There's no need to whisper it but, errr, your TV speakers aren't very good. While TV companies obsessively make non-existent bezels and ultra thin wall mountable delights, they tend to forget about the fact that we need to hear the action as well as see it. There are two solutions for gaming. One of them is to invest in a solid set of headphones that means all the sound is pumped into your cans, the other is the slightly bigger investment of an actual surround sound system.
If you care at all about audio quality, and don’t want to wear headphones for hours on end, a good 5.1 setup will transform your gaming experience. Sound design in today’s triple-As has never been so impeccably crafted – just look and listen to the likes of Alien: Isolation or Resident Evil 7. To fully take your audio experience to the next level, and immerse yourself in those headshots/explosions/cowardly yelps while hiding from an acid-dribbling Xenomorph, you need a surround sound system. Below, you’ll find a great range of 5.1 setups/sound bar hybrids to cater to a variety of budgets. Here are the best surround sound systems for gaming. Your ears are about to be very happy…
Note: Some of the systems below require a separate amplifier before they’ll output audio from your console. While it’s a bit of a drag having to spend yet more money, a decent amp will tangibly improve the audio experience you get not just from games, but from music and movies, too. For US gamers, we suggest the Pioneer VSX-530-K 5.1 Channel AV Receiver. This great amp supports Dolby True HD and DTS-HD Master Audio, and is also future-proofed with the inclusion of 4K/60p pass-through.
If you’re in the UK, we recommend the extremely similar Pioneer VSX330 4K Home Cinema Receiver; a powerful 120 Watts amp that supports 4K video pass-through, 60p signals, and hi-res playback. Both amps have four HDMI inputs, making it a doddle to hook up multiple consoles.
View deal: Buy the Pioneer VSX330 for £199 from Amazon
1. Q Acoustics 3000 Series 5.1 Cinema Pack
A premium surround sound setup that produces truly thrilling audio
Number of channels: 5.1 | Included subwoofer: Yes | Requires separate amp: Yes | HDMI input: None | Frequency: 75Hz-22kHz | Wattage: 100W | Dimensions: 150 x 200 x 450mm
Your delicate little ears deserve the best. If you want to serve them up a sensory experience they’ll never forget, the Q Acoustics 3000 is the system your discerning lugs demand. Despite being almost two years old, this stellar surround sound package delivers an audio experience of remarkable fidelity. Plump for the full 5.1 setup, and the precision the 3000 is capable of mustering is little short of sensational. The crystal clear sound makes it easier than ever to pick out the oncoming footsteps of a rival player in a heated game of COD, while the crunching mid-range levels bring explosions to life with a super satisfying punch.
A few words of warning, though. Firstly, the 3000’s speakers are hefty customers – you’ll need a fair amount of space to properly accommodate them. Secondly, the subwoofer, while still capable of delivering reasonably deep bass response, sounds a little hollow at times. Oh, and you’ll also need a separate amp to plug your consoles into, driving up the already wallet-pummeling price even further. Still, Q Acoustics really has produced a superbly stylish set that can deliver the sort of sublime sounds your TV’s speakers could only have naughty dreams about.
Best for... Those looking for the richest, more satisfying surround sound on the market
2. Yamaha NS-SP1800BL 5.1 Speaker System
A wallet-friendly, well rounded surround sound experience
Number of channels: 5.1 | Included subwoofer: Yes | Requires separate amp: Yes | HDMI input: None | Frequency: : 28Hz-50kHz | Wattage: 100W | Dimensions: 290 x 290 x 310mm
Unless you’re in possession of a bank balance to rival Scrooge McDuck, chances are you don’t have endless wads of cash to throw at a new surround sound system. That’s part of what makes Yamaha’s clunkily named NS-SP1800BL so appealing: it’s a decidedly decent system that can be picked up for a reasonable price. Even more impressively, Yamaha hasn’t cut back on quality – it may be cheap, but this crisp sounding unit doesn’t skimp on delivering one hell of an aural experience.
