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Speakers of the House: The Best Speakers to Upgrade Your TV Setup

Rolling Stone logo Rolling Stone 5/6/2021 Joshua Kanter
a stove top oven sitting next to a fireplace © Amazon

If you’re only using your TV’s internal speakers, you’re not getting the full experience of what your favorite movies, games, and shows have to offer.

Adding just a few good quality external speakers into the mix can alter your audio exponentially, adding dimensions to your sound, and delivering highs and lows that let you hear the little details in everything. Even a modest set of two speakers can give off the feel of a full surround sound system when placed and leveled correctly.

But finding the best sound system requires some research first. Before you start building your home speaker setup, here’s some quick tips on things to look out for.

What Are the Best Speakers For Your TV?

The best TV speakers deliver big, bright sound to amplify what’s coming from your television set. Because they can be placed anywhere — next to your TV, on a shelf, mounted on a wall — they cast a wider soundstage than you would get just using your TV’s built-in speakers themselves.

What to Look For When Buying TV Speakers

Active vs. Passive: An active speaker system means it has its own power source, like most sound bars, while a passive system requires an external unit like a receiver to fuel it. If you’re starting with a clean slate, an active setup is the way to go. If you’ve already got a powered source of sound, or are looking to build a customized larger surround system piece by piece, passive will do just fine.

Drivers: A two-way speaker has two different types of drivers – a woofer and tweeter. The woofer bumps the low-frequency sounds, while the tweeter is designed to handle the highs. A three-way speaker, however, has the tweeter and woofer, and an added extra driver for the mid-range; it’s similar to a woofer but smaller. It’s not necessary for good sound, but it’s an extra bonus that divides up the frequencies more evenly.

Bass: Bass is crucial too. Even if you’re not looking to shake the room, having a system that kicks at least a little bass can make movies immensely more immersing. A floor subwoofer separates the bass frequencies from the higher-end frequencies of the speakers, and you’ll get a better bass response with it on the ground – one that really moves the air and makes it thump. Sound will vary depending on the architecture of the room you’re using it in, so play around with angling everything and notice where it echoes off of for the best results.

Controls: Some systems include a remote, which can make things easier when adjusting from afar. But even if it doesn’t have one, there’s most likely a control panel on the unit itself. It’s not all about how loud you can crank it either – spending some time adjusting the levels on all your sound equipment will let you find that perfect balance that bounces off the walls at just the right angles.

1. Samsung’s HW-T450

a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: SAMSUNG HW-T450 © Provided by Rolling Stone SAMSUNG HW-T450

Amazon

Samsung’s HW-T450 solves the problem of upgrading your TV’s audio system if you don’t have much space.

The slim sound bar can fit comfortably under your TV whether it’s on an entertainment center, or wall-mounted. It comes bundled with a wireless Subwoofer, which can deliver additional bass and be placed anywhere.

Soundbars have become very popular, but the HW-T450 stands out because of Samsung’s Smart Sound technology. This allows the soundbar to switch between different modes (music, movie, sports, gaming) based on what you’re watching. The soundbar analyzes this on its own, so you don’t have to think about it.

It also supports Bluetooth, so you can stream music to the HW-T450 from your phone, tablet, or computer when you’re not watching TV. This multi-functionality is important if you’re trying to optimize your space.

One thing the HW-T450 doesn’t do is play audio in true surround sound. This is a 2.1 (two speakers + a subwoofer) TV speaker system. This concession makes sense if you don’t have much room in your living room, but it’s something to be aware of.

If you’re done dealing with subpar sound from your new TV’s speakers, Samsung’s HW-T450 is an excellent space-saving solution.

Buy: Samsung HW-T450 $475.98

2. Polk Audio T15

a room filled with furniture and a flat screen tv: Polk Audio T15 © Provided by Rolling Stone Polk Audio T15

Amazon

Polk Audio’s T15s are a budget-friendly pair of bookshelf speakers that’re a great choice for TV or movie lovers.

