What Is The Best Home Theater System?

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Disclosure

Find This Post Helpful?

What Is The Best Home Theater System

So you’ve put aside some money and decided that getting a sound system is something that you’re interested in, awesome! But now what?


How do you choose the best one? To answer that, we’d need to cover one important thing first…



How To Make A Home Theater On A Budget

So you finally sat down and decided, you know what, I think I’m going to create my personal home theater system. But what is actually the best, and would allow you to get the most bang for your buck? Well unfortunately there is no magic formula where its a one size fits all, it’s probably going to be a little more hands on than that… (I can already hear the booing).

Fortunately however, what I can do is provide you with as much info as possible so that your decision will be that much easier for you, so that you have an idea of what works for you.

This is going to be focused on actually creating your system, while in the next part, I’ll help you with getting everything set up. I hope it’ll be a good read that should prove immensely helpful for you; so lets get into it! 😀

Now before we get into any type of equipment talk, room details etc., we’re going to start with arguably, the single most important thing, and that’s….(drum roll) the budget!

Like with many things in life, your budget is going to be one of the biggest deciding factors in what you ultimately end up deciding upon.

So in knowing that, obviously it would be impossible for me to just throw out some arbitrary number, but what I can do is give an idea of factors to keep in mind.

First off you’ll want to take the more personal approach and take the time to create the one that is the best for you.

That means considering things like room size, seating, etc.

If you’re one of the few where money isn’t a factor for you, then setting a budget probably wouldn’t be applicable and instead just take the rest of the later tips into consideration.

But for the person who is a little more financially conscious, it’s going to boil down to common sense. If you spend most of your budget on let’s say, two really top of the line left and right speakers, then buy whatever receiver that might not even provide them with enough power, that’s obviously going to hamper your potential experience.

The benefit of setting a budget in the first place is that you’ll at least have a bracket to work in to get the best components.

So let’s say you’re like you know what, x dollars is my maximum for example. Awesome, that makes your life a lot simpler because from there you know what to get within your particular range.

At the same time, keep in mind that keeping your budget somewhat flexible can be helpful since it might save you potential headaches in the long run, especially if the thing you get is actually quality and is actually built to last — rather than simply breaking after a short period of time.

For example if you get something that’s built with quality in mind, chances are it’s going to holdup better than something that might be lesser quality and seem like a good idea at the moment.

Not just that, but if you plan on upgrading years later, some of your current equipment might be able to carry over so then that’s something less you have to worry about!

This isn’t something that’s always certain mind you, since it will of course depend on the thing it is that you’re actually looking at, but it’s still something to think about.


Stereo or 5.1?


The next thing you’re going to want to do is ask yourself, are you looking to take the easier route and simply purchase a home theater in a box? Or are you looking to make your own system?

If it’s the former, then while it wouldn’t be my very first choice, there are a few good ones out there that will suffice.



But if you’re thinking long term, and actually want to create something on your own that’ll knock your socks off and serve you for years to come then read on.

Now before we continue, I have to stop to ask you something; something that’s very important… (no it’s not a marriage proposal don’t worry)

Are you looking to primarily play music, watch movies, or both?

If your emphasis is just on music, then you’ll be more concerned with stereo sound which would simply be 2 speakers.

But if you’re going after a more complete system, then you’ll want to start with the more traditional 3.1, or 5.1 setup (the first number denoting the number of speakers and the last, the amount of subwoofers) for now until you get more comfortable and decide where you want to go from there.




Make Some Room!

After that, what will undoubtedly have a huge impact in regards to what sort of setup you may want to go with is your room size.

What I highly recommend after you decided on a budget is measuring the size of your room with a tape measure measuring length, width, and even the height.

From my personal experience and honest opinion, your room is going to have the biggest impact on sound bar none.

Sound waves created by your audio sources will travel throughout the entire room, and whatever object is in that room, is going to affect the sound in one way or another.

Take for example your living room.

If you have hardwood floors and the sound is reflected off that, typically what will happen is that the sound you end up hearing with be a little more harsh as opposed to if you had soft carpet; in which comparatively, you might find it to be a little warmer.

But perhaps, it might be the exact opposite, still be hard on the ears, and seem hollow due to the fact it’s always different depending on the characteristics of a room.

