It’s incredible how far technology has gone to be able to offer us an amazing experience in audiovisual entertainment in the comfort of our homes, this includes big high-definition TVs and heart-pumping sound systems.
If you are one of those people that love to enjoy their favorite albums, movies, and TV shows at home, then you probably have a decent sound system in your living room, but if you want to take it a step further by building your own multi-channel home theater then you might need some help, as there are a lot of tiny details that come with this transformation that can greatly improve your experience.
Suppose you really care about sound quality and having a theater-like experience in your home. In that case, this guide will be very useful to you, as we will go through every type of multi-channel home theater and parts you need in order to build the best setup you can so that you can enjoy an immersive experience with music, gaming, and movies.
What Makes a Multi-Channel Home Theater System?
You may be wondering how many parts are needed to really make a multi-channel home theater system, well it essentially involves the speakers an AV receiver, a source, and a display device (TV), and of course, you need all the necessary cables and wires in order to get everything set up nicely.
You can either get a package that gets you everything at once, which is the easier way and in most cases the cheaper way to get a multi-channel home theater system, or you can purchase the parts separately and build it yourself, which may be a bit more complicated but you will have more control of each part of the system, for example, if you want higher quality with the sound than the TV you can get the parts accordingly.
In order to help you get a better idea of each part needed, let’s go over some of the details, that way you’ll know exactly what’s going on with every function, and even help you make your experience better.
The speakers are in a constant battle with the display to see which one is the most important, for it’s the sound that gets you immersed and surrounds you the same way a movie theater does, but for others is that perfect TV that lets you enjoy every minor detail when you watch anything in your living room, but, regardless of which one is the most important for you, both are important in order to deliver an experience that will make you want to stay at home and invite your friends rather than going to a movie theater.
The standard multi-channel speaker set involves 5 speakers, two on each side, one in the center, and surround speakers, but a lot of people also enjoy having a subwoofer in order to get the sound quality even better, improving the bass and overall lower frequencies, which gives the sound that feeling you get at clubs and movie theaters.
There are also some systems that come with a soundbar, which is a lot easier to set up and already includes stereo multi-channel audio in one speaker.
Lastly, if you are looking for speakers and find yourself clouded in doubt after finding out there are 3.1, 5.1, and 7.1, then let’s make those doubts go away.
It’s actually very simple, 5.1 speakers include 5 speakers and 1 subwoofer, 3.1 speakers only come with the side speakers and the ones in the center, while 7.1 systems come with all the 5.1 has to offer, plus an extra pair of surround speakers. There are other ways to have your sound set up, so it’s up to you if you want to customize it and have less common layouts such as 9.1 or 7.2, just keep in mind not to get too crazy and loud if your home is not suited for that kind of power, but don’t worry we will get to that in a bit.
If you want a multi-channel home theater, it’s obvious you will need a device that lets you watch whatever you want right? Well, you have two main options, you could get a projector or a TV.
If you have a room that is clearly conditioned to be “movie theater-like” then you would benefit a lot from a projector. But if you want the best home experience in your living room, then you’ll do better with a good high-definition TV with a size that fits the size of the environment.
Still, it’s all up to preference so you can choose whatever you want, as long as you are happy with the experience.
You need a source that can support the sound system you have set up, otherwise, you won’t be making use of all the speakers you have. By source, we mean the device or platform you’re using to watch movies or play games.
Thankfully online streaming platforms now support all kinds of multi-channel audio, and consoles such as the PS5 and XBOX Series X both support 5.1 and 7.1.
Most Blu-ray discs also support 5.1 and a lot of the most recent releases also support other types of audio.
You need to remember that you also need an AVR (audio-video receiver) along with your speakers in order to make it all work, this will be the system’s central unit. The unit is also called AV preamp or AV power amp, as its function is all about processing the audio tracks and powering all the speaker units.
The type you’ll need will depend on the home theater system you want which changes from person to person. The things you need to keep in mind are the speaker wattages and required amplification power, along with a few other things.
When it comes to the price of an AVR, it depends on how big your setup is going to be.
Cables and Speaker Wires
Most of the time you won’t need to worry too much about this since you have everything you need in the box, however, you need to keep in mind that if you want to customize your layout or you are dealing with longer distances than usual, you need to get the necessary wires and interconnects to have everything set up.
