What is the Best Budget Surround Sound System?

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Spending thousands on a surround sound system is not absolutely necessary. I mean, it’s great if you can and are willing, but most of us can’t afford such high-end expensive systems. The good news is that you can get a pretty great surround sound system at a much more affordable price. You don’t even have to go over $1,000. Or over $500. Our article about the 9 best budget surround sound systems is here to present to you some of our favorite affordable home theater speaker system. We will also discuss the price ranges and the performance you can expect at different price points, give you some tips on what to pay attention to when looking for a surround sound system, and discuss all the good and bad sides of these systems.

Should You Go for a Soundbar, Stereo System, or a Full Surround Sound System?

Well, if your only concern is the best possible listening experience, especially if you’re a movie fan and want to create a cinema-like atmosphere at your home, then you must go for full surround sound. However, since most of us have budget limitations or space limitations, we often have to make compromises.

One thing is certain – any of the three options mentioned above will be a significant upgrade compared to your TV speakers. Soundbars are probably the cheapest, most convenient, and space-efficient option. If you opt for a soundbar, you won’t have to deal with all the speaker wire and in-wall wiring or anything like that. Soundbars don’t require external amplification (AV receiver or stereo amp are not required) – you just have to connect your TV to the soundbar, turn it on, and you’re ready to go. 

Adding a stereo system is usually a bit more expensive option than buying a soundbar, especially if you’re buying passive speakers that require an amp. The installation also takes a bit longer than the installation of a soundbar. However, they are still more space-efficient and easier to install than a full surround sound system. A stereo system is also a good option in case you don’t have enough money for a full 5.1 or larger system but you want to build one in the future. You can basically start with a set of stereo speakers and a nice AV receiver and then add a center channel, subwoofer, surround speakers, etc.

Performance-wise, a full surround sound system is the best option and it creates the most cinema-like experience. However, they are the hardest to install and require much more space than a soundbar. 

So, what should you buy? Well, you’re the only one who can answer that question. If you don’t have enough space, or you don’t want to deal with the wiring, a soundbar might be the best option. If you don’t mind wiring but have limited space, a stereo system is also a viable option. If you have enough space, money, and patience, a surround sound system is the best option. But what if you have enough space and patience, but the budget is limited? Well, that’s why we are here – to present to you our great selection of the best budget surround sound systems.

What is Considered Budget-Friendly When it Comes to Surround Sound Systems?

Numerous home theater systems and surround sound systems are priced well over $1,000. Many are even priced over $10,000. The $1000 price tag may not seem very budget-friendly but that’s actually, at least in our opinion, a reasonable limit when looking for an affordable surround sound solution.

You can find a few nice options under $500 (or even under $200) but if you are asking us for advice, the optimal amount you should spend on an affordable surround sound system is $500-$1000.

Our Top Picks

This post contains affiliate links. See the affiliate disclaimer here.

ProductPriceOverall RatingReview
VIZIO V51-H6Check Price on Amazon4.5Read Review
Polk Audio TL1600Check Price on Amazon4.5Read Review
Logitech Z906Check Price on Amazon4.6Read Review
Harman Kardon HKTS 16BQCheck Price on Amazon4.6Read Review
JBL Bar 5.1Check Price on Amazon4.5Read Review
Fluance SXHTBWHCheck Price on Amazon4.7Read Review
Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4Check Price on Amazon4.4Read Review
Definitive Technology ProCinema 6DCheck Price on Amazon4.4Read Review
SVS Prime Satellite 5.1Check Price on Amazon4.9Read Review

Can You Get a Wireless Surround Sound System at an Affordable Price?

The majority of wireless surround sound systems under $1,000 are soundbar-based systems with a wireless subwoofer. In some cases, you will also get wireless surround speakers. Some soundbars have built-in side-firing and/or up-firing speakers and are supposed to create surround sound simulation without surround speakers but that rarely works and can hardly be compared with a true surround sound experience (especially if surround speakers are not included).

