We bring you six of the best
1] Onkyo LS-V501 £589.99
One of the first decisions you'll have to make when buying a home-cinema kit concerns the sort of sound you want it to produce. True surround sound is a neat effect, but if you're a family-oriented punter, it might make more sense to stick to two channels (2.1). You certainly don't want your kids running into speakers every five minutes. This Onkyo box suits those keen to get more from their plasma, without clogging up the living room with equipment. Its sound is beefy (thanks to a huge sub-woofer), with the DSP circuit generating a "virtual" 5.1-channel effect. IPod owners can add an Onkyo dock and integrate the players into the system.
2] Meridian G95 £3,995
Sometimes, if you want to buy British, you have to shell out for the privilege. Meridian's top of the range number comes in at a fiver under four grand—double the price of Arcam's Movie Solo. And you don't get many features for your money, either. This is home-cinema stripped back to its bare essentials: analogue signal, no Blu-ray, no room equalisation. On the plus side it's a cinch to set up, and as you'd expect from Meridian, the picture is crystal clear, wide-ranging and vibrant, with a sound to match. Build quality is typically good. This is a solid piece of serious kit for serious film buffs.
3] Arcam Movie Solo 5.1 £2,000
Launched last year, the Movie Solo is still hard to beat. Superb sound and vision somehow emanate from this extremely compact box of tricks. It's the same size as the Arcam Solo, a CD player and DAB radio with only two-channel output (the Movie Solo has five). You can play back a whole host of video and audio formats, including DVD audio, SACD, DVD video, DivX, MPEG-4, OGG, WMA and MP3. You can also plug in your Wii or Playstation, or watch Sky's high definition programming without too much bother. Whatever you ask it to do, the Movie Solo performs with style.
4] Pioneer LX01 £1,800
This is an extremely popular, ultra-high-spec machine that can handle a range of high-definition audio formats with ease, adding clarity and focus where other systems fail. The picture, from both DVD and hard-disc source, is unmatchable at the price. Pioneer has paid special attention to its market: a typical five-channel customer isn't likely to want an ostentatious collection of kit cluttering up the living room. The LX01's four speakers are only 90mm high, and there's no centre speaker. Sleek and clever, this is one of the finest systems on the market.
5] Sony DAV-IS10 £600
It's quite often the case with home-cinema systems that the lower the price, the bigger and uglier the unit. But Sony has achieved something quite remarkable with this all-in-one—a set of incredibly small speakers that will fit unobtrusively into the smallest of gaps around your living room. The main unit is only 21cm wide, but don't judge this machine by its diminutive size. It packs a decent punch, with the active subwoofer dealing with the low notes with striking authority. Picture quality is sharp and robust. One for the less contemporary living room.
6] Samsung HT-X810 £499
The X810 has a number of interesting features. Firstly, the subwoofer is wireless, which admittedly is enough to put off most serious audiophiles at a stroke, but Samsung has managed to lose the cables without losing too much quality. Both picture and sound are pretty stable, although the sound isn't a match for either the Meridian or the Arcam. The X810 also has Bluetooth compatibility, which means you can walk into the room with an MP3 player in your hand and instantly play a song through the speakers. A nice touch for all gadget lovers.