Best surround sound system: 5 picks to amplify your home cinema set-up

The best surround sound systems to ensure you never have to settle for bad audio again

best surround sound system: Panasonic SC-HTB900 in living room
(Image credit: Panasonic)

As we get used to the idea that we’ll be watching movies, listening to music, and doing pretty much everything else from the comfort of home for a little while yet, it’s important that the experience from our sofas is the best it can be.

Without the professional (expensive) set-ups of cinemas, many have decided that now is the time to upgrade their sound system to mimic the experience as closely as possible.

If one of those people is you, then you’re in the right place. While a good surround sound system can seriously upgrade your viewing and listening experience, unfortunately not all products are created equal. That’s why it’s important to really think about what you want before committing to a purchase.

For example, some items on this list are all-encompassing set-ups consisting of multiple speakers for the entire room, while others are smaller soundbar-led systems designed to create the same experience.

So whether you’re a film buff, gamer, or just your standard Netflix-addict (guilty!), we’ve collected some of the best and most popular surround sound systems and ranked them based on who they’ll be best for. Scroll down to see what we thought.

And what's super-sound without the visuals to match? If you’re also after a way to upgrade all aspects of your next movie night, then check out our best TV roundup to find the perfect accompaniment. 

 The best surround sound systems 2021 

best surround sound system: Panasonic SC-HTB900Real Homes Rated Gold badge

(Image credit: Panasonic)

1. Panasonic SC-HTB900EBK Premium Soundbar

Best surround sound system

Specifications
Contents: 1 soundbar, 1 subwoofer
Channel: 3.1
Connection: Google Assistant, Bluetooth, HDMI, Optical
Dimensions: 12.8 x 105 x 7.8cm
Weight: 14.4kg
Reasons to buy
+Affordable price tag+Dolby Atmos+Smart features with Google Assistant
Reasons to avoid
-Some report repeated error with 3D Surround function

A soundbar and subwoofer that pack some serious power, the Panasonic SC-HTB900EBK is a smart option that uses an 8 speaker system to create crystal clear, all-encompassing sound. You can add external rear speakers if you want, but the soundbar and sub do a fantastic job on their own.

Cinematic sound

As you'd expect from a soundbar claiming to offer the surround sound experience, the SC-HTB900 emits sound in every directions using Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to create that immersive feeling you're after, and it's also compatible with 4K viewing. The whole system is based on Technics engineering, so even audio buffs should be impressed.

Google Assistant compatibility

With Google smarts built-in, you can control your system using just your voice. Chromecast functionality is also incredibly convenient for streaming music (which sounds amazing through the speaker) or podcasts from your phone. Overall the SC-HTB900 offers impressive style and performance for a reasonable price.

best surround sound system: Q Acoustics 3050i

(Image credit: Q Acoustics)

2. Q Acoustics 3050i 5.1 Plus Home Cinema Pack

Best multiple speaker surround sound system: a great investment if you have the space

Specifications
Contents: 2 floor speakers, 2 bookshelf speakers, 1 subwoofer, 1 centre unit
Channel: 5.1
Connection: AirPlay, DLNA, Bluetooth
Dimensions: 15 x 25.3 x 25.3cm (shelf speaker); 43 x 15.2 x 21.5cm (centre speaker); 40 x 40 x 44.6cm (subwoofer); 30.9 x 102.1 x 30.9cm (standing speaker)
Reasons to buy
+Comes in a range of finishes
Reasons to avoid
-Looks a little old-fashioned-You'll need enough space for all of the speakers!

If you're looking for a professional quality home surround system, look no further than this wireless cinema pack. Although it is not the cheapest of our top picks, it offers A LOT of bang for your buck so it gets our vote for the best surround sound you can buy.

Impressive value for money

As we've said from the outset, surround sound systems aren't cheap. But, this system offers some seriously impressive value for money. After all, you're getting a comprehensive set-up consisting of two floor standing speakers; two bookshelf speakers; a subwoofer and a central speaker.

