Lena is a professional journalist who regularly writes for a number of well-known newspapers and magazines. In her free time she loves baking and even started a YouTube channel where she shares her own recipes.
Kenneth is an electronics engineer who helps us with selecting and testing the best models on the market. Kenneth is keen on rap music, sport cars, and grilling.
Last updated: October 20, 2020
Are you bored of shallow and lackluster sound? For the ultimate home theater, you need a 7.1 speaker system. 7.1 home theater systems will give you the surround sound you’re looking for which replicates that immersive feel you get at the cinema. A 7.1 surround sound system will also allow you to music like never before. So you can get the best 7.1 home theater system, we have completed in-depth reviews on the 10 best models out there today and have completed a buying guide with some FAQs.
However, what makes the best 7.1 home theater systems? There are many things to take into account with the most important being the sound quality. After that, you need to think about what’s included in the setup, the connectivity and any extra features it has. To make sure you make the right call, we’ve consulted expert sources to give you all the information you need. Once you’ve finished reading, you’ll know exactly how to get the best 7.1-channel home theater system for you. Let’s get started!
Editor’s Choice: Klipsch RP-5000F 7.1 Home Theater System
"This 7.1-channel system gives you excellent home theater performance with clean and natural sound.Enhanced detailed performance.Smooth frequency response.Rigid and lightweight."
Best Value: Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4-Channel Home Theater System
"Featuring a soundbar, this system offers 7.1.4-channel performance and is easy to install.High build quality.Thumping bass.Simple connectivity."
Upgrade Pick: Klipsch 7.1.2 Home Theater System
"This Dolby Atmos-enabled 7.1.2-channel system offers premium quality of sound.Intense volume with subtle details.High floorstanding speakers.Professional construction."
Most Stylish System: Definitive Technology 7.1 System
"This beautiful and stylish home theater system is well-designed and produces clear sound.Excellent soundstage.Superior build quality.Stylish design."
Best System with Powerful Subwoofer: Fluance Elite Series Surround Sound Home Theater 7.1 Channel Speaker System
"Another great system built from premium quality components for elite performance.Distortion-free sound.Powerful subwoofer.Beautiful design."
Best with Floorstanding Speakers: Fluance Signature Series Surround Sound Home Theater 7.1 Channel Speaker System
"One more speakers system from Fluance with the unique design and clear sound.2- and 3-way speakers.Powerful subwoofer.Tall floorstanding speakers."
Best 7.1.4 Home Theater System: Samsung Harman Kardon 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos Soundbar HW-Q90R with Wireless Subwoofer and Rear Speaker Kit
"This system features a soundbar with 17 built-in speakers, a subwoofer, and two surround-sound speakers.High functionality.Premium build quality.Simple set up."
Best System for Soundstage: Klipsch 7.1 RP-250 Reference Premiere Surround Sound Speaker Package
"One more Klipsch system with exceptional build quality and clean audio performance.Cerametallic cone woofers.Impressive floorstanding speakers.Great classic design."
Best Wireless Pick: Sony ST5000 7.1.2ch 800W Dolby Atmos Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer
"This simple 7.1.2-channel home theater system includes a wireless soundbar and subwoofer.Bass-heavy subwoofer.Excellent sound quality.Simple installation."
Best System for Live Concert Experience: JBL 7.1 Home Theater System
"A simple yet well-performing system of speakers that is especially good for listening to music.High Definition Imaging waveguide.Aluminum dome tweeters.Deep and powerful bass."
Top Ten 7.1 Home Theater Systems Review 2021
Klipsch RP-5000F 7.1 Home Theater System – Editor’s Choice
Subwoofer: 16.5″x 14″ x 17.3″ (10″ woofer)
Speakers: (2) 36.12″ x 8.21″ x 14.38″ tower speakers; (1) 6.81″ x 18.50″ x 9.5″ center channel speaker; (2) 7.39″ x 6.81″ x 11.16″ surround speakers; (2) 13.50″ x 6.81″ x 9.50″ bookshelf speakers
Warranty: 5 years on components, 2 years on electronics
Other features: Spun Copper Cerametallic woofers; Titanium LTS Vented tweeters with Hybrid Tractrix Horns; Class D amplifier with 200W RMS / 450W peak
For those looking for power and performance, it’s hard to look past the Klipsch RP-5000F 7.1 Home Theater System as being the best model out there today. It has a long list of exceptional qualities that make it the 7.1 system of choice for many users.