These are traditional passive speakers, which means you’ll need to hook them up to an A/V receiver in order to work. To use them with your TV, you’ll connect your set (and any other home theater accessories) to the A/V receiver with the appropriate cables.

They T15s only 7.3-inches tall, and can be wall mounted, so you have a lot of setup options if your living room isn’t very big. For the best experience, place them at least a foot away from the left and right side of your TV. If you’re setting them up on a media center, place them a few inches in front of the wall, and angle them toward the place where you sit to create a “sweet spot.”

When choosing an A/V receiver for the speakers, consider what type of audio gear you’d like to set up, whether you’d like to upgrade your system over time. The benefit to getting passive speakers like these is you can use them in a 2.0, 2.1, 3.1, 5.1, or 7.1 audio system.

They may not have been designed specifically to work with your TV, but Polks’ T15s will deliver great sound, regardless of what you’re watching, listening to, or playing.

Buy: Polk Audio T15 $79.00

3. Klipsch R-51PM Powered Bluetooth Speaker

a fire place sitting in a living room with a fireplace: Klipsch R-51PM © Provided by Rolling Stone Klipsch R-51PM

Amazon

Klipsch’s R-51PMs are a pair of powered bookshelf speakers that have specific features that make them well-suited for use with a TV.

You’ll save space because the speakers don’t require an A/V receiver, but be mindful of the fact that they’re 13.3 inches tall. You’ll need a fairly wide media center to accommodate them. You can hook your TV up to these speakers in two ways: An optical audio cable, or a 3.5mm audio cable. We recommend going with an optical cable, which’ll give you the best possible sound.

For bookshelf speakers, thee R-51PMs have pretty big drivers, which means they’ll deliver loud, dynamic sound. This comes in handy when watching action movies with loud explosions, which can sound distorted on lesser speakers. You won’t have to worry about that here. If you want extra bass, you can plug a subwoofer directly into these speakers for added low-end. You shouldn’t need to make this tweak, but it’s nice that it’s available.

If your home entertainment center contains a turntable, you can hook it up directly to the R51PM’s phono inputs. You can use the preamp built into the speakers, or the one in your turntable if you like. This feature, along with support for Bluetooth, make Klipsch’s speakers a good all-in-one stereo audio system.

Klipsch’s R-51PM are a great set of TV speakers if you’re a stickler for sound quality, and like the idea of having a versatile compact home audio system.

Buy: Klipsch R-51PM $342.26

4. Jamo S 807

a large speaker in a room: Jamo S 807 © Provided by Rolling Stone Jamo S 807

YouTube / Jamo

Jamo’s S 807 floorstanding speakers will take up more space than any of our other TV speaker recommendations, but come with a lot of benefits.

The passive floor-standing speakers have two massive woofers and a tweeter, which means you can expect booming, balanced (not too much bass or treble) sound. These are traditional stereo speakers, but were designed to connect directly to a pair of upward-firing “height” speakers if you’re setting up a Dolby Atmos speaker system.

This is a very forward-looking feature that futureproofs the S 807s if you decide you want to hook your TV up to a multi-channel surround sound or Dolby Atmos system. We’ve never seen this feature before and it sets Juno’s speakers apart in a substantial and meaningful way.

Because the S 807s passive speakers you need to supply your own A/V receiver, which means you can tailor your TV audio system based on your needs. One thing’s for sure, though, using these speakers instead of the ones inside your TV will make a night and day difference.

If you have the space, and want cinema-quality TV speakers, Jamo’s S 807s can deliver.

Buy: Jamo S 807 $299.00

5. Yamaha YHT-4950U

Amazon

Yamaha’s YHT-4950U is a bundle that includes five speakers, a subwoofer, and an A/V receiver. It’s a full multi-channel surround sound system in one package.

The benefit to getting a system like this is that it’s balanced; each component is designed to sound great with one another. This is a great if you want a 5.1 speaker system for your TV, but don’t want to worry about which components to get. Yamaha did all the work for you.

One thing to consider is that you’ll need enough space to accommodate a surround sound system, which requires you to place each speaker in different corners of your room. If this isn’t an issue, and you watch a lot of movies, or play a lot of games, this surround sound system is the best TV speaker solution for you.