Some of the best cheap (priced under $300 or $400) soundbar-based surround sound systems are made by VIZIO (maybe even some Samsung, Yamaha, or Sony systems). If you can spend more, try JBL 5.1 or some of the Nakamichi’s systems. Wireless systems made by Enclave Audio are also a viable choice under $1,000.

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s move onto our selection of the 9 best budget surround sound systems. We divided the list into two sections – best under $500 and best under $1000. Just pick your range and check out our recommendations.


BEST BUDGET SURROUND SOUND SYSTEMS UNDER $500

What to expect for $500 or less? You can get a simple soundbar-based surround sound system made by budget brands like VIZIO or Polk. Or you can get a tiny surround sound system made by some of the well-known audio brands (Harman Kardon, Klipsch, Onkyo). You can also find a few surround sound systems that are primarily made for computers (Logitech) but can also work with TVs, cable boxes, and Blu-ray/DVD players. You can hardly get a large 5.1 system that includes floorstanding speakers and a 10in+ subwoofer (unless it’s something made by some generic Chinese brand). Also, you can hardly find a 5.1 wireless surround sound system at this price point.

Best Soundar-Based Surround Sound Systems Under $250 – VIZIO V51-H6

VIZIO V51-H6

Editor’s Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

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Impressions

VIZIO V51-H6 is one of the latest VIZIO’s soundbar-based surround sound systems, and it’s the perfect budget option for small rooms. At first glance, this one looks like JBL’s Bar 5.1 but it’s significantly smaller, it doesn’t have wireless surround speakers, and it costs less than JBL Bar 5.1.

V51-H6 comes with all the necessary cables so you don’t have to buy any equipment separately. It even comes with mounting kits for the surround speakers and soundbar. 

The system consists of a 36in-long soundbar, wireless 5in subwoofer, and two tiny surround speakers. The soundbar has three oval drivers replacing three front channels (each driver is 2.7in long and 1.66in tall). The surround speakers have the same drivers (one per speaker). The included wireless sub has one 5in driver and a rear-firing bass reflex port. 

The installation is not complicated, especially if you don’t want to mount the speakers/soundbar. You have to connect all the sources (TV, Blu-ray player, etc.) to the soundbar. The subwoofer will communicate with the soundbar wirelessly but the surround speakers have to be connected to the subwoofer (speaker cables included).

The soundbar has one HDMI ARC OUT port (no HDMI inputs), optical input, and two 3.5mm inputs (one of which is designed for voice assistant devices and is always active). The soundbar is also Bluetooth-enabled.

To control everything, use the included remote (advanced settings) or the buttons on the soundbar’s top panel (basic settings). 

By using the remote, you can select one of the available EQ settings (movie, music, direct, game) or adjust the volume levels of each speaker. The bar also features VIZIO’s proprietary TruVolume technology that makes the sound output more consistent (in terms of volume) so you won’t be surprised or scared by loud commercials.

V51-H6 can handle Dolby 5.1, DD+, and DTS 5.1, but can’t handle Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. 

Advantages

  • Reasonably priced
  • Compact – perfect surround sound system for small rooms
  • Versatile connectivity – HDMI ARC output, optical x1, AUX x2
  • Bluetooth connectivity 
  • Simple and hassle-free installation – all the necessary equipment and cables included in the package
  • Responsive and user-friendly remote
  • 4 sound modes + TruVolume
  • Adjustable volume levels for each speaker + adjustable bass/treble
  • Can decode Dolby Digital, DD+, and DTS 
  • Natural and balanced sound reproduction

Disadvantages

  • No HDMI inputs (only one HDMI ARC OUT)
  • Atmos and DTS:X are not supported
  • Confusing LED indicators

Best True 5.1 Surround Sound System Under $250 – Polk Audio TL1600

Polk Audio TL1600

Editor’s Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

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Impressions

Polk’s TL1600 is a perfect 5.1 system for small apartments. It consists of a dedicated center channel, 4 identical satellite speakers, and one powered subwoofer.