The internal technology produces lifelike sounds that allow sports, music and movies to sound like never before. The sounds will be directed at the listener and it cuts out any reverb which can often be caused by sound bouncing off other objects. It gives the sound perfect clarity.
There are other subtle features that reduce unwanted effects such as the molded silicone face on the horn that will reduce resonance to increase frequency response and also the vented tweeter that will disperse standing waves for better high frequency reproduction. The high-quality materials used will also lower distortion while giving it long-term durability.
This is added to their ‘cerametallic’ woofers which are not only excellent at producing low frequencies but they also look great. When combined with those horn-loaded tweeters, the speakers have sensational acoustic execution. This is all backed up by the subwoofer that has high power but with clean reproduction for the highest level of sound detail.
What are our favorite features? While sound quality will always be the most important feature of a speaker, we did love the ways these speakers looked. It makes for a brilliant set up while you sit back and enjoy the immense detail you’ll get from the music.
Internally, the frequency response is very smooth at all levels. There is a remarkable lack of disturbance in the sound which makes it more natural and authentic. The level of build quality throughout the speakers is exceptional and you’ll soon see this system as a sound investment if you opt for this model.
What could be better? We couldn’t really pick a fault with this home theater system as it performs well in all areas. Some may prefer their 7.1 sound system to have a soundbar while others would prefer it without one. It’s clear this is an exceptional home theater system with no drawbacks.
Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4-Channel Home Theater System – Best Value
Subwoofer: 9.5″ x 12.0″ x 20.5″ (8″ woofer)
Soundbar: 45.5″ x 3.5″ x 3.0″
Speakers: (2) 5.0″ x 5.4″ x 8.0″ two-way rear speakers
Warranty: 1 year
Other features: DTS-X/Atmos; Spatial Surround Elevation (SSE) technology; Dolby Vision, 4K UHD pass-thru and High Dynamic Range; 3 In / 1 Out (ARC) [HDMI v2.0]; 600W/105 dB
This is perhaps the easiest home theater system out there as it has a plug and play setup with simple installation. It’s able to do that while still offering the highest level of quality with the benefit of true 360° Dolby Atmos surround.
The rear speakers are very impressive as they have 2-way technology to produce dynamic surround sound. They do this with a tweeter that gives clarity at the highest frequencies and a driver that can deliver the sound with all of the power that you need.
The main soundbar is very impressive and will give you a wide soundstage so that everyone will be able to hear the same quality sound. The tweeters can give you all the performance you are looking for while also looking brilliant in front of your TV.
Love bass that can rumble through you? If so, then you’ll love the subwoofers here. They down fire the sound to shake the room if you want it to. It can make those dramatic moments in music or cinema feel even better. It all adds up to a truly immersive sound that you’ll love.
Why is it special? The setup of this system is very simple with RCA cables connecting the rear speakers to the subwoofer. The soundbar also has three HDMI slots so you shouldn’t have any issues connecting your devices. It adds to an overall ease of use.
It looks great and you’re going to get plenty of power from the bass along with the clarity from the soundbar and rear speakers. The overall build quality is good and it should see this sound system lasting for many years to come.
What are the flaws? There is plenty to love about this home theater system with the low price being one of them. As you can imagine with that lower price point, it doesn’t quite have the same level of sound quality as some of its rivals. At the price it is, however, you can’t complain as it’s still brilliant compared to regular speakers.
Klipsch 7.1.2 Home Theater System – Upgrade Pick
Subwoofer: 16.5″ x 14″ x 17.3″ (10″ woofer)
Speakers: (2) 43.12″x 10.90″ x 19.80″ tower speakers; (1) 6.81″ x 31.13″ x 14.46″ center channel speaker; (4) 15.69″ x 7.95″ x 11.85″ bookshelf speakers;
Warranty: 5 years on components, 2 years on electronics
Other features: Spun Copper Cerametallic woofers; Titanium LTS Vented tweeters with Hybrid Tractrix Horns; Dolby Atmos
If you want premium sound quality then this home theater system is going to be perfect. It has all the qualities of the other Klipsch model we looked at in terms of the overall quality throughout the speaker system.
