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Home Theater Buying Guide

What Is A Home Theater System?

[easyazon-block asin="B003B8VBJ2" align="right"]If you’re the kind of person who likes to enjoy your movies as they were meant to be enjoyed, then a standard HDTV with built in speakers just isn’t going to cut it for you. Home theater systems provide you with all the key elements that'll turn your living room into a small cinema. Instead of a standard TV with built in speakers, hooked up to a DVD player, you'll have good quality speakers that can amplify the sound all around the room. Also, you might find it useful to print our Home Theater Buyer's Checklist.

Why Do You Need A Home Theater System?

Ever wondered why movies are so much more impressive when you see them at the theater rather than watch them on a DVD in your own home? Aside from the fact that movie theaters make use of huge screens, it also comes down to the fact that they use speakers that can project sound at all angles around you.

This speaker setup helps to create the feeling of being immersed in the action. You can hear things going on all around you, and truly get lost in the movie experience. You'll literally hear that gun shot to the left of you, that plane flying over your head, or that gang running towards you. This can make all the difference in the way you feel about the movie.

Surround sound isn't just limited to Hollywood Blockbusters, either. Modern camcorders now let you record in surround sound, making the experience of watching your home movies even more immersive. Other types of recording, such as live music, can also benefit from this setup.

Home Theater Vs. Do It Yourself Setup

Of course, you don't need an all-in-one home theater kit in order to get the feeling of being in the middle of the action. You could choose to put together all the elements yourself over time. The benefit of going the DIY route is that you don't have to buy every element at the same time. You could buy the DVD player first, for example, and the receiver and front speakers, then add on the rear speakers at a later date. This is useful if you want to get the very best equipment possible but can't afford to buy it all in one go.

Another advantage of the DIY route is that you can often find better quality speakers. Many all-in-one kits are designed to be affordable, meaning that they use smaller speakers without a subwoofer. This makes them more suitable for smaller rooms. If you've got a very big space to fill with sound then the DIY route could be best. For standard living rooms, however, there are always entertainment systems fit for the job.

Unfortunately, however, it can be a lot more confusing to set your home theater elements up yourself when bought separately. With an all-in-one kit the setup process is usually extremely quick: everything is coded, so it's as simple as connecting all the speakers and pressing play.

What Comes In A Home Theater Kit?

The basic home theater kit will come with the following items:

  • Amplifier,
  • Six speakers or a soundbar,
  • A radio tuner,
  • Cables to connect the components.

The radio tuner is often contained within the amplifier, and is called a “receiver” instead. Some systems may have extra components, including:

  • A Blu-Ray disc player
  • A DVD recorder
  • A VHS player/ recorder
  • A projector
  • A TV
  • A multi-disc player

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What Equipment Should I Already Own?

Most home theater systems assume that you already own a TV at the very least. Aside from that, everything else is usually taken care of.

The Kind Of TV You Need For Home Theater

It's important to note that any old TV is not going to cut it with a home theater system. It might work with the connections included, but will it really recreate that theater experience if you've got a tiny, low resolution screen? Probably not. Standard analogue television screens will not produce a good quality image, no matter how good the equipment is that you get with your home theater system. The sound, however, will see a big improvement.

You're probably better off opting for an HD flat panel screen: LCD, LED or Plasma. Thankfully these screens have drastically come down in price lately (unless you're looking for built in 3D capability), and the difference in image quality is well worth the extra cost.

Learn All About HDTV's

Types of TV’s And HDTV Buying Guide | HDTV Buyer's Checklist Cheap Sheet | LCD vs LED vs Plasma Televisions | How 3D TV Works | Discounts & Ratings For Top 3D TV Sets | Cheap HDTV’s | Cheap 3D TV's

Components Of A Home Theater System


Speakers are a crucial part of any home theater system. Because home theater kits are designed to be an affordable at-home-cinema option, the speakers can often be pretty weak when compared to standalone offerings. This means it's crucial that you do your research and find speakers powerful enough for the space you wish to setup your new home theater, but that still fit within your budget.

First, it's crucial to understand the terminology you'll find when shopping for speakers. The subwoofer is a crucial element of any surround sound speaker system, providing the bass sounds. Active subwoofers often produce the best sounds thanks to the fact that they come with their own power supply.