The magnetically shielded speakers ensure you can game without fear of audio interference, while the surprisingly meaty subwoofer delivers a floor-shaking, deeply resonate bass. The satellite speakers also sport woofers and tweeters – we’re talking treble speakers, not irritable social media users – ensuring powerful mid-range response. Granted, the NS-SP1800BL want beat back potential suitors with its disappointedly plain looks, but then again, it’s a sound system, not a Italian sports cars. You’re meant to let it titillate your ears, not your eyes. In short, this system is ideal for gamers who want responsive surround sound and don’t want to abuse their current account to get it.
Best for... Budget-conscious audiophiles who want top notch surround sound for their console
3. Samsung HW-K950 sound bar with Dolby Atmos
An insanely expensive, but equally impressive future-proofed surround system
Number of channels: 5.1 | Included subwoofer: Yes | Requires separate amp: No | HDMI input: 2 | Frequency: 20Hz-400kHz | Wattage: 500W | Dimensions: 399 x 203 x 414 mm
Now, you may think including a sound bar in a list of best surround systems is a touch cheeky, but don’t walk us off the 5.1 plank just yet. Y’see, this particular sound bar actually comes with a pair of wireless surround speakers, and a separate subwoofer, immediately giving the HW-K950 a more rounded sound, while still taking up less space than a standard 5.1 system. Best of all, this future-looking unit supports Dolby Atmos, with the bar and speakers fitted with upward-firing drivers that bounce sound off your ceiling to create a listening experience that offers a genuine sense of verticality.
Though there aren’t that many Blu-rays (let alone games) out there that currently support Dolby Atmos, Samsung has wisely equipped the HW-K950 with what it calls an optional ‘Surround Sound Expansion Plus’ mode. Basically, it’s a feature that mimics true Atmos 5.1.4 sound even if the source material doesn’t support it. It gives this system a truly unique selling point, and the tangible sense of three dimensional depth to the HW-K950 is a game-changer. Having sounds beamed down to you from above is quite the thing in horror games. Pair this (admittedly expensive) unit with Resi 7 and your ears may never recover.
Best for… Audio-loving oligarchs who want amazing 3D sound and don’t mind coughing up stacks of cash
4. JBL Home Cinema 510
A well designed, affordable surround sound system that’s perfect for smaller rooms
Number of channels: 5.1 | Included subwoofer: Yes | Requires separate amp: Yes | HDMI input: None | Frequency: 46Hz –20kHz | Wattage: 100W | Dimensions: 95 x 95 x 133 mm
The form factor of the 510 really is its major selling point. It’s Hobbit-sized… without all that pesky foot hair. Each of its five satellite speakers measure just 94mm wide and 133mm tall, making them ideal to pair with that PS4 or Xbox One sitting in your bedroom. While it’s unfortunate this system requires a separate amp, the already low price tag of the 510 at least eases some of the strain on your change purse.
Though small, each speaker is fitted with a lone 75mm driver that can produce warm, full bodied sound. They’re certainly not the most precise speakers you’ll find – high-range detail tends to get clipped more than we’d like – but the 510 still produces a cracking surround sound experience for its price point. The included subwoofer is also pleasingly deep, though its resonant rumbles may make your neighbours hate you (more). Nevertheless, if you’re short on space but want to make your games come alive with 5.1 sound, the 510 is well worth considering.
Best for… Gamers looking for affordable surround sound who don’t have much space
5. Philips CSS5530B Zenit Cinema Speakers
Great sound with no wires
Number of channels: 5.1 | Included subwoofer: Yes | Requires separate amp: No | HDMI input: 1 | Frequency: : 120Hz-18kHz | Wattage: 420W | Dimensions: 265 x 228 x 406mm
Wires are the worst. They always get tangled. They make your floor look cluttered. And you just know, sooner or later, you’re tripping head-first over the dreaded things when you stagger home for some drunken gaming on a Friday night. Good news! This compact Philips setup boasts a pair of wireless rear speakers, and a decently powered wireless subwoofer. Screw you, wires. The CSS5530B/37 earns further brownie points for being idiot-proof to install, while its Bluetooth adapter lets you tweak your sound through Philips’ app on your smartphone or tablet.