Perhaps the most impressive feature here are the Dolby Atmos-enabled floorstanding speakers that include an elevation channel speaker integrated into it. This allows it to reflect sound off the ceiling and gives the same effect as if you had overhead speakers installed. While it doesn’t completely replace the feel of overhead speakers, it’s a brilliant alternative.
This is all backed up by the center channel speaker that gives incredible clarity to dialogue and singing. It has those cerametallic speakers that we looked at earlier which combine aesthetic beauty with incredible build quality throughout.
The bookshelf speakers may only be small but are massive in terms of sound quality. The acoustics will be loud while having clarity in all audio ranges. Added to that is a reverberating bass that works well in conjunction with the subwoofer.
What stands out? These 7.1 home theater speakers can give you incredible performance. With having that traditional 7.1 set up, you’ll get that true surround sound experience from the array of high-quality speakers systems.
The most impressive of those is the high floorstanding speakers. They are outstanding at being able to deliver music with intense volume but also subtlety in the detail. The intricate quality throughout the speakers is very impressive.
As soon as you get the speakers, you’ll feel the level of quality they have. The cabinets have a professional level of construction. That will not only lead to a long life but it will also reduce any disturbances and minimize distortion.
What cons did we manage to find? There is a lot to love about this 7.1 home theater speaker system. As with all the Klipsch models we’ve looked at, the price is quite high which may be too steep for some. Apart from that, there is a lot to love about these speakers and you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from them.
Definitive Technology 7.1 System – Most Stylish System
Subwoofer: 14.8″x 19.5″ x 17.2″ (12″ woofer)
Speakers: (2) tower speakers with 1″ tweeter, 4.5″ midrange, 10″ bass radiator, and 10″ subwoofer; (1) 11″x 14.25″ x 7″ center speaker with 8″ powered subwoofer and bass radiator; (4) 9.5″ x 7.81″ x 5.38″ surround speakers
Warranty: 5 years on components, 3 years on electronics
While some of these theater systems may be a little creative in how they describe themselves, this is a true 7.1 system. You have the central speaker, two floorstanding speakers and four surround speakers to give you the seven, along with one excellent subwoofer.
High quality materials aren’t just important for durability but it also plays a vital role in sound quality. The aircraft-grade aluminum of these speakers gives it the strength and rigidity required for the highest quality performance.
An area where this speaker system really excels in with the soundstage. A part of the reasons for that is due to drivers on the front and rear panels that deliver sound in two directions. There is also their patented balanced double surround system that helps to deliver prices surround sound at all volume levels.
It can be annoying when you get to that dramatic audio moment only for your speakers to not cope. You’ll never get that here at the room-filling sound will be able to cope with even the most demanding of audio.
What makes it stand out? These speakers are very well designed to direct the sound to exactly where it is needed. It makes for an excellent soundstage that will allow you to be gripped by whatever is happening on the screen.
The sound you get from these speakers has an unbelievable level of clarity in the mids while being able to cope perfectly with the highs and delivering powerful lows. It allows it to excel in all types of audio for a truly authentic experience.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind? In terms of quality, there’s nothing you can really criticize with these speakers. As with many of these systems, however, you also need to think about what else you need to buy. In this case, it would be four stands for the surround speakers. This is commonly required but it’s always worth thinking about what else you need.
Fluance Elite Series Surround Sound Home Theater 7.1 Channel Speaker System – Best System with Powerful Subwoofer
Subwoofer: 15.7″ x 11.9″ x 16″ (10″ woofer)
Speakers: (1) 15.75″x 7.3″ x 5.2″ center speaker; (2) 6″ x 9″ x 8.3″ surround speakers; (2) 38.8″ x 13″ x 7.7″ tower speakers; (2) 9.7″ x 6.3″ x 5.2″ bookshelf speakers
Other features: Dolby Atmos; 2-way speakers; front-firing subwoofer
This Fluance model is another one that uses premium quality components. It helps to give it an elite level of audio performance. Whether you want it to listen to defined lyrics or be truly immersed in that cinema experience these speakers are going to perform.
