Everybody wants a home theater experience but do we really know what it is composed of and what would make one a good home theater experience? Sure you have a smart TV, an AV receiver and soundbars that you can attach to these devices but a good home theater experience does not end there.
There are four major components in a home theater: a TV, a media device like DVD players, an AV receiver and home theater speaker. As for speakers, the typical home theater system would have six: one center channel speaker, two rear speakers, two front speakers and a subwoofer. Nonetheless, you will find here later on that it is okay to go less than six or beyond six.
Today, we will roundup the best home theater speakers that you could consider in creating that authentic home theater experience. If anything, the speakers make or break because the accuracy and sound quality they produce directly affects our praise or dismay of the material we are watching. As such, below are some of the things you must first ponder on before buying your home theater speakers.
What kind of speakers are home theater speakers?
Generally, when you are assembling your home theater system, the speakers would be defined as output devices.
There is no generic type for a home theater speaker and there is no one name for the kind of speaker home theater speakers are.
Depending on the type of sound output you want to elicit, there is a specific kind of home theater speaker for that. So what are the kinds of home theater speakers that should make it to your living room?
1. The center speakers
These are the home theater speakers that are plugged in the TV. These are considered as the most crucial speakers to give time to when choosing because they produce the most sound compared to all the other home theater speakers combined.
These speakers also process the dialogues in the content that you are watching making them audible and accurate.
2. The front speakers
They mostly come in the form of bookshelf speakers with subwoofers. They are also pretty crucial for the home theater system because they have two important functions.
First, front speakers are responsible for handling sound effects and most of the musical scoring. Thus, the quality of the music and sound effects that make a movie more cinematic is their function.
Second, they are the speakers that are activated when you listen to music either from CDs or digital media devices. Since not all living rooms are spacious, many can resort to this compact front speaker type in terms of accuracy and quality called soundbars.
3. The surrounds
These home theater speakers can come in the form of bookshelf speakers or standing speakers.
Their primary function in the home theater system is to give it a spacious yet enveloping sound, allowing you to have a 3D experience when you watch films.
These are the type of speakers that have been hyped and innovated by audio companies like Sony and the Dolby labs whose banner phrase is surround-sound system.
4. In-wall or in-ceiling speakers
These speakers are good alternatives for home theaters with less space. Instead of putting in standing speakers, you can just mount these speakers to function as your front speakers or surrounds.
Home theater speaker buying guide
This is perhaps one of the most important sections of the article as we will dig up all the most vital information that you will need in choosing the best home theater speaker for you and the type of home theater experience you are building.
This section is equally important for newbies in the home theater experience who are a tad confused about all the home theater speakers to choose from.
What should I consider when buying a home theater speaker?
As we have mentioned, it is important to know the basic considerations that you must know before buying a home theater speaker. You might have heard of some but it may not have covered all so let us break it down for you.
The first thing that you should consider is the space of your home theater system. For you to get what you are aspiring for your home theater experience, identify the room size from large, medium and small.
Large rooms may require you to have all the type of home theater speakers that have been previously mentioned (two front speakers or a soundbar, two center channel speakers, two surrounds and two in-wall).
For medium sized rooms, you may opt for one soundbar, two bookshelf speakers and two standing speakers. For small-sized home theaters, one soundbar, two bookshelf speakers or two standing speakers near the TV would suffice.
The type of speaker you will choose will also be dependent on the function of the room you will install the home theater in. If kids are around, you might opt for a bookshelf or in-wall speakers only but if the room is exclusively intended for home theater, you can add as many speakers as you want.
2. Strategic installment
Rooms in the house different waves of acoustic quality so it is best if you know where the speakers will look and sound best.
For example, if you are a minimalist and you don’t like your home theater system to be an obtrusive sight in the living room, you may opt for compact soundbars that you could portably take anywhere but if you want to really make your home theater system the center of attraction, invest in floorstanding speakers around the room.
Special effects in movies and the musical scoring have a defined bass when you hear them. Actually, you are able to hear bomb explosions, gunshots and planes flying overhead because of powered subwoofers.
The main trick in choosing your subwoofer is that: the larger the room, the bigger the bass. Therefore, if you have a large room, a 12” subwoofer or larger ones may be the best match but if you have a small room, a compact subwoofer will do.
5. Voice matching
This consideration is raised mainly because different speaker brands have different tone qualities. Thus, mismatching brands may have an effect in the quality of your home theater experience.
The safest recourse to this is to just buy speakers from the same brand for better sound/voice matching.
