The Top Rated Home Theater Systems Of 2011

Home theater systems simplify the setup of your entertainment center. Rather than purchasing speakers, a receiver, a Blu-ray player, and other components separately, you can pick one pre-matched package and have everything you need. You’ll often save money, and you’ll know that you aren’t going to run into any compatibility issues.

When shopping for an HTIB (home theater in a box), look for the same merits as you would if you were shopping for components individually: sufficient power for you room size, clean sound with tight bass, a good feature set, and a convenient user interface.

We’ve consulted reviews on websites such as Audioholics, Home Theater Magazine, Newegg.com, Amazon, CNET, Consumer Reports, and BigPictureBigSound to find the top rated home theater systems on the market today:

Onkyo HT-S9400THX

Onkyo HT-S9400THX

Onkyo HT-S9400THX ($796)

Pros:

  • Superior HTIB sound
  • Generous selection of connections

Cons:

  • No Blu-ray player

Top Review Sources:

  • Audioholics: “We always like to have a few recommendations for HTiBs in our back pocket…This one has definitely made the cut.”
  • Home Theater Magazine: “This system isn’t just a repository for logos but a solid performer at a reasonable price” (HT-S9300THX)
  • Newegg.com: 4.0/5.0 (5+ reviews)

The Onkyo HT-S9400THX is the latest system in Onkyo’s THX-certified HT-S series. Similar systems, such as the HT-S9100THX and HT-S9300THX, have collected glowing reviews across the internet, and the HT-S9400THX is continuing that trend. Onkyo’s top-of-the-line prepackaged system, the HT-S9400THX is a 7.1 home theater designed for small rooms. It includes a receiver with plenty of connection options: 4 HDMI inputs/1 output, 5 composite inputs/1 output, 2 component inputs/1 output, and a front-panel USB input. By connecting the HT-S9400THX to the internet via Ethernet cable or optional UWF-1 USB wireless adapter ($30), you’ll be able to stream audio from your PC as well as internet sources such as Rhapsody, Napster, SiriusXM, Pandora, Slacker, Mediafly, vTuner, and Last fm. The receiver also supports media from Windows 7, DLNA, iPod/iPhone, and USB memory stick devices. There is also a remote control app for iPad/iPhone/iPod. Included as well is the Audyssey 2EQ room correction wizard, which assists users in the initial placement and tuning of the speakers.

Aside from its flexibility and multitude of features, the HT-S9400THX simply sounds great. Reviewers of the HT-S9400THX and its predecessors rank them among the best HTIB solutions. The HT-S9400THX is intended for small rooms, but many reviewers find it is powerful enough to fill medium and large rooms with clear, authoritative sound.

You can buy the Onkyo HT-S9400THX on Amazon.

Sony BDV-E780W

Sony BDV-E780W

Sony BDV-E780W ($486)

Pros:

  • Excellent audio and video quality
  • Plenty of streaming media options

Cons:

  • Average user interface design

Top Review Sources:

  • CNET: 4.0/5.0 “One of the best Blu-ray home theater systems we’ve tested” (BDV-E770W)
  • Amazon: 4.0/5.0 (65+ reviews) (BDV-E770W)

The Sony BDV-E780W builds upon the success of its predecessor, the BDV-E770W. The BDV-E780W is a 5.1 system that includes a 3D Blu-ray player. Audio reproduction is first-rate; treble is natural and sharp, and bass is deep and clear. Image quality from the Blu-ray player is very good and the player itself has faster than average response times when loading content. The rear speakers are wireless, which decreases setup time and adds flexibility. The largest criticism of this system’s predecessor was the lack of HDMI inputs; on the BDV-E780W, this problem has been addressed. There are now inputs for 2 HDMI, 1 IR, 1 optical, 1 analog PIN, 2 USB, and 1 coaxial. Outputs are 1 HDMI, 1 component, and 1 composite. The BDV-E780W has integrated Wi-Fi as well. You can stream content from services such as Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Amazon VOD, and Pandora, plus you can wirelessly stream music from a PC. With a free app, you can turn your iPhone, iPad, or compatible Android device into a remote control.

Additionally, the Sony BDV-E780W includes an iPod/iPhone dock for direct access to the music, photos, and videos stored on your device. The BDV-E780W is Sony’s flagship HTIB; it will have no problem complementing a high-end television and providing sound powerful enough to fill a medium or large room.

The Sony BDV-E780W is currently available on Amazon.

