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High-end home theater speakers don't have to break the bank

While spending as much on your home theater speaker system as you did on your TV might seem like overkill to most people, many audiophiles who crave first-rate sound quality recommend it for serious listening. Music, in particular, demands much more from speakers, since they need to handle complex orchestration and sonic textures from percussion and various tonal instruments. Many of the best options in this category are assembled from quality speakers that are sold separately, which can be expensive compared to those sold specifically as a surround-sound package.

The Definitive Technology ProCinema 800 (*Est. $1,200) is a high-end speaker system that consists of speakers that are traditionally sold separately, but are now offered as a complete package. It sports a quartet of ProMonitor 800 bookshelf speakers (*Est. $145 each), a ProCenter 1000 center-channel speaker (*Est. $220 each) and a ProSub 800 subwoofer (*Est. $400 each).

Reviewers praise the ProCinema 800 for its excellent sound quality and booming bass response. CNET's Steve Guttenberg says it "redefined our expectations of what a small surround speaker can do"; other experts say its performance rivals systems costing more than double its price. Sound quality is great for all content, especially music.

Aperion has built a solid reputation for high-end speaker systems by providing great performance and superior value via its direct-sale business model. The Aperion Intimus 4B Harmony SA (*Est. $1,125) is the company's least expensive offering, but it carries on that tradition of performance and value in most -- but not all -- reviewers' eyes.

The Intimus 4B Harmony SA receives a Certified and Recommended award from Sound + Vision magazine. Reviewer Ken C. Pohlmann says listeners will likely think the Intimus costs more than it does, and then up that guess when they get a look at the build quality of the cabinets.

Still, the system isn't without limitations. It performs best in a modestly sized room, and finding the right crossover frequency between satellites and the 100-watt powered sub takes a bit of work. Those who don't want to trust their receiver's automatic speaker setup programs will be delighted to find that a sound pressure meter is included with the system. It's part of a free customer care kit that also includes a polishing cloth and handling gloves to make sure the speaker cabinets remain dust- and fingerprint-free.

For those with more modest budgets, the Definitive Technology ProCinema 600 (Est. $800) is worth considering. While it seems like a scaled-down, entry-level version of the ProCinema 800, it still offers high-end performance and an aesthetic that beats many similarly priced speaker systems. Movies and music sound great; bass is deep and powerful, and the blending between its components is exceptional. The biggest downsides to the ProCinema 600 are that it's prone to distortion at extreme volumes and some reviewers say it requires an obscure hookup scheme to find the best sound.

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Definitive Technology Pro Cinema 800 System Black
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from Amazon.com
New: $1,199.00 $899.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Aperion Intimus 4B Harmony SA Speaker System
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New: $1,250.00
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)
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from Amazon.com
New: $799.00 $549.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Energy RC-Micro 5.1 Surround Speaker System (Black)
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from Amazon.com
New: $999.00 $479.99   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Monoprice 5.1-Channel HiFi Home Theater Satellite Speakers & Subwoofer System (8-ohm,100W)
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from Amazon.com
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