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Streaming devices like Roku, Nvidia Shield TV, or Amazon Fire allow homeowners to enjoy content from streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. Knowing how to set up a home theater will enable you to watch or listen to the content you stream in premium quality.
These home entertainment systems contain several components to create a cinema-like experience. How difficult it is going to be to set up such a system depends on the number of components it has and the individual features of each component.
So, in this guide, I will walk you through all the steps you need to take to set up a home theater, and I’ll suggest several components that will ensure a high audio and video playback quality.
Read our Spotify vs. Pandora comparison if you’re looking for a music streaming service you can use with your home theater.
What’s a Home Theater?
Home cinema, a theater room, or home theater are the terms used to describe an audio-visual system designed to mimic the experience of watching a movie in a theater. Hence, all variations of these systems must have audio-visual components capable of displaying pictures or sounds in high definition.
Let’s take a look at the key components of basic home theater setups:
- AV receiver – Audio and video receivers are the centerpieces of all home theater setups because they establish the connection between video and audio playback devices. An AV receiver accepts input from Blue-Ray players, smart devices, or gaming consoles and delivers it to audio and video playback devices.
- Speakers – Home theaters utilize surround audio systems with five or more speakers. The position of each speaker is crucial for the quality of audio playback.
- Video display – TVs, video projectors, or monitors can all serve as video display devices in a home theater system. The maximum video playback resolution depends on the video display you’re using.
- Connection cables – All parts of the system have to be connected properly, and failing to do so can damage one or more components. Wireless home systems are Bluetooth enabled, and they allow homeowners to avoid using connection cables.
Go through our Bose Lifestyle 650 review to learn more about the components of this home entertainment system.
Types of Home Theater Audio Systems
Standard home theaters utilize 5.1 surround sound systems, but you may run into more complex configurations that work with 7.1 surround sound systems.
Soundbars are yet another option you’ll have at your disposal but bear in mind that the audio quality they offer isn’t as good as on a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system. So, your home theater audio system can have up to 7 speakers depending on the option you choose.
Read our surround sound vs. stereo comparison for more information about these audio systems.
All surround sound systems contain the following components:
The Main Left and Right Speakers
Depending on the available space and the setup you want to create, you can choose from floor standing, on-wall, in-wall, and bookshelf versions of these speakers. The majority of audio playback goes through the main speakers, as they process up to 80% of video’s audio, so their quality is of utmost importance for the efficiency of the surround sound system.
Center Channel Speaker
As indicated by its name, the center channel speaker is the central component of all 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems. These speakers should have the same properties as the main speakers to achieve seamless audio playback.
A center channel speaker is usually located underneath the video display device, although on-wall and in-wall versions of these speakers are also available. For more information, you should go through our guide to the best center channel speakers.
Left and Right Surround Speakers
Preferably, these speakers should be the same as the main speakers, but this often isn’t the case in systems that have floor-standing main speakers. Their role within an audio system is to play the data on surround channels.
The advent of the Dolby Atmos technology has made the left and right surround channel even more important as modern movie soundtracks carry a significant amount of information on surround channels.
The features of home theater subwoofers depend on their type. In-room subwoofers usually have a built-in amplifier, while an amplifier for an in-wall subwoofer is a separate component.
The connectivity options of subwoofers also depend on their type, as in-room subwoofers often support wireless connection, and this option isn’t available on in-wall models. Both versions of this component add deep bass to the audio and ensure accurate playback of low-frequency sounds.
Check out our Klipsch Quintet IV home theater speaker system review if you’re searching for an affordable 5.1 surround sound system.
Positioning the Speakers
Layout options you’ll have at your disposal depending on the audio system you choose and the features of the speakers it contains. In some cases, the video display can affect the placement of the speakers, especially if you’re using a transparent projection screen.
Center Channel Speaker
You should start positioning the speakers of a 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound system by finding a place for the center channel speaker. Ideally, this component should be directly below the video display or as close as possible to it. You should try to position this component at the viewer’s ear level.
The Main Left and Right Speakers
The left and right main speakers should be at an equal distance from the center channel speaker and the video display. Also, they should be placed at a 30-degree to 60-degree angle from your preferred viewing position.
Left and Right Surround Speakers
The surround speakers add a sense of space to the audio your surround sound system produces, which is the reason why they’re always located behind the viewer. You should arrange them at a 90-degree to 120-degree angle from the viewing position.
