Best 5.1 Home Theater Systems of 2021 – Top 10 Picks for an At-Home Cinema Experience
There was a time when home theater enthusiasts had to put their systems together using individual components. The process involved mixing and matching to get the right combination of floor-standing speakers, satellites, a hand-picked subwoofer, and an AV receiver to boot.
Decking out your home theater with a 5.1 setup or the so-called home-theater-in-a-box wasn’t an option back then – but it is now.
Complete 5.1 surround sound systems have become the benchmark of home theater sound, delivering a more immersive audio experience with the sound coming at you from all directions.
And you no longer have to go through the painstaking process of choosing each component manually. It’s very rarely worth the hassle, anyway – there are way too many mind-blowing home theater systems available.
On that note, I rounded up the best 5.1 home theater systems of 2021 for you.
So, be sure to keep reading!
- In a hurry? After 45 Hours of Research, We Recommend:
- Best 5.1 Home Theatre Speaker Systems of 2021
- – Comparison Table –
- Best Home Theater Systems – Top 10 Home Theater Systems Reviewed & Compared (2021)
- 1. Polk Audio 5.1 Channel Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer – Best Home Theater System –
- 2. Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System – Best Sound Clarity
- 3. JBL Bar 5.1 4K Ultra HD Soundbar with Wireless Surround Speakers – Best 5.1 Soundbar Home Theater System
- 4. Bose Acoustimass 10 Series V Home Theater System – Best High-End 5.1 Home Theater System
- 5. Yamaha YHT-4950U 4K Ultra HD 5.1-Channel Home Theater System – Best Home-Theater-in-A-Box
- 6. VIZIO SB4051-D5 SmartCast 5.1 Slim Sound Bar System – Best App-Controlled Soundbar System
- 7. Logitech Z906 Surround Sound System – Best for Movies
- 8. Onkyo HT-S3900 5.1-Channel Home Theater Receiver/Speaker Package – Budget-Friendly Pick
- 9. Enclave Audio CineHome HD 5.1 Wireless Home Theater System – Best Wireless Home Theater System
- 10. Harman Kardon HKTS 16BQ 5.1 Channel Home Theater Speaker Package – Best Entry-Level
- How to Get the Best 5.1 Home Theater System for Your Living Room: Audiophile's Buying Guide
- Best Home Theater Systems – Frequently Asked Questions
- After it's all said and done, we recommend:
- Final Home Theater System Recommendations for 2021
In a hurry? After 45 Hours of Research, We Recommend:
Polk Audio 5.1 Channel Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer
Why it is better?
Last Updated: September 1, 2021
By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best 5.1 home theatre speaker systems available for those who are interested in ramping the quality of their sound up without breaking the bank. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best 5.1 home theatre speaker systems currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
Best 5.1 Home Theatre Speaker Systems of 2021
– Comparison Table –
Polk Audio Home Theater System
38 - 24,000 Hz
5-Way Binding Posts
Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack Surround Sound System
Satellite: 50 W
110 - 23,000 Hz; 38 – 120 Hz
JBL Bar 4K Ultra HD Soundbar
Total: 510 W
35 – 20,000 Hz
Bose Acoustimass 10 Series V Home Theater System
Total: 270 W
Yamaha YHT-4950U 4K Ultra HD 5.1-Channel Home Theater System
Front, rear and center: 100 W
28 - 25,000 Hz
Best Home Theater Systems – Top 10 Home Theater Systems Reviewed & Compared (2021)
Before we move on to the actual home theater speaker system reviews, I'd like to make something clear:
The goal wasn't shoving as many expensive surround sound systems into a single round-up as possible – far from it.
Sure, price is generally a good indicator of quality. However, audio delivery, build quality, ease of use, and overall value were considered.
Moreover, I wanted to highlight a surround sound system or two in each of the key categories – from high-end to budget-friendly. That way, no matter what your needs and budget, I've got something for you!
