What do I need for a home theater? /
What are the basic home theater components?

Newcomers to the home theater scene often wonder what exactly are the basic home theater components they need to bring the cinema experience home. The most basic system consists of three components. Somewhat in order of importance those three components are a good, preferably LARGE video display -- you'll want to complement that with a digital surround sound system -- and you will need a DVD player for a video source.

Video Display

Your video display can be as basic as a regular TV (again preferably BIG -- 32" TVs are relatively cheap nowadays). You may want to opt for an LCD or plasma TV of 42" or larger -- prices for such units have dropped considerably in price in recent years -- of course the larger the screen the larger the price tag.

Another option is the DLP, SXRD, LCD or CRT rear-projection TV. Of those, I recommend the DLP models. DLP and SXRD RPTVs offer the best combination of image quality and longevity of that image quality. Both LCD and CRT sets are susceptible to image degradation through either tube age or image burn-in. The DLP optical engine has a life cycle of 100,000 hours with no degradation of image quality which is quite impressive. SXRD offers the most film-like image with no visible pixels.

For the biggest home theater picture I highly recommend you invest in a video projector. Video projectors offer the largest image for the dollar and help achieve the total cinema effect in your home. A good, basic projector and screen can be found for way less than the price of a small LCD or plasma and you will have a LARGE image that you will love.

For more information on video display types refer to the home theater video display section.

Digital Surround Sound System

As with all home theater gear -- there are also multitudes of available surround sound systems. The basic home theater components will include a 5.1 surround sound system with good quality speakers and as full-featured of a receiver as your budget will allow. There are many "bells and whistles" available on A/V receivers such as video switching, 6.1 and 7.1 formats and HD up-conversion -- even XM radio and iPod ready models are available -- however such superfluous frills are not among the basic home theater components necessary for a starter home cinema.

For more info on surround sound for home theater please refer to the section on home theater audio systems.

DVD player

A basic home theater setup will include a DVD player for movie playback. Again a multitude of brands and models are available. You will want a progressive scan player with component video output. Beyond that the choice is yours depending on which features you desire -- such as multi-disc capability and HD up-conversion. I personally do not recommend a multi-disc unit as I feel such units are totally unnecessary. After all you should at least have the energy to get out of your seat and change movies and the changer is an additional part which could fail.

If you have an HD set and desire up-conversion of standard DVDs to high-definition, go ahead and get a Blu-ray or HD DVD player -- they both upconvert and play HD discs as well. For more information on DVD players and other video sources for your home theater refer to the home theater video sources section.

If you are on a modest budget you may want to "kill two birds with one stone" and consider a home-theater-in-a-box. An "HTiB" is a basic all-in-one unit which includes a DVD player, audio amplifier and surround speakers with a powered sub-woofer. Basic HTiB units are available for a couple of hundred dollars. As with any HT gear -- be very wary of off brand units. Stick with respected names such as Sony, RCA, Toshiba and Panasonic to avoid an unpleasant experience -- also and otherwise known as home theater sickness.

There's the large nutshell look at basic home theater components. As with all home theater gear -- the more elaborate the system the higher the price tag. If possible I suggest you get as much a system as your budget will allow and then even a bit more -- you may save money in the long run as you will not outgrow/obsolete your gear as quickly.

Basic home theater components

Home Theater FAQ

Home Theater Systems

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