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The best sound systems you can buy: Expert tested

We tested some of the best sounds systems to take your TV binging, music listening, and gaming to the next level with clear and immersive audio.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
Vizio 5.1-Channel M-Series | Best sound system overall
Vizio M-series sound system
Vizio 5.1-Channel M-Series
Best sound system overall
View now View at Amazon
Sonos Arc | Best premium soundbar
Sonos Ace in Soft White and Sonos Arc
Sonos Arc
Best premium soundbar
View now View at Amazon
Sonance Mag SS TV Audio | Best in-wall speakers
Sonance SS Mag TV speakers
Sonance Mag SS TV Audio
Best in-wall speakers
View now View at Best Buy
Lodge Solar Powered Speaker 4 Series 2 | Best outdoor sound system
Lodge Solar Powered Speaker 4 Series 2
Best outdoor sound system
View now View at Pcrichard
SoundFun Mirai speaker | Best soundbar
The SoundFun Mirai speaker.
SoundFun Mirai speaker
Best soundbar
View now View at Amazon
SteelSeries Arena 9 | Best budget gaming speaker system
Close-up of the SteelSeries Arena 9 speaker system on a pair of round tables
SteelSeries Arena 9
Best budget gaming speaker system
View now View at Best Buy
Kanto YU6MB Bookshelf Speakers | Best sound system for your office
Kanto YU6MB Bookshelf Speakers
Best sound system for your office
View now View at Amazon
Show more (2 items)

The right sound system immerses you in the action of your favorite movies, games, and songs. Soundbars, subwoofers, and speakers can transform your living room into a home theater. You don't always need the most expensive gear to have great home audio, so we included options that won't break the bank.

To help you decide which sound system is best for your setup, we've extensively tested and researched some of the best choices available on the market today based on speaker power, frequency response, connectivity options, and price. We also spoke to experts to get their recommendations on features to look for before you buy. 

What's the best sound system right now?

Our pick for the best sound system overall is the Vizio 5.1-Channel M-series sound system, as it is a fully-equipped system that can turn your living room into a home theater for a relatively affordable price. This sound system is packed with software features and includes all the necessary hardware to get the most bang for your buck. Read on for the rest of our picks for the best sound system you can buy right now.

AlsoThe best soundbars you can buy, tested and reviewed

The best sound systems of 2024

Pros & Cons
  • Easy installation
  • Low-key appearance
  • Powerful and immersive sound
  • Finicky connectivity
More Details

Suppose you're looking for a relatively affordable full-room sound system. In that case, the Vizio 5.1-Channel M-Series sound system is a good choice: It includes 11 speakers with separate tweeters and woofers, two upfiring speakers, and a remote control. With Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround sound, you have two high-quality options to turn your living room into a home theater.

This sound system is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatible and includes Optical, RCA, USB, and HDMI ports. Virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri can be used to control it using voice commands.

The Vizio M-Series is well-reviewed on Amazon and Best Buy. Customers on Amazon rave about the sound quality, which makes movies, TV shows, and sporting events a more immersive experience. However, some customers say that this sound system takes a few seconds to catch up to dialogue on the TV, which can cause a short delay. Some 88% of Best Buy customers said they would recommend it to a friend.

Vizio M-Series tech specs: Subwoofer: 6-inch wireless | Wired Options3.5mm aux cable | Wireless Connectivity: Wi-Fi & Bluetooth | Frequency response: 45Hz–20kHz | Channels: 5.1.2

Pros & Cons
  • Compatible with other Sonos devices
  • Great surround-sound
  • Expensive
  • Large in size
More Details

The Sonos Arc soundbar is an outstanding option for people looking for a premium soundbar to expand their home theater or beef up their living room's sound system. The Arc easily integrates with TVs via an eARC connection, and older TVs with an optical output port can be compatible. An eARC port ensures you can take advantage of all the Arc's multiple audio formats, such as Dolby Atmos, DTS Digital Surround, and Dolby TrueHD. TVs with only ARC or optical outputs may not support Dolby Atmos or TrueHD.

The Arc's 11 digital amplifiers, three silk-dome tweeters, and eight elliptical mid-woofers all contribute to an all-encompassing sound that's sure to fill your entire living room. This soundbar connects to your home's Wi-Fi network, so you don't have to worry about losing a Bluetooth connection with your TV. Additionally, the Sonos Arc is compatible with Sonos Voice Control, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant for voice-controlled commands. 

