Transform your living room with these impressive speakers



Take movie night to the next level by investing in some great home theater speakers and you’ll never stream Netflix the same way again.

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When was the last time you saw a movie in the theaters? 

If it’s been a while, it’s for good reason. Movie theater attendance dropped some 80% in 2020 during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. And while some analysts predict a rebound, we don’t blame you for being skittish.

The good news is if you invest in a good set of speakers (and a bag of popcorn, of course!), you can definitely create your own little home theater. Before you invest though, there are some important factors to consider to fit your preferences and needs.

Stereo vs. surround sound

The first thing you’ll notice when shopping for speakers is this distinction. Stereo sound is created with a pair of speakers and is often the best option if space is limited in your home. Stereo is also a good starting point if you’re on a budget because you can always add to your speaker system later to create more of a surround-sound experience. If this is the case, give considerable thought to the quality of your center speaker — it plays about 60% of a film’s dialogue and much of its soundtrack.

The sound coming out of a stereo system is typically from where it is placed in a room. Think of it as a stage where the sound is going out toward the audience. Stereo sound quality is ideal if you’ll mostly be streaming music or want to create your own at-home music studio. It’s not necessarily ideal for those who love action movies, but just fine for everything else.

Surround sound kits, meanwhile, generally require five to six different speakers to create that immersive experience, though there are soundbars on the market that emulate the surround experience surprisingly well. Home surround sound kits are an opportunity to watch movies and shows the way the sound gods (sound mixers and engineers) intended. Most modern movie and TV show soundtracks, especially if they’re action-packed, are recorded for surround sound. 

Dolby Atmos is an audio format included on most popular streaming services, like Disney+ and Netflix. Atmos creates the surround sound experience, with those overhead effects, rumblings across speakers to match directional on-screen action, and upward-firing sound that ricochets off your ceiling. Many kits include or opt for Dolby’s rivals DTS or Pro Logic. Of course, the price will get higher depending on which audio formats are featured in a surround sound kit, but if you’re already splurging on an all-inclusive sound system, what’s a couple hundred more for the best audio quality, right? Right?! 

What size speakers should you get for your home theater?

Second, you’re going to need to consider the size of your speakers relative to the space available in your home or apartment. Home theater speaker sets generally include a mix of bookshelf and/or floor standing speakers, though you can get sets that are all bookshelf or wall-mounted speakers. Also, surround sound speaker kits thrive in padded environments — carpets, curtains, and an enclosed room are their friend. 

Stereo and bookshelf speakers are good options for open floor plans or small spaces without skimping on sound quality. Floor standing speakers are great if you have a large room — but likely won’t work if you live in a studio apartment. 

You might also want to consider whether it’s worth investing in wireless speakers. If you live in a home with toddlers or pets, having a bunch of cords might not be the best choice. A good wireless system can help eliminate any risk of getting tangled up. 

What are drivers, subwoofers, and other speaker tech specs?

The last thing you want to be is confused when you’re shopping for (let’s admit it) pretty pricey speaker systems, so here are some essential definitions that’ll help you narrow down exactly what you’re looking for in a set of speakers.

Drivers are cone-shaped and are found on speaker boxes. They may be hidden by fabric or a front grille. Sometimes manufacturers count drivers as speakers in the tech specs. Drivers move back and forth to create sound and come in different sizes and modes to handle different sound frequencies. Tweeter drivers handle high-frequency treble, midrange drivers handle midrange frequencies, and woofer drivers handle low-frequency bass. In general, larger drivers are better, but their location and material will also help determine the quality of sound. 

A subwoofer is a separate speaker that just handles the bass. Usually included in a surround sound kit, or even externally paired with stereo speakers, they produce immersive effects in movies and provide full-range sound for music that you just can’t get with stand-alone speakers. They can come in different sizes, so purchase according to your living space as the ideal spot for a subwoofer is on the floor or against a wall to carry the bass throughout the room. 