Sound is weird right?

This is one reason why someone might think a particular speaker is less than stellar when in fact, their room may just need some acoustical adjustments to better accommodate their new purchase.

Simply put, it’s always going to be different, and you’ll find out what needs to be done when you get into the setup process. One thing I can recommend to you right off the bat is to try and add as many soft fabric objects to the room as possible.

These can be in the form of an extra chair, a couch, you get the idea. The reason for this is like we said, sound travels and reflects; but what happens when that reflection hits a soft surface is it gets absorbed.

What this does is allow the purest sound to be heard because there isn’t any extra reflecting sounds adding to it. So with the more soft objects in a room, the better things will sound basically.

Your room size itself will then also determine the best fitting speaker as some need lots of space to operate.

If you have a smaller or even medium room size, let’s say 16×20, then you’ll be able to get away with a bookshelf speaker. However when you approach the large room territory, over 25 feet, then you’ll most likely want to start looking at floor standing speakers since they would sound better for your application.

Typically they produce more bass, have a broader range of sound, and can go louder; with the only tradeoff being the price. If that sounds like something that would be more applicable to your current situation, then this may help you.



If your focus is television and movies, listen when I say this, if there’s one thing you don’t want to skimp on, it’s going to be the center channel speaker. The center channel is going to be where the majority of dialogue, and some music/sound effects come from, and will act as the foundation of your entire setup.

Ever watch a movie and you’re like wait what did they say?

Can you rewind that?

Yeah that’s the job of the center so that you don’t miss those important details. These are the ones that you’ll want to check out if you’re thinking about adding one to your setup.



While we’re still on the subject of rooms, your seating area also comes into play. It only makes sense that where you sit in the room is going to have a measurable effect on what you hear, so taking your time getting that right would be wise.

Now what that entails would be too much for me to explain here so if you’re curious about that and want to get the best out of even your current system, I highly recommend you take a look here.




The Receiver/Subwoofer

The next thing that comes in at a really close second is going to be the subwoofer. A good subwoofer will provide that visceral, larger than life feeling making things that much more dynamic, so getting one that’s quality can certainly enhance the experience.

It’s going to be responsible for producing that convincing thump that you feel in movies.

Picking a good subwoofer isn’t too terribly hard, as there are many quality ones, but for me personally, a rule I follow, and something that I would recommend to you, a subwoofer that can at least reach into the 35 Hertz range with no discernable distortion is definitely one to look into; the lower the hertz, (abbreviated to Hz) the better.

This means that it’ll be able to dig deeper the lower that Hz number is, in turn giving you a much smoother and richer bass.

Also the higher RMS the better (which is basically the continuous amount of power that the subwoofer can produce; you’ll often see this mentioned where it lists the specs.)

To make it easy for you, I even did an article on these too explaining all of this.



Now after you’ve done that then you’ll want a receiver.


In short, a receiver is where the sound is processed and output, so buying one that is appropriate is important as well.

What I mean by this is say for example you unknowingly buy a speaker that has a rating of 6 ohms, (simply put, this is a measure of electrical resistance)

If you purchase a receiver that only is rated to handle 8 ohms, there might be some problems with providing it with enough power; thus it may not work properly or sound much quieter than it’s supposed to.

So if anything, when buying a receiver, you want to match the ohm rating to the one of whatever speakers it is that you are buying, unless it states that it can do that as well as lower ratings.

Wattage per channel is something you may also see when buying a receiver, and this simply means how much power it can provide each speaker it’s connected to with generally the higher the wattage per channel, the better.

Yet another thing will revolve on you deciding what you plan on connecting to your receiver.

Are you going to be connecting a few gaming consoles and or a Blu-ray player to it?

If so then you’ll likely want to invest in a few HDMI cables, some speaker wire (16 gauge speaker wire unless it’ll be going over 35 ft. then use 14) and an RCA cable that’ll be used to connect the subwoofer. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds and I even talk about that here as well.




Surround Advice

In terms of the surround speakers that you’ll be using, luckily you do not need to dedicate a large portion of your budget to these.

