How we test home theatre systems


Finding the right cinema in a box.

home theatre system

Cinema in the loungeroom


We've tested home theatre systems for several years, from brands such as Sony, LG, Samsung and to be honest, many of them are more trouble than they are worth. However, you can get some systems that deliver a cinematic feel and want to make you reach for the popcorn.

Our expert testers and listening panel put the latest models through rigorous testing to rate sound quality, ease of use and how well they work in real life; so you'll know exactly what to expect. Our unique, comparative lab tests mean you can trust our results, and choose with confidence.

See which brands and models we recommend in our home theatre system reviews.

Our expert testers

Our testers have years of expertise in testing audio equipment – and, unlike most reviewers, we don't rely on one individual's perception to rank products. Instead we use a listening panel with expertise in sound appraisal who have shown that they can consistently rank products for their sound quality.

How we choose what we test

In this test we're looking for as wide a range of products as possible. This test is carried out over some time and continues to grow as we add more models. Home theatre products change at a rapid pace, so you may find that one of the models we test has a very similar brand on the shop floor with a different speaker grill or remote – sometimes the difference is that small.

How we test

Sound quality

Listening performance scores are based on our expert listening panel's appraisal of classical and rock/pop music passages. The speaker is positioned about two metres away from the listener, with the panel assessing overall quality.

Ease of use

We check how easy it is to use the connections, calibration options, on-screen and front panel displays, as well as the manual and any other instructions that come with the product.

Remote control

We assess the remote control to determine how easy it is to use for common functions. While not as crucial as with other home entertainment devices such as a Blu-ray player or PVR, the remote for a home theatre system is still an important part of the functionality of any home entertainment unit, particularly if it can control other devices in your home entertainment setup. We look at button size, shape, colour and grouping for ease of understanding.

Standby energy

We measure the amount of power the home theatre system uses when in standby mode.

Scoring

We give every home theatre system a CHOICE test score so you can see at a glance which are the best and worst performers, plus how the models compare to each other in features and specifications. We also test the ability for home theatre systems with an optical drive (Blu-ray or DVD) to play discs that have been poorly treated, much like you may find in the family movie collection. This is scored and shown but does not contribute to the overall score as not all home theatre systems include one in the package.

The overall score ignores price and is based on the following criteria:

  • Listening performance (65%)
  • Ease of use (15%)
  • Remote control (15%)
  • Standby energy (5%)

Ready to buy?

If you want to know which home theatres we rate the best, read our latest review. If you want a bit more info on setting up your next home entertainment area, you can find it here.


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