Designed with precision

These passive speakers have been designed, specifically, to offer large sound and a deep bass, which is just what you'd expect from Q Acoustics. And, although they'll need to be wired to a source via an AV amplifier, are really easy to set up. Plus, dialogue is crisp and clear, meaning you'll experience your favourite films in a newly enhanced manner.

Stylish design

While we're not convinced that everyone will want such a large speaker system in their home, for those that do, this surround sound system is pretty stylish. Available in four different finishes – Arctic White, Carbon Black, Graphite Grey and English Walnut – you're sure to find something that suits your space.

Best smart Surround Sound System: Bose Soundbar 700 with Alexa Built In

(Image credit: Bose Soundbar 700 with Alexa Built In)

3. Bose Soundbar 700

Best smart surround sound system: mega-easy to set-up

Specifications
Contents: 1 subwoofer, 1 soundbar, 2 speakers
Connection: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Reasons to buy
+Small and compact+Delivers big sound
Reasons to avoid
-Only available in one colour 

This Bose home cinema gets our vote for the best surround sound system for smart features, and it comes so reasonably priced, too.

Superior sound quality

This set of wireless surround sound speakers has earned its position in our top rated products thanks to its low profile design and promise of superior sound quality. So, if you're uncompromising when it comes to audio quality, you certainly won't be let down by this home sound system.

Compact design

This surround sound speaker is among the smallest designs currently available on the market, making it a practical option for those who want a home cinema experience in a smaller space.

Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity

With built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, this soundbar can be used on its own or as part of the larger system to play everything from your favourite Spotify playlist to a 60-piece orchestral work.

Easy set-up

In our opinion, these are the best wireless surround sound speakers for those who are looking for something easy to set up and use. And if you hate the sight of wires, this system is certainly just the ticket for you.

Best Surround Sound System for home cinema: Sonos PLAYBAR Sound Bar

(Image credit: Sonos PLAYBAR Sound Bar)

4. Sonos PLAYBAR

Best surround sound system for home cinema: for those with limited space

Specifications
Contents: 1 soundbar
Connection: Wi-fi
Reasons to buy
+Stylish and compact+Amazing sound+Quality you expect from Sonos
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't support older hardware (pre-2015)-Expensive considering you only get a soundbar

Another of our top picks, is this wireless surround speaker, or soundbar, from Sonos which gets our vote for the best surround sound system for small home cinemas. It offers impressive sound quality for an immersive cinematic experience, from the comfort of your own home. 

Compact design

If you require a wireless surround sound system that blends style with superior sound quality, this Sonos Playbar may be the one for your lounge.

It has a compact design, and one that is adaptable too. You can place it on a flat surface or wall-mounted (mount available separately at extra cost), and the Playbar will automatically detect and adjust its output for consistent Sonos quality in any situation. 

Build on the sound

If the nine speaker design is not enough for you, you can enhance the experience even more by building on the system. Simply add a Sonos SUB or rear speakers (two Play 1s or two Sonos Ones) to the mix (additional speakers sold separately) to create  a sound which totally surrounds you, and the home.

Connect to your smart home system

Connect up to your home Wi-Fi and take full control of your new home surround system with the Sonos Controller app. It's available to download for free, and will give you the wireless freedom to adjust volume, switch settings and more.

Most stylish Surround Sound System: Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A9 (4th Gen) Speaker

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A9 (4th Gen) Speaker)

5. Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A9

Most stylish surround sound system: a beautiful system with incredible sound

Specifications
Contents: 1 speaker
Connection: AirPlay, DLNA, Bluetooth
Built-in streaming: Spotify, Deezer, Tunein
Reasons to buy
+Great design+Comes in range of colours and legs finishes+Connects wirelessly to devices+Just one speaker
Reasons to avoid
-The price tag

This would claim our top spot but, because of the price tag, it's our number two.

Completely customisable to your space and taste, this surround sound speaker not only makes a dramatic design statement, but it features built-in room adaptation to adjust the sound perfectly to its surroundings, so you experience honest, clean sound in any room.

