HomeGuideHow to Set Up the Ultimate Home Entertainment System
How to Set Up the Ultimate Home Entertainment System
November 21, 2019
There’s no better feeling than flopping down on your couch
after a long day, or on a quiet Saturday night, to watch a movie or television
show at home. However, your basic TV set with its standard speakers, while
great for everyday use, might not quite cut it when you really want to sink
into your movie and lose yourself in the action.
In the past, to up your experience, you would need to head
out to a movie theater. And while the big screen is still arguably the best,
you can set up a home entertainment system that rivals it and will make you
second guess spending the money to trudge out to the theaters.
What’s more, is that there are now more things to watch at
home than ever before. Netflix produces great original content, as does Hulu
and Amazon Prime, and more and more movie studios are allowing people to watch
movies from home at the same time they are released in theaters, giving you
even less incentive to leave the house.
But to really get the best of your home entertainment experience, you need to have the right system and the right set up, which requires a bit more than just buying a big TV and plunking it into your living room. Instead, you need to carefully consider how you will construct your system, and we’ve outlined the best way to do this to help you get the best in home entertainment.
Step 1: The Room
While the TV is going to likely be the centerpiece of your
home entertainment system, it’s not the first thing you should be thinking
about when you start planning. Instead, your priority should be to choose the
room you’re going to use for your system and to consider what it has to offer.
Once you do this, it will be much easier for you to make choices about the rest
of your system.
If you’re just moving into a new place, knowing what to
look for in a home entertainment room will also make it easier for you to plan
how to build your system. Here are some
of the key things to keep in mind:
How big is the room you’re going to use for your home
entertainment system? If you’re planning on merely adding to your living room
to make it more theatrical, then it might not make sense to get a massive TV,
as this will overtake the space and render it useless for other things.
Another thing to consider with the size of the room is
where you’re going to put the TV. In smaller rooms, your only choice might be
in the corner, which will limit the size of the TV you can buy.
The size of the room will also affect where you can place
your furniture. Bigger TVs require wider viewing angles, which means you need
to set the furniture up further away from the screen. However, putting a sofa
up against the wall will limit the ability of a surround sound system to truly
“surround” you. In these scenarios, it’s better to get a slightly smaller TV
that allows you to sit closer so that you can make the most of the entire home
If possible, try to choose a room for your home
entertainment system that has rectangular walls since square rooms tend to mess
with the sounds coming from your TV.
When working with rectangular rooms, place the TV in the
center of one of the longer walls. Of course, this might not always be
possible, but if you want to build the best possible home entertainment system,
try to find a room that will help you make it happen.
Bright lights ruin your TV experience by diminishing the
color on your TV and producing a glare. As a result, try to find a room that
isn’t going to be too bright. Finished basement rooms are the best if that
option is available to you.
But this doesn’t just refer to natural light, especially
since most of us make use of home entertainment systems at night. Instead, it
also refers to other things that could reflect light and diminish the picture
quality. These include paint colors (bright colors tend to reflect the light
from the screen and make it look worse) as well as reflective items in the
room, such as mirrors or windows.
In instances where you simply cannot avoid light getting
in, consider getting some curtains or drapes to block out reflections or lights
that could mess with the quality of your TV picture.
Tile and hardwood reflect sound waves and mess up the
audio coming from your TV, so if possible, try to choose a room that is
carpeted. In the event this isn’t possible, you’ll want to buy an area rug to
dampen some of the sound reflections that can come off the floor and make it
harder to hear what you’re listening to on the TV.
Step 2: The
Now that you’ve chosen the room for your home
entertainment system, you should be able to visualize what the system is going
to look like. And with this vision in
mind, you can now start looking at what is likely to be the most important part
of your home entertainment system: the television
Taking the size and other characteristics of the room
you’re going to use into account, you should have an idea of what size TV you
want to buy, and you should now be aware that bigger isn’t necessarily better,
even though the salesperson you speak with will probably try to convince you it
But beyond the size, there are some other things you will
want to keep in mind to make sure you’ve got the device you need to build the
best possible home entertainment system.
LCD vs. OLED
One of the bigger decisions you will need to make about
your TV is what kind of screen you want. Generally speaking, you have two
choices: OLED and LCD.
The latest rage is OLED, which stands for Organic Light
Emitting Diode. These screens are made up of pixels which are capable of
independently illuminating themselves, which means they can also be turned
The main advantage of this is that these pixels can
produce a true black, which gives the television an infinite contrast ratio.
Contrast is arguably one of the most important characteristics of a TV because
it determines how sharp and vivid the image will be.
OLED TVs also have impeccable viewing angles, which means
they deliver the same high-quality picture no matter where you site while
However, OLED technology is still relatively new, and this
means it’s quite expensive. Plus, the smallest OLED TVs on the market are 55
Another downside to OLED is that the screen in overall
less bright than with other TVs. If you’re going to set up a home entertainment
system in a room that gets lots of light, then an OLED TV might not be the best
In terms of brands, LG and Sony are the ones to beat in
the OLED market.