Determining where the bass is coming from is difficult because low frequencies aren’t directional. Hence, you won’t have to worry about finding the best position for a subwoofer. It is advisable to avoid placing this component in the corner or the center of the room if you want to maximize its performance.
Go through our Sonos Beam review if you don’t want to go through the trouble of finding the perfect position for all components of your surround sound system.
Connecting the Speakers to the Home Theater’s AV Receiver
Hooking up the speakers to the AV receiver is arguably the most challenging part of setting up a home theater. Sound systems utilize several different connection types that include clip-on, jacks, and spade lugs.
It’s worth adding that most 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems arrive with the cables that allow you to connect the speakers to an AV unit.
- Clip-on – This is the most common connection type that features naked wires that plug directly into corresponding slots.
- Jacks – You shouldn’t have too much trouble connecting speakers to an AV unit with cables that feature jacks. Most cables are color-coded, so you just have to match the cable’s color to the color of the terminal slots at the back of the receiver.
- Spade lugs – These connectors feature a U-shaped metal clip that allows you to screw them into a connector.
Keep in mind that all elements of a home theater’s audio system have to be connected to the AV receiver. Browse through our guide to the best 1,000-Watt amps to find an option that can enhance the performance of your audio system.
Pairing TVs and Smart Devices with an AV Receiver
The back end of an AV receiver can seem intimidating as it offers a variety of connection possibilities. HDMI cables allow you to pair an AV receiver with TVs or streaming devices equipped with an HDMI port.
However, you can only do this if your TV and AV receiver are ARC compatible, and you may have to use an optical or a coaxial cable if neither of the devices has an ARC HDMI port. Gaming consoles or streaming devices can also be connected to an AV receiver with an HDMI cable.
Some receivers can have a network port that enables you to connect them to a WiFi network and then pair the unit with a source device. Bluetooth-enabled soundbars eliminate the need to use speaker cables to establish a connection with an AV receiver.
Go through our Marantz SR7012 review to learn more about the features this AV receiver offers.
The Most Important Factors to Consider While Choosing a Home Theater Setup
Components of home entertainment systems aren’t bundled, and in most cases, you’ll have to purchase a video display, AV receiver, and sound system separately.
Ensuring that all parts of the system are compatible should be your primary concern, but it isn’t the only factor you must pay attention to. I’ve shortlisted several factors that can assist you during the home theater setup selection process.
The Room Layout
Although it may not seem significant, room layout can affect the quality of sound you’re getting from your home entertainment system. Determining the position of the video display before choosing the surround audio system will make it easier to arrange the speakers.
The room layout can also affect the positioning of source devices, especially if you want to add a projector to your home theater setup. Hence, you should factor in the room’s layout while assembling a home entertainment system.
Make Sure All Components are Properly Connected
Plugging a speaker cable into the subwoofer port might damage this component. However, this is unlikely to happen as all cables are color-coded, so it is relatively easy to find a corresponding port for a jack or a clip-on connector.
Not all HDMI ports on an AV receiver support the transfer of 4K or 8K video files, and you must make sure that the cable is plugged into the right HDMI port if you want to view content in high resolution.
Calibration of an AV Receiver
A brand new AV receiver sends the same sound level to all speakers, which can affect the playback quality of movie soundtracks or music. All AV units allow their users to adjust speaker levels to the room’s acoustics.
Calibrating the receiver can be an overwhelming task for someone who isn’t familiar with this process. You should include the costs of AV receiver calibration in the budget you allocated to a home entertainment system if you don’t want to go through this process alone.
Number of Source Components
Most AV receivers have multiple ports that allow you to connect them to TVs, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players, or any other source device.
Doing so will enable you to switch between different sources without having to go through the setup process every time you want to play content from a different source. The maximum number of video and audio sources you can add to a home theater system depends on the AV receiver model you have.
The Advantages of Home Theater Setups
Superb Multimedia Experience
Components of home entertainment systems have impressive audio and video playback capabilities. Getting a home theater setup will enable you to watch your favorite movies or listen to music in high resolution.
Wide Range of Source Devices
Adding multiple source devices to your home theater setup is a straightforward process, as you just need to make sure that the source device is properly connected. Turntables, gaming consoles, projectors, or Blue-ray players are some of the components you can add to a home theater setup.
Wireless Connection Options
Some home theaters feature AV receivers that support wireless connection either through WiFi, Ethernet, or Bluetooth. Hence, you won’t have to deal with HDMI or speaker cables during the home theater setup.
