If you’re thinking about setting up a great home entertainment system, or media room, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed. There is a lot of equipment out there to build an at-home entertainment center, and you might not know what you need for an audio system setup and what you don’t.
Moving beyond a simple setup can be confusing and expensive, but a well-designed home theater system is a real game-changer. Here’s what you need to know to get started with a basic setup of a surround sound system in your DIY home theater room.
What Do You Need?
Ask yourself what you need. How much space do you have? Are you outfitting a small apartment or a large family room? Do you have enough room for big speakers, or would a soundbar or small bookshelf speakers be better? Either way, you should be able to incorporate a speaker system that offers you a good sound quality and surround sound.
Consider your overall home theater design. How are you going to use your setup? Is it primarily for streaming movies, gaming, or listening to music? For the visual screen, do you have a video projector or a television?
Once you have a better idea of the kind of setup you want, you can really get started on building your home theater experience.
Speakers are one of the easiest ways to upgrade a simple setup and are included in almost every home theater system.
An easy way to add speakers to your home entertainment system is to get powered speakers to eliminate the need for a receiver. This way, you can attach your equipment directly to the speakers, which makes things a little more straightforward. If you have room in your home and your budget, the more traditional route of speakers and a receiver is also an option.
When shopping for speakers, here’s what you need to know. Frequency response is one of the most important specs to consider when shopping. This tells you the range of frequencies that speakers can produce. Look for something with a wide range to get a better sound.
Sensitivity tells you how efficient the speakers are. Anything over 90 dB is considered excellent, so use that as a gauge to determine how many dB you need.
Not all speakers and receivers are compatible, so pay attention to the speakers’ impedance. Speakers with a lower rating generally need a more powerful receiver, but speakers with an impedance of 8 ohms are pretty common and are compatible with most receivers.
The receiver is the hub that connects your home entertainment system, and a good one is a key to getting the most from your setup.
If you’re planning a setup that’s meant for more modern equipment, like streaming devices or HDMI hookups, most modern receivers will work just fine. If you’re a vinyl lover and are hoping to hook up your turntable, get a standalone receiver as a lot of all-purpose modern receivers won’t support a turntable.
Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity is always nice to have and makes setup that much easier, but don’t think of it as a deal-breaker. If you find a good deal or something you really like, you can easily use an aftermarket gadget like Chromecast Audio to get the same or even expanded functionality.
After you decide on speakers and a receiver, choose the rest of the gear you want to integrate into your system. This varies from person to person. Some people like a huge setup with everything from a movie projector to a gaming system while others prefer a simpler setup with streaming devices and a TV.
When you know what the components of your setup are going to be, it’s time to get to work. To get the best possible sound, make sure you get the speaker placement right. Don’t place them right against the wall. Instead, angle them slightly toward the couch or main sitting area. You may also want to consider raising them off the floor with speaker stands. If your setup requires speaker wire, get the best kind you can afford, especially if you have to run it across a large room.
When writing the speaker and the receiver together, make sure you connect the wires to the right terminals. Cable wire should be color-coded so that the negative and positive wires are easy to determine. You should also consider labeling all the wires (positive, negative, left, right, etc.) so that you can easily identify which wire is which if there’s ever a problem.
Adding the Other Gear
When the speakers and receiver are set up and ready to go, it’s time to add all of the other components. Every piece of equipment is different, but they all follow the same idea. Just about everything will be connected to the receiver in some way.
Say you want to connect your TV. Look at the back of the receiver and find the inputs so you know what kind of connector you need. For example, do you need a composite cable? HDMI? Sometimes, these cables will come with the gear, and other times you will have to buy them separately. HDMI cables usually provide the highest quality picture, so go with that if you can.
Plug one end of the cable into the output on the TV and the other end into the receiver. This sends the signal from your TV to the receiver. The receiver then sends the sound and picture from the TV to the speakers and any other equipment that is connected to the receiver’s outputs. When using the TV, make sure the correct input is chosen on the front of the receiver.
The Short of It
There you have it, a basic explainer for how to build a great home entertainment system. Remember, your setup can be as simple or as complicated as you like. If you just want to add better sound to your TV, you can. If you want to build a massive system that includes your gaming system, movies, music, and more, you can do that, too. Take the time to think about what you need and plan everything out before you get started. You’re much less likely to run into any snags during setup because you’ll be more prepared.
A passion for writing and ongoing research projects gives Catherine an incredibly broad knowledge of all things. She has authored an incredible number of articles and can be found in the wilderness when not attached to technology or listening to podcasts.