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The best home cinema systems under £250

By Martin Pratt

Today’s super-slim TVs don’t have much space inside for speakers, so if you value great quality sound or want cinema-style surround-sound effects you should consider buying a home cinema system.

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You can pay through the nose for the best surround-sound setups, but you don’t have to – these more affordable models all cost less than £250 yet can bring top-notch multi-speaker audio to your living room.

Each of these all-in-one systems includes five speakers, a subwoofer, and a Blu-ray player to connect them all to. All the cables you need are provided.

The wires connecting the speakers are thin and easily hidden, and some home cinemas have wireless speakers, but if you’re after the simplest TV sound upgrade, take a look at our Best Buy sound bars.

Which? members can log in to see the home cinema systems we recommend. If you're not already a member, take a £1 Which? trial to unlock this table and all our expert impartial reviews.

Best home cinema systems under £300

Today's best price £239.00
Which? score 83%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Best Buy
Sound quality:
5 out of 5
Ease of use:
3 out of 5
Initial set up:
2 out of 5
Blu-ray player:
Member exclusive
Wireless rear speakers:
Member exclusive
4K compatible:
Member exclusive
Wi-fi:
Member exclusive

The four tall boy speakers mean this system makes a visual statement in your living room, but the sound is top-quality. We were particularly impressed during action scenes where the speakers created an absorbing array of effects. There are streaming apps to watch the likes of Netflix and Amazon Video, but it requires a wired internet connection.

Today's best price £249.99
Which? score 83%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Best Buy
Sound quality:
5 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Initial set up:
4 out of 5
Blu-ray player:
Member exclusive
Wireless rear speakers:
Member exclusive
4K compatible:
Member exclusive
Wi-fi:
Member exclusive

Despite having large ‘tall boy’ front speakers and tiny rear ones, the sound is well balanced. The player supports normal Blu-ray discs and 3D ones, as well as DVDs and streaming from apps such as Netflix and YouTube. There’s no wi-fi connectivity, but it’s a small concession to make for the excellent sound.

Today's best price £186.52
Which? score 75%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Sound quality:
5 out of 5
Ease of use:
4 out of 5
Initial set up:
4 out of 5
Blu-ray player:
Member exclusive
Wireless rear speakers:
Member exclusive
4K compatible:
Member exclusive
Wi-fi:
Member exclusive

With its low cost and tiny, inconspicuous rear speakers, this surround sound system does a good job of hiding itself in your living room and won’t break the bank. The crisp sound brings clarity to dialogue, while the subwoofer helps with bass effects, and you stream films, TV programmes and more the likes of Netflix and YouTube.

We test home cinema more thoroughly than anyone else

We look at more than just sound when we test a home cinema system. We understand that the jumble of wires, speakers and connectors can seem daunting when you first open the box, which is why we rate each system on how easy it is to set up.

When each system is up and running a panel of six experts put them through their paces. We use a series of scenes from films such as Lord of the Rings and Casino Royale to determine how good the surround sound is, including how clear the dialogue is in busy scenes and how convincing the audio is in action sequences.

Overall, we’re looking for good balance: bass shouldn’t overpower the higher frequencies, but it shouldn’t be underpowered either. Likewise, the treble and mid-range tones shouldn’t feel dull or muted – particularly vital to get the best from a cracking soundtrack.

Most home cinema systems come with a built-in Blu-ray or DVD player, so our experts will rate the overall picture quality, too. And lastly, we look at how easy the system is to use. If the remote is fiddly, or the menus are confusing, it will be reflected in the score.

To take the guesswork out of choosing a home cinema system, try a £1 Which? trial and you’ll get access to all our reviews, advice and our magazine.  

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