All the speakers are made of plastic. They all have a cheap-looking shiny finish and removable black grilles. The subwoofer has an MDF ported cabinet.

Each satellite has one 2.5in woofer and 0.5in tweeter. They all have ported enclosures for improved low-end reproduction. The center channel has dual 2.5in woofers and one 0.5in tweeter in the middle. The subwoofer has an 8in down-firing woofer and a down-firing bass reflex port. 

All the speakers are wall-mountable and they all have 5-way binding posts, not those cheap spring-loaded connections.

On the back of the subwoofer, you have line-level inputs as well as high-level inputs and outputs. Also, the subwoofer has an adjustable crossover (80-160Hz), adjustable phase (0-180), and adjustable bass volume. The advertised power output of the subwoofer is 50W (100W peak).

Polk TL1600 delivers clear and transparent sound with a nice and punchy bass. It’s not loud enough for large or even medium-sized rooms, but it’s a great choice for small rooms.

Advantages

  • Reasonably priced
  • Super-compact
  • Easy to install
  • All the speakers are wall-mountable
  • All the speakers have banana-plug compatible terminals
  • Balanced and transparent sound reproduction 

Disadvantages

  • Cheap plastic build
  • Not loud or powerful enough for medium and large rooms

Best Powered Surround Sound System Under $300 – Logitech Z906

Logitech Z906

Editor’s Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

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Impressions

Z906 is an attractive and stylish 5.1 system made for PCs but can also work with any TV, Blu-ray player, or any other audio source with optical, coaxial, or analog outputs.

The system includes 5 identical speakers (one of which is oriented horizontally and is supposed to be used as a center channel), one powered subwoofer, and a console. The subwoofer supplies the power to all the speakers while the included console processes all the audio signals and is used to control the volume, select input, and change decoding options.

Each speaker has a sealed plastic enclosure and each has a single 3in full-range woofer. Also, they are all wall-mountable and they all have plastic spring-loaded speaker terminals. 

The subwoofer has a front-firing 8in woofer and it’s ported (side-firing bass-reflex port). It features 5 audio inputs – 3 analog ports for PC connection (6-channel direct input), additional analog input (RCA) for connecting one analog source, and three digital connections (optical x2 + coaxial x1). The subwoofer also has 5 sets of speaker terminals for connecting all the speakers. 

The included console connects to the subwoofer and handles all the processing. So, every audio signal that comes to the subwoofer is being sent to the console for processing and mixing/up-mixing.

You can either use the console or the included remote to control the settings or select input. 

The console can handle the most basic 5.1 surround sound formats (Dolby Digital and DTS) and it can also up-mix any stereo signal to 2.1, 4.1, or full surround sound. 

Z906 delivers pretty great performance for the price. It’s powerful, a little bit bassy, and quite loud. The system is THX-certified so you can be assured that it delivers quite an impressive sonic performance.

Advantages

  • Affordable 
  • Compact – great for smaller rooms
  • Easy to set up
  • Versatile (5 inputs – 2 analog and 3 digital)
  • Can decode basic 5.1 surround sound formats (Dolby Digital and DTS)
  • THX-certified
  • Immersive and powerful performance

Disadvantages

  • Lacks HDMI inputs
  • Lacks Bluetooth
  • Spring-loaded terminals (poor quality and not compatible with banana plugs)
  • Not powerful enough for large rooms

Best Compact 5.1 Surround Sound System Under $500 – Harman Kardon HKTS 16BQ

Harman Kardon HKTS 16BQ

Editor’s Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

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Impressions

HKTS 16BQ is a compact 5.1 system suitable for smaller rooms and space-limited areas. It includes 4 satellites, one center channel, and one subwoofer. Along with the speakers, you will get all the necessary installation equipment (wall mounting brackets, speaker wire).

