The best wireless surround-sound systems allow you to enjoy the full home-theater experience without having to string speaker wire around your room. Instead, each speaker connects to a central hub — sometimes this is a soundbar — which is plugged into your TV. Wireless surround-sound systems are a good fit if you want a clutter-free home theater.
Each speaker in a wireless surround-sound system is independently powered, which means it must be plugged into an outlet at all times. The distance between your speakers doesn't matter very much, so wireless surround-sound systems can accommodate rooms of any size. One big upside to wireless surround-sound systems is that you won't need to get an AV receiver to power your speakers. If you're short on space, that can make a big difference.
If cable management and space have been the main constraints holding you back from getting a surround-sound system, you're lucky. The best wireless surround-sound systems address and solve both of those issues.
How We Picked the Best Wireless Surround-Sound Systems
Our best wireless surround-sound system recommendations are based on a mix of research and hands-on testing. Below are the main factors we considered when deciding which turntables to include in this buyer's guide.
Number of Speakers: Wireless surround-sound systems are available in many configurations, but the level of immersion you experience is typically in preparation with how many speakers are in your system. A multi-speaker wireless surround-sound system will *literally* surround you with sound, because speakers are placed in front of you and behind you.
A single-speaker wireless surround-sound system needs to rely on multiple drivers (the part of a speaker that produces sound) that are pointed toward you and upward. Speakers with this type of driver array allows sound to hit you from two different directions (in front and above) simultaneously. This guide contains wireless surround-sound systems that contain up to six speakers.
Speaker Size: Speakers come in two basic styles: bookshelf and floor-standing. Bookshelf speakers are relatively short (about a foot-and-a-half tall at most) and need to be placed on stands or a bookshelf to sit at the optimal height for music listening, movie watching, and gaming. Floor-standing speakers are tall enough (roughly four to five feet) to be placed directly on the ground.
Wireless surround-sound systems consist of bookshelf speakers that are typically shorter than average. The bookshelf speakers in a wireless surround-sound system are usually complemented by a horizontal center-channel speaker and a subwoofer. You give up some customizability when opting for a wireless surround-sound system over a traditional one, but the tradeoff is worth it when you consider the convenience of it.
Ports: Typically, the hub on a wireless surround-sound system will need to be connected to your TV using an HDMI cable. In most cases, you will be able to connect the system to your TV using an optical audio cable.
Upgradability: Most wireless surround-sound systems include all of the components you need in a single box, but that's not always the case. If space and cost are big concerns of yours, you may want to get a wireless surround-sound system you can build piece by piece. We've made sure to provide wireless surround-sound system recommendations that work well on their own, but can be enhanced later on with additional speakers. Find out more about how we test audio gear.
Best Overall: Enclave Audio CineHome II
Why It Made The Cut: Enclave Audio’s CineHome II sounds great, looks nice, and provides rock-solid performance after months of daily testing.
— Number of Speakers: Six
— Ports: HDMI, Optical
— Upgradable: Yes
— Top-tier audio quality
— Continuous connectivity
— No support for Dolby Atmos
Enclave Audio's CineHome II was the best wireless pick in our general guide to surround-sound systems, and it took the top slot here. It achieved this distinction by continually delivering excellent sounding audio without ever losing a connection or getting bogged down with lag.
The CineHome II consists of a pair of compact rear speakers, two slim bookshelf speakers, a short center-channel speaker, a subwoofer, and a wireless hub. Setting this system up using Enclave Audio's "EnclaveRemote" app — available for iOS and Android — took about 10 minutes, part of which was spent familiarizing ourselves with the app.
Enclave Audio's app expedites the setup process by "finding" each speaker in the CineHome II system automatically. There's no complicated pairing process, just push a button on the back of each speaker, and the CineHome II's wireless hub will take care of the rest. We connected this wireless surround-sound system to our TV using an HDMI cable, but you have the option to use an optical audio cable if you'd like.
The CineHome II was the first wireless surround-sound system we tested, and it set our expectations for this entire category for a couple of reasons.
First, the speakers actually remained connected to their hub, even after several days of inactivity. If we unplugged a speaker, it'd re-pair itself automatically within a minute or two of being connected to an outlet. We played games, watched movies, streamed TV shows, and listened to music during our tests, and the CineHome II never skipped a beat. Our audio and video stayed in sync, regardless of what we were playing or watching.
The CineHome II's overall audio quality was also impressive, pumping out well-balanced sound at every volume level. We noticed that this surround-sound system's center channel was powerful enough that we could clearly hear dialogue in movies and video games without enabling a special "voice boost" mode. The only audio technology the CineHome II doesn't support is Dolby Atmos, which is a shame. This all-new audio technology is way more immersive than traditional 5.1 surround sound, and is becoming more widely adopted by audio engineers in the film industry. That said, the 5.1 mixes of music, movies, and games that we heard sounded phenomenal.
