Home Theater Speakers Review

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Why Buy Home Theater Speakers?

It’s exciting when your favorite movie finally comes out on DVD or Blu-ray. You’ve waited months to re-live the heart pounding climax or the touching, eye-watering romance. It’s disappointing to get the latest blockbuster home and realize it just doesn’t seem as spectacular as it did in the movie theater. It is possible to better set the stage for your film premiere by purchasing home theater speakers.

Recording engineers work with home theaters in mind. They literally set up surround sound speakers in the audio recording room to help simulate your living room and your movie watching experience. We reviewed home theater systems with an array of basic and advanced features. The Onkyo HT-S5500, the Definitive Technology ProCinema 400 and the Klipsch HD Theater 300 ranked the highest because they have the best sound quality, are packed with the best features and are THX certified.

Read on to learn about the features we considered when reviewing home theater systems. Also, check out more articles on home theater speakers in our Learning Center.

 

Home Theater Speakers: What to Look For

Before purchasing a home theater system, it is important to know how movie theater sound systems work so you can approximate it in your home. Standard movie theaters have several speakers positioned throughout the room so you are immersed in sound. Three speakers are placed near the movie screen, one in the center and one on either side. More speakers are placed around the remainder of the room, including in each corner and behind the audience. This lets you hear parts of the soundtrack coming from different areas of the room. For example, when a motorcycle swooshes across the screen, you will hear it whiz by starting on one side and moving through to the other, the way you would naturally hear it if you were standing in front of it in person.

It’s also important to understand a little bit about timbre. Timbre is difficult to explain without getting highly technical, but basically it means that the same type of sound is coming out of all of your speakers. When you mix speakers from different manufacturers, or even from different sound systems, the sound will be different in each one. Purchasing a complete set of speakers and a compatible subwoofer from the same company will give you uniform sound throughout the room. All of the home theater speaker units we reviewed come with several speakers and a subwoofer.

In addition to timbre and speaker placement, there are other considerations to keep in mind when you’re looking for the best speaker system for your home theater. Below are the elements we looked for in our research.

 

Sound Quality
THX is the sound technology used by filmmakers to bring the best quality sound to the big screen. It is also the technology used in creating movie theater sound systems. The best home theater speaker manufacturers use this same technology to develop their audio products. While speakers manufactured without THX technology will sound good, THX certified speakers are 100 percent compatible with your DVDs and Blu-ray movies, so every bit of every sound effect is heard the same way you experienced it in the movie theater.

The frequency range determines how much sound is picked up and projected by the home theater speaker system. Human hearing range is between 20Hz and 20kHz, so you should look for speakers within this range. Anything less will not give you the best possible sound, and will actually miss some sound effects. Frequencies that are higher or lower pick up sounds that cannot be heard by the natural, unaided ear, and project them so you hear a more full sound.

Low-pass crossovers are internal filters that determine the frequency of each sound and send it to the speaker especially designed to project them. For example, low bass sounds are sent to the subwoofer and kept away from the other speakers. This way you can hear a better range of sounds that work together rather than having all the sound shoved through one speaker. The larger the crossover frequency range, the more high and low sounds your home theater speakers will be able to filter and pass through to the right place.

Features & Design
One of the most important features of home theater speakers is making sure they are magnetically shielded. Since speakers use magnets to product their amazing sound, it is important to shield the magnetics so they don’t interfere with your television or other electronic devices.

The more speakers your system comes with, the more cinema quality your movie experience will be. The best surround sound speaker systems have a large central speaker and two other speakers to position around your TV. Five or more speakers will give you the option of positioning enough speakers around your viewing area to give you a rich, full sound.

The material that the speaker cones are made of will make a difference in the sound that is projected. The flooring that you have in your home theater room will make a difference, too. If you theater has hardwood floors, using speakers made from ceramic or metal will cause the sound to bounce and create a bit of echoing. It will also cause the sound to be too powerful, even with some volume control. However, ceramic and metal cone speakers are great in carpeted theaters where the shag tends to absorb some of the sound.