Stylish design

Choose from displaying your surround sound speaker on wooden legs (as above) or wall-mounting, depending on your preference and the set-up of your space.

It's also worth noting that this model is available in white, black, smoked oak or bronze tones, thanks to interchangeable covers, so you really can choose a finish that complements your interiors style.

Only requires one speaker

Unlike other wireless surround sound systems, the Beoplay A9 is so powerful that only one speaker is needed to fill the room with sound, ideal for those who are going for a minimalist look or don't like clutter. 

Smart capabilities

You can connect this wireless surround speaker to your phone via Bluetooth, Airplay or Spotify, use the Bang & Olufsen app on your smartphone to control it remotely, or swipe and tap the Intuitive Touch Interface along the top of the system. 

Build a wider sound system

Bang & Olufsen fans will be pleased to know the speaker features BeoLink Multiroom technology, allowing you to unite all your Beoplay products to play the same music in every room.

A stellar product featuring a ground-breaking design, this is our pick of the very best surround sound speakers for your home.

How to choose the best surround sound system

When buying the best surround sound system for your home, there are a number of factors and features you'll want to consider. After all, wireless surround sound speakers tend to be something of an investment, so you'll want to ensure you're getting the most for your money. Here's what to look out for:

Design

If, like us, you're something of an interiors fanatic, you may be slightly concerned about the aesthetic impact of installing a surround sound system. Fortunately, there are a number of smart – and even stylish – designs on offer. Alternatively, check out those that are small enough to be tucked out of the way. 

Consider what's included in your system

Typically, home surround sound systems are purchased as a 5.1 set – that’s five speakers to one woofer, although there is the option to invest in more speakers if you require. You'll typically receive two front speakers, two rear speakers and a centre speaker as part of a typical kit, in which case the following set-up is advisable:

  • The two front speakers may sit in two corners of the room as they typically carry the bulk of the track.
  • The two rear speakers should sit behind your sofa, as their purpose is to provide an immersive sound experience.
  • The centre speaker usually sits underneath the television as it amplifies the dialogue in the track, separating speech out from the rest of the sound, making it clearer and easier to hear.
  • The woofer can usually be placed anywhere within the space and provides bass and depth – it’s the speaker that makes the room vibrate if you turn the volume right up, so use with caution.

However this is not always the case. For example, our first pick, the Beoplay A9, has all of these features piled into just one speaker, ideal for those who don't want several speakers dotted around the room but still want good quality sound.

Size

Surround sound speakers exist in three levels of size. We'd recommend bearing the following factors in mind when choosing the option that's right for you.

  • Small living rooms will benefit from a compact surround sound system. The speakers are small enough to put on a shelf or on top of a cabinet, allowing to you maximise the space that you have.
  • The next size up are bookshelf speakers – these typically require a mount or a stand and deliver a better sound quality than a compact surround sound set without being too obtrusive.
  • Finally, there’s floor standing surround sound speakers, which are a feature in their own right and are best placed in large lounges where there’s plenty of space. 

Can you build your surround sound system over time?

As we mentioned previously, home surround sound systems tend to be expensive and are something of an investment for the vast majority of people. If you can't afford an entire surround sound system in one go, it may be worth opting for a make that can be built over time. 

If that sounds like you, our pick of the best soundbars may be your best starting point. 

Smart capabilities

Some of the latest surround sound systems are smart enabled, meaning you can sync them with your chosen smart assistant – perhaps Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. This capability makes it super easy to control your surround sounds system using your voice, as well as enabling you to control your entire home cinema set-up using the same software. 

Caroline Preece
Caroline Preece

Caroline has been part of the Real Homes ecommerce team in the UK since the start of 2021, after working for the last decade as a journalist across publications in technology, entertainment and more. In her spare time she's usually obsessing about space-saving and DIY hacks for small spaces, and how to affordably make a rental feel like a home.