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Top five home cinema systems for 2017

By Martin Pratt

Alongside a stunning TV, a 5.1 surround sound system will complete your home cinema set-up. Here are the best home cinema systems for 2017.

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There is no shortage of ways to improve the sound on your TV: sound bars, sound bases, even mini hi-fi speakers can give your audio a boost, but if you want the experience of a cinema in your living room then a 5.1, or more, surround sound speaker system is the only way to go.

Our independent testing has found brilliant models that suit any price point. They won’t make you popcorn, but they will give you excellent sound. And don’t be put off by the thought of seemingly endless wires and fiddly connections, these systems are a doddle to set up.

You’ll also find some of the home cinema systems we didn’t think so highly of. The sound on thin TVs is often bad enough and the last thing you want is to fork out hundreds of pounds on a system that gives little to no improvement.

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Top five home cinema systems for 2017

Samsung HT-J4550
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.

Samsung HT-J4530
Today's best price £209.00
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.

Panasonic SC-BTT465
Today's best price £266.67
Which? score 82%
Reviewed Jul 2014
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

This system really delivers when it comes to HD pictures and sound. Quiet conversations are delivered with subtle clarity while thunderous explosions and are given impact by the beefy subwoofer. Like the other systems on this list you can stream video straight to the Blu-ray player – however you’ll need to buy an extra dongle to do so wirelessly.

Onkyo HT-S5805(B)
Today's best price £589.00
Which? score 81%
Reviewed May 2016
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

This is one of the best home cinema systems we’ve tested. The five speakers create a well-balanced sound, which is only improved by the upward-firing, Dolby Atmos speakers built-in to the top of the front left and right speakers. The system may be bulky, but this Best Buy is worth making space for.

LG BH9540TW
Typical price £699.00
Which? score 80%
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

This system is one of the most expensive we’ve tested. Thankfully the sound lives up to the high price tag, we found it to be dynamic and balanced, which isn’t the easiest task when you consider that this has no less than nine speakers. It’s packed with all the features you’d expect from an expensive system too, such as 4K upscaling and video streaming.

Not found the product for you? Browse all of our home cinema reviews.

And here are three home cinema systems to avoid

Trying to match the audio experience of sitting in a cinema is no easy task. Best Buys do an admirable job, but some home cinema systems we’ve tested aren’t up to the task. 

First and foremost the speakers need to sound good. Whether you’re watching a booming action blockbuster that makes full use of all five speakers or an intimate BBC drama that broadcasts in stereo, the speakers should be versatile enough to handle it. Buy the wrong system and you'll be greeted with indistinct sound. Surround sound effects will be hard to place while the punchy bass that should punctuate thrilling shoot-outs and nail-biting car chases will be more of a murky rumble.

As well as lacklustre sound, the worst home cinema systems are a chore to set up. Confusing manuals offer little guidance and you’ll be left with an infuriating tangle of speaker wires. They often require you to set up volume levels on each speaker manually, while other models come with microphones that detect each speaker’s placement in a room and adjust the volume accordingly.

We’ve rounded up some of the worst home cinema systems on the market, so you know which ones to avoid.

Three home cinema systems to avoid

Sony DAV-TZ140
Typical price £105.00
Which? score 48%
Reviewed May 2016

Short on features and short on sound quality, this doesn’t have much going for it other than a nicely laid out remote. We could hear distortion from the speakers even when we didn’t have the volume up and the tightly spaced speaker connections made setup a chore.

LG DH3140S
Today's best price £59.99
Which? score 47%
Reviewed May 2016

This is one of the cheapest systems we’ve tested and it’s also one of the worst. Dialogue is muffled and when the action hot’s up, the speakers don’t, which makes exciting action movies feel flat and dull.

Sony BDV-E2100
Today's best price £198.77
Which? score 39%
Reviewed Nov 2013
Don't buy

There’s no shortage of connections on this system from Sony, but the sound is so poor that you won’t want to connect anything to it. Useful features such as Bluetooth and wi-fi connections are welcome, but sound quality needs to come first.

How to find the best home cinema system

Home cinema systems can look daunting. Lay out five speakers, a subwoofer, a Blu-ray player and all the cables you need to connect them together and you may wonder why on earth you bought it in the first place.

A simple set up is important, which is why our experts pore over every inch of the manual to make sure the instructions are detailed and any diagrams are easy to follow. There’s always the chance that a five-speaker system isn’t the right choice for you, which is why we have reviews of 2.1 systems, too. These models forego the rear and centre speakers, but keep the subwoofer so as not to compromise on the enriching bass.

If you’d like to keep cables to a minimum then you could opt for a model with wireless rear speakers. They only need to be plugged into the mains, which means you won’t have several feet of cabling snaking around your skirting boards.

Home cinema systems can be a good way to make your entertainment centre smarter, too. Many of them can connect to the internet, giving you access to streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Video as well as any content you have stored on your phone or PC. Look out for systems with a wireless or wired internet connection to take advantage of streaming.

Need help getting everything working on your new home cinema system? Head to our guide on setting up your home cinema.

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