Energy Take Classic 5.1
Cheap, small, sounds great: pick two. That's how home audio almost always works. We say almost, because the Energy Take Classic 5.1 is one of those rare products that's seemingly without compromise. The speakers are compact (although not tiny like the Boston Acoustics SoundWare SX 5.1 system), but their sound quality is outstanding, so you won't regret opting for small speakers. The speakers also look fantastic, finished in an elegant piano black that belies the system's budget price. The official list price for the Take Classic 5.1 may be $600, but it's widely available online for $400. There's no catch, the Energy Take Classic 5.1 is just an incredible value.
Our sole caveat is that if all you're concerned about is the best sound quality on a budget (you pick "cheap" and "sounds great"), the Pioneer SP-PK21BS is the winner. But its massive speakers just won't work for most people. The Energy Take Classic is the most perfectly balanced 5.1 speaker system we've seen, making it an easy pick for our Editors' Choice Award in the category.