While most gadgets have become gloriously intuitive, surround sound systems seem to be stuck in amber. There are usually cords and cables everywhere, the pros and cons of different products aren’t always clear, and even basic features require working knowledge of obscure hi-fi audio lingo. We can help. Whether you’re completely new to this category, or you're simply curious about the current state-of-the-art in immersive audio, we’ve highlighted the systems worth looking into. It’s a wide range, with something for whatever type of movie or music lover you happen to be.
For surround sound neophytes—those who’ve never stapled a snarl of cables across a living room ceiling—it might come as a surprise that the PlayBar's relative lack of wires is such an oddity. The system's soundbar attaches to the TV with an optical audio cable, and can sync with a subwoofer and a pair of Play:1 speakers in the back of the room using your Wifi network to complete the full surround experience. This level of modular, cable-free, plug-and-play flexibility is why Sonos is so expensive (once you add up the cost of speakers, as well as the wireless bridge that hooks up to your router), and also why it’s the most exciting thing to happen to home theater audio in years. The best thing about the Sonos family is that you can start with the soundbar, and then add components until you’re satisfied, even if that’s before you achieve all five channels. [$1845; sonos.com]