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
Is it difficult for you to find a high-quality home theater system for less than $500? If it is, you’re not alone. Many people are more price-sensitive than others and are looking for excellent value purchases when it comes to electronics. Thankfully, there are tons of great and affordable home theater systems for under $500!
In this guide, we’ll introduce you to the five best home theater systems under $500. While reviewing each one, we’ve taken into account a few key details we thought are important in a home theater system. These features are its type, all of the components you get in each system, its sound quality, and any extra features it offers that add to the value. Stick around after our review of each system for our buying guide where we’ll explain in more detail these important features. If you’re having trouble picking just one of our picks of the best home theater system under $500, we’ll try and help you out by giving you our top three picks in our verdict. Let’s get started!
Editor’s Choice: Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System
"This system that comes with a wireless subwoofer offers terrific sound at a reasonable price.Excellent low-frequency sound.Flexible mounting options.Wireless subwoofer."
Best Value: Rockville HTS56 5.1-Channel Home Theater System
"This system is great for those on a budget who’re looking for the best value for their money.Built-in receiver.Lots of inputs.LED lighting."
Upgrade Pick: Polk Audio T Series 5-Channel Home Theater Bundle
"This system offers high-quality sound matched by high-quality specs and is compatible with different receivers.Two tower speakers.Amazing 360-degree sound.Versatile system."
Best Soundbar: Vizio V51-H6 36 5.1 Channel Home Theater Soundbar System
"This quality system comes with a subwoofer, soundbar, and two 6″ speakers for the surround sound.Dolby Audio 5.1 sound.Great bass from the subwoofer.Bluetooth compatible."
Best Compact Home Theater System: Polk Audio TL1600 5.1 Compact Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer
"This compact home theater system offers excellent sound and a 5.1-channel setup at an affordable price.Subwoofer with good sound quality.Mountable speakers.Great for smaller rooms."
Top 5 Home Theater Systems under $500 Review 2021
Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System – Editor’s Choice
Speakers: 7.75” x 4.38” x 5.37” (satellite); 4.38” x 10.75” x 5.37” (center)
Inputs: wireless; LFE RCA jacks
Warranty: 3-year on drivers and tweeters, 2-year on electronics and HD Wireless Hub
Our Editor’s Choice for the best home theater system under $500 is the Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System. This system is a 5.1-channel which means that you get five speakers to go along with one bumping subwoofer that delivers great low-frequency sounds for smaller rooms. For $500, you’ll get terrific sound despite the subwoofer being wireless. Don’t be fooled by the small size of speakers however, as these speakers do an excellent job of providing excellent sound. The satellite speakers (two front and two back) are only 7.75-inches in height, while the center speaker is shorter but wider. You can also choose to mount these speakers as well since they come with a threaded insert. As we mentioned, it comes with a wireless subwoofer that is 8-inches in height and looks like any standard subwoofer. The subwoofer also comes with a wireless transceiver that you have to connect to a power source. It offers a few different inputs including the aforementioned wireless as well as LFE RCA jacks. Pay close attention to the warranty on this home theater system however, since it isn’t an all-encompassing warranty. It offers a 3-year warranty on the drivers and tweeters but only 2 years on the electronics and HD wireless hub.
Why are we impressed? The system delivers excellent low-frequency sound for smaller rooms that is complemented by the wireless subwoofer. The speakers, while small, also aren’t an eyesore on the room and are very subtle in terms of its appearance.
What negatives must you be aware of? The smaller speakers only really offer directional sound so in order to get the most optimal room-filling sound, you’ll have to position them to all face toward the primary listening position.
Rockville HTS56 5.1-Channel Home Theater System – Best Value
Speakers: 1″ x 3″ center, 2″ x 3″ full-range front, 2″ x 3″ full range rear
Inputs: USB, SD, 2 ¼” MIC, 6 RCA DVD Audio In, 2 RCA AUX In, FM Antenna In
Warranty: 1 year
Other features: built-in FM receiver; Bluetooth v2.1; 4 LED lighting modes; MDF wood cabinets with plastic front panels
For under $500, you’re already getting tremendous value on a home theater system, but our top choice for Best Value is the Rockville HTS56 5.1 Channel Home Theater System. Right off the bat, you can tell this system has a bit of edginess to it with its black and bright blue design. It’s a 5.1-channel system that comes with five speakers that have a peak power of 1000-watts, though it does well on 250 watts of continuous power. These five speakers are topped off with an 8-inch subwoofer that also comes with a built-in receiver, that many people say has really good reception. It comes with few different inputs including a USB input, an SD input, a mic input, six RCA audio inputs, and two RCA auxiliary inputs. We mentioned about the bright blue in these speakers’ design and this serves a special purpose. These are built-in LED lighting modes that light up according to the sound that’s currently being played. Some people say they love this lighting effect feature, while others say it can get pretty annoying. One thing that isn’t annoying is the great sound quality you’ll get from this home system. Lots of people that have bought this system say the sound really reverberates despite the small size of this system. It also comes with a 1-year warranty too giving you some peace of mind knowing you’re covered for a year.
