Which is the best surround system? We pick the best from our latest surround sound system reviews
Many tech fans we talk to are more interested in getting hold of a Sonos Play:5 multi-room speaker than a surround sound system. But if you love watching movies at home, it’s probably the wrong choice.
These systems get you the sound of a cinema in your lounge, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get good results. For less than the price of an iPhone, you can buy a world-class setup.
If you don’t have room in your life, or lounge, for multiple speakers, be sure to check out our round-up of the best soundbars too.
Aside from one special pick in this collection, these packages have multiple speaker units, including rears you’ll want to place beside or behind your sofa.
These similarities aside, we’ll cover a wide range of surround systems, from ones you’ll see sold with AV receivers as budget packages to ones costing thousands of pounds made for the enthusiast.
Best mid-price surround-sound system
- Optional gloss and leather finishes
- 100mm front main drivers
- 140W subwoofer
- Review Price: £699
The oldest surround system in this round-up is proving hard to shift. Q Acoustics’s 3000 is one of just a few products we’ve given a perfect score to over the years, and with good reason.
For around £650 you get a full set of hifi-quality speakers that are extremely well-made, look good and sound fantastic. They’re crystal clear, and — for the price — the bookshelf-style units provide much greater dynamics than most. You don’t need a high-end receiver to get the most out of them either.
The Q Acoustics 3000’s subwoofer has a slim ‘upright’ design using a pair of mid-size drivers rather than a single huge one. Bass fanatics might prefer a more powerful unit, but our only real complaint is that at present the eye-catching black/white gloss finishes add £300 to the cost.
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Best surround-sound system for tight budgets
- 75mm main drivers
- 200mm subwoofer driver
- Gloss black/white finishes
- Review Price: £399
One of the most affordable 5.1 speaker systems that doesn’t revert to using absolutely tiny satellite speakers, the Wharfedale DX-1SE is worth a look if you’re on a budget. It comes in high gloss black and white, two looks to suit different lounges.
If it’s not clear from the pics, the Wharfedale DX-1SE’s speakers are still fairly petite, at just 19cm tall per satellite. They have 75mm main drivers and a tweeter a piece.
Given their size, the subwoofer does a great job of picking up the slack, making a system that’s a true room-filler with real power. We like the sound, and love the look and price. The one sore point is that the bass could be more taut.
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Best lifestyle 5.1 surround sound system
- Modular docking rears
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming
- Spotify Connect and Google Cast support
- Review Price: £699
A surround sound system is one of the least lounge-friendly bits of tech most of us want. The Philips Fidelio solution is to use rear speakers that can dock into the fronts, meaning you can just pull them out on movie nights.
No need to worry about rear speakers blocking doors, taking up room, or being knocked over by toddlers.
The Philips Fidelio E6 sound is big and expressive, although if you’re coming from using a giant set of 5.1 speakers, you’ll notice the rear speakers sound a little thin and constrained. But then who said this wasn’t a compromise, albeit a clever one?
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BEST ONE-BOX SURROUND SOUND SYSTEM
- Eight main drivers
- In-built subwoofer
- Review Price: £349
Don your sceptic’s hat, because the Yamaha YSP-1600 is a soundbar that claims to be able to provide 5.1 surround in a single speaker. Yep, it’s another ‘one of those’.
The YSP-1600 has eight ‘beam’ drivers that do a good job of providing 5.1 surround effects even though they all sit in a row along the bar. There’s no separate subwoofer, it’s in-built, but we’re more than happy with the level of bass this smart wireless soundbar offers.
If we could change one thing it’d be to improve the treble, which could be more refined and insightful.
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Best Surround-sound system for fuss-free atmos
- Atmos drivers integrated into rears
- 500W power
- Review Price: £1,299
At a glance, the Samsung HW-K950 might seem boring. It’s a selection of black rectangles: big whoop. However, in-situ it looks very subtle and has Dolby Atmos.
In the few Dolby Atmos cinemas, you get speakers across the ceiling for more immersive surround sound. As most of us don’t want to dig holes in our own ceilings to make way for speakers, the Samsung HW-K950’s rear units have upward-firing drivers in their tops.
As such you get a sense of sound circulating above your head, one of Atmos’s main aims. The Samsung HW-K950 also sound a lot better than the other Samsung soundbars we’ve used, with much more refined treble that gives this slightly pricey soundbar combo a hifi edge.
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Best surround sound system for sound quality
- 300W subwoofer
- 17cm full-range drivers
- Hifi sound quality
- Review Price: £3,173
£3000-plus may not seem like an accessible price, but it’s far more affordable than Dynaudio’s standard, as one of the big names in high-end hifi speakers. For the price you get a pair of floorstanders, a centre speaker, a pair of surround and a SUB 600 subwoofer.
This is a setup for people willing to let their speakers take over their lounge to an extent, but it pays off in sound. The Dynaudio Emit 5.1 is a frighteningly powerful setup, with the detail and refinement to match.
Best Style Surround Sound System
- Aluminium housings
- Optional Dolby Atmos units
- Integrated subwoofers
- Review Price: £3,990
The challenge of traditional hifi makers who want to survive in a world of small, pretty little lifestyle speakers is to make big speakers as desirable as possible.
Definitive Technology’s BP9000 5.1 system uses striking gloss aluminium instead of chunky wood, and its floor stander fronts are both slim and have subwoofer units built into them. There’s no giant subwoofer box to hide. You can also get Dolby Atmos units for the fronts that add extra height channels to the setup.
They in-built subs perform just as well as many standalone units, and you actually have to manage the bass unit’s dial carefully to make sure there’s not too much low-end in the mix, if anything. Detail is exquisite too, making the Definitive Technology BP9000 a perfect fit for someone with discerning taste, a big budget and a stylish lounge.
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Best Surround Sound System for Stand-Out Design
- Dual tweeters with ribbon unit
- Slim wall-mountable rears
- 14-inch subwoofer driver
Hi-fi speakers don’t have to look totally boring. That could be Dali’s tagline. While they’re still big boxes, the Dali Opticon 5.1’s units at least have a look not intended to simply be covered with a fabric grille as soon as possible.
The sound is set apart from the competition by use of ribbon tweeters, as well as a standard dome tweeter. These take on frequencies 10kHz and up to provide plenty of bite with out harshness.
This is matched on the other end with a SUB K-14 F subwoofer, a truly movie-focused bass unit not afraid to shake your walls. Warn the neighbours.