Which is the best surround sound system on the market? We’ve picked out the best of the best from all the surround sound systems we’ve reviewed
Multi-room speakers are all the rage in 2019, with many audiophiles choosing to pick up a Sonos Play:5 over the classic surround sound system. That said, if you’re looking for equipment to pair with the latest blockbusters at home, you really can’t beat a surround sound setup.
Surround sound systems give you ambiance of the cinema right from your couch and you might be surprised to hear that you don’t need to spend a ridiculous amount to get quality results. These days you can get your paws on a world-class setup for no more than the price of an iPhone, so why settle for anything less?
All but one of our top picks in this list come with multiple speaker units to truly capture that all-encompassing movie theatre atmosphere. This includes rear speakers to plant beside or behind your sofa, pulling you into every action scene and ensuring that every jump scare is properly terrifying.
The other option is a special pick you might be interested in investing in if you have limited space or aren’t interested in crowding your room with more than one unit. That said, you can’t argue with the results rear speakers consistently bring to the table and some of these units are undeniably sleek.
Similarities aside, here we’ll be covering a huge range of surround systems from fantastic budget units with AV receivers to premium setups designed for the movie buffs with a little extra cash to spend looking to build a true home cinema.
And if you don’t have room in your home for multiple speakers, be sure to check out our roundup of the best soundbars on the market too.
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.