I won’t say that any speaker will do, because that’s far from true, nor will I say that their only job is to solely produce ambient noises and effects since that would be misinformed as well; but what I will say is that in comparison with everything else, they aren’t necessarily in the top 3 of most important things ( left & right channel, the center, and the subwoofer)

There happens to be 3 types of surround speakers that you should be aware of and that is Bipole, Dipole, and Monopole speakers. Unfortunately, this is where controversy arises because there is a general disagreement as to what surrounds are best and under what circumstances.

While I can’t provide you with concrete evidence on what is the best, I can provide you with anecdotal experience. At my old place, I had a speaker that could act as both a dipole and a bipole speaker, pretty cool little thing admittedly.

Problem being, naturally, there were no instructions on how to actually place the things so it was up to me to figure out. I put them on the side of my seating position on bipole, and what I found was that the feeling of surround sound was lost since I could tell where the sound was coming from. In dipole, it sounded much better where that feeling was there.

A few years later I tried these same ones but in a bigger room this time.

What I found then was that bipole was the better option because dipole sounded too diffuse, and when something happened in the movie like a the sound of a car passing behind you, directional cues with bipole were much better.

By no means is this definitive, but basically long story short is the best surround speaker is going to depend both on the room they’re being used in as well as the capabilities of the speakers themselves.



One more quick thing that I forgot to mention that is not talked about too much is the concept of timbre matching.

In short, timbre matching is the matching of at least the front 3 speakers ( left, right, and center) so that the sound that is projected is uniform and tonally even. They all are from the same manufacturer and line basically.

The reason this can be pretty important is that if you bought mismatching speakers for your left, right, and center, one may have a certain sound signature that favors treble, while another might sound bass heavy/muddy — and together this might potentially sound somewhat disjointed.

You really want to strive to make them all the same speaker if you can.

Buying the speakers from the same line ensures that you will get a much smoother soundstage, and the best experience overall. It will also make things that much more engaging when something pans on screen and sounds the same directionally.

Nothing more jarring than having one speaker sound like exceptionally louder than another one.

But you know, hopefully all of this helps, so that you now have a much better grasp on creating that perfect system that will work specifically for you.

It may be a lot to take in but don’t feel overwhelmed at all, because if you still have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Check out Recommendations too if you want a few ideas to point you in the right direction.

Oh and quick little pro-tip; writing down your budget at the top, then as your shopping, writing down each item you plan on getting under it will give you a visual that’ll make things easier for you so you know if everything still is within the limits of your particular budget.

That and just taking notes beforehand on what you’re looking for definitely helps too.

But for now that’s really it honestly. Like always if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or something helpful you found out, let me know in the comments down below; I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, make it easy, keep it simple 😀

Find This Post Helpful?

8 Comments so far:

  1. I am just getting started on my man cave in the basement and this is going to be a top priority of mine. I must say though, i never would have guesses that so much could go into a sound system that now I have no idea where to start. Is there a specific type that I should look into since I will be putting it in a basement with concrete walls with low ceilings?

    • First off, man caves are awesome so congrats on that. But yeah there’s a lot to it, but that’s only because you always have to decide what’s right under what circumstance. With your situation it’s going to be a good thing and a bad thing and here’s why.

      The good news is you would be able to play stuff in that room pretty loud without worrying about annoying people in the next room; so that’s awesome. Concrete is really good with isolating The bad news though, is that hard surfaces tend to reflect sound a lot more than carpeted ones, so the sound in the room might be a little harsh until you get some plush furniture and carpeting in there.

      So to answer your question, I would say that the speakers themselves won’t be the biggest focus in your case. But you’ll definitely need to add a lot of soft material to the room otherwise it might not be as great as you want it to be. That’s what’s really going to matter. Things like those foam sound panels help too since they absorb sound rather than reflect it.

  2. I actually had no idea for ratings (ohms) and I also remember that my other theater system had some compatibility issues. While I am buying, I will be careful about it. Do you have any tips for evaluating the quality-price ratio for speakers?

    • Yeah compatibility is definitely something to be aware of. Hmm as much as I don’t like to go on specs alone, I’d say the specs would be an indicator in this case. What I mean by that is if you have 1 speaker at a certain amount that’s rated at 80 watts, then another rated at 100 watts, I’d go with the latter because it’ll pump more sound. The type of material would be something to look at. If possible, always get a speaker made of wood since they tend to sound better on average. Now the quality of that sound is hard to predict beforehand (especially since everyone hears differently) which is why even I still look at reviews to see what other people are saying since they already own it. That’s always a safe bet I’d say.

