January 18, 2023

Home Theater System Buying Guide

Article written by POLK STAFF


Everything you need to know.

What is a home theater system?

A home theater system is a sound system that is meant to mimic a movie theater experience. It comprises several individual speakers, a receiver, an amplifier, and a TV, all working together to create an incredibly immersive entertainment experience.

Should I get a home theater system with Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Atmos is an “object-oriented” format that takes surround sound to a new level—literally—presenting three-dimensional sound all around you and even overhead, for an incredibly lifelike immersive experience. If you seek the most modern, cinematic sound experience, yes, we’d recommend you get a home theater system with Dolby Atmos.

What is the difference between a 2.1 vs. 5.1 vs. 7.1 vs. 9.1 vs. 11.1 vs. 13.1 home theater system?

These numbers represent the number of speaker channels in a surround sound system. The first number signifies the number of full-range speakers; the second number (after the point) indicates the number of subwoofer channels. (These are sometimes called LFE (low-frequency effects) channels.) So, a 2.1-channel system has two full-range speakers in stereo left/right orientation and one subwoofer. A 5.1 system has left, right, and center speakers, two surround sound or satellite speakers, and a subwoofer. This is a pretty standard surround sound speaker orientation, though you can add a sub to make a 5.2 system, or two surround speakers to make a 7.1 system, and so on.

True Dolby Atmos systems require at least two height speakers to create overhead sound. Atmos system configurations range from 5.1.2, the minimum configuration of five full-range speakers, one sub, and two heights; all the way up to 24.1.10, though most home receivers (and living rooms) tap out at 7.2.4.

What is the best home theater system?

The best home theater system is one that’s right for your room, budget, and patience. If you have a large space and seek the ultimate cinematic sound experience with room-shaking bass and ultra-realistic immersive effects that send shivers down your spine, component speakers are the way to go. If your room is small, your budget is less than $1,000, or you don’t relish the idea of wiring a lot of speakers, a sound bar-centered home theater system might be for you. The Polk MagniFi Max AX SR, for example, comes complete with a wireless sub and two wireless surrounds, and can be set up in minutes.

Why buy a Polk home theater system?

At Polk, we offer home theater systems for any space and scenario, from ultra-compact all-in-one sound bar systems to our premium component systems featuring our top-of-the-line floor-standing models. Since a home theater system often includes many standalone speakers, our bundled systems offer big savings over purchasing each speaker separately.

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