Home Theater Systems

movie theater sound, you need to invest in a home theater audio system. You have a few choices when it comes to home theater systems. As far as budget, you can spend anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Serious audiophiles will want to read on for information about individual components; if you just want an easy to set up system that will give you good surround sound without breaking your budget, think about a HTIB (see below). Unless you are upgrading your home theater or setting up a theater in a new house, you probably already have some of the components of a home theater system. Most people already own a TV and DVD player; if you do and you're satisfied with them, you are off to a good start. Since TVs, '''Watts''': Measurement of power; in a receiver this is correlated with how loud the system will sound. Subwoofers are also described in watts; more watts means more bass. * '''Decibels''': Measure of loudness. Don't base any comparisons on decibels alone, since decibels are not an absolute measure. They measure loud noises at a given distance from a sound. * '''Timbre''': The tonal quality of a sound, separate from its amplitude and frequency. If you buy speakers from different manufacturers, they may not have the same timbre; this will be noticeable when a sound moves from one side of the room to the other. If you buy your components separately, be sure to test them together for timbre match. * '''Tweeter''': The speaker driver that produces the highest sounds. Sometimes included in a speaker along with a midrange, but generally not found in the subwoofer. * '''Midrange''': The driver that produces, you guessed it, the sounds in the middle of the audio range. * '''Subwoofer''': The driver that produces the lowest sound. Usually found in its own box, and sometimes sold separately from speaker systems. Low-frequency sounds add depth and richness to the audio experience but are difficult to localize, so it doesn't matter much where you put the subwoofer.

Home Theater in a Box

Home theatersfree and provide decent sound. If you are interested in something even less complicated that also saves space, take a look at the smaller DVD Minisystems. A HTIB will generally include a 5.1 speaker system (5 satellite speakers and a subwoofer) and a DVD player/receiver combined unit.

HTIB Buying Tips

'''Speakers''' * HTIBs are available with speakers in many sizes, although most HTIBs don't have the really big speakers that you can buy as individual components. ** The quality ranges for tolerable to terrific, but you probably won't find a HTIB that will sound as good as a custom-designed speaker system. ** For the home audio novice or those who aren't as particular about sound quality, HTIBs are a great solution. ** HTIBs are also good for smaller spaces, such as dorm rooms or small TV rooms. ** Keep in mind that size matters: speakers can be as small as a lunch box or as tall as a bookshelf. *** Small speakers can sound terrific, but they may not be able to provide really deep bass. They also don't get as loud as big speakers. *** In most cases, bigger speakers will sound better. ** Because the speakers come as a set, you won't have any problems with compatibility; however, it may be difficult to add components later. ** You may also see speakers advertised as wireless; this is not entirely honest. *** Wireless speakers connect to the receiver via infrared signals; however, they still require a power source. ** To learn more about what's important in each kind of speaker, read on below. '''Receiver''' * '''Look For:''' ** Many connectivity options (in case you want to add more inputs later.) ** Power will indicate just how loud your sound system can get. * HTIB systems include a receiver; that's why they're HTIBs and not speaker systems. * Click here to learn more about what to look for in a receiver. '''DVD Player''' * '''Look For:''' ** Broad disc compatibility ** Multi-disc capacity (if this is important to you.) ** Easyuse interface. * Although it is unusual, HTIBs don't always come with a DVD player. ** Most options offer a combined DVD/receiver; most of these can also play burned CDs, and some can even play MP3 CDs. ** Keep in mind that the remote controls for these types of integrated players are slightly more complicated to use and will probably take some getting used to. * Individual DVD players are relatively cheap these days. You can spend $100+ on a low-end player that you can upgrade down the road if you want, and spend whatever extra money you have on purchasing a better quality home theater system. ** Check out the DVD players available and learn more about them DVD recorder. * Another option is a DVD minisystems. They play DVDs, MP3 discs, CDs and tapes. ** The units are smaller than a home theater type setup, but can be great if you are trying to save space. ** Most of the models come with two speakers, but some come with sets of six speakers. See the DVD Minisystems Buying Guide for more information and some products. ** While these can be great space savers, they don't have the powerful sound that comes with a full-sized home theater system.

Top Picks for HTIBs

These systems represent the top picks on CNET. The first system does not include a DVD player, so it is a good choice if you have a DVD player you like.

Other Top Picks

** The is not a bad system for the price, but isn't the most aesthetically pleasing. ** with tall speakers. 

Oscar-Worthy Options

Still not satisfied with your choices? A few more ideas for a guaranteed high quality home theater system.

Speaker Mounting

A few options for mounting your speakers just about anywhere in a neat way that avoids clutter. Also check out wall plates, a convenient way to build and mount your own system and keep cables bundled together.

Choosing Speakers

If you are home theater enthusiast and want to build a customized surround system you will need: * a
TV and DVD player * a receiver with an integrated amplifier and multi-channel capability (5.1or 7.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX), * a minimum of five speakers (one center, one right, one left and two surround) * a subwoofer. Be sure that you are ready to deal with the wiring of these different components. If you decide to build your own home theater system, you'll have to pick out your speakers individually or as a set separate from your receiver and DVD player. This gives you a lot of flexibility, but you'll have to do a bit more research and possibly some home testing before you make a decision. One important consideration is that your speakers match each other in timbre. If you buy from the same manufacturer and the same line, you should be fine; buying different makes or models is a riskier decision.  '''Recommendations''' If you're looking for a speaker package, here are a few suggestions from amplifiers, so there is no need to go and buy separate one. * '''Top Subwoofers (from CNET)''' ** Polk Audio PSW350 ** Sunfire True Subwoofer Junior ** Sunfire True Subwoofer Original ** ** Bose Cinemate ** Sony HT DDW670

Center Speakers

The center speaker is the one that sits right in the center of the room. A lot of dialogue and other important sounds come from the center speaker, so good quality is of great importance. * If you have large left and right front speakers, get the largest center speaker you can. You want the front of your audio landscape to be in balance across the room. * A three-channel speaker is your best bet, so you don't have to rely on the subwoofer for all the bass. * If you can, you should probably buy the same brand center speakers as your left and right so the timbre will match. If you don't buy the same brand, be sure to try before you commit.

Front Speakers

Your left and right front speakers are important for music as well as movies. If you plan to listen to music more often than you play movies, you might want to spend 30-40% of your home theater budget on the front speakers. (Otherwise, distribute the budget evenly over all your speakers.) * Buy the largest ones you can afford and accommodate. Your front speakers are going to pull a lot of weight in your home theater setup. * If you are buying individual components, make sure your front speakers match your center speaker in terms of timbre and power.

Surround Speakers

As with other speakers, you should try to match your surrounds to the rest of your setup. Precise timbre match isn't as important for surrounds, however, since they're mostly there to provide sound effects and a three-dimensional feel. There are two kinds of surround speakers: monopole and dipole/bipole. * '''Monopole speakers''' project sound straight ahead in one direction. ** This is the type that looks like a "typical" satellite speaker. ** HTIBs usually use monopole speakers. ** Good for musicend setups. * '''Dipole speakers''' project sound out to the sides in two directions. ** Creates a more diffuse, atmospheric sound environment. ** Best suited to watching movies; not the best choice for listening to music.

Major Manufacturers

* Sony * Onkyo * Denon * Pioneer * Panasonic * Bose * Harmon Kardon * Philips * Audiobahn * Bazooka * Clarion * Infinity * Kenwood * Sirius

Related Guides

* Electronics * Home Theater