You can Choose All of the System’s Components
Home theaters can be tailored to the user’s needs, so you don’t have to get the components that exceed your requirements. You can pick the surround sound system, AV receiver, video playback, or video display device that best fits your budget.
Offers a Variety of Family Pastimes
Besides watching movies or listening to music, you can use home theaters to play video games, watch sporting events or even exercise with your family.
The Disadvantages of Home Theater Setups
Home Theater Setups Can Be Very Expensive
You may have to spend thousands of dollars to put together a home theater setup that allows you to watch videos in 4K resolution or enjoy the benefits of a surround sound system.
Not an Ideal Option for Rooms that Receive a Lot of Daylight
Installing a home theater in a room with large windows can affect the quality of your experience because you might not be able to control the amount of daylight that enters a room.
Video playback and display devices aren’t designed specifically for home theater systems. You can add any TV, monitor, projector, or Blu-ray player equipped with an HDMI port to a home entertainment system and use it as a display or playback device.
That’s why I only considered AV receivers and sound systems while choosing components I included in this article. Let’s take a look at some of the criteria I utilized to select home theater components:
- Performance capabilities – The component’s list of features or its audio playback capacities were some of the parameters I utilized to shortlist the components I selected.
- Price range – During the selection process, my goal was to find the best components that are suitable for different budgets.
Check out our Onkyo TX-NR676 review if you need an AV receiver that supports a 4K video.
The 10 Best Home Theater Setups
The sound system and AV receiver are essential components of home theater setups that ensure excellent playback quality of all content you want to view or listen to. That’s why these components require more attention than source devices or video displays.
I’ve put together a list of some of the best components that can help you create a home theater setup, so let’s take a look at their properties.
Dali Oberon 5 5.1 Speaker Package
A stylish and powerful 5.1 surround sound system like the Dali Oberon 5 is a great addition to all home theater setups. This package contains floor-standing speakers made of wood and a powerful Dali Sub E9-F subwoofer.
Connecting these speakers to an AV receiver is easy, and it won’t take too much of your time. Dali Oberon 5 plays all sounds accurately regardless of their frequency and ensures an immersive experience.
This 5.1 surround system isn’t budget-friendly, and you should only consider it if you don’t mind spending a substantial amount of money on a home theater’s sound system.
JBL Synthesis SDR-35
The JBL Synthesis SDR-35 AV receiver offers a variety of connectivity options that allow you to stream music from a tablet or optimize your sound system for Dolby Atmos. The receiver utilizes Dante technology to reduce the number of cables you have to use to hook up your home theater.
It also features a Logic16 mixer that enables it to generate three-dimensional sounds. Moreover, the AV receiver has built-in audio compatibility with most high-resolution file formats, and it delivers a stable 4K video signal. The SDR-35 also supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision technologies.
Browse through the Marantz 7011 review if you’re considering alternatives to this AV receiver.
You should take a closer look at the Prime Satellite 5.1 surround system if you’re searching for a home theater audio system that won’t occupy too much space. The compact speakers produce accurate and clear sounds even when dealing with challenging high frequencies.
This surround system comes with the SB-1000 subwoofer equipped with a non-resonant ABS mash fabric grille. Each speaker features the SoundMatch 2-way crossover capacitors that ensure equal distribution of audio data across the entire system.
You can pair the Prime Satellite 5.1 surround system with all AV receivers that have 20 to 150 Watt amplifiers. Read our SVS SB12 NSD review if you need just a subwoofer for your home theater system.
Heos, HDMI, WiFi, or Bluetooth are some of the connectivity options you’ll have at your disposal if you get the Marantz SR8015 AV receiver. You can use voice control to play or stop audio content or use it to stream video content in 8K or 4K resolutions.
This model supports object-based audio formats like Dolby Atmos, IMAX Enhanced, or DTS Virtual X that allow you to adjust the audio settings to the content you’re playing. Connecting multiple source devices to the SR8015 is easy because the unit has eight easily accessible HDMI ports.
You should read our Marantz SR6011 review if the SR8015 model exceeds your expectations.
Elac Debut 2.0 5.1 Home Theater System
Durability and remarkable sound quality are arguably the two most important traits of the Elac Debut 2.0 5.1 home theater system. This system features a pair of floor-standing main speakers, a central channel speaker, and two bookshelf surround speakers.