What Are Multi-Channel Home Theater Systems Types?
There are different categories of systems depending on the setup, mostly categorized depending on the number of speakers that are included in that system.
These are classified by two numbers, the number before the decimal is the number of satellite units and the one after the decimal is the number of subwoofers the system has.
Virtual Surround Systems and 2.0
In this category we will be covering the sound systems that don’t have dedicated speakers for every channel, instead, these replicate the same type of effect with only 2.1 and 3.1 and also the most basic stereo system.
This is the most barebones system you can get and it only includes two speakers or a sound bar.
You will probably not get a close experience to a movie theater like this, but you will definitely get a lot higher quality of audio than the TV sound, so even if these don’t even support a subwoofer, they can be a big step up from the standard TV audio, and it’s also a good idea for bedroom sound systems.
This is basically the same as the previous one with one big difference, it has a subwoofer, which will make a significant difference when it comes to bass.
Another advantage over the 2.0 systems is that these can replicate the 5.1 systems’ sounds, and even if it won’t be the same, it gets quite close to a true surround sound experience.
These sound systems have the usual right and left speakers but also have a center speaker with a subwoofer. With 3.1 you will really start to feel that immersive sound that you’re expecting with a multi-channel home theater.
True Surround Systems
This category includes systems that have at least one speaker for each channel specifically, which would include large home theater systems like 5.1 multi-channel sound systems and larger ones such as 7.1, 10.2, and more.
These are the ones that will give you the theater experience with true surround, so if you want that type of experience, this is where you should be looking.
If you want the most common setup you should get the 5.1, which is also a middle ground between a budget option and more expensive ones.
These systems have five channels and a subwoofer, so you would get the right and left speakers and the center channels, but you would also get two surround speakers which take things to the next level.
The surround speakers are placed on the rear side, and they provide that sense of movie theater feeling that you would want in your house.
Most sources like consoles, DVDs, Blu-Ray players, and streaming services support 5.1 so you’ll enjoy an amazing quality sound with any form of entertainment you want.
If you want to go beyond the standard layout, you can slightly upgrade the 5.1 to 6.1, with an extra surround back speaker that is placed right at the center.
It’s mostly the same as the 5.1 in every way but this extra speaker will give you a lot more definition which is especially good for listening to music.
As we mentioned earlier, this is another popular configuration, and it’s probably the best thing before the best thing.
If you want the best of the best, this configuration will not disappoint, but keep in mind that this is really going to be close to the movie theater experience so make sure you have a room that can take all that sound without getting noise complaints or anything like that.
What Are The Best Multi-Channel Home Theaters?
If you want to get a full package and set up that nice sound in your home then we will help you find the best options in the market today!
Polk Audio 5.1 Channel Home Theater System
This is a great option for people looking for high-end quality audio, so if you want to get the best of the best, you should consider this amazing choice.
This system has a peak power of around 800 watts, includes a bookshelf, and has tower speaker types.
It has amazing audio quality, and great versatility when it comes to frequencies and it comes with a long 5-year warranty so you don’t have to worry about small issues with your purchase.
The only downside for some people is that the peak power could be higher when you consider the price, but it’s not a deal breaker by any means.
TCL Alto 9+ 3.1
If you are looking for something cheaper but still maintaining a good level of quality then this is a great choice for you.
While it has a simple design with a soundbar and a subwoofer, you will find that the audio quality is impressive, especially if you want great sound for smaller rooms.
Another good quality is that it’s a wireless system that helps make everything look good and easy to set up.
It’s a very affordable multi-channel home theater and it will definitely be a good value for the price, however, we don’t recommend this one if you want to have a good sound for a big room.
Klipsch Reference R-26FA 7.1
Going back to the high-end stuff, it’s this beast of a sound system, with a 7.1 channel and 2 Dolby Atmos R-26FA floor-standing speakers 2 bookshelf R-14M 4” surround speakers, an R-52C 4002 two-way center channel speaker, and an R12SW 12” 400w all-digital powered subwoofer.
This is the opposite of the previous option, you’ll need a good amount of space and time to set this one up, but trust us, it’s worth it.
