If you already have one of the new 4K, OLED, QLED, or Full Array TVs, the best way to take your home theatre experience to the next level is with a Home Theatre System. A home theatre sound system adds power and clarity to your TV’s speaker system. When you synchronize the video on your screen with room-filling sound, every sporting event, blockbuster movie, or favourite TV series will feel more immersive.
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How do you choose the best home theatre audio system for your home? It can be a bit challenging to narrow down your options, but it’s a fun challenge because there are so many amazing brands and options to choose from. Take a look at this guide, find out what you’ll need to consider, and you’ll quickly find the best home theatre system within your budget.
Consider room size and setup
Your first step in setting up a home theatre system is to take a good look at the room your TV is in. Whether that be a living room, basement, or rec room, your home theatre’s size will have the biggest impact on the type of surround sound system you’ll choose. If your room is fairly small, you may only need a few speakers and a single subwoofer. With a small space you may also opt just for wall-mounted speakers instead of larger tower speakers. In a larger room, you can really expand your sound system. You can opt for a more powerful system with bigger speakers to offer bigger sound.
If you feel your home theatre room size is somewhere in the middle of big and small, a good way to choose the best system is to decide based on the size of your TV. If your TV is 65″ or larger, you will want to opt for more power and extra speakers. If your TV is smaller, and if you have a small room to fill with sound, you can choose smaller speakers and less power.
Movies or music? Which is your favourite?
When you add speakers, subwoofer, and a receiver to set up a home theatre system, everything you watch on your TV will instantly become more immersive. The benefits don’t end with your TV either; one of the best parts of adding speakers to your room is how your music will sound better than ever too.
When choosing your surround sound system, you should keep in mind that music sound requirements are quite a bit different than movie soundtracks. Movie soundtracks tend to cover all the audio types including dialogue, music, and sound effects. Bass tracks are deep and can have an immersive booming effect, while voice tracks are less penetrating and tend to come mainly from the centre speaker channel. Sound effects will feel like they are coming from all around you as they are dispersed across your speakers for maximum effect. This is why home theatre receivers, also known as A/V receivers, have multiple channels to distribute audio to the correct speakers for best results.
If you’re mostly about music …
On the other hand, music is essentially distributed over two channels. That’s why stereo receivers are two-channel systems. Your home theatre receiver will perform the same function by using two channels to distribute your favourite music to your speakers, with your front left and right speakers being the most important. The accompanying subwoofer, instead of adding a huge hit of just bass, will add clarity and depth to your playlists.
If you are setting up your home theatre with the goal of listening to music, you’ll want to ensure your two main speakers are of the highest quality possible.
If you’re mainly about movies …
If you know you’ll be mainly using your home theatre for watching movies, you’re going to want to ensure the subwoofer you choose can achieve those deep-bass effects. Also select a great centre channel speaker that’s able to distribute dialogue in a way that’s crisp, clear, and matches your other speakers perfectly.
Home theatre receivers give you the best of both worlds
You’re probably going to use your home theatre for both movies and music, so the simplest solution is to get a well-balanced, high-quality system that best fits your budget. Some subwoofers make it really easy to choose because they have both a music mode and a movie mode, and they optimize the bass output based on what application you’ve selected.
You should also keep in mind that today’s receivers will automatically compensate for the different equalization curves for both music and movies. When the appropriate surround mode is selected, they will optimize the sound accordingly.
How many channels do you need?
The next step in choosing your home theatre components is deciding on how many channels you’ll need. The number of channels you choose depends on how many speakers you would like to connect. That choice may be determined by how large your room is.
Receiver-based home theatre systems are available in a variety of channels. The most common channels are 5.1, 7.1, and 9.1. The first number is the number of speakers in the system, and the second number is the number of subwoofers.
What’s the best placement for surround sound speakers?
Most surround sound systems for small to mid-size rooms have 5.1 channels, with five speakers and a subwoofer. Larger rooms do best with 7.1 or 9.1 or 9.2 systems, with nine speakers and two subwoofers. To place nine speakers around your room, you’ll usually place 5 in the front around the TV with 2 to the left, 2 to the right, and 1 in the centre. The remaining speakers will be placed with 2 on the side of the room and 2 at the rear of the room.
Taking this up a notch is the Dolby Atmos surround system, which may be 5.1.2, 6.1, 7.1.4, or 9.1.4. The extra digit represents ceiling speakers, so a 7.1.4 Dolby atmos system has 7 floor level speakers, 1 subwoofer, and 4 ceiling speakers. A Dolby Atmos system will give you the most immersive sound experience available, and you can find Dolby Atmos technology in both home theatre surround sound systems as well as the individual speakers. The sound will feel as though it’s coming at you from every direction.
The basic idea of home theatre systems is that the more speakers you have, the better your sound quality will be. The better the sound quality, the more you’ll enjoy movies and music at home.
Home Theatre In A Box or individual components?
Now that you know your room size and how many channels you’d like, it’s time to look at the separate components that make up your home theatre. If you want a quick choice that’s plug and play ready for your room, you may find it easier and more convenient to choose a home theatre in a box (HTIB) rather than pick and choose individual home theatre components.
A home theatre in a box is a complete system with a receiver and speakers designed to work together. It’s a simple set up because the speakers are designed to use the specific channel they will support. Your front left and right speakers will be designed to have the biggest impact as most sound comes from them, your centre speakers will be ready to push out dialogue, and your rear speakers will be a bit smaller than the front left and right speakers.
