Spend wisely when you are installing a new home theater setup. Get the most out of your investment.
If you’re looking to set up an awesome home theater system in your house, then I’m glad to say you picked a great place to start home theater installation. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide dedicated to making sure you find everything you need to set up a home cinema system and to make sure that you get the right equipment to fit your needs. There are a lot of different choices when it comes to home theater setups, so all of the information below specifically discusses if the equipment is for a home theater in the living room or a home theater in its own dedicated room.
Table of contents
- Living Room Home Theater or Dedicated Home Theater Room?
- Best TV For Living Room Theater and How To Choose
- Best Projector for Dedicated Home Theater and How To Choose
- Best Projector Screen for Dedicated Home Theater and How To Choose
- Best AV Receiver for Living Room Theater
- Best Soundbars for Living Room Theater
- Best Surround Sound Speakers With AV Receiver
- Blu-Ray Player or On-Demand Video Service?
- Best Blu-Ray Player
- Best Streaming Media Player
- Best Wireless HDMI Kit and How To Use
- 10 Tips for Installing a New Home Theater
- Final Thoughts
Living Room Home Theater or Dedicated Home Theater Room?
Now that you know for sure you want a home theater, the next decision that you need to make is deciding where you’re going to put your set up. In a perfect world, you would have an extra room or basement or some area in the house for your home theater setup that would only be used strictly for your home theater. However, it’s completely possible that you won’t be able to do that, so a living room home theater system will do the trick as well. I’ll run through the ideal setup for both situations and what you should do depending on where your home theater is going to be situated.
Like I mentioned above, a dedicated room for your home theater system is going to be the envy of all your friends and family. Seriously. It’s going to be awesome. You will have complete control over everything that happens in the room, which means you can make sure that no light gets in and the theater is completely dark when you watch a movie. This means that you’ll get the best experience possible when you use it. If it is truly a space that nobody else will use, then you can go big with nice speakers, subwoofers, projectors, a giant screen, and even some crazy decor if you want to. However, before you assume that a room is going to work for your theater, do some measuring to double-check. You should have room for a screen of around 100 inches and make sure you have enough distance for your projector to accommodate that image size.
Okay, so maybe the dedicated home theater isn’t going to work out for you and you have to stick to keeping it in your living room. That’s okay! While you won’t be able to keep the speakers, subwoofers and screen size that you would in a dedicated room, you can still do a lot to make sure you get what you want out of it. It’s just important for you to know that if you are choosing to go with a home theater in your living room, you should have different expectations than you would if you were putting it in its own room.
If you’re stuck between deciding which one you want to do and you have a room that will accommodate a home theater, go the route of the dedicated home theater. You will not be disappointed.
Best TV For Living Room Theater and How To Choose
If you’re looking for a TV in your living room home theater, you’re probably going to want to avoid looking at a projector screen. While they may give off a good picture, your living room usually has a lot of ambient light which can make it difficult to see the projector. Furthermore, a projector hanging from the ceiling might not be a great look in your living room. Instead, you should try and look for a large flat-screen TV that will be big enough to work in your living room.
$1279 (*At the time of publishing)
As far as a TV in the living room goes, the best recommendation that we have is the Vizio E75-E1. Looking at this TV as a whole, it is going to offer you the best bang for your buck and it supports the new HDR standards and the picture quality is way better than any competitor. Rather than using internal apps, you can use the included tablet or your own smart device in order to wirelessly stream content to your TV. This TV is best when you purchase the 65 inches or the 75-inch version.
$905 (*At the time of publishing)
If you want a smaller TV or you want one with built-in apps, the Sony X930D is a great choice because it offers a pretty solid picture compared to other models tested. This particular TV model supports the most popular streaming services and it has a greatly integrated voice search as well. Enjoy 4K HDR with extraordinary brightness in an ultra-thin design.
$697 (*At the time of publishing)
You can also have a look at Samsung’s offer as well. While the name of Samsung’s landmark smart 4K Ultra HD TV may not have the catchiest name, it has some incredible technology behind it. Available in sizes ranging from 40″ all the way up to 65″, this flat-screen model boasts stunning color and HDR visuals.
What’s more, it is incredibly flexible and adaptable to work as part of any reliable home theatre system. Samsung is a great name you can rely on for reliable results.
$329 (*At the time of publishing)
Another great budget option comes from a little known company. Insignia may not be a brand that’s as well-known as Samsung, but their 55″ behemoth TV makes for just as good a home cinema experience. This TV works with up to 8 million different pixels to demonstrate the best possible visual experience you can get for less than $400.
Colors and contrast are super-simple to tweak and fine-tune. What’s more, this smart TV has Fire TV built-in, with apps and streaming services ready to launch.
When it comes to picking out a TV, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to help you get the best results. One, make sure you buy the biggest TV that your room and your budget will allow. This doesn’t mean you should buy the most expensive one, but finding a big TV for good value will help make your home theater even better. Secondly, try and stick to the name brands of the TV if at all possible. Samsung, Sony, and Vizio are great brands to keep in mind.
