Best surround sound systems 2022: speakers and soundbars for immersive home cinema audio

Attempting to put together a surround sound system in your home can be more than a little overwhelming. Do you go with separate speakers, an all-in-one system or a soundbar? Which sounds better? How do you connect your set-top box, games console, 4K Blu-ray player and all the rest? Never fear; we're here to help with a selection of the best home cinema sound options currently available.

How to choose a surround sound system

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In this guide, we'll look at everything you need to consider and suggest the best home theatre systems available. By the end you'll know all you need to start buying with confidence.

The first big question is whether to go for a speaker package or a soundbar. It really depends on how much space you have for a system, what your budget is, and what other devices you want to plug into it.

A speaker package will give you true surround sound, as the speakers will be placed all around you in a 360-degree arrangement. But a full surround sound system will cost more than a soundbar and requires more boxes in your room, including an AV receiver.

For most homes, a soundbar is the best option. It's a simpler, more elegant solution, as it combines speakers and amplification into a more discreet package. A lot of soundbars come with Dolby Atmos, which does a very good job of replicating surround sound, and can be upgraded with the addition of extra speakers into a true multi-channel system. Or there are soundbar packages that already come with wireless surrounds and a sub, which are smaller and easier to position than full-size speakers, but will still need to place near a power outlet.

Many soundbars have similar benefits to an AVR and can enhance your system with streaming options such as Airplay 2 and Chromecast, as well as supplementing your physical inputs with extra HDMI passthrough ports.

Similar to these soundbar packages, wireless-powered speaker systems do away with a central soundbar and instead offer a miniature version of a full-size 5.1 system without the need to run speaker cables around your room.

Whichever surround sound system you're considering, do your research and make sure it will fit your space, and will accommodate your games console, 4K Blu-ray player, set-top box, and whatever else you're planning on hooking up. And that you can afford it, of course. Happy listening!

Best surround sound system 2022: Dali Oberon 5 5.1 Speaker Package

The Dali Oberon 5 5.1 Speaker Package is a great value surround sound system. (Image credit: Future)
You can build a great surround system around this hugely enjoyable package.

Specifications

Channels: 5.1
Subwoofer: 170W
Finishes: Black Ash, Dark Walnut, Light Oak, White

Reasons to buy

+
Oozes style
+
Full and warm sound
+
Expressive dynamics

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most authoritative

If you want a true home theatre experience, this is the very best surround sound system when it comes to performance-per-pound value. These Dali speakers sound full and warm, bringing out the best in any soundtrack. The sound is transparent but fun, powerful yet at the same time subtle. It won our coveted Product of the Year last year. Need we say more?

If you're wondering what to partner it with, you can't go wrong with the Denon AVR-X3700H AV amp - it can be set up for 5.2.4 or 7.2.2 Dolby Atmos, or add an extra amp and you'll have a 7.2.4 arrangement, so it covers all your bases. Add in eight - eight! - HDMI inputs, and you've got an absolute beast of a system.

Read the full review: Dali Oberon 5 5.1 Speaker Package

Best surround sound system 2022

The Sonos Arc is a sleek one box home cinema solution. (Image credit: Sonos)
A impressive surround sound performance from Sonos' latest soundbar.

Specifications

Sound formats: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Atmos, Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus
Connectivity: 1 x HDMI eARC, 1 x optical digital, Wi-Fi, Ethernet
Voice control: Amazon Alexa, Google, Assistant
Dimensions: 8.7 x 114 x 12cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to buy

+
Convincing Dolby Atmos
+
Dynamic, detailed and weighty
+
All of the usual Sonos smarts

Reasons to avoid

-
Music could be better projected
-
Heavily reliant on your TV’s specs

A good partner for 55in TVs and above, the Arc can be placed straight on your furniture or wall-mounted with the optional £79/$79/AU$99 mount. Who needs loads of boxes?

There are touch-sensitive play/pause and volume controls on the bar, while connectivity includes AirPlay 2, ethernet and eARC for Dolby Atmos from compatible TVs.

