The Best Surround-Sound Speakers for Most People

The Best Surround-Sound Speakers for Most People

Our pick

Polk Signature Series S15

Polk Signature Series S15

Great performer, great value

The S15 bookshelf speaker pair sounds great, looks cool, and is surprisingly affordable.

Buying Options

$172 from Amazon
(pair)
$173 from Best Buy
(pair)
$172 from Abt
(pair)

May be out of stock

Polk Signature Series S10

Polk Signature Series S10

A compact surround speaker

The small S10 is easy to fit or install just about anywhere, so it’s ideal as a surround speaker.

Buying Options

$230 from Amazon
(pair)
$230 from Crutchfield
(pair)
Polk Signature Series S35

Polk Signature Series S35

An easy-to-place center speaker

Thanks to the S35’s low-profile design, you can fit it easily in front of a TV or mount it on the wall.

Buying Options

$231 from Amazon
$250 from Best Buy

The Polk Signature Series is the best deal we’ve found in a surround-sound speaker system. The Signature line includes a variety of models, but we recommend the S15 for the front left and right channels, the S10 as surround speakers, and the S35 center speaker. In our tests, this combo’s performance was competitive with that of everything else we tried in its price range—and better than that of many more-expensive systems we tested. The S15’s sound wasn’t quite as dynamic as what we heard from some of the larger bookshelf speakers we tested, but it was robust enough to play at high volumes without distortion. The S35 center channel sounded clear for dialogue in our tests, and its low-profile, 4.1-inch-high design lets it sit in front of most TVs without blocking the picture. The Signature Series’s design is far more stylish than we expect to see in such an affordable speaker line.

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Runner-up

ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2

ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2

Big sound for home theater

The B6.2 bookshelf speaker has a powerful sound, and a matching Dolby Atmos add-on module is available. But it’s bulky and not very attractive.

Buying Options

$245 from Amazon
(pair)
$300 from Best Buy
(pair)
ELAC Debut 2.0 B5.2

ELAC Debut 2.0 B5.2

A smaller bookshelf speaker

The B5.2 is a little smaller and usually a bit less costly than the B6.2, so it’s a good choice for the surround channels.

Buying Options

$230 from Amazon
(pair)
ELAC Debut 2.0 C5.2

ELAC Debut 2.0 C5.2

A matching center speaker

This fairly compact center speaker is a good match for the B6.2 bookshelf speakers.

Buying Options

$200 from Amazon

The ELAC Debut 2.0 speakers are larger and have a more robust sound than the Polk Signature Series speakers, which might make this system a better choice for someone who has a large room or likes to listen at higher volume levels. Many system configurations are possible; we recommend two B6.2 bookshelf speakers for the front left and right channels, the slightly smaller B5.2 as surrounds, and the compact C5.2 center speaker. ELAC also offers the option to add matching A4.2 Dolby Atmos–enabled speakers, which makes it easy for you to create an even more immersive surround-sound experience if you own an Atmos-equipped AV receiver. But the Debut 2.0 speakers are bulkier and far less attractive than those in the Polk Signature Series, and they cost more.

Upgrade pick

Monolith by Monoprice THX-265B

Monolith by Monoprice THX-265B

For the loudest, most immersive experience

The Monolith by Monoprice THX-265B is bulky and plain-looking, but it plays movies at commercial-cinema volume and has an upward-firing Atmos speaker built in.

Buying Options

$300 from Monoprice
Monolith by Monoprice THX-365C

Monolith by Monoprice THX-365C

For clear, full-sounding dialogue

The THX-365C adds a midrange driver that lower-priced center channels usually lack, so dialogue sounds clear in every seat of a home theater.

Buying Options

$400 from Monoprice

The Monolith by Monoprice THX speakers are designed for serious home theater enthusiasts who like to play movies at or near the volume they would hear in a well-calibrated commercial cinema. The THX-265B bookshelf speakers produce a notably smooth, natural sound, and they also incorporate upward-firing, Dolby Atmos–enabled speakers that bounce sound effects off the ceiling to deliver more immersive sound from Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. The THX-365C center speaker is a three-way design, with a separate midrange driver that lets it deliver consistently natural-sounding dialogue across a wide area. The system’s rather plain design and finish might make it unwelcome in many living rooms, but for a serious basement or den home theater, it’s tough to beat.

Everything we recommend

Our pick

Polk Signature Series S15

Polk Signature Series S15

Great performer, great value

The S15 bookshelf speaker pair sounds great, looks cool, and is surprisingly affordable.

Buying Options

$172 from Amazon
(pair)
$173 from Best Buy
(pair)
$172 from Abt
(pair)

May be out of stock

Polk Signature Series S10

Polk Signature Series S10

A compact surround speaker

The small S10 is easy to fit or install just about anywhere, so it’s ideal as a surround speaker.

Buying Options

$230 from Amazon
(pair)
$230 from Crutchfield
(pair)
Polk Signature Series S35

Polk Signature Series S35

An easy-to-place center speaker

Thanks to the S35’s low-profile design, you can fit it easily in front of a TV or mount it on the wall.

Buying Options

$231 from Amazon
$250 from Best Buy

Runner-up

ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2

ELAC Debut 2.0 B6.2

Big sound for home theater

The B6.2 bookshelf speaker has a powerful sound, and a matching Dolby Atmos add-on module is available. But it’s bulky and not very attractive.

Buying Options

$245 from Amazon
(pair)
$300 from Best Buy
(pair)
ELAC Debut 2.0 B5.2

ELAC Debut 2.0 B5.2

A smaller bookshelf speaker

The B5.2 is a little smaller and usually a bit less costly than the B6.2, so it’s a good choice for the surround channels.

Buying Options

$230 from Amazon
(pair)
ELAC Debut 2.0 C5.2

ELAC Debut 2.0 C5.2

A matching center speaker

This fairly compact center speaker is a good match for the B6.2 bookshelf speakers.

Buying Options

$200 from Amazon

Upgrade pick

Monolith by Monoprice THX-265B

Monolith by Monoprice THX-265B

For the loudest, most immersive experience

The Monolith by Monoprice THX-265B is bulky and plain-looking, but it plays movies at commercial-cinema volume and has an upward-firing Atmos speaker built in.

Buying Options

$300 from Monoprice
Monolith by Monoprice THX-365C

Monolith by Monoprice THX-365C

For clear, full-sounding dialogue

The THX-365C adds a midrange driver that lower-priced center channels usually lack, so dialogue sounds clear in every seat of a home theater.

Buying Options

$400 from Monoprice

Source: NY Times – Wirecutter

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