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The best sound systems for any home, according to experts

 

The best sound systems for any home, according to experts


The top sound systems from brands like JBL, Klipsch, and Sonos bring music or movies to the next level with clear immersive audio and wireless capabilities.



JBL Bar 700

Best sound system overall

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Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 System

Best sound system for wired systems

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Sonos Arc

Best Sonos sound system

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Sony HT-A9

Best sound system splurge

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Paradigm Monitor SE Atom

Best budget sound system

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table of contents

The best sound systems of 2023

The right sound system immerses you in the action of your favorite movies, games, and songs. Today's sound systems are a little more modern and include features like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, built-in Dolby Atmos, and even industry-leading sound technology that can enhance voices or map the sound to your room perfectly. 

In my experience there is no universally best system--the right gear depends on your audio needs and budget.

 Andy Fraser, Owner of Guitar Inside Out

To help you decide which sound system is best for your setup, we've extensively researched the best choices available on the market today based on speaker power, frequency response, connectivity options, and price. We also spoke to experts on their recommendations as well as features to look for before you buy. 

Our top pick for the best sound system is the JBL Bar 700, but we also included systems from brands like Klipsch, Sonos, and more for you to compare and consider to ramp the volume up in your home's movie and music experience. 

The best sound systems of 2023

JBL Bar 700

Best sound system overall



JBL/ZDNET

pros & cons

pros

Detachable speakers


Smart home compatible


Powerful and immersive sound


cons

Expensive


more details

JBL Bar 700 tech specs: Subwoofer: 10-inch wireless | Power: 620W | Connectivity: Wi-Fi | Frequency response: 35Hz–20kHz (-6dB) | Channels: 5.1

The JBL Bar 700 includes a 10-inch subwoofer with 620-watt output, making it a powerful sound system. With built-in Wi-Fi, you'll experience excellent audio with Dolby Atmos and theater-quality 3D sound. 

This sound system comes with Apple AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music, and Chromecast built-in, along with the ability to access over 300 online music streaming services like Spotify. 

Michael Moore, the owner of the Devoted to Vinyl blog, told ZDNET that he loves the JBL bar because of how convenient it is to use while still being powerful and versatile once you turn it on. 

"In my eyes, the JBL Bar 700 offers you the best of both worlds—an expected (and high quality) soundbar, and a more immersive experience should you opt to detach the ends of the speaker and add them as rear-channel effects behind your head," Moore said. 

Moore added if you have somewhat limited space, or you just don't want several big speakers placed around the room, that the JBL Bar 700 is an excellent option.

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Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 System

Best sound system for wired systems



Klipsch/ZDNET

pros & cons

pros

Six speakers including a subwoofer


Detailed sound


Great value for the money


cons

Must have your own receiver to connect speakers to


more details

Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 System tech specs: Subwoofer: 10 inches | Power: 300W | Connectivity: RCA | Frequency response: 90Hz-20kHz (+/- 3dB) | Channels: 10 channels

This six-system setup includes four satellite speakers, one center speaker, and one subwoofer, along with the power of Dolby Atmos sound to amp up your cinema experience. There's a reason why these speakers are the #1 best seller on Amazon for the surround sound system category, and that is their quality sound. 

The 10-inch subwoofer is front-firing and delivers room-shaking sound, while the satellite speakers are top-firing, which creates the feeling of sound coming from a bubble around you.

The Klipsch Reference Cinema speakers are a great entry-point into the world of home theater and are easy to set up. The only downside to these speakers is that you must have a receiver in order to connect them. 

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Sonos Arc

Best Sonos sound system


No subwoofer necessary


Top sound technology


Excellent audio quality


cons

High-end price for just a soundbar


Relies on Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth connection


more details

Sonos Arc tech specs: Subwoofer: None | Power: N/A | Connectivity: Wi-Fi and HDMI | Frequency response: N/A | Channels: 5

Sonos has long been a trusted market leader in the speaker game thanks to its easy-to-use devices that are smart home compatible. For the Sonos Arc, Sonos enlisted the help of Oscar-winning sound engineers so the Arc emphasizes the human voice, reducing the need to go back and rewind your show or movie to catch quieter dialogue you might have missed. Additionally, the Arc offers optional speech enhancement when paired and used in conjunction with the Sonos app. 