The Sonos Arc uses 11 drivers to create your surround soundfield, a number of which are upfiring and angled into your room to bounce sound off your walls and ceiling. It all adds up to an impressive surround sound performance for a soundbar.

If you want to use the Arc in a larger surround system it can be expanded through the addition of two One SL rear speakers (£358 / $358 / AU$538) and, if required, a Sub (£699 / $699 / AU$999).

You're transported to the heart of the action. Those surround effects are expertly placed and there's great dynamism and good weight to the sound too. Tonally, it's nicely balanced if you just want to listen to music, although it could sound a tiny bit more direct. But, there's no doubt this is a hugely impressive soundbar for the money.

Read the full review: Sonos Arc

Best surround sound system 2022: Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Home Cinema Pack

The Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Home Cinema Pack dazzles with refined sound at an affordable price. (Image credit: Wharfedale)
Wharfedale’s Diamond 12.1 speaker package is pure class for the masses

Specifications

Channels: 5.1
Subwoofer: 200W
Finishes: Black, white, walnut, light oak

Reasons to buy

+
Impressive insight and composure
+
Taut, melodic sub
+
Wide, uniform soundfield

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing at this price

With poise, effortlessness, cut-glass diction and charisma, the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 HCP is essentially the Audrey Hepburn of home theatre speaker packages. It offers rich bass without sacrificing or overpowering the mid and treble, presenting a mature sound that’s rich in impact, agility, detail and sensitivity.

The package is made up of a quartet of the excellent, mid-sized Diamond 12.1 bookshelf speakers for fronts and surrounds with the 12.C in the middle and the SW10 powered subwoofer supplying the bass.

The tautness and dexterity of the SW-10 is remarkable. It's an incredibly musical sub blending seamlessly with the smaller speakers, which themselves have an impressively well-integrated low end. The result is a rich and lively sound.

Large enough to provide cinematic scale with a wide soundfield, but discreet and affordable enough to be accessible to a variety of audiences, the Diamond 12.1 system proves to be an excellent choice for both music and film.

For an appropriate AVR, we'd suggest trying the Denon AVR-X2700H. If we had to use one word to describe the sound of this receiver, it would be ‘confident’. The AVR-X2700H doesn’t try too hard to impress, as a nervously underpowered budget amp might. 

It’s an easy and effective listen. No matter how hectic the action becomes, this Denon never misses a beat. It passes the laser blasts from speaker to speaker in a wonderfully coherent manner and, no matter the scene, creates a genuine sense of place. 

Read the full review: Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 HCP

Best surround sound system 2022: Sony HT-A9

The Sony HT-A9 is a flexible,versatile and innovative wireless surround sound system. (Image credit: Sony)
A convincing Dolby Atmos home cinema sound system

Specifications

Sound formats: Dolby Digital and DTS surround and height formats
Connectivity: 1 x HDMI, 1 x eARC, Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth, Chromecast
Voice control: Works with Amazon Alexa and Google, Assistant
Dimensions: Speakers: 31 x 16 x 14.8cm; control hub: 5 x 15 x 15cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to buy

+
Not fussy about positioning
+
Entertaining, detailed, cinematic
+
Strong feature set

Reasons to avoid

-
The additional sub is pricey
-
Slightly bright with stereo music
-
Appearance is a bit bland

Sony’s HT-A9 Wireless Home Theatre System encourages users to position its speakers arbitrarily, promising an even, uniform and immersive soundfield regardless of the symmetry of your set-up.

How does it achieve this wizardry? The HT-A9 supports Sony's 360 Spatial Sound Mapping which calibrates your room's height size and combines it with speaker distance and relative location. The aim is to create an Atmos-like dome of sound from 12 ‘phantom’ speakers notionally placed around the that audio bubble.

While we reserve a healthy dose of scepticism regarding phantom channels and sound bubbles, the wide dispersion of the HT-A9’s speakers is instantly striking and undeniably effective. It makes for a refined precision and texture that is more immersive than any soundbar package we’ve tried. No matter how haphazard our speaker positions, the sound design never feels off-kilter or detracts from the action on-screen and that makes the HT-A9 an excellent choice for people not prepared to sacrifice their furniture arrangement at the altar of surround sound.

