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Feel the music’s bass in your body. Watch sports games as if you were on the sidelines. Hear the explosions in action movies like you’re at the cinema. You can have all this without ever leaving the comfort of your home thanks to wireless surround sound systems. New technology allows the sound quality to be better than ever, and you don’t have to drill holes in your wall or trip over wires either. So grab a tub of popcorn and read on to see how these wireless surround speakers can take your listening and viewing experience to a whole new level.
What Are Wireless Surround Systems?
First, what exactly is the definition for surround sound? In essence, it’s having sound surround you from 360 degrees instead of just coming from in front of you in a 2 dimensional plane (as is the case with two stereo, or left and right, speakers). Technically, you need at least three speakers to accomplish this. And (we should note) to get the true, heart pounding sound, you’ll need a subwoofer (aka “Sub”) speaker (usually sold separately) which amplifies the bass frequency that makes a huge difference.
Are These Systems Really Wireless?
The primary speaker (or “playbar”) usually connects directly to the television (and requires a power source like a plug). Then, the auxiliary speakers, additional sub-woofers, etc. connect to the system via your home’s WiFi signal and/or using Bluetooth. This allows you to place additional speakers around the room (or house) and then control via your smartphone app. Not all speakers are truly wire-free though and require some sort of power (or connection) but they do tend to be wireless communication so there are not wires running from speaker to speaker. Regardless of wires with the hardware itself, all systems connect to your smartphone so you can control and play music via Spotify, iTunes, Amazon streaming, etc. to your speaker system and tune into tunes throughout your home (or different music in separate rooms) wirelessly in addition to watching movies and TV.
Additional Surround Sound Terminology
Other terms to understand when shopping around for a surround sound system:
- High Fidelity Sound (or hi-fi or hifi) is an industry term to differentiate the sound quality from older audio technology. Hifi reduces noise and distortion and has optimized frequency response between what you see on the screen and hear.
- Dolby Digital is an audio compression technology developed by Dolby Laboratories that gives a more cinematic experience.
- Dedicated To Sound (aka DTS) is the multichannel audio technology owned by DTS, Inc. a company that specializes in surround sound for both commercial and home users.
- Speaker Driver is a transducer that converts electrical energy to sound waves, so the more drivers, the more the amplification and louder your speaker sound will be.
- DSP (or digital signal processing) refers to the various techniques for improving the accuracy and reliability.
- 4K Video provides an image resolution that is so high (four times better than HD) it requires a 4K television. Still fairly new to the market and not that common (yet). Learn more in our 4K TV article.
What is the Best Wireless Surround Sound System?
Now that you have a better understanding of how these systems work and some of the terms, you are likely wondering which products we recommend? If you’re looking for a simple solution with customization and upgrade options, Sonos is the best bet. However, you’ll be looking at a hefty price tag. If you just want to convert one TV to surround sound affordably and don’t plan to upgrade other rooms, HEOS may be the best way to go. And, if you want a system that has a good brand reputation, is backed by a solid warranty and you don’t mind a little more equipment, then check out Bose.
We’ve chosen Sonos as the best wireless home theater system because you cannot beat the sound quality, versatility and sleek, compact design it offers. Sonos lets you customize your wireless home theater to fit your needs. Start with any Sonos “Play” speakers and build up from there. For the traditional home theater experience, we recommend using the Playbar (shown here) as your starting point. It has great sounds and features 5.1 HiFi sound with nine amplified speakers within the one playbar speaker. The you can add on a Subwoofer which will fill the room with high-fidelity sound. Then add two of the Play 1 speakers to create a full surround sound effect. While the playbar is reasonably priced, it won’t provide a true surround sound without at least two more speakers (but this is true of any soundbar from any company). So as a cost-effective solution you may want to start with the Playbar with the knowledge that you can always add on to your system as your budget allows. One of our favorite Sonos features is the night mode that allows you to turn down the bass with one simple touch when others are trying to sleep. If you have not had a chance to listen to a Sonos system, be sure to do so – a quick listen will help you understand the reason we selected it as our winner.
All pricing listed here was current on Amazon.com at time of writing.
- Playbar – $699 (the necessary starting component for TV audio)
- Playbar + Subwoofer – $1,398
- Playbar + Subwoofer + 2 Play Speakers – $1,796
- Additional Play Speakers – start at $199
Historically it’s nearly impossible to get discounts on Sonos, we’ve looked far and wide for coupons without success.
HEOS HomeCinema gives you strong sound at a lower price and includes both the Playbar and Wireless Subwoofer with dual 5.25 inch drivers. The HEOS app can be used to control the system or you can use the TV remote. It has music and movie modes so you can choose the best setting to listen to your audio picks. Like Sonos, HEOS also has a night mode to make it easier for others in your home to sleep while you are playing video games in full surround sound. The major downside to this system is the inability to upgrade additional speakers throughout your home. They do offer an Amp and Link product, which allows you to create a multi-room speaker system experience, however, they work independently of the TV/cinema products.
- $799 for Soundbar & Wireless Subwoofer (at time of writing)
There are not any active HEOS coupon codes.
Bose is one of the leading brand names when it comes to optimal sound experience. They offer several surround sound systems but we reviewed the SoundTouch 520 which is the base system (the others go up in price and features from there). Unlike the Sonos and Heos, Bose’s SoundTouch 520 includes five speakers in the package (versus having them as add ons) in addition to a Wireless Acoustimass (sub). Another thing that makes Bose stand out is its ADAPTiQ technology which auto-calibrates the speakers to fit the unique acoustics in your room. If you are a minimalist who doesn’t want a lot of equipment cluttering up your living room or home theater, this system might not be the best fit for you but Bose does give good quality for the price (slightly less expensive than the full Sonos package).
- SoundTouch 520 home theater system: $1,199.95 (at time of writing)
We’ve looked thoroughly and there are not any Bose coupon codes or discounts to be found. The price for Bose products is consistent across all reputable websites.
Many of our readers are curious to know the comparison of Sonos vs Airplay. Sonos, as you’ve read, is a type of wireless speaker system. On the flip side, Airplay allows you to stream audio/video from your iOS device to your HDTV and speakers via your Apple TV. If you do not have Apple TV or an iOS device, then you cannot use Airplay.
Use Airplay with Sonos
Watch this video to learn how to configure your Sonos to use Airplay.
Wireless Speaker Systems: A Growing Category
As more and more technology is shifting to wireless (PCMag even predicted this all the way back in 2007) more companies will come out with their version of a wireless home theater system or they’ll update theirs to be more competitive. We expect to see many changes in this category so visit this article often for additions and updates.
What do you think is the optimal wireless surround sound speaker setup?