The weak spot in this system is the volume level, which can be a serious issue if you are using it in a large room.
Another issue with the volume is that when it gets to high levels, it can get a bit too bright, but not enough to make it sound unpleasant.
If you have the budget for a high-end system but are just getting started on your journey upgrading the sound of your living room, then this is a great option for you
Logitech Z906 5.1 Sound Speaker System
Another good recommendation for a well-priced theater system is the Logitech Z906 5.1. It’s very reliable, it has a good design that allows for a fair price, Dolby Digital Ex, and DTS surround sound technology.
You’ll be able to get the most out of this option if you are planning to set it up in a small room, otherwise, you might not be able to enjoy the best sound this system has to offer. Another small con this system has is that there is no HDMI port to be found, nor WiFi or Bluetooth functionalities which can be a deal breaker for some people.
Other than that, you get a great package at a great price for this system, with a focus on crystal clear highs and mids, even though it may lack a bit with the lower frequencies.
Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4
If you really want to have a 7.1 system but you can’t afford most of them, there might still be a chance for you if you check out the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1.4.
This is not the best by any means if you compare it with other more expensive options, but you will definitely get great quality for its price.
One of the best aspects of this home theater system is its soundbar, this 45”, 5-channel soundbar definitely allows for an amazing experience that is backed up by 7 speakers as usual for 7.1 systems.
This might not be the best-looking one or have the best Atmos performance but you can’t go wrong with this one. If you’ve never heard of Nakamichi, they also won an award because of the great quality of their soundbar, getting the upper hand against more popular brands such as Sony and Samsung.
VIZIO SB36514-G6 36” 5.1.4 Premium Home Theater Sound System with Dolby Atmos and Wireless Subwoofer
Vizio will offer high-end products with amazing quality, not only in the sound department but also with TVs, and more, however for now we are going to stick with soundbars and multi-channel home theater systems.
This system is great for people who are looking for something different that can bring both looks and performance.
It’s a 5.1 with a soundbar and a wireless subwoofer which can make things a lot easier when looking for space to set it up.
One of the best aspects of this package is how good it looks, it has a very clean and classy design that will definitely make your house look better. Even if that is not the most important thing when looking to set up a multi-channel home theater, but still, there are a lot of people out there that consider style and looks to be very important for their homes.
Aside from that, you’ll have Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital X at your home, with an incredible cinematic experience that will make you want to stay home more.
On top of all these features, you’ll have quite a few options when it comes to connectivity, with Chromecast support, Wi-Fi, and HDMI to USB.
All of these things make this option one of the best among high-end systems.
Harman Kardon Hkts 16BQ 5.1 Channel Home Theater Speaker
It’s very hard to decide which one is the best of them all since people have different preferences and the space acoustics also affect the quality of audio, however, when it comes to raw quality and specs, Harman Kardon will give you some of the best audio you can get, simple as that.
It’s very hard to find something bad aside from the price (even though you do get what you pay for), and the slightly less stylish design than VIZIO’s models, so let’s get into some of the best things about this system.
Surround sound will meet every possible expectation you have and go even beyond, thanks to the amazing sound quality and spectacular subwoofer.
This subwoofer has the kick of movie theaters, so you’ll be able to match that feeling in your body that makes you want to jump.
Also if you want to use this multi-channel home theater in a big room, you can upgrade it to 7.1 so that you can have enough power, but if you find that the room you’re in doesn’t need it then don’t 5.1 is enough for a living room or a small theater room
Enclave CineHome II 5.1 Wireless Home Theater Surround Sound System
Cables, nobody likes them but they fulfill one of the most important tasks in our modern world, but, there is also a little word that makes some people cheer “wireless”.
It looks quite stylish and it also has crisp clear quality. You can also add another subwoofer if you want, although that is not necessarily a good thing because the one subwoofer it has, doesn’t offer as much power as other options on this list.
The other downside is that every single speaker needs a power source, but that is not the worst thing in the world considering all the great things it has to offer.
Pros and Cons of Having a Multi-Channel Home Theater
If you are still trying to make up your mind whether you want a multi-channel home theater or not, you may need some help seeing everything clearly, in other words, the pros and cons of having a powerful sound system in the comfort of your home.