You’ll get the true 7.1 experience here with seven speakers that can be used with Dolby surround sound to get the full effect of a home theater system. This is backed by the 10” subwoofer that can deliver an immense amount of power.
The high frequency is where a lot of speakers fail but not here. It’s aided by the premium silk dome tweeters that give crystal clear performance time and time again. The realistic nature of the sound can be breathtaking at times and allows you to immensely enjoy anything you’re listening to.
You don’t have to worry about the low or mids either. The speakers will give you optimal low frequency response from the floorstanding speakers along with midrange drivers that will produce excellent music detail. All of this is in an MDF wood exterior that will reduce cabinet resonance and distortion.
What stands out? The first thing you notice here is that these are an attractive set of speakers that will look wonderful in any setting. After the aesthetics, you’ll also appreciate that they will deliver is all areas of quality too.
One of the reasons for that is the powerful subwoofer which is larger and able to reproduce bone-rattling bass if required. It gives you that true cinema experience of that powerful wall of sound you get in the most dramatic cinematic moments.
The level of construction is detailed throughout the speakers which lead to exquisite levels of music reproduction. It will also be able to give you the highest volumes of music without any distortion and you’ll be very impressed by the results.
What cons did we manage to find? It’s noticeable that the rear surround speakers with this system are quite smaller than with many of its rivals. They can still produce fantastic sound quality but not with quite the same force as some other models out there.
Fluance Signature Series Surround Sound Home Theater 7.1 Channel Speaker System – Best with Floorstanding Speakers
Subwoofer: 16.7″ x 15″ x 16.8″ (10″ woofer)
Speakers: (1) 7.3″x 18.9″ x 10.6″ center speaker; (2) 12.8″ x 7.87″ x 8.22″ bookshelf surround-sound speakers; (2) 47.3″ x 10.9″ x 15.4″ tower speakers
Other features: 2- and 3-way speakers; front-firing subwoofer; Dolby surround and DTS system compatible
Fluance has also made these brilliant speakers with that traditional setup. It has two beautiful tower speakers, the surrounds, a center channel and a subwoofer that is an impressive 12” in diameter to give you the huge bass you’re looking for.
That subwoofer is supported by the 8” woofers which will give you an immersive bass experience that you’d usually only find in the cinema. It never fails to deliver wherever you’re situated in the room. It will make rumbles and explosions sound like never before.
While the bass is exceptional, so are the midranges. They are ideal for vocal performances with glass fiber includes in the drivers which keeps them light but also gives them the rigidity that you need. The result is sound that can be listened to at the highest volume levels.
Those that love musical detail will really appreciate these speakers. The tweeters can excel in high frequencies to give you all the clarity you need. The result is a 3D soundstage that can be mind-blowing at times with remaining controlled.
What makes it stand out? The floorstanding speakers on this home theater system are magnificent. They are very tall and able to deliver clear sound over a vast area. They also have a unique design that will get plenty of positive comments from anyone who sees them.
It’s another system that has a powerful subwoofer. The size is 10” and it’s able to deliver reverberating bass that will never disappoint you. That’s aided by the impressive low frequencies from the rest of the system.
In all frequency ranges, the sound is going to be very clear. Whether its nuances in music, lyrics from a song or dialogue from a movie, you’ll be able to hear it with ease. Fluance makes exceptionally good speaker systems and this set is no exception.
Which disadvantages must you keep in mind? As we mentioned before, the style of these speakers is quite unique. That may not be for everyone and some may want to opt for a more traditional design. Aside from that, you’re probably going to love everything about these speakers.
Samsung Harman Kardon 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos Soundbar HW-Q90R with Wireless Subwoofer and Rear Speaker Kit – Best 7.1.4 Home Theater System
Subwoofer: 8.07″ x 15.86″ x 15.86″
Soundbar: 48.3″x 3.3″ x 5.4″; 17 built-in speakers
Speakers: (2) 4.7″x 8.3″ x 5.6″ surround sound speakers
Warranty: 1 year
Other features: built-in 4K pass-through; 1 optical and 2 HDMI inputs; Adaptive Sound technology; Dolby Atmos and DTS:X technologies; wireless rear speakers; works with Alexa
You may seem like a soundbar gives you limited surround options, but there are an incredible 17 speakers in that soundbar. That includes two that fire out to the side and four that shoot up and bounce of the ceiling to give you a more immersive feel.
