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$1,500 5.1 Channel Expandable Recommended Home Theater System

by September 04, 2019
$1500 Recommended Home Theater System

$1500 Recommended Home Theater System

There are a lot of ways to spend $1,500 in the audio world. For the “cost is no object” crowd, $1,500 wouldn’t be an unreasonable sum to pay for speaker cables. For others, it’s the cost of a nice set of bookshelf speakers. We recently demonstrated how you could put together a 5.1 system HTIB killer for only $750. With just a little more budget, you can take things up a notch, most notably with better bass response, nicer aesthetics and most importantly, upgradeability to immersive surround sound.

Disclaimer: For your convenience, we chose products available either direct from the manufacturer or through our Amazon affiliate page. As an Amazon Associate, Audioholics.com benefits from qualifying purchases so we appreciate you using our links. The products we select have either reviewed favorably on Audioholics in the past, or we've had direct experiences with.

$1,500 5.1 "Expandable" Recommended System YouTube Discussion

Loudspeakers: RSL CG3 5.1 Speaker System

MSRP: $999 (free shipping) | RSL CG3 System Review | Buy Now

RSL CG3 Speaker System

RSL has done it again. They managed to pack a lot of sound into a very compact form factor with their new CG3 series of speakers. Anchored by the patented Compression Guide technology and for almost half the cost, RSL's CG3 5.1 Home Theater System comes darn close to the performance and refinement of their acclaimed CG4 system. If you thought that a small-sized system couldn't pump out big, dynamic, and engaging sound then think again. You'll be disabused of any previous conceptions you might have. To save cost, and get perfect timbre matching, we recommend 5 identical CG3 speakers along with their Speedwoofer 10S subwoofer.

The folks at RSL were pretty frank about their goals when they developed the Speedwoofer 10S subwoofer, available for only $399 with free shipping.  They looked to the competition, starting with the best subwoofers in the $500 range and “didn't stop building until we had one that substantially outperformed the rest.”  Speedwoofer 10S offers a solid foundation for music or movies easily meeting the Bassaholic Medium rating, and fall just shy of our Large rating.

RSL Speedwoofer 10S

RSL Speedwoofer 10S Subwoofer

RSL C34Start with one of these subs and later expand your system to two for better bass across all of your listening seats.

Ready for Atmos?

If you're ready to take the plunge into Atmos/DTS:X, you'll need a pair of in-ceiling speakers with wide dispersion. The RSL C34E are your ticket for $250/pair.

Note: There are many viable options today in in-expensive, but surprisingly good performing speakers available today online. In small compact form factor, we could have just as easily recommended the SVS Prime 5.1 Satellite System with an SB-1000 subwoofer but the edge in bass goes to the RSL Speedwoofer 10S in this instance.

We've covered products from Dayton Audio  as an alternative featuring floorstander speakers. Even the old AJ Pioneer speakers are still a good value at $489 for a complete 5.0 system. These speakers have balanced sound, are in a small form factor and don't look half bad in a small to medium sized living room environment. However, if you want an entire matching system in compact form factor, don't miss out on this package from RSL.

Alternatives: Dayton Audio MK442T- $199/pair, MK402 Bookshelf Speaker- $69/pair and MK442 Center Speaker- $50; Pioneer 5.0 AJ System- $489

Alternative Subwoofer: HSU VTF-1mk3- $399/ea

A/V Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR494

MSRP: $379 | Buy Now

Onkyo TYX-SR494

When it comes to budget receivers, Onkyo usually leads the pack in most features per dollar. The new TX-SR494 is no exception. At 80wpc (2CH driven), this model offers 7 internal channels of amplification to run your current 5.1 system with the ability to add two height channels when you're ready to dive into immersive surround sound from Dolby Atmos to DTS:X. In the meantime, you will be able to virtualize the height channels with a future firmware update for Dolby Atmos Height Virtualizer and DTS Virtual:X. All of your 4K video needs are met as the HDMI switching support 4K/60p and HDR (HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, BT.2020). Onkyo sweetens the deal with their AccuEQ with subwoofer EQ and AccuReflex room correction system.

Alternative: Pioneer VSX-LX104 - $399

UHD Blu-ray Player: Sony UBP-X700

MSRP: $159 | Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray Player

Sony UBP700

For our 5.1 home theater system, we’re not including a display. We’re assuming you already have one matched to your listening area, but we did include a highly rated and affordable Ultra HD Blu-ray player for the latest in 4K playback. This player meets all of your high definition needs with support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The UBP-X700 supports a range of music formats, from AAC and PCM audio to 11.2 MHz DSD (SACD). It even does the most popular streaming Apps such as Netflix in 4K making the need for a separate streaming device somewhat obsolete.

Accessory Equipment

Note: It used to be Monoprice was the place to go for budget speaker wire, but as with many products these days it's hard to compete with Amazon. With Monoprice jumping from $13 to over $21 for 50 ft of 14 gauge speaker wire we had to look elsewhere. Enter KabelDirekt through Amazon. For $18 you get 50' of 99.9% oxygen free copper speaker cable.

It's hard to believe that APC can pack so much into their APC P11VNT3 Surge Protector AND give you a top notch warranty to boot.  Normally we would be skeptical, but APC has been around for a long time producing quality surge protectors. The P11VNT3 comes with a 3020 joule surge protector power strip, 11 total power surge protector outlets with sliding safety shutters, 6 outlets are block-spaced for larger adapters, telephone, network (Cat-5 Ethernet Port) and co-axial protection against power surges along data lines, an 8' cord with 180 degree rotation and right-angle plug. But the best part is the lifetime warranty and $100,000 equipment protection policy which provides peace of mind even for our budget system.


The base system we recommend here is just under $1,500 but we do recommend adding the RSL C34E Atmos height channels and an additional Speedwoofer 10S in future upgrades. That will get you in at a little over $2k, but well worth it for the improvement in bass and immersive surround sound.

Loudspeakers RSL CG3 5.1 System
includes Speedwoofer 10S
A/V Receiver
Onkyo TX-SR494
Blu-ray Player
Sony UBP-X700 $159
Cables Amazon, Monoprice
Surge Protector  
Total    $1,615

Yes, technically we blew our $1,500 budget by $115. Of course we’d expect with a bit of shopping around, you can also find lower prices than what we’ve listed for some of the components or you could just delete the UDH Blu-ray player in favor of streaming from your favorite streaming device (ie. AppleTV, Firestick, Roku, etc).  The only things you need now are a movie and some popcorn. Don't forget the importance of setting bass management and calibrating your system. Enjoy!


About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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