It might mean rearranging the furniture. It might mean a lot of saving up. It might even mean moving to a bigger house. But for the full home cinema experience, a surround sound speaker package is the only way to go.
The first thing to consider is the number of channels. A 5.1 system is most common and comprises five speakers (two pairs of either floorstanding or standmount speakers and one centre speaker) and one subwoofer. But other arrangements are also available, from 7.2, which adds surround back speakers behind your seating position and an extra subwoofer, up to pretty much whatever your room can hold.
Dolby Atmos packages tend include upfiring speakers that can help deliver more immersive surround sound, but make sure your speakers are compatible and they're paired with a capable AV receiver. Alternatively, you can achieve Atmos with in-ceiling speakers.
More speakers usually means more convincing surround sound, although they can take up quite a bit of space. You'll also need to factor in the cost (and positioning) of speaker cable. Keeping your selection of speakers to one brand will help keep the sonic balance.
This is especially the case with the centre speaker, which should be from the same brand and ideally from the same range as the rest of your speaker system. This will help ensure the best sound possible.
Finally, price is key. You can spend a few hundred or tens of thousands, so make sure you peruse this list and find one that fits your budget. If you own a budget AV receiver there's no point partnering it with a high-end speaker package. As a general rule of thumb, we'd suggest spending around double the cost of your surround sound amp on a standard 5.1 speaker set up.
All the speaker packages recommended below have been through our thorough testing process and they've passed with flying colours. So whether you're after a budget set-up, or the kind of home cinema system that would make Bruce Wayne green with envy, we should have something for you.
Lean, attractive, interesting and unfussy: these words are equally apt for both the aesthetics and acoustics of these clever performers.
The Dali Oberon 5 5.1 system presents every frequency in full, but with honesty and warmth that brings the best out of any soundtrack. They’re transparent but fun, powerful but subtle; we’d have them round to ours any day. That's why they were out 2019 What Hi-Fi? Awards Product of the Year.
Read the full review: Dali Oberon 5 5.1 Speaker Package
This is the same as the Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack in the third slot in this list, except with a pair of 3050i floorstanders swapped in for the front left and right channels. As such, it's a great package, full of fun and with plenty of low-end detail. In order to experience a real upgrade in performance, you'd have to spend around double, which just goes to show what fantastic value it is.
Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3050i 5.1 Cinema Pack
If you think a speaker package has to dominate your lounge, check out the DX-2. It's a discreet 5.1 system which sounds is a lot bigger than the speakers' diminutive dimensions: it's punchy, detailed and surprisingly expansive, doing justice to even soundtracks to epic blockbusters. It's available at a ridiculously cheap price too.
Read the full review: Wharfedale DX-2
This system is made up of five-star front and surround speakers, so it's in a strong position even before you add a centre channel and subwoofer. You'll get the best from the standmounters if you place them on stands rather than wall-mounts or shelves. Sonically they're convincing and great fun, with fantastic scale and a sense of spaciousness that really opens up a film's soundtrack. At this price, it's hard to fault.
Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack
Monitor Audio's long-running Silver range doesn't disappoint in this 5.1 configuration. The sound is wonderfully cohesive, with each speaker knowing its part and playing it without complaint. There's military precision to the sound, with a great sense of musicality and clear, distinct dialogue. Another great effort from Monitor Audio.
Read the full review: Monitor Audio Silver 200 AV12
How's this for high praise - this system is so good we use it as our reference test system. There's an immense level of detail across the board. Equally at home handling blockbuster action flicks as it is the most rhythmically imposing of soundtracks, this is quite simply one of the best speaker packages money can buy. It might not be the smallest, but it is worth every penny.
Read the full review: PMC Twenty5 23 5.1
This surround package partners two pairs of five-star stereo speakers – the supremely talented Debut 2.0 F5.2 floorstanders and Debut 2.0 B5.2 standmounts – then throws in a likeminded centre speaker and sub for what is one of the most composed, detailed and well-matched systems we've heard at this price. Dolby Atmos topper speakers are also available for an even more immersive sonic experience.
Read the full review: Elac Debut 2.0 5.1 Home Theatre System
This Award-winning Dali set-up is a great shout for the money. The sound is fantastically detailed - especially dialogue - while music comes across as beautifully layered and textured. It's a dynamic sound too, providing good, sophisticated fun. The speakers themselves are well-designed, with a satisfyingly sturdy build quality. Even three years after launch, this system still takes some beating.
Read the full review: Dali Zensor 1 5.1
This B&W system has plenty of attack thanks to an extra layer of low-frequency presence and grunt. But it's not just the bass from that striking PV1D subwoofer that's brilliant, so to is the treble. Dialogue and higher frequencies like crashing glass sound superb too. And while the speakers may be small, they deliver oomph in spades, giving real scale and breadth to all manner of cinematic soundtracks.
Read the full review: B&W MT-60D
If space isn't an issue, you might want to treat yourself with this brilliant KEF set-up. It's big and bold, with a sound to match: you're treated to a beautifully immersive experience, where the speakers and sub working together to create a wonderfully coherent soundfield. And the bass, while powerful, is never overstated, meaning the sound is never muddied or coloured. Take the plunge and you won't be disappointed.
Read the full review: KEF Q350 AV 5.1
If it wasn't for Q Acoustics' stellar offerings in the 5.1 space, this Dali would have picked up a What Hi-Fi? Award in 2018. It provides a fast, detailed and gratifyingly entertaining listen, with the sub providing plenty of scale. Dialogue has a warmth to it that's sadly lost in many systems, and the impeccable sense of timing makes for a truly cinematic experience.
Read the full review: Dali Spektor 2 5.1
A 7.1 Dolby Atmos package at this price looks too good to be true. But not only is it an absolute steal, it's also a very tidy, compact affair - so compact, in fact, that Jamo suggests you put the subwoofer under the sofa. How's that for convenience? The sound is dynamic and full of body, and the low end - while a little soft - is ample for all but the most discerning of home cinema audiophiles. If that's you, you'll be happy to spend a bit more for a smoother sound, but the Jamo is still a fine option at the money.
Read the full review: Jamo S 807 HCS
This is the first Fyne Audio product we've reviewed that didn't earn five stars, but that's more down to the competition than any reflection on this package's prowess. Indeed, it's a more than capable system, managing to be both swift and agile and full of enthusiasm. The F3-8 sub adds plenty of bass weight, without sacrificing the level of pace and detail. You'll just have to be careful to pair it with a home cinema amp that's up to the task.
Read the full review: Fyne Audio F302 AV
The front and rear speakers and subwoofer combine to form a wonderfully cohesive whole, with effects flowing between channels effortlessly, immersing you deep in the action. Highs are crisp and detailed, while dialogue through the centre channel is clear and communicative. Opt for this attractive package and you won't be disappointed.
Read the full review: Monitor Audio Radius R90HT1
Another oldie but a goodie, this 2016 system is still one of the best speaker packages we've tested in recent times. It organises instruments in a score beautifully, with each given enough space to breathe, while dialogues comes across as warm, clear and expressive. It's an enveloping listen too, with a cohesive surround sound field and great tonal matching between channels. A fantastic buy.
Read the full review: Monitor Audio Bronze B5 AV
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