Product Round-Up:

5.1 Speaker Systems That Won't Break the Bank
September, 2002

Brian Weatherhead


Set 1: Atlantic Technology System 170

Set 2: Canton Movie MX-10

Set 3: Klipsch Quintet

Set 4: Polk Audio RM7200

Set 5: PSB Alpha 5.1

Set 6: RBH Compact Theater

Set 7: Velodyne Deco System



I have a problem: I need a small 5.1 speaker system for my living room. I already have a larger system for the theater room, so I don't need another system to help me go deaf. The system should also not stick out like a sore thumb. I also spend/spent most of my cash on the theater room. Yet being an audio fanatic, I'm not going to be able to live with poor sound. There must be a happy medium in there, and I bet I'm not the only one with this situation.

So, here is a round-up of small 5.1 speaker systems, retailing for under $1,600 (including powered subwoofer), and from companies you can trust. They are all designed to work very well with mass market receivers. The round-up will be published in stages, with a detailed review of one system published every few days as the editing is completed (so as not to shut down our server with overload requests), then a wrap-up at the end. Check back every few days to see which new reviews are live.

Requirements for the Round-Up:

  • Five speakers, and one powered subwoofer for under $1,600 (Street Price)

  • Small, no towers, nothing obtrusive

  • Great sound

  • Works well with mass market receivers, doesn't need a 150 wpc amplifier to obtain reasonable volume

What We Tested:

Each system was evaluated based on the following:

  • Aesthetics

  • Individual Speaker Performance

  • System Performance

Something to keep in mind is that small speakers can have quality. Compromises have to be made for size though, and volume can and usually is one of them. Where a large tower speaker can easily put out 110 dB without sounding harsh, small speakers can approach our tolerance for distortion. For each review, I present the best distortion measurement we could muster from the speaker. In the wrap-up, I show the 110 dB (at speaker) test, and it's a telling tale. You may think that 110 dB is loud, but at 10 - 15 feet away, it's movie levels.


  • How they compare to each other

  • Best of class

  • 110 dB distortion test

- Brian Weatherhead -

Related to the article above, we recommend the following:

Speaker Primer

Misunderstood 0.1 LFE Channel

Nature of Equipment Reviews

A Big Dig into Bass Reflex

What we Hear

Big Bass in Small Places

High Fidelity


Accuracy, Distortion, and the Audiophile

Copyright 2002 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
Return to Table of Contents for this
Go to Home Page


About Secrets


Terms and Conditions of Use

Our Vault pages may have some display quirks. Let us know if we need to take a look at this page or fix a bug.
Connect with us
  • Instagram
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
Secrets "Cave"