Taking the first steps beyond a basic TV or stereo setup can be intimidating. The options are nearly endless and the costs can quickly add up. But whether you put in an elaborate home theater or a more modest living room setup, a well-designed home entertainment system can bring out the very best in your favorite music and movies.
Buying Great Speakers
“Speakers are the best upgrade for any home theater system,” CNET’s Ty Pendlebury says. “While audio and video standards change all the time a good pair of speakers will still work in 10 or 20 or 30 years. They also have the biggest effect on the overall sound of your system.”
For the simplest room setup, you can get by without a separate receiver by choosing powered speakers with inputs that can directly connect to a turntable or other devices. More likely, though, your speakers will need a receiver to power them, in which case you’ll want to make sure you get speakers and a receiver that pair well together. (It’s a topic that plenty of people obsess over, so chances are you can find recommendations for any given speakers or receiver with a few searches.)
Choosing a Receiver
A receiver is more than just a hub that connects your system. A good receiver can help ensure you get the best possible sound from your speakers, and get the most from the rest of your gear.
Once again, the choice begins with knowing how you listen. A modern home theater receivermay be able to handle 4K/UHD movies and accommodate a slew of HDMI devices, which is great for the TV and movie lover. But many new receivers don’t have a phono input for turntables. A vinyl lover would need either need a turntable with a built-in preamp like the Audio Technica AT-LP-120, or else they’d have to buy a standalone preamp like a Rolls VP29.
Features like built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can add streaming and internet connectivity to a receiver, but don’t think of them as deal-breakers. Wireless capability is something that can be easily (and inexpensively) added after the fact with a tool like Chromecast Audio, which also imparts some added functionality you won’t get with a basic Bluetooth-capable receiver. A Chromecast Audio connected to a receiver can become part of a whole-home audio system linked to other Chromecast-enabled devices spread throughout your house.
Everything In the Right Place
Once you’ve got your gear, it’s time to put everything together. If you want to get the absolute best sound, you’ll want to take some time to get the speaker placement just right, which could mean rearranging some furniture.
As audio retailer Crutchfield explains in its helpful guide, you’ll want to make sure you don’t place your speakers right against a wall. Angle them towards the main spot you’ll be sitting (as opposed to having them face straight forward, a common mistake). Depending on the type of speakers, you may want to raise them off the floor with stands or angle them upwards slightly.
Getting Things Perfect
Now that you’ve figured out your home entertainment system, figure out how to hide the unsightliness of its many wires. If you aren’t willing or able to run speaker wire through you walls, there are plenty of readymade kits and DIY options for hiding any unsightly tangles.
Never forget about the “system” part of a home entertainment system. A weak link can reduce the performance of the entire system, while upgrading one component can bring out better performance from the rest of your setup. The trick is finding the right balance, and getting the system as a whole to a level that lets you get the most out of each component—at least until you get the upgrade bug again decide to take your system the next level.