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Best home theater upgrades from $20 to $2,500

Buying a TV is only half of the best home theater experience. Upgrade your AV system, too, with these streamers, sound bars, receivers and other gadgets.

Ty Pendlebury
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Ty Pendlebury
1 of 21 Sarah Tew

Best upgrades for the money

Whether it's antennas, speakers, sound bars, AV receivers or streamers, these are the best products to enhance your TV, music and movie experience. We've generally ordered them from the cheapest (a $20 antenna) to the most expensive. Game on!

2 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Channel Master Flatenna ($20)

Whether you're cutting cable or not, the dirt-cheap Channel Master Flatenna offers a wealth of entertainment with no ongoing fees. Stick it on your window and plug the captive cable into your tuner and you'll be watching daytime soaps in an instant.

3 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Google Chromecast ($35)

Cutting the cord? You can watch plenty of shows and movies by adding an inexpensive streamer such as the Chromecast to the back of your TV. Fire up the "Netflix" app on your phone, for example, press the TV-shaped "Cast" button and open your favorite beverage -- no cable subscription required!

4 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Chromecast Audio ($35)

The Chromecast Audio is more than just the aural equivalent of the original Chromecast, it also enables you to stream music around your house. It's the cheapest and best way to get into multiroom music.

5 of 21 Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Clearaudio Clever Clamp ($30)

Also known as the Souther Clever Clamp, this $30/£25  accessory is a virtual must-have for lovers of vinyl records. If you ever bought a second-hand record you'll know of the perils of "warping." Unlike record weights this little plastic gadget uses friction to hold the record onto the platter -- keeping it from moving and causing distortion -- and it can be used for almost any (non-Rega) turntable.

See the Clearaudio Clever Clamp at Amazon

6 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Roku Streaming Stick 2017 ($50)

Roku's latest Streaming Stick is the company's cheapest device ever to build voice search into the remote and it offers headphone listening through your mobile device.

7 of 21 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Amazon Echo Dot ($50)

With an Echo Dot the home theater of the future is finally a possibility. Lower the shades, turn on your receiver, fire up Netflix and dim the lights all by saying "Alexa, play a movie." 

8 of 21 Chris Monroe/CNET

Google Home Mini ($49)

While the Amazon Echo Dot has been around longer, the Home Mini is a plucky little device. This voice assistant not only looks nicer than its rival, but it also sounds better, meaning you can use the speaker for background listening. 

9 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung BD-J5900 ($89)

While streaming can bring you more content than you could ever possibly watch, it's not always great for watching something specific. Some movies that are available on Blu-ray or DVD may never be available through the cloud. Having a machine that can play back a physical library is a must for every home theater, and for under $100, the Samsung BD-J5900 does almost everything you need. It even streams.

10 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Logitech Harmony Companion Control ($150)

At $150, the Companion will let you fire up your TV, receiver and TiVo box with one button press -- and maybe dim the lights as well -- and it's one of the easiest universal remotes to program, too.

11 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Vizio SB-3621n-E8 ($138)

Offering insane value for money the Vizio SB-3621 system offers a separate subwoofer for a bigger sound than anything else near the price. It also looks a lot more expensive than it is which is a bonus

12 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple TV ($150)

The Apple TV offers one of the best onscreen interfaces and is a definite upgrade from the Chromecast. It offers a wide selection of apps and also offers a library of games. Who needs a Nintendo Switch anyway?

13 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Pioneer SP-BS22-LR ($130/pair)

The SP-BS22-LR speaker has consistently earned raves for its sound, and is a definite step up from a sound bar. Just add a decent budget receiver and feel those explosions.

14 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Elac Debut 2.0 6.2 ($299/pair)

With an improved look and clearer sound, the Debut 2.0 is even better for people looking to dive into the audiophile world. And at only $299 it's cheaper than a receiver or a turntable. The Elac Debut 2.0 6.2 is an excellent value.

15 of 21 CNET

Xbox One S ($299)

If you're going to buy one console for its AV smarts, let it be the Xbox One S. It offers home theater integration (HDMI-in), a digital assistant (Cortana) and a 4K Blu-ray drive. That, and games, too!

Yamaha YAS-207
16 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Yamaha YAS-207 ($269)

The Yamaha YAS-207 is a superb sound bar that offers Bluetooth and HDMI connectivity. Sound quality is top rate and the system is super easy to set up and use.

17 of 21 Vizio

Vizio SB4551-D5 ($400)

If you're serious about movies, a real surround-sound system is the way to go. Nothing captures the feeling of immersion like ambient effects from actual rear speakers. This Vizio is one of the most affordable out there, and it actually sounds good.

18 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Pioneer SP-SB23W ($400)

One of our favorite sound bars at any price, and also designed by the ubiquitous Andrew Jones, the SP-SB23W will capture every cry and bone-rending crunch of play. Plus you can stream your music over Bluetooth to it.

19 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Sony STR-DN1080 ($499)

The Sony STR-DN1080 is a talented all-rounder offering excellent home theater and music performance. It's the best value-for-money receiver of the last 12 months.

20 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung HW-K950 ($1,300)

Got a fancy new TV for watching the latest blockbuster? The Samsung HW-K950 is one of the best sound bars you can get, with Atmos playback and Wi-Fi music streaming.

21 of 21 Sarah Tew/CNET

Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-160 ($2,500)

The massive Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-160 5.1 system ain't cheap, but paired with a good receiver it'll pound your movie session into happy submission.

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