That’s especially true because Yamaha’s receiver can work with any speakers, so if you feel like upgrading your TV speaker setup down the road, you won’t have to replace your amplifier. It’s a small feature that may turn out to be a big deal later on.

If you’ve never had a surround sound system hooked up to your TV before, Yamaha’s YHT-4950U will make a difference every time you watch something.

Buy: Yamaha YHT-4950U $479.95

1. Samsung SWA-8500S 2.0 Speaker System

This set connects to your existing source, like a soundbar, to add even more dimensions to your home-audio experience. Hooking up the receiver is seamless, and the mid-range comes through crisp and clear, while the bass thumps and highs shimmer.

Made from a sleek metal mesh that won’t leave fingerprints, the speakers are compact, wall-mountable, and best of all, won’t take up too much space while giving you the feel of a theater.

It should be known, however, that while the main unit wirelessly connects to your source, the speakers themselves do require wires to work.

a close up of a speaker: Samsung SWA-8500S 2.0 Speaker System Wall Mountable Black Model © Provided by Rolling Stone Samsung SWA-8500S 2.0 Speaker System Wall Mountable Black Model

Amazon

Buy: Samsung SWA-8500S 2.0 Speaker System

2. Polk Audio T15 Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers

The folks at Polk have been manufacturing high-end home audio products for nearly 50 years, and this system is no different. At only 10.7 inches high, these speakers kick out a thick bass and an overall balanced mix of highs and lows, thanks to its 0.75-inch tweeter, 5.25-inch driver and a front firing bass port (which can be often be tough to find).

These can easily be added to your existing setup as rear speakers too, and are wall-mountable to strategically place and fill the room with sound.

Whether watching  new movies or revisiting old records, this set brings out the best (and the bass) in whatever media you play.

a close up of a speaker: Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers © Provided by Rolling Stone Polk Audio T15 100 Watt Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers

Amazon

Buy: Polk Audio T15 Home Theater Bookshelf Speakers

3. Edifier R1280DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers

There’s a silver lining to this powered pair of Edifier speakers. Literally, right in the middle of the fabric front casing, adding to its already modern and classy wooden design.

These speakers can quickly connect to your phone, tablet, Mac or PC using Bluetooth, but if you prefer wires, you’re covered too. The set includes ports for auxiliary and RCA cables, and an indented spot with notched knobs on the side for bass, treble, and volume, as well as an LED light to indicate what connection is currently in use.

There’s also a remote that lets you adjust the volume and inputs from a distance, and a flippable power switch in back.

Most importantly, the sound is full and rich, thanks to its built-in four-inch woofer and 13mm silk dome tweeter.

a close up of a speaker: Edifier R1280DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers © Provided by Rolling Stone Edifier R1280DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers

Amazon

Buy: Edifier R1280DB Powered Bluetooth Bookshelf Speakers

4. Acoustic Audio AA5172 Home Theater 5.1 Bluetooth Speaker System

With 700 watts of total power, there’s a lot to unpack in this six-piece, Bluetooth-enabled home theater system.

The subwoofer unit is full of connectivity options, including RCA, USB, and an SD card slot. And with five wired speakers included, you can turn your room into a fully enveloping sound experience.

Controlling it from the couch is easy too, with the full function remote, or a convenient panel on the front of the sub unit as well. Playing around with the volumes, panning and positioning can bring out new nuances of your favorite songs that you may not have noticed before.

This is an attractive pick if you’re setting up a TV speaker system for the first time, or just want a starter set to play around with before you invest in one of the bigger names above.

a close up of a speaker: Acoustic Audio AA5172 Home Theater 5.1 Bluetooth Speaker System with USB / SD, Gray © Provided by Rolling Stone Acoustic Audio AA5172 Home Theater 5.1 Bluetooth Speaker System with USB / SD, Gray

Amazon

Buy: Acoustic Audio AA5172 Home Theater 5.1 Bluetooth Speaker System
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