Best Projector For Dedicated Home Theater and How To Choose
If your home theater is going to be in its own dedicated room, then you’re going to want to find the best screen and projector that you can in order to deliver an unforgettable experience every time you use the theater. Most importantly, you need to make sure you buy a projector that can accommodate the screen size you wish to buy. If the projector can’t fill the screen in the space you have, you need to find a different option.
When looking at projectors, the best that you can purchase right now is the Epson Home Cinema 4010 4K with HDR. If you can fit this projector into your room, then it’s the one you should purchase. It offers outstanding performance, easy installation and has a low operating noise, so it won’t be distracting.
$1299 (*At the time of publishing)
Additionally, the BenQ TK800 is a pretty solid option, though it is a little bit louder and not as bright as the Sony model mentioned above. However, with excellent color accuracy and picture detail, great features such as motorized lens cover, horizontal and vertical lens shift it is the best value for the money. The package also includes two pairs of 3D glasses.
4K is beginning to catch on when it comes to TV’s but it is still outrageously expensive when it comes to projectors, that’s why we recommend you to have a look at 1080P Home Theater Projector.
$699 (*At the time of publishing)
Yes – believe it or not, it is now entirely possible to project in 1080p. BenQ’s amazing projector system, retailing at less than $700, can be flexibly connected to all your home theater tech, from Blu-ray players to smart TVs and games consoles.
This super-responsive unit has a flexible throw, which means you can easily position it to project short and long distances. What’s more, it’s ideally suited to a lot of action on the screen. There’s absolutely no loss.
Best Projector Screen for Home Theater
$449.98 (*At the time of publishing)
Recommended by Amazon’s home theater gurus, Silver Ticket’s amazing projector screen supports a super-wide angle for viewing. Built-in heavy-duty aluminum and black velvet, you’ll be able to see every last pixel of your favorite movies and games with the right projector alongside.
It’s a recommended model which, while retailing at just less than $450, is considered the leading choice in projector screen for any purpose. You’ll be paying more for the best technology, guaranteed.
$79.99 (*At the time of publishing)
Available for less than $80, this handy screen is recommended by Amazon as their pick for ‘best value.’ The 2-in-1 model, available in up to 100″, can either be hung or left standing.
Its flexible construction and wide, tense canvas can be easily packed up and set up again for outdoor projection and theater systems. We think this model works particularly well as a screen you can roll out for indoor use, too.
Best AV Receivers for Home Theater setup
A full-featured sound system with an AV Receiver and a complete set of speakers with surround speakers is must for the true cinema experience.
$598 (*At the time of publishing)
Working with Dolby Atmos technology, Sony’s own Bluetooth AV receiver may well be a good fit for the best home theater setup. Boasting seven channels of surround sound through just five channels, as well as auto-calibration, this is a smart system which will adapt to any space or room.
It’s easy to stream to and has plenty of dynamic setup features for flexibility. Plenty of HDMI ports, a USB port, and optical AVs are available.
$279.95 (*At the time of publishing)
All good AV receivers should have plenty of scope for inputs and outputs. This Bluetooth-enabled device allows you to stream content directly to the central hub for 4K Ultra HD conversion. It’ll communicate easily with TVs and projectors.
Boasting 60 frames per second and HD Audio from play to play, Yamaha’s super-capable unit is a big hit with Amazon buyers. It will likely fit in well as part of the best home theater setup you can buy.
Best Soundbars For Living Room Theater
If you are using a living room home theater setup, then odds are good that you’re going to want to go with a soundbar to deliver the sound from your TV rather than using an AV Receiver. Soundbars allow for great sound without the need for running a lot of wires or adding unnecessary speakers and has great improvements compared to the sound from your TV.
If you’re looking to find the best soundbar on the market that gives the best sound, it’s going to cost you. There are some particular sets out there like the Paradigm Soundscape that are without a doubt the most expensive on the list. However, they do offer the best and fullest sound possible. The Paradigm Soundscape offers crisp dialogue and vocals and exceptional bass without a subwoofer. But as mentioned, it costs more than a budget receiver and speaker combination.
$279 (*At the time of publishing)
If you want to find a soundbar that will fit your budget and still provide you with a great sound, the Vizio SB4015-C0 is the best choice. It blows away all of the competitors in the same price range by providing crystal clear sound and dialogue. Best of all it is a 5.1 surround system with Wireless Subwoofer & Rear Satellite Speakers. You might not get the dynamic sound that you would get with the Paradigm Soundscape which costs a lot of money. For the money, Vizio SB4015-C0 is the best you can buy.
Best Surround Sound Speakers With AV Receiver
If you have a dedicated home theater room, then you’re going to want a great surround sound speaker system.
$1419 (*At the time of publishing)
However, in order to get great sound, you don’t have to have the biggest or loudest speakers, you just need the best ones for your room and your budget. Obviously what you want is going to depend on the room you have and what you want to do with it, but in terms of finding the best sound system for under $1500, the ELAC Debut System does the best job.