Instead of choosing an HTIB system, you can also choose your components individually. There are pros and cons for both options. A HTIB system makes bringing home a home theatre system easy. You just pick which HTIB you’d like and you’re set.
On the other hand, with a packaged HTIB, everything comes the way it is as a kit. If you have your heart set on a receiver made by a certain brand, you won’t be able to choose the receiver you want to buy individually.
It’s not that hard to buy pieces of your home theatre individually because you just need to select the receiver and the speakers. Speakers are usually based on personal preference, as what sounds good to you may differ from what someone else likes. To choose them, all you need to do is ensure the power output of the receiver you pick matches the capacity of the speakers.
Wireless vs. Wired
The decision to have cords and cables vs a completely wire-free experience is usually an easy one. Your main issue will be whether or not it’s difficult to place or hide the cables connected to your home theatre.
Some people opt for wireless speaker systems because the installation is very simple and clean. Having a wireless system also allows you to easily move the speakers into different positions or use them elsewhere in your home, so if you’d like to use them on your patio you can pick them up and move them there.
Just keep in mind that a speaker is “wireless” when it doesn’t need wires to connect to your receiver; they still require a power plug as most are not battery-powered. The benefit is that you won’t have to connect several feet of cord to the receiver so it gives you more flexibility. Another thing to keep in mind when choosing wireless speakers is that there are only a few that will work well in a balanced “surround sound” application. Sonos and Bose are a few brands that produce wireless speaker systems.
There are some advantages of a wired speaker system too. A wired speaker system usually has better sound quality because it’s connected directly to the receiver and it’s not limited to bandwidth. You’ll also have a wider variety of speakers to choose from and you’re more likely to find powerful and clear-sounding speakers that really suit your taste.
You can learn more about these advantages on Best Buy’s Multi-room Audio Buying Guide.
Your A/V receiver is the hub of your home theatre. It selects and coordinates all the components in your system and determines which source is being used. It then sends the information to your playback devices, meaning your TV and speakers.
The A/V Receiver is a fun component to choose because you can opt for so many great features. You can use the left hand menu on the receiver category page to customize your search.
Number and type of connections
How many HDMI-connected devices will you run? Many receivers have multiple HDMI, optical, and other connections so you can connect everything from your TV to gaming consoles, streaming box, or cable boxes. You can use your receiver to easily switch between the various applications, so be sure to choose one that can handle all of your devices. You can choose a receiver with 4 up to 10 HDMI connections.
Surround sound technology
If you’d like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, you can choose a receiver with that technology built-in. One other important feature you might wish to have on your receiver is a dedicated “Phono” input. This input offers better sound quality than computer chips or integrated circuits, and allows for improved dynamics, depth of field, and sound detail. Even if you don’t have a phonograph to connect to your receiver, it’s a good feature have for other electronics.
Depending on what you’re connecting to the receiver, you may wish to choose a pass-through for 3D, HDMI, 4K Ultra HD, or 8K Ultra HD.
Apps and connectivity
Do you want your receiver to be able to run apps like Spotify or use Google Cast and Apple Airplay? You can find many choices with these options built in, and many will also connect to your favourite Internet radio stations so you can stream the radio to your speakers.
There are also receivers that are controlled via a compatible app, so you can adjust your settings or switch between content right on your phone.
If you rely on your voice assistant to control devices in your smart home, you’ll want to take a look at receivers with voice control built-in. You can find receivers with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri compatibility.
One of the most important components of your home theatre system is your speakers. There are a few different types you can choose to make up your home theatre system including bookshelf speakers, tower speakers, centre channel speakers, in-wall and ceiling speakers, and subwoofers.
The most important factor when choosing speakers is to make sure they match the power output of the receiver you choose. Sound quality is also a big factor, and if you can’t head into a store to listen before you buy, you’ll want to take a good look at overall ratings of each and decide on different features.
Another consideration when choosing speakers is brand. You may choose a set of speakers from big brands including Polk, Bose, Sonos, Energy, Klipsch, JBL, Definitive Technology, Sony, Samsung, and Martin Logan.
Most of these manufacturers have speakers designed for each of the separate channels of a surround sound system. You will be able to find different speakers to select for the centre, rear, front and side speakers. This makes it easy to select a system of speakers that work well together.
If you’re really into music you’ll need to ensure your front left and right speakers are full speaker sets that can stand on their own. If you go with an HTIB solution, your speaker combination will be pre-selected to match the receiver.
Additional features for your home theatre system
There are a few additional home theatre features you may find useful. Some speakers will have automatic speaker setting calibration so it’s easy to set up and perfect the sound of your speakers. You can also choose a receiver and speakers with multi-room capability so you can use the A/V receiver to transmit sound to another room in your house.
Sound bars vs surround sound systems
We’ve just covered all the bases when choosing a home theatre system, but if you have a small to mid-size room you have another option for amplifying your TV’s sound. A sound bar is an all-in-one speaker system that sits neatly under your TV. You can find sound bars with 2, 3, 5, 7, or 9 speakers built into the bar, and some also come with a subwoofer to complete your sound system.
If you’d rather not fill your room with individual speakers and you want a quick and easy way to update your sound profile, you may want to choose a sound bar over a full surround sound system. Sound bars can be wireless, some have connections for several devices including gaming consoles, and they can be controlled via remote, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or voice.
Shop Best Buy for your home theatre system
A home theatre system lets you really enjoy everything you watch and listen to. From music to movies to TV and your favourite playlists, you’ll love how a home theatre makes everything more immersive.