If you have six spare outlets in your home theater area, the Enclave Audio CineHome II is the right wireless surround-system for you.
Best Budget: Roku Streambar Surround-Sound Set
Why It Made The Cut: Roku's Streambar bundle is a cost-effective way to get into wireless surround-sound audio and media streaming.
— Number of Speakers: Four
— Ports: HDMI, Optical
— Upgradable: Yes
— Built-in media streamer
— Relatively compact
— No Dolby Atmos Support
Roku's wireless surround-sound system is unique because it also functions as a 4K video streaming solution. This system consists of Roku's StreamBar — a soundbar with a 4K media streamer built into it — two bookshelf speakers, and a subwoofer.
The StreamBar alone is worth the price of admission because it's one of the few two-in-one tech devices that has no compromises. On its own, the StreamBar allows you to watch videos and listen to music from any major streaming service while also replacing the sub-par speaker system built into your TV. We've tested the StreamBar, and found it to be good at both of its main functions.
This wireless surround-sound system uses the StreamBar as the front left, front right, and center channel speakers, with the other three speakers filling the roles of rear speakers and subwoofer. Roku offers an additional bundle with two more speakers, in which case the StreamBar would only act as the center-channel speaker.
We like that Roku's surround-sound system offers so many paths of upgradability. You can start with just a StreamBar, which will be an improvement over your TV's speakers and allows you to stream media without a dedicated streaming device. If you want better audio, you can get two additional Roku speakers for an entry-level 5.0 wireless surround-sound system. If you want more bass, get a Roku subwoofer to create a 5.1 wireless surround-sound system. Finally, add two more Roku speakers for a true 5.1 wireless surround-sound system.
The modularity of this system makes it a great option for anyone who wants to slowly build a system over time, though we specifically recommend this bundle if you already know you want surround sound.
Best Compact: JBL Bar 5.1
Why It Made The Cut: JBl's Bar 5.1 is the only wireless surround-sound system that doesn't require you to plug each speaker into an outlet to work.
— Number of Speakers: Four
— Ports: HDMI, Optical
— Upgradable: No
— Rechargeable rear speakers
— Ultra-slim design
— Multiple inputs
— No Dolby Atmos support
The JBL Bar 5.1 is arguably the truest wireless surround-sound sound system available because some of its speakers don't require their own power source.
This system includes a soundbar, subwoofer, and two battery-powered rear speakers that dock onto either side of the soundbar to charge up. This setup is perfect if you're short on space, and only want to set up your wireless surround-sound system when necessarily. It's worth noting that the detachable speakers will work when they're connected to the soundbar. In that configuration, you'll have a stereo audio system, not a 5.1 system. JBL says the rechargeable speakers in this wireless surround-sound set can last up to 10 hours per charge.
Another unique characteristic of the JBL Bar 5.1 is its wide assortment of ports. It has three HDMI inputs, which means you can connect your source components (a game console, Blu-ray player, computer, etc.) to the soundbar. The benefit to this is that you only have one HDMI port going up to your TV instead of three or four, which will make your setup look a lot cleaner. The JBL Bar 5.1 has an HDMI and optical audio output, so you have your pick when it comes to connecting this wireless surround-sound system to your TV.
If the thought wireless surround-sound system that only requires two outlets appeals to you, JBL's Bar 5.1 is the one to get.
Best Dolby Atmos: Nakamichi Shockwafe
Why It Made The Cut: Nakamichi's ShockWafe Ultra is a cutting-edge wireless surround-sound system designed for true audiophiles.
— Number of Speakers: Seven
— Ports: HDMI, Optical
— Upgradable: No
— Dolby Atmos support
— Two subwoofers
— Long center-channel speaker
Nakamichi’s Shockwafe Ultra is the most technically advanced wireless surround-sound system we're recommending, which makes it worth the steep price.
This system comes with seven speakers, which includes two wireless subwoofers for extra bass. Nakamichi calls this a 9.2.4 surround-sound system because two of its bookshelf speakers have upward-firing drivers built into them. This enables the Shockwave Ultra to play back music and videos that have a Dolby Atmos mix.
Dolby Atmos is the next generation of surround-sound audio in which audio comes at you from in front of you and above you, so objects (think a helicopter in an action movie) sound like they’re moving all around you. Dolby Atmos is in its infancy, but the technology is very impressive when it works.
The Nakamichi ShockWafe Ultra has three HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, and an optical audio output, which is the same array of ports as JBL’s Bar 5.1. If you have a lot of components in your home theater setup, the ports on the ShockWafe Ultra’s long center-channel speaker will be welcome.
Setting up this wireless surround-sound system is a little different than the other ones we’re recommending. Both of the system’s subwoofers are completely wireless, but the front and back speakers must be connected to the subwoofer with RCA (red and white) cables. This means the system is slightly less wireless than our other recommendations, but the system requires fewer outlets to work.
