Since time immemorial, humans have always found solace in music. Although music preferences may differ from person to person, it’s no denying that music is an integral part of our lives. And with technology taking over our lives, a good music system at home is something that every Indian household craves!
Thanks to the technological advancements of the past few years, we now have a host of different options available (such as home theaters, soundbars, and even Bluetooth speakers.) Not only do we get to choose from a wide range of brands, but the purposes and specifications of each also differ.
With an increase in the disposable income of the country, music systems have now become as basic as smartphones. Audiophiles swear by Sony’s sound, then there are JBL and Bose fanatics, and of course, boAt (the Indian startup) is literally making the world take notice. Meaning that there’s an overload of options, but how do you know which one is the best for your needs?
Well, that’s where we step in! We had tested over 22 music systems designed for home before we finalized our list. It took a lot of teamwork and more than three weeks to complete the testing process. We have considered several factors that are essential to look for in a music system, i.e., channels, audio quality, quality of subwoofers, connectivity options, etc. (Learn more in the buying guide).
To help you get the best-in-class system, shall we begin?
- Best Music Systems for Home in India (2021)
- 1. Best Overall: Sony HT-S20R
- 2. Best Runner Up: Philips SPA8000B/94
- 3. Best from Infinity: Infinity Hardrock 410
- 4. Best with Inbuilt FM Radio: F&D F3800X
- 5. Best Sound Quality: Sony SA-D40
- 6. Best Quality Build: Panasonic SC-HT40GW-K
- 7. Best Under Budget: Philips Audio SPA8140B/94
- 8. Best for Cinematic Experience: boAt Aavante Bar 1250
- 9. Cheapest Option: Zebronics BT4440RUCF
- Best Music System Brands in India
- Music Systems Buying Guide
- How Does a Home Music System Work?
- Types of Speakers
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Music Systems for Home in India (2021)
Before we begin: We wanted to clarify that the below-listed music systems are ranked and reviewed solely based on their performances and extensive sound tests by audiophiles in the Indian Science team. We are not associated with any brand, or whatsoever! We’ve analyzed a lot of options from different price ranges, taken special care to ensure they fit into all kinds of modern home theatre setups, and then given them a place on our list.
Enough, now, let’s just begin with the list!
1. Best Overall: Sony HT-S20R
Sony’s range of audio devices have been making waves in the market for quite some time now. The brand has a reputation for making some of the best audiophile-grade audio systems. The Sony HT-S20R lives up to the brand’s reputation and offers a truly immersive music experience to its users.
The Dolby digital soundbar-home theatre system boasts of 5.1 channel configuration for surround sound. You get a 3 channel soundbar, 2 wired rear speakers, and a subwoofer. The power output of the device can go up to 400 W which is the best in class. The system is loud enough for large halls.
Sony HT-S20R can reproduce crystal clear sound. You can hear all the minor details present in the music that you listen to from this device. The bass and treble levels are well balanced.
The device has a superb build quality. Sony products are known to have a simple and elegant design, and this one is no exception. The device would look great if you keep it in your TV cabinet or mount it on a wall.
For connectivity, you get everything you might need. The audio system performs the best with Optical and HDMI ARC connection, but that does not mean that you can not use Aux, USB, or Bluetooth to connect it to your TV/PC/Smartphone.
You can get this product for under 15,000 INR, which should ideally be the budget for a good mid-range audio system. If you listen to music or watch movies a lot, make absolutely no compromises with the sound quality. Go with the Sony HT-S20R soundbar-home theatre system.
- 5.1 channel surround sound
- Crystal clear sound
- Superb build and design
- Various connectivity options
- Slightly expensive
2. Best Runner Up: Philips SPA8000B/94
If you enjoy music systems with heavy bass, then we are sure you will love the Philips SPA8000B/94. Let’s take a closer look at the product.
The system comes with a 5.1 channel setup that includes 5 satellite speakers with 3-inch drivers, each rated 15 W, and a subwoofer with an 8-inch driver rated 45 W. The total RMS power output of the audio system comes out to be 120 W.