6. The TV
Sometimes it is not the speakers’ fault. TVs for home theater systems often have specifications ranging from 4K HDR, Smart TVs with built-in wireless connectivity outputs like WiFi and Bluetooth and more. So if your TV is not yet within this range but you want a home theater, then it is probably best to buy a new one.
7. Streaming devices
Most streaming devices now have wireless connectivity. If you want to stream music and video content everywhere in the house, a wireless and compact home theater grade speakers should be your investment.
How to choose the best soundbar
Now that we know the things to consider when buying home theater speakers, it is time to know how to choose the best soundbar.
Soundbars are different from central channel speakers. Actually, if you analyze it, soundbars are upgrades of central channel speakers since they are most placed below the TV.
The soundbar is compact and portable that is why it is a great innovation for people who do not have that much space to accommodate a lot of home theater speakers. It is also particularly preferred by minimalists who do not want to see a lot of speakers taking up all the space in the living room or those who find scattered speaker cables as displeasing.
Most importantly, the sound bar is for people who do not have the inkling or even the time and interest to assemble all the speakers that will make up the home theater system.
1. Best soundbar
The best soundbar should have the following characteristics: one with more than 3 channels at minimum, an active sound bar that has built-in amplifiers (there is a passive soundbar that needs amplification) and wireless connectivity. For this, you might want to check out the Sonos Playbar Wireless Soundbar.
It is perhaps, one of the best soundbars at the moment which highly banked on speech accuracy, sound quality and connectivity. For starters, it could either be used portably or could be mounted below or above the TV (whichever it will sound better).
It is an active soundbar so no need for external amplifiers and has its own Sonos Playbar remote control for easy set-up and navigation. It features Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity.
We think that its most commendable features would be the Sonos app to use as an alternative for your remote control (which means that if your kids want to watch movies but you are working in your study room, you could just switch it on for them) and the Speech Enhancement which you can switch on using the remote or the app to clarify whispered dialogues and others.
Perhaps its only downside is that you cannot handle Dolby TrueHD formats because of its limited bandwidth and optical connections it being a compact, portable soundbar. Other than that, it is one of the best out there for soundbars.
2. Best center channel speaker
The main function of the center channel speaker is to balance tone qualities and accuracy of all the other speakers in the home theater system.
Specifically, its function is to balance the left and right front speakers and make the speakers sound naturally compatible with one another. Thus, it provides the home theater system the anchor location for all the dialogs and sound/vocals that it will produce.
Speaking of the best center channel speaker, we have come across with the Polk Audio Signature 365 Center Channel Speaker. It has all the features you need for a good center channel speaker.
First off, it has six drivers and one tweeter dome that is really efficient in giving that dynamic sound balance. It also comes with the Polk Power Port Technology which allows the 365 to also function like a powered subwoofer which delivers a good bass and diffuses sound distortions for a better home theater experience.
As a surround-sound system, it is the best match for the Polk signature series (which by the way you can buy as a set) with tower speakers, bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer. But probably the cherry on top for this one would be its high versatility which means that it is compatible with almost all leading speaker brands and it can also function as a soundbar with wireless connectivity and all. You can check this video from Digital Trends for more information about it.
3. Best bookshelf speaker
A bookshelf speaker is a compact loudspeaker whose function is to balance the surround-sound system in elevated locations.
It also adds in having a good bass delivery since most of them already have built-in subwoofers. If you are looking for the best bookshelf speaker, you might want to consider the Fluance Ai60.
It has these built-in 6.5” subwoofers and an accompanying 100W Class D amplifiers. With these, it offers a versatile use as it could be used as an amplifier for modern turntables even for PCs and TVs.
As a loudspeaker, it is also very convenient to use for wireless media streaming. It has the ability to stream music for as far as 30 feet with accuracy and good bass. Other than this, it can connect via Bluetooth and USB so functionality-wise, it really is a good deal. There’s just a bit of an issue with the sub output but overall, it’s a good catch.
4. Best floorstanding speaker
Also known as tower speakers, they have been one of the centers of attraction in a home theater system because they deliver the biggest and fullest sound in the system. They are often pitted against the bookshelf speaker because of the cost but tower speakers will deliver more for a surround-sound experience.
One of the best catches out there would be the KLH Kendall 3-Way Floorstanding Speaker. It is a three-way speaker with an aluminum dome tweeter and a woven Kevlar mid-range woofer. From these drivers alone, you are already in for a treat.
