When it comes to setting up a home entertainment center, apartments and other small spaces don’t have to equal puny setups. The priority with a smaller space is putting together a booming system that doesn’t overload the room with components. It can be done, and you don’t have to break the bank, either — most of the components and devices can be purchased quite affordably these days. With a little planning, some know-how and the right equipment, you can turn a not-so-kingly space into an entertainment setup fit for a king (or queen) of the house.
1. Mount Your TV
Whether you’ve got a 36-inch or 65-inch flatscreen, that bad boy is going to take up precious space on top of your entertainment center. This is space that could otherwise be used for a sound bar or media players. You can find great deals on wall mounts on Amazon. For larger TVs, we recommend the type that attaches to two wall studs as opposed to just one.
Images from Amazon.com
You don’t need to buy top-of-the-line here. In order for these products to be on market, they must meet certain minimum safety requirements. As long as you do the install properly, you shouldn’t have to worry about the TV coming down. Unless you mount a 65-inch with a single stud mount. Then you’re just asking for it.
2. Conceal Your Cables
It’s not expensive to hide cables, it just takes a bit of the DIY spirit and some supplies you can find at any hardware or electronics store.
Some entertainment centers come with “cord management” cutouts and compartments, but these are only useful if your TV is resting on top of the table. With a wall-mounted set, the cables can create quite an eyesore.
The cheapest, easiest way to conceal those cables is with a wire mold. Most of them simply stick to the wall, so there’s really no assembly. And if you want, you can paint it to match your wall so it’s less noticeable. If that doesn’t cut it for you, then you can also buy code-compliant power kits to get the job done. You’ll need some special tools, including a wire fish and dry wall saw, but you don’t have to be an electrician to do the install.
Here’s one we found on BestBuy.com for $29.
Images from BestBuy.com
3. Peripheral Devices vs. Smart TV
With all the different types of TVs to choose from, it can be confusing which features to prioritize before making a purchase. An LED, smart, 4K UHD would be overkill on features, not to mention the budget. You can find decent-sized LED TVs readily in the $400 range or even lower if you time your purchase with a good sale.
Another thing to consider is that being in a small space, you’ll be sitting closer to the screen. This means, you’re going to want 1080p HD or better or you may get into a situation where you notice the pixels.
Peripherals like Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick and Roku are all great reasons to skip over the “smart” TVs. Why spend extra on something you ultimately might never use? The money you save can be spent on size and picture quality.
4. Go for the Low-Profile Entertainment Center
For your small setup, IKEA might be exactly what you’re looking for. The low-cost, low-profile appearance of the BESTÅ line looks sleek and isn’t imposing in a small space like some of the bulkier entertainment centers out there. You can also get some sturdy shelves to match.
We also like the drag-and-drop planning tool that they provide on their website.
Images from Ikea.com
5. Sound Bar vs. Home Theater
Depending on your willingness to do the work of hiding the cables, you may be tempted to buy a wireless sound bar. However, if price is the only factor in your decision, we’d go for the home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) every time. Not only is it more bang for your buck, but these systems deliver indisputably higher sound quality and dynamics than a 2.1 sound bar setup. Also, you’ll end up spending about as much for a top-of-the-line sound bar kit as you will for a good surround-sound system. The Sony HTiB lists for $299, while the comparable sound bar of the same brand goes for $449.
Check out our other article for more tips on picking between surround sound or a sound bar.
Images from BestBuy.com
It all comes down to preference. If you tend to get a lot of mileage out of your home entertainment setup and appreciate depth, dynamics and articulation in your audio system, then you’ll be a lot happier with a multi-speaker home-theater system. If you’re just interested in being able to hear dialogue and turn it up loud occasionally, a decent sound bar will do the trick.