The device specialises in reproducing bass-rich sounds. The beats seem real thanks to the very powerful subwoofer. Having said that, we don’t mean that bass is the only strength of the device. It performs fairly well in the high-frequency zone as well.
We are not a big fan of the shiny plastic front that this product features. Even though the build quality of the device is pretty good, the glossy front gives it a slightly cheap look. The red LED display makes the home theatre look like a thing from the past.
In addition to Aux, Bluetooth, and USB, you get an SD card reader as a connectivity option. HDMI ARC and Optical input are not provided.
If you plan to buy a home theatre for your TV that has good bass levels, then this could be a good choice. However, you need to set it up properly to use its 5.1 channel functionality. At around 8,500 INR, this is a product worth checking out.
- 5.1 channel surround sound
- Bass levels are amazing
- Decent loudness
- Good build quality
- Glossy front looks a bit cheap
- No HDMI ARC, Optical connectivity
3. Best from Infinity: Infinity Hardrock 410
Harman manufactures some of the finest audio devices for consumers. The Infinity Hardrock 410 is a 4.1 channel home theatre system that comes from a very reputed brand and has some interesting features.
The device comes with 4 satellite speakers and a subwoofer. The immersive feel you get with 5.1 channel devices can be experienced on this 4.1 channel system too. It’s an absolute joy to listen to those ‘90s songs on this home theatre system. The bass levels are good, and the vocals feel very natural.
The device has three separate equaliser settings for music, movie, and games. Infinity has done a good job designing the product too. The subwoofer, in particular, is special. It has a complete wooden enclosure that makes the low-frequency audio sound amazing. It also has an LED indicator.
Basic connectivity options like Bluetooth, Aux, and USB are present on this device. HDMI ARC and Optical port are missing. The one thing we liked about this system is its eco-mode. The device automatically turns off if it is not used for a long time.
All in all, the Infinity Hardrock 410 is a value for money 4.1 channel home theatre system. You can make this device your own for a bit more than 8,000 INR. It is perfect for setting up in medium-sized rooms.
- Good bass levels
- Wooden enclosure for subwoofer
- Loud and clear audio
- No HDMI ARC and Optical port
4. Best with Inbuilt FM Radio: F&D F3800X
If you want a 5.1 channel speaker system on a budget, we might have the perfect pick for you. The F&D F3800X sells for under 6,000 INR and comes with most features found on premium home theatre systems.
Though the power output of the device is limited to 80 W RMS, the loudness is enough to let you enjoy movies and music in a medium-sized room. Even at high volumes, the noise levels are very limited.
We are very impressed with the overall sound profile of this device. The device doesn’t excel in any particular characteristic but balances everything well.
On the front side of the system, you get a multicolour LED light and a status indicator display. The home theatre system has a unique look.
Bluetooth, SD card reader, USB port, and Aux port are present on the device to let you connect it to your TV/PC/Smartphone. You can also use the F&D F3800X to listen to FM radio which comes inbuilt in it.
For the price it comes at, there are hardly any better 5.1 channel systems in the market. Purchasing the F&D F3800X would prove to be a good decision, especially if you love listening to FM radio occasionally. But before buying, make sure you check if a service centre is available nearby in case you need to make a warranty claim.
- 5.1 channel surround sound
- Unique design with LED lights
- Balanced overall sound profile
- Inbuilt FM radio
- No wooden cabinet for speakers
5. Best Sound Quality: Sony SA-D40
The next home theatre system on this list comes again from Sony. The device comes with a minimalistic design and offers nothing but clear sound.
The Sony SA-D40 is a 4.1 channel home theatre system that produces an output of 80 W. The device probably has the best sound clarity in the sub 10,000 INR price range.
Not just the clarity, but the instrument separation is good too. Bass and Treble levels are high as well. At medium volume, you can literally feel the thumping effect. Though, loudness could have been a bit higher than it is.
We just cannot end this discussion without mentioning the minimalistic design of this home theatre system. It’s just too good. The control panel is provided on the front and is easily reachable. The material used to build the device is extremely premium.
For wired connectivity, you get a regular Aux port and a USB port. You can connect your pen drives to the USB port. For wireless connectivity, you get Bluetooth 4.0.
The home theatre system comes with a 1-year warranty from Sony. If sound clarity is your priority and you do not wish to compromise on it, get the Sony SA-D40. For less than 8,500 INR, you get a premium product from a premium brand with a premium sound quality.
- Superb clarity and instrument separation
- Minimalistic design
- Premium build quality
- Wonderful after-sales service
- Slightly underpowered
6. Best Quality Build: Panasonic SC-HT40GW-K
If you’re in the market for a surround system, it is highly unlikely that you haven’t heard of Panasonic products. The brand is known to make quality consumer electronic products. But how good are their audio systems? Time to find out.
The most important factor that drives the decision to purchase a new home theatre system is its sound quality, and Panasonic SC-HT40GW-K nails it. The device has a 4.1 channel configuration and offers a loud and clear experience.
The home theatre system has a polished look. The speakers have a curved front that looks fresh. The single black coloured body gives the product a uniform design.
One thing that we would like to point out about these budget 5.1/4.1 channel audio systems is that they don’t come with any true 5.1/4.1 channel inputs. Lack of HDMI ARC and Optical input means that you never get to enjoy the true surround sound experience. Unless you spend a bit more, there’s no way to get these ports. The Panasonic SC-HT40GW-K too comes with basic connectivity options like Aux, USB, and Bluetooth. One thing to notice here is that the loudness feels slightly low when connected via Bluetooth.
To conclude, we can say that the product does pack in a lot of good stuff, but it’s just not enough to make us pay close to 8,000 INR for it. Just like all the other products on this list, this one too comes with a 1-year warranty. Check out all the other options in this price range before going ahead and getting this one.
- Good frequency response over a wide range
- Fresh curved design
- Good after-sales service
- No HDMI ARC/Optical ports
- Volume is slightly low on Bluetooth mode
7. Best Under Budget: Philips Audio SPA8140B/94
The Philips Audio SPA8140B/94, an entry-level home theatre aimed at first-time audio system buyers, is a device that offers surround sound and an immersive music experience in the sub-5000 INR price range. Let’s see how good it actually is.
The power output of the system peaks out at 50 W RMS, which should be sufficient for small-medium sized rooms. The power is just enough for a budget entertainment system. Coming to the audio, the brand name of Phillips is proof enough of its superior quality. The device manages to outperform a lot of other 4.1 channel home theatre systems in a similar price range.
Design is not the best part of the system, though. If you don’t like the orange colour, you’ll find the colour of the device a bit irritating. The material used in making the speaker’s body does feel solid.
As you might expect, the Phillips Audio SPA8140B/94 comes with standard wired and wireless connectivity options like Aux, USB, and Bluetooth.
If you want to own a proper surround sound home theatre system, then this is the best entry-level option to consider. You also get a 1-year warranty with the product, and it is very simple to locate a Phillips service centre nearby. In case if it stops working, you can always get it repaired/replaced easily.
- Affordable pricing
- Surround sound effect
- Sound quality is nice
- Great after-sales service
- Audio power output is a bit low
8. Best for Cinematic Experience: boAt Aavante Bar 1250
Home theatres a great for experiencing surround sound. They offer great sound quality but setting them up is a pain. So, if you are looking for an alternate option that can be set up easily and offer a similar audio quality, then you should be looking at soundbars.
The boAt Aavante Bar 1250 is an 80 W soundbar with a 2.1 channel configuration. There is just the main soundbar unit and a subwoofer to install. We must say that it sounds wonderful. The device is rich in bass and is also fairly loud. It comes with BoAt signature sound for a cinematic experience.
Both the design and build quality of BoAt Aavante Bar look polished and subtle. The device looks very attractive and will definitely go well with your interior.
You can connect the soundbar to your TV/PC/Smartphone via the Aux port or Bluetooth. It comes with the latest Bluetooth 5.0 for a lag-free experience. There’s also a USB port where you can plug in a pen drive and listen to the songs stored on it.
In the price range of 5,000 INR to 6,000 INR, this is probably the best soundbar you can get online. Get it for its awe-inspiring sound quality and attractive look.
