One of the first decisions you have to make when designing a home theater system is picking a set of speakers. The speakers you choose will depend on what type of system you’re trying to make (stereo or surround), and how much space you have. We’ve broken down all of the major home theater speaker categories below, and recommended one set from each of them to save you time.
If you want even more recommendations, be sure to check out our guides to the best bookshelf and floor standing speakers, along with our picks for the best Dolby Atmos speaker systems. Those of you who are seriously short of space should also check out our guide to best compact sound bars.
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What You Need to Know Before Buying Home Theater Speaker Systems
There are many factors to consider when choosing the right home theater speaker systems for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Size: Home theater speakers come in various shapes and sizes, and this guide includes both bookshelf and floor standing models. Bookshelf speakers are generally around one foot tall and are a great choice if you’re setting up a home theater in a living room or master bedroom. Floor standing speakers can be around three feet tall, so they’re a better choice if you have a larger space, like an open basement. Surround sound systems can have a mix of both floor standing and bookshelf speakers.
Drivers: Drivers are the part of the speaker that produce sound; generally, larger drivers are better, but their material and location on the speaker matters, too. All of the home theater speakers we’ve chosen have multiple drivers, which handle different frequencies, so music will sound clear and accurate.
Stereo vs. surround: Some of the speakers we’re recommending in this guide come in pairs, which are perfect for stereo (also known as 2.0) home theater systems, while others come in six speaker bundles, so you can listen to music in surround sound (5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos). If you choose a stereo pair of speakers now, you can always get another pair later on to build a well-balanced surround sound system over time.
Passive vs active: Home theater speakers come in two different styles: passive and active. Passive speakers, have no built-in amplification, which means you need to connect them to a stereo receiver for them to work. Active speakers are a more all-in-one solution; they have a preamp, volume controls, and inputs (ports that let you plug devices into them) on the speakers themselves.
This guide features a mix of passive and active speakers to accommodate different space constraints. Passive speakers are the right choice if you have a lot of room, while the all-in-one design of active speakers make the a better bet if you’re short on space. Keep in mind active speakers are heavier than passive ones, and can have smaller drivers because the speaker housing has to accommodate a lot more hardware.
1. Audioengine HD6
Audioengine’s HD6 active bookshelf speakers are a great choice if you want big sound in a smaller package.
The HD6s stand 11.9 inches tall, and each one has two drivers: a 5.5-inch kevlar woofer that handles midrange and low frequencies, and a 1-inch tweeter to take care of the highs. The drivers are housed in a hand-built cabinet, and covered by a magnetic speaker grill. This is a stereo set of active speakers, but you could use them passively and repurpose them in 5.1 system later on if you chose.
Despite being the most compact set of home theater speakers we recommend, Audioengine outfitted the HD6s with a lot of connectivity features. The speakers have: One set of RCA (red and yellow) inputs, one set of RCA outputs, a 3.5mm audio input, an optical audio input, plus a Bluetooth antenna.
This array of ports allows you to connect a TV (via optical), computer (via 3.5mm), turntable (via RCA), and phone, tablet, and computer (via Bluetooth) to the HD6s at the same time. That’s impressive for a pair of home theater speakers that could fit comfortably on a thin home entertainment system or desk.
Audioengine includes a set of banana clip speaker cables, a 3.5mm audio cable, and a set of RCA cables with the HD6s, so you can connect them to a lot of your gear right out of the box. Just be sure to pick up an optical audio cable to get the best sound from your TV. The HD6s also come with a remote, which allows you to adjust their volume and switch inputs without having to adjust the volume knob on the left speaker.
If you want a feature rich pair of home theater speakers that won’t take up a lot of space, Audioengine’s HD6 are the right choice.
2. Q Acoustics 3050i
Q Acoustics’ 3050i floor standing speakers are an excellent choice if you want to create an audiophile worthy stereo home theater system.
The speakers stand 40 inches tall and 12 inches deep, so you’ll need a fair amount of space to set them up, but they’re worth it if you do. Q Acoustics did a great job designing the 3050is to be optimized for sound, literally from the bottom up. Instead of sitting directly on the floor, the speakers are balanced on four metal pegs (don’t worry, the company includes rubber bumpers so they don’t scratch your floor), which reduce their vibration when you’re listening to loud or bass heavy music.
