Home & Office
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


The best sound systems you can buy, according to experts

The top sound systems bring music or movies to the next level with clear immersive audio and wireless capabilities. Plus, some are on sale for Black Friday.
Written by Allison Murray, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Nina Raemont

The right sound system immerses you in the action of your favorite movies, games, and songs. Today's sound systems are a little more modern and include features like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, built-in Dolby Atmos, and even industry-leading sound technology that can enhance voices or map the sound to your room perfectly. 

Also: The best early Black Friday headphone deals

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

Our top pick for the best sound system is the JBL Bar 700, but we also included systems from brands like Klipsch, Sonos, and more for you to compare and consider to ramp the volume up in your home's movie and music experience. Plus, we detailed on how you can save on a sound system setup for this holiday shopping season. 

AlsoThe best soundbars you can buy, tested and reviewed

The best sound systems of 2023

Pros & Cons
  • Detachable speakers
  • Smart home compatible
  • Powerful and immersive sound
  • Expensive
More Details

JBL Bar 700 tech specs: Subwoofer: 10-inch wireless | Power: 620W | Connectivity: Wi-Fi | Frequency response: 35Hz–20kHz (-6dB) | Channels: 5.1

The JBL Bar 700 includes a 10-inch subwoofer with 620-watt output, making it a powerful sound system. With built-in Wi-Fi, you'll experience excellent audio with Dolby Atmos and theater-quality 3D sound. 

This sound system comes with Apple AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music, and Chromecast built-in, along with the ability to access over 300 online music streaming services like Spotify. 

Michael Moore, the owner of the Devoted to Vinyl blog, told ZDNET that he loves the JBL Bar because of how convenient it is to use while still being powerful and versatile once you turn it on. 

"In my eyes, the JBL Bar 700 offers you the best of both worlds—an expected (and high quality) soundbar, and a more immersive experience should you opt to detach the ends of the speaker and add them as rear-channel effects behind your head," Moore said. 

Moore added if you have somewhat limited space or you just don't want several big speakers placed around the room, that the JBL Bar 700 is an excellent option.

Pros & Cons
  • Six speakers including a subwoofer
  • Detailed sound
  • Great value for the money
  • Must have your own receiver to connect speakers to
More Details

Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 System tech specs: Subwoofer: 10 inches | Power: 300W | Connectivity: RCA | Frequency response: 90Hz-20kHz (+/- 3dB) | Channels: 10 channels

This six-system setup includes four satellite speakers, one center speaker, and one subwoofer, along with the power of Dolby Atmos sound to amp up your cinema experience. There's a reason why these speakers are the #1 best seller on Amazon for the surround sound system category, and that is their quality sound. 

The 10-inch subwoofer is front-firing and delivers room-shaking sound, while the satellite speakers are top-firing, which creates the feeling of sound coming from a bubble around you.

The Klipsch Reference Cinema speakers are a great entry-point into the world of home theater and are easy to set up. The only downside to these speakers is that you must have a receiver in order to connect them. 

Pros & Cons
  • No subwoofer necessary
  • Top sound technology
  • Excellent audio quality
  • High-end price for just a soundbar
  • Relies on Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth connection
More Details

Sonos Arc tech specs: Subwoofer: None | Power: N/A | Connectivity: Wi-Fi and HDMI | Frequency response: N/A | Channels: 5

Sonos has long been a trusted market leader in the speaker game thanks to its easy-to-use devices that are smart home compatible. For the Sonos Arc, Sonos enlisted the help of Oscar-winning sound engineers so the Arc emphasizes the human voice, reducing the need to go back and rewind your show or movie to catch the quieter dialogue you might have missed. Additionally, the Arc offers optional speech enhancement when paired and used in conjunction with the Sonos app. 

The Arc soundbar has Dolby Atmos to deliver that immersive experience--and its bass is great even without a built-in subwoofer. By utilizing Enhanced Trueplay, a tuning technology, the Sonos Arc can also make adjustments according to your surrounding environment, providing a more personalized listening experience. 

To top it all off, the Sonos Arc has both Wi-Fi and HDMI connectivity, and it can connect to the Sonos app, Amazon Alexa, or Apple AirPlay 2. You can add the Sonos Era 300 speaker to pair with the Sonos Arc to really outfit your home theater experience, but the Arc will also work just fine on its own if you're simply looking for a soundbar. 

Also: The best Sonos speakers: How the Sonos One, Arc, Beam, and more compare

Andy Fraser, a musician for over 15 years and the owner of Guitar Inside Out, told ZDNET that he recommends the Sonos Arc as a solid sound system option. "I've loved pretty much everything Sonos has done, and their soundbar is no different," he said. "It's expensive, but it's so easy to use, and that's important to me. I don't want to spend ages getting to grips with and trying to understand how a system works."

It's important to note that Sonos does not list its power output or frequency response specs for its speakers.

Deal alert: Get 8% off of the Sonos Arc on Amazon ahead of Black Friday.