Learn More About Surround Sound For Home Theater

About Wireless Surround Sound Systems | Best Home Cinema Surround Sound Speakers: Soundbars Vs. True Surround Sound | 5 Tips For Home Theater Wiring | Ideal Home Theater Surround Sound Speakers Setup | Different Types Of Home Theater Speakers Guide | How To Position Surround Sound Speakers For Home Theater

The satellite speakers are the smaller speakers in the system that go next to the TV and behind the viewer in the room. These are usually connected to the TV via cables, which can make it difficult to set them up so they don't look messy. Wireless speakers can help with this, using a wireless transmitter to do away with the need for having cables running across your living room (though they usually incorporate some cabling).

2.1: For those on a smaller budget, or who don't have much space for a full surround sound system, a 2.1 speaker system could be a sensible choice. This makes use of three speakers in total: the subwoofer and 2 front speakers. The inevitable downside, of course, is the fact that this can't match the surround sound experience of other speaker layouts.

5.1: The 5.1 speaker setup system is extremely popular, and comes with 5 surround sound speakers as well as the subwoofer. This is much more successful in producing an authentic atmosphere than the 2.1 system, though does take some more effort to setup and place the speakers somewhere in your living room.

7.1: For those who want the best surround sound experience, the 7.1 system makes use of two additional rear speakers on top of the speakers you get in a 5.1 kit. This does improve the surround sound effect, but you have to weigh this against the drawback that there are a lot of speakers (8 in total) to set up!


Instead of 2.1, 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setups, some home theater systems will make use of a soundbar. This is a good choice for those who don't want to take up so much space with a set of speakers.

Instead of 3, 6 or 8 speakers, the soundbar is a slim, long bar that includes a number of speakers inside it. There's no need to connect a soundbar to a receiver, as there is with surround sound speakers, since the amplification is built in, and they have the technology to create a virtual surround sound despite all the speakers being housed in one device.

[easyazon-block asin="B004PAA876" align="right"]Because of the shape and style of a soundbar, it can fit in nicely with your TV without taking up too much space. You do need space for the subwoofer (for the bass frequencies) but these are often wireless, making it really easy to find the right place for them in your living room (as long as there's somewhere to plug it into a power socket).

Other Features To Look For In Your Speakers

Aside from the specific speaker setup, you should also take a look at some other specs:

  • Auto Setup: This is an extremely useful feature to have, meaning that the kit will work out the best sound balance of the speaker system without you having to spend too much time doing it yourself.
  • Power Output: The power of a speaker is measured in watts. The higher the watt measurement, the louder the system can go. That said, a bigger wattage doesn't always mean the highest quality speaker system. You will, however, need to opt for a higher wattage to fill a larger room with sound. 50 watts per channel is enough for a 15 meter-squared room, and larger rooms may require up to 100 watts per channel.
  • Shielding: If you're going to place the front speakers very near to your television screen then it's important to look for shielded speakers. What this means is that they're magnetically shielded to stop them from interfering with your TV screen. This feature is common in most home theater systems.

Blu Ray Player For Home Theater

The Blu Ray player is the most popular player people choose for their home theater these days.

Learn All About Blu Ray Players For Home Theater

DVD Player For Home Theater

The DVD player is another crucial element of any home theater system. You may already own a DVD player, so before you even think about buying your system you may want to assess what your current player can do, and whether it's worth sticking with or not.

Note: If you do want to stick with your current DVD player, then there are a number of home theater systems that don’t come with this included to help save you money.

As with the speakers, some home theater kits use lower-end DVD players in their packages to help keep the overall cost down. If you've bought a DVD player recently then it may be able to do more than the player included in the kit. Then again, some kits do come with very good DVD players, and the benefit of using the player in the kit is that the setup will be seamless.

Take a look at your DVD player and see whether it works with high definition (HD) TV screens, and comes with any functions such as upscaling (to produce better images from lower resolution discs), the ability to record to DVDs, and so on.

If you don't have an HD DVD player, or you have one that has only the bare minimum of features, then the chances are that you could benefit from a DVD player that comes as part of a home theater system.