- BoAt signature sound for a cinematic experience
- Rich in bass and fairly loud
- Easy to set up
- Surround sound effect doesn’t feel as real as it does on 5.1 channel home theatre systems
9. Cheapest Option: Zebronics BT4440RUCF
Here is the most affordable and value for money home theatre system on this list. It’s the Zebronics BT4440RUCF. The 4.1 channel system is popular on Amazon, with almost 9,500 ratings at the time of writing this article.
The overall sound quality of the device is decent but still not comparable to the premium home theatre systems. Don’t expect it to offer a very immersive experience. You can use it in small-medium sized rooms to enjoy casual music or for watching movies. The device seems more suitable for a PC/Smartphone instead of a TV.
Zebronics BT4440RUCF might be low on price but certainly isn’t low on features. It has all the most commonly used connectivity features like Bluetooth, Aux port, USB port, SD card reader, and even FM radio. Of course, you don’t get HDMI ARC and Optical port, but it isn’t fair to expect to have them at this price.
The design of the multimedia speakers appears a bit weird for a while until you get used to it. The red accents seem unnecessary. It comes with an LED that can light up when in use. We don’t have any particular on the design of the product. The build quality is average; it could have been better.
No doubt, there have been some compromises in terms of the quality of the product to keep its prices under 2,800 INR. But for this price, certainly, you won’t find a better value for money home theatre system.
- Affordable pricing
- FM radio support
- Surround sound experience on a budget
- Popular on Amazon
- Average performance
Best Music System Brands in India
Achieving a name in the industry with tough competition is not as easy as it sounds. A brand has to make an excellent product that a customer needs, make sure that the product matches the potential customers’ requirements, and provide excellent support if something wrong happens.
For instance, you bought a new music system, and it stopped working, what would you do? If it is from a known brand, you can visit the nearest customer support and get it solved, but what if it was from an unknown brand? That’s why buying a branded product is our recommendation, no matter what product you buy and the premium value you pay for it!
Usually, new products don’t stop working, but what if your old music system stops working? Buying a new one could cost you money, but getting it repaired could cost much less. If the product is from a reputed brand, you can walk into any of their service centers and get the product repaired. That’s the reason why buying a music system from a known brand is a must!
Based in Framingham, Bose has been a market leader in the world of audio equipment since its establishment 55 years ago. Bose has its manufacturing units spread across the United States, China, Mexico, and Malaysia. Here, each product goes through a series of quality tests, and only the best make their way to retail stores and eCommerce warehouses.
The firm has a state-of-the-art R&D facility and has the highest number of patents filed in the genre of audio systems. Bose has a market reputation for being protective of its brand and its trademarks. Thus, if you plan to bring home the latest audio technologies, Bose is something you can consider.
With its headquarters in Tokyo, Sony Corporation is a multinational corporation that manufactures a diverse range of consumer products. It is among the largest music entertainment business in the world.
Founded in 1929, the company has been one of the fastest to keep up with the technological advancement of the changing times. That has enabled them to deliver industry-best audio systems to homes throughout generations.
With its products available on multiple budgets, Sony has ensured that a good audio system does not remain the exclusive privilege of the rich.
Owned by a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics, JBL is an American company that exclusively produces audio equipment. It has two independent divisions, and JBL Consumer is responsible for manufacturing its home music systems.
The marketing and distribution network of JBL is the best in the industry, which is one reason why one can find JBL home systems in any part of the world today.
JBL’s R&D team is very active. JBL was a pioneer in the development of the THX loudspeaker standard. As a result, competitors find it very difficult to come up with products that are at par with the high benchmarks set by the firm.
Koninklijke Philips NV is a Dutch multinational company with its headquarters in Amsterdam and goes by the common name of Philips. The Consumer Health and Well-being division of the company brings out its range of home audio products.
The range of home audio systems includes Hi-Fi, Boombox, docking station, radio, and alarm clock. The music system for your home may be any of these or a combination of them.
With its offices in more than 100 companies, Philips has online shopping portals delivering its products across the globe. It is their vast network that has ensured that music reaches your ears through their industry-best audio systems irrespective of where you reside.
