A home theater is not only a combination of audio and video equipment but you also need to optimize the audio and video which will give true meaning to your theater room. Without proper optimization, the best equipment will sound the worse.
That’s why don’t skip any step in this guide to have the perfect theater that your neighbor and friends will be jealous of.
Allot a week to learn about the home theater before setting it up. This guide is enough for you to get started. I have created this guide for those to start their journey error-free. That’s why please read all the linked resources.
Throughout this guide, I will link to helpful tips and product reviews for all budgets. Because it is necessary to give you a complete solution. Home theater has many things connected to it. Every link will land you on my other articles. I will let you know when a link goes to another site.
Disclaimer: It is also a product guide for building a home theater.
Note: Download your printable of the Home theater equipment list at the end of this article.
What does a home theater system consist of?
It consists of the following parts.
- Home Theater Video Equipment (TV or Projector)
- Home Theater Audio Equipment (surround sound or soundbar)
- Audio Video Processing Equipment (AV receiver or Separates)
- Audio Optimization tools and work
- Video Optimization tools and work
- Media Sources Or Streaming Devices
- Power Surge Protector
- Seating For The Audience
- Cables For Connectivity
Home Theater Video Equipment
To output a video you need a display. There are two well-known display options for the home theater. We will discuss each one and will help you to choose what. One is a TV and the other is a projector.
You can find TVs that can go upto 100 inches and more. But 85 inches is the most common and many uses this one. My father has an 85-inch TV with a soundbar. Well, I don’t recommend a soundbar in many cases but that is another debate for another post.
Let’s compare both of the options so you can choose one. These are not general pros and cons but comparisons between TV and projector.
What TV has plus points over the projector?
- There is no scarcity of brightness in the TVs. You get plenty of it without worrying about lumens numbers
- TV gets an upper hand over the projector on contrast ratio. The blacks, deep blacks, and grey will be easily distinguishable.
- The TV needs little maintenance. You just have to clean the dust off it once per three months.
- The sound quality is not better from a soundbar or surround sound but it is better than a projector.
- You don’t need a huge space to output the display. You just need to place it on the top of the cabinet and you are good to go.
- You don’t need a separate screen for its display. For a projector, you need a screen as well.
A projector can give you more than 150 inches of screen and here 120 inches is the most common and norm. Let’s discuss this option.
What Projector has plus points over the TV?
- The projector cost less than the TV. You get a 100 inches display for a few hundred dollars in the projector while for an 85 inches TV you have to pay a few thousand dollars.
- You get 150 to 200 or 300 inches of image size on the projector. Yes, you read it right. Some projectors can give a sharp image on the 200 inches as well.
- You get super-resolution here on a projector but also get flexibility. You can go from one resolution to another with a push of a button. Few companies are providing screens for projectors that can be transformed from one resolution to another with a push of a button. You watch matches in one resolution and movies in another.
- Projectors are super portable. You can move it easily from one room to another. But it is not recommended as it will need good calibration in another place.
- The projector is acoustics friendly. There are acoustic transparent screens. A center speaker can be placed behind it and it is the best place for it.
Recommended Products For This section:
- Best Short Throw Projector For Home Theater (Top 5 Reviewed)
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TV Vs Projector Ratings
Watch this video for the difference between a TV and Projector
Home Theater Audio Equipment
For the home theater audio, you again get two options. One is a soundbar and the other one is a complete surround sound setup.
In the soundbar, you just get a bar that could be placed below or above the display while the surrounding side has a set of speakers that surrounds you.
Let’s discuss each one so that you can decide to go with which one.
Surround sound comes in many options. The most common is 5.1 and in my home, it is 9.4.4. The 9 describes the speakers around the audience and these are on the ground. The next 4 describe the 4 subwoofers and the next 4 describe speakers that are above the head and used for Dolby Atmos effects.
- Best Home Theater System Under $1000 (Top 5 Reviewed). A complete surround sound system with an AV receiver
What Surround sound has plus points over the Soundbar?
- The soundbar can never match the sound quality of the surround sound. The speakers in the SS surround you from each direction. Each speaker plays its side sound effects. We will discuss this in detail in this guide. The surround sound creates a virtual sound universe around you
- The sound can go very loud in the SS. The soundbar can’t reach this level of loudness
- You get a wider soundstage in the SS layout. The speakers are far apart and they create a wider image of the sound while a soundbar is just a bar and the speakers in it are in just one line. Small speakers all in one line can’t produce an image like speakers around you can.
- The surround sound has a chest-hitting bass that a single soundbar can’t produce. Many soundbars come with separate subwoofers but still to the surround sound you can add 2 or 4 subwoofers at once. Also, all the speakers have the best quality drivers installed in them.