Surround sound system specs:
A 5.1 system is the most common surround sound system. Don’t be scared by the numbers, all it means is that it includes five speakers (usually two floor-standing speakers, two stand mount speakers, and one center speaker) and one subwoofer (.1). Any variation of these numbers just means more speakers and additional subwoofers (a 7.2 system includes two additional back speakers and an extra subwoofer compared to a 5.1 system). (Math!)

Hopefully, all this info has made you an amateur audio connoisseur and you know what you’re looking for in your speaker soulmate. To help make your search easier, here are some of our favorite home theater speakers for 2021.

Built-in voice control (Alexa & Google Assistant) • Speech enhancement feature • Wireless • Easy assembly
This surround system is incredibly easy to set up and you’ll never have to worry about wires again.

Sonos Beam 5.1 Surround Set

This wireless surround system is pretty much the best you can get.

  • Drivers:
    Two force-canceling drivers, four full-range woofers, and one tweeter
  • Stereo or Surround:
  • Set includes:
    One soundbar (beam), two speakers, and one subwoofer
  • Color:
    Black or White

Designed specifically by Oscar-winning sound engineers to emphasize human voices, the Sonos Beam 5.1 Surround Set was created to give you the ultimate movie-watching experience. The dialogue plays through the system’s centerpiece that comes with a speech enhancement feature to help clarify dialogue when characters whisper or there is loud action on screen. This ensures you can better follow along with the story and not miss a word said. The audio quality is also crystal clear: Highs are crisp, lows have a punch to them, and the bass is powerful without any rattle or distortion. 
In addition, the system is a breeze to set up and, because it’s wireless, you don’t have to worry about running cords around your room. The whole system is also voice-controlled, so you can easily turn the speakers on without having to dig for a remote. The synchronized phone app is also incredibly reliable and easy to use.

Available in four colors • Minimalist design • Amazing audio quality • Can be incorporated into a surround sound system • Affordable • Ideal for open floor plans
Unstable on carpet floors • Need to be hooked up to a stereo speaker • Large
These powerful, floor standing home stereo speakers deliver amazing sound and look cool in your living room.

Q. Acoustics 3050i

These powerful, floor standing home stereo speakers look great in your living room.

  • Drivers:
    Two 6.5 inch woofers, 0.87 inch tweeter
  • Stereo or Surround:
  • Set Includes:
    2 speakers
  • Color:
    Black, white, gray, or English Walnut

If you want to create an amazing stereo home theater system, these floor-standing speakers are what you’re looking for. They’re 40 inches tall and have a minimalist, modern design to not clash with your living room furniture. They’re also available in your choice of four colors — including a beautiful English Walnut — so you can make sure they fit your aesthetic. 
Ideal for open floor plans, these speakers deliver amazing audio that’s free of distortion or vibration, especially if you’re listening to loud or bass-heavy music. The speaker case features P2P bracing technology, which helps direct the sound towards you while you watch your movie.  
Best of all? These speakers are affordable and you can always incorporate them into a surround system later.

Amazing audio performance • Complete system in one box • Compact size
Not for rooms over 540 square feet • Pricey
This all-in-one surround sound speaker set is everything you need to set up a home theater.

Focal Sib Evo 5.1.2 System

Small and compact, this speaker system delivers incredible surround sound.

  • Drivers:
    5” speaker driver and ¾ dome tweeter; 4” driver and subwoofer
  • Stereo or Surround:
  • Set Includes:
    3 satellites, 2 loudspeakers and 1 subwoofer
  • Color:

Save yourself the hassle of building your own surround sound system and get this one: It comes with three satellite speakers, two loudspeakers, and a compact subwoofer to deliver a true cinema surround sound experience. The audio has a deep, punching bass and crystal clear highs. 
Even better? You don’t need a ton of space to set it up. The speakers and the subwoofer are surprisingly compact, saving you space without compromising on quality. The speakers are also subtle in their design so they won’t be eyesores in your living room and they can provide a complete surround experience in rooms up to 540 square feet. 