Founded in 2016, Boat is an Indian company that has established its position in a market of multinational giants. What sets Boat apart from the rest is the fact that their products are not just durable but they are also extremely fashionable.
Having a home audio system by Boat in your living room will amp up the style quotient of your home. The in-house design team (based in Mumbai) handles the R&D and product design. The manufacturing plant for the audio systems is in China. The boAt has established itself as a market leader in the world of mid-range home audio systems.
Established in 1993, Fenda Audio was one of the pioneer home audio manufacturing brands. The core idea of the firm was to bring advanced audio acoustics to the reach of the common man. F&D has succeeded in achieving that for more than two decades now.
With a distribution network of 10 direct branch locations and more than 1000 dealers across the country, F&D has successfully reached every nook and corner of the country. Today, F&D has a strong device presence across all Indian states.
The great customer reviews for its range of home music systems are a testimony to the fact that the core values of customer satisfaction implemented by the firm have stood tall to the test of time.
Music Systems Buying Guide
The demand for high-quality home music systems has risen in India as customers have become more aware of newer technologies. Whether you are watching TV, playing games on your projector, or listening to music from your laptop or computer, it is essential to own a good set of speakers.
Who does not want to shake a leg to the thumping music of Kajra Re (or Ek Do Teen if you are old-fashioned?)
Home music systems (also variously called multimedia speakers or home theatres) are available with a wide array of features. Most of these are quite technical, and the salesperson is not any more knowledgeable about this topic than a layman.
Therefore if you are looking for a fabulous home music system, then you have to understand what it is and how it works to make an informed choice. Only then can you relax back on your sofa and let the lovely sound wash all over you.
How Does a Home Music System Work?
The speaker system is a device that converts an electrical signal to sound waves. The system is made of several speakers that work together to reproduce the soundtrack from a movie or plays music. Speakers come in assorted shapes and sizes and have different functions.
Most speakers are made of a thin sheet of stiff paper known as the diaphragm. The usual shape is circular though oval speakers are not entirely unknown.
This diaphragm is vibrated many times every second to reproduce sound. The oscillation happens with the help of a coil. The coil consists of thousands of turns of copper wire which turns into an electromagnet when electrical current passes through it.
The coil is placed next to a permanent magnet. As you know from school physics – unlike poles attract and like poles repel. The electrical impulse passing through the coil moves it closer to or away from the permanent magnet.
Since the diaphragm is attached to the coil, it too moves back and forth. This causes the vibration of air and produces sound.
The vibration of the speaker happens many hundreds or even thousands of times every second. The lower the vibration, the deeper the sound, and the higher the vibration, the greater the pitch.
The human voice is between 900 and 3000 vibrations (known as Hertz or Hz) per second. If your voice is recorded and played back over a speaker, the speaker’s diaphragm will vibrate precisely at the same frequency of your voice box.
The frequency of a bass drum is about 90 Hz, and that of a violin to about 8 kHz (or 8,000 Hz).
Why is this understanding essential? We shall describe in the following section.
Types of Speakers
Music or sound is not one frequency alone. There are multiple sound waves combined that produce any sound – from the sputtering of your neighbor’s scooter to the melody of raga Ahir Bhairav playing back early morning on the radio.
All speakers cannot reproduce all frequencies. This is because different sound waves require a different size and stiffness of the diaphragm. Also, the larger the diaphragm, the larger will be the rest of the speaker.
There are mostly three types of speakers that are part of home music systems.
A woofer is a speaker that produces a very low-frequency sound between 20-500 Hz. In a typical music system, it is not less than 6 inches wide and can be up to 9 or 12 inches. The size is a significant factor in creating a low frequency: the larger, the better in the case of woofers.
A woofer capable of producing intense sound is known as a subwoofer. Home music systems rarely have woofers (to reduce costs) on all channels but restrict themselves to one subwoofer.
It is a simplified arrangement but usually works quite well. Drumbeats are a typical example of the sound produced by woofers.
A typical mid-range speaker is between 3 inches and 5 inches in size. They could be smaller, of course, but that will not be adequate. The mid-range delivers sound between 500-4,000 Hz range or middle range.
It includes most of the sound spectrum from the human voice to the sitar, piano, and guitar. A good mid-range is essential for a fabulous music system.
