Best Home Theater Speakers of 2018

Billy Bommer ·
Writer/Reviewer
Updated
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We spent more than 40 hours in our AV lab testing home theater speaker packages that include five satellite speakers, and in some cases, a powered subwoofer. Our reviewers identified the Fluance SXHTB system as the best home theater speaker package for most people because it creates a well-rounded sound stage and costs the same as some of the budget packages we tested. It doesn’t come with a subwoofer, but it includes floor standing speakers that can flood an entertainment room with clear, powerful midrange and low frequency content. 

Best Overall

Fluance SXHTB

This is the best-sounding speaker system we tested. The package is reasonably priced and includes a pair of floor standing speakers that serve as the main left and right channels.
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Best Value

Monoprice Premium 5.1 Home Theater System

The Monoprice Premium speaker package includes five satellite speakers and a subwoofer. It doesn’t sound as good as the best packages we reviewed, but it costs less than $200 and is a good fit for budget-conscious home audio enthusiasts.
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Best for Small Rooms

Bose Acoustimass 6 Series V

The compact satellite speakers in this package can be flush-mounted on a wall or placed inconspicuously among the home décor in your entertainment room. This is a great speaker package for small- and medium-size theater rooms.
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Best Overall

Fluance SXHTB

The Fluance SXHTB home theater speaker package includes two floor standing speakers, two bookshelf speakers and a dedicated center channel. This is the only system we reviewed that doesn’t come with a subwoofer, but it’s also the only system we tested that includes floor standing main speakers.
The dual 6.5-inch woofers in the floor standing enclosures can produce low frequencies below 50Hz, which covers most of the low-end content in movies and music. It’s easy to add a powered subwoofer to this package if you enjoy theater-quality boom in your room. The center channel in this package is a bit bulky compared to those in other systems we tested, but the dual 4-inch midrange drivers and 1-inch Neodymium dome driver produced some of the most accurate and natural-sounding dialogue in our tests. The bookshelf surround speakers are a good complement to the main speakers and the center channel. They have an 89 dB sensitivity rating, which means they are very efficient at turning amplification into sound, especially for an inexpensive speaker package. The tower speakers’ continuous power rating is 160 watts at 8 ohms, and the other satellite speakers require between 30 and 100 watts. Most entry-level AV receivers pair well with this package, but you should avoid any amp or receiver that sends more than 200 watts per channel.
Pros
  • Well-rounded and natural sound
  • Inexpensive
  • Includes a pair of floor standing speakers
Cons
  • No subwoofer
  • Too big for small theater rooms
  • Bulky center channel
$399.99Amazon
Best Value

Monoprice Premium 5.1 Home Theater System

Monoprice is earning a reputation for making decent-quality speakers for an incredibly low price. You can find the Premium 5.1 package for less than $200, and it includes four bookshelf speakers, a center channel and a powered subwoofer.
It can’t fill a large entertainment room with theater-quality sound, but for a small investment, you can significantly upgrade the audio coming out of your television’s speakers. This package can pair with an entry-level AV receiver and still cost less than most speaker packages or sound bars. The 8-inch down-firing subwoofer in this package is rated for 200 watts and can recreate low frequencies down to 30Hz. We had to turn the volume up to 75 percent of its total capability for it to make any real impact alongside the satellite speakers, but that may not be an issue if you have a small entertainment room. The center channel and bookshelf speakers are rear-ported, so you should consider mounting them a few inches away from the wall for optimum performance.
Pros
  • Shockingly low price
  • Good-looking matte black finish
  • Includes a subwoofer
Cons
  • Durability concerns
  • Sound quality is lacking compared to the best
  • Underpowered for medium- and large-size theater rooms
$189.99Amazon
Best for Small Rooms

Bose Acoustimass 6 Series V

The Bose Acoustimass 6 home theater speaker system is the most unique in our test group. Its satellite speakers are compact and unobtrusive in your home theater room’s décor.
The speakers produce a surprisingly full and natural sound and received the highest surround sound immersion scores in our test. The proprietary connection between the subwoofer and satellite speakers means they can’t be used with other systems, but the color-coded cables make the Acoustimass 6 less confusing to set up than some of the other packages we reviewed. The subwoofer is the system’s hub and is responsible for taking all the sound from your AV receiver and dispersing it to the five satellite speakers. We had a hard time dialing in the perfect amount of bass without distorting the woofer. It was accurate at lower volumes but had a hard time when we pushed it to the max, especially during action scenes with a plethora of low frequency content. This isn’t the best home theater package for medium- or large-size entertainment rooms, but if you are looking for a good surround system for a smaller room, it’s a good fit. The compact satellite speakers can be flush-mounted on a wall or fit into a tight space on a bookshelf.
Pros
  • Compact design
  • Easy set up
  • Excellent dialogue clarity
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Proprietary connections can’t be used with other traditional systems
  • No dedicated center speaker
$499.00Amazon

Why Trust Us?

Top Ten Reviews has been testing and comparing home theater speakers for almost 10 years. During that time, we have developed subjective testing procedures to ensure our recommendations are the result of true side-by-side comparison that is free of brand bias.

Our AV testing lab is set up to react similarly to a typical living room or entertainment room. We don’t use sound treatment or any special dampening material to improve the acoustic characteristics in our test lab, which means our recommendations are based on our impressions of a speaker system in a real-world scenario.

How We Tested

To test the audio quality of the speaker systems we compared, we connected all of them to the same AV receiver and television and played an action scene from "Kill Bill Volume 1" for a panel of evaluators. Our panel filled out a listening survey that asked them to rate each system’s bass performance, dialogue clarity and surround sound immersion. We tabulated the scores from each of those important categories and issued a final grade for each speaker package.

Our panel of evaluators was made up of people with a wide range of critical listening experience. Although the impressions of the reviewers with the most experience carried the most weight, we thought it was also important to include the reactions of inexperienced audio evaluators to help us find shortcomings for each product.

The two main speakers in a system handle most of the sound reproduction for dialogue in movies and lyrics in music. Since this is one of the most important tasks for a sound system, we decided to further evaluate just the main two speakers in every package. To do this, we connected all the systems’ left and right speakers to a speaker switcher, which allowed us to quickly change back and forth between each pair. This eliminated set up and breakdown time between listening to each system so we could do a true side-by-side comparison.

Important Things to Consider When Choosing a Home Theater Speaker System 

While sound quality is the most important aspect of home theater audio systems, you should consider features such as size and mounting options as you decide which surround sound speaker system is best for you.

Speaker Size
Be sure to buy speakers that fit your entertainment room. A large theater room requires bigger, more powerful speakers than a 10 x 10 bedroom converted to a movie room. All the systems we reviewed come in different speaker sizes, allowing you to customize them to your space somewhat. However, some systems include floor standing speakers and others only have small, cube-shape satellite speakers. Small cube speakers are easy to hide or mount on a wall, making them ideal for rooms where every inch of space is precious.

Subwoofer

Home theater speaker packages that come with a subwoofer naturally have better bass response than those without one. If you want a speaker system with a powerful subwoofer, check the RMS continuous power rating – it’s the best indicator of a sub's power and volume. Peak power is often an embellished specification from the manufacturer and isn't a good indicator of the subwoofer's power.

Amplification

All the speaker packages we reviewed, besides the one by Bose, require external amplification. That means you have to pair them with either an AV receiver or amplifier. If you already have an amplification source, make sure the speaker system you choose has similar power ratings to avoid damaging the speakers or amp.

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