Putting Together a Great Home Theater System

Home theaters are becoming more and more common in households today.  Some people even have dedicated theater rooms with comfy easy chairs, great lighting and a wide screen television that rivals movie theaters.

great-home-theater-systemWatching movies that offer a great audio experience all the way around makes them much more enjoyable.  With the right sound system, you would be surprised at all the sounds you’ve been missing with regular TV watching.

What better way to spend Friday night movie night than in your own comfortable home with a fantastic home theater system?  When setting up your own system you will want to include the components that will provide you with an excellent movie watching experience.

The information below is critical for putting together a home theater system that will provide you with the audio and video experience you are looking for.   We’ve covered everything from the components you will need to the extras that are still just as important; such as the type of budget you should set and protecting all the equipment from power surges properly.

The Importance of Setting the Right Budget

When you set your budget for your home theater system, it is important that you don’t under budget OR over budget.  There are a lot of products on the market to choose from and the value that you can get with careful shopping is amazing.  You want to make a list of all the components that you will need for your system.  These are:

  • Television
  • Speakers
  • Receiver
  • Stand
  • Cables
  • Surge protector

You don’t want to make the mistake of pairing an expensive television with a cheap sound system so make sure that the components are similar to each other in quality as well.  If you already have the television you want to use for your home theater, you will not have to purchase another one, but if you have been wanting to upgrade your television, this certainly is an excellent opportunity to do so.

As a general rule of thumb, plan on spending at least $200 each on the first three items on the above list.  It is not necessary to overspend and purchase thousands of dollars worth of equipment to get an excellent sound.  As long as you are conscientious about what you are purchasing, you can spend less and still get an excellent quality home theater system.

Don’t mistake finding a good value for buying cheap.  There is a big difference in getting a good value and buying cheap.  Cheap components won’t last and you’ll end up replacing them early on.  Take the time to find a good deal on quality equipment and you’ll have it for years.

How Much Space Do You Have?

how-much-spaceHow much space you will be working with plays an important part in the size of the home theater system you purchase.

Many think that all home theater systems include full surround sound regardless of the space you are using but there are some definite drawbacks to using full surround sound in smaller areas.

The satellites that will be located behind where everyone sits will need to be connected by running speaker wires under the carpets or around furniture or expensive wireless speakers will need to be purchased.  It’s also important to find plenty of room for the speakers and you don’t want to put them inside cabinets or other furniture due to the sound distortion it creates.

Many people find that have a full 5:1 surround sound or larger for small rooms is a lot of trouble due to all this juggling of the speakers and trying to find enough distance between them and the viewers.  If you are outfitting a smaller room for surround sound, you will still get exceptional sound quality using a smaller system that will fit easily in the smaller space you have.

The 7 Components Your Home Theater System Must Have

1. Television

The foundation of a great home theater is the television. There are three different types of TVs that you can choose from:

  • Front Projection
  • Plasma
  • LED/LCD

The type you choose is largely dependent upon what you prefer, but the most popular among consumers is the LED/LCD models.  A minimum size of 32” is going to give you the best viewing experience. The bigger the room, the larger the television that your space will be able to handle.

Make sure that whatever model and size you choose that it is an HDTV.  Almost all of the electronics are now HD compatible or ready so this will integrate nicely with the other components.   TV sizes have gotten bigger and bigger over the last several years so it is not difficult to get a television 70” or larger.

If you want to use a television you already have, this will be no problem as long as the television isn’t too old.  The older models are not HD compatible and sometimes have difficulty having the inputs and outputs needed to be included in a home theater system.

2. DVD and other Media Players

No home theater system is complete without a good DVD player, Blu Ray Player, or other media player that plays back stored media. Some people have both a good quality DVD player as well as a recordable media player such as TiVo or something similar. Even if you have a full cable package, you will want to have a DVD player as part of your set up in the event cable is out.

3. AV Receivers

This is an important element of your home theater. The AV receiver is responsible for sending the signals to your speakers and decodes movies and any music that you play. A feature that AV receivers can have is volume moderation so the movie doesn’t play too softly or too loudly.  All AV receivers are not equal in quality.  There are some that are better than others.