It features a smooth reproduction of midrange sounds that can help dialogue sound more true and lifelike. The way these speakers handle quiet scenes or bursts in action makes it the best choice. You can control the subwoofer on this surround system using the app so you can easily adjust it when you need to.
$390.58 (*At the time of publishing)
If you’re on a budget, the Pioneer SP-PK22BS 5.1 Channel Speaker Package is a great choice. It certainly won’t win any awards for it looks, but when you factor in the price of this system, you’ll find the sound is second to none when compared to others in the same price range. Another great choice is Energy 5.1 Classic Home Theater which is very famous for great sound at a lower price range.
Blu-Ray Player or On-Demand Video Service?
Once you have everything set up in regards to your TV and the sound system, it’s time to start deciding what you are going to use in order to deliver picture and movies to your home theater. A lot of people tend to opt for a method like a Blu-ray player because it is capable of giving you the best quality sound and picture out of any other method. Later on, you’ll learn about the best Blu-ray player you can purchase to use with your home theater system.
If you prefer to not be tied down by having to use Blu-ray discs and insert a disc every time you want to watch something, then you should consider an on-demand video service such as Netflix or Hulu. All of the content on these platforms is stored digitally and easily allows you to stream the content through a streaming player. The quality on this, however, may not be as good.
Best Blu-Ray Player
As mentioned earlier, a Blu-ray player is going to provide you with the best audio and video for the home theater.
Most Blu-ray players are pretty similar to one another but there are a few differences that can matter when choosing between different players. The stand-out player among all of the other ones is the Oppo BDP-103D. It features video processing that is capable of making excellent video quality (2D/ 3D). While it is plenty more expensive than most Blu-ray players on the market, serious home theater enthusiasts will easily notice the difference in both audio and visual.
If you don’t want to spend that much on a Blu-ray player but you still want to find a high-quality player, the Sony BDP-S3500 is a great choice and will save you a fortune. It doesn’t have the processing power of the Oppo, but it features an easy to use interface and includes streaming surfaces. With built-in Wi-Fi, you can wirelessly access popular streaming apps and services including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime Video & more.
Best Streaming Media Player
With your home theater set up, you’re probably going to want a streaming media player so that you can play things such as Netflix, Hulu or other streaming services with ease from your home theater.
There are a lot of different options when it comes to finding ones that you can purchase, but the Roku Streaming Stick is one of the better options on the list. It is incredibly fast, doesn’t require a line of sight for the remote to work, and it is extremely affordable.
However, if you are a big fan of iTunes and Apple Music and you often use Apple products to play your media or purchase your movies and other digital content, then you’re probably going to be better off going with the Apple TV as your main option.
Best Wireless HDMI Kit and How To Use
A wireless HDMI kit will prove to be especially useful if you have a dedicated room for a home theater system. There’s a good chance that a lot of your equipment is going to be too far away from each other to run a cable connecting it all, and that’s where a wireless kit comes in handy.
Personally, I would recommend using the IOGear Wireless HD Digital Kit. This kit includes a transmitter with two HDMI inputs so that you can connect a variety of sources at the same time. This utilizes WHDI technology and operates in a range that makes it easy for it to work through walls without any noticeable signal blocking. It delivers full picture and audio quality but will not work with 4k.
10 Tips for Installing a New Home Theater System
Before we look at some of the best home theater setup ideas and brands on the market, let’s think about what you should do to get started. If it’s your first time installing a home theater for any purpose, there are a few factors you should always prepare for. Let’s take a quick look.
- Measure carefully! Plenty of people end up buying the wrong size of the screen for their home. If you’re interested in 4K Ultra HD, you can comfortably sit around 5 feet away from a 55″ screen. The bigger the screen, the further back you’ll need to sit.
- Think about using a soundbar. While you might be keen to get bigger surround sound units, smaller rooms will benefit from smaller sound systems.
- Have a gap between your wall and the sound system. If you’re likely to play plenty of basses, your neighbors might have something to say!
- Avoid glare. Never set up a home theater TV where you’re likely to get natural light catching on the screen from a window.
- Position seating carefully. You might have already thought about where to put your screen, but can everyone see it?
- Don’t be enamored by gimmicks. 3D TV is officially obsolete now – and curved screens aren’t exactly mainstream choices.
- Think about mounting speakers. This helps to create a great look as well as to balance the surround sound.
- Try and choose the right speakers for your media. Are you watching movies in a big room? Go for floor-standing units.
- Consider the extra cables you might need. From HDMI to aux cables and remotes, don’t leave anything to chance.
- Ask for help! Home theater systems are standard nowadays. Technical support gurus in-store or online can advise you on best practice.
If you’re building your very own home theater, you’re going to want to make sure that you have the best equipment available and that you love everything you purchase to use together. With this post in mind, you should have no problem finding the perfect equipment to help make your setup everything you want it to be.