There’s no way to avoid it – getting a serious surround sound set-up is a substantial venture. A complete home theatre speaker system is a bit of an investment that may involve a lot of extra cables and boxes, not to mention a fair bit of furniture rearranging. But despite all that, we adamantly feel that the pay-off of an authentic, immersive home cinema experience is well worth the bother and, with a bit of research, really needn’t cost the earth.
How to choose the best home theatre speaker system for you
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The first thing to consider is the number of channels. A 5.1 system is most common and comprises five speakers (two pairs of either floorstanding or standmount speakers and one centre speaker) and one subwoofer.
Other arrangements are also available, from 7.2, which adds surround back speakers behind your seating position and an extra subwoofer, up to pretty much whatever your room can hold.
Dolby Atmos systems tend to include up-firing speakers that can help deliver more immersive surround sound, but make sure your speakers are compatible and they’re paired with a capable AV receiver. Alternatively, you can achieve Atmos with in-ceiling speakers.
More speakers usually mean more convincing surround sound, although they can take up quite a bit of space. You’ll also need to factor in the cost (and positioning) of speaker cable. Keeping your selection of speakers to one brand will help keep the sonic balance.
This is especially the case with the centre speaker, which should be from the same brand and ideally from the same range as the rest of your home theatre speaker system. This will help ensure the best sound possible.
Finally, price is key. You can spend a few hundred or tens of thousands, so make sure you peruse this list and find one that fits your budget. If you own a budget AV receiver there’s no point partnering it with a high-end speaker package. As a general rule of thumb, we’d suggest spending around double the cost of your surround sound amp on a standard 5.1 speaker set-up.
All the speaker packages recommended below have been through our thorough testing process and they’ve passed with flying colours. So whether you’re after a budget set-up or the kind of home cinema system that would make Bruce Wayne green with envy, we should have something for you.
Tight on space? A class-leading soundbar might be the way to go.
Lean, attractive, interesting and unfussy: these words are equally apt for both the aesthetics and acoustics of these clever performers.
Upfront are the Award-winning Dali Oberon 5 floorstanders. The surrounds are either the five-star Dali Oberon 1 standmounters (£1699), which is the package we’ve tested, or the compact Dali On-Wall speakers (£1799). Your subwoofer is the Sub E9-F, while the Oberon Vokal centre is a real star in the middle.
The Dali Oberon 5 5.1 system presents every frequency in full, but with honesty and warmth that brings the best out of any soundtrack. They’re transparent but fun, powerful but subtle; we’d have them round to ours any day. That’s why they were our 2020 What Hi-Fi? Awards Product of the Year, and continued to pick up a win for their price category in 2022.
Read the full review: Dali Oberon 5 5.1 Speaker Package
With poise, effortlessness, cut glass diction and charisma, the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 HCP is essentially the Audrey Hepburn of home theatre speaker packages. It offers rich bass without sacrificing or overpowering the mid and treble, presenting a mature sound that’s rich in impact, agility, detail and sensitivity.
The package is made up of a quartet of the excellent, mid-sized Diamond 12.1 bookshelf speakers for fronts and surrounds with the 12.C in the middle and the SW10 powered subwoofer supplying the bass.
The tautness and dexterity of the SW-10 is remarkable. It’s an incredibly musical sub blending seamlessly with the smaller speakers, which themselves have an impressively well-integrated low end. The result is rich and lively sound,
Large enough to provide cinematic scale with a wide soundfield, but discreet and affordable enough to be accessible to a variety of audiences, the Diamond 12.1 system proves to be an excellent choice for both music and film, which is why it’s a 2022 What Hi-Fi? award winner.
Read the full review: Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 HCP
Developed concurrently with Wharfedale’s flagship Elysian range, the Evo4.4 5.1 speakers are packed with technology that uses the same concepts as its bigger sibling, bringing innovative tech and a refined and relaxed sensibility to this more affordable, though still pricey, speaker package.
This system (available in the UK with a small discount as a bundle) comprises the Evo 4.4 floorstanders, the Evo 4.2 bookshelf speakers and the Evo 4.C centre channel, partnered with the SW-12 sub. There’s a lot of consistency across the system, including Air Motion Transformer tweeters that use a lightweight, pleated diaphragm instead of a cone or dome to provide responsive and immediate high frequencies.
There are also the same 50mm, domed midrange driver and kevlar woofers and bother the fronts and rears benefit from Wharfedale’s Slot Loaded Profiled Port (SLPP) technology for low frequencies with less distortion and improving efficiency.
The Evo range is elegantly designed with bowed cabinet sides and rounded corners and comes in three smart wood grain finishes – black, white and walnut. However, no amount of curved edges can skirt around the fact that these are relatively large speakers and will be tricky to house for anyone who doesn’t have the luxury of a dedicated home cinema room.
The Evo 4.4 5.1 pack is a powerful but detailed system that never sounds like it’s having to work too hard. Voices are projected with transparency and are full of character, and there’s an ease and spaciousness to the speakers’ performance that makes this a set-up that’s immensely enjoyable to listen to for long periods of time and a What Hi-Fi? 2022 award winner.
