If you are sick of theater prices and are looking to bring the fun of the movies into your own living room, a home entertainment system is the right choice for you. You could enjoy widescreen action with surround sound, positioned perfectly for your room. Recreate the immersive experience of a movie theater for your favorite films, games and TV shows. We will show you how to set up a home cinema system, including how to place your surround sound speakers and how to select the right screen size for your room.
Getting started: choosing your home theater system
Having a decent home theater set-up requires the right equipment to start you off. The basic components are a widescreen HD television (or a movie screen and projector) and some speakers, along with your preferred entertainment devices. Everything else on the checklist below is optional, but highly recommended.
Items needed to create the perfect home cinema:
- TV screen or projector screen
- Sound bar
- Receiver or entertainment hub
- DVD or Blueray player
- Games console
- Movie apps like ShowBox for PC, Netflix, Crackle etc.
- Cables and connectors (see below)
Choosing a great screen
Whether you choose a home projector or a flat screen TV, the screen is the central point in your theater set-up and you need to make sure you make the right choice. Always go for a high definition model, and where possible it is worth splashing out for 4K – or even 8K – resolution so you can see the detail and colors at the best possible level.
Make sure your chosen model has enough ports to support the devices you wish to connect, and also consider the placement of the television. Will you be wall-mounting the screen, or using a TV stand? If you choose to mount the screen, make sure the wall you choose can support the weight of the television and that you use secure fixings to prevent a fall. If you are in any doubt about the safety of wall-mounting, always seek the advice of an expert before risking your expensive electronics – and even more expensive internal walls!
Top televisions for home theater use
Sony KDL55W650D 55-Inch Full HD TV with Wi-Fi
- 52.4 x 6.8 x 32.6 inches; 49.8 pounds
- 55 inch LED screen with 16:9 aspect ratio
No home entertainment system would be complete without access to the latest content apps such as YouTube, Netflix and Hulu. This Sony television connects wirelessly to your home internet and can stream a wide range of shows and movies straight to your screen. The 4K graphics are crystal clear and the impressive 55-inch diagonal display is more than sufficient for the average living room. The weight distribution of the TV set is great, so you can wall mount the screen without worry. There are plenty of HDMI ports for your console and media players, and the TV can accommodate a speaker system or amplifier to boost the internal sound quality of the unit. Sound from the television itself is poor compared to similar models, but with your home speaker set-up you will not mind at all – and the graphics more than compensate for the audio output. This is also a sensible budget choice at less than $600, leaving you with extra to spend on the home entertainment accessories you need.
LG Electronics 60UH6150 60-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
- 10 x 6 x 10 inches; 51 pounds
- 60-inch 4K screen with 120 Hz TruMotion
LG are among the market leaders for home entertainment, and they have produced some groundbreaking televisions which push the boundaries and spark innovation in others. While they are perhaps best known for their flagship OLED product, this great LED screen is more than sufficient for home use. It features an incredible 60 inch screen and backlit LED technology for intense brightness and color. The screen is quite heavy and is probably best suited for use on a TV stand or unit, but you could wall mount it with a stable enough internal structure. One downside to the LG model is the small number of ports – just 3 HDMI inputs and one USB connection. You will need an adapter or a receiver to include a range of different devices. If you play across multiple consoles and like to have all of your gaming machines set up at once, you might be better with the Samsung or Sony models. This mid-range model is one of the biggest for its price and will suit a larger living room well.
Samsung UN55KU6600 Curved 55-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV
- 48.9 x 12.2 x 30.7 inches; 35.7 pounds
- 55-inch LED screen with 4K graphics and 16:9 image aspect ratio
The cool curve on this Samsung TV is perfect for home theaters in small rooms. It is just 55 inches across (and slightly less in width when the curve is accounted for), but it looks far bigger because of the smooth curve that keeps the eye steady. It is perfect for viewing directly from the center, creating an immersive 3D effect, though the screen is designed to look good at almost any viewing angle and there should be no problems with distortion or glare on the screen. The Samsung television is hindered by the curve in that you could not mount it to the wall, but it sits neatly on the supplied stand and will be the ideal centerpiece to your new home entertainment hub. There are no less than ten different ports for connecting various entertainment devices, and the unit is designed with an eco-friendly power moderator, including an auto shutdown mode, which prevents over-consumption.
Which screen size should you choose?