Another important feature that the best home theater speakers have is a subwoofer. Subwoofers deliver the deep bass sounds that are paramount in musical scores and horror movie sound effects. Each of the surround sound speakers we reviewed comes with a subwoofer, though not all home theater speakers systems include an amplifier. Bass reflective subwoofers have an amplifier in them to help increase sound. Passive radiator subwoofers do not have amplifiers, but if they are used with compatible speakers and a good preamp, your movie will sound almost as good as it did in the theater.

Help & Support
Speaker systems generally have a longer lifespan than most electronics. It’s not uncommon to find manufactures that offer a five-year warranty on their products. Most companies offer traditional telephone and email support and have FAQs and copies of their user manuals online. Several companies also offer tips and tricks and technical support through Facebook.

You might brave the ticket line again one day, if only to reminisce. Until then, let us help you choose home theater speakers that will bring you so close to the action that you’ll be scratching desert sand from your hair for weeks to come.

At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don’t Have To.™

 
 
Electronics » Home Audio » Home Theater Speakers Review
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Rank #1#2#3#4#5#6#7#8#9#10
10-9  Excellent
8-6    Good
5-4    Average
3-2    Poor
1-0    Bad
Onkyo HT-S5500 ProCinema 400 Klipsch HD Theater 300 Polk Audio Blackstone TL1600 Orb Audio Mod1 Energy Take Classic Mirage Nanosat Logitech Z906 Kef KHT 2005.3 Bose Acoustimass 6
Onkyo HT-S5500 ProCinema 400 Klipsch HD Theater 300 Polk Audio Blackstone TL1600 Orb Audio Mod1 Energy Take Classic Mirage Nanosat Logitech Z906 Kef KHT 2005.3 Bose Acoustimass 6
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Lowest Price
Visit Onkyo HT-S5500
$279.00
Visit ProCinema 400
$479.00
Visit Klipsch HD Theater 300
$334.06
Visit Polk Audio Blackstone TL1600 5.1
$399.00
Visit Orb Audio Mod1 5.1
$1,198.00
Visit Energy Take Classic 5.1
$349.99
Visit Mirage Nanosat 5.1
$636.40
Visit Logitech Z906
$328.55
Visit Kef KHT 2005.3
$569.00
Visit Bose Acoustimass 6
$699.95
Ratings
9.83
9.23
9.20
8.85
8.73
8.65
8.35
8.25
8.20
8.13
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
10.00
10.00
8.75
0.00
9.38
8.75
10.00
0.00
8.75
9.38
10.00
0.00
8.75
8.75
9.38
0.00
9.38
7.50
10.00
0.00
8.13
8.75
10.00
0.00
8.75
7.50
9.38
0.00
8.75
7.50
8.75
0.00
8.75
6.88
10.00
0.00
7.50
8.13
10.00
0.00
 
Sound Quality
Min Frequency Response (Hz) 20 22 40 40 28 33 33 35 80 46
Max Frequency Response (kHz) 50 30 20 22 20 20 20 20 27 13
Max Power Input (W) 110 115 110 125 115 100 100 167 100 15
Nominal Impedance (ohm) 6 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
Sensitivity (dB) 81 89 110 89 89 89 87 95 88 85
Crossover Frequencies (Hz) 60, 200 40, 150 60, 200 40, 160 40, 160 50, 15 40, 150 40, 159 30 N/A
Subwoofer Min Frequency Response (Hz) 20 22 40 40 28 33 33 35 80 46
THX Certified
  
  
Features & Design
Speaker Configuration 7.1 5.1 5.1 5.1 5.1 5.1 5.1 5.1 5.1 5.1
Subwoofer Enclosure Passive Radiator Passive Radiator Bass Reflex Bass Reflex Bass Reflex Bass Reflex Bass Reflex Bass Reflex Bass Reflex Bass Reflex
Subwoofer Power Active Active Active Active Active Active Active Active Active Active
Speaker Cone Material Polyethylene Aluminum Ceramic Polypropylene Polypropylene Polypropylene Aluminum Paper Aluminum Paper
Center Speaker
 
 
  
Magnetically Shielded
 
Wall Mountable
 
Video Game Compatible
 
    
 
iPod/iPhone Compatible
      
  
Help & Support
Warranty 2 Years 5 Years 5 Years 5 Years 5 Years 5 Years 5 Years 2 Years 5 Years 5 Year
Telephone Support
Email Support
FAQs
 
Online User Guide
 
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