Three best surround sound systems
If you're happy with basic sound quality from your audio and video players, a soundbar works just fine. But if you're ready to upgrade the quality of the sound coming from your media players, a surround sound system is the best option.
With a surround sound configuration, you position multiple speakers throughout the room to create more realistic sound than if you just use a single speaker that's directly in front of you. Whether you like to listen to music or watch movies, a surround sound speaker system will exponentially improve your listening experience.
Considerations when choosing surround sound systems
Number of speakers
You'll often see a speaker system referred to as a 5.1 system. This number signifies the configuration of the speakers in the system: five speakers plus one subwoofer. (The subwoofer is the part that produces the lowest bass frequencies.) The five speakers include right and left front, right and left rear, and center. They may all be the same size, but many systems have larger tower speakers for the rear speakers.
Other common surround sound systems are 7.1, 9.2, and 11.2 (the latter two systems have two subwoofers).
Know that a system like this will take up quite a bit of space in your room. The speakers need floor or shelf space, as well as vertical space. If your room is very small, consider a soundbar instead. Also, a large surround sound system could create so much volume that it overwhelms a small room. If you're in an apartment, a 5.1 surround sound system probably will be enough. For larger rooms or a home theater setup, your speaker system can be as large and complex as you can afford.
Surround sound system features
Less expensive systems are smaller in size, meaning they won't have the same volume as more expensive systems. Subwoofers in inexpensive systems often don't have a lot of power, meaning they won't deliver the kind of bass that you can feel vibrating through your body.
More expensive surround sound systems have excellent volume and top-notch sound quality. And these ship with all the components you need to start using the system immediately.
Try to avoid systems that claim to give you "virtual" surround sound. This system uses software to try to simulate a multiple speaker system, but the audio quality won't be as good as that from multiple speakers spread throughout the room.
Surround sound system prices: These systems are available in a huge price range. You can pay as little as $100 or as much as several thousand dollars.
Q. Why would I want a surround sound system?
A. A surround sound speaker system creates a more natural field of sound around you. This style of audio delivers a more immersive experience when you're listening to music or watching movies.
Q. Can I mix old speakers with new speakers?
A. Most speakers use the same type of connection system, so you can mix speakers to create a system. Understand that newer speakers have components and technologies that create better sound quality, but mixing and matching speakers should work fine.
Surround sound systems we recommend
Best of the best: Klipsch 5.1 RP-280 Speaker Package
Our take: Excellent audio quality. Great investment because the performance level is so high that this system will maintain its quality for many years.
What we like: Can add pieces as needed for more features. Enough components that creating a surround sound layout is easy.
What we dislike: Costly. Components occupy a lot of space.
Best bang for your buck: Logitech Z906 5.1 Speaker System
Our take: Reasonable price for surprisingly powerful system with up to 500 continuous watts. Nice audio quality.
What we like: Sound quality is better than you'd expect at this price point. Speakers don't require significant amount of space.
What we dislike: Reports of a few speakers not working properly right out of the box.
Our take: This is a smart choice if you're looking for a first set because it gives you the ability to upgrade the system later.
What we like: Uses a tower speaker design that delivers very good sound quality compared to smaller units. Nice price point for an entry-level system.
What we dislike: If you want a subwoofer, you'll have to purchase it separately.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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