The Arc soundbar has Dolby Atmos to deliver that immersive experience--and its bass is great even without a built-in subwoofer. By utilizing Enhanced Trueplay, a tuning technology, the Sonos Arc can also make adjustments according to your surrounding environment, providing a more personalized listening experience. 

To top it all off, the Sonos Arc has both Wi-Fi and HDMI connectivity, and it can connect to the Sonos app, Amazon Alexa, or Apple AirPlay 2. 

You can add the Sonos Era 300 speaker to pair with the Sonos Arc to really outfit your home theater experience, but the Arc will also work just fine on it's own if you're simply looking for a soundbar. 

Also: The best Sonos speakers: How the Sonos One, Arc, Beam, and more compare

Andy Fraser, a musician for over 15 years and the owner of Guitar Inside Out, told ZDNET that he recommends the Sonos Arc as a solid sound system option. 

"I've loved pretty much everything Sonos has done, and their soundbar is no different," he said. "It's expensive, but it's so easy to use, and that's important to me. I don't want to spend ages getting to grips with and trying to understand how a system works."

It's important to note that Sonos does not list its power output or frequency response specs for its speakers.

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Sony HT-A9

Best sound system splurge



Lots of connection options


Sound mapping technology


Sleek and elegant design


cons

Most expensive option


Have to purchase subwoofer separately


more details

Sony HT-A9 tech specs: Subwoofer: Sold separately | Power: 504W | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HDMI, USB | Frequency response: 200Hz-10 kHz | Channels: 4

If you're really looking to outfit your home with a sound system fit for any audiophile, the Sony HT-A9 system is a splurge, but is outfitted with impressive specs. 

Sony's 360 Spatial Sound Mapping technology creates the illusion of the sound of 12 speakers from just four speakers. These speakers also have support for 8K UHD, 4K/120 passthrough so that movies and video games literally come to life. 

As far as smart home compatibility, the Sony HT-A9 comes built-in with Chromecast, and works with Apple AirPlay 2, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa.

Moore also recommends this speaker system for a home theater setup, as well as a music setup, especially since they come with a Spotify Connect function. 

"The sound mapping tech for these speakers really creates an unbelievably detailed and spacious soundstage that'll make you feel immersed in whatever album, television show, or movie you're enjoying," Moore said. 

As far as style goes, he said, these speakers are aesthetically pleasing. 

"They have an elegant design, appearing quite modern and less like a traditional speaker," Moore added. "I think anyone that typically loves how Bose speakers or Apple speakers (like the Apple Home Pod) look will really enjoy the sleek, minimalist design of the Sony HT-A9."

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Paradigm Monitor SE Atom

Best budget sound system


More affordable


Quality build


Compact size


cons

Lacking a bit in mid-range sound


No subwoofer


more details

Paradigm Monitor SE tech specs: Subwoofer: Sold separately | Power: Up to 100W | Connectivity: Binding post | Frequency response: 61-21k Hz ±3dB | Channels: 2

At $300, the Paradigm Monitor SE Atom bookshelf speakers aren't exactly your average budget price, but it retails for much less money, compared to other sound systems' average price points, while still packing a punch in terms of sound quality (especially for speakers of this size).

These bookshelf speakers provide a clear and balanced sound thanks to the pure aluminum dome design of the tweeters, which blocks out unwanted frequencies. They can also be raised with a speaker stand (sold separately) to further enhance their sound in a room. 

Fraser also praises the Paradigm Monitor SE series for their well-built design, especially since Paradigm builds all its speakers in-house. 

"The attention to detail and quality can be clearly seen in the construction and assembly," Fraser said. "But more importantly they sound great and so realistic. For someone like me who really focuses on the instruments, you can hear the musicianship and skill of every instrument being played."

You can also opt to pair these speakers with other models in the Paradigm Monitor SE lineup, such as the Monitor SE 2000C Center Channel speaker.

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What is the best sound system?

The JBL Bar 700 may not be the cheapest sound system, but the four-piece system performs as well as other larger systems. It delivers strong, powerful bass with startling clarity, and experts agree -- it is the best sound system.

