Have you ever visited a big-box display store, seen the big screen television’s or the expensive projectors, and just fallen in love? You walk out with thousands of dollars worth of home theater equipment. You get to the your home and you set everything up. You invite your friends or family over for the premier movie in your home theater, but quickly you are disappointed.
You have learned a lesson that many buyers have learned over the years. An expensive big-screen TV and high-end speakers do not a home theater make. What is missing? Fancy expensive seating? Mood lighting? Expensive audio tiles?
If you want to spend extra money on those things, go ahead. But the difference they are going to make the quality of your home theater is negligible. So here’s the question, what will you need to build a quality home theater without breaking the bank?
1. Choosing the Appropriate Wiring
Not all home theater audio wiring is the same. The amplifiers that you’re going to use in your home theater are rated for a specific resistive load size. This load size is denoted in ohms. You want to choose wires that have a resistance of five percent or less of the same number. For example, if in your home theater you are using a 5.1 set up that has a speaker with an 8 ohms rating, the wire that you use to connect to the speakers should have a resistance of 0.4 ohms or less.
Something else to consider is the length of the audio cables. Most professionals recommend that the cables should never be longer than 15 m, or 50 feet. There are some variables that you will need to take into consideration when calculating these numbers. However, the longer the wire, the higher chance it is that your wires will act like a radio antenna, allowing them to pick up random interference.
A mistake we see a lot of times is that people will buy too much wire for their speaker system. Instead of simply snipping the wires and reattaching the ends, they will coil the excess wire up to get it out of the way. However, a coil of wire is only going to amplify electromagnetic interference.
Here’s a great resource to help you better understanding optimal wiring – Instructables Guide
2. Pick the Right Projector
A projector that is good in one environment may be terrible in another. When shopping for a projector, you want to know the size of your theater room and then use this to determine an adequate throw ratio.
The throw ratio determines how far your project will need to be from a wall or from the screen based on the size of the area you will use to project your image. If you had a projector that has a throw ratio of one, your projector will need to be one foot away from the screen in order to project an image that is one foot diagonal. If your projector has a .58 throw ratio, it needs to be 5.8 inches away from the screen in order to project a one foot diagonal image.
The mathematical equation that is used is: Throw Ratio X Desired Screen Size in Inches = Distant in Inches. Or you could look at it like this:
.5 throw ratio X 150 inches(desired screen size) = 60 inches (distance the projector must be away from the projected surface)
There are three basic projector styles to choose from:
- Standard Projectors: Also known as long throw projectors, these require a large distance between the projector and the screen. They are cheaper but will need to be mounted or put on a shelf. On average, a standard projector is going to have a throw ratio of 1.2. If you want a 150 inch screen, you’re going to need to put the projector 180 inches, or 15 feet away.
- Short Throw Projectors: A short throw projector is going to have a throw ratio of between .4 and 1.0. A projector that has a .49 throw ratio will need to be 72.5 inches away from the screen to give you a 150 inch image.
- Ultra Short Throw Projectors: These are your most expensive option. Some have as little as .23 throw ratio. This means that you get a 150 inch image with the projector sitting just 34.5 inches from the projection surface.
You can also check out Outdoor Movie HQ’s resource of home theater projectors compared.
3. Getting the Right Size Speaker for Your Room
A speaker system that is too big will lead to distortion. One that is too small will sound washed out and hollow.
Other factors to consider include whether there are toddlers in the home. If that’s the case, tower speakers may be in your best interest because speakers on shelves or stands can be easily knocked over.
Since you are creating sound for movies, you are going to need to invest in a decent subwoofer. Regardless of what the advertisers tell you, cube speakers are not going to give you the sound that you want. Physics dictate that they cannot produce a sound much lower than 150 Hz. And even if you use the “bass module,” you’re not going to be able to boost the high end up enough to fill that sound gap. Since the “bass module” is never going to give quality output over 40 Hz, you are going to get a bass sound, but it’s not going to have that tactile response you’re looking for.
4. Video Cabling
Like audio cables, video cabling plays a major role in the end quality of your product. You will need an HDMI cable.
- HDMI is the standard for connecting modern audiovisual devices. HDMI supports high definition, ultra HD signals, as well as surround sound.
- DVI cables offer a good quality video when sending digital signals or analog signals.
- Component video cables are used to transfer high-quality analog images using a
- S video offers a medium quality analog video.
It is tempting for an individual to try to go cheap on the video wiring. You can go to the dollar store and get an HDMI cable for a couple of bucks. But the quality of the cable and signal you are going to receive are not going to be as good as purchasing a high quality HDMI cable. It is only going to cost you a few dollars more. But when you compare the price that you have already paid for your sound system, your projector, and the rest of your theater, it is more than worth it.
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into making a quality home theater. The trick is knowing where to spend your money. You want a decent video projection source data TV or projector. You want high quality sound, including a subwoofer and surround sound. The cables for your audio and the cables for your video should be top-notch. If you do this, you’re going to enjoy your family room.