That’s aided by the rear speakers that work very well to give you a greater soundstage. It works with Dolby Atmos technology to further add to your experience. With Samsung, you know what you’re getting and this system has a high level of quality throughout it.
Another significant feature of these speakers is that they look brilliant and will improve the look of any room. Along with those good looks are plenty of impressive features such as the adaptive sound that will work with the type of content you’re watching such as movies or gaming.
The soundbar also utilizes Bluetooth technology. It means you can connect it with another device and play music through it from whatever streaming service you have. IT helps to give this home theater system plenty of versatility and you’ll get plenty of use out of it.
What are its best features? The technology behind the sound here is of an elite level of quality. It makes it feel as though the sound moves independently. Everyone in the room is going to be able to enjoy the same level of sound quality regardless of where they are.
With this home theater system having fewer speakers, the setup is going to be very simple and you’ll have these speakers installed in no time at all. You also don’t have to worry about concealing too many wires or buying a wide range of stands.
What could be improved? We were surprised by just how heavy the soundbar is. If you were looking for shelf installation then it’s something you’ll have to think closely about. Most people, however, will be happy placing their soundbar on top of the unit.
Klipsch 7.1 RP-250 Reference Premiere Surround Sound Speaker Package – Best System for Soundstage
Subwoofer: 16.3″x 14.57″ x 15.8″ (10″ woofer)
Speakers: (1) 6.81″x 18.5″ x 9.96″ central speaker; (2) 36.10″ x 7.87″ x 14.82″ tower speakers; (2) 14.57″ x 7.67″ x 10.67″ surround-sound speakers; (2) 13.5″ x 12″ x 7.92″ dual-woofer surround-sound speakers
Warranty: 5 years on components, 2 years on electronics
Other features: wireless subwoofer; Linear Travel Suspension titanium tweeters; Tractrix geometry ports
We’ve already talked about the quality of Klipsch speakers and here is another brilliant option for you to look at. It has that quality both in the materials and construction that allows it to produce quality sound but also gives you the reassurance that this speaker will last for a very long time.
Here you get the typical 7.1 set up that many people love. You’ll have to ensure you get the appropriate brackets for the surround speakers and to go with them you get the powerful subwoofer, center speaker, and two floorstanding speakers.
As with all Klipsch models, you get that incredible level of luxurious style. It’s a lot more than just style and an example of that can be seen with the titanium tweeters that can deliver those highs with clarity and precision.
As you can expect with speakers of this quality, they come with a long and long warranty that will cover you should anything go wrong. It’s a warranty you’ll most likely need as you’ll love the build quality while appreciating the immersive surround sound effect.
What do we love it for? There is plenty to love about this home theater system. The materials used throughout the speakers are exceptional. This can be seen by their own ‘cerametallic’ cone woofers that have all the qualities you’d want to see from a speaker.
The result is the cleanest audio that you could ever wish to hear. The setup of these speakers is brilliant and it will be able to deliver that clean audio in all directions. There won’t be any blackspots which gave give you a great listening experience for a large group.
The floorstanding speakers are very imposing and able to cover the room in brilliant sound while also looking aesthetically brilliant. The design of these speakers is both classic and modern and it’s all backed up by a long warranty.
What were we disappointed with? Installation of this home theater system is going to be a little more difficult than with other models. It needs high quality wiring, an appropriate receiver and durable brackets for the surround speakers.
Sony ST5000 7.1.2ch 800W Dolby Atmos Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer – Best Wireless Pick
Subwoofer: 9.76″ x 15.87″ x 16.77″ (7″ woofer)
Soundbar: 46.46″x 3.15″ x 5.71″
Warranty: 1 year
Other features: wireless soundbar and subwoofer; 4K HDR support; HDCP 2.2; 3 HDMI inputs; HDMI ARC; Dolby Atmos; Bluetooth compatible; 3D Surround and ClearAudio+ functions
We talked about the quality you can expect from a huge brand like Samsung and the same can be said for Sony. It also features Dolby Atmos for that completely immersive listening experience, despite this having no surround speakers.
There are only two units here with the subwoofer and soundbar. It leaves the soundbar to do a lot of the work but it copes very well. You’re still able to get that 3D sound the sound will be coming out from multiple directions.