To see how it compares, here is an overview of the best sound systems. 

Best sound system

Cost

Subwoofer

Power

Frequency response

JBL Bar 700

$900

10-inch wireless

620W

35Hz–20kHz

Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4

$340

10 inches

300W

90Hz-20kHz

Sonos Arc

$900

None

N/A

N/A

Sony HT-A9

$2,000

Sold separately

504W

200Hz-10kHz

Paradigm Monitor SE

$300

Sold separately

Up to 100W

61Hz-21kHz

Which is the right wireless surround sound system for you?

It really depends on where you will be putting your system, what you plan to listen to, and what price you're willing to spend. To help you find the right sound system for your needs, here are our expert recommendations to consider. 

Choose this surround sound system...

If you want...

JBL Bar 700

The best overall option. This sound system features a soundbar with detachable ends and a wireless subwoofer.

Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4

Speakers to connect to your receiver. It is made up of five speakers and one subwoofer, plus Dolby Atmos compatibility. 

Sonos Arc

To stay in the Sonos ecosystem. It uses top sound technology for speech enhancement. 

Sony HT-A9

To splurge on a sleek sound system. This system has plenty of connection options, along with sound mapping technology. 

Paradigm Monitor SE Atom

A budget-friendly sound system. These bookshelf speakers provide a clear and balanced sound.

How did we choose these wireless surround sound systems?

In choosing the best wireless surround sound system, we considered several critical factors, including brand type, customer reviews (both good and bad), and recommendations from experts in the audio and music industry. Here are some of the more important features we looked at to make our final picks:

Frequency response: The frequency response will determine how well and clearly a speaker can produce sound. Not all brands list this tech spec for speakers, but you'll find that a majority will. 


Connectivity: We included sound systems that will work with both modern (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.) and vintage/old school (wired) setups so no matter what you have in your home, you have options. 


Subwoofer: A subwoofer is the part of a sound system that provides the bass, or that deep, booming sound that ultimately gives that home theater effect. We included sound systems that have subwoofers, as well as some that don't depending on your preference. 


Price: Sound systems are expensive: there is no getting around it. But we included some lower-end price points under $350 for those just starting to build out their home theater. 


What features should I look for in a sound system?

Omar Zulfi, music producer, artist, and founder of DeviantNoise.com, told ZDNET that first and foremost, you have to make sure that what you're buying has all the modern connectivity you might need, like the latest Bluetooth/wireless chips, a substantial number of inputs for HDMI, USB, a phono input for vinyl records, and RCA inputs for old cassette tapes. "It should also be compatible with the latest audio technologies -- Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision, etc.," he said.

Zulfi added that you want to make sure the system you buy also has decent adjustment controls (bass/treble/sub level, and EQ settings) so you can tailor your system to your room. 

And, as far as tech specs are concerned, pay attention to the frequency response. 

"A wide frequency response (as close to 20Hz - 20,000Hz as possible) and a high Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) are two specs that consumers can look for," Zulfi said. "Frequency response determines how well and clearly a sound can be reproduced by the speakers, and SNR impacts the background noise when being used (i.e. low level hiss/static)."

What components make up a sound system?

Fraser said that the most vital components of a sound system are the speakers and amplifier. 

"Quality drivers and enclosures means accurate sound reproduction from the speakers," he said. "The amplifier gives you sufficient power and connectivity for your speakers and source devices."

In addition, he added that other important pieces are the source device (like a streaming box or turntable) and the cables to make sure you can connect everything properly.

Are there alternative sound systems worth considering?

There are so many options on the market for sound systems from different brands. In our search for the best sound systems, we also found these great options that are worth checking out. 

Best alternative for audiophiles

Philips Fidelio FB1 7.1.2-Channel Surround Sound Soundbar

This Philips IMAX Enhanced certified soundbar offers tons of different customizations, along with Dolby Atmos and Alexa support.

View at Amazon

Best alternative for theater sound

Vizio V-Series 5.1 Home Theater Soundbar

Vizio advertises itself as America's #1 soundbar for a reason. The Dolby Audio 5.1 and DTS Virtual:X bring high-quality audio to your living room with virtualized 3D sound.

View at Amazon


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