The S10.2 subwoofer is equipped with a 10-inch bass driver that delivers accurate bass playback regardless of the type of content you’re playing. This surround sound system works with all 5.1 AV receivers, so you won’t have to worry about compatibility issues.
You should consider other options if you don’t want to spend a few thousand dollars on a home theater audio system.
Klipsch F-300 7.1.2 Home Theater System
This is arguably the best 7.1 surround system you can find on the market. The sound the Klipsch Synergy Black Label F-300 home theater system produces is impressive, and it won’t distort as you increase the volume.
The Tractrix® Horn technology is at the system’s core, and it enables it to replicate sounds with a high degree of accuracy. In addition, unlike conventional 5.1 sound systems that feature only two surround speakers, the F-300 has four B-200 bookshelf speakers that heighten the realism of the sound the system generates.
In addition, this Klipsch’s home theater system doesn’t cost a fortune, and it delivers excellent audio playback for its price range.
Integra DRX 3.2
Spotify, Deezer, and Pandora are just a few among countless streaming services the Integra DRX 3.2 supports. The unit has a built-in amplifier with a frequency response range that spans from 5Hz to 100 kHz.
It also supports the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats up to 5.2.4 and 7.2.2 channels and features the AccuEQ Advance Calibration system that lets you adjust the speaker levels. The FlareConnect option lets you distribute the audio output to multiple rooms. The maximum video resolution this AV receiver supports is 4K.
The Sony STR-DN1080 might be the right solution for you if you don’t want to purchase the AV receiver and the home theater audio system separately. Besides a powerful AV receiver, you’ll also get a 7.2 surround system that can play a variety of high-resolution audio files with utmost precision.
The receiver’s HDR signal pass-through feature enhances the images on a video display by heightening the brightness and contrasts.
You can connect this home theater system to a WiFi network and use the Google Home to issue voice commands whenever you want to increase the volume or pause the content you’re currently playing.
The advanced video processing options the Denon AVR-X4700H offers enable you to watch 8K or 4K content without any image quality loss.
This 9.2-channel AV receiver also has impressive audio features, and when paired with a matching surround sound system it maximizes the properties of Auro-3D or DTS:X.
The unit has ten HDMI ports, but it also features Ethernet ports and allows users to establish a connection with source devices through WiFi or Bluetooth. The AVR-X4700H lets you create up to three multi-room zones, and it offers a variety of control options.
Aperion Verus III Grand V6T + Surround 10D
You can choose between 5.1 and 7.1 versions of the Aperion Verus III Grand V6T + Surround 10D surround system.
Both versions of this home theater audio system utilize the VoiceRight® technology that makes it easier to arrange the speakers by compensating for sounds that reflect off the TV screen or furniture.
The 5.1 system contains a pair of floor-standing main speakers, two bipole surround speakers, a center channel speaker, and the Bravus II 10D powered subwoofer. The 7.1 system has identical components, aside from two bookshelf speakers.
Go through our guide to the best bookshelf speakers under $1,000 if this surround system doesn’t fit your budget.
Frequently Asked Questions about Home Theater Setups
Question: Can I Control a Home Theater Setup with Amazon Alexa?
Answer: Yes, you can, but only if you have an AV receiver that is compatible with Amazon Alexa.
Question: Do All AV Receivers Support Analog Inputs?
Answer: No, and you must make sure that the AV receiver you want to get supports analog inputs if you want to connect it to turntables and similar analog sources.
Question: How Many HDMI Ports Should an AV Receiver Have?
Answer: Most standard models have 7 HDMI ports, but if you’re planning on including a large number of devices into your home theater system, you should get an AV receiver that has ten HDMI ports.
Question: What is the Best Room Size for a Home Theater Setup?
Answer: The space where you want to set up a home theater should have at least 200sq/ft, while some surround sound systems are designed for spaces that have up to 500sq/ft.
Designing a home theater setup involves finding components that will produce stunning video and audio quality when you put them together. The most important component of any home entertainment system is the AV receiver because it connects all components.
I recommend the Denon AVR-X4700H AV receiver because it delivers high-quality video and audio playback and offers a variety of connectivity options. You can pair this unit with the Dali Oberon 5 or the Aperion Verus III Grand V6T + Surround 10D surround sound systems.
Which home theater setup are you going to choose? Let me know in the comments or continue reading our guide to the best floor-standing speakers under $500 to explore affordable models you can add to your home theater system.
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