The high-resolution audio is ideal for all types of listening experiences. You will be able to hear the subtlest nuances in your sound with whatever devices you use. That connectivity is helped by it having three HDMI ports.
Usability is very high here which is shown by the Bluetooth capability and ability to connect a multitude of devices. You can also make use of the multiroom functionality on Sony models that allows you to play the same music throughout your whole home.
What are our favorite features? Only having two units here makes installation lot simpler and with many of its rivals. While set up is simple, you also have the ability to connect several devices through its Bluetooth of multi-room technology.
The sound quality is as good as you’d expect from a high-end Sony machine. It compensates for the lack of surround speakers quite well. The soundbar has incredible functionality while also being a stylish addition to any room.
Another impressive aspect is the subwoofer. It’s bass heavy and allows you to enjoy those dramatic moments. They help the likes of explosions come to life as you feel the rumble. You can dim the lights and really get that cinema experience.
What could be better? While the soundbar is fantastic, there is no getting away from the back that there is a distinct lack of surround speakers. It’s a great alternative but for the fullest immersive experience, you may need to choose another for this list. Simplicity and beauty are where these speakers excel.
JBL 7.1 Home Theater System – Best System for Live Concert Experience
Subwoofer: 14.6″x 16.5″ x 15.5″
Speakers: (1) 29.3″x 6.5″ x 4″ central speaker; (2) 10.2″ x 14.5″ x 42.1″ tower speakers; (2) 7.5″ x 9″ x 12.6″ bookshelf speakers
Warranty: 1 year
Other features: subwoofer with rear-firing tuned ports; High Definition Imaging (HDI) waveguide
JBL is another top name in the world of speakers. You don’t get a soundbar here and instead have seven high-quality speakers. They may not look as modern as some other speakers, but you can’t argue with their level of performance.
The result of all these speakers is a live concert experience which makes listening to music at home more enjoyable than ever. The HDI waveguide is impressive and that is supported by the large 8” woofers that give you phenomenal power.
One underrated part of floorstanding speakers is how they can be affected by vibrating on the floor they’re placed on. You won’t get that issue here due to the feet pads that are included but also the ability to level out the legs.
There is plenty to love about these speakers with the 1” aluminum tweeters being one of them. Plenty of build quality is seen throughout the speaker and that transfers to sound quality. They are another great option and represent excellent value for money.
What makes it special? You can’t expect the subwoofer to take on all the work of delivering impressive bass. The 8″ woofers here support it well here, and that allows it to deliver a deep and powerful bass throughout the whole sound system.
A notable feature here is the size of each unit with even the bookcase speakers being quite bulky. That might not be for everyone but it aids in bringing the power and volume you want from a home theater system. You’ll never be left thinking that this system is underwhelming as it delivers every time.
This all adds up to a listening experience that is the closest you’ll ever get to a concert without leaving your front door. It is also set up perfectly for home cinema or for those that want the best gaming experience possible.
What cons did we find? Many of the speaker systems that we’ve looked at here could be described a sleek and modern. Those are not terms you’d used to describe these speakers with their boxed shape. That shouldn’t take away from their performance as they are brilliant.
Things to Consider
If you’re investing in a home theater system then you want it to be the right one for you. It’s important to not waste your money by getting something that doesn’t have the right quality or the right fit. Sound quality is the biggest aspect to think about but there are plenty of other considerations too. In this buying guide, we’ll walk you through all of the key features so that you can make an informed decision. If you still have any doubts after that then we’ll clear it up in our FAQs section.
A 7.1-channel home theater system: What it is and what to expect
A home theater system comprises of quite a few different components. Firstly, you’ll have the TV/screen and then you need a video source to get pictures such as a set-top box or DVD player. For a lot of homes, this is what they have in their regular set up.
For a theater system, you need a receiver to connect everything too and the speakers. In a 7.1 system, the 7 is the number of regular speakers and the 1 is the subwoofer. This setup helps to give you a true surround sound experience that you simply don’t get from a standard setup or even 5.1 systems.
Advantages and disadvantages
The huge advantage of home theater systems is the sound quality you get. It makes watching movies, following your favorite sports game or listening to music that much better. With the 7.1 system, you get true surround sound but with a sound quality that still has clarity. It’s an immersive experience that many people love.
