Holiday Gift Guide 2018 - 2019: Best Home Entertainment

Home entertainment setups are nothing new and while there are now plenty of advanced and smart-related products you can buy to add to the viewing and listening experience, the age-old ‘separates are better’ mantra still rings true. In fact, this effectively underlies the logic behind home systems as while you can buy one speaker or box to do a lot, you’re always going to get the cleanest and best experience through multiple devices. This can be through multiple speaker setups like a 5.1 setup which comes with 6 speakers in one package, or by combining separate units from different brands to better cater to different parts of the spectrum. Here we’ve rounded up a good selection of home entertainment products you might want to consider this Holiday season for yourself or someone else. Some of these are full packages, while others are single units. Some are (very) pricey, while others are not. But all of them offer unique features and selling points making them the best in their class for 2018 - even though some are much older than others.

Prices below are subject to change. This post will be updated regularly to ensure the most up-to-date pricing, but during the holidays, there will be flash sales and price drops so keep that in mind.

Best overall - everything you need with the sound quality to match

If you are looking for the best option which includes pretty much everything you need for a great sound experience then the Onkyo HT-S7800 is our pick. This is a 5.1.2 system that also offers the option to add more speakers if needed. Overall, the system is rated at 170-watts per channels with 120-watts coming from the subwoofer so you can expect a decent level of bass. Needless to say, the sound quality with this system is excellent although it does come with a number of additional features which look to improve the listening experience, including Dolby Atmos for 3D surround sound, and Chromecast built-in for easy casting from multiple streaming apps. Add to that, this one also comes with eight HDMI inputs so you should be able to directly connect a wealth of devices. All in all, the Onkyo HT-S7800 is the best option for the price, although the price is still a little on the steep side.

Best value overall - don't be fooled by the price, this is all sound quality

The Yamaha YHT-4930UBL is not as good as the Onkyo HT-S7800 but it costs almost half as less making it incredible value for the money. This is another 5.1 system so you are getting pretty much everything you need including a 100-watt rated subwoofer. In spite of its comparatively low price this system does come packed with a number of additional features include Bluetooth for streaming music. In fact, this system also comes with Bluetooth out so users can stream music from the system directly to a wireless pair of headphones or additional Bluetooth-enabled speakers. This is all in addition to 4K Ultra HD support, the company’s own optimization solution for a sound output that better fits the environment, and more. For the price, it’s hard to argue with the value on offer with the Yamaha YHT-4930UBL.

Best sound overall - if money's no object

If you can afford it, the Bose LifeStyle 650 will offer you probably the best sound quality pound-for-pound for the money. Bose is no stranger to high-end audio solutions and the LifeStyle 650 sticks to that mantra by utilizing dual-opposing drivers to offer a true 360-degree sound output, along with a subwoofer that packs a bass punch. Additional device support is not an issue either with the LifeStyle 650 coming equipped with a number of ports (including HDMI ARC), and Bluetooth support for the option to stream music from a number of supported apps. This is in addition to Alexa support for those who want to make use of voice commands. This one is rich in every respect, including the price.

Best value sound - worth every cent

You don’t have to spend silly money to get a great sounding home entertainment systems, and even a complete package from Bose as the company’s Acoustimass 10 Series V speaker system packs a punch. This is yet another 5.1 surround sound setup and one which is rated up to 200-watts per channel so you should expect decent volume as well as decent quality. Speaking of which this system draws on Bose direct/reflecting speakers, which also utilize an angled design to provide a more immersive sound overall. This is in addition to the subwoofer which is equipped with two downward-firing drivers that not only offers a powerful bass output, but one which can be further tweaked by the user through the system’s adjustable controls.

Best for gaming - for those looking to complete the gaming experience

To be clear, the Logitech Z906 system is not only suited to gamers, although gamers will find it a little more accommodating in terms of its design (in particular the satellite speakers) and quality. This is also regardless of whether used with a gaming console or as part of a more robust PC gaming setup. Some of the other features that might directly appeal to gamers is the quality of the nuanced sounds this system can pick up through its THX-certified speakers, as well as the volume in general - as the system comes with a rated peak power of 1000-watts. Not to mention the very good variety of both digital and analog input ports resulting in a system that’s highly compatible with a number of newer and older gaming machines.