Another choice you have is LCD LED. These TVs are made up
of several layers, with the top one consisting of liquid crystals that are
illuminated by the LED backlight. In general, LDC LED TVs are significantly
brighter than OLEDs, but their contrast ratios, although impressive, are quite
a bit smaller than those of OLED TVs. However, the boost in brightness allows
these TVs to still deliver an excellent picture.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the picture on
LCD LED TVs tends to degrade when you start to view the screen from an angle.
If you decide to go this route, Vizio and TCL both make
excellent LCD TVs at affordable prices that would provide a major boost to your
home entertainment system.
For those looking for something in between, consider
looking at TVs with “quantum dot” technology. These are basically LCD LEDs that
have an extra layer of “quantum dots” that allow contrast ratios that approach
but don’t reach the levels of OLED TVs.
Samsung is a leader in this area with its QLED technology,
but Vizio is rapidly becoming a top option, as well.
Resolution refers to the number of pixels on the screen.
In theory, the more pixels the better, as this means more colors and better
contrast. But just because the screen has more pixels doesn’t guarantee a
better picture, as you need to take into account other factors such as
brightness and contrast.
The industry standard has been 1080p for a long time, but
in recent years, Ultra HD, or 4K resolution, has emerged as the best of the
A screen with 1080p resolution can still deliver a good
picture, but if you want to build the best possible home entertainment system,
you’re going to want to get a TV with 4K resolution. Any model on the market
these days that’s worth buying will have this, so you don’t need to stress too
much, but it’s something to check for when you’re shopping.
Also known as High Dynamic Range, HDR is the newest technology in high-definition. Essentially, HDR works by using metadata to give your TV more information about the colors it should be processing. This allows the TV to produce more stark contrasts and a better overall image. But for it to work, your TV needs to be sufficiently bright. To know if it is, just look to see if the TV is “HDR-ready”
Nowadays, you will probably see HDR referred to as HDR 10,
but know that these are essentially the same thing. However, there are a few
variants that you should know about to make sure you’re getting the best TV
possible for your home entertainment system, such as:
Dolby Vision – This is an HDR format that
processes metadata on a frame-by-frame basis instead of scene-by-scene, which
is the way basic HDR works. Doing this allows for even more contrast and better
color display, leading to an overall better experience. However, for this to work,
you need to be watching content that has been created with Dolby Vision in
mind. There is more and more video available every day, but Dolby is competing
with other companies that offer essentially the same thing, so keep an eye out
HDR+ – A proprietary Samsung technology,
HDR+ does basically the same thing as Dolby Vision but it is used mainly on
Samsung TVs, although some other manufacturers are beginning to adopt the
technology. Right now, Samsung is competing with Dolby Vision, much like HD DVD
and Blu-Ray competed in the late 2000s, and it’s difficult to say who will win.
For now, though, there’s not much difference. But be aware of market changes as
you shop for a TV.
HLG – This is HDR for live broadcasts.
It’s currently not the norm, but it will be soon. So, if you plan to use your
home entertainment system for watching live sports, make sure the TV you get is
HLG-ready. Most of the top models you’ll find out there have this but
double-check before you buy.
Step 3: The
Once you’ve got your TV sorted, you’ve got the video part
of your home entertainment system covered. Now it’s time to turn to audio,
which will do wonders for making your home theater feel more like the real
Again, though, to get the right speakers, the first thing
you need to do is consider the space you are going to use for your home
entertainment system. Smaller rooms need less and bigger rooms need more. If
you’re using a room with high, vaulted ceilings, you may need to invest a good
bit more in overhead speakers to make sure the sound doesn’t get lost in the
vast space you have above you.
Below we’ve outlined some of the basics when it comes to
your home theater sound system that should help steer you in the right
direction when it comes time to buy your speakers.
Also known as an amplifier, this is the device that is
actually going to deliver the sound from your TV or other input to the
The main things to keep in mind when buying a speaker are:
Power – Measured in Watts (W), this gives
you an idea of how much power the amplifier can deliver to your sound system.
Again, bigger is not always better. It matters which speakers you’re using as
well as the room you’re using for your entertainment system. As a general rule, 100W of power should be
enough power to deliver a theater-like experience to your home, although
smaller rooms will need less and larger ones will need more.
Impedance – A fancy, scientific term for
“resistance,” this spec is measured in Ohms. Resistance is good because it
prevents your amplifier from overloading your speakers and damaging them. Most
speakers and amps these days work on 8-Ohms, but some use four. The most
important thing to remember is that you need to match the resistance from your
amp to that of your speakers as a mismatch can damage your speakers.
After the receiver, it’s time to get your speakers. When
looking at specs, keep in mind the following:
Impedance – Again, make sure this matches
the output from your receiver to make sure you’re not over- or under-loading
your speakers and putting them at risk of being damaged.
