Friday, January 23, 2009

Choices in building a home theater

One thing to consider when deciding how to build your home theater is what solution you will decide to go with. There are a number of ways to get started in setting up your first home theater.

There are HTIB or home theater in a box solutions, which I generally recommend against because the money you spend on an HTIB system of any quality, you could use to purchase higher quality separate components which will perform better. The only break even exception would be the Bose 321 System. For the price it sounds good, plays fairly loud and is easy to setup. However, since it is all integrated as a system, if any of the components in the system fails you will likely be paying more to repair it than replacing a component that failed from a component based home theater.

Another fairly elegant home theater solution is the surround bar or sound projector technology. These solutions are convenient to setup and fully integrated. These systems perform best when accompanied by a subwoofer, which is an added cost, but well worth it. I am running a Yamaha ysp-800 sound projector with a definitive technology ten inch subwoofer in my bedroom, and the audio as well as the soundstage are excellent. I went from a 5.1 setup consisting of an Energy take 5 system with a separate receiver to the Yamaha system and have had no regrets. I have also demo'd the Polk surround bar solution and it is also a high quality solution in need of a subwoofer to sound excellent. However, the channel separation was not implemented as well as the Yamaha in my opinion and the cost is higher than the Yamaha ysp-800. The Yamaha utilizes 23 separate drivers with discrete amplification and decodes Dolby digital and DTS bitstreams. Also, the Polk surround bar requires a separate receiver.

My Bedroom setup is as follows and yields excellent results.

Sony Playstation 3 blu ray player
Yamaha ysp-800 Sound Projector
Definitive Technology Subwoofer 10 inch
Sony 32 inch Wega LCD 1080i Display

Home theater separates are the preferred method of setting up a home theater. The strategy of using separate components to build your home theater allows you to upgrade at your own pace. For instance, you can start out with a nice high quality receiver and just two or three high quality speakers for front Left and front Right and Center channel speakers along with a sub for a 2.1 or 3.1 system and later add surround speakers. You could also forgo the sub if you had front tower speakers for your left and right channels that could produce adequate bass. Home theater separates will obviously be the most expensive way to setup your home theater but will produce the best sound for a reasonable amount of money. Speakers can be one the most important pieces of the home theater puzzle and thankfully, they are one of the longest lasting. I have had my speakers for about ten years, and they sound better than the day I brought them home. I have in fact upgraded receivers twice, and my TV once, now with these same speakers and sub. So, the moral here is choose your speakers wisely. Don't rush, and give yourself plenty of time to audition speakers before you commit to purchasing them. Also, you will want to keep the timbre the same in your home theater by using the same brand and if possible series of speaker. This will keep the surround effect fluid and natural sounding.


  1. I'll be more interesting to see pictures.

  2. Hi Kevin!

    Maybe some of the novice audiophiles would like some info on speaker size )power, not dimensional)selection,how many and placement.

    I think that can be confusing for them. it is easy to sound to much money in a small room or not enough for the larger.

    Are Harmon Kardon and Koss still good names in speakers or has that changed?


  3. What about Bang and Olefson. I used to love some of their stuff but that was years ago.

  4. Thank you all for the comments. I will be getting into elements of the home theater formula such as speakers, receivers, placement, room size and shape as well as input devices such as dvd/blu ray players, game consoles etc. and finally, output devices such as displays and projectors.

    I don't hear too much about Harmon speakers except for htib solutions which are average performing, however,their amps and receivers are top notch for the money, and have a full rich sound giving excellent results for movies and music. I have only seen Koss headphones and they perform prett good for the money. I have a set of Koss headphones I paid about $25.00 for and they sound good with my ipod.

  5. Home theater speakers come in many different shapes, sizes, styles and most definitely price ranges but for our purposes today let’s focus on one specific characteristic, ported or non-ported. Whether you bought your speakers second hand, didn’t receive proper set-up instruction at the time of purchase, or just never bothered to properly place them, it’s time to re-examine your home theater’s speaker placement and specifically your front three channels. (left, center, and right)