Why are we impressed? Aside from its loud-thumping sound, we really enjoyed the light show that came with it. We also love the great selection of inputs and the ability for Bluetooth device connection.
What negatives must you be aware of? While there are plenty of input choices, what it’s really lacking is the inclusion of more modern or recent inputs, such as HDMI. Also, if you consistently play it loud on this system, the subwoofer may get overused and start to crackle and emit some fuzzy sounds.
Polk Audio T Series 5-Channel Home Theater Bundle – Upgrade Pick
Speakers: (2) T15 bookshelf (5.25″ driver and 0.75″ tweeter), (1) T30 center channel (5.25″ driver and 1″ tweeter), (2) T50 tower (6.5″ driver, 1″ tweeter, and two 6.5″ bass radiators)
Subwoofer: (4) 6.5″ bass radiators
Inputs: 5-way binding posts
Warranty: 5 years
Other features: exclusive Dynamic Balance drivers and tweeters; front mounted bass port on bookshelf speakers
Polk Audio makes some fantastic home theater systems and with this one, they have taken the honor of our Upgrade Pick. With the Polk Audio T Series 5-Channel Home Theater Bundle, you’re getting superb value to go along with high-quality specifications with this 5-channel home theater system. Opting to go without a subwoofer, this home theater system comes with two tower speakers, two bookshelf speakers, and a center channel. Each speaker is equipped with a 5.25-inch driver and a 0.75-inch tweeter. The twin tower speakers come with a 6.5-inch driver and a 1-inch tweeter. All of the speakers included in this home theater system features Polk’s proprietary dynamic balance technology that offer a much larger dispersion and reduces distortions. The speakers in this system are also compatible with different AV receivers too making this system incredibly versatile. In terms of inputs, this system uses a common one on home theater systems and especially audio amplifiers and that is binding posts. It uses a 5-way binding post that you can simply attach to your AV receiver. The greatness of this home theater system doesn’t stop there however, as you’ll be able to really get a sense of its excellence for five years as that’s how long the warranty on this Polk home theater system lasts.
Why are we impressed? We really enjoyed the high-level of sound quality produced by these speakers, especially the tower speakers. You can also really hear and feel Polk’s special technology with its amazing 360-degree audio.
What negatives must you be aware of? The base could thump a little bit harder with this home theater system.
Vizio V51-H6 36 5.1 Channel Home Theater Soundbar System – Best Soundbar
Inputs: 3.5mm stereo mini jack; optical; USB; HDMI ARC
Warranty: 1 year
Other features: 8″ soundbar; Bluetooth compatible; optimized for 4K TVs with Dolby Audio 5.1
There’s one thing that particularly stands out above the rest in this Vizio V51-H6 36″ 5.1 Channel Home Theater Soundbar System and that is its soundbar. With our top pick for Best Soundbar in a home theater system under $500, this setup is great but the star of it is its soundbar. The soundbar is light and slim in design and 36-inches in length. It has the flexibility to be mounted on the wall but it definitely looks better when its paired with your big-screen television. The soundbar also pumps out some high-quality sound and can decode Dolby Audio 5.1. In total, this home theater system comes with five speakers to go along with a subwoofer that does a good job of delivering some excellent bass. You might be surprised how much bass you’ll get from your subwoofer when you look at its rather meagre size of just 5-inches but it really delivers. The inputs are also very good and modern as it features a USB, HDMI ARC, optical and a 3.5mm stereo mini jack. It also enables you to set it up via Bluetooth and avoiding the hassle and eyesores of more cables. For ease of control, simply use the remote control that comes with this home theater system to access your preferred settings. You’ll be able to test the amazing sounds this system produces for one year as it comes with a warranty of this length.
