Best 7.1 Home Theater Systems

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Steve Scott

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It seems that it’s been centuries since the 5.1 home theater systems have been introduced to the market. They’ve become a standard for surround sound, that nowadays nobody sees them as anything revolutionary or extraordinary.

And although you can get perfectly good audio by going with a 5.1 system, you might want to take the game to a whole new level with a 7.1 home theater system.

Not only does it add two more speakers to the setup, but it also provides a much fuller and potent sound that will undoubtedly sweep you off your feet.

We’ve composed this guide to help you better understand the ins and outs of 7.1 systems. By the end of this article, you’ll get a clearer picture of whether you should get one, and which one is the best fit for your needs.

See related: Best 5.1 Surround Sound Systems

Best 7.1 Home Theater Systems - Our top Picks

Klipsch RP-250 7.1 Reference Series 7.1 home theater system

Key Features

  • 25-24kHz +/- 3db floorstanding speakers frequency response
  • 67-24khz +/- 3dB center speaker frequency response
  • 58-24Khz +/- 3dB surround speakers frequency response
  • Sensitivity: 97dB (floorstanding speakers), 96db (center speaker), 95dB (surround), 
  • 125W/500W peak power handling
  • 8 ohms nominal Impedance
  • 400W/800W subwoofer amplifier power
  • Crossover Frequency: 1500 to 1700HZ
  • Cerametallic cone drivers on all speakers
  • 15-inch cerametallic woofer

PROS

  • Impressive bass output
  • Speakers with cerametallic cones
  • Quality cabinet design
  • Smooth highs
  • Clean and distortion-free lows
  • Dolby Atmos support

CONS

  • Heavier model
  • Absence of speaker grilles

Klipsch RP-250 7.1 Review

Klipsch RP-250 7.1 Reference Series 7.1 home theater system 2

The Klipsch speakers have set some standards and are a fan favorite in the world of surround sound. Almost all of their products have splendid reviews.

And it’s no different when it comes to 7.1 home theater systems. So, it’s no surprise that their Reference Premiere Series amassed some serious public attention.

The guys at Klipsch have never allowed themselves to become complacent at any time. Hence, they have been improving the overall design and performance that will blow their customers’ minds.

Therefore, you get a drastically improved model able to enhance your listening experience, especially when watching movies.

This 7.1 system consists of two floorstanding speakers, one center channel, two surround speakers, and a pair of monitor speakers.

Each of these are designed absolutely stunningly, with cerametallic cones that are not only lightweight but also help in reducing distortion drastically.

One of the Finest Klipsch Products

This is probably one of the best system packages that Klipsch has to offer. Dynamic sound, excellent power handling, and exceptional design are all the things that make this model series stand out from the crowd.

Since this system fully supports Dolby Atmos, it’s safe to say that you get to reap the benefits of maybe the best surround sound out there.

2. Best Wireless - Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1

Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 DTS-X Sound Bar 1

Key Features

  • 2 speakers, sound bar, subwoofer
  • Active amp
  • 150 Watt nominal output power
  • 400 Watt max output power
  • 35 - 22000 Hz frequency response
  • 104 dB output level
  • DTS Digital Surround, DTS decoder, Dolby Audio, Dolby Digital

PROS

  • Wireless subwoofer
  • Smart Wireless connectivity
  • 600 Watts peak
  • Can be really loud
  • 13 speaker drivers
  • Beautiful and appealing design

CONS

  • Price tag
  • Complicated remote control
  • No Chromecast

Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 Review

Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 DTS-X Sound Bar 2

You might not be aware of it, but Nakamichi was once a big name in the audio industry, back in the days of cassette tapes. Since then, the company’s been flying under the radar, going unnoticed, and forgotten by the customers.

However, Nakamichi made its return in the last period with a highly successful sound bar, the Shockwafe Pro. And although it doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the table in terms of technology it uses, it sounds pretty good, even when playing music. 

It’s safe to say that it can stand in line with most of its competitors in the same price range.