Incredibly well-balanced sound • Modern design • Durable construction
Large and heavy • Need an amplifier to optimize
These large speakers are an excellent choice if you’re setting up a home theater.

ELAC Uni-fi UB5 Bookshelf Speaker

These large speakers are an excellent choice if you’re setting up an epic entertainment system.

  • Drivers:
    5 1/4 -inch woofer, 4 inch midrange cone, 1 inch tweeter
  • Size:
    10.8 x 7.9 x 12.8 inches
  • Weight:
    35.9 lbs
  • Color:

These passive speakers are large and heavy, which means they’re definitely not ideal if space is at a premium in your home. However, that size lends itself well to a truly immersive sound experience, especially for home theaters. You will need an amplifier to get your setup going, though, and you’ll also need to consider your speaker placement carefully to optimize your listening experience. Fortunately, this pair of speakers has a modern design, and they’re available in your choice of two colors to help match your home’s aesthetic. They are also quite durable and made out of solid material. 

Ideal for smaller spaces • Built-in voice control (Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant) • Easy installation • Affordable
No WiFi Connection • Wired satellite speakers • One HDMI input • Not ideal for larger spaces
This home theater system is a solid, all-inclusive option that delivers quality sound for a steal.

VIZIO M-Series™ 5.1 Home Theater Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X

The most affordable home theater surround sound system we could find.

  • Drivers:
    Nine total (Three mid-woofers and three tweeters in the soundbar, one midrange driver in each of the satellite speakers, six-inch driver in the subwoofer)
  • Stereo or Surround:
  • Set includes:
    One soundbar, two satellite speakers, and one wireless subwoofer
  • Color:
    Charcoal gray

Surround sound doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg: This affordable surround speaker set will outperform its price level. Ideal for small spaces for a concentrated, immersive movie-watching experience, the set comes with everything you need, making it a great choice as a beginner surround sound home theater system. The sleek design can fit around most TV setups, and the no-fuss setup includes automatic speaker synchronization, optional wall mount brackets, and two speaker configuration options to optimize a given space. It also comes with a remote. 
For the price, the M-series 5.1 offers quality Dolby Atmos sound, as well as DTS TruVolume and DTS Virtual:X, meaning it includes competitors of the leading surround sound format for more immersive audio.  
One drawback, though, is the wiring of the two rear satellite speakers. They need to be physically hooked up to the subwoofer, so invest in some zip ties to bind those long cables together to make the wiring look neat. Another drawback is adjusting for music. The default setting is great for watching movies in surround sound, but if you want to sync up and stream music via Bluetooth, be prepared to tweak the bass for a crisp sound. 

Great emulated surround sound • Advanced HDMI, WiFi connectivity • Has a USB port • Comes with a remote • Easy assembly • Preset audio options
Pricey for one speaker • Large so won’t fit under any TVs • Wall mount sold separately • No external subwoofer
This soundbar delivers amazing, realistic, emulated surround sound.
Sennheiser 5.1.4 AMBEO Soundbar with Dolby Atmos
This soundbar delivers amazing, realistic, emulated surround sound.

  • Drivers:
    Thirteen high-end drivers on the front, sides, and top of the unit (five tweeters, six longthrow woofers, two fullrange top-firing drivers)
  • Stereo or Surround:
    Emulated Surround
  • Set Includes:
    1 soundbar
  • Color:

While definitely expensive, this soundbar is incredibly powerful, delivering some of the best-emulated surround sound you can get from a single speaker. It provides deep bass and allows you to hear crisp, clear dialogue as you watch your movie. 
The speaker is also incredibly easy to set up and connect to your TV, thanks to both HDMI and WiFi connectivity. It also comes with a remote to make it even easier to use.  
While the price might be a deterrent, it is not that much more than a full stereo system and the surround sound is so good, you won’t need the other equipment — which saves on space in a small home or apartment. 


Consumer Tech, Home Theater, Mashable Shopping, speakers, Tech

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