Read the full review: Wharfedale Evo 4.4 5.1 pack (opens in new tab)
A mature but accessibly priced surround system, the Diamond 12.3 Home Cinema Packs is an insightful, composed and authoritative speaker package ideal for both movies and music. Consisting of a pair of Diamond 12.3 floorstanders, two mid-sized 12.1 bookshelf surrounds, a 12.C in the middle and an SW-10 powered subwoofer.
The 12.3 floorstanders deliver a powerfully dynamic performance that’s responsive but carefully measured for a cinematically weighty sound that generally integrates very well with the smaller speakers in the system for fantastic consistency across the soundstage.
There’s plenty of dialogue clarity from the compact centre channel, while the SW-10 combines a firm grasp with swift agility, resulting in a measured performance that has plenty of tonal variation and blends effortlessly with the low end of the 12.3s.
While floor-standing speakers require a certain amount of space, the 12.3s are a manageable size, forgiving in placement, and stylishly discreet, making the Diamond 12.3 HCP an excellent option for an entry-level system that delivers above its price point, earning a coveted What Hi-Fi? 2022 award.
Read the full review: Wharfedale Diamond 12.3 HCP speaker package
It’s easy to baulk at the thought of introducing a full 5.1 surround sound package into your home when you have limited space – but Wharfedale has just the solution.
A follow-up to the excellent DX-1HCP and DX-1SE speaker packages, the Wharfedale DX-2 is a tiny, charming and extremely capable 5.1 surround speaker package that has already had a significant reduction on its launch price.
Go up the price scale and you’ll find speaker packages (such as the Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack) that are more articulate, more precise and bigger-sounding. But they cost double what the Wharfedale does. The entertaining performance, the compact-yet-stylish build and the appealing price tag – it’s impressive how much Wharfedale has bundled into the petite DX-2 package. It’s a great solution for AV fans tight on budget and space and a What Hi-Fi? 2022 award winner.
Read the full review: Wharfedale DX-2
The Q Acoustics 3050i 5.1 Cinema Pack is boldly cinematic and hugely entertaining, and actually doesn’t take up as much space as its sound might have you believe. You get a pair of 3050i floorstanders for your left and right channels, 3010i standmounts for the surrounds, the wonderfully expressive 3090i centre speaker and 3060S subwoofer.
The system’s energy and exuberance is infectious, without being fatiguing, and those qualities are complemented by a great deal of maturity and insight too. The power and bass weight offered by the 3050i caters for greater intensity, without forgoing the snappy timing of their more diminutive partners.
That fluidity and fleet footedness is one of the most impressive aspects of this package, avoiding rigidity for a fast but natural-sounding performance. We’d defy anybody not to enjoy an evening spent with this speaker package.
Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3050i 5.1 Cinema Pack
Near identical to the Q Acoustics package above, only with a second pair of 3010i standmounts swapped in for front right and left channels, the 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack is another multi-Award winner.
These speakers’ hi-fi roots are made clear right from the off, majoring in detail, dynamic expression and a surefooted sense of rhythm. What might be more surprising, however, is just how much scale is on offer considering their modest footprint.
For those who love a cinematic experience, but perhaps lack the space for floorstanders, this is an exceptional sub-grand package.
Read the full review: Q Acoustics 3010i 5.1 Cinema Pack
The Silver 200s, the smallest of three pairs of floorstanding speakers in this sixth generation of Monitor Audio’s long-running Silver series, are the headline act in this surround package. But despite the 200 appearing in the title of this package, the floorstanders’ stage is shared with three equally talented protagonists – the Silver C150 centre speaker, Silver FX surround speakers and Silver W-12 subwoofer.
Crashes, bangs and wallops are thrown at the listener, as if physically tossed around the room with incredible cohesion as each speaker complements the others’ character. As a whole, the package times with military precision, driving forward with relentless momentum.
Rarely are we so fully behind a speaker system for its work both in stereo and in surround sound, but with these Monitor Audio Silvers you truly are achieving both for the price of one.
Read the full review: Monitor Audio Silver 200 AV12
This surround package partners two pairs of five-star stereo speakers – the supremely talented Debut 2.0 F5.2 floorstanders and Debut 2.0 B5.2 standmounts – then throws in a likeminded centre speaker and sub for what is one of the most composed, detailed and well-matched systems we’ve heard at this price. Dolby Atmos topper speakers are also available for an even more immersive sonic experience.
We’d happily spend as much time as possible watching our favourite movie scenes just for the treat of hearing what this speaker package can do. Their subtle, sensible and silky sound production creates the kind of wonderfully open and detailed soundstage that true cinema sound is about. They put you in the heart of the action so succinctly that you almost forget about the speakers altogether.
Read the full review: Elac Debut 2.0 5.1 Home Theatre System
If space isn’t an issue, you might want to treat yourself with this brilliant KEF set-up. It is these speakers’ sonic ability that warranted a five-star rating, of course, but there’s no ignoring the KEF Q350 5.1 package’s brutish stature or the physical command it has over our listening room. It’s certainly not one for a small bedsit.