What are its best features? We really enjoyed the soundbar and the fantastic Dolby Action sound it gave off. The build and design of this home theater system was also fantastic and does not take up too much room.
What could be improved? For this excellent price point and the features that it offers, we really couldn’t pinpoint anything that could be better.
Polk Audio TL1600 5.1 Compact Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer – Best Compact Home Theater System
Speakers: 15″ x 4″ x 3.5″ (center); 6.5″ x 3.75″ 4.9″ (satellites)
Inputs: analog composite
Warranty: 5 years
Other features: built-in 50W continuous / 100W peak amp; suitable for rooms up to 70 sq. ft
If you’re looking for a budget home theater system but one that won’t take up ample amounts of space in your room, you might want to give our pick for Best Compact Home Theater System a try. The Polk Audio TL1600 is an excellent small choice for a home theater system. It sports a 5.1-channel setup with five speakers and a subwoofer. The speakers are compact with the satellite speakers only measuring out to 6.5 inches tall and 3.75 inches wide. The center speaker is naturally longer at 15 inches wide but only 4 inches tall. The subwoofer is obviously the biggest piece in this system at 8-inches tall. If you still find these satellite speakers to be too much an eyesore, they also come with mounting brackets so that you can mount it on the wall as well. It features a 5-way binding post with protective plastic caps. If you’re looking for maximum power, this might not be the best system for you as the speakers only run at a continuous power of 50 watts, with a peak of 100 watts. And because of this, for optimal use, it’s best to play this at a room of a maximum of 70–80 square feet. A room of this size, you’re more likely to feel higher quality sound and a more accurate bass. You’re going to get plenty of mileage out of this compact home theater system with its 5-year warranty policy.
Why are we impressed? you can really get a sense of the low-key power of this home theater system in a small room and is perfect for apartments with a smaller living room area.
What negatives must you be aware of? it definitely could use more power to bump up the bass. However, for such a compact home theater system, it suffices.
Things to Consider
When shopping for affordable home theater systems for under $500, there are some things you’re going to want to consider. In this buying guide section, we’ll talk more about the things you need to think about when looking for a home theater system while sticking to your budget of under $500. The good thing is that there are plenty of fantastic home theater systems under $500 as we have just seen. Starting with the things you should expect in a home theater system under $500, we’ll then transition to answering some of the most frequently asked questions about these systems. Lastly, we’ll wrap things up with our top three picks for best affordable home theater systems for under $500.
What to look for in a home theater system under $500?
When looking for a home theater system under $500, there are some things you’ll want to look for and we’ll explain each in more detail. First and foremost, you’ll want to look at the type of the system and what you’ll get in it, since many come with different things. Next, you’ll want to evaluate the quality of the sound of the system since this will be important. After that, you’ll want to pay close attention to the number of inputs, the ease or difficulty of installing it, and then its warranty.
Type and what’s included
When it comes to the type of home theater system, you’ll want to pay attention to two numbers: 5.0 and 5.1. These numbers represent how many audio channels or speakers your system can connect to, which in these cases are 5. The primary difference between the two channels is that in a 5.1-channel surround sound system, a subwoofer is included into the system. This subwoofer is able to draw a lower frequency sound which uses quite a bit of power from your amp. Subwoofers can add tremendous depth and power to your sound since it produces more bass.
In terms of what you can expect for a home theater system, for one that has a 5.0-channel, you’ll most likely get two front, two back, and a center speaker. For a 5.1-channel system, it’s the same speakers plus the subwoofer.
The quality of sound
When you buy a home theater system, the ultimate goal of it is to have some awesome sound pumping through the speakers. And while you could get a fancy and expensive home theater system, there really is no reason to do so when there are plenty of affordable home theater systems for under $500. While the quality of sound between speakers may be hard to objectively quantify, you should be able to get a sense of the sound’s quality by looking at its power output. In general, the higher the wattage of a system, the better the sound quality should be. This sound quality will especially be noticeable through the subwoofer, which is the primary source of your system’s bass audio. So, be sure to check the wattage of the system you’re looking at and you can discern a higher quality by looking at its power.