If you like the most cutting-edge technology, and want a wireless surround-sound system that can keep up with your 8K TV or laser projector, Nakamichi’s ShockWafe Ultra deserves your attention.
Best Soundbar: Sonos Arc
Why It Made The Cut: Sonos’ Arc is the only single-piece wireless surround-sound system worth recommending, and you can improve your listening experience by adding even more speakers.
— Number of Speakers: One
— Speaker Type: Active
— Upgradable: Yes
— Excellent audio quality
— Dolby Atmos support
— Can't quite match the performance of a multi-speaker system on its own
It might seem strange to see a soundbar in a guide to the best wireless surround-sound systems, but Sonos has achieved something truly special with the Arc.
The company designed its soundbar with enough forward-facing drivers to replace the left, right, and center channels of a traditional surround-sound system, plus upward-firing drivers that allow the Arc to play Dolby Atmos audio. Under the right circumstances, the Arc's surround-sound capabilities are very impressive, but its overall performance blew us away.
Sonos designed the Arc from the ground up using custom-designed components rather than off-the-shelf parts. The result is a soundbar that sounds perfectly balanced, which means that sounds in the bass, midrange, and treble frequencies sound clear, and never get it one another's way. If you're listening to an intense scene in an action movie that has dialogue, you'll be able to hear what the characters are saying without them being drowned out by the sounds of vehicles, weapons, or other loud noises. If you generally need a little extra help hearing people speaking, Sonos designed a mode that boosts the sound of dialogue without sounding artificial.
One technical problem soundbars typically have is a distinct lack of stereo separation, which means your ears perceive sound coming from a single direction rather than the right and left. The Sonos Arc is long enough that there's plenty of distance between the drivers on the right, left, and in the center, so the stereo image is actually quite good. The addition of upward-firing drivers is also a good touch, but the Arc's surround-sound performance will depend heavily on the room you're in.
For the best experience, your room's ceiling will need to be tall enough for the sound to hit it at the correct angle, so it hits you directly from above. If the ceiling is too short, you probably won't be sitting in the sweet spot, so the effect won't sound as good. Conversely, if your room is too small, there's a chance sound from the upward-firing drivers will hit the back wall and bounce towards your ears instead of hitting them from above.
These technical details are important to note because this guide is about the best surround-sound systems, and you should know the Arc's limitations. That said, you can mitigate these issues significantly by setting up an audio system consisting of the Sonos Arc and two additional Sonos speakers. If you set up a pair of the company's One speakers, they can become the rear channels of your surround sound system. If you add a Sonos Sub to the mix, you'll end up with a full, Dolby Atmos-compatible wireless surround- sound system. The nice thing about this scenario is that you're able to build the setup over time.
The Sonos Arc is so good, both as a soundbar and single-piece surround-sound system, that you probably won't even think about augmenting it with additional speakers. If you want the benefits of a surround-sound system, but want a clean setup that's as wire-free as possible, this is the one to get.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Wireless Surround-Sound system
You Home WiFi Setup: One factor to consider when setting up a wireless surround-sound system is that each speaker needs to receive a strong WiFi signal to maintain a solid connection to the other components in the system. If the WiFi signal in your home theater room is weak, consider getting a WiFi range extender, or upgrading to a mesh WiFi system.
Q: How long will a wireless surround-sound system last?
For the average person, substantial changes in the world of audio are few and far between. Speaker designs are always improving, and wireless surround-sound systems will gain fun bells and whistles like support for new WiFi standards, but the annual improvements won't be significant enough to warrant regular upgrades.
Q: How do I responsibly dispose of my old wireless surround-sound system?
If you're replacing an old wireless surround-sound system, we recommend reading our guide on how to responsibly dispose of e-waste.
Q: Are wireless surround-sound systems reliable?
Yes. We were initially skeptical about this technology, because even a second of lag time can make movies and TV shows unwatchable, but we've been pleasantly surprised. We haven't been able to detect any latency (lag) when watching high-resolution videos, and each speaker in the systems we've tested have stayed in sync. Again, be mindful of the fact that this type of surround-sound system requires an active WiFi connection to work.
Final Thoughts on Wireless Surround-Sound Systems
The world of audio has been notoriously resistant to moving from wired to wireless hardware, but the industry has started making real strides in that direction lately. There are plenty of benefits to using wired audio gear — there's no compression when listening to music, cables are required when listening to vinyl — but the convenience of listening to audio wirelessly is really compelling.
Wireless surround-sound systems weren't available until relatively recently, and the first-generation systems were extremely expensive while being relatively barebones. The wireless surround-sound systems available today benefit from the rapid adoption of wireless audio hardware, especially Bluetooth speakers and headphones, which incentivized companies to take this market more seriously. The benefit for you is that there are more choices than ever, and most of them are pretty good. Instead of searching for a single best wireless surround-sound system, you can easily find one that suits your particular needs rather than settling.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.