And if you want more punch you can add a choice of two optional subwoofers, the 300W SA-SW5 priced at £699 / $700 / AU$899, and the 200W SA-SW3 costing £449 / $400 / AU$599.

It might not have the same fidelity and transparency we would expect from a traditional speaker package but it's an excellent compromise of performance and practicality. This is a system that we expect to appeal to many.

Read the full review: Sony HT-A9

Sonos Beam Gen 2

The Sonos Beam Gen 2 has one of the best virtual Atmos presentations we've heard. (Image credit: Sonos)
The dinky Sonos Beam delivers a refined sound and excellent Dolby Atmos interpretation

Specifications

Sound format support: Dolby Atmos DP / Dolby Atmos True HD / Dolby Digital / Multichannel PCM/ Dolby Multichannel PCM / stereo PCM
Connectivity: 1 x HDMI eARC, Wi-Fi, Ethernet
Voice control: Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Dimensions (hwd) : 7 x 65 x 10cm
Weight: 2.8 kg

Reasons to buy

+
Effective handling of Dolby Atmos
+
Warm, refined sound
+
Streaming smarts

Reasons to avoid

-
No additional HDMI ports
-
Doesn’t support DTS:X

Delivering Dolby Atmos from a small chassis is no mean feat yet the Sonos Beam Gen 2 achieves a convincing, immersive performance without so much as a vertical speaker in sight. Instead, when watching Atmos content, two of the soundbar's five front-facing arrays are dedicated to reproducing overhead and surround sounds. With its hefty processing power, the Sonos Beam Gen 2 uses psychoacoustic HRTF (head-related transfer function) technology to give the impression of height without needing to get vertical.

While genuine overhead sounds are perhaps a stretch too far for this petite performer, its virtual delivery of the Atmos format outstrips any similarly priced soundbar and even a few that are more expensive. The Beam Gen 2 offers an enveloping, spatial soundscape with rich, detailed audio as well as tangible motion and depth.

Want an even more impressive soundstage? You can add two One SL rear speakers (£358 / $358 / AU$538) and a Sub (£699 / $699 / AU$999) for a more traditional surround set-up.

Not that many soundbars at this price point come with networking capabilities, but this being a Sonos product, the Beam Gen 2’s ability to integrate into a wireless multiroom system is fundamental to its design. This means you can stream to the Beam Gen 2 from a handheld device using Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect is built-in too. There will also be a forthcoming upgrade to add support for Amazon Music Ultra HD audio, which will give access to lossless 24-bit/48kHz tracks as well as Dolby Atmos Music.

Despite the lack of upward drivers, if space and budget are limited there isn't a better Dolby Atmos soundbar that we'd recommend.

Read the full review: Sonos Beam Gen 2

Best home theatre speaker systems: Wharfedale DX-2

The Wharfedale DX-2 is a surround sound system for those without much space.
Movie magic on a small scale with a tempting price tag.

Specifications

Channels: 5.1
Subwoofer: 70W
Finishes: Black, white

Reasons to buy

+
Plenty of detail and punch
+
Compact design
+
Great price

Reasons to avoid

-
Speaker terminals are a tight fit

It’s easy to baulk at the thought of introducing a full 5.1 surround sound package into your home when you have limited space – but Wharfedale has just the solution.

A follow-up to the excellent DX-1HCP and DX-1SE speaker packages, the Wharfedale DX-2 is a tiny, charming and extremely capable 5.1 surround speaker package that has already had a significant reduction on its launch price.

Go up the price scale and you’ll find speaker packages (such as the Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack) that are more articulate, more precise and bigger-sounding. But they cost double what the Wharfedale does. The entertaining performance, the compact-yet-stylish build and appealing price tag – it’s impressive how much Wharfedale has bundled into the petite DX-2 package. It’s a great solution for AV fans tight on budget and space.

