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Tired of crowded movie theaters full of loud people, dirty chairs and floors covered in snacks? We have an interesting suggestion for you – create your own home theater experience and enjoy your favorite movies in your own house.
Cinemas have always been popular and they will certainly remain one of those magic places where people come to relax and enjoy their free time. However, everyone who’s visited the cinema more than once knows how frustrating the whole experience can be. Cinemas are always crowded and many people just love to talk during the whole projection. Also, there are dirty auditoria, uncomfortable seats, and pricey tickets (especially if you’re taking your whole family).
Of course, movie theaters wouldn’t be so popular if they didn’t have many advantages such as perfect audio and visual experience achieved by high-tech equipment. Although we agree that this experience is very difficult to achieve in one’s house, it is not impossible, especially if you follow our instructions. If you stay with us until the end of this article, you will see that you can build an amazing system in your house and fill it with full and rich sound, very similar to the sound you hear in the traditional movie theaters.
Just imagine – your house, your equipment, and your favorite movie. If you add a good and carefully selected audience to the equation – the success is guaranteed.
Basics of Home Theater Systems
What is a home theater system? Well, it’s a combination of a big flat screen (a big TV or DIY projector screen) in charge of video and speakers in charge of audio experience.
Setting home theater systems is more complex than you can imagine and it requires real effort, careful planning and thinking through every action– it requires consideration of the primary media source, available space, budget, equipment specifications, etc.
Related : Ways to Connect Your Soundbar to Your TV
The activity itself, as well as its planning, can be rather demanding and it’s not for everyone. Some people would simply give up before they even try to do it but we have prepared a few basic instructions that should help those enthusiasts who have enough skill, money, and will to deal with this playful and imaginative project.
Basically, it’s complicated only if you don’t know what you need, what you want, and how to find the perfect balance between these two.
The task is easier for those who want to make a home cinema in a house/apartment that is under construction/reconstruction. However, most of us have a more difficult task – to set up a home theater system in an already built, equipped, and furnished room. Depending on your budget, room properties, needs, and preferences, you can set up a home theater system that costs from a few hundred to a few thousands of dollars. There is something for everyone. You simply need to choose the best option for your money.
What Are the Parts of the Ultimate Home Theater System?
First, let’s say again that the way of building a home theater system entirely depends on you and your needs, preferences, taste, as well as available space and budget. There are many options out there and you can either go for an easy pass or make a great effort and get some amazing results. It’s all up to you!
Home theater systems always consist of a few basic elements – a screen, speakers, a source device, receivers, and certain additional components and accessories, such as cables, that you have to buy separately. The easier way is to buy a home theater in a box that usually includes speakers and a central unit that is supposed to be connected to any kind of media player you have. The easiest way is to get a home theater in a box, which contains a Blu-ray player because all the main devices are already perfectly matched. This ensures video and audio optimization, as well as great watching experience.
On the other hand, if you want to make the process more interesting and challenging, you can buy all the elements separately and combine them the best you can. These are the things you have to pay attention to:
One of the crucial elements of every home cinema is a large, flat, and modern screen. Depending on your taste, you can choose between two types of screens – TVs and projector screens.
Regardless of all the improvements in the projector screen area, we must advise you to choose the TV. Today, we have some amazing projectors that can be used in different types of rooms. You can even buy a great short-throw projector and get an amazing picture quality, even in a small room. In addition, projector screens can be bought or made for a small amount of money and they will make a better cinema-like experience than any TV. However, no projector screen can compete with any high-resolution TV in terms of picture quality, brightness, color accuracy, resolution or contrast.
If you decide to use a TV, we advise you to get a 4K model. They can be a bit pricey but they are certainly worth it. Within 4K experience, you can choose between different quality levels – OLED, QLED, and LED LCD (standard 4K).
OLED TVs are the best and their picture quality is amazing. It’s the absolute win. OLED panels are mostly used by LG, while some other manufacturers (like Sony) use their own sets and products. OLED technology utilizes individual LEDs to produce color and backlighting for every single pixel. OLED technology enables us to have thinner TVs because they have fewer layers. However, OLED TVs are quite expensive.
LED TVs are the most popular choice whenever a 4K picture is needed. They are popular because they offer decent picture quality at an affordable price – certainly more affordable than the previous 2 options. LED technology uses an LED backlight that goes through an LCD layer to produce the picture on the TV screen. It is similar to QLED technology, with the exception of the quantum dot layer that amplifies the color intensity, brightness and contrast.
Although they are in second place, the importance of speakers equals the importance of the screen in our home theater system. Achieving the best possible listening experience must not be a secondary thing. Without the right speakers, you simply can’t enjoy the true home theater experience you deserve. This is why the speaker purchase shall be carefully planned. You should base your choice not only on the budget or your preferences but also on the acoustic properties of the room and the room’s size.
When it comes to speakers, there’s a wide variety of speaker systems suitable for building home cinema. You can choose between surround sound systems, soundbars, bookshelf speakers, floor-standing or in-wall speakers. In all the cases, it is very important that you also get a matching subwoofer (or two) in order to get the true surround sound experience – rich, full, and detailed sound that triggers all the emotions hidden deep inside you.
