Best Budget Ideas for fitting out a Home Theater with new equipment in 2016
With the prices of electronics at an all-time low and access to quality, guaranteed items being as close as the 'click' of a computer mouse (and the use of a credit card), the components of a brilliant home theater are within reach of many of us.
What is necessary, however, to get the most 'bang-for-the-buck', is to make informed decisions about purchasing - whether those relate to high definition TVs and projectors, surround sound systems or component systems (including blu-ray players, amplifiers and speakers).
To provide some idea of the costs involved, to set up a brilliant 7.1 surround sound system (including the audio components alone) - according to pricing available through Amazon - you would need less than $760. For that, you could buy:
- a quality Blu-Ray player (with 4K upscaling and Streaming capability);
- a 7.2 surround sound amplifier; and
- a 7.1 surround sound speaker system.
That system will give you TrueHD 3D video and lossless audio decoding (through Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio), an advanced 7.1 digital surround sound amplifier (that includes Bluetooth connectivity) and a great 7.1 speaker package.
For quality budget-conscious video options, you could then match that audio system with:
- a 40"+ 4K Ultra HDTV (for a little under $300); or
- a TrueHD 3D projector packaged with a 100" screen (for a little under $950 you would get the cinematic experience).
With all new equipment and going for the 4K Ultra HDTV option, you could fit out a great Home Theater for under $1,100 (and if opting for a projector and screen, it would still be under $1,800).
Of course, for the budget conscious who desired and were otherwise able to afford the projector option, you could forego a screen and simply throw the image from the projector on to a wall (in that case, the set-up costs would be under $1,600).
With Home Theater becoming increasing affordable, which approach would you take?
When approaching a Home Theater kit-out on a budget, which set-up would you install?
Blu-Ray Players (with Wi-Fi Streaming and 4K Scaling capabilities)
Starting with the basics of home theater - we need to appreciate that the quality of the source of our sound and vision will, ultimately, be a major determinant in what we can achieve.
We have now, thankfully, moved well beyond the VHS Video Recorder/Player (and even standard DVD Players) and are well established in the high definition age - in respect of both sound and vision. Blu-Ray players (with 3D playback, Wi-Fi Streaming capabilities and 4K Scaling) are a great starting point for both high definition sound and vision (including true High Definition 3D decoding for vision and Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio decoding for lossless audio decoding).
Below, we have shown one of the best priced quality Blu-Ray players (with 3D playback, Wi-Fi Streaming and 4K Scaling) available on Amazon.
Features of the Panasonic DMP-BDT270 4K Upscaling 3D Blu-Ray Disc and Streaming Player include: Up-conversion of Blu-ray to 4K Ultra HD equivalent; conversion of 2D to 3D; Wi-Fi streaming (allowing you to stream sports, games and multi-media); view media on your smartphone or tablet (with Miracast); and capacity to directly access content stored on external hard disk drives.
7.2 Surround Sound Amplifiers and Speakers
Next, after ensuring a high quality source for your system to be built around, you need to ensure that other components of the system handle the digital information from your Blu-Ray player optimally.
Ideally, this will involve initial processing through a high quality digital amplifier. This critical piece of equipment will serve as a hub for distributing the visual data to your projector or television and powering your speakers for an optimal sound experience.
The specifications of your Amplifier should at least meet (if not exceed) those of your Blu-Ray player - that is, the amplifier should be capable of processing TrueHD 3D and 4K image data (or providing for pass-through), in addition to lossless audio data. It should also be designed to deliver a 7.2 speaker configuration (that is, center, left and right front, side and rear speakers, in addition to 2 subwoofers [one for the front of the room and one for the rear of the room]). In almost all cases, these amplifiers will have extensive extra options for connecting peripherals, including iPods, CD players and computers (some even have WiFi or Bluetooth capabilities). Similarly, the remote controls of these advanced amplifiers, typically, can be programmed to replace many (if not all) of the controls associated with the rest of the home theater, including Blu-Ray players, projectors and televisions.
