A/V equipment continues to get more powerful, more affordable, and more layman-user friendly every day. And with the advent of on demand streaming, more and more people are delving into the once obscure world of audiophilia and high fidelity with full fledged home theater systems. It’s thus not surprising that companies are starting to cater to this new wave of consumers with all-in-one home theater systems.
Is it worthwhile to go the “everything out of the box” route as opposed to piecing a system together with individual components? We believe so, definitely, in many cases. Which home theater systems are decent enough to be worth considering? That’s what we’ll be discussing here.
Table of Contents Navigation
- The Pros and Cons of All-In-One Home Theater Systems
- Is a Home Theater System Right For You?
- What to Look for in a Good Home Theater System
- What’s a Realistic Budget for a Home Theater System
- Our Current Favorites
- The Best Cheap All-In-One Home Theater System: The Yamaha 5.1 YHT-3920UBL
- The Best HiFi (But Good Value) Home Theater System: The Klipsch R-24F
- The Best Convenient, Totally Out of the Box Home Theater System: The Bose Lifestyle 600-650
The Pros and Cons of All-In-One Home Theater Systems
Pro: Convenience – this is a significant and understated upside, especially so for non-experts. Everything is specifically designed to work together, and as a complete system. Set up might take as little as an hour, maybe less. Piecing together standalone components, on the other hand, might take weeks or more of research and set up.
Con: Price – everything comes at a cost, including convenience. If you’re thrifty and are willing to put in some initial effort, you could probably piece together a system that’s as powerful as any all-in-one home theater for less money.
Pro: Support – company support and warranty becomes all the more important the higher any asset-level purchase gets. If you have a problem with a home theater system, many companies have departments specifically dedicated to troubleshooting. With a self-made system, you *might* get useful help from the manufacturers of various pieces of your system, but no guarantees within the context of your entire set up, so you’re kind of on your own.
Con: Customization – an all-in-one system will inevitably have limited customization, whereas if you build your own you’ll have a lot of potential design options. You’ll also probably have much more room for upgrades or other such changes. Maybe you subsequently decide you want more powerful speakers for example.
Is a Home Theater System Right For You?
There’s not really an objective answer, rather it really depends on what kind of customer you are. Are you:
- Someone who wants set up to be as simple and easy as possible, with a full company backing to support any potential problems?
- Someone with technical savvy who likes the idea of doing research, doesn’t mind set up and possible trouble shooting on their own, and wants to get maximum value?
The former might prefer the all-in-one home theater route, even if it means paying a little more – convenience and time is just more valuable than money sometimes. The latter, though, might prefer piecing a system together themselves – it can certainly be fun and fulfilling to make a learning project out of it.
That said, the remainder of this article will be written for the customer who’s decided they’re in the “convenience” category. We’ll now discuss what to look for in a good home theater system as well as make some recommendations for products we like.
What to Look for in a Good Home Theater System
The first thing you want to think about is the company itself – chances are you’ll be happy with a purchase from a reputable audio company as opposed to some obscure off brand system. Don’t be lured by deceptively low prices either, which is often how said off brands like to entice customers. There are certainly good deals to be had, but if a price looks just to good to be true, it probably is.
What’s a Realistic Budget for a Home Theater System
We first have specify what a home theater system is actually compromised of – there’s no decided definition.
Intuitively, most people imagine such a system has what’s needed to replicate a movie theater experience. At a bare minimum this would need to include:
- a pair of speakers, or maybe a single sound bar
- a display, usually a TV or projector
- a source, usually a receiver
Beyond that, well, there’s a lot more you could add: More speakers and subwoofers for 5.1, 7.2, or maybe even more channels of sound. Maybe a specialty item such as a vinyl source or a mixer. The list goes on.
Many home theater “systems” only include the audio equipment, the speakers, a receiver, etc. And while we wouldn’t say this is bad advertising, it could be misleading, but that just seems to be the convention. Most people think of a TV or display as something that’s bought on its own anyhow. Some of our subsequent recommendations won’t include displays.
So lets break it down monetarily then:
A truly bare bones home theater system might only include a single sound bar or a pair of speakers and a source, something which you could certainly acquire for just a few hundred dollars. But is a single pair of bookshelf speakers really a “home theater”? Most people think of it as being more grandiose than that.
A middle of the road system will usually include 4-5 speakers for surround sound, a subwoofer, a source, and a display. This will run for around $1,500 – $3,000.
Once you go higher than that you’re typically delving into specialty grade HiFi speakers and the like. All in all, we’d say a fair range for a decent but reasonable home theater system will run around $1,000 – $3,000.
Our Current Favorites
Without further ado, we’re going to list what we think are the best available products. Not necessarily in order, but rather by the typical category of customer: Something that’s inexpensive but still decent, or something that looks nice, or something with maximum HiFi, something packed with features, etc.
The Best Cheap All-In-One Home Theater System: The Yamaha 5.1 YHT-3920UBL
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Why we like it: Yamaha is one of the best when it comes releasing good quality products at seemingly unbeatable low prices. For less than $500 you get a lot with this 5.1 system: a receiver with solid power specs, 5 satellite speakers, a 100W subwoofer, 4K compatibility, Bluetooth, and easy syncing with just about all of the popular apps. The speakers aren’t massive, and won’t get cutting edge audio technology such as Dolby Atmos, but, this is a great sounding, decently powerful option for people who don’t want to break the bank.
The Best HiFi (But Good Value) Home Theater System: The Klipsch R-24F
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Why we like it: Klipsch makes some of the best valued HiFi speakers available, and this system delivers truly high quality and power at a non-exorbitant price. Do note these don’t come with a receiver – we’ve seen a few bundles but the prices of those seem to be way too high, at least for now. Just get a decent receiver separately.
The Best Convenient, Totally Out of the Box Home Theater System: The Bose Lifestyle 600-650
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Why we like it: It’s an easy to set up and manage option that comes with everything, cables and wires and all, that you need included (a TV you’ll have to purchase separately). It also looks nice, and we do concede that decor is a significant factor for some people.