- You will probably go less to the movie theater since you have a very similar experience at home. This also means you won’t have to pay for tickets or worry about any issues on your way there or back home.
- Better sound will improve every experience you have at home with a multi-channel home theater, which means, exciting movie and TV show experiences, crystal clear quality for music, and a new level of immersion for video games.
- It will make your time at home feel fresh and different, it’s always fun to explore the capabilities of new technologies and share them with your friends and loved ones, so improving the sound will definitely help you create exciting memories.
- Going out to a movie theater and watching a new movie is a great experience, whether you share it with friends or go alone, it’s very hard to get the little things at home like the feeling of getting your best seats, the smell of popcorn, and audience reactions.
- Having one of the louder sound systems might get you in trouble with neighbors or even your own family, so even if you can get around this by conditioning a room, it’s still a con because you’ll have to spend extra money in order to do this.
How to Choose The Best Multi-Channel Home Theater System for Me?
You have to think about the experience you want but you also need to think about what you can do, meaning that you can’t have a 10.2 system in a small shared apartment.
Once you evaluate the space that you have to work with then you decide if you want to adapt to that space or make the necessary changes to get whatever type of multi-channel home theater you want.
You should also consider what you are going to be spending more time with, for example, there might be some systems that favors some type of experiences like videogames more than others, so it would be a good idea to think about those little things to know what would be the best package for you.
If you have some trouble finding what suits you best, you can also check out a few youtube channels that have a good idea of how these systems work and how to make the most out of them.
It’s probably obvious but you need to consider your budget, especially since some of these packages can cost more than 4 figures, so know what you working with, and that way you’ll know which price range is best for you.
Thankfully there is a very broad price range when it comes to sound so try checking out our recommendations, you might just find the one for you!
If you really want to go all in and decide to get a really powerful multi-channel home theater, you should consider making some changes to your living room or find a dedicated room to be sort of like the “theater room”.
This way you’ll be able to keep the sound inside the house and have better acoustics which will give you a better experience.
If you want to have an idea of this process, an interview from blog.son-video with an enthusiast might give you an insight into some of the details.
When he was asked if he had a dedicated room for installing his new multi-channel home theater system, he said:
The room is not dedicated, but it was obvious that the design of the living room would revolve around this installation dedicated to films, series, and video games. So even if it’s a living room, everything had to be optimized for sound and image, as much as we possibly could (no acoustic treatment, bay window, no transparent screen, etc.), and with discreet equipment by using in-wall speakers and an electric projection screen, as well as hiding the electronics, etc. It is out of the question to have huge and unsightly speakers in plain sight, visible cables, wobbly mounts, etc.
He then went on to explain some of the construction work that went into making the living room a better space to support that kind of sound:
For the construction work, I made the plans and calculations myself before we started working on the room, then I left the instructions to the craftsmen (electrician for the passage of the cables, plasterers for the cutouts, etc.). I had to redo the cabling of the subwoofer so it would go behind the sofa, because I had almost no lows (room acoustics, square shape, large bay window among others) where it was first placed (on the front stage). I recommend testing the subwoofer placement before moving forward with the construction work if possible. Otherwise no particular problem. It was not my first home theater installation and when you anticipate as many possible issues as possible you can avoid a lot of problems!
The interview ends with some good advice to anyone who wants to embark on the same type of journey:
Calculate everything in advance, plan everything, follow the progress with the construction work if you’re not working on it yourself, and anticipate future uses by leaving a few inlets or running a few extra cables for example, take the time to do a real calibration / acoustic correction once the room finished (with the Audyssey App if you have a Denon or a Marantz), go and listen to the products in-store and make up your own mind if possible. The Internet is full of opinions that say everything and its opposite and the important thing is that we personally like.
Good Sounding Alternatives to Multi-Channel Home Theaters
Let’s be honest, having one of these multi-channel home theaters is a big investment, and sometimes you can’t even if you could because you might not have enough space to support all that power.
So if you want a significant upgrade but won’t fully commit to these expensive large systems, you can also get smaller upgrades that are definitely worth it.
Soundbars are an excellent choice for people looking for a well-priced upgrade as well as an easy-to-set-up device. These will not take up too much space due to the shape and size and you will be able to enjoy a much better sound than the TV speakers.