You can link your audio subscriptions in the Sonos App to play music, audiobooks, and podcasts from the Sonos Arc. If you have the Sonos Ace headphones, this soundbar is compatible with TV audio swap, which allows you to seamlessly swap your TV audio from the Arc soundbar to the Ace headphones.

I keep my Sonos Arc in my living room and regularly enjoy watching movies and TV shows in Dolby Atmos. It's a large soundbar that takes up most of the space on my fireplace mantel, but you can mount it if needed. With its large stature comes a large price tag; the Arc retails for $899, but sometimes it's on sale for $720.

Sonos Arc tech specs: Subwoofer: Sold separately | Wired Options: eARC, ARC, optical | Wireless Connectivity: N/A | Frequency response: 45Hz–20kHz | Channels: 5.0.2

Pros & Cons
  • Easily concealed
  • Detailed sound
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Lengthy installation
More Details

This Sonance sound system is an alternative to soundbars or bookshelf speakers, as you can place this system in the wall behind the TV. You'll get two 6.5-inch in-wall speakers, a Sonos amp, and an in-wall power kit. 

The Sonance amp provides 125W of power to each speaker, delivering high-quality, immersive sound. This system is compatible with Amazon, Google, and Apple virtual assistants, and you can stream your favorite music subscription platforms. 

Just be prepared to do some work in terms of installation: Best Buy customers say this system requires intensive planning and some handiwork. This sound system does come with a power kit and directions for the wiring system. Even so, 100% of Best Buy customers reported that they would recommend the system to a friend.

Sonance Mag SS TV Audio tech specs: Subwoofer: 6.5 inches | Wired Options: No | Wireless Connectivity: Power Kit | Frequency response: 45Hz-20kHz | Channels: 2 channels per speaker

Pros & Cons
  • No subwoofer necessary
  • Solar powered
  • Excellent audio quality
  • Pricey
  • Limited app functionality
More Details

If you like entertaining guests in your outdoor space, you need a set of speakers like the Lodge Solar Powered speakers. These speakers are built for outdoor weather conditions, as they sport an IP66 rating and have shatterproof and chip-resistant solar panels.

The Lodge outdoor speakers feature a 50-watt amplifier, a 3/4-inch dome tweeter, a 4-inch driver, and a 4-inch subwoofer. These speakers can also achieve up to a 24-bit/26 kHz sampling rate for hi-fi listening. There's no need for wires or power boxes, as these speakers are completely solar-powered.

ZDNET contributor Matthew Miller tested the Lodge speakers, and reported that his guests couldn't believe such powerful sound was coming from a singular speaker. Miller also said this speaker is the best option for outdoor hosting and festivities. "The Lodge Solar Speaker 4 Series 2 has raised the bar for Bluetooth speakers thanks to its solar charging capacity, massive internal battery, and extreme audio performance," Miller wrote in his review.

Review: Lodge Solar Powered Outdoor Speaker

Lodge Solar Powered Speaker 4 Series 2 tech specs: Subwoofer: 4 inches | Wired Options: No | Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth 

Pros & Cons
  • Easy to use
  • Purposeful
  • Simplistic
  • Lacks fancy audio tech
More Details

If you watch many movies and TV shows at home, you may frequently have difficulty hearing the dialogue. You're not alone, and the SoundFun Mirai soundbar hopes to solve this problem. SoundFun created the Mirai's wiggly design to enhance the dialogue in shows and movies. 

The Mirai speaker can connect to your TV via Bluetooth, and it lacks any fancy audio technology, but it does execute its intended purpose. ZDNET contributor Jack Wallen tested the SoundFun Mirai speaker, watching movies and TV shows over the noise of exercise equipment like a treadmill and rowing machine, and said he was impressed by the results: "I watched every genre I could think of -- from horror to documentaries -- and the SoundFun Mirai didn't miss a beat... If you find yourself struggling to hear dialog in TV and movies, I would highly recommend you give this speaker a try. You won't be disappointed."

Wallen also reported that the Mirai speaker is easy to set up and that its functionality is intuitive and simple. However, if you're looking for surround sound or audiophile-grade cinema sound, this isn't the speaker for you.

