There are a number of things you must consider when buying a home theater system. But the most important in our opinion would be our preference for music or movies. What will you predominantly use the home theater system for? This is the most important question. So, wondering how to choose a home theater system? You’re in the right place.
One of the most common fallacies about sound is that good sound is exactly that, good sound. Seriously, think about it. Is there really not that much difference between music and dialogue in movies?
The fact is, music and movies have considerably different requirements. So we recommend that first, you acknowledge your preference. Of course, you will use the audio system for both movies and music, but are you going to use it for movies or music predominantly?
Movies nowadays boast about switching between the ranges of soft-to-loud sound. Dialogue tends to be in the middle of the range. Sound effects tend to be ambient but can also be point-sourced. Movies also demand a lot of deep bass, and almost every movie features a multi-channel soundtrack.
Music, on the other hand, is mostly dynamically compressed; meaning, deep-base is next to non-existent. The subwoofer is a home theater system that serves a single purpose, and that is to produce low-frequency room-shaking bass.
In the case of music, subwoofers deliver highly pitch-accurate and controlled bass that will be perfectly integrated with the sound of the music. Lastly, although there is handful of multichannel music, stereo still pretty much rules the world of music.
Also, most soundtracks tend to be dynamic and require high-volume capacity, which significantly increases the power requirements for the home theater system compared to a music-oriented home theater. Most movie-oriented systems video quality and action on the screen grabs most of our attention. So it wouldn’t be surprising if we missed out on a few sonic deficiencies.
However, with a music-oriented home theater, it must be able to provide tonal accuracy and of course, sonic integrity, which is more obvious when listening to music. These things become particularly important because music has to entertain and engage us on the quality of the sound alone.
Now, most home theaters double as music systems and home theaters. This means all we have to do is steer the sound balance based on our preference. If you listen to ten hours of music for everyone hours of music, how would that affect your ultimate decision?
Let’s move on to the size of the room. The size of your room should definitely influence your decision, so let’s see how it might. If you have a big room, bordering on the 700 square feet and you want the experience where you see the sound in your bones, you should definitely consider buying full-range, full-size speakers and use an amplifier instead of a receiver.
On the other hand, if you’ve got a small room, let’s say 12 by 18 feet, and you don’t need to feel the room tremble while watching movies, you could be happy with small satellite speakers with subwoofer for a bit of base. The size of your room and the speaker’s volume capacity is directly linked to your home theater’s performance—a little something to keep in mind.
If you’re even slightly familiar with home theaters and sound systems, you’ll know that center speakers are different from side speakers and back speakers. If you are getting a home theater primarily for movies, you might want to invest more in the center-channel speaker and combine it with a decent subwoofer.
If you want a system that is aligned more towards music, you might want to put the majority of your speaker budget into the side speakers. And if you just want a system primarily for listening to music, you could even consider getting the full-range tower speakers and build a stereo system instead. You can, of course, watch movies on it, it just won’t sound as nice.
There are two types of subwoofer that we need to contend with. There is the subwoofer with the sealed-box, and then we have subwoofers with bass reflex or vented-box. Sealed-box subwoofers have greater performance, relatively speaking of course. Vented subwoofers, on the other hand, are better at generating pure raw base.
Sealed subwoofers are generally preferred by people who want better quality sound for listening to music. Vented subwoofers are considered better for feeling the sound effects to the bone. Of course, we’re making huge generalities and there much more that goes into a good subwoofer.
When looking for the perfect subwoofer, you might want to listen to it in action. See how it does in a loud action movie and bass-filled suspense thriller. You will also want to check it how fares when you let it pump to your favorite music. Your ear will tell you what you want, and if you can’t tell much of a difference that should be more than enough to help you find the perfect subwoofer.
Getting a decent receiver is by far the most economical solution. Even here you can choose between getting a simple receiver for watching movies or something a bit more music-oriented. Although it is unlikely that your system will be out-of-date the next few years, buying receiver still fraught with potential for revisions to the HDMI, new formats for surround sound, digital processing and so on.
Unforeseeable changes in technology can render when the most up-to-date receivers into a relic of the past. We all know how fast technology evolves these days. So make this decision with a bit of caution. Of course, it is also possible that nothing fundamentally changes in the next decade and you’re set for a while.
Hopefully, this would answer the question of how to choose a home theater system. If you’re really into building the perfect system, this can be extremely fun. Otherwise, you can take these suggestions and make a quick decision. It might not be an exhaustive guide on choosing a home theater system, but it will, more or less, get you what you need.