The satellites are two-way speakers. Each has a 3in mid-woofer and 0.5in tweeter. The center channel has dual 3in woofers and a 0.75in tweeter in the middle. All speakers have the same impedance (8Ω) and sensitivity (86dB). It’s recommended to use an amp that outputs 10-80W per channel. 

The included subwoofer houses one down-firing 8in woofer and has an output of 200W max. On the back of the subwoofer, you have two types of inputs (mono LFE and stereo line-in). However, there are no high-level inputs. The subwoofer has an adjustable bass volume but doesn’t have an adjustable bass crossover. You can also adjust the bass phase or engage the bass boost function. 

HKTS 16BQ delivers very balanced, dynamic, and detailed sound reproduction with perfectly clear dialogs and consistent highs. The bass is punchy and accurate, but not very deep. That’s a good thing if you’re looking for neutral sound but if you’re a bass-head, you may not be perfectly happy with the bass output. 

Advantages

  • Comes with all the necessary mounting gear and speaker wire
  • Super-compact (can easily fit tiny rooms and apartments)
  • Two subwoofer inputs – mono LFE and stereo line-level inputs
  • Adjustable bass levels + bass boost
  • Clear, dynamic, and balanced reproduction with the right amount of bass 

Disadvantages

  • The bass crossover is not adjustable 
  • Spring-loaded speaker terminals (poor quality and not compatible with banana plugs)
  • The subwoofer can’t cover low bass and sub-bass frequencies
  • The subwoofer lacks high-level inputs

Best Soundbar-Based Surround Sound System Under $500 – JBL Bar 5.1

JBL Bar 5.1

Editor’s Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

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Impressions

According to numerous positive customer reviews, JBL Bar 5.1 is one of the best surround sound systems under $500 and it’s the best soundbar-based system you can find at this price point.

The system contains one 45in-wide and super-slim (2.3in) soundbar, one wireless 10in subwoofer, and two wireless surround speakers. Along with the system, you will get almost all the necessary equipment (mounting kits, audio cables (optical, AUX), HDMI cable, calibration mic).

The whole system looks quite attractive and stylish. The soundbar and the speakers are made of plastic and then wrapped in an aluminum grille. 

The subwoofer is quite chunky and has a large down-firing 10in bass driver and a rear-firing bass reflex port.

The included wireless surround speakers are battery-operated and have to be attached to the soundbar for charging. They will deliver 10 hours of playtime at moderate volumes and will recharge in 3 hours.

The soundbar communicates with the subwoofer and surround speakers wirelessly via 5.8GHz radio frequency so there shouldn’t be any interference with your home wi-fi network.

For the basic settings, you can use the buttons on the top panel of the soundbar (power, volume, source select) or your TV remote (power on/off, volume). For all other settings (different sound modes, volume levels for each channel), you have to use the included remote with an LCD screen.

The soundbar is quite versatile. It has one HDMI ARC output (preferred TV connection), 3 HDMI inputs, one optical, one 3.5mm input, and a USB port. Furthermore, the soundbar features Bluetooth connectivity (BT 4.2) so you can also stream audio wirelessly. JBL Bar can process 4K/60Hz video and all the HDMI ports are HDCP 2.2 compliant.

When it comes to supported surround sound formats, you get only support for the most basic (and also the most common) Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, and Dolby ProLogic II. Other multichannel formats and object-based formats (Atmos and DTS:X) are not supported.

The system has a very bassy sound signature so the bass-heads are going to love it. The bass, however, tends to overwhelm the mids and muffle them. The good news is that you can adjust the sound signature in different ways and can play with the volume levels of each speaker (including the subwoofer). You can also select one of the available sound modes (Night mode, Standard, Music, Movie, Sports, Voice).

