The term “home theater system” means different things to different people. For some, this means the system should come with everything but the TV, while others are satisfied with a pre-packaged 5.1-channel speaker system. For our purposes, we’ll consider any system with a 5.1 speaker setup and proper amplification a home theater system.
Since the sound bar has become so popular (and cheap), the home theater in a box (HTIB) has taken a back seat in the eyes of buyers seeking simple audio solutions. That being the case, some manufacturers have upped their HTIB game big time. Below are a selection of systems that, first and foremost, offer solid sound quality. In some cases, you’ll get the benefit of wireless surround speakers, or a sound bar-style solution. In any case, we think you’ll be thrilled with any of the systems listed below. Happy listening!
Until recently, Samsung hasn’t had what you would call a stellar reputation in audio. But now, the company is taking its home theater systems a lot more seriously. The HT-E6500W uses a vacuum tube in the pre-amp stage, which is meant to smooth out some of the harshness associated with digital audio. This system also comes with a wireless transmitter for the two surround speakers, alleviating some of the frustration of running and hiding long lengths of speaker wire. With an integrated Blu-ray player and Samsung’s Smart Hub loaded with apps like Netflix and Hulu, all you need to complete a solid home entertainment system is add the TV. Need to go bigger? Consider the step-up HT-E6730W Check out our full review of this system for more details.
The YHT-397 is one of the best deals you’ll find on this list. For about $400, you get a full-on A/V receiver capable of decoding all the latest surround formats, 4K pass-through for compatibility with emerging Ultra HD video formats, and a 5.1-speaker package. You can also take advantage of Yamaha’s YPAO auto-setup routine, which uses a microphone to detect speaker location, set speaker levels and get your system dialed in just right. You aren’t likely to find a more feature-rich system at this price point.
This system is a step up from the aforementioned YHT-397 on our list. How do you make one of the most competitive HTIB’s even better? Yamaha thinks adding floor-standing front speakers, larger surround speakers, a beefier amplifier and Apple AirPlay to the mix should do it. At about $700 online, this makes for a formidable home theater system that is jam-packed with features.
Before you get upset at us for including a system on our list that you can’t buy yet, please allow us to explain: This system is worth waiting for. We caught a listen to the S4251 at Vizio’s display during CES 2013, and we anticipate it will change the way people think about single-box systems. It’s a sound bar, yes, but with a wireless subwoofer and proper surround speakers included, this self-powered system rivals all but the most oversized HTIB solutions (see the Onkyo HT-S4900THX below.) If you can hold out until May 2013 when this system is expected to come available, we think you’ll be glad you did.
This system from Onkyo breaks a lot of the typical HTIB rules, but it offers performance well above most of its peers. Think of it as a high-performance component system that just happens to come packaged in one box. As such, it comes with all the flexibility of a fully-fledged A/V receiver and component speaker package. If you need to rock a medium-large room, this might just be your best bet – just be prepared to shell out some big bucks for all that big sound.
What do you think of our best home theater systems list? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below.