Wireless Subwoofer

The Shockwafe is a beautifully designed model that comes equipped with a 45.5-inch soundbar (that has five drivers stretching across it), two rear speakers, and a wireless subwoofer.

In most cases, you would find a set of left and right surround speakers in a 7.1 system, but the manufacturer decided to place them on the main unit.

Those rear speakers are wired to the subwoofer. While the wires will be perfectly capable of reaching the sub across the room, you might want to consider placing the subwoofer somewhere near the speakers. For example, behind your couch.

But be advised, the sub is pretty bulky, so hiding it somewhere can prove to be much harder than you might think.

It’s important to note that this model comes with 4K compatibility. So, you’ll get two 4K compatible HDMI ports. Besides that, there are optical and coaxial digital, ARC output, 3.5 aux, and a USB (which you’ll probably use primarily for updates).

There are, however, a couple of downsides to this model. While some of the competing models come with built-in Chromecast, this one only supports Bluetooth 3.0. 

Also, even though there are a lot of preset options available, like for movies, games, music, and others, it might be hard to go through them all since the remote is quite complicated with lots of probably unnecessary buttons.

3. Best Value for Money - Onkyo SKS - HT540

Onkyo SKS - HT540 7.1 home theater system 1

Key Features

  • 2 x Front speakers, 4 x Satellite speakers, 1 x Center channel speaker, 1 x Subwoofer
  • Active sub, passive satellite speakers
  • 25 - 50000 Hz frequency response
  • 130 Watt nominal output power
  • 230 Watt max output

PROS

  • Build quality
  • Affordable
  • Easy to set up
  • 7.1 channel surround sound
  • Attractive and appealing design
  • Wonderful sound quality

CONS

  • No receiver that comes with it
  • A larger model
  • Sound quality takes a dive at lower volume

Onkyo SKS - HT540 Review

Onkyo SKS - HT540 7.1 home theater system 2

It’s not often you get to see a solid model like the KS-HT540 for such an affordable price. It’s safe to say that it would be worth even more if the manufacturers decided to raise the price.

In terms of design appeal, this 7.1 system is pretty basic but still attractive. Its primary purpose is not to be flashy and over the top, but to seamlessly blend into the environment.

Bulky Speakers

The only downside when it comes to design is that these speakers are bulkier when compared to the rest of the competition. Thus, if you’re struggling with the lack of space, or don’t want your speakers to be the centerpiece of your living room, then this might be a problem for you.

Naturally, you could mount the speakers onto your wall and deal with the lack of space in such a way. On the other hand, that will make the system even more noticeable.

Even though finding a spot for the speakers might pose an issue, setting them up, on the other hand, is a breeze. Like any other typical wired system, you’ll just have to connect the wires. 

Unfortunately, those wires might not be long enough for a larger room, which might affect your desired speaker positioning.

But, most importantly, the sound quality is top-notch. The SKS-HT540 delivers a fantastic sound quality that is able to draw you in and let you immerse yourself in watching movies or any other content.

Bear in mind that the overall audio quality will depend on the receiver you use to hook it up. However, if you’re using a system that supports 7.1, then you’re probably good to go.

4. Best Budget - Onkyo SKS-HT870

Onkyo SKS-HT870 7.1 home theater system 1

Key Features

  • 10-inch subwoofer driver
  • 2 x Floor-standing speakers, 4 x Satellite speakers, 1 x Center channel speaker, 1 x Subwoofer
  • active subwoofer, passive satellite
  • 25 - 50000 Hz frequency response
  • 4000Hz crossover Frequency
  • 130, 230 Watt nominal output power

PROS

  • Crisp and clean sound
  • Loud
  • Straightforward setup
  • Not too expensive
  • Suitable for larger spaces

CONS

  • Relatively large and heavy
  • Not the most stylish appearance

Onkyo SKS-HT870 Review

Onkyo SKS-HT870 7.1 home theater system 2

Onkyo is a well-established name in the world of audio reproduction. Although not primarily a speaker manufacturer, they’ve managed to draw success with some of their models.

