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Home Theater Systems Buying Guide Cheat Sheet

Home Theater Systems Buying Guide Cheat Sheet

Have you always dreamed of installing a movie style theater system in your home, but weren't sure what to get?

In order to help streamline your process of browsing the internet for days on end, we here at STC put together a cheat sheet to help along with the process.

Only here for the essentials? We made it easy for you. Here are the key things to consider when choosing a home theater system:

  1. The TV. If you don’t already have a TV to build your home theater around, you’ll need one. If you do already have a TV and it’s not a 4K HDR TV, consider getting a new one because they are extraordinary. Plus, given all the connectivity options built-in, you’ll be set for the future. Today’s new smart TVs are way easier to connect to everything else, whether components, streaming audio, or video, thanks to Wi-Fi built-in, Bluetooth, and so on.

  2. Your room. Some home theater systems have big speakers, some have small. (Technically, bigger is better when it comes to audio quality, but certain brands offer small and medium-sized speakers that kick serious derrière in spite of their size.) The point: Given your room’s size, design, and style preferences, think about what size speakers you want from a decor perspective, which will also drive your receiver selection. (P.S. Some bigger speakers are seriously attractive, some speakers are very discreet, and some are made to be hidden in walls and ceilings.)

  3. Streaming devices. An awesome side benefit of getting a home theater? The right home theater receiver can double as a multi-talented hub for streaming just about anything – audio from your computer, phone, or tablet… and from online apps like TIDAL and Spotify. What’s more, if you have wireless speakers in the house, your home theater receiver can tap into those as well, so you can play your music all around the house.

  4. Ease of set up. If “easy” is your most important choosing criterion, with respect to setting up, go with a home-theater-in-a-box. The upside: a home-theater-in-a-box is a no-brainer – everything’s included and easy to put together. The downside: a home-theater-in-a-box is a little like a TV dinner: it’s all there — turkey, potatoes, gravy, and green beans — zap 5 minutes, and dinner is ready. But if you have the time, nothing beats carefully planned and well-prepared home cooking. (Translation: go with separate components if you can.)

So, what is a home theater system?

Obviously, a good TV or projector and screen are principal to the experience. But if you think of a home theater system like a Broadway play, then the TV = the stage, and the sound = everything else, from story and actors to music and pageantry. The real magic behind home theater systems is audio, and audio is what you need to get right to create a real home theater system at your house.Typically, a home theater system includes the following components:

  • A TV, TV mount or projector and screen.

  • A video source. (Like the signal from your cable or dish provider or a Blu-ray player.)

  • A home theater receiver. (Where the power and the brains originate. Also what everything connects to.)

  • Speakers, including (but not limited to): a center speaker, right and left forward speakers, right and left rear speakers, special effect speakers for Dolby Atmos, and a subwoofer or two.

Now, let's take a closer look at all the different pieces that make up a home theater system, while lending some advice and giving you pros and cons to each.

  • Building your home theater system. Putting the pieces together.

  • The TV or projector and screen.

A beautiful picture is key to great home theater, and we can’t say it enough: bigger is better. Bottom line: We strongly recommend going with a 4K HDR TV, and if you can afford OLED, even better. If you’re dedicating a particular room to a home theater alone, that’s not only really exciting, it means you can go really big with a projector and screen that measures 8 feet or more across for true theater-like imagery. Today’s newest 4K projectors are razor sharp and whisper quiet. Typically, the projector is installed in the ceiling at the rear of the room, and the screen remains stationary or is made to hide away like a motorized window shade. (Sometimes we add automated movie curtains to the mix.) Shop Home Theater Products.

Video sources:

  • Your favorite shows and movies can come from any number of devices in addition to your set-top box. Blu-ray players and 4K media players give you a gorgeous viewing experience and extremely rich home theater sound, and the same is true with devices like Apple TV and Roku, which connect to the Internet and stream content from an ever-growing list of providers (e.g., Netflix, HBO GO, Hulu). Also, unlike some older TVs, devices like Apple TV and Roku automatically update themselves whenever new apps, games, and/or shows become available. Now on to audio…

Home theater speakers:

  • When it comes to audio, it makes sense to choose your speakers first, because your speaker choice helps determine your receiver choice. Big speakers need big power, little speakers need less power, that sort of thing. Also, more speakers means you'll need more channels on your receiver. And for the most immersive sound possible, you may want to consider adding the latest in home theater technology: Dolby Atmos. (We’ll get into Dolby Atmos in a moment, but we mention it here because a Dolby Atmos system requires a few more speakers.)

How many speakers will you need? That depends. Again, more is always better when it comes to sound, and there are literally dozens of speaker combinations that can create true home theater sound. The traditional home theater includes 5 speakers: a center speaker, a left and a right speaker, two rear left and right speakers, and, of course, a subwoofer. A typical setup looks like this:The center speaker, which is where most dialog comes from, should be centered just below the TV. (Though some in-wall center speakers live above the TV.) The left speaker goes to the left, and the right to the right. The two rear speakers are placed or installed at the rear of the room, behind the viewing audience. Typically, the left and right forward speakers are bigger than the left and right rear speakers.

We at STC Smart Shop hopes that this Home Theater Cheat Sheet helps guide you in the right direction when choosing and installing your new home theater system!

If you are still have any questions at all please reach out to us and we would love the opportunity to help serve you and answer any questions with your Audio/Video solution needs!

Toll free: (855) 782-7383

Local: (720) 381-6675


Thank you for reading!

-The STC Team

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