It really is a power floorstanding speaker that could be bi-amplified with 5-way binding posts. It is good for surround-sound systems and it is reasonable for the price. For how it works, you can check out this review from World Wide Stereo.
5. Best subwoofer
The subwoofer is most of the time regarded as one of the most important speakers in a home theater system because it is the one that handles the low sounds or vibrations called the bass.
Most of the time, the low frequency effects or the bass help in producing the full and 3D sound from movies and we will miss out on them if we do not have power subwoofers. We have come across this power subwoofer and you might want to consider it. It is the Klipsch Reference R-110SW.
Its most notable features is its high dampening quality thanks to its full-aluminum coated cone with an integrated cap to avoid sound distortions.
It has volume, crossover and frequency controls at the back so that you can balance its sound output on your own. You may also use it for wireless streaming through the Klipsch WA-2 Subwoofer Kit. The only downside however, is that it must be bought separately.
6. Best satellite speaker
Satellite speakers are a must if you have low-power speakers. They could aid in generating mid to high range frequencies needed in creating a good surround-sound system.
These speakers come in a 2.1 or 5.1 type. The first number indicates the number of satellites and the second number indicates the subwoofer. Basically, as the term implies, the satellite speaker is an auxiliary speaker for the home theater system.
Speaking of satellite speakers, allow us to show this good find which is the Polk Audio Atrium 4. Its main feature is its rugged design that makes it a good indoor and outdoor satellite speaker.
It also has this cool speed lock system in which you can mount it anywhere outside the home and just tighten it down after you aim the music towards your location. It is really good for backyard soirees or garden parties and bonfire nights.
7. Best bipole speaker
A bipole speaker is a surround speaker with drivers facing opposite directions. This works so that the listener or those who watch would not be distracted by too loud noises so basically these speakers would project sounds into the seating area but not directly to the listener.
One of the best bipole speakers around would be the Fluance SXBP2. First off, you would commend it for its affordability.
It has two identical panels featuring a 4-inch woofer and a Neodymium 1-inch balanced dome tweeter. These make the SXBP2 to produce sounds with directional surround effects.
Being compact in design, it could also be flexibly used as a bookshelf speaker complete with high connectivity and high power sounds.
8. Best dolby atmos speaker
The Atmos is an audio technology patented by Dolby in 2012. Then and now, the Atmos is still considered as the future of home cinema audio.
There are a lot of Atmos devices including AV receivers and soundbars. It is portable and we all love the dome sound that this surround-speaker brings.
The best thing about it is that it automatically reconfigures, balances and project sounds in the exact points of the sound field instead of processing it through sound channels.
Perhaps, one of the best Dolby Atmos enabled speakers out there would be the Sony SSCSE. It works well with advanced surround sound formats like the DTS:X.
It offers a surround sound experience with exploding rich sounds from above you because these speakers are specifically designed to project sound from the ceiling to achieve that dome sound.
It also has a reliable anti-distortion cone called the Mica reinforced cellular cone. It does not have cons for us to be honest and the price is reasonable.
9. Best in-ceiling speaker
In-ceiling speakers as the term implies are mounted on ceilings to do auxiliary home theater system work.
These speakers are passive ones which means that they do not have built-in amplifiers and you must use speaker cables either from the front or central speakers depending on which sound you want to project. If you are looking for one, we think that the Polk Audio RC90i is a decent catch.
It features an 8” dynamic balance woofer and 1” dome tweeter on a polymer cone and composite baskets.
These features allow the production of more lifelike sounds and an even dispersion of sounds in the entire space. It also comes with rubber seal drives to prevent moisture from infiltrating the cone.
This is the reason why it could be mounted in bathrooms, saunas and even on the porch which is awesome because it means that you could stream sounds anywhere in the house. You can even spray pain its grills to match the aesthetics of your house.
10. Best in-wall speaker
In-wall speakers work like the typical box speakers but instead of the speakers working inside a box or cabinet, they are mounted in walls.
They are mostly high-end but they are known for good sound reproduction so they are still considered essential in home theater systems. One of the best in-wall speakers out there would be the Polk Audio RC85i. It is good for both outdoor and indoor use and features a high dampening quality for accurate sounds and less distortions.
Like the RC90i, it comes with an 8” dynamic balance woofer, 1” tweeter with a polymer cone and composite basket. Through these, it produces even distribution and production of sounds. It also has rubber seal drives to prevent moisture, making it a good outdoor in-wall speaker.
11. Best wireless surround sound system
Wireless surround system speakers are not exactly wireless. They are like satellite speakers that are still connected with a main soundbar and must be plugged on outlets or connected via WiFi. The best of its kind and perhaps, the most famous of them all is the JBL surround sound system.