Advantages

  • Reasonably priced
  • Attractive design
  • Wireless subwoofer and surround speakers
  • Battery-operated surround speakers
  • Versatile connectivity (HDMI, optical, AUX, USB)
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 support
  • Powerful bass

Disadvantages

  • No wi-fi connectivity
  • Overpowering bass tends to muffle the mids and dialogs
  • Atmos and DTS:X are not supported

BEST BUDGET SURROUND SOUND SYSTEMS UNDER $1000

If your budget limit is somewhere between $500 and $1000, the number of viable options increases. For this kind of money, you can get a larger system with floorstanding speakers and a large (10in or 12in) subwoofer (Fluance, Polk). You can also find a pretty nice wireless surround sound system (Nakamichi, Enclave Audio). Or you can find a few smaller systems made by trustworthy audio brands like Klipsch, Definitive Technology, SVS, etc.

Best 5.0 Budget Surround Sound System Under $600 – Fluance SXHTBWH

Fluance SXHTBWH

Editor’s Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

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Impressions

Fluance SXHTBWH is our top choice under $600. It doesn’t come with a subwoofer but, unless you’re really into bass, you won’t need a dedicated subwoofer. The good thing is that you can always add a subwoofer (or two) and upgrade this beautiful system. 

SXHTBWH consists of two 2-way/3-driver floorstanding speakers (each 39in tall and 13in deep), one dedicated 2-way/3-driver center channel, and two 2-way/2-driver surround speakers. All the speakers have durable MDF cabinets and are available in three finishes (black ash, white, natural walnut). All the speakers have removable magnetic grilles. Two surround channels are wall-mountable (mounting kit is not included). The center speaker is not mountable – it has no mounting holes but you can buy a custom-made bracket for it.

The floorstanders have two 6.5in poly-coated woofers and one 1in silk-dome tweeter. They have dual bass reflex ports on the back. Thanks to two pairs of gold-plated binding posts, you can bi-amp or bi-wire them if you find that necessary. The other speakers have only one set of binding posts compatible with spade lugs and banana plugs. The impedance of the floorstanders is rated at 8Ω and the recommended amplification is 50-160W. The speakers can handle every note down to 49Hz and up to 20kHz. The crossover is set at 3.5kHz.

The center channel has dual 4.5in Poly-coated woofers and 1in silk-dome tweeter. It has a single bass reflex port on the rear panel. Its impedance is 8Ω and the recommended amplification is 30-100W. The frequency response spans from 90Hz to 20kHz.

Each surround speaker houses 4.5in woofer, 1in tweeter, and two front-firing bass reflex ports. Their impedance is 8Ω and the recommended power input is 30-100W. 

This 5.0 system delivers quite an impressive surround sound experience. It’s very clear, very detailed, very dynamic, and the bass is not bad at all, even though there’s no subwoofer. However, if you want a real rumble, you need a dedicated subwoofer (preferably something bigger – 10in or 12in). 

Advantages

  • Fairly affordable (considering the size, build quality, and overall performance)
  • Attractive, elegant design
  • Great build quality
  • Gold-plated binding posts (compatible with banana plugs and spade lugs)
  • Florstanders can be bi-amped or bi-wired
  • Impressive sonic performance

Disadvantages

  • The system doesn’t come with a subwoofer (bass-heads will need one)
  • The mounting kit is not included in the package
  • The center speaker is not mountable

Best Soundbar-Based Surround Sound System Under $750 – Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4

Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4

Editor’s Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

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Impressions

Nakamichi is one of the most popular brands when it comes to soundbar-based wireless surround sound systems, and there’s a good reason for that. Nakamichi systems are fairly affordable and their performance usually exceeds the price tag.

This Nakamichi system consists of one soundbar, one 8in subwoofer, and two surround speakers (have to be connected to the subwoofer). It’s classified as a 7.1.4 system, which means it supports object-based Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround formats. The packaging also includes a backlit fully-featured remote, all the necessary cables, and mounting equipment.

The soundbar houses numerous inputs/outputs – 4 HDMI ports (3 inputs and one ARC OUT), TOSLINK, coaxial, AUX, and USB port. Also, there’s Bluetooth connectivity so wireless streaming is also an option. 