The SKS-HT870 consists of two slim and tall tower speakers, a center channel speaker, two rear and two surround speakers, and a quality subwoofer. Even though it is a budget model, it offers enormous value for money.

You might think that since this is a budget option that the tower speakers won’t come in full-size. But, that’s not the case with the SKS-HT870.

The eight parts of the system come in black MDF cabinets. All the speakers are equipped with black grilles. Aside from that, you can find glossy black panels mounted on top and the sides of the central and tower speakers.

That being said, since this is a budget model, bear in mind that the design and finish don’t look as appealing and refined as they might on some of the pricier models.

The center channel is a bit larger, so before obtaining this model, make sure you have enough space to place it under your TV set comfortably. 

All the connectors provided are spring clips, which is not the most fortunate solution since the wires won’t be all that stable. But, I guess for such a price you’ll have to live with that.

Solid Performance

The most important thing you should be concerned about is performance. And we have to say that it works just fine.

It’s not often you’ll see a budget model that either doesn’t come with a subpar subwoofer or over-the-top tweeters.

In this case, SKS-HT870 provides a potent and rich sound. The subwoofer is perfectly matched with the speakers, which allows you not to pay attention to the sub in the first place.

To be honest, the bass isn’t as thundering and punchy as with the more expensive models, but that is to be expected.

7.1 Home Theater Systems - Buying Guide

What Is A 7.1 System?

The first thing we should cover is what precisely a 7.1 home theater system is. And it’s pretty straightforward. As with all home theater systems, that number implies just what kind of a system you’re looking at.

In this case, a 7.1 system is the one that consists of seven speakers and one subwoofer, which are connected through an A/V receiver. 

In such a setup, the receiver houses all the necessary inputs where you can connect devices such as Blu-Ray players. PCs and laptops, gaming consoles, and others. And the speakers are there to transfer the sound to you, coming from all around the room.

7.1 speaker placement 1

Naturally, the quality of these systems varies when you consider the cost. It’s not rare to find low-end 7.1 systems today, which was once unimaginable.

But, with cheaper gear will get you lower sound quality and not enough connectivity options. Well, it’s either this or that.

However, once you cross the line between some cheap and midrange models (not to mention high-end), you will be able to enjoy all the benefits and features that cannot be found on low-cost products.

With most of 7.1 setups, you’ll be able to reproduce a 5.1 sound, by using the Dolby Pro Logic II, and decoding and transforming the signal, thus filling the remaining sixth and seventh speakers.

All in all, a 7.1 home theater system can be a great addition to your setup. That is if you have the means, the need, and the room for it.

Can You Go Bigger?

There was once a time when the 5.1 systems were the talk of the town. Then gradually, new, bigger systems arrived (such as 7.1).

So, the question of whether you can go bigger than 7.1 comes rather naturally. And as you might have expected, the answer is yes. You can go for more subwoofers, more speakers, or both.

For example, you can add another subwoofer, and get a really thundering bass output. Thus, you will end up with a 7.2 setup

The 7.1 system should do just fine for you, but if you ever feel the need for more depth, or you’re dealing with a larger environment, then you might want to consider getting a second sub. The end result can and will be more immersive and more vibrant audio.

9.1 and 11.1

You can, however, go even bigger. In that case, you could go with a 9.1 or 11.1 home theater setups.

But, you should go with those only if you have the proper environment for them. Otherwise, you’ll spend your money and not get proper results in return.

So, for example, if you had a 9.1 system, you would place the additional two speakers right above you, to your side, or alternatively above the front speakers. 

An even bigger system would require some more planning, and you could maybe place the additional speakers in the corners of your room.

Bear in mind, these don’t come cheap. Since 5.1 systems have become a standard over the years, good ones can be found relatively cheaply. 7.1 ones, on the other hand, are much harder to find at a low price

That being said, you can find some affordable options, but you will probably have to compromise on the sound quality. So, you can imagine just how much a 9.1 or 11.1 home theater system would cost you.

Proper 7.1 Speaker Placement

Since eight pieces of a puzzle come with 7.1 systems, you will need to get them to the best possible position to get them to sound the best they can. Otherwise, you might end up with an expensive toy that doesn’t deliver what it’s supposed to.