Components of the surround sound
A surround sound is a complete set of speakers. That’s why discussing each one is very necessary.
I will discuss the components of 7.1.2. The most common Dolby Atmos surround sound layout.
The Center Speaker
The center speaker will have to be placed very near the display. It is responsible for 70-80% of dialogues in the home theater. It only throws out dialogues and fewer other tones. Like a pistol in the hand of the central character. The dialogue and gunfire sounds will come out of this speaker. It is a dedicated speaker for the center channel. It is the most important speaker in surround sound but it can’t be used alone.
- Best Center Speaker For Home Theater (Top 7 Reviewed)
The Front Left & Right Speaker
These are the second important speakers in surround sound. These are used for the dialogues after the center speaker. When the characters are at the front and the left and right speakers then these speakers will be used for dialogues. These will also be used for stereo music.
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The Surround Sides Speakers
These speakers go to the left and right sides of the audience. They produce sound effects on the left and right sides. It throws out little dialogues: the dialogues of the character that are talking to the central character and doesn’t face the camera.
The Rear Surround Speakers
These speakers go at the back of the audience. These speakers produce the sound effects of the objects that are behind the central character and throw out very little dialogue.
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In-ceiling Speakers For Dolby Atmos
These speakers are installed in or on the ceiling. These speakers are responsible for the sounds that are above the central character on the screen. It includes helicopters, fighter jets, and bullets. It will also throw out the dialogue of a person in the helicopter shouting at the center character or just talking to the people down there.
- Best In-ceiling Speakers For Home Theater (Top 7 Reviewed)
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The subwoofer is responsible for producing the bass in the theater room. It operates only on the lower end of the sound. It gives realism to the punches, slamming of the doors, anything that falls on the ground, and much more that needs a thumping effect with it.
- Best Home Theater Subwoofer Under $1000 (Top 7 Reviewed)
- Best Home Theater Subwoofer Under $500 (Top 7 Reviewed)
- Best Home Theater Subwoofer Under $300 (7 Reviewed)
A soundbar is a small bar that consists of three speakers. The center and front left and right speakers are built in it. The soundbar is for the newbies that want to set up their home theater in a few minutes.
What Soundbar has plus points over the Surround Sound?
- The soundbar can be set up within a few minutes with just two wires. One wire for the audio signal transmission and another for its power supply. Soundbar also provides Bluetooth connectivity. But this Bluetooth connectivity sometimes has audio out-of-sync issues.
- You can find a soundbar that starts from $70 while no surround sound comes at $70. The soundbars are cheaper but some soundbars cost more nowadays.
- The soundbar is very convenient to use. Just place it below or above the TV and you are good to go while in surround sound you have to find positions and angles for the speakers’ placements.
- The soundbar can easily adjust to the home theater environment while surround sound speakers will have their own identity in the room.
- The soundbar doesn’t need a separate audio and video unit while surround sound needs it.
- Best Home Theater Soundbar Under $300 (Top 7 Reviewed)
Soundbar Vs Surround Sound Ratings
|Audio Equipment Type||Ratings|
Learn more from this video about Soundbars VS Speakers
Audio Video Processing Equipment
In this category; here too come two options. Both options will not be used for the soundbar. This section is only for surround sound. One is an AV receiver and the other is known as a separate.
An AV receiver is an audio-video unit and all of the parts are adjusted in one box. This box has the amplifier, preamp, and video processing unit all in it.
What AV Receiver has plus points over the Separates?
- It can be adjusted well in the system. Just place it in the cabinet.
- The connectivity is easier than the Separates. You have to connect all the audio and video components to one unit.
- You don’t need a separate preamp or amplifier for the system.
- Keeping it cool is easier than the separates.
- It is cheaper than the separate
- Best Home Theater Receiver Under $500 (Top 7 Reviewed)
- Best Home Theater Receiver Under $300 ( Top 7 Reviewed)
- Best Home Theater Receiver Under $1000 (Top 7 Reviewed)
The separates have amplifiers and preamp separate. They are external and not built in one box. These are two separate units in a rack or a cabinet.
What Separates has plus points over the AV Receivers?
- It has better sound quality. The sound is fuller, more natural, and deeper than the AV receiver.
- It has better controlling options for the sound
- It can power more speakers with enough power than the AV receiver. AV receivers can’t power more than three speakers enough in many cases. The separates will work fine in those cases
- The video quality is superior to the AV receiver output result
- It provides many more input options for media sources, streaming devices, and gaming consoles.
- Best Home Theater Preamp/Processor (Top 5 Reviewed)
AV Receiver Vs Separates Ratings
|AV Processor Equipment||Ratings|
Know more about the AV Receiver Vs Separates from this video
Audio Calibration/Optimization Of The Home Theater
If you gather top-of-the-notch audio equipment on the planet in your home theater. But skip on the audio optimizations the whole theater experience will go into the mud.