The speaker have three drivers: two 6.5 inch woofers for bass and midrange frequencies, and a .87 inch tweeter that handles high frequencies. Each driver is suspended in a multi-piece enclosure, which reduces distortion from vibrations to improve their accuracy. The 3050is case features a technology called P2P (Point to Point) bracing, which keeps the speakers rigid, so sound isn’t dispersed in different directions. The result is that music is directed toward you, so you get a more accurate stereo image.
All of this technology is wrapped up in a minimalist package that won’t clash with the furniture in your room. The speakers are available in four colors, so you can likely find one that looks good in your home theater space.
The one thing to keep in mind is that the 3050is are passive speakers, which means you’ll need to hook them up to a stereo receiver for them to work. We have a guide to help you pick the right A/V receiver for your needs, but I’m personally partial to Bluesound’s PowerNode 2i. Whether you want a stereo home theater system, or want to build a surround sound system piece by piece over time, Q Acoustic’s 3050i floor standing speakers are an excellent choice.
3. Enclave Audio CineHome II
If you want a 5.1 surround sound home theater speaker system in one box, you should seriously consider Enclave Audio’s CineHome II Bundle.
The system comes with seven components: One pair of 16.4 inch front speakers, one pair of 6.4 inch rear speakers, a 3.4 inch center channel speaker, a 13.8 inch subwoofer, and a 1.6 inch CineHub (receiver). The front speakers have four “full-range” driver drivers and three tweets, while each of the rear speakers features a pair of two-inch drivers. This is pretty impressive hardware for a surround sound system that’s relatively small.
The active speakers in Enclave Audio’s system stand out because all six of them are totally wireless. You do need to connect each one to a power source (outlet), but all of the audio is transmitted to the speakers wirelessly through Enclave’s CineHub. This gives you a lot of freedom for speaker placement, and saves you the trouble of stringing speaker wire around your room.
The only wire you’ll need is an HDMI cable to connect the CineHub to your TV’s HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) port. Once they’re connected, any audio coming from your TV will be routed through the speakers. The CineHome II home theater system supports many popular audio formats, including PCM, Dolby Digital Plus, and Dolby DTS Surround Sound.
Because Enclave Audio’s speakers are tied to its CineHub, you won’t be able to use them with other stereo equipment. Enclave Audio says you can add more of its speakers to expand this system, but you won’t be able to mix and match audio components if your needs change.
If you want a set of home theater speaker solution that’s modern, clean looking, and totally wireless, Enclave Audio’s CineHome II is the right call.
4. Klipsch Dolby Atmos Speaker Bundle
If you’re building a cutting-edge home theater system, and need speakers that can handle anything you throw at them, the best choice is going for Klipsch’s Dolby Atmos Speaker Bundle.
Dolby Atmos is the latest version of surround sound that’s just beginning to take off. Audio is mixed toward you and above you, so sound hits your horizontally and vertically. The result is hearing audio that truly sounds like it’s coming from all directions, which is far more immersive than traditional 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems.
Klipsch’s speaker bundle contains six speakers: one pair of 11.3-inch bookshelf speakers, one pair of 40-inch floor standing speakers, one 7.3- inch center-channel speaker, and one 14.5 inch subwoofer.
Each bookshelf speaker features one 4-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter. The floor standing speakers have a pair of front-facing 6.5-inch woofers, a 5.25-inch upward-firing woofer, and pair of 1-inch tweeter (one front-facing, one upward-firing). The center-channel speaker has a pair of 5.25 inch woofers, and a one-inch tweeter. Finally, the subwoofer has a single 10-inch front-facing woofer.
Each speaker in this set is from Klipsch’s Reference Series, and given the hardware inside each cabinet, you should expect premium sound. These are passive speakers, and to get the best experience you’ll need a stereo receiver that supports Dolby Atmos, and high-end speaker cables.
Although Dolby Atmos is in its infancy, these home theater speakers will deliver a premium experience when listening to stereo or traditional surround sound audio. Consider the speakers an investment that’ll continue to pay off over time. If you have enough room, and want to design a home theater system with no compromises, Klipsch’s Dolby Atmos Speaker Bundle should be at the top of your list.
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