These are small speakers, often only an inch or less across. They are responsible for reproducing all sound frequencies above 4,000 Hz. Most modern tweeters do not use paper diaphragm but one made from polyester or silk.
Many tweeters are dome tweeters meaning they send out the sound in all directions.
4. Form Factor
2.0 systems: 2.0 systems have a left and right channel speaker. It is a traditional stereo configuration. Stereo means that sound is reproduced in the same location where it was recorded. Mono or one channel sound is not recorded except by news channels.
It is most noticeable in movies but also, to no small extent, found in music. If someone to the left of the screen speaks, the voice should come from the left (and from the right, as the case may be.) If someone in the center of the frame speaks, then the sound would be equally reproduced by both the left and right speakers, making it appear as if it is coming from the center of the room.
This gives a sense of animation when you watch a movie. If a car screeches to a halt, then the sound will carry from one speaker to another as the vehicle comes to a standstill. Similarly, if a singer is walking across the stage, the sound localization must shift accordingly and make it appear as life-like as possible.
A 2.0 system will have a woofer, mid-range, and tweeter or a mid-range and a tweeter or merely a mid-range speaker, depending on the price. They can never have only two tweeters or woofers. High-end music systems in India use the 2.0 configuration alone.
2.1 systems: This is the most popular configuration for home music systems. The dot 1 stands for a subwoofer. The two speakers on either side have mid-range and tweeter or simply a mid-range speaker. It would be better to think of it as 2 + 1 instead of 2.1.
The reason for this is because low-frequency sounds like drumbeats are not directional. No matter the position of the subwoofer, the music will be evenly echoed through the room. Therefore, two woofers can be replaced by one subwoofer for the sake of economy, which should ideally be placed at the center. On the other hand, tweeters are highly directional and send out a focused sound beam.
5.1 systems: This is a development of 2.1. There is a subwoofer and a front right and left pair, a rear right and left pair, and a rear center speaker. It gives a powerful 360° sound, also known as surround sound. It is accomplished using multiple channels for sound in place of the traditional left and right channels. This provides depth and adds to the enjoyment of the listener.
Of course, music is not recorded for 5.1 systems, but movie recordings often have a 5.1 configuration. You have to check the front cover of the DVD, which will specify the recording format. Usually, you will see a Dolby or DTS Laboratories logo.
Netflix also provides a 5.1 sound on its premium plans on offer in India.
7.1 systems: This is a development of the 5.1 system. However, it has the addition of another pair of speakers conventionally placed a little ahead of the rear pair but behind the listener. Netflix does not offer 7.1 channels and in-home entertainment, and it is only available on Blu-Ray.
You must note that no matter what the configuration, it is backward compatible with stereo. If you playback an old Hindi movie from the 80s, the 5.1 will only play one left (front and rear) and one right (front and rear) channel.
Sound Bar: Sound Bars have become increasingly popular in the last decade, mostly due to flat-panel televisions. If you do not want to clutter up the front of a sleek-looking TV set with speakers, then you must buy a soundbar. Soundbars start from 5000 rupees and go up to 30,000 INR depending on channels, brand, etc.
A soundbar is a long and flat speaker configuration that can contain between 4 and 10 speakers. They boast of many technical wizardries, and the high-end brands claim that they can give a near-perfect 360° reproduction even though it is located right in front. Of course, how they do that is a matter of trade secret. Not perfect 360° sound is possible from one soundbar, but they are a massive improvement over the TV’s speakers.
In recent years sound bar makers have relented and begun to add satellite speakers to be placed elsewhere in the room. Even if they are without at least a pair of satellites, most models of soundbars have a subwoofer to help with bass reproduction.
5. Powered vs Passive: Which One?
The speaker set requires an electrical signal to work. But how does it get access to the signal? The output of a TV set or a laptop is few milliamps and not enough to drive speakers.
Passive speakers need an external set of amplifiers which placed is between the source (TV or laptop, or mobile phone) and the speaker. It amplifies or increases the strength of the signal. The amplifier is plugged into the mains and draws power from it to run through electronic circuits to generate the amplified signal.