It comes with a soundbar and transforms the home into a 5.1 HiREs and HiFi home theater system in a compact, portable size. It comes with a 10-inch wireless subwoofer and three HDMI cables for the TV monitor. It is enabled by home entertainment technologies like Dolby Digital, Pro Logic II, and DTS:X. It produces accurate and even sounds on a dome-like setting of loud and full sounds.
12. Best rear surround speaker
As the term implies, rear sound speakers are used less frequently than the front speakers. But they are not to be dispensed since they reproduce and bind scattered sounds and effects to produce a surround-sound. Nonetheless, because they are not that much used, in terms of sound frequency, they have a similar range with that of the front speakers.
Looking for rear surround speakers can also be a daunting task so here is something that you can consider. The Acoustic Audio AA321B is probably one the best when it comes to rear surround speaker choice.
It is a full range speaker that could support a range of 20-400W with 2.5” polypropylene woofers. It is cased in heavy duty sealed cabinets with mounting brackets and spring loaded wire terminals for a hassle-free connection and set-up. It could also be used as bookshelf speakers and outdoor ones for that matter.
Which speakers are best for home theater?
Given the aforementioned considerations in the earlier sections, this is greatly defined by the space of your home theatre and the range of home theater systems that you want to produce. But if this question is geared towards a soundbar system versus the traditional six pieces home theater system, for practicality and minimalism, we suggest that you explore the soundbar home theater system.
Being the most recent trend in surround-sound systems at present, soundbar systems allow you to experience greater accuracy, an incomparable 3D movie experience, portable digital music streaming without the hassle of plugging and unplugging cables.
As far as the type of speakers are concerned, we think that nothing beats the classic which is the combination of a central channel speaker and floor standing speakers.
What is a better 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound?
As have been explained too, the first number in the figures represent the channels that a speaker could support while the number suggests the presence of a subwoofer.
A 5.1 surround-sound is considered as the standard system and so a 7.1 surround-sound offers a better audio quality.
A 5.1 is good for small rooms while the 7.1 is recommended for larger ones. The 7.1 is more expensive but it offers greater depth and sound precision. As for the audio technologies they are compatible with, the 5.1 is good for Dolby and DTS formats while the 7.1 is for upgraded versions like Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
The 7.1. is also compatible with a greater number of game devices like PS4, Xbox and OneBox while the 5.1 can only support standard-grade game devices and DVDs.
Is 7.1 or Atmos worth it?
Drawing from what we just mentioned, the 7.1 is a good deal. But just so you know, the 7.1 could be upgraded to a more HiFi and HiRes home theater system which is the 9.1 version.
Atmos is already beyond average and it works best on a ceiling reflection angle to produce a dome quality sound. Given these, yes, both the 7.1 and the Atmos are worth it because they were both designed to really be equipped with the necessary technologies to produce a surround-sound home theater system.
Are bookshelf speakers good for home theater?
On their own of course not because it is a part of the whole home theater system and its work is to pick up low frequency effects for good bass. And since the question asks if bookshelf speakers are good for home theater, the answer is yes.
But there are certain considerations that can be explored with this question. If you will set-up your home theater system in a compact space like the study room, then it might work well on its own. That is the only limitation that could get in the way in so far as this speaker is concerned.
Can I mix and match home theater speakers?
When it comes to creating the best home theater experience in your verdict, yes, it is okay to mix and match home theater speakers. However, you must understand that not all brands are compatible with other brands because different brands offer different tone qualities. In this case, you must first know which speaker brands are more flexible to others before you mix and match.
Is a center channel speaker necessary?
It depends on your home theater system actually. As we have said, if you opt for the traditional set-up, then yes, it is the most necessary of them all because it splits and synchronizes the balance and distribution of the sounds in all the speakers of the system.
But if you are using the soundbar, a center channel speaker is no longer necessary. In itself, it is already a system and its accompanying speakers are mostly wireless so there’s nothing to plug in the center channel speaker.
With all of this information to process, we hope that we have put the knowledge across that setting-up your own home theater system requires enough knowledge and effort to understand how all of its components work.
While they may come in sets, you still have to be able to discern which ones are necessary and which ones are not. There are different kinds of home theater speakers with various functions and specifications.
The trick here is to know their base function for you to narrow down your choices to the best ones in that function. Above all, you must develop a higher appreciation with the individual specifications of each speaker for you to get the best of what they can offer.