Home Theater Systems

By Phillip P. Daniel

There are a few things in life that are worth spending money on. An autographed picture of William Shatner, a life sized card-board cutout of Jerri Ryan in full Star Trek gear, a tissue used by Leonard Nemoy…these are all things that are worth shelling out your hard earned money for. In the same vein, I would also add to that list a home theater system that is capable of displaying the audio and video of your favorite movies and TV shows in the way that the actors and directors intended it to be. When purchasing a new home theater system, it is wise to not only shop around, but also to realize and understand that there are many components involved in an optimal setup. That being said, this page is dedicated not only to Gene Roddenberry (as is everything that I write) but also to helping people better understand the new trend in home theater, the home theater in a box system. Below is a well written guide (if I do say so myself) on how to shop for a home theater on whatever budget you have.

1. What is a home theater in a box and what comes with it?

A home theater in a box is basically just what it sounds like, an entire home theater system that can be taken directly out of the box and plugged into your existing components to create an immersive experience that will mimic that of going to the movies. These systems usually come standard with an amplifier/receiver, two front channel speaker, a subwoofer (powered or non-powered), a center channel speaker, and two or three rear channel speakers (depending on whether you purchase a 5.1 or 6.1 setup, something that will be discussed later). Packages generally come equipped with a wireless remote control and speaker wire to connect all of you components, and some models even come with a DVD player that was created exclusively for the package. All in all, boxes usually come with all of the things that you will need to get an awesome home theater experience except for the television.

2. So I get it now, but what should I look for when buying one of these puppies?

Well the first thing that you should do is make a budget. I remember when I went to my first Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con in Las Vegas, I had to make a budget of how many comic books, light sabers and corn dogs I was going to buy, or else risk getting into serious debt. You should do the same thing when looking at home theater systems. Once you decide what you are willing to spend, many options will fly right out the window and you will have less of a headache narrowing it down.

After deciding on a price, you should look at the brands that are available in your range. Unlike some electronics, home theaters are actually pretty brand important. Yamaha, Harmon Kardon, Bose and Onkyo are all good brands that are far superior then Pioneer or Kenwood. If you decide to make a purchase, make sure to investigate what people are saying about brands at the different forums around the net.

After brands, look at what features and specs are being offered. The more watts that your receiver puts out, the loader and more broad your sound will be. This is important to keep in mind, and one of the things that should be your top priority. Generally 500 watts is a good starting point, but it is not foolish to a pay a little more for some extra power. Other specs such as DTS and Dolby Digital that spread the sound to the speakers. Most new models come standard with this, and you would be foolish to put down any money on a system that doesn’t support these features. The thing to really consider in this category is whether to go for 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 surround sound. The difference between the three is the amount of rear speakers that you can use to create an even more surrounded feel. 6.1 is currently the most that any DVD or digital broadcast can output, but that does not mean that 7.1 will be better supported in the future. 5.1 is good, but if you have the money, go for 6.1 as you have even more laser and warp speed action from all around you!

Lastly look at the speakers and DVD player that is offered in the set. Powered sub woofers are more powerful then non-powered and are always preferred over the latter. A good sub woofer should at the very least be 100 watts and contain an 8 inch or larger speaker. The DVD player (if the system comes with it) should at least be a progressive scan model, and incorporate well with your current system. The speakers themselves are harder to judge, as bigger does not necessarily mean better. Look at the range of the frequency and the amount of power they can take. A bigger range (especially lower range) means that they can handle more highs and lows and the more watts means the louder and more clear they will tend to be.

3. All right already…I just want to buy one!

All in all keep in mind that you really do get what you pay for (I know that I always say this, but this is really true with these systems) and that you can count on Newbie for accurate and truthful reviews of the models that you are looking to purchase.

If you ever have any questions regarding this or any other topic on Newbie, please feel free to visit our help forums. You can chat with other newbies, or ask questions to the smarty-pants team newbie members who always seem to have the right answers.

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