The only negatives are really in terms of installation and expense. A high-quality 7.1 system requires plenty of investment. You then have to think about where all these speakers need to go and that can sometimes be difficult, especially in a small room.
What to look for in a 7.1 home theater speaker system?
First of all, you need to ask yourself what you want. You probably have a set up in mind and you’ll want a home theater system that can replicate that. Sound quality is the first thing to look for but at times you may have to balance that with your budget available.
After sound quality, you have to consider the type of system you want, the level of build quality and where you’ll be placing them. Other aspects will be important too such as how they are going to be installed, the receiver they are compatible with and what warranty is offered.
Type and what’s included
A 7.1 system often means seven speakers and one subwoofer but that’s not always true. If you have a soundbar then there may be several speakers contained within the one unit. This can make installation easier but often doesn’t give you a quite as effective surround sound experience.
The speaker setup may be slightly different too. You’d say the standard 7.1 system would have a center speaker, two floorstanding speakers, and four bookshelf speakers. The size of these speakers can vary from one model to the next and therefore it’s a good idea to know exactly what you’re getting.
The quality of sound
The reason anyone gets a 7.1 home theater system is to get exquisite sound quality. They combine both direct and reflected soundwaves to give you that surround sound wherever you’re sitting in the room.
You do get what you pay for, but even the budget 7.1 systems can give you an audio experience that is far above anything you have heard previously. You should expect a lot from these home theater systems with highs that are clear at high volume, mids that have incredible clarity, and lows that add immense depth and bass.
Design and build quality
With speakers, build quality and sound quality go hand in hand. For that quality throughout the system, it needs to use high-quality material and we see this with the likes of the aluminum tweeters in the JBL 7.1 Home Theater System or the molded silicone horns on the Klipsch models.
These speakers have to find that balance between being lightweight and rigid to minimize any disturbance. This also applies to the cabinets the speakers are placed in. As with the Fluance Elite Series model, they are often made from MDF which helps to minimize any disruption and distortion.
The number of inputs that you need will depend on how many devices you intend to connect to your speaker system. You may have a Blue-ray machine but also a games consoles as well as a range of other devices that you can connect.
It’s best advised to have at least three HDMI ports as can be seen with the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4-Channel Home Theater System. HDMI is the best way to connect these devices and is likely all you’re going to need but check for other types of inputs if you need them.
Wattage and impedance
The impedance rating is a measure of speaker resistance. This will show you how difficult it is for sound to travel between amplifier and speaker. It’s measured in ohms and the lower the figure, the less power is going to be needed to drive the sound.
The best speakers will have a low level of impedance while still giving you a high level of power. This will mean exceptional volume without any disturbance. A minimum of 75 watts per channel and 8 ohms is a good starting point for a powerful and clean speaker system.
Frequency ratings aren’t really a huge selling point for a 7.1 home theater system and the reason for this is that they all pretty much offer the full range of human hearing. The human ear can pick up sound anywhere from 20Hz to 17kHz.
The Klipsch 7.1 RP-250 Reference Premiere Surround Sound Speaker Package, for example, can produce sounds between the frequencies of 20Hz to 20kHZ. All of the systems here can offer an extremely wide range of frequencies so there is nothing really to separate them in this respect.
A home theater system needs a good receiver. It’s what ties together what you see on screen and all of your speakers. Before buying a receiver, you’ll need to know how many speakers you have, how many HDMI inputs you need and also what your budget is.
It’s imperative that you’re getting enough channels for your system. If you’re delving into the world of Dolby Atmos, then you also need to ensure you’re getting a receiver that can support that. It’s worth doing your research so that you’re getting a receiver that’s perfectly in line with your home theater system.
Before buying your home theater system, it’s important to think about how it’s going to be installed. Each speaker will require its own power source along with being connected to the receiver. The bookcase speakers will also most likely need stands to sit on.
All of this should be planned beforehand. Some speakers offer wireless connections which often make life easier but this often comes at extra cost. The actual setup of the speakers is fairly easy to do but make sure you’re following the instructions provided.
When you’re making a significant investment in a home theater system, you’ll want to ensure that it’s protected by a good warranty. All of the systems we’ve looked at here are high-quality but you can never be 100% sure there won’t be manufacturing defects or perhaps damage in delivery.
