Today there are more compelling reasons to up your home theater game than ever. New technology in home entertainment has exploded in recent years, making TVs bigger and products such as speakers and receivers smaller, better and cheaper. The fact that you can access vast catalogs of movies, TV shows and apps through a $40 piece of plastic should tell you something about the realm of current possibilities compared to even just five years ago.
Even with a modest budget of $2K or less, you can put together a really sweet audio-visual experience for yourself and your family. People often fit into two categories when it comes to making purchasing decisions on home theaters: those who like a big screen for their viewing pleasure (aka the “big screen buff”) and die-hard audiophiles who tend to focus on listening rather than viewing. We’ve broken down our recommendations for each.
First off, we need to establish the basics of a home entertainment system. Those core components are the HD (or UHD) TV, receiver and speakers. TV receivers could be a lengthy discussion, which is why we’ve dedicated an entire article to finding the right TV receiver. For this article, we’re discussing TVs and speakers.
The Big Screen Buff
This approach is for people who have to have the biggest screen available for the best price. You obviously care about audio, but it’s not the number one priority. The number one pick is a 4K Smart TV, but if price is a factor for you, we’re recommending two other TVs that can be converted into “smart” TVs using peripheral devices such as the Apple TV, Chromecast or Amazon Fire stick. Our minimum requirement for something that is considered “big” is 55 inches and up because, go big at home. That’s how the saying goes, right?
The Big Screen Buff’s TV
LG – 60″ Class – LED – 2160p – Smart – 4K Ultra HD TV. Although the list price is close to $3K, Amazon has it listed for less.
Toshiba 55″ Class LED 1080p TV. Due to the price to size ratio, this TV works for both the big screen buff and the audiophile. At less than $500 for a 55-inch screen, this is a steal. You can only beat that price on Super Bowl Sunday or Black Friday.
Westinghouse 60-inch LED 1080p TV. Last but not least, at just under $600, this TV is another great value for the price. The Westinghouse 60-inch TV delivers a large screen and won’t break the bank. We’ve seen this TV go for less than $300 on Black Friday, so this is a good one to look out for.
The Big Screen Buff’s Speakers
Priced at about $300 and with the CNET Editor’s Choice award, the Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Entertainment Speaker System delivers great sound for a fraction of the price. You won’t be disappointed with this purchase.
And there you have it. A home theater setup with a 55-inch screen for right around $1,000 — and still under $2,000 if you opt for the larger 60-inch smart 4K Ultra TV. Not bad.
For audiophiles out there, you won’t be happy with low-end sound. You want to experience music and film in an immersive environment with dynamic high-quality sound. Music used to be recorded in such a way that a listener could discern the space in which the music was recorded. With a proper sound setup, you audiophiles will be asking “why do we even need video”?
The Audiophile’s Speakers
Although we know you’d probably settle for the Klipsch THX Ultra 2, we’re assuming that the $25K price range will prevent most people from making that kind of purchase for their home theater. So what’s the next best thing? Well, you don’t have to look far. A full 5.1 surround sound home theater system by Klipsch runs just $2,700. The Reference Premiere RP-260 system is a great mid-range option and you can’t go wrong with anything by Klipsch.
Of course, if you’re going to drop close to $3,000 on a sound system, you’ll want to educate yourself on how it all works. Check out this surround sound overview from expert Robert Silva.
If that’s still too much coin for you, we recommend the Bose Acoustimass Series V. Though some audiophiles may disagree, this is a great system for the price. It’s also low-profile so these speakers won’t take up nearly as much real estate. It is currently going for under $700 on BestBuy.com.
The Audiophile’s TV
Since you went and blew all your money on sound, we’ve got a couple of reasonably priced TV options for you.
Option 1: The Sceptre E505BV-FMQK 50-Inch 1080p LED HDTV. 50 inches for under $500. This TV gets positive customer reviews and you won’t be ashamed of watching anything on a 50-inch screen. Also, why purchase anything smaller when you’d be hard-pressed to find something for less?
Option 2: Toshiba 55-inch Class LED 1080p TV. It’s big enough for the big screen buff and cheap enough for the audiophile to spend more on an audio setup.