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The best gaming sound systems 2021: get a surround sound upgrade

The best gaming sound systems 2021: get a surround sound upgrade
(Image credit: Q Acoustic)

While the market for headsets is exceptionally saturated and busy, and although it's cheaper to pick up an audio hit from that area, one of the best gaming sound systems is going to be a seriously exciting way to take your audio to an all-time high for gaming, movies, and more. 

A good 5.1 setup will transform your gaming experience. The sound design in today’s triple-A games has never been so impeccably crafted – just look and listen to the likes of Control and the Resident Evil remakes. To fully take your audio experience to the next level, and immerse yourself in all those headshots, explosions, and cowardly yelps, you need one of the best gaming sound systems you can get right now.

We know some players will always play it safe and go with one of the best PS4 headsets or best Xbox One headsets, but a good surround sound system has the capacity to take your living room and transform it into an audio-visual playground of virtual delights. Below, you’ll find a great range of 5.1 setups/soundbar hybrids to cater to a variety of budgets. It will be a heavy investment but one that will take your audio experience to room-shaking new levels.

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.

(Image credit: Q Acoustic)

1. Q Acoustics 3010i 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

Exciting, beautifully accurate surround sound
Audio is so rich it’s easy to pick out enemy players in shooters
The subwoofer can sound a little on the weedy side
The speakers are seriously thick. Best make sure they don’t block your TV

Your delicate little ears deserve the best. If you want to serve them up a sensory experience they’ll never forget, the Q Acoustics 3050i 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 3010i is capable of mustering is nothing less than 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 3010i’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 have1naughty 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

Offers fleshed out surround sound at a reasonable price
Yamaha Active Servo’s tech delivers rich, satisfying bass response
Not exactly a looker
The need for an external amp jacks up the price somewhat

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. AVerMedia Sonicblast Gaming Soundbar GS333

Big, bold and bluetooth enabled without trailing wires

Number of channels: 2.1 | Included subwoofer: Yes | Requires separate amp: No | HDMI input: None | Frequency: : 100-20,000Hz | Dimensions: 777 x 150 x 120mm

Great price
Adds an incredible extra layer of sound without multiple speakers
Has an oddly loud lowest setting
You'll need to remember input colours

Best known for gaming capture cards, AVerMedia isn't your first thought when it comes to a sound system but its GS333 is a pleasant surprise for those not wishing to break the bank yet still get serious sound for their buck. It's not going to win any style awards for its black bar but this definitely isn't an unattractive addition to the front of your TV set up and what it lacks in style, it more than makes up for in booming sound. With a specific gaming setting for extra clarity for explosions, footsteps and weaponry, the layered sound on offer here is impressive. 

The included remote lets you flip through the various outputs easily but the only downside is that you'll have to remember the colour that matches up to your particular output of choice. You'll want yellow for optical out while bluetooth and other ports rely on different choices. The Soundblast also makes an ideal and exceptionally loud Bluetooth speaker so it's a brilliant multitasker too. The only major complaint we have with it is the fact that the minimum volume is still rather loud so if you're still trying for detailed sound after people have gone to bed, you'll have to switch back to the TV speakers. Loud is clearly the only way AVerMedia expected you to have it. 

Best for… Great sound on a budget without wires trailing everywhere 

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

Its size makes it ideal for bedroom setups
Considering the teeny form factor, the subwoofer delivers deep bass
Spring-clip speaker ports make hooking up wires a little fiddly
Not great at reproducing high frequency sounds

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. 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

Useful, space-saving design is well suited for bedroom use
THX certificate ensures believable surround sound
Doesn’t support True Dolby HD
Lack of HDMI slots feels short-sighted

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.

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