The 8 Best Home Theater Systems

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This wiki has been updated 33 times since it was first published in December of 2015. If you've already gone to the expense of purchasing a projector or a ultra-high-definition television, then take full advantage of its capabilities by adding one of these home theater systems to your entertainment room. Many include Bluetooth and HDMI connectivity, easy setups, and powerful speakers to make your audio experience for movies, music, sports, and games come roaring to life. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Sony STR-DN1080

2. Polk Audio T Series

3. Klipsch 11.2

Editor's Notes

November 04, 2020:

We upgraded the previously included Klipsch system to the Klipsch 11.2, which is probably the most comprehensive offering on our list. It was held back slightly by its price and its complexity, however, as it presents one of the most difficult installation processes that includes whatever carpentry would be necessary to put up its four in-ceiling drivers.

A better option for many looking for a top-tier setup might be the Sony STR-DN1080, which delivers two massive towers for your front left and right channels, as well as a capable center channel and a pair of full-size bookshelf satellites. It's also one of the few offerings to have its packaged receiver made by the same company as its speakers, so equalization and room tuning efforts should yield slightly higher values.

Those two models are on the large side, however, and anyone looking to create a great audioscape in a small space would need to look elsewhere. That's where something like the Definitive Technology ProCinema 6D, which is a compact set that's still capable of creating great sound including height virtualization, a method of increasing the global perception of a surround environment.

November 13, 2019:

While building out the perfect home theater may seem like a pipe dream to some, there are a few surprisingly inexpensive sets on the market that put it within reach for a lot of consumers. Onkyo and Pioneer, in particular, seems focused on creating good products for low prices, though they sometimes skirt around the kind of build quality that could last you the long haul. That's certainly the case with the Pioneer HTP-074, though its specs are good enough to keep it in the running.

We wanted to focus this list on as many current options as possible, but it seems companies aren't chomping at the bit to create bundles of their products. In some cases, you'll find offerings from speaker companies who pair their towers, subs, and other drivers with a reputable receiver to create all-in-one sets. These tend to be the best of both worlds, as the bundling saves you money while giving you access to excellent hardware. The only drawback might be price, but even those bundles are no match in cost for the Bose Lifestyle 650. That's a model we love the sound of, but that costs too much to be considered for a top spot unless you're seriously just buying it for the brand name.

Ultimately, features like 4K passthrough and 4:4:4 color sampling won the day, with added points for things like automatic room tuning from a receiver microphone and intuitive user interfaces to make both setup and use as easy as possible.

4. Definitive Technology ProCinema 6D

5. Bose Lifestyle 650

6. Enclave CineHome Pro 5.1

7. Yamaha MusicCast Black

8. Onkyo HT-S3910 Package

What Makes Up A Home Theater

All surround sound speaker systems feature at least 5.1 channels.

A home theater is more than just a place where a family watches movies. The term home theater applies to an entertainment room designed to resemble a commercial movie theater, but made with the conditions of a living space in mind. Some people just set up a few audio/video devices in a living room, while others master the art of transforming a garage into a home theater. A true home theater exits in a room that is only used for that purpose, to provide the most immersive entertainment experience, void of any distractions.

One of the more popular viewing systems that has been in use since 1895 is the projector because it offers a much larger medium on which to view one's movies than most televisions do. There are, however, several television manufacturers that now cater to the home theater experience. These offer plasma screens with impeccable black level and contrast ratio, which are two characteristics that are ideal for the dark environment of a home theater.

No home theater would be complete without surround sound speakers, which create the fully immersive experience of a movie theater, delivering audio from every direction. All surround sound speaker systems feature at least 5.1 channels. Five of those channels represent speakers in the front left, center, front right, rear right and rear left parts of the room. The point one part of the system is the subwoofer which helps deliver some of the lower sound effects like explosions.

Bonus Features That Boost Your Experience

With the many technological advancements and trends of recent years in mind, there are a few bonus features that will make a home theater not only easier to set up but far more enjoyable. Bluetooth connectivity will allow the user to play media from various devices, including their tablet, computer, and smartphone. This makes for a less cluttered home theater since people don't need many hookup cables.

If someone hates having to get up once the movie has started, they should look for a system that comes with a remote control that manages both the audio and video devices.

If one decides not to purchase a Bluetooth capable system, the next best option is one with both USB and HDMI ports. These will allow users to connect to almost any device they want. While streaming is the preferred form of media watching today, people may still want a system that has a DVD/Blu-Ray player, for those rare programs that aren't available online. If someone hates having to get up once the movie has started, they should look for a system that comes with a remote control that manages both the audio and video devices.

Some movie lovers want to create a discreet look and don't like too many clunky electronics interrupting their decor. These individuals should either look for compact systems, with small speakers that can be kept in a cabinet, or elegant ones designed to complement a modern room. Some systems, for example, have tower-shaped, ultra-sleek speakers that resemble pieces of modern art. Serious gamers know that sound is an important part of the player’s experience, if you are of the same opinion choose one with high-quality subwoofers that won't distort the booming sounds of your media.

The History Of Home Theaters

Home theaters have been popular in the United States since the 1960s when Kodak released projector equipment capable of playing 8mm film — the standard motion picture film format of the time — at an affordable cost. By the 1980s, the creation of LaserDiscs made it even easier for families to keep complete movie collections in their homes, without large, clunky film reels. LaserDiscs, however, proved to be too expensive and VHS, though it fluctuated in popularity over the years, was ultimately more successful. Some media experts even say that VHS is regaining a following and may make a comeback.

The early 2010s saw the first 4k high definition systems, which is the minimal required capacity of any television to be called HD today.

In the late 1990s DVDs came on the market dominating the scene. They are still the most commonly used optical movie disc in use by home consumers. In the 2000s, Dolby Digital released the first 5.1-channel audio system, making surround sound available to consumers. High Definition TV — or at least the version consumers know of today — came out around the same time. The term high definition has been around since 1936 but at the time televisions only earned that name by providing better quality visuals than previous generations of televisions. Since then, television manufacturers have constantly competed to set the standard for high definition.

The early 2010s saw the first 4k high definition systems, which is the minimal required capacity of any television to be called HD today. Since then, companies have created both 5k and 8k systems. In 2006, Blu-ray discs hit the market and the early 2010s saw the emergence of 3D-ready television sets. 3D technology has been available since the 1890s when British film pioneer William Friese-Green filed a patent for it. After that, there were 3D cameras available on the commercial market, and 3D films being aired in movie theaters. But the first 3D-ready television available for home use wasn't available until 2011, and this was a large improvement for home theaters everywhere.

Daniel Imperiale
Last updated by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel Imperiale holds a bachelor’s degree in writing, and proudly fled his graduate program in poetry to pursue a quiet life at a remote Alaskan fishery. After returning to the contiguous states, he took up a position as an editor and photographer of the prestigious geek culture magazine “Unwinnable” before turning his attention to the field of health and wellness. In recent years, he has worked extensively in film and music production, making him something of a know-it-all when it comes to camera equipment, musical instruments, recording devices, and other audio-visual hardware. Daniel’s recent obsessions include horology (making him a pro when it comes to all things timekeeping) and Uranium mining and enrichment (which hasn’t proven useful just yet).

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