Five Best 5.1 Surround Speaker Sets
A great set of surround sound speakers can make any home theater come to life with rich and vibrant sound that fills whatever space you have them set up in. However, there's more to a great set of speakers than just the speakers themselves-budget, size, space-saving design, compatibility with multiple devices-that all play a role. This week, we're looking at five of the best surround speaker sets, based on your nominations.
Earlier in the week we asked you to tell us
Energy's Take Classic 5.1 speaker system are well loved all over the web. Sound and Vision loves them, and The Wirecutter's current pick for a good surround system that hits all of the best sweet spots-space saving size, amazing sound, and budget friendliness. It doesn't hurt that Energy is a subsidiary of Klipsch, generally aimed at making consumer-friendly, quality audio gear without totally cannibalizing sales of Klipsch's own equipment. This system in particular is a classic 5.1 with black, glossy wall-mountable bookshelf speakers and a subwoofer. Each of the speakers features poly-titanium woofers and aluminum dome tweeters, and the 8" 200 watt subwoofer pumps out deep, rich bass that you can feel anywhere in the room.
One of the best things about the series is that it's relatively affordable. It's currently $365 at Amazon, although it's been known to dip below $350 if you catch a sale or shop around. Almost every reviewer that's had their hands on the system has noted that it's probably as close to no-compromises-for-your-money as you'll ever get, and they sound as good as sets much more expensive. Those of you who nominated it praised that fact, pointed to Energy's connections with Klipsch (although they're not Klipsch speakers), and noted their impressive sound. Check out the nominations thread
Monoprice's Premium 5.1-Ch. Home Theater System is actually The Wirecutter's second pick for a good surround system, and CNET agrees, and actually likes them more, even if they're not the prettiest. Monoprice and Energy have gone back and forth over speaker design and build, but the important thing to know is that the new 5.1 system is an affordable alternative to higher-end speaker sets that sounds almost-if not as-good as its competition. They may not win any awards for style, but they are an all-black, space-saving design that will look at home next to your TV or in your entertainment center. They're matte black, packing aluminum dome tweeters and polypropylene woofers, and the 8" 200 watt subwoofer will sound out even large living rooms. The satellite speakers are wall-mountable, so you can put them anywhere.
Part of the reason everyone loves this particular system is because it's so affordable. The whole system will set you back $220 at Monoprice right now. Those of you who nominated it (including me) marvelled at the sound for the price, and while they only pack a one year warranty (a little anemic compared to some of their competition), it's hard to beat the sound and quality for the price. They'd be a bargain at twice the price-but then, if they were, they wouldn't be quite as popular. If you're on a budget, Monoprice has a sub-$100 5.1 channel speaker set here that's also the nominations thread for more.
Let's get this out of the way up front. The Z-5500 is discontinued, and it has been for a long time. Technically it's been replaced by the Logitech Speaker System Z906, but there's a reason that's not the one you're voting on here. The Z-550 have long been regarded as a kind of white whale of affordable 5.1 speaker systems. They sound incredible, are THX-certified, pack great power to sound out a room, and could be connected to all sorts of devices, not just a computer or home theater setup. The system packed a 10", 188-watt subwoofer, audio inputs for up to six connected devices, and wall-mountable or free-standing satellite speakers that featured Logitech's "Phase Plug" design-one of the reasons they were small but capable of pumping out broad sound. They even featured a wireless, digital control remote that you could keep on your desk to switch inputs and adjust the volume, or carry with you over to the couch.
The problem is that with the Z-5500s being discontinued (and every subsequent model being a bit of a disappointment by comparison), they're extremely hard to find. there are a few sellers sporting them at Amazon, but you'll have to look to find a set. They range between $3-400 and $6-700 depending on who you get them from and how new they promise to be-but if you go on some of your nominations, they're worth the money. Just check out the nominations thread to read more
Pioneer's Andrew Jones series earned quite a bit of praise in our call for contenders thread, and for good reason. The SP-PK22BS feature a full 5.1 channel surround speaker set with four small, space-saving bookshelf speakers that are gently shaped into Pioneer's "RF molded curved cabinets" to boost audio quality. Each of the bookshelf speakers packs individual structured woofers and soft dome tweeters, and the set packs a full 8" 100-watt subwoofer. Overall, the whole system is designed not to break your wallet, but to offer incredible sound for the money you spend. You can order each component-the bookshelf speakers, the center channel, and the subwoofer separately, or you can get them all in a package direct from Pioneer for $450. If you grab them over atAmazon instead and add the individual components (two sets of bookshelf speakers, one center channel, and a subwoofer) to your cart, you'll come up to $450 as well. If you're willing to spend a little more and want bigger front speakers for your system, the Pioneer SP-PK52FS package offers two floor-standing speakers and two bookshelf speakers instead of four bookshelf speakers, but the price comes up to $549 (You can get those individually at Amazon as well for $108 each). Review-wise, CNET rated them as outstanding, which is quite a feat, even compared to some of their other reviews linked here.
One thing those of you who nominated the Pioneer Andrew Jones series speakers noted, beyond their great sound, was the fact that these speakers are frequently on sale, especially around the holidays. If you can grab them at a significant dip to MSRP, you're looking at a set that can approach the price of some other, more budget models, and give you a more customizable, flexible option that can push just as good (if not better) sound into your living room. Seriously, a couple of Google searches for the model numbers here reveal tons of deals, many old, but definitely frequent enough to make this set worth considering. Head over to the nominations thread
Definitive Technology ProCinema 600 may be the priciest 5.1 channel set in the roundup, but it reviews are to believed, they're some of the best sounding as well. Sound and Vision Magazine absolutely loved them, while CNET was a touch more conservative about them, but both gave them high marks for incredible sound at their price point, and being an incredible bang for the buck if you're willing to spend the buck in question. Each of the satellite speakers is glossy and beautifully designed, with rounded backs and custom driver designs to optimize sound quality from both the bookshelf and center channel speakers. The 250-watt 8" subwoofer is thunderous. All in all, there's a reason a number of you said that once you hear Definitive's speakers, you won't settle for less.
The flip side of all of that praise is the price point. The ProCinema 600 retails for $799, although they're available at Amazon for $750. Those of you who nominated it pointed out that not only is it one of the best speaker sets in its price range, the next steps up, the ProCinema 800 and 1000, are worth considering too if you have the cash. Make sure to check out the nominations thread for more
Now that you've seen the top five, it's time to put them to a vote to decide the community favorite:
The honorable mention this week goes out to an always Lifehacker-friendly alternative: Build Your Own System. A number of you suggested (and agreed with the suggestion) that you can do better than buying an out of the box system by assembling your own speakers and subwoofer on your own to meet your space and sound needs. Similarly, building your own offers you the flexibility to go used, where you can get some incredible discount on really high-end components. Don't be afraid to scour Craigslist or eBay for great prices on used high-end living room or other systems
Have something to say about one of the contenders? Want to make the case for your personal favorite, even if it wasn't included in the list? Remember, the top five are based on your most popular nominations from the call for contenders thread from earlier in the week
The Hive Five is based on reader nominations. As with most Hive Five posts, if your favorite was left out, it didn't get the nominations required in the call for contenders post to make the top five. We understand it's a bit of a popularity contest. Have a suggestion for the Hive Five? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!