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We've picked Sky Q, Sony and Denon to power this thrilling and affordable home cinema system

Surround sound budget AV system
(Image credit: Future)

This impressive home theatre system combines a trio of What Hi-Fi? Award winners with some fine partners for a full-on package that will provide years of top-value entertainment.

We've rounded up a couple of brilliant 4K sources to run through a hugely capable AV receiver from Denon which in turn powers a talented surround speaker package from Wharfedale. The result? Stunning cinema sound at an affordable price.

And that's before we get to the focal point of this set-up, which happens to be one of the best TVs we've tested at its price point and also boasts mini LED technology.

AV enthusiasts will definitely be impressed with what this system offers for the money – read on for the complete lowdown on the products involved...

The system

TV: Samsung QE55QN94A (£1199 / $1199 / AU$2995)
Blu-ray player: Sony UBP-X700 (£229 / $250 / AU$325)
AV receiver: Denon AVR-X2700H (£680 / $849 / AU$1999)
Speaker Package: Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 (£2798 / $1227 / AU$2423)
Streaming service: Sky Q (£348 p/a)
Total: £3655 / $3525 / AU$7742

TV: Samsung QE55QN94A

Surround sound budget AV system

(Image credit: Future)

The QE55QN94 might just be the sweet spot in Samsung’s Neo QLED range of mini LED TVs. The main thing separating this set from the top TV in Samsung’s 4K lineup is the lack of the One Connect box, and with it the fact that you've only got one HDMI 2.1 socket at your disposal despite the set having four HDMI inputs in total. Which should be of real concern only to the hardcore gamers out there – and in any case isn’t quite so relevant in this set-up with its AV receiver.

The picture quality of this set is compelling, and the extra-fine level of lighting control that mini LED brings has put the LCD’s high peak brightness to sophisticated use. Samsung has added a care with contrast that leads to a more nuanced on-screen image, with a more solid, three-dimensional depth than ever before. An OLED might look better in some scenes – it doesn’t quite go as black as the midnight of an OLED, for example – but there is something quite addictive about the brightness of this set; its super-contrasty and punchy HDR delivery is ever so more-ish. This TV is so bright compared with OLEDs, with the Mini LED technology allowing for such careful pinpoint control of that luminance, that it’s hard to draw our eyes away from the action even for a second.

This being a Samsung set, there is no Dolby Vision support, but you will be getting so much from HDR10 alone that it won’t matter.

Blu-ray player: Sony UBP-X700

Sony UBP-X700

(Image credit: Future)

While the Samsung TV can provide much of the source material to be watched – via streaming platforms – alongside the Sky Q box, there is still a place for 4K Blu-ray if you want the very best performance possible for both picture and sound. And the Sony UBP-X700 delivers a stunningly natural 4K picture for an affordable price.

We have always lauded Sony for its natural-looking disc-players, but the X700 surpasses even that of the more expensive UBP-X800 in how it displays a wonderfully subtle picture that’s impeccably judged while being hugely entertaining. Skin-tones are natural, action scenes are handled with smooth and stable motion, and there’s a lifelike quality to the picture that just draws you in. The X700 is an engaging listen too, and comes well-equipped with support for all surround-sound formats, including the latest Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks.

AV receiver: Denon AVR-X2700H

Denon AVR-X2700H

(Image credit: Future)

The Denon AVR-X2700H is a sturdy device that needs a solid shelf and plenty of room to breathe. It boasts 8K support and has six HDMI inputs. There are seven power amplifier channels available (alongside outputs for two subwoofers) which can be set in anything up to 7.2 or 5.2.2 arrangements, and are rated at a claimed 150W per channel.

One of the HDMI inputs is 2.1-certified, but the other five have not been ignored and are each compatible with Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Quick Frame Transport (QFT), and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) lag-minimising tech to fit with the demands of next-gen content. They can also cope with the full suite of HDR standards, with HDR10+, HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision all represented. And both of the HDMI outputs are 2.1-certified, so if you did decide at some point to add a projector to this system, you will be able to send 8K@60Hz and 4K@120Hz out to them both. eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) is supported as well.

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, with huge blasts from the front pair or the subwoofer during the space dogfight in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2

It’s bigger, better and more cultured than that. This is 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 creates a genuine sense of place.

Its mature approach and effortless sense of timing make for a feeling of home cinema sound that’s authentic to the movie theatre experience, even at an entry-level price.

Speaker package: Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 HCP

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 HCP

(Image credit: Future)

The Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Home Cinema Pack is a mature yet affordable surround sound system, fluid, composed and consistent. 

The tautness and dexterity of the SW-10 subwoofer is immediately striking. It’s an incredibly musical sub and it blends seamlessly with the smaller speakers, which themselves have an impressively well-integrated low end. The result is rich and lively sound, particularly with films with a heavily featured score.  

The soundfield is smooth and, although swapping the front two speakers for floorstanders would certainly provide more scale, there is something to be said for the consistency of tone created by using the same speaker for fronts and surrounds. Also in this respect, the 12.C centre speaker is well-matched to the 12.1s and, unlike with so many other packages, pulls its weight equally.

We watch sonic psychological drama The Sound Of Silence and find that audio-obsessive protagonist Peter’s ultra soft-spoken, emotionally repressed dialogue is well projected with clarity and nuance. Peter’s job is to rid the city of unwanted ambient sounds and, as he pads around his clients’ apartments hunting for creaking floorboards and whining pipes, the Diamond 12.1 HCP digs up plenty of domestic detail and subtlety, making us feel the need to check if it’s actually our test room’s air conditioning unit making that annoying hum. The Diamond 12.1 HCP offers rich bass without sacrificing or overpowering the mid and treble, presenting a mature sound that’s rich in impact, agility, detail and sensitivity. It’s a wonderful package for the price.

TV service: Sky Q

Surround sound budget AV system

(Image credit: Future)

Finally we have Sky’s expensive but excellent Sky Q service. This system will be used each and every day, so it’s fitting we incorporate the best TV and streaming option around to complement it. There is plenty of 4K and HDR content here, both live and on one of the many forms of catch-up TV and streaming available on the diminutive box. Sky Q supports Dolby Digital and Dolby Atmos, so you can enjoy that football match or F1 race in all its powerful, live glory, or simply get engrossed in a movie. As an overall package, Sky Q feels utterly contemporary, combining almost every way of watching TV. This is as good as television gets.

Verdict

The QE55QN94A is a terrific buy at the price, and it makes perfect sense to combine this fine 55-inch Samsung TV with a full 5.1 surround package to make the most of that magnificent picture.

The Wharfedales deliver just that, dishing out terrific surround sound for the money, while the Denon AV receiver provides real authenticity to the movie theatre experience, even at an entry-level price. Finally, for its wealth of content, Sky Q rounds off a superb package.

MORE:

This five-star home cinema system pairs a Philips OLED TV with an innovative Dolby Atmos system from Sony

How to set up your AV receiver and get the best sound

How to set up your home cinema speaker system

Our pick of the best home cinema deals

Jonathan Evans

Jonathan Evans is the editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine, and has been with the title for around 15 years. He has been a journalist for more than a quarter of a century now, working on a variety of technology and motoring titles, including Stuff, Autocar and Jaguar. With his background in sub-editing and magazine production, he likes nothing more than a discussion on the finer points of grammar. And golf.