Unlike a few other surround sound systems on this list, you won’t have to buy a separate amp to enjoy the CSS5530B/37, while its 4K passthrough is good news for PS4 Pro owners/prospective Scorpio buyers. The central sound bar packs in both an HDMI in and out ports, meaning it’s easy to hook up a console in hassle-free fashion – though admittedly, a second HDMI in socket would have been nice. Without the need for an amp, this package’s already reasonable price tag is even more appealing, even if it can’t deliver quite as deep or as crisp sounds as other systems in this guide.
Best for... Gamers who don't want to trip over but still want brilliant sound
6. Sony BDV-N5200W 5.1 Home Cinema System
An expertly crafted mid-range system that boasts beautifully clear audio
Number of speakers: 5.1 | Included subwoofer: Yes | Requires separate amp: No | HDMI input: 2 | Frequency: : 80Hz-192kHz | Wattage: 1000W | Dimensions: 480 x 210 x 780 mm
Unlike every other system here, Sony’s BDV-N5200W comes with a 3D Blu-ray player. Now, you’re probably thinking ‘wait, my PS4/Xbox One already has one of those built-in’. Indeed they do, and good ones at that. Still, think about all those times you can’t quite be bothered taking your favourite game out of your console to pop in a Blu-ray disc. Wouldn’t it be lovely if you had a second player to eliminate this disgustingly First World problem? Of course, the fact the BDV-N5200W just so happens to be a terrific surround sound system in its own right should probably sway you more than its ability to play HD movies.
If there’s one thing Sony audio systems excel at, it’s delivering highly accurate sound, and the BDV-N5200W is no exception. Each channel in this 5.1 setup is immediately easy to pick out, and the sense of truly enveloping sound takes cinematic games like Uncharted 4 or Quantum Break to another level. The only slight downsides? The wireless subwoofer could serve up punchier bass. Oh, and Blu-ray player’s menus are a pain to navigate – they basically copy PS3’s laggy XMB *shudder*. Sound-wise, though, the BDV-N5200W rocks.
Best for... Gamers who want quality surround sound… and an extra Blu-ray player for good measure.
7. Logitech Z906 5.1 Surround Sound Speakers
A winning PC surround sound setup that also works wonders in the living room
Number of speakers: 5.1 | Included subwoofer: Yes | Requires separate amp: No | Frequency: : 35Hz–20kHz | Wattage: 500W | Dimensions: 450 x 410 x 460mm
Though it’s been primarily designed for use with a PC, Logitech’s Z906 actually makes for a great little surround sound system for the living room. It’s space-saving speakers output audio at both 20kHz and 35Hz, while its compact subwoofer belies its small stature by delivering superb, bone-rumbling bass response. The lack of HDMI inputs is a bummer, but the bundled central console at least lets you switch between audio modes from afar with the unit’s remote. Said modes include a pretty convincing 3D sound effect, further bolstering the Z906’s already room-filling audio.
The lack of support for formats like Dolby True HD stings a smidge, but the Z906 partially makes up for this omission with its THX 5.1 certification. George Lucas’ billionaire ears know good surround sound. Considering the budget price of the system, Logitech really has done quite the job with the unit’s build quality. The satellite speakers are particularly sturdy, in spite of their size. If you’re strapped for cash the Z906 delivers plenty of powerful audio bang for your buck – and if you’re on a super tight budget, the insanely cheap Z506 is worth considering, too.
Best For… Gamers looking to save money and space yet still want powerful surround sound.