Pros & Cons
  • Lots of connection options
  • Sound mapping technology
  • Sleek and elegant design
  • Most expensive option
  • Have to purchase subwoofer separately
More Details

Sony HT-A9 tech specs: Subwoofer: Sold separately | Power: 504W | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, HDMI, USB | Frequency response: 200Hz-10 kHz | Channels: 4

If you're really looking to outfit your home with a sound system fit for any audiophile, the Sony HT-A9 system is a splurge but is equipped with impressive specs. Sony's 360 Spatial Sound Mapping technology creates the illusion of the sound of 12 speakers from just four speakers. These speakers also have support for 8K UHD and 4K/120 passthrough so that movies and video games literally come to life. 

As far as smart home compatibility, the Sony HT-A9 comes built-in with Chromecast and works with Apple AirPlay 2, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. Moore also recommends this speaker system for a home theater setup, as well as a music setup, especially since they come with a Spotify Connect function. "The sound mapping tech for these speakers really creates an unbelievably detailed and spacious soundstage that'll make you feel immersed in whatever album, television show, or movie you're enjoying," Moore said. 

As far as style goes, he said, these speakers are aesthetically pleasing. "They have an elegant design, appearing quite modern and less like a traditional speaker," Moore added. "I think anyone that typically loves how Bose speakers or Apple speakers (like the Apple Home Pod) look will really enjoy the sleek, minimalist design of the Sony HT-A9."

Deal alert: The Sony HT-A9 system is $500 off at retailers like B&H Photo and Best Buy right now. 

Pros & Cons
  • More affordable
  • Quality build
  • Compact size
  • Lacking a bit in mid-range sound
  • No subwoofer
More Details

Paradigm Monitor SE tech specs: Subwoofer: Sold separately | Power: Up to 100W | Connectivity: Binding post | Frequency response: 61-21k Hz ±3dB | Channels: 2

At $300, the Paradigm Monitor SE Atom bookshelf speakers aren't exactly your average budget price, but they retail for much less money, compared to other sound systems' average price points, while still packing a punch in terms of sound quality (especially for speakers of this size).

These bookshelf speakers provide a clear and balanced sound thanks to the pure aluminum dome design of the tweeters, which block out unwanted frequencies. They can also be raised with a speaker stand (sold separately) to further enhance their sound in a room. 

Fraser also praises the Paradigm Monitor SE series for their well-built design, especially since Paradigm builds all its speakers in-house. 

"The attention to detail and quality can be clearly seen in the construction and assembly," Fraser said. "But more importantly, they sound great and so realistic. For someone like me who really focuses on the instruments, you can hear the musicianship and skill of every instrument being played."

You can also opt to pair these speakers with other models in the Paradigm Monitor SE lineup, such as the Monitor SE 2000C Center Channel speaker.

Deal alert: Save $75 when you buy these speakers at Crutchfield. 

What is the best sound system?

The JBL Bar 700 may not be the cheapest sound system, but the four-piece system performs as well as other larger systems. It delivers strong, powerful bass with startling clarity, and experts agree -- it is the best sound system.

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

Best sound system




Frequency response

JBL Bar 700


10-inch wireless



Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4


10 inches



Sonos Arc





Sony HT-A9


Sold separately



Paradigm Monitor SE


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 wireless surround sound system for you?

It really depends on where you will be putting 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 surround sound system...

If you want...

JBL Bar 700

The best overall option. This sound system features a soundbar with detachable ends and a wireless subwoofer.

Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4

Speakers to connect to your receiver. It is made up of five speakers and one subwoofer, plus Dolby Atmos compatibility. 

Sonos Arc

To stay in the Sonos ecosystem. It uses top sound technology for speech enhancement. 

Sony HT-A9

To splurge on a sleek sound system. This system has plenty of connection options, along with sound mapping technology. 

Paradigm Monitor SE Atom

A budget-friendly sound system. These bookshelf speakers provide a clear and balanced sound.

How did we choose these wireless surround sound systems?

In choosing 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 modern (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.) and vintage/old school (wired) 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 $350 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 - 20,000Hz 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?

Fraser said 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," he 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.

Are there alternative sound systems worth considering?

There are so many options on the market for sound systems from different brands. In our search for the best sound systems, we also found these great options that are worth checking out. 

Long black Philips soundbar

Best alternative for audiophiles

Philips Fidelio FB1 7.1.2-Channel Surround Sound Soundbar

This Philips IMAX Enhanced certified soundbar offers tons of different customizations, along with Dolby Atmos and Alexa support.

View at Amazon

Best alternative for theater sound

Vizio V-Series 5.1 Home Theater Soundbar

Vizio advertises itself as America's #1 soundbar for a reason. The Dolby Audio 5.1 and DTS Virtual:X bring high-quality audio to your living room with virtualized 3D sound.

View at Amazon
Two black bookshelf speakers

Best budget alternative

Polk Audio Signature Elite ES15 Bookshelf Speaker

At just $299, these speakers from Polk Audio still pack a punch with their 5.25-inch woofers that deliver room-filling, crystal clear sound in a life-like soundstage. 

View at Amazon
Editorial standards