  • av-receiverLots of Inputs/Outputs – You want to look for a receiver that has plenty of inputs and outputs. These inputs/outputs are how you will connect the receiver to the different electronics you want to hook up such as your television, DVD player, video game system, speakers, and other devices. You will need to know ahead of time how many devices you will need to hook up to the AV receiver so you purchase one that has plenty of places to connect them. If you can, find one that has a few extra in case you want to expand later on.  Make sure that these connections are the right type which is digital. This will work on the components that you will be plugging into it. Use an HDMI connection to connect any HD equipment you will be using.
  • High Wattage – The wattage of your AV receiver will determine how much detailed sound the receiver produces. A high wattage receiver provides much better sound quality than a lower wattage receiver. You want to make sure that you purchase a receiver that can handle the speakers it is connected to and the size of the room that the receiver is located. The larger the room, the higher wattage receiver you will want to get.
  • Compatible with AirPlay – Many of the newer receivers have what is called AirPlay compatibility which means that users can stream music from their iPhone, iPad, iPod, or digigtal app (think Pandora) directly to their receivers. This streaming is done wirelessly.  If all of the music you listen to is stored on a device like the ones mentioned above, AirPlay will be worth the extra expense.  If your music comes from CDs, tapes or even vinyl, AirPlay will do you no good and be a waste of money.
  • Automatic Calibration – This valuable feature makes setting up speakers easier by automatically analyzing and adjusting the sound of the speakers that are connected to it. The receiver will send test tones to the speakers to ensure they are set correctly. These technologies work with two-channel and surround sound systems.
  • User Friendly Interface – Make sure the receiver you want to get has an easy to understand and navigate interface. The best receiver in the world doesn’t do any good if the user can’t turn it on without difficulty.  Clear, easy to see, digital readings are the best. 

4. Speakers

Another very crucial element of a good quality home theater system is the type and quality of the speakers you choose. This is where clear, crisp audio from the movies and music will come from. You can start small with maybe two, or go up to as many as 10 or 11.

This is also a personal preference as to if you want stereo or surround sound.  It can be an awesome experience watching an action movie with surround sound and hear the sound effects coming at you from all parts of the room but this works best in a larger room.

The placement of the speakers for your home system is very important.  You don’t want them clustered together, and depending on how many speakers you choose to get, the more spread out you make them the better the sound effects will be.  Remember not to place any of the speakers inside furniture because that will affect the quality of the sound.

You do have the option of getting wireless speakers which are expensive, but doing so eliminates the potential mess of wiring to worry about.

5. Cables

remotes-and-mountCables are also an important factor in how your movies play. A good quality cable means that your signal will reach the receivers without interference and distortion. If you need a long cable, spend the extra money on a higher quality one. It will make a big difference in the strength of the signal you receive.

Look for cables from well known companies that are known for their quality.  You don’t want to scrimp on the quality of your cables or you will just be replacing them when you have it all hooked up and hear the distortion and interference that is prevalent in lesser quality cable connections.

6. Remotes and Mounts

Finish your home theater system off with a good universal remote to avoid having stacks of them sitting around to work everything, and a sturdy wall mount for your TV.   There are two styles of wall mounts to choose from

  • Flat
  • Articulating

Flat mounts take up less room and fit the TV flush against the wall, but articulating mounts give you a fuller range of motion if you need to change the angle of the TV for any reason.  Either one works well and is up to the home owner as to what their personal home theater system set up is.

7. Surge Protectors

Many people forget all about power protection but ensuring you add this to your system will give you protection against any equipment damage during storms or power outages. Spending a lot of money on your home theater system and not protecting it properly can result in losing all of it should a power surge occur.

Spend money on a high quality surge protector that comes from a well known and reputable company and be sure that it carries a warranty that will protect the electronics should they become damaged while using the surge protector.  It may cost a lot more than the standard $20 surge protector but it is worth the investment.

The Finishing Touches

the-finishing-touchOnce you have all the technical aspects out of the way, you can concentrate on outfitting the room with furnishings that will give it a true home theater feel.

This can include decorative floor lamps, comfortable seating, and other decorative touches that will give the viewers a comfortable room that is a real pleasure to watch movies in.

Other things that your theater room can have include a mini fridge, wine fridge, or even a mini bar if you enjoy fixing mixed drinks.  Don’t forget the popcorn popper and some trays to place snacks and drinks on during the movie and your place will be the go to place to have movie night.  Many people go all out and create a true movie theater room that provides the ultimate theater-at-home experience.  It’s all up to you and the budget you have to work with, how simple or fancy you go.