It’s no small upgrade you will definitely feel like going from a 4/10 experience to a 7/10 experience, and you won’t even notice how bad the sound was before getting a sound bar set up.
Standard Stereo System
If you don’t want to go all in with the theater-like experience, you don’t need to get an expensive package, you could just go with a regular stereo system and you’ll do fine, especially when you compare the sound with most TV speakers.
You can upgrade your sound a little bit if you want by adding a subwoofer, this will give a lot more punch to the bass and make the low frequencies pack a punch.
Here are some recommendations if you are interested in having a standard stereo system to upgrade your sound experience:
Q Acoustics M20 HD
One of the reasons you could be interested in just having a standard stereo system is the budget, if that’s the case then these speakers offer very good quality for a very low price.
This package is a jack of all trades, with amazing frequencies that can give you a smooth experience whether you are watching a movie, listening to metal or playing a relaxing videogame.
KEF LSX II
If you are willing to spend a bit more on great quality speakers then these will offer high-end features that will make you forget about multi-channel home theater systems.
It comes with HDMI ARC, USB-C, analog and digital outputs, ethernet, and even has the option to add a subwoofer.
Don’t let the size fool you, you will get great bass sounds with these speakers, as well as amazing mids and highs.
There are only two downsides to these speakers, the first one is that you shouldn’t expect to get incredible sound to fill large rooms with the same intensity a 5.1 system would, but you can certainly have a very pleasant experience in smaller rooms. The second downside is the price, but when you pay for high-end things, you need to keep your end of the bargain right?
Apple HomePod mini
90% of the time, speakers will do a better job than the TV audio, so don’t discard smaller budget possibilities when thinking about improving your experience.
These are really small but two of these speakers will do a fine job of giving you clear sounds, especially in smaller rooms, just don’t expect greatness from lower frequencies.
If you are on a tight budget or you just want a small upgrade for your bedroom TV, you can be certain that these small speakers will deliver and truly give you a great sounding experience when you consider the price.
Good Sounding TVs
Most TVs offer very mediocre sound to bad sound quality, but some people want to be able to enjoy their TV shows and other forms of entertainment without having to buy a whole sound system.
If you are looking for a new TV and you want to get decent sound from of it, then we have a few recommendations for this year that will satisfy your needs.
Do keep in mind that you will never find a TV with better sound than a soundbar or a whole home theater system.
This is an overall great option, it’s a mid-range TV that sounds very good, and sound doesn’t distort when the volume gets at high levels, which is a common problem for most TV speakers.
If you want to make do with TV speakers, this TV will satisfy your needs, but don’t expect great low frequencies.
LG G1 OLED
If you want the best a TV can offer in terms of sound, this is what you’re looking for. This TV has amazing visuals but it also delivers great sound with very clear highs and mids, as well as lows, which will give you a bass quality that is not common among TV speakers.
The only downside is that, while it can be louder than the Sony X95K, it can show some signs of compression and distortion, so it might not be a good idea to push the limits of the speakers.
Insignia F50 QLED
One of the best lower-price options is the Insignia F50QLED, which offers less clarity and frequency richness than its more expensive counterparts but it will not disappoint when compared to other budget TVs.
If you are not expecting to have above-average sound quality then you’ll be happy with this TV.
This is a whole different thing but it’s still another way to experience high-quality sound, and the reason we are mentioning is that maybe you haven’t even considered it.
If you spend a lot of time playing videogames, you should seriously consider using headphones, these offer a lot more immersion than TV speakers or low-budget soundbars, and the best thing about them is that you will be able to get very good headphones for a lower price than a multi-channel home theater.
This will work for you if you don’t really mind not having the full theater-like experience, as long as you can get high-quality sound.
Getting a multi-channel home theater system will definitely improve the quality of your audio, wherever that might be, and there is no doubt that you will take entertainment to the next level, however, these can be expensive upgrades.
Fortunately, you have more than a few options so that you can choose something that fits your budget.
You’ll also have to keep in mind the size of your home, the room you want to upgrade, and more because more speakers aren’t always better.
We hope we managed to give you a good introduction to multi-channel home theater systems, how they work, some of the best options in the market as well as cover some of the most common difficulties of getting one for yourself.