Best home cinema systems
A top notch TV is one thing but if you ain't got home cinema sound to go with it, then you ain't got squat, or so goes the parlance. It's a fact that audio is a huge part of video. There's a wealth of experiments on the matter that we don't care to tire either yourself or ourselves with just now but take it as read that folks who watch tellies with proper sound rate TVs considerably better than the identical sets with just the in-built speakers.
Naturally, you might not think you have the space nor family support to add an amp and set of large boxes to your nicely decorated living space but we've catered for all in our round-up here of the very best home cinema systems that money can buy. No excuses now. Get yourself sorted.
BEST FOR A SMALL ROOM
Mission M-Cube 5.1 home cinema speaker package (£550)
Around for yonks and still one of our faves, British brand Mission’s effort is a great choice for anyone after a home cinema that doesn't dominate a small room. A traditional 5.1 array (though expandable to 7.1), the five small 85mm-square cubes that make-up the system use the often derided NXT flatpanel speaker system to achieve the impressive flatness-to-fullness ratio. Small and easy to hide, the M-Cube isn't just about invisible audio. NXT really works here.
Attached directly to an included subwoofer, the cubes spit out decent enough sonics for any small room. Music doesn't amaze but movies are lent a wide, punchy soundstage and from almost no hardware. Very impressive.
You will need a separate AV receiver to take a feed from the subwoofer (which, unusually, all the satellite speakers attach to) but, as a package, the M-Cube leaves little to chance. Inside the box aren’t just high quality cut-to-fit cables and wall brackets to hang the cubes, but even a choice of faux suede covers for each speaker. Style rules, but there’s enough substance here for a small and splendid home cinema.
BEST FOR WIRELESS
Samsung HT-D6750W 3D Blu-ray 5.1 home cinema-in-a-box (£800)
Samsung’s latest one-box home cinema system is simplicity itself. Given that you don't have the room for a 7.1 surround sound system - who does? - Samsung has kindly created a fake 7.1 mode that works pretty well at creating an enveloping soundstage. One of the biggest systems here, the HT-D6750W is built around two tallboy speakers for left and right audio, a much smaller centre for dialogue and wireless rear speakers to handle surround duties.
Now, the rears aren't actually cable free but instead connect to a separate wireless transmitter that instantly - and constantly - makes a wireless connection to the Blu-ray hub. It's handy if they're stranded at the back of a living room but do bear in mind that the transmitter needs to be attached to the mains, so in a best case scenario cables will have to be trailed around the back wall of a room instead of along both sides. For owners of projectors, however, the whole design is back-to-front. It’s wireless front speakers that would be useful. So, this isn't the set up for you.
More handy for most is the HT-D6750W’s top-draw 3D Blu-ray player, built-in amplifier, full suite of Samsung’s Smart Hub apps and the wired iPod dock. It's not the best built nor best sounding system around, but its all-in-one 3D and wireless features will make this gloss black set up irresistible to some.
BEST FOR GAMING
X-Dream Rocker gaming chair (£250)
Although not strictly a home cinema system, we had to include this all-in-one gaming chair for its superlative sonics. It’s hefty at 29kg and supremely comfortable for long-term Call of Duty, err, duties, but that’s not why we like it. Fitted with a subwoofer and a digital amplifier, the X-Dream Rocker's headrest section has a stereo speaker placed either side of the head position. A promised virtual surround mode never materialises but no matter because the close-up stereo is hugely impressive - and particularly immersive.
A control panel lets you tweak volume, the intensity of the subwoofer’s rumble and even the strength of corresponding vibrations. (On full vibrate it can feel like a massage chair). Setting it up is fairly easy, though we’re not sure it needs a wireless box. The chair has to be attached to mains anyway, so what’s another cable? Still, for those wanting to sit some distance from their console, the AAA battery-powered wireless box attached to a console or AV cinema amp makes that possible.
BEST FOR A LARGE ROOM
Monitor Audio Bronze BX Series separates (from £1,215)
We could go into thousands on this category, but the improvements on a reliable all-rounder system like Monitor Audio’s Bronze BX Series are negligible. Able to power a serious and seriously impressive, exceptionally loud home cinema, this nicely crafted collection of so-called entry-level speakers are strapped with Monitor Audio’s flagship technologies from its pricier Platinum and RX ranges. It’s more than enough for a decent-sized living space or dedicated home cinema room, though you will need to add a £500 AV receiver.
Designed with an attractive curved edge and available in four vinyl wood finishes (Natural Oak, Walnut, Rosemah and Black Oak), the matching range comprises the BX1 and BX2 centre channel speakers, BX5 and flagship BX6 floorstanders, BX-LCR and super-compact BX-FX surround speakers, and powerhouse BXW-10 subwoofer. Power, responsiveness and accurate bass are the rewards, but it’s the heroic amount of enveloping detail from the rear channels - glorious with music - that will linger longest.
BEST FOR A BOOKSHELF
Samsung HT-D7100 Cube 2.1 system (£390)
Another known as the Cube, the Samsung HT-D7100 Cube 2.1 system would suit a small flat or apartment where a top-end Samsung D8000 LED TV already takes pride of place on the wall. Styled to match that particular TV range, though able to work with anything, this 100W device will fill a small room.
Created with puzzle dimensions so as to fit together and almost disappear among books, Blu-rays and DVDs on a shelf under a TV; the Cube is built around a very compact AV receiver-come-3D Blu-ray player that includes Samsung’s Smart Hubs apps, too. WiFi is also here for both easier access to those Smart Hub apps, and for streaming AVI, MKV, WMV and AVC HD files across a home network.
The Cube system doesn't so much create a home cinema as lend a super-slim TV a touch more power and finesse for movies but, for occasional use, its flexibility is hugely appealing.