Review: SoundFun Mirai speaker

SoundFun Mirai tech specs: Subwoofer: N/A | Wired Options: Optical, 3.5mm aux cable | Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth | Frequency response: 150Hz-20 kHz | Channels: N/A

Pros & Cons
  • Has RGB lighting
  • Budget-friendly
  • Can connect to multiple types of devices
  • Less customizable sound when connected to devices via cables
More Details

No matter your gaming platform, if you want to revamp your gaming setup's audio equipment, the SteelSeries Arena 9 speaker system will do the job. Fitted with five speakers and a subwoofer, this speaker system will surely add a layer of immersion to your gaming sessions. The Arena 9 system also has RGB lighting to add to your space's vibe and aesthetic.

ZDNET's Taylor Clemons reviewed the Arena 9 speaker system and praised its clear and full sound. Taylor also concluded that these speakers are great for people with limited space; the Arena 9 can connect to devices via Bluetooth to stream music. You can connect to these speakers via Bluetooth, USB, or optical cables, but Taylor mentions that the Arena 9's sound is less customizable when connected to devices via cables.

ReviewThe most immersive speaker system I've ever tested isn't from Bose or Sonos

Still, if you're looking for an entire speaker system for less than $600, the SteelSeries Arena 9 is a budget and beginner-friendly option.

SteelSeries Arena 9 tech specs: Subwoofer: 3 inches | Wired Options: USB, 3.5mm aux cable, optical | Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth | Frequency response: 30Hz-20kHz | Channels: 5.1

Pros & Cons
  • Clear sound
  • Quality build
  • Compact size
  • Finicky connectivity
  • No subwoofer
More Details

If you want a solid set of bookshelf speakers, the Kanto YU6MB can deliver. With one-inch silk dome tweeters and 5.25-inch Kevlar drivers, the YU6MB speakers are sure to reproduce clear and vibrant sound.

These speakers are great for small spaces, like a desk, small office, or studio apartment. The YU6MB speakers are equipped with automatic power-saving modes to help you conserve energy.

ZDNET contributor Jack Wallen tested the YU6MB speakers and suggested them for people who spend a lot of time working from home due to their compact build. Wallen also said he enjoyed the YU6MB's audio clarity and subwoofer output.

"I fully understand that a set of bookshelf speakers will never match the soundscape delivered by a set of quality floor-standing speakers," Wallen wrote in his review. "But when space is tight, and your room (and your cats) really doesn't lend itself to floor-standing speakers, the bookshelf is the way to go. If that's your situation, the Kanto YU6 speakers will not disappoint." 

Review: Kanto YU6MB bookshelf speakers

Kanto YU6MB tech specs: Subwoofer: Not included | Wired options: Optical, RCA, USB, 3.5mm aux cable | Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth | Frequency response: 50Hz-20kHz

What is the best sound system?

The Vizio 5.1-Channel M-series may not be the cheapest sound system, but its strong, powerful bass and impressive clarity makes it a valuable choice.

To see how it compares, here is an overview of the best sound systems. 

Best sound system




Frequency response

Vizio 5.1-Channel M-series


6-inch wireless



Sonos Arc


Sold separately



Sonance Mag SS TV system


6.5 inches



Lodge Solar Powered Speaker





SoundFun Mirai speaker


Sold separately



SteelSeries Arena 9


3 inches



Kanto YU6MB 


Sold separately

Up to 100W


 *Lowest price at the time of writing. Please note that prices may vary based on retailer and available promotions, sales, or discounts.

Which is the right sound system for you?

The best sound system for you depends on where you want to place your system, what you plan to listen to, and what price you're willing to spend. To help you find the right sound system for your needs, here are our expert recommendations to consider. 

Choose this sound system...
If you want...
Vizio 5.1-Channel M-series sound system
The best overall option. This sound system features a wireless subwoofer, 11 speakers, and a two-way speaker design.
Sonos Arc soundbar
A premium soundbar packed with features. This soundbar is also best for people who want a soundbar with a simple and unassuming design.
Sonance Mag SS TV Audio sound system
Speakers for theater rooms with a professional and customizable design. 
Lodge Solar Powered Speaker 4 Series 2
Speakers with high-quality sound that can withstand the outdoor elements. 
SoundFun Mirai speakerA speaker to help you better hear your TV and movie dialogue. 
SteelSeries Arena 9 speaker systemA budget-friendly speaker system that is compatible with gaming, listening to music, and watching TV.
Kanto YU6MB bookshelf speakersBookshelf speakers best suited for limited space. These speakers will best serve smaller rooms instead of larger areas.

