When it comes to home entertainment systems, the sheer volume of choices at all price points can be overwhelming. If you find that's the case for you, consider hiring a professional to help choose, arrange and install your components. Angie's List, which provides members with local reviews on service providers of all types, can help you find a top-rated consumer electronics installer. But whether you hire out or go DIY, it's a good idea to know the basics of a home theater system.
The main components are the display, receiver and speakers. These three items set the tone for the entire experience and prices can vary widely, so it's important to be clear about what you want out of your system and what you can afford.
Video display: The display may be as basic as a regular TV or as elaborate as a motorized drop-down projector screens with a theater-quality projector. Consider desired image quality and expected longevity, in addition to budget considerations, when selecting your display option. A flat-panel screen display is a flexible choice. The large screen is ideal for playing movies and games, and is fine for watching sports and other television choices. On the other hand, a drop-down or fixed projector screen can offer a more cinematic experience because of the larger image.
Receiver: Choices abound, so it's important to know what features you want and how much you can pay. Be sure the component you consider can support the other parts of your system and be sure it has the right inputs. When choosing a DVD player, a Blu-ray or high-definition DVD player can be a good choice, as they can convert and play high-definition discs.
Speakers: Surround-sound is a hallmark of a true home theater experience. Systems come in many sizes and with varying functions. A basic home theater will not need all the available features, but many systems can be augmented as needs change. Speaker choice definitely affects the home theater experience. It's important to test speakers before buying, as there are differences in power and clarity. In addition, you'll need to decide what style of speaker to use. There are tower or bookshelf speakers, as well as or wall- or shelf-mounted satellite speakers. Consider adding a subwoofer to the mix to help produce a fuller sound.
Another option is to buy a "home-theater-in-a-box," or HTiB, unit. But keep in mind that what seems to be the easiest or cheapest option may not provide the best value in the long run.