Best entry-level home theater speakers
Most home theater users start at entry level speakers and then grow as their need and expectations grow for the great sound. There are too many speaker systems available in the market, and for beginners, it can get overwhelming to choose. Home theater in box or soundbar with subwoofers are the most common starting point in the quest for great sound. If you are still using that home theater in a box, please consider upgrading your system to at least one of the speaker systems that I recommend here. It will get you excellent sound for not so much more. In fact, many of the home theater in a box are not really any less expensive than the entry level serious sound system. Here I would like to recommend you, top speakers, to consider for your home theater on a tight budget. These speakers offer unbeatable value.
In my journey to greater sound, I started from LCD TV speakers. After a while, I added a Sony soundbar with powered subwoofer. It served me well for some time, but I outgrow that. Finally, I started to get serious on sound and got highly acclaimed Energy Take Classic 5.1 system and an entry level Yamaha receiver. A giant step forward in sound quality. I then upgraded it to the Polk RTi series (Second best series offered by Polk Audio at a time). Most recently, I ended up upgrading RTi to ELAC Debut. ELAC Debut is a less expensive option compared to Polk RTi, but I still consider it an upgrade because to my ear, it sounds better.
Here I would like to remind you that please remember that your ears are the best judge of sound quality. The Higher priced speaker may not necessarily sound better to you compared to lower priced speakers. So please listen to different speakers to find your best speakers.
Basic requirements for a home theater audio setup:
This may sound silly to most audiophiles but I still want to write it out here that for a home theater speaker setup you need, (1) Audio/Video (AV) Receiver, (2) Speakers (number of speakers depends on your need, preference, budget, space, etc.), (3) A powered subwoofer, (4) Speaker cables, (5) Banana plugs (optional but recommended).
I would write about receiver recommendation some other time as I think I have not tested enough of it actually to write to my readers about it. So in this post, I will touch on speakers.
In my search for the best speaker system for my hard earned money, I concluded following set is the best value to begin with.
ELAC Debut- The best entry-level home theater speakers in 2017
Center channel speaker: Debut C5
Rear speakers: Debut B4
Atmos speakers: Debut Atmos A4
Sound Character as I felt: Sounds silky smooth, a bit warm, and joy to listen
Not harsh- excellent for extended period of listening
Ability to expand system to full Atmos with outstanding sound and still manageable under tight budget
Exceptional value considering its price for the performance
Designed by a well-known speaker designer
High-frequency sound may seem a bit muted or lower. This may be a plus point for many as it adds to its positive attribute of having a silky smooth sound that is not harsh and can be played for all day without fatigue. Still, if you are into tweeter sound (high-frequency sound), you may find it a deal breaker.
ELAC Debut is the best speaker for the money you can buy today for your home theater on a budget. Simply put, it sounds amazingly beautiful and joy to listen. I did not get tired listening it for an extended time like I used to get for Polk RTi. This was when I realized that RTi speakers that I had were harsh and bright compared to the Debut. I instantly liked the sound from ELAC Debut, and there was no question of my choice.
Additionally, it offers flexibility to expand to a full system including Atmos in future when my budget permits. It was also very satisfying to know that these speakers are designed from the ground by a well-known speaker designer Andrew Jones- Famous for his outstanding speakers in all price range. If you haven’t heard of Andrew Jones before, let me say that his resume includes well-respected speakers from KEF and Pioneer. Andrew has designed speakers in price-range of $80,000 and more budget friendly speakers at Pioneer that to this point has been a reference budget speakers. I am very confident that he wouldn’t put his name on it if it’s not something that he is proud of.
The Debut speakers utilize custom-designed drivers. The woofers are made of aramid fiber cones that ELAC says provide superior strength to weight ratio over other materials. Choosing the aramid fiber cones gave more design flexibility and achieved a smoother extended response. The speaker design also features an oversized magnet and a vented pole piece.
The Debut series uses a silk dome tweeter. It’s recessed in a waveguide with a deep spheroid profile. ELAC says that the waveguide delivers improved directivity control and shields the tweeter wavefront from cabinet diffraction. Research has shown that this is necessary for maintaining off-axis performance consistent with the on-axis so that the early reflections can combine beneficially at the listening area to expand the spaciousness and soundstage.