Read the full review: Wharfedale DX-2

Home cinema soundbar: Sony HT-A7000

The Sony HT-A7000 is a powerful soundbar with deep bass performance.  (Image credit: Sony)
Powerful and muscular room-filling Dolby Atmos from a single soundbar

Specifications

Connectivity: eARC, 2*HDMI 2.1, optical, USB, WiFi, Ethernet
Sound format support : Dolby Atmos/ Dolby AudioTM/ DTS:X/ DTS-HD/ PCM
Streaming : Chromecast, Bluetooth 5, Apple Airplay 2, WiFi
Voice control : Google Assistant, Alexa
Dimensions (hwd) : 8 x 130 x 14 cm
Weight: 8.7kg

Reasons to buy

+
Robust low-end
+
Excellent Atmos performance
+
Feature-rich

Reasons to avoid

-
No VRR or ALLM at launch
-
EQ controls would be nice
-
Slightly confused styling

Sony has excellent form with soundbars, and the flagship HT-A7000 soundbar is no different. A 7.1.2 slab of sound, this Dolby Atmos soundbar packs in two up-firing speakers, two beam tweeters, five front-facing drivers and a built-in dual subwoofer into a single chassis. Using a combination of driver placement and psychoacoustic techniques, the Sony HT-A700 delivers a broad and high soundstage, whether you’re watching immersive content or not, while retaining musicality, presence and detail.

In terms of height and precision, the performance is similar to that of the Sonos Arc, but the width of the soundstage and its forward projection is more convincing. It’s not the same as having direct audio from the speaker above or the side, but it’s effective and dramatically enticing, enriching the viewing experience. The integrated sub is also particularly impressive with a taut, controlled and powerful performance.

In terms of supported audio formats, the A7000 excels itself and includes Dolby Atmos (in both the Digital+ and TrueHD formats), DTS:X, LPCM, hi-res wireless audio and Sony 360 Reality Audio.

The A7000 is as packed with streaming smarts as it is stuffed with speakers with Spotify ConnectApple AirPlay 2Google Chromecast all on board and integration into a multi-room system – with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Home all supported.

Alongside two HDMI 2.1 pass-through sockets capable of handling 8K@60Hz, 4K@120Hz, and Dolby Vision HDR, there are ports for eARC, analogue and optical audio inputs and USB type-A. There’s also an analogue output for Sony’s Acoustic Center Sync, which lets a compatible Bravia TV become part of the soundbar’s centre channel when the two are connected using the supplied cable.

Sony insists that the HT-A7000 doesn’t require any additional speakers to deliver immersive soundscapes. However, if you have the money and space there’s a choice of two optional subwoofers, the 300W SA-SW5 priced at £699 / $700 / AU$899, and the 200W SA-SW3 costing £449 / $400 / AU$599. A pair of surround SA-RS3S speakers costs £449 / $350 / AU$649 and, slightly disappointingly at this price, they only have front-facing drivers.

However, the Sony HT-A7000 is an outstanding, future-proofed, all-in-one performer with excellent integration if you have a newer Sony Bravia TV.

Read the full review: Sony HT-A7000

Best surround sound system 2022

The Q Acoustics 3050i 5.1 Cinema Pack can bring a spacious sound to your living room. (Image credit: Future)
An immensely talented and enjoyable 5.1 surround sound system.

Specifications

Channels: 5.1
Subwoofer: 150W
Finishes: Grey, walnut, black, white

Reasons to buy

+
Effortlessly musical
+
Booming bass
+
Versatile

Reasons to avoid

-
Nothing of note

This speaker package makes for a listen that's straight-up fun, but with plenty of low-end rumbles to boot. The timing is snappy, making for fast but natural-sounding performance, while the centre speaker (which handles the all-important dialogue) is effortlessly dynamic and engaging. 

If you want a real step up in performance, you'd have to spend around double, which just shows what great value this represents.

Pair it up with Yamaha's well-specced, entry-level RX-A2A. Sonically it's impressive and incredibly responsive, delivering punchy transients, spacious surround sound and plenty of musical drive.

Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3050i 5.1 Cinema Pack

Soundbar: LG S95QR

With more punch and weight than its predecessors, the LG S95QR now has a sound that lives up to its excellent features. (Image credit: Future)
LG’s latest flagship soundbar offers full surround and plenty of features

Specifications

Connections : eARC, 2x HDMI, optical, USB
Sound format support : Dolby Atmos/ Dolby AudioTM/ DTS:X/ DTS-HD/ PCM
Bluetooth 5.0? : Yes
WiFi? : AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect
Voice control: Works with Google Assistant, Alexa
Dimensions (hwd): 6.3 x 120 x 13.5cm (bar); 40 x 29 x 40cm (sub); 22 x 14 x 16cm (rears)
Weight : 5kg (bar); 10kg (sub); 4kg (rears)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent connectivity
+
Clear centre channel
+
Comprehensive format support

Reasons to avoid

-
Overhead sound is not effective
-
It doesn’t look premium
-
Music sounds cluttered

The LG S95QR is LG’s flagship Dolby Atmos soundbar for 2022, boasting a massive 17 drivers in a 9.1.5 configuration; it’s a multi-speaker package comprising a primary soundbar, wireless subwoofer and two wireless rear speakers. It ups the ante on the brand’s previous models with the addition of side-firing drivers on the rears and an upward-firing centre channel that LG claims is a world first.

The main soundbar contains ten drivers, with left and right channels handled by two 20mm silk dome tweeters and two 52 x 99mm woofers. A pair of 50mm drivers on either end of the soundbar deliver surround side effects, while two 63mm units on the top surface supply height effects for immersive sound formats.

A 63mm driver faces forward in the centre, coupled with a 20mm silk dome tweeter on the top surface. Unlike the system’s other height drivers, this tweeter does not produce Atmos effects. Instead, it supplements the traditional front-facing driver for better dispersion and increased dialogue clarity. In a change from previous models, the wireless sub has an upgraded cabinet and a larger 20cm driver, while the rear speakers have a new apex design to distribute sound from its front, side and overhead driver more evenly across a claimed 135-degree space for more forgiving placement.

LG is as ever generous with the connectivity options on its flagship soundbars. The S95QR offers Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2 and Chromecast onboard. You can control your streaming service, adjust the volume and change sound modes with your voice, thanks to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support. There are eARC, optical and USB inputs for hardwired connections and two additional HDMI passthrough ports that support gaming features such as (VRR) and (ALLM). However, 4K HDR signals are only handled at up to 60Hz.

The S95QA not only handles Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive sound formats, but it’s LG’s first soundbar to include IMAX Enhanced support, which uses a modified version of DTS: X. If you hate unsightly cables running between your TV and soundbar, you can pair it with the new LG WOWCAST audio dongle (sold separately) to enjoy lossless multi-channel audio wirelessly.

Sonically the LG 95QR isn't musical or strong at delivering overhead effects, but for home theatre, it has a broadly balanced, spacious soundstage that is detailed, cinematic and engaging. 

Read the full LG S95QR review

Best surround sound system 2022

The Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar is a complete home cinema in a single soundbar. (Image credit: Future)
Who needs multiple boxes when you've got this sensational surround system?

Specifications

Sound formats: Dolby Atmos & DTS:X surround sound
Connectivity: 4 x HDMI, optical digital, RCA line in
Streaming: Bluetooth
Subwoofer: No
Dimensions: 14 x 127 x 17cm (HxWxD)

Reasons to buy

+
Rich, dynamic audio
+
Convincing surround sound
+
Stacked feature set

Reasons to avoid

-
Big
-
Pricey
-
Fussy with positioning

Two grand is a lot to spend on a soundbar, but this Sennheiser is something special. It's bigger than its rivals, but then it has much larger drivers and a built-in subwoofer, capable of delivering much more impactful sound. We're talking a genuine one-box home theatre solution.

The downside? Its size and driver placement means it can be a little tricky to situate. You're best off wall mounting it.

But if you can make space and are willing to make the investment, this soundbar will reward you in spades. It has a wealth of options when it comes to connections and supported wireless tech, and the sound quality will blow you away.