That’s why audio optimization is as important as buying the best equipment on the market.
You have to install the acoustic panels in the home theater to stop the sound reverberation and then soundproof the home theater. Lastly, you will have to calibrate the sound as well.
It can be done in a few steps. You can read about these 5 steps in detail from my guide on how to optimize the home theater audio. If I write it again here then this guide will be so lengthy. I have added that guide to the recommended tips.
Note: You can skip this audio and video optimization if you want to hire professionals for it but follow this guide. I have tutorials for you that will help you set up the home theater.
- Best SPL Meter For Home Theater (Top 3 Reviewed)
Know audio calibration from this youtube video
Video Calibration/Optimization Of The Home Theater
Many bloggers suggest these steps only for those theater rooms that are powered by a projector. But I will repeat it both for projector-based and TV-based theater rooms.
- Block any kind of light coming into the room. Install blackout curtains. These will block out both sound and light coming into the room.
- Never install the display in front of the door. The audience coming and going out of the room will ruin the display as the light will reflect in the display.
- Paint the walls black and install that furniture in the room that has dark paint and not a bright one.
- Don’t keep any kind of lighting on in the theater room.
- Read the detailed user manual of the projector or TV online for calibration or talk to an expert to calibrate your TV or projector.
TV calibration Tutorial
Projector Calibration Tutorial
Media Source Or Streaming Device
This media source is connected to the audio and video processing unit. It is used to feed the AV unit with connecting. It can be a Blu-ray player, DVD player, turntable, gaming console, radio, on-air TV, dish TV, or streaming stick.
You need this media source to feed the theater room. The best one which I love the most is the streaming dongle or stick. Like Roku which provides many streaming services such as NETFLIX, Amazon Prime, and many more.
Power Surge Protector
A power surge is very important to save your equipment from damage. This theater system can be damaged by a sudden increase in electricity, thunderstorms in the town, or another object that has defected in the system. The equipment can also be damaged by short circuits happening anywhere in the theater system.
This power surge protector will protect your expensive products from power surge damage.
Home Theater Seating
You will need seating furniture for the theater room. There are really fancy ones and mediocre ones.
The fancy seatings have glass holders, and cool lighting, and the seating will be flexible for comfortable seatings. If you think these characteristics are a luxury then you can save a few thousand dollars and go with the mediocre seatings.
A mediocre seat will be a regular soft couch.
- How To Build A Home Theater Seating Platform (Calculations & Implementations)
Cables For Connectivity
You will need to connect the media sources and audio-video components. For data transmission such as from media source to the AV unit and from the AV unit to the display. I will recommend a newer version of HDMI.
For the speaker’s connectivity; I will recommend any best-selling 14 or 16-gauge wire. Don’t consider it lower than that.
Because the newer HDMI version and 16 gauge wires will give the best quality of audio and video.
Download The Home Theater Equipment List (Check List (PDF)
You can download this checklist. Print it and start checking and shopping.
How to assemble a home theater system?
Follow this process step by step for an error-free setup.
- Place the center speaker very close to the display. Position its tweeter at your ear level. It should be making a 0 degree with the audience
- Place the front left and right speakers on each side of the center speaker. They should be making a 30-degree angle with the audience. For each speaker, angle read my this guide
- Place each speaker around you with their respective angles by reading my above guide.
- Place a subwoofer in the middle of the front right or front left and center speaker.
- Place the AV receiver in the cabinet. Place it in a well-ventilated area. It needs to be kept cool.
- Now, wire each speaker to the AV receiver. Read my this guide to know how to hide speaker wires
- Now, connect the media source to the AV receiver’s HDMI input port. Use a top-quality HDMI cable
- Connect the output ARC HDMI port to the ARC port of the TV or projector
- You have successfully assembled the home theater system. Now, the last step will be to calibrate the audio video and acoustically treat the theater room.
This was my opinion, know more from WikiHow
Why is surround sound so expensive?
Every surround sound is not expensive. The price rises with the quality. There are complete sets of surround sound that can cost you less than $500. But a lot of quality will be compromised.
The price of the surround sound is dependent on its quality. You can have Hi-end surround sound very expensive and on the other hand, a normal surround sound for a smaller room will cost you less than $500. These under $500 surround sounds are the best for newbies.
How much does it cost to put in a home theater?
A normal home theater in a living room will cost you $7000 but this will be entry-level. An entry-level Dolby Atmos theater will cost around $15000 and a mid to high-fi home theater will cost you from $30000-70000. But a $15000 home theater is the best option for %75 of the newbies.
This was my opinion, read more from this Homadvisor