Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy.

Which? Don't Buy home cinema systems

Poor sound and fiddly set-up are the hallmarks of a Don’t Buy home cinema system. These are the models to avoid.

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

Improving your sound is often first on the agenda after upgrading to a new TV. A surround sound home cinema system is the perfect antidote to the flat, dull sound found on some ultra-thin TVs, but our independent tests of home cinema systems have uncovered many that may leave your wallet a lot lighter but your ears straining to hear any improvement at all.

We’ve labelled the worst home cinema systems Don’t Buys so you know which to steer clear of.

Log-in or sign up for a £1 trial to Which? to unlock our full list of Don't Buy home cinema systems on this page.

Home cinema systems to avoid

An amazing home cinema system should draw you into a film or TV series by virtue of its excellent sound and 360-degree effects that place you at the heart of the action.
Sadly, not all surround sound systems are capable of delivering the high-quality sound you’d expect. We’ve tested systems that muffle dialogue and make colossal on-screen explosions sound more like someone dropping a pan in the kitchen.

These Don’t Buy systems are awkward to set up, leaving you stranded and frustrated amid a jumble of speaker wires that are fiddly to connect. And even once everything is hooked up, you will still face a battle to get the speakers sounding balanced. If your speakers aren’t in sync, then certain effects will be too loud, which makes for a distracting, rather than cinematic, experience.

Expert home cinema reviews

Our in-depth tests leave no stone unturned, so you can feel confident when we recommend a home cinema system – and when we warn you off one. We test systems from leading brands such as LG, Onkyo, Panasonic and Samsung. Here are some of the ways we separate the wheat from the chaff:

  • Our panel of five experts measures how the systems cope with everything from bombastic action epics to intimate dramas. We pay extra attention to the overall surround sound effect as well as how precise the sound is. With a bad system, the sound will be indistinct and it will be tough to determine exactly where the effects are coming from.
  • We check how simple it is to get your system up and running. We rate each system for how easy it is to decipher the manual, connect the cables and speakers, and get the audio sounding just right.
  • We understand that not every show will make use of all five speakers, which is why we ask our expert listening panel to rate the sound in stereo mode, too. We play more than 20 pieces of music, so you can be confident that a system we recommend will still carry its weight even when it’s not in surround sound mode.

The best home cinema systems transport you from the sofa into the heart of your favourite movies and shows. Make sure aren’t let down by a Don’t Buy.

Find out which home cinema systems are Don’t Buys and which are Best Buys by taking out a Which £1 trial?.

All recommendations