Factors to consider when choosing a sound system

The ZDNET team spends much time and consideration testing speakers, soundbars, subwoofers, and entire sound systems. Here are some key factors we consider when researching and testing sound equipment.

  • Purpose: We consider what purposes best serve a particular piece of audio equipment. Some equipment is best for listening to music, while others are best for watching TV shows and movies. Additionally, some sound equipment is best for large rooms, while others work best in smaller spaces.
  • Software features: In this modern day and age, functional software is a must -- if that's what you desire. Some people like to keep things simple, and we kept that in mind when choosing the options in this list. Other people want their audio equipment packed with software, so we chose options to accommodate those interests, too.
  • Sound quality: This is arguably the most important metric but the most subjective one, too. We researched and tested audio equipment that reproduced a strong bass response while also producing clear high and mid frequencies. 
  • Value: ZDNET believes in offering you products that give you the most value for your money. For this reason, we chose sound systems that offer many features and can be used for many purposes.

How do we test sound systems?

In testing and researching the best wireless surround sound system, we considered several critical factors, including brand type, customer reviews (both good and bad), and recommendations from experts in the audio and music industry. Here are some of the more important features we looked at to make our final picks:

  • Frequency response: The frequency response will determine how well and clearly a speaker can produce sound. Not all brands list this tech spec for speakers, but you'll find that a majority will. 
  • Connectivity: We included sound systems that will work with both wired and wireless setups so no matter what you have in your home, you have options. 
  • Subwoofer: A subwoofer is the part of a sound system that provides the bass, or that deep, booming sound that ultimately gives that home theater effect. We included sound systems that have subwoofers, as well as some that don't depending on your preference. 
  • Price: Sound systems are expensive: there is no getting around it. But we included some lower-end price points under $500 for those just starting to build out their home theater. 

What features should I look for in a sound system?

Omar Zulfi, music producer, artist, and founder of DeviantNoise.com, told ZDNET that first and foremost, you have to make sure that what you're buying has all the modern connectivity you might need, like the latest Bluetooth/wireless chips, a substantial number of inputs for HDMI, USB, a phono input for vinyl records, and RCA inputs for old cassette tapes. "It should also be compatible with the latest audio technologies -- Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision, etc.," he said.

Zulfi added that you want to make sure the system you buy also has decent adjustment controls (bass/treble/sub level, and EQ settings) so you can tailor your system to your room. 

And, as far as tech specs are concerned, pay attention to the frequency response. 

"A wide frequency response (as close to 20Hz - 20,000kHz as possible) and a high Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) are two specs that consumers can look for," Zulfi said. "Frequency response determines how well and clearly a sound can be reproduced by the speakers, and SNR impacts the background noise when being used (i.e. low level hiss/static)."

What components make up a sound system?

Andy Fraser, a musician and the owner of Guitar Inside Out, told ZDNET that the most vital components of a sound system are the speakers and amplifier. 

"Quality drivers and enclosures means accurate sound reproduction from the speakers," Fraser said. "The amplifier gives you sufficient power and connectivity for your speakers and source devices."

In addition, he added that other important pieces are the source device (like a streaming box or turntable) and the cables to make sure you can connect everything properly.

What's the best room size for a home theater?

There's no minimum or maximum size requirement, and extra speakers and subwoofers are almost always guaranteed to improve your home's audio experience. However, if you want to turn a room in your house into a home theater, a room that's at least 15 feet wide and 20 feet long is a recommended room size.

With this size, you can ensure you have enough space for external audio equipment and furniture.

How much should I spend on a sound system?

This is a personal decision. You can surely invest several thousand dollars on your home's audio equipment, but you can find quality sound equipment for as little as a few hundred too.

Why are some sound systems so expensive?

Higher-end sound equipment is more expensive because of the expensive materials used to build it. These materials are inside and outside the piece of equipment. Internal audio components like speakers, drivers, and tweeters can be made of expensive materials that drive up the overall cost.

Additionally, higher-end audio equipment can have better-looking and higher-quality designs and finishes, which also contribute to higher prices.

Other sound systems we've tested

There are so many options on the market for sound systems from different brands, and we've tested many of them. Here are a few more of our recommendations.

View at AmazonView at AmazonView at Amazon
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