It’s big and bold, with a sound to match: you’re treated to a beautifully immersive experience, where the speakers and sub working together to create a wonderfully coherent soundfield. And the bass, while powerful, is never overstated, meaning the sound is never muddied or coloured. Take the plunge and you won’t be disappointed.
Read the full review: KEF Q350 AV 5.1
If it wasn’t for Q Acoustics’ stellar offerings in the 5.1 space (above), this Dali would have picked up a What Hi-Fi? Award or two of its own. It pairs a quartet of Spektor 2 standmount speakers, back-to-back Award winners in their own right, with the Spektor Vokal centre speaker and small-yet-mighty Sub C-8 D subwoofer.
It provides a fast, detailed and gratifyingly entertaining listen, with the sub providing plenty of scale. Dialogue has a warmth to it that’s sadly lost in many systems, and the impeccable sense of timing makes for a truly cinematic experience.
Read the full review: Dali Spektor 2 5.1
Borea is high-end French brand Triangle’s most affordable series of hi-fi speakers, and its BR08 5.1 speaker package consists of a pair of 3-way, front-ported BR08 towers, two dual-driver BR03 stand mounters, the Tales 340 subwoofer (the cheapest in Triangle’s four-strong sub range) and finally the 2-way BRC1 centre speaker. This surround sound system can be extended by adding BRA1 height surround units (£349 / $599 / AU$900 per pair) to create a 5.1.2 or even 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos-capable system.
For its accessible price, the Borea BR08 5.1 is an entertaining and admirably cinematic surround speaker package. Add in the optional height units, and you’ll also get one of the most convincing Atmos performances we’ve heard that doesn’t involve ceiling rigging.
This system may require some tinkering to suit your space, Triangle suggests that the largest speakers, the BR08, will work best in rooms between 20-40m squared in size and recommends placing both the floorstanders and the bookshelf speakers 40cm from a rear wall and more than 50cm from the sides. The BR08 in particular have a powerful low end and, despite being front-ported, proximity to the wall has a sizeable influence on this. If you’re able to, we’d advise upgrading the subs as the Tales 340 isn’t up to the standard of the rest of the system. But the package as a whole offers enjoyable, dynamic surround sound at a reasonable price.
Read the full review: Triangle Borea BR08 5.1 speaker package
It’s high-end by most people’s standards but Evoke only sits around halfway up Dynaudio’s range. As the Danish brand has a bit of a ‘pay it forward’ approach to the high-end tech, Evoke benefits from innovative developments in driver design first used in its even pricier predecessors. This lends the Evoke a tenacious, premium sound consistent throughout the whole range and rhythmically taut across the frequency spectrum with a standout agile, low end.
The system comprises Dynaudio’s Evoke 50 floorstanders, the Evoke 25C centre speaker, two Evoke 10 bookshelf speakers and the sealed-box Sub 6. Despite being on the large side, its clean, minimalist design lets the cabinets sit comfortably in most rooms. From the gently curved front corners and tapered trapezoid shape of the MDF cabinets to the contrasting matt black ‘screwless’ drivers and flawless glassy lacquer, every small detail helps the Evoke system neatly take its place.
Read the full review: Dynaudio Evoke 50 5.1
A 7.1 Dolby Atmos package at this price looks too good to be true. But not only is it an absolute steal, it’s also a very tidy, compact affair – so compact, in fact, that Jamo suggests you put the subwoofer under the sofa. How’s that for convenience?
The sound is dynamic and full of body, and the low end – while a little soft – is ample for all but the most discerning of home cinema audiophiles. If that’s you, you’ll be happy to spend a bit more for a smoother sound, but the Jamo is still a fine option at the money.
Read the full review: Jamo S 807 HCS
This is the first Fyne Audio product we reviewed that didn’t earn five stars, but that’s more down to the competition than any reflection on this package’s prowess. The F302 floorstanders still have the wow factor that got them straight onto our Awards list, and generally work well with the F300 standmount surrounds and F300C centre.
Indeed, it’s a more than capable system, managing to be both swift and agile and full of enthusiasm. The F3-8 sub adds plenty of bass weight, without sacrificing the level of pace and detail. You’ll just have to be careful to pair it with a home cinema amp that’s up to the task.
Read the full review: Fyne Audio F302 AV
How we test speaker packages
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.
Each home cinema speaker package we test is paired with a reference level home cinema amp and is directly compared to the best in its price and features class – whether that’s the current What Hi-Fi? award winner or a few of the latest models we’ve been impressed by in recent reviews. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, and we keep class-leading products in our stockrooms to easily compare new products to ones we know and love.
We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we hear every product at its very best, so we’ll try plenty of different films that show what each system is capable of with both advanced and standard audio formats. We’ll also listen to high-quality music streams from across various genres, allowing for plenty of listening time. We like to make sure we’re happy that the system is performing at its best before we start testing, so we carefully place the speakers in our listening room, tweaking positions if necessary and, of course, running them in before we begin reviewing.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team rather than an individual reviewer to eliminate any personal preference and ensure we’re being as thorough as possible. There’s no input from PR companies or our sales team regarding the verdict with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.