Our editors hand-picked these products based on our tests and reviews. Links to partner retailers may earn money to support our work.
Audiophile performance for much less
SVS Prime Tower
8.3 (CNET SCORE)
The SVS Prime Tower's highly transparent sound will appeal to audiophiles hankering for big-speaker sound at a price they can afford.
- The SVS Prime Tower is a well-built and great-sounding speaker for the money. The "3.5-way" design offers significantly more detail than standard two-way offerings. The speakers are capable of quite deep bass and work well in a home theater context. They're available in a stunning high-gloss black finish.
- The sound's highly detailed character can lack warmth. The rear panel's twin bass ports need a foot or more of clearance from the wall behind the speaker.
- The SVS Prime Tower's highly transparent sound will appeal to audiophiles hankering for big-speaker sound at a price they can afford.
A superb all-singing, all-dancing entertainment machine
8.8 (CNET SCORE)
The Sony STR-DN1080 is fully featured, easy to use, and it sounds great, making it the best AV receiver available for the price.
- The Sony STR-DN1080 offers all of the features you could want in a modern receiver -- multiroom music, Chromecast streaming, AirPlay, Dolby Atmos and a slew of 4K-compliant inputs. Sound quality is excellent, especially for movies. The user interface is easy to follow, and it is coupled with a friendly remote.
- Sound quality is a little less full than on last year's model, meaning it may not be quite as forgiving of bright speakers.
- The Sony STR-DN1080 is fully featured and easy to use, and it sounds great, making it the best AV receiver available for the price.
Mighty mini sound bar
Polk MagniFi Mini
8.2 (CNET SCORE)
Who says sound bars have to be big to sound big? This pipsqueak Polk doles out better sound than we expected for its small size and affordable price.
- The affordable Polk MagniFi Mini is capable of a much bigger sound than its minuscule size suggests. The package is compact and will fit easily into most living room setups. The ability to Cast directly from your phone simplifies music streaming.
- The Wi-Fi connection on my test unit was unreliable, and the ARC-only HDMI input limits connectivity somewhat.
- The Polk MagniFi Mini's mix of features, performance and compact size makes it one of the best sound bars for the money.
The ultimate audio streaming dongle is better than ever
8.9 (CNET SCORE)
If you want a whole-home music system but don't want to pay Sonos prices, the ultra-affordable Google Chromecast Audio is one of the best music-streaming devices you can buy.
- Google's ultra-affordable Wi-Fi music dongle streams anything from an Android device and many top iOS apps as well. It supports multiroom audio, digital and analog outputs and -- with Google Home -- voice control.
- Some notable music services, including iTunes, Apple Music and Amazon Music, are not supported on iPhone and iPad. You need to supply the speakers.
- The phenomenal Google Chromecast Audio should be your starting point if you're looking into multiroom wireless audio.
ELAC B6 debuts at number one
Elac Debut B6
9.1 (CNET SCORE)
The ELAC Debut B6 bookshelf speakers offer stellar, best-in-class sound quality that no other speakers can match at this low price.
- The ELAC Debut B6 bookshelf speakers look sharp, and boast excellent sound for a bargain price. Home theater buyers can easily partner the Debut B6 with ELAC's matching Debut Series tower, center and subwoofer.
- The Debut B6 is only available in a black vinyl finish.
- The ELAC Debut B6 bookshelf speakers offer stellar, best-in-class sound quality that no other speakers can match at this low price.
Alexa gets the sound quality she deserves
8.7 (CNET SCORE)
Move over, Amazon Echo and Google Home. The Alexa-powered Sonos One is the first smart speaker that actually sounds good playing music. And now it works with Spotify.
- The Sonos One integrates full-fledged Alexa voice control, just like an Amazon Echo speaker but with better sound quality. It offers most of Alexa's smart home controls and its far-field microphone performs similarly to an Echo. The Sonos One works seamlessly as part of a Sonos multiroom system, and can pair with another One for stereo sound. In 2018 Sonos will add Google Assistant, and Apple AirPlay 2 support is coming too.
- The One costs twice as much as the new Echo. It cannot form a stereo pair with an existing Sonos Play:1. Google Assistant and AirPlay 2 support won't arrive until 2018. It doesn't work how you'd expect if you have an Echo within earshot. There's no Bluetooth.
- The Alexa-powered Sonos One is the first smart speaker that actually sounds good with music -- and even more new features will be coming to it in the months ahead.
The king of the budget sound bars
9.1 (CNET SCORE)
The Vizio SB3621n-E8 is the best budget sound bar we've ever heard, period.
- The Vizio SB3621 offers excellent performance for an ultra-budget sound bar with great movie sound and toe-tapping music playback. The sound bar offers a decent selection of inputs including Bluetooth and will decode both Dolby and DTS. The sound bar and wireless sub feature excellent build quality and a seamless setup.
- The LED display is not very helpful, and the WAV-file-only USB port is a little weird.
- The Vizio SB3621n-E8 is the best sound bar under $300 we have ever heard. If you want better TV sound, it's the new budget benchmark.
Best full-size budget 5.1 system
9.0 (CNET SCORE)
Pioneer's budget 5.1 speaker package performs nearly as good as systems that cost twice as much, making it one of the best values in home audio.
- The Pioneer SP-PK52FS breaks new ground for quality sound at a budget price. The 5.1 speaker system is highlighted by two tower speakers in the front, plus a 100-watt, 8-inch powered subwoofer completes the system. And although it's not stylish, the curved wooden cabinets look better than a cheap boxy speaker.
- The speakers are bulkier than many alternatives and the large center channel can be difficult to place. Black wood-grain vinyl is the sole finish option and might not be a good fit for every living room.
- If you've got the space for it, the Pioneer SP-PK52FS is simply the best-sounding, budget-price home theater speaker package you can buy.