Samsung HT-D6500W

Samsung HT-D6500W

Samsung HT-D6500W ($479)

Pros:

  • Outstanding sound quality
  • Great video quality

Cons:

  • Not for large rooms

Top Review Sources:

  • Amazon: 4.5/5.0 (5+ reviews)
  • Consumer Reports: “Best Buy” (HT-C6500W)
  • BigPictureBigSound: 3.5/4.0 “An impressive package and an incredible value” (HT-C6500W)

Another HTIB carrying the positive momentum generated by its predecessor, the Samsung HT-D6500W delivers leading performance at a great price. The HT-D6500W succeeds the HT-C6500W, which was universally praised for its outstanding sound quality—much more like a separates system than a typical HTIB. The blend between the five satellites and subwoofer is seamless in the HT-D6500W. Video quality from the included 3D Blu-ray player/receiver is similarly excellent, whether the source is 1080p or standard definition. You’ll be able connect your iPod through the included dock cradle. Other inputs include 2 HDMI, 1 audio, and 1 USB; there is an HDMI output as well. Wi-Fi is built-in, and you’ll be able to take advantage of services from Netflix, Blockbuster, Pandora, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Facebook, and Twitter. Additionally, you can stream DLNA content from a computer. The HT-D6500W has wireless rear speakers and is appropriate for a medium-size room.

The Samsung HT-D6500W is for sale on Amazon.

The Top Rated Portable iPod Speakers Of 2011

Logitech S715i Rechargeable Speaker for iPod and iPhone

The Logitech S715i is a portable speaker system that incorporates a rechargeable lithium-ion battery into its design. It’s approved by Apple, and will run for about eight hours on a charge.

CNET rates the Logitech S715i as “Excellent” and awards this product their Editor’s Choice, saying “The Logitech S715i portable speaker for iPhone and iPod uses eight drivers to deliver audio performance that is far beyond its price range.” Reviewers on Amazon agree, rating the product an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars in 635 reviews.

The Logitech S715i Rechargeable Speaker for iPod and iPhone is available from Amazon for about $100.

 

JBL On Stage Micro Speakers

JBL On Stage Micro

The JBL On Stage Micro provides solid sound quality with a tiny footprint. It features an iPod dock in the center as well as a 3.5mm plug for connecting other inputs, plus a clever touch button system and a remote control that make track selection and volume adjustments easy. Aluminum transducers driven by neodymium magnets are paired with digital amplifiers to provide rich sound while extending battery life. Four AAA batteries provide 24 hours of play. The On Stage Micro is compatible with rechargeable NiMH and lithium cells, and it features a low battery indicator LED. Plus, the On Stage Micro speaker system comes in a range of color options to match your iPod: white, black, blue, green, and red.

The JBL On Stage Micro is available at Amazon. Prices start at $72.50, depending on color.

iHome iHM77 Portable Multimedia Speakers


These rubberized mini speakers from iHome each measure just 2” x 2” x 2” when collapsed for transport, then pop open when in use with a clever accordion design. Vacuum bass design enhances low frequency tones, and the iHome speakers magnetically attach to one another to form a super-portable capsule. Power comes from internal lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged using the included USB cord, and a carry case and cord wrap are included with the speakers.

The iHome iHM77 Portable Multimedia Speakers are available in black, silver, and red from Amazon, starting at $46.80.

 

Harmon/Kardon Go + Play

The Go + Play from Harmon/Kardon may not be the smallest or cheapest option for a portable speaker system, but it delivers serious sound quality thanks to its 30-watt tweeters and 30-watt Atlas woofers. Its 9” x 9.5” x 20” dimensions are substantial, but a stainless steel carry handle and battery power keep it portable. It features the universal iPod dock system that is compatible with most dockable iPods (see note below) plus a 3.5mm jack for other connections. The Go + Play comes with an AC power adapter for indoor use, and a full-featured RF remote with a 20-foot range. And although eight D batteries add bulk to the system, they provide approximately 20 hours of power.

You can find the Harmon/Kardon Go + Play at Amazon for $216.90.

 

Bose SoundDock Portable

Bose SoundDock Portable

Bose SoundDock Portable

Would you be willing to sacrifice compact size to literally bring your home stereo system with you wherever you go? If so, check out the Bose SoundDock Portable. This mobile variation of their popular SoundDock system features a carry handle, a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and a retractable iPod connection/charging dock (in addition to a 3.5mm plug for other devices). The SoundDock is over 12” wide and weighs over five pounds, so it’s not as compact or portable as some of its competitors, and it doesn’t come cheap – but it offers legendary Bose sound quality and an iPod-specific design. Battery life is roughly three hours at maximum volume (longer at lower levels); an AC adapter is included for battery charging and using the SoundDock at home, and a remote control gives added convenience.

You can find the Bose SoundDock Portable in black or white for $399 at Amazon, as well as a SoundDock travel bag for $40.19.