Although it’s not consistent across all home theater systems, you can expect to find different inputs for different systems. The number and type of inputs can differ across system too and across different brands. However, some common types of inputs and ones you may find in most of these home theater systems include a USB input, auxiliary, a stereo mini jack, and an HDMI. Some, like the Polk Audio TL1600 5.1 Compact Home Theater System with Powered Subwoofer, have an all analog input setup. While many home theater speakers are now digital, some systems like this one still rely on an analog input to power the system.
You don’t need to super tech savvy to be able to install a home theater system. In fact, most of them are fairly simple to install yourself provided you have a few necessities. The biggest necessity you’ll need is proper access to electrical outlets. You’ll also need to ensure that the cables connecting to your speakers are long enough to be able to get to your outlets. The ease of installation will also depend on the devices in your room that you want to connect your home theater system to. While it could just be your television, other people tend to also hook it up to their gaming consoles.
The warranty is an important consideration especially if you encounter numerous issues with your home theater system. However, the only caveat is that not all warranties are the same and the length can also vary. Thus, it’s important to verify what is covered under the warranty of the home theater system under $500 you’re looking at. Some may cover only certain aspects of the system, like the Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System. This system offers a 3-year warranty on drivers and tweeters and a 2-year warranty on electronics and HD Wireless Hub. Others can offer a full warranty on the entire home theater system so it’s incumbent upon you to check this before you purchase the system.
The difference between a 5.1 and a 7.1-channel system is that there are two more speakers in a 7.1-channel. You can easily figure this out by the first digit as it refers to the number of speakers that will come with the system. For a 5.1-channel system, you’ll get five speakers to go along with a subwoofer, which is denoted by the .1. There will be seven speakers in the 7.1-channel system along with a subwoofer with that as well. The extra speakers that come in a 7.1-channel are usually placed at the rear listening position and are often referred to as surround rear speakers.
Home theater systems are great for amplifying any type of sound. Thus, they are excellent choices for either listening to music or singing karaoke because both of these activities do require sound to be amplified. For singing karaoke, you’ll want the sound of your voice or whomever is singing to be amplified. Listening to music is all about the sound of your music, and a great home theater system will do an amazing job at amplifying the sound of your music to the room you’re in and, if it’s loud enough, even through your entire house!
With the world increasingly moving towards digital, we’re starting to see more and more home theater systems that come with wireless speakers. The good thing about wireless speakers is that you don’t have to see those wires that are traditionally found in speakers of a normal home theater system. These wires can be an eyesore and a safety hazard and wireless speakers solves this problem. And while you may not see the usual wires, you’re still going to be seeing some. That’s because each speaker needs access to a power source and thus, will need to be connected to an amp, which is usually its own separate piece, so it will need wires to connect to it. Another benefit of wireless speakers is that you can place them anywhere in the room without being restricted by access to a power source. Unfortunately, the sound quality isn’t as great in wireless speakers.
Yes, you will need an AV receiver for your home theater system. An AV receiver is an important piece because it provides the different channels to amplify your audio, depending on the number of speakers your home theater system comes with. If you’ve connected your home theater system to your television and your music system, your AV receiver allows you to seamlessly switch between your video and audio components. Simply put, an AV receiver is the backbone of your home theater system and is necessary if you want high-quality surround-sound.
There really is no right answer to this question as it depends on the home theater system you choose. All of the home theater systems in our list are 5-channels, which obviously do not offer as much power and sound amplification as a 7-channel system would. A good room size for your home theater system can be anywhere from 250–300 square feet with a height of anywhere between 8–10 feet tall. When broken down, you’re looking at a room roughly 20 feet wide and 13 feet in length. Please note that not all home theater systems should conform to these measurements and if you have a much larger room, a 5-channel system may not be the best choice for it.
In our verdict, we present to you our top three picks for best home theater system under $500. Kicking things off with our Editor’s Choice, the Klipsch Black Reference Theater packs some mighty sound and does so at a very great price. This 5-speaker setup and a subwoofer provide crystal clear, high-quality sound from a system that is rather small in size. Next up, we love the Rockville HTS56 Home Theater System for its tremendous value for budget shoppers. On top of the excellent sound you’ll get from this system, you might also be intrigued by the built-in LED lights to give you a light show while you watch your movie. Lastly, for those looking for a more premium home theater system and on the higher end under $500, look no further than the Polk Audio T Series 5-Channel. This home theater system really stands out thanks to its twin tower speakers that really offer fantastic sound complemented by Polk’s dynamic balance technology for terrific 360-degree, room-filling, sound.