Top three home cinema systems
By Martin Pratt
Alongside a stunning TV, a 5.1 surround sound system will complete your home cinema set-up. Here are some of the best home cinema systems around.
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
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.
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.
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
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.