Soundbars are quite controversial. They are great for small rooms and low budgets. Many people may claim that they don’t improve the audio experience but they actually do. Of course, you can’t expect them to sound better than a true surround sound system because they can offer only a decent virtual surround sound experience. They are also great because they are “plug and play” devices that don’t require any special setup. Everything you need comes in the package.
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Surround speaker systems, however, offer amazing experience but they come with some important disadvantages: they require more space and more money.
Based on their configuration, home theater speaker systems can be divided into two groups: X.Y and X.Y.Z. As X.Y.Z systems are very large and require equally large rooms with amazing acoustic properties, which most of us don’t have, we will focus on the other group, which involves popular 5.1 and 7.1 systems.
5.1 surround system consists of 6 speakers, all fed through separate channels. The system includes one center speaker, left and right front speakers, two rear speakers, as well as one subwoofer.
7.1 system consists of 8 speakers and it represents an 8-channel system. It is made of one center speaker, two front, two rear, two surround speakers, as well as one subwoofer.
Both systems work great and can be found at affordable prices. However, if you want to place your home cinema in a smaller room, 5.1 system is the better option, while 7.1 systems are usually used in mid-sized to large rooms because larger systems can be quite useless in small rooms (surround speakers tend to overwhelm the front speakers) and smaller systems sound underpowered in larger rooms.
Receivers are the hearts of every quality and complex surround sound system. They connect all the system elements related to both input devices (media source) and output devices (speakers). They receive the audio signal from the source, amplify it, and convey it to the speakers. Receivers can be connected to several source devices so you can remotely switch between them depending on the situation (watching movies, gaming, etc.).
When buying receivers, you should pay attention to the number and type of inputs. The more inputs supported, the better the receiver. For example, you can easily get a receiver that supports Bluetooth connection, has several HDMI, TOSLINK, and coaxial inputs, as well as analog (AUX/RCA) inputs.
The best choice, in this case, is definitely a quality Blu-ray player. It is significantly better than some regular disk players. Cable providers and different streaming platforms have improved their services and introduced 4K streaming but it is still not available for all video content.
Besides, you don’t have to use the home cinema setup for movies only. You can also connect it to your PS4 or Xbox One and have great gaming experience.
The most important thing here is to choose compatible devices.
Additional components and accessories
One aspect that is often overlooked is the quality wiring. However, this shouldn’t be the case because quality cables can make a huge difference in terms of audio and video quality.
Related : What are the Parts of a Stereo System?
The most important thing is to buy quality 2.0 HDMI cable and make sure it supports 4K video. Trust us, investing in good HDMI cables always pays off. Besides this, you should consider changing your speaker cables. Even if they come included in the package, it doesn’t mean they will reveal the full potential of your audio equipment.
How to Build the Ultimate Home Theater Experience?
As we have already mentioned (several times), building a home theater system is not an easy task. You have to plan the whole process thoroughly because minor mistakes can ruin the whole experience.
Make a plan
Making a detailed plan is the first thing you should do once you decide you want to make your own home theater system. In order to enjoy the perfect home theater experience, every detail of your plan shall be thoroughly worked out. It shall include every step on the way towards your new homemade cinema but the first thing you should do is define your budget.
Define your budget
This is one of the most important steps because you have to set some limits at the very beginning so you can control the expenses. Of course, you can always step away a bit from the planned budget but it’s in your best interest to stick to the plan.
If you carefully match the equipment with the room properties, there’s no reason for spending more money than planned.
Choose the proper equipment
If you want to make your own home theater, you must have at least some basic knowledge of audio and video equipment and you should know some basic placement rules. If this is not the case, we strongly advise you to read the corresponding literature and get familiar with the topic. Don’t start the project if you’re not absolutely confident that you know what you’re doing.
Related : How to Build a Speaker Box
Having the necessary knowledge about the equipment you need for a certain type of room is the key factor. You simply need to know what kind of devices can reveal the full potential of your home. The TV or the projector screen shall not be too small or too large and all the parts of equipment must be compatible. For example, you should be aware of the fact that a 20×13 room requires a 110 or 120-inch TV/projector screen in order to enable all the viewers to see the screen perfectly from their positions.
Choose the right location and placement
The thing you should bear in mind is that buying quality equipment doesn’t guarantee perfect performance. The speakers’ performance shall be optimized by choosing the right location and placement. If you don’t achieve this, you risk turning even the most expensive equipment into completely useless objects.
First of all, we should warn you that home theater experience involves loud sounds so you should think about locating your home cinema into an isolated part of your house (maybe even attic or basement depending on their acoustic properties). You should also try to insulate (soundproof) the chosen room to avoid disturbing your family or neighbors.
Second of all, make sure that you have placed your speakers correctly. Don’t forget to set your “sweet spot” and place your speakers in accordance with the basic rule of “equilateral triangle”. Setting a soundbar and the corresponding subwoofer is the simplest scenario while setting up 5.1 or 7.1 systems can be a bit troublesome. You can find more advice in our previous articles.
Related : How to Optimize Speaker Performance
Also, you should try to improve the room acoustics by adding/removing pieces of furniture, cushions, curtains, carpets, etc. because they absorb a lot of sound.
Last of all, make sure that you have the right wiring that improves the entire performance. One more thing that can help is adjusting the settings on your receiver/amplifier in a way that suits your needs. Experiment with the equalizer and try to adjust mids, highs, and lows to get the type of sound that you like.
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.