Build Your Own Surround Sound

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Watch Dune once through your TV speakers or a basic soundbar and you’ll understand the appeal of a true surround sound system. Thanks to the new OLED set, you might already have great visuals, but if the giant sandworms of Arrakis aren’t rattling your living room with ass-shaking goodness, you’re missing an essential element of the movie. Fortunately, bringing the surround sound experience into your home has never been easier without investing thousands of dollars in Hi-Fi components.

Build Your Own Surround Sound

It’s easy to get the cheapest surround sound system you can find or spend more than you really need. So before you buy anything, I recommend sitting down and thinking about what you need now and planning a few years ahead to see if things might change. If you’re stuck in a small city apartment, it’s probably not worth investing in huge speakers that you can never play loud. But if you’re moving within a year or two, you might be able to start with a smaller system and build up.

Home Theater & Surround Sound Speakers

Different rooms may also require different equipment. It makes sense to go wireless in a family room that is always full of kids and their toys. But if you’re lucky enough to have a basement or some sort of dedicated home theater space, go for it. Leave yourself room to upgrade: Consider using an Atmos receiver even if you don’t buy Atmos speakers yet.

Soundbars have come a long way in the last decade. It used to be that you sacrificed a significant amount of quality to get a neat little box under the TV. But today’s entries do a much better job of mimicking two separate front channels and a center speaker. Some models also support newer immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, bouncing sound off the ceiling with upward-firing speakers. (It might sound a little silly, but this technique does a decent job of simulating overhead sounds.)

As a bonus, soundbar systems only need one cable to connect to the TV. They also typically rely on wireless subwoofers and rear speakers that don’t require running long cables around your living room like a traditional surround setup. Of course, you’ll still need to power them up, so make sure you have power outlets nearby.

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As you might expect, the more expensive options sound the best, like Sonos’ Arc ($899) and Vizio’s Elevate 5.1 system ($799), but you don’t have to spend that much to get a decent surround sound experience. Vizio’s 5.1.2 M Series system (regularly $500, currently $350 at Best Buy) has everything you want: A powerful soundbar with two Dolby Atmos/DTS:X height channels, a wireless subwoofer, and two wireless rear channels. Vizio’s V-series 5.1 system is even cheaper at $200, but the smaller speakers and subwoofer sound significantly worse, and you lose Atmos support.

Home Theater System |

Buy Arc at Sonos – $899 Buy Vizio Elevate at Amazon – $799 Buy Vizio 5.1.2 M Series at Best Buy – $350 Buy Vizio V Series 5.1 System at Best Buy – $200

Another simple option is the Roku speaker family. The Streambar Pro ($150) is a capable soundbar that doubles as a Roku streaming box, making it ideal for older TVs that don’t have apps (or not-so-smart newer sets). It’s a good option if you want to build your surround system over time: You can always add Roku’s wireless speakers ($150) for rear channels, as well as the company’s wireless subwoofer ($180) when you need more low-end oomph. The whole system will set you back $480, but keep in mind that it doesn’t have Atmos support like Vizio’s M Series.

Buy Streambar Pro at Amazon – $150 Buy Roku Wireless Speakers at Amazon – $150 Buy Roku Wireless Subwoofer at Amazon – $180 Want something more? Start with an amplifier

The beauty of soundbars is that they handle all the audio processing you need. But if you want to be really serious, you need a receiver that can decode audio signals and route them to speakers. Notably, sound isn’t their only mission these days; modern receivers usually have multiple analog video and HDMI ports to handle all your devices. So instead of plugging your PlayStation 5 and streaming boxes into your TV, they go straight to your receiver. Every decent option also offers Bluetooth, Spotify Connect and support for other popular streaming services, so they’re still plenty useful without a TV.

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How To Build Your Own Speakers

A receiver like Denon’s AVR-S540BT ($349) is a good start, with support for the latest non-immersive audio formats (Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master) and 4K HDR video at 60Hz. Unfortunately, you’ll have to go with the Sony STR-DH790 ($450) to get Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support.

Since you probably won’t be upgrading your receiver too often, I’d say it’s worth paying for these formats now. They make your surround sound experience far more natural. Instead of sound coming from individual channels—say, just the center speaker for dialogue—Atmos and DTS:X treat individual sounds as objects that can move through all of your speakers. And when you have upward-firing speakers (or better yet, units mounted directly on the ceiling), these shapes can make you feel like you’re right inside the movie.

If you want to future-proof yourself even more, look for receivers that support HDMI 2.1, which enables 4K video at 120Hz and 8K/60Hz. Denon’s AVR-S760 ($620) is one of the most powerful options available now, but note that this model (as well as other AVRs from Denon, Yamaha, and Marantz) currently has issues with the Xbox Series X. (Should get a free box Fix it though.) Alternatively, you can always plug the HDMI 2.1 console directly into the TV (assuming it supports it) and route the device’s audio back to the receiver using eARC.

So now that you have the receiver in mind, what about the speakers? The easiest way to solve that is with a box system like Klipsch’s Reference Black Home Theater ($360). It has a typical 5.1 configuration: two fronts, a center, two rears and a convenient wireless subwoofer. The Reference Black system has been rated well by the CNET team, and the current price is practically a steal compared to its original $1,000 MSRP. The ever-budget-friendly Monoprice brand also has an immersive $250 system that includes two satellites with upward-firing speakers. (And if you’ve opted for a receiver with more than two Atmos channels, there’s also a $300 set with two upward-firing speakers.)

The Best Wireless Surround Sound Systems Of 2023

Buy Klipsch Reference Black Home Theater on Amazon – $360 Buy Monoprice 133831 Amazon – $250 Buy Monoprice 133832 Amazon – $300

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If you’re after something closer to a premium hi-fi setup, Fluance’s Elite 5.0 system ($500) is worth a look. It includes two front towers, a larger center channel and wall-mounted rear speakers. They also come in a variety of colors, which is more than you’ll see on some high-end offerings. I haven’t tested these myself, but the reviews I’ve seen have been practically raving, and Fluance is a company known for making high quality speakers. You’ll need to add your own subwoofer to the line, but those towers should rock your living room a lot. And if you want to add Atmos later, you can just add Atmos add-ons like the ELAC Debut 2.0 speakers ($260).

Buy Fluance Elite 5.0 System on Amazon – $500 Buy ELAC Debut 2.0 Speakers on Amazon – $260 How about starting with a 2.1 or 3.1 setup?

You don’t necessarily need to buy your entire surround sound system at once. In fact, it’s a great way to stretch your budget because you’ll have more money to add better hardware. Once you’ve got an AV receiver, a decent pair of bookcases like the ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 ($340) is an incredible upgrade to a simple soundbar or TV speakers. My only suggestion is to try to stick to the same speaker family to keep the sound consistent.

Best 7.1 Home Theater Systems Of 2022

For example, you can add any of ELAC’s Debut 2.0 subwoofers for a bit of low-key action, or grab a C6.2 center channel ($280) to round out your front speaker setup. And eventually you can add more bookshelves or maybe move them to the back and pick up the Debut F6.2 towers ($400

To an even more powerful sound world. All these components add up to an incredible sounding system, although you would never consider it a “budget solution”.

Buy ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2 on Amazon – $340 Buy ELAC Debut 2.0 Subwoofers on Amazon – $280 Buy ELAC C6.2 Center Channel on Amazon – $280 Buy ELAC Debut F6.2 Tower on Amazon – $400 When you buy through the links on our site, we can

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