Best floor-standing - standing tall in every sense

While 5.1 systems are highly popular for home entertainment systems, they are not the only option. In fact, one great way to save on space and still get a detailed and quality sound is to make use of floor-standing speakers. On that note, the ELAC Debut F6.2 are probably the best option you can buy right now for the money. These are highly rated speakers that offer a crystal clear sound thanks to the three-way system in use powered by three 3.5-inch drivers and a separate one-inch tweeter. All of which culminates in a total peak power of 140-watts per speaker. Speaking of which, while these speakers are fairly expensive per pair, they can be purchased one at a time. Point to note, these are passive speakers so you will also need a separate amplifier to drive them.

Best value floor-standing - great sounding, without the tall price

Costing less than half the price of the Debut F6.2, the Polk Audio T50 are a great affordable floor-standing option. Once again, these speakers utilize a three-way system for extra clarity with the bass produced by two 6.5-inch drivers. The mids are handles by a separate 6.5-inch driver while the included one-inch dome tweeter handles the tops. All of which comes together to ensure even the most subtle sounds from a TV are heard loudly and clearly. Likewise, volume is not going to be an issue here with each speaker’s peak rating coming in at 150-watts. These are also passive speakers so buyers will need to connect them to an amplifier first - although pretty much any amplifier will do.

Best wireless - wires are a thing of the past

One of the issues with having a more advanced home entertainment setup is the wires involved. However, the Enclave Audio CineHome HD looks to alleviate this issue completely as in spite of being a 5.1 system, all six speakers are wireless speakers and all connect back to the main CineHome HD Smart Center (which is also one of the speakers) without any wires involved. Likewise, the Smart Center speaker also means no additional amplifier or receiver is needed as the main speaker comes with a number of ports on the back for direct connection to input devices. Although those who want to go all-in on the wireless nature can do so as the Enclave Audio CineHome HD also supports Bluetooth. One of the main benefits of this type of setup is the ease of use as it’s just a matter of turning on and connecting the speakers to each other which takes minutes. While some might consider the price of this setup to be a little high, compared to other wireless 5.1 systems, it’s a bargain.

Best Soundbar - it doesn't get better thanks to Dolby Atmos

If the cost is a not a concern then you’ll do well to opt for the Samsung HW-K950 soundbar. In fact, this is more than just a soundbar as you also get two satellite speakers as well offering a more robust and immersive experience overall. However, one of the key selling points with this soundbar is the inclusion of Dolby Atmos support. This was actually one of the first soundbars to support Dolby Atmos and the two additional satellites are integral here as they (along with the other upward-firing speakers in the main soundbar) further help to ensure the bouncing of sound signals are even more varied and immersive. Therefore, this is not just Samsung including additional speakers for the sake of it, but included ones with a purpose - a purpose that separates this soundbar from many others, including newer ones.

Best value soundbar - designed to perform, affordable immersion

If you are looking for a much more affordable soundbar then look no further than the Yamaha YAS-207. With all things considered, this is one of the best soundbars you can buy for the asking price as the sound quality alone is more in line with products that cost twice, if not triple the price of this one. Furthermore, the price also includes a separate (wireless) sub which helps to add a bit more bass flavor to the proceedings. While this soundbar does not come with Dolby Atmos support, it does feature DTS Virtual:X which looks to offer a similar multidimensional sound experience. Which again, for the price makes this sound bar all the much better purchase. You can also add Bluetooth to the mix as well, for those times when you want to stream music from a smartphone to the soundbar.

