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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.

Which? members can log in to see the home cinema systems we recommend. 

Top five home cinema systems for 2017

Lowest price (in stock) £269.99
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.

Lowest price (in stock) £189.00
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.

Lowest price (in stock) £699.99
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.

Lowest price (in stock) £349.00
Which? score 79%
Reviewed May 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

A home cinema system with plenty of features to play with, including smart TV, 3D Blu-ray and even 4K playback, this is an excellent choice. It's not the cheapest home cinema system on the market, but it's not eye-watering either. Sign in to see whether this tip-top model is right for you.

Lowest price (in stock) £469.99
Which? score 76%
Reviewed May 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

A home cinema system consisting of four discrete speakers that can be wall mounted if needed, a subwoofer, central speaker and 3D Blu-ray player. It's priced as a high-end model and represents a serious investment for film fans - and our testing revealed that it's well worth it. Sign in to see what model we're talking about.

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

And here are two 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.

Two home cinema systems to avoid

Lowest price (not in stock) £73.38
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 hots up, the speakers don’t, which makes exciting action movies feel flat and dull.

Lowest price (in stock) £189.00
Which? score 39%
Reviewed Nov 2013

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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