These eight pieces are two front speakers, two surround speakers, two rear surround speakers, a subwoofer, and a central channel. So, you’ll have to find them the best spot.

7.1 speaker placement

Lucky for you, there are some general rules you could follow to get the most out of them. You can probably guess where some of those should be placed just by looking at their names.

The rear surround speakers will naturally be placed behind you. They are there to provide a more rich and immersive sound, and to add more depth to your overall listening experience. 

The same goes for the side surround speakers, which, naturally, go to the left and right of you.

As far as the center channel, subwoofer and front speakers go, they should be placed right in front of you. It’s all pretty straightforward.

Generally, the speakers should be placed at a certain height. However, that won’t always be possible. Or maybe you’ll have a set of floorstanding speakers, which are meant to stay down low. 

Take Some Time With the Subwoofer

The subwoofer, on the other hand, has several different placement options, and all of them can work just fine. It is often perceived that it should be positioned right below or next to the TV.

However, you can also place it in the corner of your room. Just make sure you move it away from the wall so that the bass signals don’t get muffled in the process.

Or, you can do some exploring and find the best place for your sub. Turn on some bass-heavy music, place the sub in your sitting position, and then prepare to crawl around a bit.

Go around the room and listen carefully. The place where the bass sounds the best to you is your subwoofer’s sweet spot.

Center Speaker Easiest to Place

Placing the center speaker should be a breeze. There’s not much to it, just put it under your TV, or slightly in front of it. And that’s it.

The front left and right speakers will require some trial and error on your behalf. Place them to the left and right of your TV set, but make sure you don’t position them neither too close nor too far from each other. Also, keep in mind to place them at ear level, so that the sound can flow to you more naturally.

And when you have a 7.1 system, you will get two more speakers. These should be placed at your side.

Make sure you also place them at ear level, just like your front speakers. Many people go with ceiling or corner mounting, which won’t get you the best results.

Now, you might think - the more speakers, the better. And generally, you would be right. More speakers add depth to your sound.

But, what if you don’t have the necessary conditions to place your speakers properly? For example, there’s not enough room space.

To be able to place the rear speakers correctly, you will need at least a couple of feet available behind your couch. If the couch is leaning against the wall, you might feel compelled to place the rear above you.

Don’t do it, as you’ll only waste money and not get what you intended in the first place. You’d be far better off with getting a solid set of floorstanding speakers, then going overboard.

The Importance of Room Acoustics

Many people make the same mistake of not taking the room acoustics into account when getting a home theater system. Just know that even the best, priciest systems in the world won’t do well in a room with poor acoustics. Learn how to remedy this situation.

room acoustics

Your walls, furniture, room size all have a significant impact on the final result. So, if you don’t make sure they work in your favor, you’ll likely end up with a messed up sound.

Ideally, you would have a rectangular room, where your listening position is at the perfect distance from the speakers (which are all placed in their ideal spot), and all the walls have been acoustically treated (usually with foam).

But, in reality, that won’t be the case, and you’ll have to work with what you’ve got. Many things in your surroundings can negatively affect sound quality.

The best way to go around this is to assess which type of home theater system you should get. If your room is less than 350 square feet, then go with 5.1, and if it goes beyond that, then, by all means, go with 7.1 home theater system.

A 7.1 system in a small room will be overkill in most cases. After that, try to fill your room with cushions or pieces of furniture, which will help absorb the sound and reduce the noise.

In Conclusion

Even though 7.1 home theater systems are still pretty high-end, they are becoming more and more affordable to the general public. It won’t be long before they become a standard like the 5.1 systems.

No doubt, having seven speakers and a subwoofer will elevate your movie watching or game playing experience to a whole new level. So, if you’re at all into audio, and you have the budget for it, give the 7.1 system a try!

My name is Steve Scott. Father of 2 and owner of Outdoor Movie HQ. I’ve been involved in the A/V industry for most of my life and built this blog to help people better understand projector technology. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

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