Best soundbar with Alexa - great all-round soundbar

The Sonos Beam is a great option for those who are looking for a compact and smarter soundbar. As this one features Amazon Alexa built-in. Not only does this mean it plays nicely with other Alexa devices, but it also means users can play audio content, including from many of the most popular streaming services by just asking Alexa. While you won’t get the sort of immersive sound offered naturally by more high-end solutions, the Sonos Beam does come with the option to add more speakers later which will help to pad out the sound a little more. Although one point to note here is the Sonos Beam does not support Bluetooth so there’s no option to stream music if you are using an Android device.

Best soundbar with Alexa for Android device owners - cheaper than the Sonos Beam and with Bluetooth

Basically, if you are an Android device owner than you are probably better off opting for the Polk Command Bar which is not a bad thing. Like the Sonos Beam, the Command Bar is also a soundbar that features Alexa built-in so you can expect a similar experience in that regard, as well as a similar sound quality experience overall. However, the main difference is the Command Bar does feature Bluetooth making it a better option for Android device owners who also want the option to stream music to the soundbar. You also get an additional subwoofer thrown in with this one - and at a price that $100 cheaper than the Sonos Beam.

Best for bass - bass personified 

If all you want is big bad bass and you don’t care about the cost then save your time and buy the SVS SB16-Ultra. This is about as good as it gets for the home as the SB16-Ultra features a 16-inch driver along with a 1,500-watt rating. It’s worth noting that rating is an RMS rating which is different to how most companies rate their products (peak) for marketing purposes. If we’re talking peak then you can expect 5000-watts. This subwoofer is that powerful and thanks to its driver size means you are genuinely getting real bass here (drops down to 16 Hz) which is further enhanced through the specifically designed cabinet. While this is subwoofer reminiscent of old school subs in terms of size and power, it’s also as modern as anything else you’ll find on this list with a companion Android app for further fine tuning and additional DSP features and controls. If you do find you need even lower frequencies, you can also opt for the ported version which while costing an extra $500 will drop the frequency range down to 13 Hz. Need perspective? - the next sub on this list only drops to 50Hz.

Best value for bass - hitting the low notes at the right price

OK, so the Monoprice 9723 is not going to hit the same low notes as the SB16-Ultra but in comparison it costs a fraction of the price which is the main selling point here. In fact, this sub costs barely over $100 and for that price you are getting a decent unit which is powered by a 12-inch driver - again, larger than most of the drivers you get packaged with most of the products on this list. So you can expect a more natural bass with this unit than you would get with the others. Likewise, its peak output is also much higher than most on this list coming in at 200-watts. A built-in crossover is also present so you will be able to fine tune the output a little and it does come with multiple connections making it easy to combine with any existing setup. For the price, this one’s a bargain.

Best keyboard - navigate your TV in style

The Logitech K600 keyboard is a fairly new product and one which looks to take away the issues now experienced with many smart TVs - navigation. As this is an all-in-one solution which not only features a keyboard and cursor support but also controls more akin to Android devices. In other words, whatever device you connect to over Bluetooth you will have the corresponding controls available directly on the keyboard. What’s more, you can connect the keyboard to three different devices at the same time making it an ideal option for busy systems. This is a must-have if you are an Android TV device owner and are looking for a better way to control and navigate the interface as well as browse the internet on your TV.

Best universal remote - it literally controls everything

Of course, if you want the ultimate in remote control then you only have to look as far as the Logitech Harmony Elite remote control as this will not only control your home entertainment setup, but pretty much all your smart home devices as well. As the Harmony Elite features direct support for Hue and Nest products, as well as Roku, Sony, Denon, and Sonos products - to name a few. It also features support for both Alexa and Google Assistant as well. This is in addition to a color touchscreen so you can literally swipe and tap your way through devices - making it a true one-stop solution for all your controlling needs.

Best value universal remote - one remote, one cheap price

To be fair, the Harmony Elite is pretty expensive considering it’s just a remote so if you are looking for a far more affordable option then the Logitech Harmony 650 is one to go for. In comparison this is far more basic although it does also come with a color display and has the ability to assume the role of eight different remote controls - which in reality is more than enough for most setups. It also comes with support for a massive selection of brands and products so there’s a good chance the devices you own (as well as most on this list) will be supported out of the box.

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