Read the full review: Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar

Soundbar: Platin Monaco 5.1 WiSA

The Platin Monaco 5.1 WiSA combines the simplicity of a soundbar with directness for cinematic authenticity. (Image credit: Platin)
Wireless surround sound that doesn’t break the bank

Specifications

Sound formats: Uncompressed 24-bit 48 kHz, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Atmos Virtual
Wireless audio latency : 5.2 ms
Connectivity: HDMI ARC/eARC, optical
Bluetooth/Airplay/Chromecast : No
Subwoofer: Yes, low profile
Dimensions: Dimensions (hwd) Centre speaker: 11 x 26 x 14cm; subwoofer: 13.5 x 38 x 31cm; satellite speakers: 17 x 11 x 14cm; transmitter (hw): 2.7 x 11cm

Reasons to buy

+
Compact, flexible system
+
Intuitive app set-up
+
Clear, cinematic sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Manual speaker calibration
-
No direct-from-device streaming
-
Underwhelming subwoofer

Platin may not be a familiar name in home entertainment, but the Danish-American company’s Monaco 5.1 WiSA-enabled surround package is positioned as a cable-free (apart from power), compact, affordable and straightforward way to add hi-res 3D sound to your TV-viewing and gaming.

What is WiSA? WiSA is an audio standard, and to achieve accreditation, products must follow strict protocols for latency, synchronisation and compatibility. This means that systems such as the Platin Monaco 5.1 are able to send and receive audio at 24-bit/48kHz or 24-bit/96kHz sample rates with 5.2ms or 2.6ms of latency, respectively – all without connecting to your wi-fi network. It does so by way of a small hockey puck-shaped hub that attaches to your sound source (most likely a TV or games console) and transmits wirelessly to the five included speakers and subwoofer. 

The Monaco 5.1 system can handle up to eight channels of uncompressed 24-bit/48kHz audio, and will support Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Atmos Virtual. Should you wish to create a 5.1.2  system, you can purchase an extra pair of satellites.

This is a straightforward-sounding system that delivers a lot of detail with less sonic compromise and a more immersive soundfield than most soundbars costing similar money could produce. In general, across films and music, there’s also a separation, clarity and directness, at least in part by virtue of the fronts and rears being equally considered and balanced. 

Platin is currently available only at US stockists, but the company will deliver worldwide from its official site. Buyers in most countries will have to pay an import charge, though. Because it’s made for the US market, overseas shoppers should be aware that the included figure-of-eight power cables will need replacing with plugs appropriate to their region. Other than this, setting up the Monaco 5.1 system is surprisingly simple. Once the speakers are in place, and the WiSA hub is connected to the smart TV's ARC/eARC, all that’s required is to download the WiSA SoundSend app (available for iOS and Android).

Read the full Platin Monaco 5.1 WiSA speaker system review

MORE:

22 of the best film scenes to test Dolby Atmos

Our pick of the best soundbars you can currently buy

Don't buy a TV, sound is the most important upgrade you can make 

Mary is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi? and has over a decade of experience working as a sound engineer mixing live events, music and theatre. Her mixing credits include productions at The National Theatre and in the West End, as well as original musicals composed by Mark Knopfler, Tori Amos, Guy Chambers, Howard Goodall and Dan Gillespie Sells. 

  • HisDudeness
    Although I recently sold my YAS-207 and upgraded to a stereo B&W 603 set, I still carry warm feelings for the Yamaha Sound bar. In a previous (smaller room) the soundbar only lacked in music performance, but in a bigger and more open room it gave a solid performance there as well (albeit in Virtual DTS:X mode to boost the sound stage).

    I only found one real reason to avoid, namely the crossover between the bar and the sub. During movie dialogues with a continuous background noise (e.g. a stationary car), the system hesitated whether to process the sound on the bar or the sub. This resulted in the background noise fading in and out during the dialogue.

    It would also be nice if it'd support 7.1 channels to allow for sound processing on the soundbar itself more often.

    Otherwise I'm convinced that this might be the best value for money soundbar on the market.
    Reply