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$2,500 5.1 Channel Recommended Home Theater System

by July 03, 2017

System updated: 7/3/17

If you glanced at our $1,000 5.1 recommended system, it won’t take long to find some big compromises. At that price point, aesthetics goes right out the window for the sake of delivering good performance. Even with that, you’ll find sacrifices, like an entry level subwoofer that can’t dig down to the low 20Hz range.  Bumping the budget up to $2,500 obviously changes the game considerably. This time around we’ll give a couple options on the speakers/subwoofer front. With top name speaker manufacturers offering all in one 5.1 speaker systems for around $1000, you can get into some serious peripheral equipment with the ability to expand into immersive 3D sound for future purchases.

Speakers: RSL CG3, CG23, Speedwoofer 10S 5.1 Speaker System

MSRP:  $1080 for a 5.1 system (includes shipping) | Buy Now

We did a full review of the RSL CG3, CG23, Speedwoofer 10S 5.1 Speaker System and found that every single speaker in this system—especially the SpeRSL CG3, CG23edwoofer 10S—is an all-star performer at this price-point. The dynamics, musicality, and raw performance are a superior value. It’s at home with both music and movies and the compact size and optional wireless sub option makes it a perfect solution to the audiophile and cinemaphile who wants great performance and big sound in a small footprint.

With RSL’s a la carte model, you can go for a two-channel, 5.1/7.1 system, or grow into a full-blown Atmos and DTS:X configuration. RSL’s CG3 system will go toe-to-toe and might just outperform any compact home theater system out there at the $1,000 price-point…and beyond. To get significantly better performance you'll need to spend significantly more money to get bigger bang for the buck. With a no-risk in home trial and free shipping both ways chalk RSL’s CG3 home theater system into the category of audio no-brainers.

For larger rooms there's always the ability to add another 10S Speedwoofer for $400 shipped (Their wireless 10S Speedwoofer is $450). And for those inclined to 3D sound via Atmos or DTS:X we would recommend adding two RSL C34E In-Ceiling speakers for $125ea. Try to avoid the bouncy house speakers if you can.  Discrete is best!

Alternative Speakers: SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 Surround Sound System

MSRP: $1000 for a 5.1 system (includes shipping) | Buy Now

SVS Prime Satellite 5.1The Prime Series Satellites are exceptional sounding small and versatile speakers once again showing SVS’s audio passion and expertise. The Prime Satellites exceed everything you might expect from a speaker of its diminutive size, providing a cinematic listening experience. Paired with SVS's  acclaimed SB-1000 subwoofer and its 300 Watts of power, the 5.1 system delivers a complete multi-channel experience for movies and music.

For only $200/pr you can upgrade this speaker package to a 7.1 system by adding 2 more SVS Prime Satellites (black ash) to be used as back or height channels.

For home theater enthusiasts looking to add height to their system, the SVS prime elevation speakers can be used as alternative height channel for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X applications. For $400/pr you get a compact, trapezoidal speaker that is primed for ceiling, on-wall, speaker stand or shelf mounting in several arrays. There is no sideways or upside down with the SVS Prime Elevation. It is acoustically engineered to offer the same detailed response and dynamics no matter what role it’s playing.  For more information on the SVS Prime Elevation Speakers you can read our preview.

A/V Receiver: Denon AVR-X3600H 9.2CH Atmos/DTS:X

MSRP: $1,100 | Buy Now ($899 sale price)

AVR3600Denon has a unique product in the AVR-X3600H AV receiver. Not only does it support the latest in HD UHD 4K video with HDCP 2.3, but immersive surround formats as well. It has 9 built-in amplifiers rated at 105 watts/CH and 11CH of processing too. All you need to do is add a 2CH amplifier and you've got the most affordable receiver/processor on the market that will get you a full fledged 7.2.4 speaker configuration. You can even reassign the front amps to the surround back channels so you can mate a more powerful external amplifier to the front channels.  There are no other AVR's in this price range that can do this! The AVR-X3600H also supports the new Audyssey editor app which allows you to edit and/or restrict correction to a limited bandwidth via  your smartphone or tablet device. This could prove to be an invaluable tool to consumers and installers alike, one that makes their product line stand out from their competition. The AVR-X3600H is an affordable way of getting into immersive surround sound with all of the latest in music streaming, and a solid preamp output section for future expandability; it's truly the best value right now in AV receivers at this price point.

HD Source: Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

MSRP: $270

With Blu-ray players increasing in technsony UHD bluray.jpgology, but decreasing in price there's a TON of sub $400 Blu-ray players on the market vying for your attention, but for $270 you can get a Ultra HD Blu-ray player with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 3D sound capabilities and built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth from Sony in their UBP-X800.   The UBP-X800 works with just about everything you choose to play through it – including Ultra HD video and High-Resolution Audio formats, along with your favorite streaming services. It can also convert virtually any video source to 4K Ultra video and play everything from standard Blu-ray discs to audio CD's.  And yes it can play Netflix in 4k UHD. With addition of Bluetooth and wireless technology built in we've found the Sony UBP-X800 to be an awesome all in one do everything but make you breakfast device.

Cables: Monoprice: ~$25.50

When you’re on an extra-tight budget, there’s one place to turn for cables: Monoprice. We’re not aware of anyone offering cables for less. More importantly, while the products they offer aren’t anything flashy, the quality is sufficient to get the job done. So what does $25.50 get you?

  • 50' 14AWG Spool: $13.26
  • 1 - 3' HDMI Cable: $2.57 + 1 - 10' HDMI Cable: $5.15
  • 10' Subwoofer Cable: $4.50

Surge Protection: Panamax SP8-AV

MSRP: $70

The Panamax SP8-AV is a fairly basic device. It offers 1125 joules of surge protection for 8 outlets, as well as a modicum of EMI/RFI noise rejection. In the event of a catastrophic surge, the SP8-AV's circuitry will disconnect your equipment from the line, helping to ensure its safety. Considering the modest price tag, we consider it cheap insurance to keep your equipment reasonably safe. Take our word for it when we say it’s never fun to see pricey components fry.

Panamax SP8-AV


  Path 1:  

Path 2:  

Speakers & Sub
RSL CG3, CG23, Speedwoofer 10S $1,080   

SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 Surround Sound System

 A/V Receiver
Denon AVR-X3600H  
$1000 Denon AVR-X3300W  
Blu-ray Player
Sony UBP-X800 $270 Sony UBP-X800
 Cables Monoprice $25.50 Monoprice $25.50
    Surge Protection  
Panamax SP8-AV
$70 Panamax SP8-AV
 Total    $2,445.50   $2,365.50

For $2,500, the options open up considerably relative to the $1,000 recommended surround system. Here you can have your cake and eat it to (i.e. good looks and high performance), With each of these recommended systems you’ll end up with exceptional performance for the dollar relative to anything you’re likely to find at your local big box store. And, since we've come in at slightly under budget, you can use the savings towards adding some theater props in your room or put it towards an additional subwoofer or height channels in the near future.

The only question remaining is: which path would you take? Let us know on our forums!


About the author:
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Tony is our resident expert for lifestyle and wireless products including soundbars. He does most of the reviews for wireless and streaming loudspeakers and often compares soundbars in round ups and helps us cover the trade shows.

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