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Home Theaters Buying Guide

Purchasing a home theatre system is a big investment but it can make all of the difference in your ability to enjoy being at home. For many homeowners, it is a must-have when it comes to setting up a home. However, buying each of the components separately can be difficult to do. In addition, it can be more expensive to buy each component separately than to buy a system that is already ready to go for you. Prepackaged systems range widely in terms of what they offer and their price points.

What to Expect

Most home theatre systems will come with:

  • A receiver.
  • Matching speakers.
  • All the wiring you need DVD or Blu-ray players.

Some systems will cost significantly less while others cost much more for more high-end and high- tech additions. You can spend as little as $200 on this system or as much as $2000 depending on what you buy.

Types of Systems to Consider

There are a few types of home theatre systems on the market worth considering. First, consider the following common package options.

  • A 2.1 is a very basic system with just two front speakers as well as a subwoofer.

  • The most common option is a 5.1 channel home package, which will include five compact speakers (including two for surround sound speakers for the rear).

  • A 6.1 channel system adds an additional rear speaker to the mix.

  • A 7.1 system will add two additional rear speakers.

With or Without Players

The next buying decision to make is if you want to purchase a home theatre system with a player or without one. Those with a player will come with a Blu- ray player or a DVD player. Newer models now offer 3D capability as well. The player may not be a standalone model, though. Often, it is built right into the receiver. These are easier to set up but they have less functionality than separate models.

A system without a player is not a bad option. These systems will give you the option of using one you currently have. This option is best for those who want to have more flexibility over the player they use.

Sound Bars

Another component to consider is the sound bar. This can improve the sound of the television without requiring a full surround sound system. Some may wish to use this instead of a full home theatre system. You can hang them on a wall or place them on a shelf. They do not offer the same feel as a multiple- speaker home system, but they are a more affordable option.

Key Features to Look For

Once you have a good idea of what you want to invest in, there are some features worth spending more for. You should be able to compare all of these features from one product to the next before making any buying decision.


The key component to most home theatre systems is the receiver. These are often more basic than your average stand-alone model - a factor you will find in nearly all components of such a package. However, they should include DTS and Dolby Digital decoders in them. Some systems may offer support to the latest audio formats, including DTD-HD Master Audio, but not all do. More so, many systems are coming with 3D enabling (though this does not mean it works automatically) which allows the receiver to send signals to 3D Blu-ray systems.

The Speakers

One of the main reasons people purchase home theater systems is for the speakers. Most systems have five to seven speakers included. They also often come with one subwoofer. The key benefit of purchasing a system like this is that they will all have been matched for sound previously. Floor standing models are sometimes a part of these packages but others include satellite speakers for use in the front and the rear of the space. Surround speakers are also included in some cases. These work to wirelessly amplify sound. That also means there's no need for cables to run from the receiver all the way to the back of the space. Look for systems with subwoofers that connect wirelessly as well. Some designs also have the flexibility of allowing you to add additional speakers to the mix if you would like to do so.

Internet Connectivity

Perhaps the biggest change and upgrade aside from 3D viewing that most home theatre buyers are looking for is Internet connectivity. If you want to have this type of access, which is often obtained through a Blu-ray player, you should look for a specific system that promises it. BD-Live, as it is called allows you to connect online so you can stream movies, radio, or television. You can also access sites you wish to buy from, get into your music accounts and even network on social media sites. In addition, for an additional benefit, an integrated webcam is ideal because this allows you to use Skype or other video messaging services with ease.


Another feature to look for is the number and type of AV connections offered. You want the flexibility of being able to route video and audio through the receiver. This provides the ability to change sources including linking to game consoles, cable boxes, DVR systems and others. If you know what type of connections that you plan to make, ensure the home theater system comes with those connections.

  • You will need analog connections for VCRs, standard definition televisions and some DVD players.

  • HDMI inputs are necessary to connect most DVD players and Blue-ray systems.

  • HDMI 1.4 is a newer version, which provides support for 3D video signals.


Ultimately, home theater systems need to fit your needs and your space. Invest in the type of audio gear that matters to you - if you are looking for a very specific level of sound, you may want to spend more for higher quality speakers and receivers. For most at-home use, a basic model with a built-in player provides an all-in-one package that is hard to pass up for the cost savings.

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