Here's a guide to some of the features you'll want to look for in the DVD player that comes as part of a home theater system:

Progressive Scan

Although most DVD players come with progressive scan these days, it's still worth mentioning as it can make a big difference to your picture. What does progressive scan mean? In short, older TVs create the picture using 625 horizontal lines. The odd-numbered rows are produced by the TV, and the even-numbered rows and produced. This means that older screens tend to flicker, even if it's so fast that you don't really notice it.

DVD players that include progressive scan have the ability to create all the lines at once, rather than in quick succession. The result is a sharper image that is especially good at displaying motion. This isn't as good as HDTV, but it is a good option to consider if you don't have the HDTV option.


HDTV DVD players can produce images in a much higher resolution than standard DVD players. This can either be provided in 720p (a 720 pixel vertical resolution that uses progressive scan), or 1080p (1080 pixels with progressive scan or, more commonly, 1080i (interlaced)). Note that there's no point in getting an HD DVD (Blu-Ray) player unless you already have an HDTV screen, and you will need DVDs in the correct format in order to benefit from this function. The good news, however, is that it's pretty much standard on all DVD players included with home theater systems these days.

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The Perks of Blu Ray and Blu Ray Players
Picture Quality
Superior high def resolution is a huge element of the reason why Blu Ray movies look excellent. This means you'll see a much more detailed picture: much more clearly defined features of people faces, colors of nature, close ups of wrinkles, facial imperfections, etc. The technological distinction is that Blu Ray's maximum resolution is 1920 x 1080 (1080p), while DVD is restricted to 720 x 480 (480p). Further than image resolution, Blu Ray additionally employs much better video-compression methods, producing much more contrast as well as better colors. It truly is the best quality of video you can get inb the market today, with a comparable, if note better than picture that you get at the movies, when the Blu Ray player is used in conjunction with an HDTV.

Audio Quality
Audio quality is also much better. New high-resolution soundtrack formats, such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, are basically the same as the studio master, consequently you will be hearing sounds just as the director and audio editors designed.

Special Features
Blu Ray also has extra unique functions that DVD never did. The most basic innovation is the pop-up menu, allowing one to access the menu features as the movie keeps playing. Also, there is BD-Live, picture-in-picture video commentary, Internet connectivity, including models with built-in Wifi for streaming movies, videos, tv shows and all kinds of media from the Web.

Main Blu Ray Features
While most basic features of Blu Ray Players are the same, there are some specific things to consider when buying a player, especially, Internet connectivity options.

Player Options for Connecting to Internet
There are several options, depending on the player model and brand, for linking up your smart Blu-ray player to the Internet

  • A wired connection using Ethernet cable
  • Built-In Wifi Connection on the Player
  • A wireless connection using a compatible wireless adapter
  • A connection using power line Ethernet adapters
WiFi Built In - Smart Blu Ray Players - Connect to Internet and stream movies, music, TV shows and more with WiFi built in.
WiFi Ready - Means the Wifi is not built in and you will need an adapter of some sort to connect.
BD-Live is a Blu-ray feature that enables you to access content, features and activities via your smart Blu-ray player. On some movies you'll be able to download a variety of up-to-date content (for example, refreshed previews and exclusive special features). There are also a host of next generation possibilities, such as ringtone/wallpaper downloads, peer-to-peer interactions, live events and gaming activities. For example, on the Blu Ray version of Julie & Julia with BD-Live, you can bookmark Julia Child's actual recipes while you watch the movie. At the end of the film, you can e-mail yourself the recipes, pretty cool!
Bonus View
The Bonus View and lets you play back picture-in-picture content, which allows for a second video and audio stream.

Playing DVD's
The transition from DVD to Blu Ray is an easy one since all Blu Ray players play standard DVD discs. Actually, each and every Blu Ray player is also an upconverting DVD player.

Buying Cheap Blu Ray Players

There are some great ways to save money on Blu Ray players and that is by avoiding retail stores and shopping online. Cheap Blu ray players are plentiful and can really be a great alternative to spending too much at the stores. Some of the top brands of Blu Ray players can cost you as much $300, with brands like LG, Sony, Samsung and other industry leaders invemting bigger and better models regularly causing retail prices to skyrocket. Stop wasting your money and buy cheap Blu Ray players here, always bid and buy with confidence, with buyer feedback and ratings for sellers.

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