The soundbar has 8 drivers – 6 2.5in drivers arranged in three pairs (front right, center, and front left channels) and two side-firing 1in drivers for larger soundstage and better surround effects. The subwoofer has one 8in driver. The included surround speakers have a 2-way design – 3in woofer paired with 1in tweeter. 

The subwoofer is wireless and the surround speakers are connected to the subwoofer (speaker cables are included). 

As expected, Nakamichi Shockwafe 7.1.4 supports 4K/60Hz video pass-through. All HDMI ports are HDMI 2.0 and they are all HDCP 2.2 compliant. 

Advantages

  • Great price/performance ratio
  • Good build quality
  • Very easy to use
  • Wireless subwoofer
  • Multiple physical connections (HDMI ARC x1, HDMI IN x3, coax, optical, AUX)
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • 4K/60Hz pass-through
  • Engaging surround sound performance with great surround effects

Disadvantages

  • No calibration mic
  • The soundbar can decode object-based formats but the height effects are practically non-existent

Best Compact 5.1 Surround Sound System Under $900 – Definitive Technology ProCinema 6D

Definitive Technology ProCinema 6D

Editor’s Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5)

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Impressions

This compact and elegant-looking system consists of 4 identical satellite speakers, a dedicated center channel, and a powered subwoofer. The speakers don’t come with mounting equipment – you have to buy all the equipment separately. 

Each satellite speaker has a 2-way design and houses one 3.25in BDSS woofer, 1in tweeter, and one 3.25in bass radiators.

The dedicated center channel houses dual 3.25in BDSS woofers, one 1in tweeter, and dual 3.25in bass radiators.

Every satellite speaker can handle 10-150W, while the center channel can handle 10-175W.

The subwoofer houses one 8in down-firing woofer and one 8in bass radiator. The subwoofer is powered and its peak power output is 250W. It has high-level inputs and outputs as well as LFE input. The crossover is adjustable (40Hz-150Hz).

Definitive Technology ProCinema may look the same as some other cheaper compact systems, and the build quality is maybe not the best, but it sounds much more sophisticated than similar cheap systems. It delivers a perfectly balanced sound with great midrange clarity and transparency, consistent and accurate treble, and a nice amount of punch. Shure, the bass reproduction won’t blow you away, but it’s pretty great for a small room.

Advantages

  • Compact – perfect for small rooms
  • Elegant, stylish design
  • Wall-mountable speakers (satellites and center channel)
  • Sophisticated and balanced sound reproduction
  • Efficient and immersive surround sound performance

Disadvantages

  • All the speakers are mountable but the brackets and other mounting equipment are not included
  • Bass-heads will need more bass

Best Compact Surround Sound System Under $1000 – SVS Prime Satellite 5.1

SVS Prime Satellite 5.1

Editor’s Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5)

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Impressions

SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 is our top recommendation under $1000 when it comes to compact space-saving systems. It consists of 5 SVS prime satellites (one of them is used as a center channel – there’s no dedicated center channel) and one 12in subwoofer.

Each satellite is a two-way speaker. It houses one 1in aluminum-dome tweeter and 4.5in woofer. Two drivers are paired with a proprietary SoundMatch crossover (set at 2.3kHz), designed to provide a seamless transition between lows and highs and coherent sound reproduction. The tweeters feature FEA-optimized diffusers, designed to provide airier and less directional treble reproduction. Although small, the woofers can deliver surprisingly deep tones with minimal distortion, even at high volumes. The required amplification for the satellites is 20-150W. The impedance is 8Ω and the sensitivity is 85dB.

The included SVS SB-1000 powered subwoofer is quite powerful and fairly small. It has a front-firing 12in driver. The RMS power output is 300W (720W peak). The subwoofer has adjustable bass volume, phase, and low-pass crossover (50-160Hz). Also, the soundbar has both high-level and line-level inputs (RCA and mono LFE input), which gives you much more flexibility when it comes to installation. 

The system delivers surprisingly good performance and sounds much bigger than the size suggests. The bass reproduction is powerful, fast, and effortless. The midrange is detailed, dynamic, and clear. The highs are airy and engaging. The overall performance is surprisingly immersive. 

Advantages

  • Super-compact
  • Stylish and sophisticated design
  • Impeccable build quality
  • High-quality drivers and crossover
  • Effortless bass reproduction
  • Impressive overall performance – sounds much bigger than the size implies

Disadvantages

  • The system lacks a dedicated center channel
  • Mounting equipment is not included in the package

This concludes our selection of the 9 best budget surround sound systems. If you want to find out more or need some tips on what to look for and what kind of performance to expect from budget surround sound systems, read our buyer’s guide. As always, feel free to comment and ask questions.


Buyer’s Guide – Things to Pay Attention to When Buying a Budget Surround Sound System

Price

Since we are dealing with budget-friendly surround sound solutions, the price definitely plays an important (if not decisive) role. As stated in the introduction, our recommended budget limit is $1,000. It would be great if you can spend more, but if you want an affordable but great-sounding system, you should probably be prepared to spend $500-$1000.

Dimensions

When we say dimensions, we are referring to the speaker dimensions but also to the room dimensions. You have to match those two things. A small room can’t really handle small speakers and small speakers can’t handle large rooms. So, using a system that includes two large floorstanding speakers in a relatively small 15×15 room would be overkill. Larger speakers might even sound boomy in a small room.

Specs (driver size, power ratings, impedance, sensitivity)

Specs won’t tell you whether you’re going to like the sound or not but can tell you what kind of amplification you need and what kind of performance you can get with different AV receivers. The driver size will tell you what kind of bass to expect (big speakers are, naturally, going to deliver bigger sound with deeper and more robust bass). 

You can’t just read the advertised frequency response values and assume that a small 8in subwoofer can deliver the same kind of bass as some 12in subwoofer because the specs say that they both have the same frequency response.

The impedance and power ratings (power requirements) will tell you what kind of amp/receiver you should get to achieve the best speaker performance. The speakers can work even with an amp that doesn’t meet the requirements but you will never get the same clarity and loudness you would get with an amp that meets the power requirements. 

Sound quality

The sound quality is always a crucial feature. After all, that’s why you’re buying a speaker system. You can read dozens of reviews and some reviewers can explain really well all the good and bad sides regarding the sound reproduction, but nothing can replace a real-life test. Trying the speaker system before you buy it is the best way to figure out whether you like the sound or not. 

Additional features (wireless surround sound systems)

If you are going for a wireless surround sound system, the list of things you should pay attention to expands significantly. First of all, since wireless systems don’t require any amplification, there’s always a hub (main unit) that has all the inputs and communicates with other wireless speakers. In most cases, the main unit is the soundbar. In some cases, there will be a separate console that has all the inputs and processes all the audio signals. 

You should pay close attention to this unit and first check the inputs. The main unit must have the right kind and the right number of inputs for your setup (whether it’s HDMI, optical, coaxial, analog inputs, etc.).

You should also pay attention to the wireless signal quality and reliability. Having a wireless subwoofer or a pair of wireless surround speakers that often disconnect is a nightmare.

Furthermore, wireless systems often have some additional features like Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity, multiroom support, Airplay/Airplay2, Chromecast, Alexa built-in, etc. Depending on the price, you will get more or fewer of these features. Look for the system that has all the connections and all the features that you find useful. But be aware that you can’t get all of these features at an affordable price. Wireless systems with all these features usually cost well over $1,000.

So, What’s the Best Budget Surround Sound System?

There can’t be only one answer. It all depends on your budget, preferences, and available space. Our selection of 9 best budget surround sound systems has at least one suggestion for every budget so check it out and see if there’s something you like.

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