Get the right screen size. Too small and your viewing quality will be compromised, but go too big and it will overpower your room and overwork your eyes. To work out what size will fit in your room, measure the distance in inches between the point of viewing – usually the center of the main sofa – and the television screen. Then take this figure, and divide it by three.
For example, in a room with 150 inches of space, you divide 150 by 3 and get 50 inches. This is your magic number – the right screen size for you. Give yourself a 5 inch margin to be on the safe side – a 55 inch TV would look fine in a room with 150 inches of floor space.
Projector sizing is a little different, because projectors can be adjusted to fit the available screen. You can reasonably afford yourself a margin of above 20 inches in additional screen size if you are using a home projector.
Selecting your speakers
The first step is understanding the difference between the types of speakers available, and deciding on the right combination for you. The majority of surround sound systems consist of a left and right speaker, along with a subwoofer. However, other systems may have three, four, five or more speakers positioned around the room, to get sound into every corner and really enhance the immersive effect of the home entertainment system.
You may have seen numbers, expressed as a ratio, applied to speaker systems. The most common of these is 2:1. All this means is that the system contains two speakers, and one subwoofer. Similarly, 3:1, 5:1 and 7:1 systems have three, five and seven speakers respectively. There is usually only one subwoofer, as this can deliver sound in every direction and it provides the low level sound and balance which should never be overpowering.
Soundbars are also a popular choice in surround sound systems. They are designed to sit in front of the television or just above it, and they issue sound in every direction so that the whole room can experience the same sound level quality. They can be used along with regular speakers and a sub, although many sound bars already contain a 3-speaker set and are entirely self-sufficient.
How to place your speakers
- If you have two speakers and a subwoofer, put the speakers to the left and right of the room, almost central on the wall and facing towards the seating area. Place the sub underneath the television, or alternatively set it right to the back of the room, opposite the television.
- If you are using a soundbar, run in horizontally in front of the television, so it can project outwards. If you use two bars, stand them vertically at either side of the screen.
- If you have three external speakers and a subwoofer, place two and the sub in the 2:1 set-up position, and position the third at the back of the room – perhaps mounted high on the wall.
- For a 5:1 system, there should be two sets of left and right speakers, with two facing the seating area and positioned either side of the television, and two turned inward and located just behind and to either side of the sofa/chair set-up.
Lucky enough to have seven or more speakers to play with? Get creative. As well as the 5:1 placement, add the extra two into corners that could muffle sound, or to fill the gaps in an irregularly shaped and large room. For the average living room, seven speakers is probably going a little far – but if you have the space or you just like your sound loud, you should feel free to experiment with sound set-ups.
How To Set Up A Home Cinema System
Now to the complicated part – setting your home entertainment hub up. In truth, this is probably the easy part if you have already done the placement correctly. It is simply a case of finding the right cables for each component, attaching them in the right way, powering up and sitting back to enjoy your favorite movie, show or game.
However, in practice we all know this can be the most stressful part, especially if you are struggling to find the right cables and parts. Try to keep everything together when unboxing and setting up, as this can prevent confusion later.
Cables and connectors
The entertainment devices you are using, such as your console and your movie player, can often be connected straight to the TV or projector using a HDMI cable. Some older devices will use a scart connector instead (similar, but with a larger and more irregularly shaped head). You will also need power leads and appropriate adapters, and for some connections a pair of pliers might come in handy to undo and to tighten bolted connections.
If you are connecting a number of different devices, you might find you have a lack of ports. You could use an adapter to link multiple devices at once, but it is recommended that you consider a receiver hub. This small box clips to all of your devices at once and sends one central feed to the television screen, while the input can be switched by the user at any time. It usually includes television services as well, and can prevent overloading of your system.
Speaker connection and powering up
Your speakers also need to be hooked up to each other and to the central output. This might be through the sound system’s subwoofer, or through an external amplifier. You may also choose to connect directly to the TV itself with the audio output jack. No method is incorrect – go with what works for you, and make use of the components in your own system.
Once everything is plugged in and clipped together, you can plug the system into the mains power and turn it on. Modern systems require very little tuning or set-up from here – usually everything will be ready to start from the off. However, if you need to tweak the audio balance or graphics output of your entertainment system, you can do this from the television’s menu. Test the sound with a loud track and use the settings to balance the noise levels, as well as adjusting the volume and levels on the speakers themselves. If all sounds good, it is time to sit back, put your feet up and enjoy some quality home entertainment!
Product details correct at the time of writing, as per Amazon.com listings
Lead image with credit to Pixabay
Other images used through Creative Commons license with thanks to publishers