Of course, this arrangement will be more expensive because there is not one but two distinct sets of equipment to be purchased. Most home music systems resort to powered speakers. They have an amplifier inside the subwoofer unit. That, of course, means that the subwoofer has to be connected to the electrical mains. This is relatively inexpensive.
Which is better? A discrete amplifier is by far better. But most discrete amplifiers are also enormously expensive. Though purists may scoff at a powered speaker system, it makes the most sense to buy one if you lack space or resources.
There is a third type that has to be mentioned. These are tiny 2.0 systems that are passively powered by a TV set or a laptop through the USB port. Such a speaker system has a single high-quality 2.5-inch mid-range speaker for each channel.
Though far from ideal, they cannot be dismissed altogether if you want a second music system for your guest bedroom or kitchen.
This is the most confusing part of buying home music systems. There are all types of marketing gimmicks that are tried to attract a customer, although the better brands do not use such methods.
Some speakers will have huge letters mentioning 1200 watt PMPO or peak music power output. But 1200 watts is enough power to run a microwave oven! How can the loudspeaker have access to such power? It does not since it is a marketing ploy and has been used for close to three decades.
To understand the wattage, refer to the device manual or guide or even the side of the speaker box. It will mention (for example) 20 watt x 2 + 1 x 50 watt (for a 2.1 system). This means the satellites draw 20 watts each and the subwoofer 50 watts for a total of 90 watts. For every hour of use, it will consume 1.5 times more power than a 60-watt bulb or tube light. This is known as RMS wattage or true wattage.
7. How many RMS wattage is good enough?
This is a tough one to answer. At least 10 watts total is needed for a 10 by 10 feet room. Preferably it should be higher by many multiples – between 30 and 100 watts.
The rule of thumb says more wattage is better. It allows louder volume without distortion. A movie theatre uses about 3000-6000 watt, but it is also far larger than your room.
However, while more watt is better, 90 watts played back by a home music system built by a local manufacturer is not the same as 20 watts played back by a Bose or Harman Kardon music system. That brings us to sound quality.
8. Sound Quality
High-end music systems are better than their low-end siblings because they can deliver the same volume using far less amplifier power. This is measured in decibels (dB). Without going into the technicalities, we shall describe decibels as the loudness of sound. This loudness is not measured linearly but instead rises exponentially.
If 0 dB is pin-drop silence, then a whisper is 30 dB, a quiet library is 40 dB, a vacuum cleaner measures 60 dB, and a discotheque speaker produces 100 dB. Most speakers are rated between 85 and 100 dB. Speakers that are less than 85 dB are not worth purchasing. Home music systems produce 60 dB consistently, with peak sounds reaching 100 dB.
Also, look for THD or total harmonic distortion numbers. These are given as a percent value. Home music systems have a THD of about 0.5%. Lesser is better. It measures the amount of noise introduced into the signal by the amplifier.
9. Connectivity & Input
There are many ways of connecting the input from a device to a music system. Not all home music systems sport all types of connectors. There are so many that barring a full-sized amplifier, there is not enough space.
Therefore check the type of connection you are going to use and choose accordingly.
- RCA connecters: They are also called phono connectors, and you must have seen them connect your cable set-top box to your TV. Even the most modern TVs have these plugs for use as an output. It is a convenient way to connect your output device to the home music system.
- 3.5 mm input: This female input is usually coloured green and is capable of accepting a 3.5 mm audio jack or headphone jack. It is identical to the earphone output of your laptop or mobile phone.
- HDMI: By far, the best type of connectivity. The above two are analogue connectors, but most soundbars accept HDMI connectors. HDMI means High-Definition Multimedia Interface and transmits digital signals. HDMI plugs have 19 pins and a flat hexagonal shape.
- Aux-in: It means auxiliary input. It could be RCA or 3.5 mm depending on the model. Aux-in is a way of connecting another device without disrupting the connection with the primary input device. Such as, if your music system is hooked up to your TV, and you find the need to connect your DVD player to watch movies from your collection Aux-in is particularly useful.
