By combining experience, similar home theater system, it seems that you have a choice between buying a system soundbar / soundbase which provides a simple, hassle-free solution that can be adequate, or spending a lot of time shopping and configuring. receiver for home theater and lots of speakers .
However, there is an in-between solution that provides a better listening experience than a soundbar/soundbase audio system and without having to set up a home theater system − home theater in a box .
As the name suggests, these systems provide a home theater receiver (or similar center unit) and a set of speakers (and connecting cables) in one box, making the purchase and setup process much easier.
One company that has a good reputation in this product category is Onkyo, which offers two very good options, the HT-S3800 and HT-S7800.
HT-S3800 Home Theater-in-a-Box System
The HT-S3800 is the base model in Onkyo’s home theater-in-a-box product line. The system consists of a 5.1 channel receiver (HT-R395), five-channel bookshelf speaker system (left, right, center, left surround, right surround), and a passive subwoofer (the subwoofer is powered by the receiver).
The HTR-395 home theater receiver that is provided with the system is rated at 60 wpc (measure with 2 Channels Driven with 8 Ohms speaker loads from 20 Hz–20 kHz at 0.7% THD). This is definitely enough power for a modest setup in a small or medium-size room).
For more details on what the stated power ratings mean with respect to real-world conditions, refer to our companion article: Understanding Amplifier Power Output Specifications.
Audio Decoding and Processing
The system is compatible with most Dolby Dolby and DTS surround sound formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio (up top 5.1 channels). Additional preset surround processing modes provided.
Along with several analog audio and video connection options, 4K HDMI inputs and one HDMI output is provided. The HDMI connections are 3D, HDR, and up to 4K pass-through compatible (no upscaling) and met HDMI 2.Oa specifications including support for Audio Return Channel and HDMI-CEC.
Also, the HT-S3800 provides composite to HDMI upconversion for easier connection to modern TVs, but no upscaling is provided.
There are no component video connections provided.
Internet and network streaming capability is not included. However built-in Bluetooth is provided that allows direct wireless streaming from compatible portable devices, such as most smartphones.
The center, front left/right, and surround speakers have the same driver complement (except that the center channel speaker is horizontal). Each has one 3-inch full range driver sealed in a compact cabinet (Acoustic Suspension) and can either be shelf or wall-mounted.
The provided subwoofer is passive (as mentioned previously) and features 6-7/16 inch cone driver. The subwoofer also has a front-firing port (Bass Reflex design) that provides an extended low-frequency response.
On the back of the receiver, not only are the connections spaced and labeled clearly, but there is even an etched diagram that provides an example on how to connect and place the speakers and subwoofer.
The suggested price of the Onkyo HT-S3800 is $499
Although the HT-S3800 may be still available, it is in the process of being cycled out and replaced by the HT-S3910. Additions include Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding utilizing the option of a setting the system up in 3.1.2 channel configuration (left, center, right, subwoofer, and two height channels). However, you can also run it in a standard 5.1 channel configuration. Power output has been increased to 80wpc.
HT-S7800 Home Theater-in-a-Box System
The HT-S3800 (or the HT-S3910) provide some solid basics, but you may be looking for something that offers a little more flexibility in both the audio and video departments. Onkyo’s step-up HT-S7800 provides that, plus a little more.
First off, the home theater receiver included with the HT-S7800 system (HT-R695), provides a higher power-output per channel (100wpc) using the same measurement standards as the HT-S7800 system.
Audio Decoding, Channels, and Speakers
Another difference is that the HT-S7800 is packaged as a 5.1.2 channel system that is compatible with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio decoding.
DTS:X may require a firmware update.
The system includes two front speakers that provide both horizontal and vertically firing drivers (that is what the .2 means in this case), as well as two horizontally firing center and surround channel speakers.
You can also configure the HT-S7800 as a standard 7.1 channel system with the purchase of two additional horizontally firing satellite speakers.
The subwoofer that comes with the HT-S7800 is also larger (10-inches) and is self-powered instead of passive (this means that it has its own built-in 120-watt amplifier). In fact, the receiver provided with the HT-S7800 has two subwoofer outputs, allowing you to connect a second subwoofer if needed, or desired.
To make the receiver and speaker setup easy, Onkyo provides two great tools.
- Just as with the HT-S3800 (and HT-S3910) there is an etched diagram on the rear panel that shows how to place the speakers and subwoofer.
- The system includes Onkyo’s AccuEQ automatic room calibration system. A microphone is provided that connects to the receiver. The receiver then generates a series of test tones and calculates factors such as speaker size and distance and adjusts the speakers to better match the rooms acoustic characteristics.
The HT-S7800 also ups the number, and types of connections offered. For example, there are 8 HDMI inputs and 2 parallel HDMI outputs (both outputs supply the same audio and video signal), as well as providing 2 component video inputs (component video input signals are converted to HDMI for output). All HDMI connections meet the same specifications as those provided on HT-S3800, with the inclusion of video upscaling for both analog and HDMI sources.
Another connection option provided on the HT-S7800 is the inclusion of Zone 2 operation via either speaker terminals (powered) or preamp outputs (requires the addition of external amplifiers).
Network Connectivity and Streaming
In addition to its physical audio and video capabilities, the HT-S7800 also provides both Ethernet/Wi-Fi, which enables connection to both your local home network and the internet.
Accessible internet services include Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, and GoogleCast.
In addition, the HTS-7800 is Apple AirPlay compatible, and can also be integrated into the Flareconnect wireless multi-room audio system.