s a cumbersome setup, but it will also impress anyone who listens to it.

Receiver: Sony STR-DN1080
Channel: 7.2

Purchase: $1,548

Focal Sib Evo & Yamaha 5.1.2 Home Cinema System

If you want a setup that offers exceptional sound alongside unique and stylish device designs, then the Focal Sib Evo kit you see here might be a good stop for you. With five broad-range speakers and a very powerful subwoofer, this home theater system will give you cinematic sound in a package that’s a bit more subtle than a lot of the other options out there. And it comes complete with one of the industries most trusted receivers to keep it working right — a Yamaha RX-A780. That means it’s got Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth compatibility, Spotify built-in (as well as a number of other audio streaming services), 4K and HDR support, and so much more. Proof positive that big things come in small packages, this home audio system packs a huge punch when necessary, but sounds great at any volume.

Receiver: Yamaha RX-A780
Channel: 5.1.2

Purchase: $1,950

Klipsch & Yamaha 5.1 Home Theater System

Besides designing and manufacturing absolutely stunning and iconic audio equipment, Klipsh is one of our favorite audio brands for their unimpeachable dedication to making all of their gear sound as good as possible at any volume. As you might guess, their Home Theater System you see here is definitely no exception to that rule. A bit more cumbersome than some other options — and therefore better suited to a home than, say, an apartment — this cinematic system comes with a reliable, top-of-the-line Yamaha RX-A760 receiver, as well as dual tower speakers, surround speakers, a center channel speaker, and a massive subwoofer. Of course, if you’re absolutely obsessed with home audio, they also offer even more comprehensive setups. Truly, when it comes to home theater systems, you can’t go wrong with Klipsch.

Receiver: Yamaha RX-A760
Channel: 5.1

Purchase: $2,299

Bose Lifestyle 650 Home Theater System

If you want an all-in-one home theater system that offers up extremely high-end sound but won’t require a lot of research, then the Bose Lifestyle 650 is about as good as it gets. Stylish, sleek, and unobtrusive, this plug-and-play home-theater-in-a-box will sound so good in any space, you’ll never want to leave. Available in two setups (one with and one without a soundbar), this handsome collection of devices boasts Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth compatibility, and has virtually no learning curve in order to learn how it all works together. Mate that with simple app controls and this is perhaps the best no-fuss option on the market. It’s expensive, to be sure, but it’s worth every penny.

Receiver: Bose Lifestyle Console
Channel: 5.1

Purchase: $4,000

The 12 Best Hi-Fi Bluetooth Speakers

Not everyone needs a massive home theater system for their purposes. Instead, some folks can get by plenty well with a simple-to-use hi-fi Bluetooth speaker — of which you can find the absolute best on our guide.

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