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Home Theater Buying Guide Part 1

By Matt Simpson - Thursday, February 23, 2012

You’ve got your tax return in hand and are looking for a new home theater or maybe your first one. The first thing you will notice is that there are no two people who agree on what you should get. Even worse, most of the people who seem to be in the know are pitching products at you that will take you next 10 tax returns to buy. Is there any way to get the most for your money when shopping for home theater components?  The short answer is yes, and by following a few simple guidelines you can have your own home theater system without selling your car.

The Balance

The actual components one would recommend for someone on a 1000 dollar budget are going to be totally dissimilar to those that would be recommended for someone with a 10 thousand dollar budget. One thing that remains a good constant rule of is to balance the cost of components on the audio and video side. If you spend 500 bucks on a cheap, small HDTV, then spending 2000 on a high performance subwoofer doesn’t make much sense. In fact, keeping you budget as close to 50% each for audio and video will almost always yield the best results.

In a big box store or even in an online catalog this is hard to follow. If you’re on a 2000 dollar budget, you’ll likely see a huge TV marked down from 5000 to 1800 bucks. This may seem like a great deal, but if you’re building a home theater, it’s out of your price range. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t bargain hunt, just don’t do so at the expense of the rest of your system.

Video Gear

While the size and quality of your HDTV will likely be determined mostly by your budget, there are a few things to consider. With the proliferation of HD content and Blu-Ray discs in general, you will want a quality set. It is best to avoid the Chinese brands of televisions even if they are inexpensive. In this case, inexpensive means cheap and not a good deal. You’ll need to decide whether or not to go with a 3D television and if you should choose one remember you’ll need a 3D Blu-Ray player as well. Both will playback 2D material with no problem, so if you want to have the option available, you can still enjoy your current collection.

Looking at clearance on last year’s, or soon to be last year’s models can save you thousands on all kinds of gear, so familiarize yourself with the models that are soon to be replaced and those that are brand new. LED backlighting is now available in models much further down into the budget models than ever before. Not only does this often result in a superior picture, but it lends itself to the power draw of the HDTV. Look at those energy star labels; they are there for a reason.

Video Accessories

Leave enough in your video budget for a Blu-Ray player. When it comes to these players, you may find that an inexpensive unit will serve you just as well as a more pricy model. One of the common differences is the difference between net enabled features. You will likely find that the HDTV, Blu-Ray Player, and any media players you may be interested in all have web features. You don’t need each component to have Netflix, so find the most cost effective way to include those features in your system and then you can save money by passing on web features for your other components.

HDMI will likely be your primary, if not sole connection. For that reason, you will want several of them. Most receivers and HDTV’s have switching for several HDMI cables. While a quality cable is required, don’t let marketing convince you that a 100 dollar name brand cable is better than a quality 10 dollar one from Amazon or

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