Our Rating: 92/100
You could go cheaper or pay a whole lot more. But overall, Polk Audio is the best 5.1 speaker system for virtually anyone looking to kick their home theater experience up a notch.
Polk Audio essentially allows you to create a home theater system using their renowned T-series speakers:
The front speakers are none other than T50 floor-standing towers; the center channel speaker is the T30, while the T15 bookshelf speakers rule in the back.
That's a total of 15 drivers – and a powered 10-inch subwoofer as the final piece of the puzzle!
The system's compatible with most home theater receivers, so picking one shouldn't be too hard.
You'll have a total of 15 multi-directional speakers firing at you from every corner of the room. And to add to it, you have a 100-watt powered sub thundering from below, adding depth to the already immersive experience.
If that doesn't say enough about what this 5.1 home theater system sounds like, I don't know what will.
The speakers are built with Polk Audio's proprietary Dynamic Balance technology.
To put it simply, you're in for wider dispersion, crystal-clear dialogue, soaring highs, wide-open mids, and room-filling theatre-quality sound – and minimal distortions. Moreover, it offers support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Whether you're watching TV shows, action-packed movies, or listening to music, this T-Series home theater system can – and will – blow your mind.
Our Rating: 90/100
My arduous search to find the best satellite speakers for home theaters led me right to Klipsch.
As a well-known and firmly established brand, I was eager to investigate this model's specs and qualities.
The speaker package features four identical satellite speakers equipped with a horn-loaded tweeter.
To my pleasure, satellites themselves aren't flashy. They don't command attention but are easy to blend with their surroundings - regardless of your interior.
As always, Klipsch's squash orange highlights are a nice touch.
The only downfall of their design is the regression that Klipsch made when designing the wire plug. Namely, the entire hookup process is a tad more difficult, as they require a smaller gauge wire.
Atmos-compatible home theater systems are hard to pin down; however, Klipsch makes it seem easy with their Reference 5.1 home theater system.
The trademark audio performance will have any new ear hooked in a matter of minutes.
While the satellite speakers' size will have you working up numerous theories, their sound will blow you away.
Your ears will be blessed with all the power that a home theater line should have; the tonal imaging exceeded my expectations.
On account of the built-in subwoofer amplifier, it does what it should do. While there are expected limits of the center channel speaker of this size, it still managed to deliver clear-cut sound with a lot of power.
Our Rating: 88/100
Movie lovers and home theater enthusiasts with a shortage of space, rejoice:
JBL delivers wireless surround sound from a 5.1-channel soundbar!
It looks like a traditional soundbar but has two satellite speakers that connect to its ends using magnets. You can disconnect them if you have space and want to create a wireless 5.1 surround sound system.
The subwoofer is wireless, too – at least in the sense that it connects to the soundbar wirelessly.
Looks-wise, JBL opted to wrap the entire soundbar – satellite speakers included – in a perforated mesh.
It's understandable to question a home theater system that falls somewhere between an actual surround sound system and a soundbar.
JBL's 510-watt home theater system is powerful and optimized for the general TV-watching experience. It delivers clear dialogues, sharp trebles, and a solid balance between the highs and lows.
However, due to the 35 Hz–20 kHz frequency range, it doesn't perform well with movies that pack lots of low-end. Also, beyond the three bass settings, there's not much else you can adjust.
Still, you can get that satisfying room-rattling sound – and considering the price, JBL's 5.1 home theater soundbar is a tempting option.
Bose has a reputation for designing high-quality sound systems, and Acoustimass 10 Series V is no exception.
You'll have to make peace with the hefty price tag, though.
Powerful sound in a compact package – that's the best way to describe this Bose system.
The slim and compact profile of the redesigned Direct/Reflecting Series II speakers is a huge plus, as it lets you enjoy the surround sound without the speakers grabbing all the attention. Moreover, you can flush-mount them on the wall for an even sleeker, modern – and space-saving – effect.