The crossover network brings the individual drivers together, and it’s the one area that budget speakers often don’t get right. ELAC says that they have a refined, multi-element crossover which provides a perfect blending of drivers to deliver a unified audio experience traditionally found on speakers costing substantially more.
ELAC Debut series offers all speakers you need for a complete home theater. Details of different speakers are as follow:
Floor standing towers:
The F6 and F5 is a three-way, bass-reflex design speaker with a 6.5-inch (F6) and 5.25-inch (F5) woven aramid-fiber cone midrange and two 6.5-inch (F6) and 5.25-inch (F5) woven aramid-fiber cone woofers. The drivers are crossed at 3,000Hz and 100Hz and are rated to deliver a frequency response down to 42Hz. If you decide to buy tower, please get F6 tower. I recommend you to get bookshelf B6 over F5 tower as it will have better sound for less money and will take up less space.
ELAC Debut Book shelf speakers B6, B5, B4: (B6 recommended; I would avoid B4 for even rear placement)
ELAC Debut Bookshelf speakers B6 and B5. The B6 is the big brother of B5 and identical to F6 less two woofers. It sports a single 6.5-inch woven aramid-fiber cone driver that is crossed at 3,000Hz and is rated to play down to 44 Hz. I liked the B6 better than B5 and highly recommend that you get the B6, and skip B5 unless it’s for rear speakers.
The B5 is F5’s little brother, is a two-way bass reflex speaker. It sports a single 5.25-inch woven aramid-fiber cone driver that is crossed at 3,000Hz and is rated to play down to 46 Hz.
ELAC Debut center channel speaker C5. The C5 center channel is a two-way bass-reflex design. The drivers are laid out in a typical MTM configuration. The C5 is a bit more sensitive compared to B5 because it doesn’t need to focus on bass unlike B5 as Andrew Jones said.
ELAC subwoofer S10, S10EQ, and S12EQ. The S10 is a standard entry level subwoofer. The S10EQ and S12EQ however, feature equalizer on the woofer and a very impressive way to make room corrections using Bluetooth technology and your phone. Definitely, must give a try.
ELAC Debut Atmos module A4. Dolby Atmos® technology expands the sonic landscape, creating a real 3-D space that you’ve got to hear to believe. With Dolby Atmos-enabled AV receivers and processors, simply add the Debut A4 to the top of your bookshelf or floor standing speakers to achieve dimensionality that puts you in the middle of the music and the action.
- A typical home theater can have 5.1 setups as follow: Pair of B6 as the front, Pair of B5 as the rear, a C5 for the center channel, and an S10 subwoofer.
- I would not go for floor standing models but if you have a bit more budget, space, and liking for floor standing, go for F6 as fronts, B6/B5 as the rear, a C5 for the center channel.
- If you want the better subwoofer, I highly recommend getting SVS PB1000- an entry-level, high-performance subwoofer instead of any ELAC subwoofers.
- If you are even short on the budget or like to start slow, I recommend you to go for 3.1 setups, to begin with. It can include B6 as the front, C5 as a center, and a subwoofer as your budget permits. I think that 3.1 setups can easily be placed where a typical soundbar and subwoofer system is placed but offer you a far superior sound.
Competition and other choices:
In next articles, I would review and provide more recommendations on other speakers. Overall, if ELAC Debut is not suitable for you, here are other options depend on your preferences.
If you would like to step-in to the high-performance sound, I highly recommend ELAC Uni-Fi series (Review is coming soon). If space is an issue, go for highly reviewed Energy Take Classic (If it’s still available for purchase on Amazon/ Craigslist/ eBay). I do, however, think that please avoid highly acclaimed Pioneer speakers designed by Andrew Jones. Make no mistake- they are great speakers. However, they are dated model and are no longer a great value. Competition has grown, and there are so many great options to choose that offer excellent sound performance in similar price range. ELAC Debut is far superior for not much price difference, and if you can go to ELAC Uni-Fi, you can have an audiophile sound system for not too much more.
Overall, if you are to step-in to the sound system word, I highly recommend ELAC Debut series. It offers tremendous sound performance for the price. When you would grow up the Debut series, you would be ready to handle Nitty-gritty of high-performance sounds and can handle, understand, and be able to truly appreciate the sound quality in your next step-up. Stay tune for my recommendation on the step-up from the ELAC Debut (Coming next).