Below, we have shown one of the best priced quality digital amplifiers available on Amazon, in addition to one of the best priced 7.1 speaker options (also available on Amazon).
Features of the Sony STRDH750 7.2 Channel 4K Amplifier include: High Resolution Audio Playback; 4 HD inputs; 3D pass-through; Smartphone connectivity (via MHL); and 4K pass-through.
Features of the Onkyo SKS-HT540 7.1 Channel Home Theater Speaker System include: 130 watts total output on 2-way bass reflex front, center, and surround speakers; front and center 2-way speakers featuring 5-inch diaphragm woofers and 1-inch balanced floating tweeter; and bass reflex powered subwoofer with 230 watts output (ubwoofer construction includes a 10-inch cone driver).
TrueHD 3D Projectors (and Screens)
For a truly expansive home theater experience, projectors are ideal for delivering the feel of the cinema - being able to produce massive images of 100"+ wide. To get the best out of projectors, it is best if they are used in a light-controlled room with the image thrown on to a white background (and while screens are made for this purpose, a properly painted wall can also produce outstanding results).
These do not have to be ceiling mounted (although this may be optimal in some circumstances), but may operate from a coffee table, or from a bookshelf at the rear of a room.
True HD Home Theater projectors will have a resolution of 1920x1080 and good contrast ratios (these typically exceed 10,000:1). Most dedicated 1080p projectors on the market will be 3D ready, but to ensure optimal delivery of images, it is worthwhile to have a dedicated 3D projector (these will also deliver sterling 2D images). To watch 3D images, special glasses are necessary and these can be purchased to suit individual projector models.
On the matter of painting a wall for optimal screen performance, a paint that has been proven to produce great results (similarly to those achieved with a Studiotek 100 screen) is Sherwin-Williams 'ProClassic Smooth Enamel Satin Finish' (Extra White). Applying the paint with a roller with the tightest possible nap will work well - and then trimming the image area with a matte black border will really make the projected image "pop".
Of course, for a true cinematic experience, a large 16:9 ratio screen is optimal - such as the Elite Screen 100" Sable Frame Screen.
Below, we have shown one of the best priced quality projector and screen packages available on Amazon.
Features of the BenQ HT1075 3D TrueHD Projector include: 40" (at 3.85') to 235" (at 22.5') Screen Size Range; 2,220 Lumens (ANSI) Brightness; 10,000:1 Contrast Ratio; Keystone Correction; Lens Shift; up to 5,000 Hour Lamp Life (in Economic Mode); and 1 Year Parts/Labor Warranty. Features of the Elite Screens 100" Sable Frame B2 Series Projector Screen include: 100-inch Diagonal, 16:9 Aspect Ratio Screen (with CineWhite, 1.1 Gain. 4K Ultra HD and Active 3D Projection Ready material); Black Velvet Frame; 160 degree viewing angle; Mildew resistant construction that is easy to clean with soap and water; and 2 Year Manufacturer's Warranty
4K Ultra HDTV
This option for delivering a system's visual performance is ideally suited to smaller home theaters where space is at a premium, or when it is difficult to achieve adequate levels of ambient light for optimal use of a projector.
4K Ultra HDTV specifications vary, but the minimum display is typically a 3840x2160 array (approximately 4 times the pixels in traditional TrueHD displays). Needless to say, the pictures will be sharp (showing details in the images that you will not have been able to even see previously) and with modern high refresh rates, the moving images will be very smooth.
These are a great option for those on a particularly tight budget - and will generally require much less maintenance than a projector.
Below, we have shown some of the best priced quality 4K Ultra HDTV options available on Amazon.
Accessories: HDMI, iPod/iPhone and speaker cables
To connect your home theater components, be sure to use quality high capacity cabling. Again, the prices of these materials is quite accessible and their use will ensure that the digital and other electrical signals are carried optimally. Quality HDMI, iPod and audio cabling is even available through Amazon.