How to Buy the Best Home Theater system – Shop for home theater systems with confidence

buy home theater surround sound

Don't buy a home theater without knowing what you need

If you’re out to buy a home theater system I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are many different types with some quite confusing numbers.  Read on to learn what some of these things mean and how to buy home theater systems with your head, and not based on advertising or the pretty lights on the front.  Home theater systems, like most all products, are divided into several main types, and then they branch out based on the size of the room, and what additional features you may want.  Let’s go over these points so that you’ll be able to buy home theater systems with confidence.

Home theater system shop – what does that 2.1, 5.1 and 7.1 really mean?

Well, this simply means the number of speakers the system has.  the “.1″ means there’s a sub woofer, and, what’s in front of that indicates the other speakers (sometimes called satellites).

  • A 2.1 system will have a sub woofer and two speakers, one placed on each side of the TV
  • The 5.1 home theater system has one sub woofer and 5 additional speakers, usually this is broken down as one on each side of the TV, one center speaker and two rear speakers, which will actually be on a stand behind where you sit.
  • 7.1 type home theater systems have, you guessed it, one sub woofer, all of the above speakers and two side speakers, usually mounted on the wall.
  • And finally, there’s a sound bar.  This type does NOT have a sub woofer per se, but does usually have the side and center channel speakers.

Now considering the above let’s talk about surround sound.  The 7.1 has 7 speakers placed all around you, and, can deliver the most ‘natural’ surround sound experience.  This is followed by the 5.1 system.  This doesn’t mean that the 2.1 or sound bar type can’t deliver surround sound, in fact they can, they just use software to simulate it.  Purists will claim they can hear the difference here, personally I can’t.  Just don’t get a cheap sound bar or 2.1 system because the sound WILL be bad.

Another consideration, based on type of system is the wiring that you’ll need to do.  The sound bar and 2.1 system need practically no wiring at all, while the 5.1 and 7.1 system require significant wiring, unless you don’t mind wires running across the floor (for the rear speakers).  You can get around this with wireless rear speakers, but look closely at these since usually they’ll be underpowered, I’ll talk more about this later.

shop home theater sony

Read home theater system reviews before you shop for a home theater system

So, now That you know the main types of systems you can see that there will be a trade off based on ease of setup and a better surround sound experience.  In most cases price is NOT a consideration here.  Also, since very few systems include wireless rear speakers you can add about $100 more for wireless rear speaker kits.

So, you can probably narrow down the type of system that’s best for you.  If you can handle the wiring (or pay to have it done) and sound matters then buy the 5.1 or 7.1 home theater system, on the other hand, if you just want much better sound then you have now with the least amount of setup and hassle the sound bar or 2.1 home theater system is the way to go.

What wattage should I look for when I buy a home theater system?

Many, and I mean, many people make the same mistake here and get the system with the highest wattage without looking at the speaker stats or at least some home theater system reviews.

Here’s a tip…

You don’t want a system with ridiculous wattage, get a system appropriate for the room size.  A small system is fine for your bedroom, while a larger system for the living room.  Remember, you’re looking for better, dare I say, amazing sound.  Overpowering the speakers will just produce distortion, same thing with cranking the volume up on a small system in a large room. Also, it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to make really cheap systems with high power output.  This is to get people who shop by wattage to waste their money on cheap home theater systems with terrible sound quality.

Here’s another tip..

buy home theater system based on needs, not wattage

Buy a home theater system based on the room, not the wattage.

Pay close attention to the power output of the rear speakers as it’s not uncommon for a high powered system to be able to actually overload (and blow out) the rear speakers.  Cheap rear speakers are common on low quality home theater systems.

Shop for a home theater system based on room size, not power output and really look at home theater system reviews and see how people rate the sound quality.

What other features should I look for when I shop for a home theater system

Well, unless you own a stand alone unit you should get a blu-ray player.  In addition If you have some type of portable mp3 player then they make docking stations for those too.  It’s vitally important that you consider the ports on the back of the home theater system as the last thing you want is to have to return an otherwise great home theater system because you can’t attach your Tivo to it.

Here are some links to great quality home theater systems that you can buy on Amazon.  I’ve researched these and they have great reviews and have everything you can look for when you’re looking to buy a home theater system.

Sony HTCT100 Sound Bar with Subwoofer – Black

Philips HTS6515D 2.1 DVD 1080p HDMI Dolby Home Theatre System

Sony BRAVIA DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System (Black)

Sony HTS-S370 Surround Sound Home Theater System, Black

When you’re ready to head out and buy a home theater system I suggest reading home theater system reviews on sites like Consumer Search, Consumer Reports and even on Amazon.  These home theater system reviews are written by people just like yourself and can really help you shop for a home theater system that fits your needs perfectly.

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About the Author

Hi there!, My name is Norm. I am a college grad, a veteran, a pet owner and a family man. I started writing articles both to make a little extra money, and to share my knowledge with others. I currently work in the IT department of a major NY hospital.
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