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You don't have to spend top dollar to get top shelf home theater sound

While it's true you can spend more on surround-sound speakers than you did your TV -- or even your car, for that matter -- you can still find great sound quality without having to dig deep into your pockets.

We see some tremendous expert and user feedback for the Pioneer SP-PK52FS (*Est. $630) . Note that while the various components that make up this surround-sound speaker system are widely available, the SP-PK52FS package -- and the best package price -- is easiest to get directly from the maker.

So what makes the SP-PK52FS so special? Designed by Pioneer/TAD speaker maven Andrew Jones, expert after expert says they outperform any speaker system in their price class -- or anywhere near it. A few take some exception to one aspect of performance or another, and then they remember the price and say "never mind." Audiophile site Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity is among those. Kieran Coghlan complains that the subwoofer's range could extend a little lower but says that for speaker system buyers on a budget, it's pretty hard to go wrong with the SP-PK52FS.

So, then, why not end this discussion right here? Well, as good as these speakers sound, and as great a value as they appear to offer, they do leave a little on the table when it comes to overall aesthetics. The speaker enclosures are on the large side ... and on the ugly side. Audioholics.com goes so far as to say they look like cheap speakers you'd get in department store, though Gene DellaSala quickly adds that they sound far, far better. Build quality is anything but cheap as well. Efficiency isn't the best; despite the hefty enclosures, these speakers are most at home in smaller and moderately sized rooms.

If something a little less imposing is a must, it's tough to take exception with the Energy Take Classic 5.1 (*Est. $400) . These speakers have been around for several years now and have amassed an impressive track record with reviewers in their own right. The speakers may not be as compact as some very diminutive systems, but they offer a sleek aesthetic that experts and users say is a welcome addition to most rooms.

Like most similarly priced home theater systems, the Take Classic 5.1 won't blow out the windows with power but will produce excellent sound quality for moderately sized listening rooms. CNET's Mathew Moskovciak reports absolutely flawless sound performance. With a 200-watt subwoofer, "brute force is not the Take Classic's forte'," writes Home Theater magazine's Mark Fleischmann, but the system can produce low-level sounds and dialogue that can challenge lesser systems.

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Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Theater System (Set of Six, Black)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $599.00 $354.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Pioneer SP-FS52-LR Andrew Jones Designed Floor standing Loudspeaker (each)
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from Amazon.com
New: $129.99 $126.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

Home Theater Speakers Runners Up:

NHT Super Surround 5.1 *Est. $800

4 picks including: Home Theater Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com…

Definitive Technology ProCinema 600 *Est. $800

3 picks including: Amazon.com, Home Theater Magazine…

Energy R.C. Micro 5.1 *Est. $400

3 picks including: Amazon.com, Home Theater Magazine…

Fluance AVHTB *Est. $250

1 pick including: Amazon.com, AudioReview.com…

Monoprice 9774 *Est. $250

1 pick including: CNET…

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Definitive Technology ProCinema 600 5.1 Speaker System (Set of Six, Black)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $799.00 $499.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Energy RC-Micro 5.1 Surround Speaker System (Black)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $999.00 $349.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Monoprice 5.1-Channel HiFi Home Theater Satellite Speakers & Subwoofer System (8-ohm,100W)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $647.62   
Average Customer Review:  

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