The Klipsch 7.1 RP-250 Reference Premiere Surround Sound Speaker Package is an example of a system with a good warranty as it gives you a 5-year guarantee on components and a 2-year warranty on electronics. As with any warranty, it’s always good to look at the terms and conditions to see exactly what is covered.
As with any product, it’s always a good idea to look at the extra features as they may make the difference between one model and the other. The Sony ST5000 7.1.2ch 800W Dolby Atmos Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer is a great example as it not only offers Bluetooth connectivity but you can also connect it to other Sony devices for multiroom sound.
Another important feature can be wireless speakers as this can make installation much easier. Style and design can also be important features. Sound quality is king but you also want your system to look good and we loved the design of many of these systems, especially the Definitive Technology 7.1 System.
What’s the optimal placement of speakers?
Each manufacturer will offer its own guidance on exactly where speakers should be placed to get the optimal sound quality for them. For a 7.1 home theater system, the standard setup is fairly structured and easy to follow.
You’ll have a center speaker usually under the TV, with the subwoofer sitting just to one side of the central speaker on the floor. On either side of the TV, you’ll then have your floor standing speakers. As for the other four speakers, two should be to the side of your seating position and two should be behind you. All of these speakers should be aimed at the seating position.
The three different numbers can be broken down like this, instead of using ‘7.1.2’, for example, let’s use ‘a.b.c’.
A – This is the number of speakers/channels at ear level. A 1.0 system, for example, would be just one speaker producing all the sound.
B – This number is for the speakers/channels used for low bass reproduction i.e. your subwoofer.
C – This number is for your overhead speakers. Not many systems have these and if they don’t, they will cut out this number. This is why you’ll see 7.1 instead of 7.1.0.
A 7.1.4 system then would usually have 7 speakers surrounding you, one subwoofer on the ground and four speakers overhead. This can get a little blurry when there is a soundbar. A soundbar will contain multiple speakers and they may all be referenced in the description. Also, some soundbars will have speakers designed to bounce the sound off the ceiling and will call these overhead speakers.
The size of your room is a factor that you should take into consideration. Trying to squeeze a full 7.1 home theater system into a tiny room isn’t going to produce the right results but most rooms are going to be suitable for this.
With most of these systems, you need to remember that you’ll be placing eight different components. You especially want sufficient space around your seating area for the surround speakers. If you’re short on space then it may be the best idea to get a soundbar instead.
The obvious difference is that you’re getting five speakers instead of seven. That means instead of having four surround speakers, you’ll have two. If you’re tighter on space then a 5.1 system can be a good compromise but it does come with downsides.
The sound quality with a 7.1 setup will give you more depth and precision. It’s also better for medium to large rooms where you have more space to fill. Added to that, it’s going to be compatible with more formats and is supported by a wide range of devices.
You’re probably already thinking about where the other two speakers go. The answer is that you have two speakers sat between the side bookcase speakers and the floorstanding speakers next to the TV. These can be harder to place without them getting in the way.
Are they worth it? Well, they are a good option for those who have a dedicated theater room. The setup will need to be precise and it can be the best idea to consult expert help. It does provide a better experience but the increase in price and setup complexity means that many people are more than happy to go with the immense sound quality of a 7.1 system.
We were extremely impressed by all the home theater systems that we looked at here. If we had to pick one as our favorite then it would have to be the Klipsch RP-5000F 7.1 Home Theater System. The sound quality is extremely good with the added benefit of them looking fantastic.
If you wanted a brilliant 7.1 system on a budget then we’d opt for the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4-Channel Home Theater System which also looks great. If you’re ready to spend some extra money, check out the Klipsch 7.1.2-Channel Home Theater System, which can give you incredible clarity and true surround-sound performance. You may also be attracted to the idea of having a soundbar. If so, you can’t go wrong with the Sony ST5000 7.1.2ch 800W Dolby Atmos Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer.
These three stood out, but in truth, all of the 10 models we’ve looked at here today are equally worthy of our praise. If you’re unsure of which one to get then it’s a good idea to look back through our buying guide to get one that most closely matches your needs. When you do, you’ll be able to enjoy sound quality like never before.