  3. To be completely honest, I’ve never thought that are so many things to consider when choosing a system.
    Like, 70% of the everything you’ve written here was completely unheard of to me.
    Not anymore, thanks for that!
    Now I know what a timbre matching is…who would have thought?
    In your opinion – which one of all those systems is the best? Which one you would take in your home if you have to choose?
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi Jay,
    I tell you what – you have the best references and awesomely detailed info an avaerage guy or girl could ask for when it comes to audiophiles.No jargon crap just straight forward day to day lingo (wording/language) which makes our lives alot less complicated.I am gripped by your posts/blogs,detailed useful info whatever you wanna call it.It makes me wanna read more and more as it hypnotizes me and sucks me in to reading more..trust me I hate reading..why read when you can watch a Coen Brothers or a Tarantino movie right!?! Your stuff is different my friend..good different..so cheers to that and cheers to not falling asleep whilst reading.
    I have a 7.1 Yamaha Dolby Atmos speakers setup all hooked up to the projector with also a Yamaha Dolby Atmos receiver atm..obviously 1 x centre,2 x floor standing,2 x bookshelf,2 x ceiling speakers and 1 x sub woofer.I suppose it sounds okay but unfortunately it’s not what I was expecting.I mean the Dolby Atmos 3D sound I was expecting more of an oomph or boom or bang but when watching movies the centre and floorstanding speakers I suppose are not bad but I actually need to stand up and lend an ear to the ceiling speakers and check to see if they are still on and working and even the rear wall mounted book shelf speakers I have to put my ear on from time to time to see if they are working or not.I actually cannot really hear the ceiling nor the bookshelf speakers when I’m watching a decent blockbuster movie.I mean they are on and they work but is it just me or do I need to turn them up I don’t know.I had all this professionally installed and they did a really good job installing it and I’m sure they also configured all the speakers as you would but I think maybe I’m expecting too much from my Yamaha.I’m actually thinking of buying 2 x more ceiling speakers and 2 x floorstanding speakers and place them around the rear on both sides plus buying 1 x more sub woofer and obviously buying a new receiver to cater for all of the above.This would be an 11.2 or 7.4.2 or did I just make this 7.4.2 up in my head?? Whatever it is I just need more sound from above and sides/behind as the front 2 x floorstanding speakers and the centre speaker are pulling their weight but the other guys aren’t.What would be the best thing for me to do here – either throw in some more speakers or just bite the bullet and settle for a not so good Dolby Atmos experience??
    Please help!..Thank you.

    • Hey Sunny I appreciate that so much, thank you! Funny thing is though you actually worded that exactly right, they are actually called 11.2 and 7.4.2. And with Atmos, the thing is in the technological sense, it’s not a particularly mass adopted technology, at least not yet.

      Not every movie supports it which I’m sure you know, but the thing is, since each movie is mixed differently, there might be varying degrees of utilization when it comes to Atmos. That being said, from my personal experience, when it comes to Atmos, having at least 4 ceiling or height speakers seems to be the magic number since it gives a much more convincing 3D effect than 2, and it seems louder overall.

      So if you can, in my personal opinion I’d do 4. I use to use 2 as well, and had the same issue you did. But when I added the extra 2 it made all the difference. No guarantees mind you, but this may be the case in your situation. That being said, are your speakers calibrated?

      Because if it’s a Yamaha receiver you’re using, then id try running YPAO again and seeing if that helps. Also if it sets your speakers to Large in the speaker calibration, change it to small and leave the sub at large.

      This basically makes sure your speakers aren’t trying to reproduce the same sounds the subwoofer is. And in regards to the volume thing, it’s definitely not just you because with my rear surrounds, even in really loud movies sometimes I wonder if they’re on or not.

      But I think it’s just that they’re not used as much in most movies. In regards to my recommendation, I’d definitely add the extra sub since I’m a huge proponent on going dual, and I’d add an additional 2 ceiling speakers to see if that helps. My thoughts though are there might be settings issue.

      Also check to see if Adaptive DRC is on and if it is turn it off because that could be causing problems too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *