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$750 Recommended 5.1 Surround System That Destroys a HTIB & Soundbar

by August 08, 2019
$750 5.1 Recommended Home Theater System

$750 5.1 Recommended Home Theater System

One of the most common questions asked of me is how to set up a home theater system on a budget. Many people just getting into home theater systems will go to a retail store and see a home theater in a box or soundbar for $500 or less and wonder why they are still not satisfied with their system.  Considering that audiophiles are often targeted by exotic cable companies with speaker cables costs more than $500/pair, the task of coming up with a budget system while being taken seriously is a bit daunting.

Disclaimer: For your convenience, we chose products available either direct from the manufacturer or through our Amazon affiliate page. Amazon provides us a small commission of sales 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.


$750 5.1 Recommended System YouTube Discussion

The Goal: Come up with the most inexpensive 5.1 home theater system worthy for an Audioholic on a budget.

AV Receiver: Denon 5.2 Channel AVR-S540BT Receiver - $250

Denon AVR-S540BT.jpg

Although released in 2018, the Denon 5.2 Channel AVR-S540BT is still one of the best 5.2 receivers you can get for the price.  For around $250 you get a 5.2 receiver with the ability to deliver 70 watts (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08% THD, 2-channels Driven, FTC) Although we’ll be setting this system up as a 5.1 channel home theater system, the receiver gives you the option of adding a second subwoofer in the future, which we always like the ability to do.

The 5.2 channel AVR-S540BT doesn’t include Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, but remember, we’re trying to keep the budget to a minimum! It does have the ability to decode DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. The amplifier has 5 HDMI inputs which are 4K ready. HDCP2.2 and HDR10 passthrough are both supported by the receiver. Although this level receiver does not come with Audessey room correction, it does come with the Denon setup assistant which we really liked for newbies for ease of setup.

We also liked the Alexa voice control feature which will allow you to connect your new system with your Amazon Alexa to control certain features of your system. The AVR-S540BT also comes with HEOS multiroom abilities to connect your smartphone to HEOS enables speakers around your home.

With the CEDIA installers show just a few months away, most major manufacturers will be coming out with new models so you might be able to find a better receiver for about the same amount of money. For this editorial, however, I had to go with what was available to me at the time.

Speakers:  Dayton Audio MK402 Bookshelf Speaker- $69/pair (x2) and MK442 Center Speaker- $50

Dayton Audio MK402.jpg 

The MK402 is a 2-way ported design with a 4" midbass driver and .75" soft dome tweeter and sells for a meager $69/pair. The MK442 which we will use as a center channel steps it up with an additional 4" driver in an MTM driver topology along with a more sophisticated crossover network and sells for only $50 each. 

When Audioholics reviewed these Dayton Audio speakers in May 2018 reviewer James Larson stated:

“I think the MK442s are one of the best value for affordable high-fidelity speakers on the market right now.”

That’s big praise from a guy who does benchmark tests on everything from $50/ to $50,000/pair speakers and rarely gives glowing reviews regardless of price.

Although we did find that the speakers ran a bit unnaturally bright in the treble area, you can correct this with the Denon Setup Assistant. In addition, Dayton Audio did a crossover upgrade as a result of our review so the 402X addresses the brightness issue and that's the model we linked up to buy from Amazon. The build quality is good for a speaker of its pricing; the woofer and tweeter are not bottom-of-the-barrel parts, and they have actual crossover circuits, unlike many sub-$100 speakers that only use a capacitor on the tweeter and even some premium brands that simply cut cost. This is even more true of the MK442 crossover which has to be the most substantial crossover circuit on any speaker anywhere near the same cost.

Upgrade Note: For $30 more than the price listed in our setup you could put three MK442s in the front of your home theater system, using one as a center channel in a horizontal position and the other two in a vertical orientation for your main front left and right speakers. In this respect, for around $60 more than what we have listed, you can use the MK442s for ALL five of your surround speakers ($200 for 5 MK442's) and have a killer speaker setup that is completely timbre matched and has more output capability. Find a way to make this happen and thank us later!

Subwoofer:  Dayton Audio SUB-1000 10-Inch 100-Watt Powered Subwoofer (Black) - $120

Dayton Audio Sub-1000.jpg

Dayton Audio swept the field in our speaker category for our budget system. For under $120 you get Dayton Audio's SUB-1000 active subwoofer speaker which features a 100-watt internal amplifier and heavy-duty high-excursion 10" driver. The downward-firing flared port design helps to provide clean, powerful bass and reduced noise. At 40 lb the SUB-1000 is an incredibly well-built subwoofer for the price. In fact, we’re not sure you could build a better subwoofer yourself for less money if you purchased the parts separately! 

Blu-ray Player: Sony 4K Upscaling 3D Streaming Blu-ray Disc Player - BDPS6700- $125

Sony S6700 4K-Upscaling Blu-ray DVD Player .jpg

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 Blu-ray player with 4K upscaling built-in. The S6700 is compatible with DTS, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital, and Dolby TrueHD formats. Again, no DTS:X or Dolby Atmos, but that’s not what we’re shooting for here. What you will get is a solid Blu-ray player that will bring out the best for both your sound and sights in your home theater.

The Blu-ray player comes with a bunch of additional features and apps that you probably already have on your TV, but it’s good to know they are there if you need them.

Upgrade Option: If you want native 4k, spend the extra $33 and get the Sony UBP-X700 UHD Blu-ray player. This is money well spent if you plan on watching 4K HDR content IF your display device supports it.

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.

Conclusion

Price Breakdown

A/V Receiver Denon 5.2 Channel AVR-S540BT $250
Loudspeakers Dayton Audio MK402 Bookshelf (x2)
and MK442 Center Channel
$188
Subwoofer Dayton SAudio SUB-1000 $120
Blu-ray Player Sony BDP-S6700 $125
Speaker Cables
KabelDirekt AWG 14 Speaker Wire - 50ft
$18
Subwoofer Cable AmazonBasics 8' RCA Audio Subwoofer Cable $8
HDMI Cable Amazon Basics 6’ HDMI Cable $10
Surge Protector APC P11VNT3 11-Outlet Surge Protector $34
Total    $753

For $750 you get a 5.1 system that would crush the sound of any home theater in a box or soundbar, especially for music. Even during the writing of this article the prices of the components listed dramatically changed on Amazon. You might be able to find some of these products at better prices on sale. Our recommendation would be to add the $60 and replace the Dayton Audio MK402 bookshelf speakers with the MK442s all around. Your budget is still at a reasonable level, and you'll get five of the best speakers for the price that we have seen. Will you get the same sound as our Audioholics Showcase Home Theater? Definitely not. But you will get a chance to delve into the world of audiophiles and get your feet wet with individual components hand-picked for the value and quality Audioholics is known for.

Think you can do better? Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

Confused about what AV Gear to buy or how to set it up? Join our Exclusive Audioholics E-Book Membership Program!

 

About the author:

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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Recent Forum Posts:

leroi710 posts on August 16, 2019 15:00
James_G, post: 1333134, member: 89373
Leroi, thanks for the input and detail. I really appreciate that. I did end up getting a Pioneer SP-C22 and four SP-BS22-LR that I mentioned in an above post. I ended up going with the Pioneer SW-10 to complete the set since I can't find the matching SW-8MK2 sub. I haven't hooked anything up yet but I'm sort of laughing at the fact that these speakers are larger than I anticipated. I didn't really pay attention to size measurements, just reviews on sound. Now I am going to have a hard time finding homes for all these because of their size but as long as they live up to all the glowing reviews, I think Audioholics could suggest these as an alternative to the Dayton speakers and still keep the cost fairly low. All in all, brand new, I spent $220 for the suggested Denon AVR and $430 for all 5 speakers, which the sub was bundled with 100ft of 16awg speaker wire, and RCA sub cable and 5 pairs of banana plugs that I may not even use. Add tax on that and a Blu-ray player of your choice, it's pretty close to the originally suggested system with sound that has been reviewed at the 4.5/5 stars realm. Win!

Nice budget shopping, I've heard good things regarding those Pioneer's but I haven't heard them myself. They were always something recommended but I was looking to do it on the real cheap (I got a pair of the MK402, the MK442 center, and the B452-AIRs for $150 and the $50 for the Marantz secondhand so $200 for a pretty decent 5.0 and I was happy). I also picked up a secondhand front 3 of older Jamo speakers and I was a bit shocked at the size and weight of the bookshelves, especially since for the audio world they are apparently fairly small. The other fun part is then getting the stands and/or wall mounts and playing around with placement.

Anyways, enjoy your new system!
James_G posts on August 16, 2019 14:36
leroi710, post: 1333126, member: 89412
Hey James, I went through this process earlier this year. I had the same concerns about 4 ohm rating of MK402's and asked on multiple forums for peoples thoughts bc the only receivers that work with 4 ohm are all, generally speaking, the higher end models. Someone pointed out to me that it wouldn't make much sense for Dayton to make low priced speakers that would only work with a high end receiver so I went ahead and bought them. I have not had any issue with the speakers or the receiver. The only thing is thing I've found, and I believe this has to do with the 4ohm rating as well, is that these are really inefficient but in practice this just means you turn the volume nob up a couple notches to get to the same output volume of other speakers. You don't want to use them in a room that is too big, but most any receiver should be able to drive them even it doesn't specifically say it can handle 4ohm.

I got the Home Audio bug this year and I actually ended up also picking up some nice (for me) speakers secondhand locally through patience, hunting, and using various apps. So I now have 7.1 in my living room consisting of other speakers and I in a secondary room a 5.0 set up with a Marantz NR1602 ($50 secondhand) receiver powering the original MK402 as my L/R, the MK442 as my Center, and the B452-AIRs as surrounds. For bedroom, apartment, or generally smaller living spaces I think this Dayton combination sounds really nice and I think you'd be happy. I haven't heard the new MK402X model but for the price I do like the MK402 but the tweeter is bright, well I don't know if bright is exactly the right word but it can be a bit fatiguing to your ear is a better description. You can use EQ and positioning to mitigate that problem though and the X model may fix it. The woofer on the MK402 is the star, adds a good weight and realism to the sound. I actually really like the B452-AIR's but the woofer isn't great (and it isn't supposed to be). Three of the MK442's and with a pair of the B452-AIR as surrounds would be very nice.

There are others on this site with way more knowledge and experience and can tell you about other speakers as well (and correct whatever I got wrong in this post too). But I'm here to tell you that don't worry about the 4ohm rating for these Daytons, they work with most receivers without issue. They really are good for a first system and, at least for me, got me hooked.
Leroi, thanks for the input and detail. I really appreciate that. I did end up getting a Pioneer SP-C22 and four SP-BS22-LR that I mentioned in an above post. I ended up going with the Pioneer SW-10 to complete the set since I can't find the matching SW-8MK2 sub. I haven't hooked anything up yet but I'm sort of laughing at the fact that these speakers are larger than I anticipated. I didn't really pay attention to size measurements, just reviews on sound. Now I am going to have a hard time finding homes for all these because of their size but as long as they live up to all the glowing reviews, I think Audioholics could suggest these as an alternative to the Dayton speakers and still keep the cost fairly low. All in all, brand new, I spent $220 for the suggested Denon AVR and $430 for all 5 speakers, which the sub was bundled with 100ft of 16awg speaker wire, and RCA sub cable and 5 pairs of banana plugs that I may not even use. Add tax on that and a Blu-ray player of your choice, it's pretty close to the originally suggested system with sound that has been reviewed at the 4.5/5 stars realm. Win!
leroi710 posts on August 16, 2019 13:56
James_G, post: 1332536, member: 89373
Thanks for your input , Gene. I've been researching speakers pretty much non-stop over the past few days and while checking out Amazon just now, I found the Pioneer SP-C22 and SP-BS22-LR Andrew Jones speakers on sale for a pretty good discount, around $100 for the center and $100 for bookshelf pair with another 10% off using a code on amazon. I searched audioholics for reviews and found a pretty glowing review from 2013 so that is a good thing for sure. Since these are from 2013, I've read some great reviews for them but are they still worth it in 2019? I'm willing to spend the little extra money if they stack up to or surpass the Dayton's in this article. I'd get 4 of the bookshelf speakers and a center, the only thing I'd need is a sub (matching pioneer isn't available) which I could still go for the Dayton audio recommendation here or possibly the Polk PSW10 for $129. Thoughts?

Hey James, I went through this process earlier this year. I had the same concerns about 4 ohm rating of MK402's and asked on multiple forums for peoples thoughts bc the only receivers that work with 4 ohm are all, generally speaking, the higher end models. Someone pointed out to me that it wouldn't make much sense for Dayton to make low priced speakers that would only work with a high end receiver so I went ahead and bought them. I have not had any issue with the speakers or the receiver. The only thing is thing I've found, and I believe this has to do with the 4ohm rating as well, is that these are really inefficient but in practice this just means you turn the volume nob up a couple notches to get to the same output volume of other speakers. You don't want to use them in a room that is too big, but most any receiver should be able to drive them even it doesn't specifically say it can handle 4ohm.

I got the Home Audio bug this year and I actually ended up also picking up some nice (for me) speakers secondhand locally through patience, hunting, and using various apps. So I now have 7.1 in my living room consisting of other speakers and I in a secondary room a 5.0 set up with a Marantz NR1602 ($50 secondhand) receiver powering the original MK402 as my L/R, the MK442 as my Center, and the B452-AIRs as surrounds. For bedroom, apartment, or generally smaller living spaces I think this Dayton combination sounds really nice and I think you'd be happy. I haven't heard the new MK402X model but for the price I do like the MK402 but the tweeter is bright, well I don't know if bright is exactly the right word but it can be a bit fatiguing to your ear is a better description. You can use EQ and positioning to mitigate that problem though and the X model may fix it. The woofer on the MK402 is the star, adds a good weight and realism to the sound. I actually really like the B452-AIR's but the woofer isn't great (and it isn't supposed to be). Three of the MK442's and with a pair of the B452-AIR as surrounds would be very nice.

There are others on this site with way more knowledge and experience and can tell you about other speakers as well (and correct whatever I got wrong in this post too). But I'm here to tell you that don't worry about the 4ohm rating for these Daytons, they work with most receivers without issue. They really are good for a first system and, at least for me, got me hooked.
Old-Timer posts on August 15, 2019 15:19
Gene, I haven't read all of the forum posts yet, so I hope this question hasn't already been asked.

At what temperature should the speaker cables be frozen, for how long, and how often?
James_G posts on August 13, 2019 21:18
gene, post: 1332514, member: 4348
ShadyJ already answered this impedance question. I don't think it will be a problem for the Denon receiver as these speakers aren't power hogs. Also, this system is designed for small to medium sized rooms. I do recommend dual subs and bass management which will take some of the load off the internal amps of the receiver. I'm not familiar with the Micca's but will take a look.
Thanks for your input , Gene. I've been researching speakers pretty much non-stop over the past few days and while checking out Amazon just now, I found the Pioneer SP-C22 and SP-BS22-LR Andrew Jones speakers on sale for a pretty good discount, around $100 for the center and $100 for bookshelf pair with another 10% off using a code on amazon. I searched audioholics for reviews and found a pretty glowing review from 2013 so that is a good thing for sure. Since these are from 2013, I've read some great reviews for them but are they still worth it in 2019? I'm willing to spend the little extra money if they stack up to or surpass the Dayton's in this article. I'd get 4 of the bookshelf speakers and a center, the only thing I'd need is a sub (matching pioneer isn't available) which I could still go for the Dayton audio recommendation here or possibly the Polk PSW10 for $129. Thoughts?
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