- Bluetooth: As little as ten years ago, Bluetooth was seen as something extraordinary in India. But as technology has become more advanced, Bluetooth is now commonplace. Bluetooth is a form of radio that can work across short distances. This makes it ideal for transmission of data and files inside the same room.
- The advantages of Bluetooth equipped music systems are distinct. You do not have to fiddle with several types of connectors or run a wire from TV, laptop, and smartphone to the subwoofer that has the input panel.
- Just select the device and pair it. That is all that you need to worry about. There are several generations of Bluetooth. In general, most modern music systems are capable of Bluetooth version 3 and 4.
- Wi-Fi: Not essential but indeed useful. It is an additional layer of connectivity over and above Bluetooth. Whereas Bluetooth requires the paired devices to be close, Wi-Fi allows playback in any corner of the house. So if you have a laptop in your bedroom, it could stream music to the home music system in your living room.
- It is much easy to connect the music system to your home network and let there be interconnectivity between all of the devices. That way, it can access music comfortably from your collection stored on any hard drive.
- Radio: FM channels remain a common source of entertainment in India and abroad. FM radio is built-in functionality of most home music systems. The advantage of radio is that you can tune in and let it play in the background without the worry of creating a playlist or running out of songs to play from a particular genre.
There’s no need to hunt through hundreds of files to decide what you want to hear. Just tune it to a channel and forget all about it.
10. Remote Control
For most of us, this is an indispensable feature of a home music system. You have just selected a loud disco song and settled on your sofa when your friend calls. To get up, walk across the room and lower the volume is a real chore. It will happen so often when you use the music system that you will feel lost without it.
If you don’t believe it, count how many times you mute the volume of your television during the evening. It is not that remote control models cost a lot.
Believe it or not, it is essential. Music systems are reasonably large and sit front and center. They have to be unobtrusive or complement the existing style. In any conventional living room, you would hardly want something that looks like a spaceship that has lost its way and landed at your home.
Usually, it is best to steer clear of equipment with flashing disco lights that are a huge distraction.
12. LED Indicator
Expensive models have a tiny LED indicator that shows the status of the device and various parameters such as volume, FM station, etc. It is great to have one but not essential. Most of all, the LED panel must not interfere with your TV viewing. The panel is usually in the subwoofer unit that sits in front of you and can become uncomfortable to have in your peripheral vision.
Frequently Asked Questions
We have tested about 22 different music systems available in the Indian market. And based on our tests, we found that the Sony HT-S20R is the best music system for home use in India. It’s excellent in every aspect, be it sound quality, connectivity, or build quality.
It is impossible to test the sound quality in a showroom since they are large and do not have proper acoustics. Most speakers sound quite flat in a showroom. You should, however, carry audio and video files for testing. Otherwise, you can use Google and play the respective YouTube audio from the headphone output of your mobile phone.
You should test for:
1. Left-right audio separation (Google “left-right audio check” and playback the video on your phone; connect the phone to the music system and test left and right separation)
2. Surround sound test (Google “surround sound test” and do the same for a 5.1 or 7.1 system)
3. Test Bluetooth range and playback quality
4. Test Wi-Fi range
A music system has to be regularly turned on. If you let it sit for 1-2 months in humid Indian conditions, it may develop considerable distortion. Running it for long hours does not reduce life. But not using affects it.
The speakers take time to “break in.” For about two weeks, do not turn them up really high. After two weeks or about 50 hours of playback, you can use them as you wish. Speakers mature with age.
- If you have a budget of around 15,000 INR, then get the Sony HT-S20R soundbar-home theatre system. The product is suitable for medium to large-sized halls. With a 400 W and Dolby digital sound power output, this is probably the best audio entertainment system in the mid-range segment.
- In the sub 10.000 INR price range, Infinity Hardrock 410 is the best option. Soundbars are very convenient to set up and take up little space. With the subwoofer that comes with the Hardrock 410, there’s hardly anything you’ll miss out on (compared to a home theatre system) in terms of sound quality.
- Finally, in the entry-level sub-5,000 INR price segment, Philips Audio SPA8140B/94 is the star. Coming from a brand like Phillips, you can be sure that the audio would be top-notch.
No matter which device you choose from the list, you will get the best value for your money.