Sensitivity – This refers to how much
power your speakers need to get to higher volumes. More sensitive speakers need
less whereas less sensitive ones require more. Sensitivity is measured in
decibels (dB), and what you need will depend on how powerful your amp is. If
it’s less powerful, you may want more sensitive speakers (89 dB or above),
whereas more powerful amps often work best with less sensitive speakers (88 dB
or below) because they are less likely to get damaged by increases in volume.
Finding a Match
Matching your speakers and receive is extremely important
if you want to build a great home entertainment system. But with so many
technical specifications, this can be easier said than done.
For those who are less knowledgeable in this area, know
that if you stick with the same manufacturer for both, you should be in pretty
good shape because you will know the speakers you are buying were made for that
However, not all speaker manufacturers make the best
receivers and vice versa, so it might be necessary to mix and match. In these
cases, just keep an eye on the specs above and you should do fine.
Types of Speakers
Once you know the resistance, power, and sensitivity
requirements of your sound system, it’s time to go out and get your speakers.
For the best possible experience, you will want to get the following speakers
for your home entertainment system:
Center Stage speakers – These often come
in the form of a soundbar that you place directly in front of your TV. This is
where most of the dialogue will come from, as well as the core sounds for
whatever you’re watching. In many ways, these speakers are the most important
for your sound system as they lay the foundation for the overall sound
Side speakers – These will increase the
stereo capabilities of your sound system and make whatever you’re watching on
TV more dynamic. The best option for these is towers, but this isn’t practical
for all homes. You can also find side speakers that fit nicely onto a shelf or
entertainment center that will help you make an excellent home theater
Surround sound – To take your home
entertainment to the next level, you should invest in surround sound speakers.
Place these behind you to give special effects an extra boost and to feel as
though you are fully immersed in whatever it is you’re watching.
Subwoofers – For deep basslines and even
more exciting special effects, invest in a subwoofer. You can place this pretty
much anywhere in the room since bass sounds have longer waves that make it
harder for the ear to distinguish where they come from, although most people
put it right to the side of the TV. For large rooms, get a 12” or larger subwoofer,
and for smaller rooms, a compact sub will do just fine.
Overhead speakers. Although not entirely
necessary, overhead speakers, or upward pointing speakers, go one step further
and give you a sound system that truly surrounds you. These can be installed in
ceilings, or you can also buy speakers you place on the ground and point
upwards so that sound waves hit the ceiling and bounce back down. These can be
quite expensive, but they will make it feel as though you truly are in the
cinema while you’re sitting on your couch. For rooms with really high ceilings,
they are almost a necessity to overcome the empty feeling you can get from
watching a movie in such a room.
Step 4: The
With a TV and a sound system now in place, one of the last
things you need to consider is the furniture you’re going to use for your home
Of course, practical reasons may drive some of your
decisions. For example, if you’re installing a system in a room you still want
to use to entertain and do things other than watch TV, then you’ll likely need
to still have a traditional couch or sofa.
But even so, make sure the furniture you have fits the
system you’ve spent so much time and money to build. Check that the furniture
is high or low enough to provide a good view of the TV, and make sure
everything is placed in the room so that everyone in it can get the best
possible view of the TV.
If you’re using a dedicated space for your entertainment
system, it might be a good idea to invest in some home theater recliners. This
allows you to line chairs up so that everyone is as close to the center of the
room as possible.
It’s even possible to find this type of furniture with
speakers built-in so that each person can get their own personalized sound
experience. Of course, these aren’t cheap, but they are quite incredible.
Step 5: The
Okay, now that you’ve got the infrastructure in place,
it’s time to think about what accessories you can add to your system to really
make it the best. In the end, the home entertainment industry is huge, so there
are countless options, but here are some that are borderline necessary if you
want to have a top-of-the-line home entertainment system:
A game console to play video games,
stream Netflix and other videos and also play DVDs and Blu-Ray
A vinyl record player to listen to the
quality of analog music on your best-of-the-best sound system
Furniture with coolers built-in so that
you don’t need to get up in the middle of a movie or game to quench your
An old-fashioned popcorn machine because
who doesn’t love munching on popcorn when they’re immersed in a movie.
A bar where you can store your drinks and
also make up cocktails for movie nights with friends.
A WiFi blocker to make sure no one’s
phones go off at the worst possible moment of your favorite movie.
Again, there are many more options out there than we could
ever possibly list, but here are some to get you started.
Investing in a home theater system is a big decision. The
equipment you’re going to buy will be expensive, but if it’s something you
enjoy, why not go all-out? However, if you’re going to spend the money, we want
to be sure you’re getting what you want. So, if you follow the steps we’ve
outlined here, you will be able to build a home entertainment system that will
ensure your home is filled for every big-game and movie/TV premier.