I think everyone will agree that your home theatre’s audio is just as important as the huge big screen taking up all that real estate on a wall in your living room. I mean, nobody wants to watch a silent movie, right? And, how boring would video games be if you couldn’t hear those thundering explosions or pew-pew-pews of a laser rifle as you melt some alien’s face?
So, getting the most audio bang for your buck is really important for your ultimate enjoyment of any home theatre system. That’s why I’m going to give you some tips for setting up home theatre audio for any budget.
Simple Home Audio for the Smaller Budget
When I first set up my own home theatre system, I had no idea what I was doing. I basically took some old computer speakers I had laying around that also included a sub-woofer, and positioned the four speakers around the room, not thinking of channels, or whether the rear speakers were actually going to be producing the correct “rear” sound range. I mean, it was better than just using the television’s speakers, and it did fill the room with sound. But, it wasn’t acoustically accurate. It was just louder. But, hey, I was on a budget.
Today, you don’t have to invest much to get sweet sound for your home theatre. However, I wouldn’t go the “old PC speaker” route again, were I on a smaller budget. Instead, I would opt for something like a soundbar. Soundbars are ideal especially if your home theatre is in a smaller room. Unlike a stereo surround sound system, a sound bar does not require you to get several speakers around the room for optimum sound performance. Essentially these are long, thin bars that sit beneath your television (or above it), and they usually come with a separate wireless subwoofer. Sound bars use acoustic manipulation to create a sense of surround and enveloping audio experience through computer drivers and digital sound processing, and sometimes by bouncing the sound off the walls or both. All the big names in audio have soundbars on the market, ranging from the budget-friendly Bose Solo 5 TV Sound System, to the pricier Sonos Playbar Soundbar. Sony also offers quite a few soundbars in its product range. Soundbars are pretty easy to install, as well, with minimal wiring, and modern designs. They offer a pretty decent virtual surround sound, however if you have a larger room or crave a real and true surround sound experience, then you may need to opt for a 5.1 system.
Mid-Budget Home Theatre Audio
In the mid-budget range, you’ll find plenty of Home Theatre in a Box (HTIB) systems on the market, which usually include surround sound speakers, a subwoofer, and a receiver/amplifier and all wiring. The less expensive HTIBs typically offer 5.1 surround sound, which is the most commonly used setup for a home theatre audio system. This standard configuration features a front left and right, a centre channel, two surround channels and a subwoofer. Unlike a soundbar, a 5.1 surround sound system offers the full range surround sound, and you can place speakers around the room for optimal acoustics. Often, these bundles come with a Blu-ray player, as well!
Again, in this mid-budget category, you’ll find all the big audio names, from the Samsung’s HT-J4500 500-watt 5.1-Channel Blu-ray Home Theatre System, and Bose Acoustimass 6 Series V 5.1 Channel Home Theatre Speaker System, to the impressive Definitive Technology 5.1 Home Theatre Speaker System.
No Limit Audio for Home Theatres
For the true audiophile who thinks money is no object when it comes to getting the ultimate sweet surround sound experience, then you have to invest in a 7.1 system. This is an eight channel audio system, with the addition of two more speakers to the traditional six-channel (5.1) system. A 5.1 surround sound system combines both surround and rear channel effects into two channels (commonly configured in home theatre set-ups as two rear surround speakers), a 7.1 surround system splits the surround and rear channel information into four distinct channels, in which sound effects are directed to left and right surround channels, plus two rear surround channels.
As with any surround sound system, you’ll get much better and acoustically accurate sound, however this full range of sound does come at a higher price, plus it is a more involved installation process, and all those speakers do take up extra space in your room. So, all things to consider before making a purchase. As well, remember that these are just general guidelines. You can find 5.1 systems that are cheaper than some soundbars, and pricier soundbars like the Sony HTST5000 800-Watt 7.1.2 Channel Dolby Atmos Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer feature the new Dolby Atmos system. Atmos uses advanced computer drivers and breakthrough audio manipulation to reproduce up to 128 simultaneous audio objects, and make them flow around you, so you feel like you are inside the action, with things happening around you. Atmos systems – soundbars, 5.1 and 7.1 – are definitely more expensive, but worth it for the amazing audio experience.
Are you in the market for a new audio system? Check out BestBuy’s Home Theatre Audio section for reviews of the latest systems.