The Home Theater Experience: 7 Home Theater System Must-Have’s

Sony HD projector and screenIf you are building or upgrading any home theater, here’s a short list of everything you need to do it right. Wait spend your money before reading this.

A properly planned and built home theater will give you countless hours of entertainment with your family and friends in your own home.

If you are a family of 5 going to the movies, you are going to spend between $50-$75 right away and that’s before your popcorn and soda are added in. How many times of spending $100+ at the movies does it take before having your own private home cinema becomes appealing?

If you are at the point where you are seriously considering building a home theater, here’s what you need to know:

What do I need for the best home theater system?

1. TV or projector with screen

Without the right picture, you are going to miss out on a lot of the action. If you are going for the complete cinema experience with a huge screen size, the projector is the way to go. If you don’t have the space to dedicate to a projector and screen, your next best option is an HDTV. Any projector or TV you purchase should be 1080p, without question. A TV should have at least 120hz video processing for viewing fast action. If you are looking for 3D functionality, many projectors and fully featured TVs have it.

2. Surround sound speakers

The picture is just half of the equation for a complete home theater system. Sound is 50% of the home theater experience, yet many people give short shrift to its importance. If you are doing a home theater right, you need at least 5.1 surround sound. This means there are 3 front speakers (left, center, right), 2 surround speakers (back left, back right), and 1 subwoofer. Another common surround sound format is 7.1, which has additional surround speakers. Most of the sound still comes from the front speakers, so if you are going to spend the money on speakers, make sure you give the front 3 channels precedence.

3. Surround Receiver

Integra DTR-50.4 surround sound receiver - Stereo Barn

You have your picture, you have your speakers, but you need a receiver to process everything and amplify your sound. Basically, a receiver organizes the video and audio signals for your home theater. Even if you have a receiver, it may not be compatible with newer equipment. Your receiver may not have HDMI inputs on it. It may not support the latest surround sound codecs. It may not support a 3D signal if you are looking for that functionality. Receivers now are networkable, so you can stream music from your computer or Pandora, for instance. Your receiver simply may not have adequate power to amplify sound for your speakers. A receiver is a crucial piece of any home theater.

4. HDMI cables

You won’t get a full 1080p HD picture without HDMI cables. Component cables carry an HD signal, but only up to 1080i. Most Blu Ray players now only have an HDMI and composite (480i) video outputs, for instance. You need a system that carries a full 1080p HD picture for the best quality. Another huge advantage HDMI has over other lower types of connects is the fact that you only need one cable for your video and audio. Before HDMI, you needed 5 seperate cables for an HD picture: 3 video cables (red, blue, green), and 2 audio cables (left, right). Even with a non-HD composite connection, you need 1 video cable and 2 audio cables. If you have older HDMI cables, you may be limiting your system’s functionality. For the most consistent, highest quality HD picture for your home theater, you need HDMI cables.

5. HD sources

What’s the point in having all this great home theater equipment if you have nothing to watch? A Blu Ray player and your cable/satellite are all you need at the minimum. If you are upgrading to HD service on cable/satellite, request a box with an HDMI connection (Also, you get an HDMI cable FREE). Most Blu Ray players have smart apps built into them. This gives you the ability to watch movies instantly on Netflix, Hulu+, YouTube, and more. There are tons of great ways to get high definition, so you won’t be bored.

6. A programmable remote

You have all your home theater equipment, now it’s time to control it. The problem is, you are dealing with four or five different remotes, one for every device you have. With a programmable remote, like those offered by Universal Remote, you can control everything with one remote and automate nearly every function of your home theater.

By pressing a button called “Watch TV,” the remote sends out codes to turn on your TV/projector, receiver, cable/satellite box, then it sends out codes for the right inputs. Finally, the remote adjusts the buttons to control everything you need to change the channel, volume, settings, DVR, and everything else. Say you are done watching TV, but now you want to “Watch a Movie.” After hitting that button, it turns off the cable/satellite box, turns on the Blu Ray player, switches the input on the receiver, and sets the controls for a movie. When you are done, hit the “Off” button and everything shuts off. Some models even let you control the lighting in your home theater. A programmable remote cuts out the frustration and simplifies everything so you can concentrate on enjoying your home theater, not controlling it!

7. Surge protection

Surge protectors are a relatively inexpensive way to protect your home theater system. Plus, you have the added benefit of a single location to plug in all of your electronics. For even more protection, consider using a power conditioner. These line conditioners work to improve the quality of the voltage level for your devices. Inconsistent voltage levels can trigger electronics’ protection modes, meaning your system won’t work. Power conditioners are more expensive compared to surge protectors, but offer a higher level of protection.

Of course, the most important part of any home theater system… YOU!

McIntosh Reference surround sound home theater setup

You can’t forget that the whole point of a home theater is for your enjoyment. This isn’t a flashy car or watch for the world to see, this is your own private space to unwind and relax. This is where your family can enjoy quality time together watching a movie or your favorite TV show. This is where you and your friends can watch every game in the luxury of your own home, no season tickets required! So when you are considering a home theater, consider how you will use it and enjoy it. What do you want it to do?

So to sum everything up, here’s what you need for a complete home theater system:

  • TV or projector
  • Speakers
  • Receiver
  • Cables
  • Sources
  • Programmable remote
  • Surge protection

If you have any questions or comments, let us know below. We are the home entertainment experts and are more than willing to help you. What’s the most important part of the home theater experience for you?

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