The proprietary cables make for a cable management nightmare, but overall, the installation's a breeze.
The slim profile might not be confidence-inspiring, but Bose's angled drivers produce a gorgeous sound that fills large rooms with ease.
It's Bose's top-performing Acoustimass system for a reason.
The end output of this 5.1 system is fantastic. Crisp vocals, crystal-clear mids and highs, a sound that envelopes the room, and booming bass without audible distortions; it's one heck of an immersive audio experience.
Plus, you have the option to tweak not only volume but the low-frequency effects to your liking, too.
However, you won't get to experience it until you purchase a receiver – which only adds to the already high-end price tag.
Want a 5.1 home theater package bundled with an AV receiver at a mid-range price?
Go with Yamaha YHT-4950U.
The Yamaha YHT-4950U is a home-theater-in-a-box solution. Five speakers, a subwoofer, an AV receiver, and speaker wire – all in one package.
If you don't want to bother matching your speakers to a receiver, this is the way to go.
The compact size and simple-but-elegant glossy finish won't "take over" your room; blending in, even in small spaces, is what they do. The speakers are equipped with 2.75-inch full-range cones, with an 8-inch driver in the sub.
As for connection options, you'll find four HDMI ports on the receiver.
Yamaha YHT-4950U gets bonus points for the super-easy to setup. Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO) does the heavy lifting, analyzing room acoustics, and adjusting the audio accordingly.
You're also getting out-of-the-box support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision, as well as Bluetooth connectivity.
The system has a 28 Hz–25 kHz frequency range, delivering tight and crisp sound throughout – except in the lower registers. The bass is there, but depending on what you're watching, the 50-watt subwoofer is "adequate" at best.
Still, if you're okay with entry-level surround sound, this system's overall performance and sound quality are more than satisfactory. Also, it adds more depth than you'd expect from such a compact setup.
VIZIO designed the SB4051-D5 home theater system with a soundbar as its centerpiece – but it's the VIZIO SmartCast app that's the star of the show.
Encased in a simple mesh grille and oh-so-slim, VIZIO's speakers are modern-looking, with a minimalist design language. And since the system only features three physical speakers – two satellite speakers and a soundbar – and a subwoofer, it's incredibly space-efficient, too.
It's refreshing to see a slim subwoofer that doesn't look like a large black box – especially a wireless one.
Oh, and you'll be glad to know that the system uses an HDMI ARC connection.
This system handles five audio channels surprisingly well – although it's not on par with more expensive speaker packages.
Separation isn't as wide because the left, right, and center channel all sit in one unit. You're still getting a good sense of space, though.
I also noticed that the two satellites tend to put a slight emphasis on the lower mids – but that's not a complaint. Everything blends in nicely with the low-end output of the subwoofer.
The coolest part, however, is the compatibility with the VIZIO SmartCast app.
Yes, the system comes with a remote – but the app turns your smartphone or tablet into a remote controller, allowing you to do so much more!
As a committed audiophile, I recognize the need for the perfect home theater speaker system. The Logitech Z906 is among the best speakers in the mid-price range.
If you're hungry for more info, read the complete review below.
To nip it in the bud, the design of this home theater speaker system isn't why you should get it.
These dark grey, rugged-looking, chunky satellite speakers look like they belong in a man-cave or behind the doors of a PC tech's room. The design doesn't scream "living room."
However, the build of this speaker system is entirely something else:
The previously mentioned rugged enclosures are incredibly robust, and speakers are sturdy, especially the center channel speaker.
Let's get over the sore spots now. This set lacks the HDMI inputs & Digital True HD/DTS X. This fact solely sets its overall position in this list a bit further down.
Once that bump is out of sight, I want to point out the things I enjoyed:
The attention to and the delivery of sound detail – even the slightest ones – is amazing. When it comes to dialogue clarity, I was impressed with the surprising thickness of high frequencies. And don’t get me started on the 1000-watt power rating.
There is a slight yet noticeable difference that I picked out while testing it with music; the sound is good, but the entire set was clearly designed with movies and games in mind.
Our Rating: 85/100
Looking to have the cinema experience at the palm of your hand, but you're notoriously picky?
Stick around to uncover the charms of the Onkyo HT-S3900, my budget-friendly option for the whole surround sound experience. It might win you over!
The minimalist design topped off with a matte black finish is easy to blend in any environment, be the speakers' place in the background, or somewhere more noticeable.
I noticed that the center speaker feels a bit plasticky, but I was ready to forgive it, considering the whole system's build quality.
Their solid, sturdy design oozes reliability, which is rarely found in budget options while much needed. But Onkyo managed to pull it off.
The controlled power philosophy that Onkyo is famous for is what makes this home theater sound system the best budget home theater option.
Dynamic audio reproduction delivers sound quality on par with some of the best surround sound setups.
It truly brings out the authentic sound intended to be perceived by keen listeners.
Another important aspect of this 5.1 home theater system is the addition of a receiver that promptly decodes Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound formats. That's a must for any Blu-ray player.
The overall audio performance leaves me more than satisfied, considering that finding the perfect budget-friendly pick can take hours and hours of testing without any improvement at times.
Our Rating: 87/100
For my best wireless speakers, tune into my investigation of the Enclave Audio Cinehome.If you think that this 2016 system is outdated, you're in for a surprise. Quite the contrary!
Aesthetically speaking, the Enclave Audio Cinehome design is rather standard and neutral, making them perfect for any living space that you want to enrich with superior sound.
What’s more, their compact design is ideal for any position you intend to put them into without hogging up too much space. The speakers can be mounted but work fine as tabletops, too.
What I found quirky about the Enclave Audio Cinehome surround system is the rather odd positioning of functions.
However, the lack of intuitive design shouldn't be a deal-breaker, considering what it brings to the table.
If you are hunting for a quality upgrade to your home theater surround system, these provide a solid option for an upgrade.
The two full-range drivers and Dolby Digital & DTS combo are what managed to win me over when it came to this set.
Did I mention it sports 3 HDMI inputs?
Tonally, the performance of this home theater system is exceptional.
The sound is crisp and clear; rumbles are detailed and defined, and the bass gives it the extra oomph when needed.
What ultimately vaulted the Enclave Audio Cinehome past the competition is the breezy Wi-Fi connectivity. The lack of wires is freeing, and the Wi-Fi connection itself is instant and perfect.
Last but not least, meet the Harman Kardon Home Theater package.
It may not be the best home theater system if you're a fan of blasting out high volumes – but it's a great pick for an entry-level movie theater experience.
Design-wise, all about this home theater system is convenient.
The smooth black plastic cabinets aren't too big, making them ideal for smaller setups and smaller rooms.
Oh, and can we address the fact that today's speaker market is burdened by overly complicated speakers that sacrifice user-friendliness?
I'm always glad when I stumble upon a speaker system with intuitive controls, such as this one.
Ultimately, the matte black finish lends it an air of sophistication.
The basic notion that one gets from these speakers is that they will produce a clean yet crisp sound.
And I blame it on voice-matched two-way satellite speakers coupled with a 200-watt subwoofer.
Now, I've seen some picks with more powerful subs that will have your room filled with bass. So, while bass lovers may not be satisfied, this one is more than satisfactory for a home theater speaker system.
That said, the left and right satellites and the center speaker don't skimp on the audio quality of the sound effects.
The entire surround sound experience is immersive, as it delivers each ambiance spot. And if that's not enough, this home theater system is easily upgradeable into 7.1 channels.
How to Get the Best 5.1 Home Theater System for Your Living Room: Audiophile's Buying Guide
If there was one common theme I noticed among home theater enthusiasts, it's this:
Many tend to shell out top dollar on brand new TVs for their home theater – which is understandable – but are somehow perfectly happy with skimping out on speakers and sound quality.
That last bit is what's so mind-boggling to me.
No, scratch that.
It's pure blasphemy.
But you're here – which means you probably know better than to repeat the mistake that so many other home theater enthusiasts make. You get the importance of having the best 5.1 home theater system and its effect on the overall audio experience.
Now, the first step was seeing what the speaker systems market has to offer in 2021. The second – and that's where this guide comes in – is figuring out which 5.1 speaker package is right for you.
The Art of Matching Speakers & Amps: Pay Attention to Wattage
Okay, you might call me Captain Obvious for it, but I'll start with the basics.
Any 5.1 home theater systems, regardless of the brand, quality, price point, or audio performance, will consist out of three things:
A set of surround speakers – five, to be exact – and a subwoofer, and a receiver or amplifier that supplies them with power.
And since your home theater system is obviously going to need electricity to deliver sound – or turn on, for that matter – the system's power ratings are going to be a crucial factor.
The good news is that matching speakers and amplifiers shouldn't be too hard. Each system has its own set of requirements, and for the most part, it's about sending the right amount of power – continuous (RMS) and peak – out to the drivers.
Unless you go with an amp with a lower RMS rating than what's required by the speakers or push them to the limit for extended periods, you should be fine.
Frequency Ratings: How Wide Is the Range of Sound?
You've seen the comparison table. You've read the 5.1 home theater system reviews. It's safe to assume that, by now, you understand that frequency range is a pretty big deal.
Now, let's get one thing straight:
Your ears generally won't be able to pick up on sounds outside the 20 Hz to 20 kHz range. Don't be swayed by the flashy speaker systems that can hit insane highs of up to 50 kHz; your ears won't care.
However – and this is where things get tricky – a more extensive frequency response range will ensure noticeably better detailing, precision, and clarity throughout the range.
So, no, your ears won't go beyond the limits of human hearing all of a sudden, but:
The frequency range will be a tell-tale sign of audio performance and sound quality, indicating how high – and low – each system speaker can go.
Dolby Atmos vs. DTS:X – The Battle of Surround Sound Codecs
Older home theater systems were only capable of delivering two-dimensional sound. So, while you were technically surrounded by sound, it was limited to moving front to back and left to right.
Dolby Atmos and DTS X object-based surround sound formats were the first to introduce the third dimension – height – to sound. Individual sounds moving through your listening space in 3D made the surround sound experience more true-to-life and immersive than ever.
So, what's the difference between Dolby and DTS surround sound codecs, then?
Dolby Atmos, the OG immersive audio technology, relies on overhead speakers to create the illusion of height in a 3D sound experience. DTS:X is considered the more user-friendly codec of the two, as it has no official requirements for the speakers' locations in the room.
HDMI & Other Input Options Explained
The next thing you should consider here is what you're connecting your speaker system to – and the connection ports featured on your TV or other audio devices.
I'm probably stating the obvious here, but:
A better sound experience is the whole reason why you're getting a 5.1 home theater system – and there's no way to achieve that if the connection types don't match.
Your new set of speakers will likely feature multiple audio ports, be it a coaxial, component, or optical ones. Some may even feature easy-to-use, high-quality HDMI ports, which are pretty much the industry standard these days.
Either way, you should check the connectivity options your TV and streaming devices – or even game console – have before choosing a speaker setup.
Oh, and if you're going to limit yourself to a single connection type, let it be HDMI ARC:
Not only is HDMI technology incredibly versatile, but it can transmit surround sound – and video signal – through a single HDMI cable without any noticeable quality losses, too.
Yes, Room Size Matters
Who knew you'd end up having to measure the square footage of your room when all you wanted was a new 5.1 speaker system, huh?
All jokes aside, there's no need to whip out the measuring tape – although room size should be a factor in your purchase.
If that sounds a bit contradictory, that's because there are no official rules or standards regarding matching your speaker system's audio performance to your room size. Most "guidelines" – or recommendations – will be a mix of experience, preference, and common sense, rather than actual measurements.
There are some suggestions on getting the right 5.1 surround sound system for your space, whether we're talking large, open spaces, or small rooms:
If you're setting up your home theater in a large room – meaning more than 250 square feet of space – there's no need to hold back on power or size.
Small rooms of under 150 square feet can easily get overpowered by a larger speaker setup, though. Something compact and decently powered will be a better fit – and save you the unnecessary costs, too.
Best Home Theater Systems – Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Which is the best 5.1 home theater system?
A: Polk Audio gets my vote of confidence, my seal of approval – or whatever else you want to call it – as the best home theater system of 2021.
However, it's not the only option worth considering.
If you want wireless connectivity, Enclave Audio CineHome HD is a safe bet. If you'd prefer a soundbar, go with JBL Bar. And if you'd like a home-theater-in-a-box system, choose Yamaha.
It's about finding what works for you – and in that sense, any of the home theater systems you saw today could be the right fit.
Q: Which brand is best for a home theater system?
A: Many – and I mean MANY – brands out there delivered some of the best home theater systems available in 2021.
Moreover, many of these brands made it to my round-up, including Polk Audio, JBL, Klipsch, Bose, Logitech, and Yamaha. Unless it's your first time venturing into the speakers market, you probably recognize these brands as household names.
That list is far from complete, though. There are many more options to explore, some better known than others. Plus, we all have our preferences – and brand loyalty is something to be considered, too.
However, the brands mentioned above do stand out as some of the most reliable, well-known, and reputable when it comes to the best surround sound systems.
Q: What is the best budget home theater system?
A: The overall enhancement of your TV-watching experience – both in terms of general audio quality and surround sound effects – makes the best home theater systems a necessity in 2021.
I mean, you should be able to get lost in immersive, high-quality audio even when you're watching your favorite movies at home.
Wouldn't that cost an arm and a leg, though?
Well, no – quality doesn't necessarily mean expensive in this case. The year 2021 has brought us some great home theater setups that will blow your mind and deliver a complete cinematic experience – without blowing your budget along the way.
Onkyo HT-S3900, Harman Kardon HKTS 16BQ, Klipsch Reference Theater Pack – and my top pick, Polk Audio – have all stepped up, delivering exceptional sound at reasonable prices.
Q: What is the best affordable surround sound system?
A: Again, it's entirely possible to find some excellent systems in 2021 – if you're willing to do some digging. Luckily, I already did the heavy lifting for you and narrowed your options down to a few easy-on-the-wallet surround sound speakers worth considering.
If you're tight on money but want the speakers that can turn regular TV-watching into an immersive cinema-like experience, Logitech Z906 is the best surround sound system for the job.
It's a super-affordable solution for your TV, game console, or computer that delivers digital surround sound without breaking the bank.
After it's all said and done, we recommend:
Polk Audio 5.1 Channel Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer
Why it is better?
Based on Polk Audio's T Series speakers
15 multi-directional drivers and a powered 10-inch subwoofer
Engineered with proprietary Dynamic Balance technology
Elevates movie-watching, music, or gaming audio experience with three-dimensional life-like sound
Accurate bass with added depth
Perfect for small and mid-sized rooms
Can be upgraded to a 7.1 or 9.1 speakers system
Reasonably priced system
Final Home Theater System Recommendations for 2021
I recommend the Polk Audio Home Theater System – but I'm not the one who'll be watching movies at your place. You are.
So, take your pick.
You might need to rearrange the furniture a bit. You might even have to save up some money to get it. Heck, you might have to move to a bigger house!
It doesn't matter:
The immersive at-home cinema experience brought to you by the best 5.1 home theater systems of 2021 will be worth it!