Best Whole Home Audio Systems 2020: How They Work, How to Pair with TV - Rolling Stone
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These Whole Home Audio Systems Turn Up the Sound on Your Movies, Music and Gaming

Re-create the cinema experience at home with these powerful surround speakers and subs

whole home audio system

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If you’ve got a great HD or 4K TV, then you’ve got the visual component of your home theater system taken care of. But to really enhance your shows and movies (and music and games), an all-in-one home audio sound system with a subwoofer should be part of your setup.

Movies become instantly more intense when you feel that booming bass in your bones, and video games are taken to a new level of realism when you hear your virtual surroundings envelop you. Even without watching anything, a good home sound system can keep your party playlist playing, or let you get lost in your favorite songs.

How Do Home Audio Systems Work?

The best whole home audio systems are numbered to represent the contents of what’s inside, with the first number being the amount of speakers, and the last number being the subwoofers. For example, a 5.1 system would have five ear-level speakers, and one subwoofer. A 5.2 would have the same number of speakers, but with two ‘woofers, and so on. These can go way up to 10.2 and higher if you’re you’re an audiophile custom-building your own, but a 5.1 system can deliver the sound quality and all-encompassing experience, and meet (or exceed) the needs of a regular home theater setup.

A 5.1 system can give you great 360-degree sound, but this can heavily depend on where you put the speakers, and the shape of your room. The best way to find the full effect you’re looking for is simply to play around with your speaker placement, observing audio from all angles.

These systems all start around a central subwoofer, and fan out with satellite speakers from there, but all offer different attributes depending on what you’re looking for, such as beaming Bluetooth from your phone, various inputs like a USB or SD Card reader, or a remote with different capabilities.

What Are the Best Whole Home Audio Systems?

Finding the right system for you involves a bunch of individual factors based on what you watch, play, listen to, and how your home’s architecture is angled. We’ve selected of our four favorite systems here to get your setup sounding great.

1. Acoustic Audio AA5172 Home Theater 5.1 Bluetooth Speaker System

Connecting up to this system via Bluetooth is smooth and strong, and you get 700 watts of system power and a frequency response of 20Hz-20 kHz.

The Pro surround function automatically converts stereo to 5.1 Sound, and independent RCA inputs make it simple to hook up the five stereo satellite speakers (there are spots for USB and SD cards too). Users report that this is especially great for revitalizing older media like record players, but can handle newer devices like game consoles just as easily.

The unit’s display illuminates for clear reading from a distance, and it automatically remembers your volume settings when powering back on. Plus a handy remote offers a ton of options that put you in control without leaving the couch.

Acoustic Audio AA5172 Home Theater 5.1 Bluetooth Speaker System with USB

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2. Polk Audio TL1600 5.1 Compact Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer

For filling up your family room with full and colorful audio, this six-piece system’s got it all: four TL1 speakers, a TL1 center speaker and a professionally-matched TL1600 powered subwoofer.

The satellite speakers have a nice weight to them, and are wall-mountable, with a 2.5-inch driver and one-inch tweeter that deliver big sound. They’re also small enough that they can be hidden around the room discreetly.

The biggest boost comes from the downward-firing subwoofer. This powerful cubed unit features phase and power switches, low pass and volume knobs, line in and out ports, as well as the option for speaker wire too.

Polk Audio TL1600 5.1 Compact Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer

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3. Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System

This stereo setup may not take up a lot of room footprint-wise, but the sound it delivers more than makes up for it.

The company’s Tractrix Horn tech, along with aluminum tweeters, produce an authentic and clean sound while keeping distortion to a minimum. The down-firing subwoofer utilizes Injection Molded Graphite (IMG) to bring up the low-end bass without needing much space. 

For even more space-saving options, the subwoofer is wireless and the satellite speakers are also wall-mountable.

Klipsch is known for their audio quality and music here sounds crisp, rich and finely-attuned to all the little details and nuances in a track.

Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System

Amazon

4. JBL Bar 5.1 4K Ultra HD 5.1-Channel Sound Bar

JBL’s 5.1 surround system is ideal for experimenting with the perfect sound placement all around your room.

Everything is wireless here (besides the bar itself), but still powerful at a total of 510 watts. The detachable, battery-powered speakers deliver strong surround sound, while the 10-inch wireless subwoofer pounds out a full-bodied bass. Get up to 10 hours of playtime on a single charge.

This sound bar is compatible with 4K and Ultra HD content, as well as with HDMI Arc (and has three convenient HDMI ports), plus JBL’s SoundShift feature lets you switch seamlessly between sources like your TV, phone or tablet.

 JBL Bar 5.1 4K Ultra HD 5.1-Channel Soundbar

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