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Elevating Your Home Entertainment Experience: What Do I Need for a Good Home Theater Setup?

You don't always have to go to the movies when you have a home theater system.

With video-on-demand and streaming on the rise, cinema fans are spending less and less time in the sticky-floored, uncomfortable old movie theaters and more time decking out a state-of-the-art home theater system.

Considering the growing availability of 4K content and a slew of binge-worthy series only a few clicks away, it’s no surprise. The current state of home audio and video tech gives viewers more options, with incredible performance right out of the box. So, what do I need for a good home theater setup?

There’s a lot more to setting up a killer home theater system than just slapping a huge TV on the wall and calling it a day— it takes careful consideration of the primary media source, available space, budget, specs, and main use. That might seem overwhelming, but don’t worry. This guide to helping you set up the ultimate home theater system will take all the difficulty out of the process and tell you everything you need to know to have the best sound system.

What Do I Need For A Good Home Theater Setup?

HD Display

These days, your HD display will be a flat-panel HDTV or a front projector. Some home theaters have an LCD or plasma screen for day-to-day viewing and a projector with a drop-down screen that springs into action for an ultra-big-screen experience on movie nights.

A flat panel will be mounted at the front of the room. But a projector needs distance from its separately mounted screen and can be ceiling- or shelf-mounted in the middle or back of the room or hidden in a floor console by the viewing area. The exact distance from the screen will depend on the projector specification and the screen size.

What do I need for a good home theater setup?

Projection Screen

Projection screens come in several types. There are retractable screens that drop down from a ceiling and even some that come up from the floor. Fixed screens may be tacked to a wall or supported by a stand. Screens vary in their reflectivity and other characteristics.

They should be carefully matched to the installation based on the projector’s brightness with 2D and 3D content, the amount of ambient light anticipated during viewing (hopefully little or none), and personal taste. Some screens are acoustically transparent, such as those in movie theaters, with tiny perforations allowing the sound from speakers behind the screen to pass to the seating area.

Component Rack

Every home theater room has an established place where equipment other than the projector and speakers lives. It might be an exposed shelf or a closet. It can be a normal audio rack or a professional-style A/V rack made to accommodate the cooling of your gear with convection or fan cooling. All cables in the theater will normally home-run back to the rack.

Source Components

A Blu-ray player is the best quality video source for any home theater today. You’ll also have a cable or satellite box and possibly a separate set-top streaming media receiver to stream content from Netflix, Vudu, Pandora, or other services if these are not available through your Blu-ray player or another component. If you’re also using the system for high-performance music playback, you may have additional audio components, such as a dedicated CD player or turntable.

A/V Receiver or Separates

Digital audio soundtracks from your source components must be decoded and amplified for playback through the speakers. A/V receivers provide these functions, along with easy switching among your sources. High-performance installations sometimes include a separate surround processor and power amplifier, which perform these same functions together.

Front Left/Right Speakers

The primary left/right speaker pair is a holdover from the early days of stereo. During playback of movie soundtracks, you’ll find these called upon to reproduce background music and special effects; the center channel handles dialogue. For two-channel music listening, they function in their traditional role. The front left/right speaker pair is typically positioned to the left and right of the screen but may be placed behind an acoustically transparent screen in some installs.

Center-Channel Speaker

A good home theater system has several components.

In most film and TV soundtracks and multichannel music discs, dialogue and primary vocals are restricted to the center channel speaker. Its purpose is to lock dialogue firmly to the screen for all listeners in all positions. It’s positioned below, above, or behind an acoustically transparent screen.

Surround Speakers

These reproduce backfield surround effects in movie and broadcast soundtracks. The surrounds are typically positioned on the side walls just behind the primary seating area and above listener ear level, most commonly about 6 feet off the floor. Alternatively, they can be placed on the back wall if the room layout demands.

In many home theaters, a freestanding subwoofer is placed in the front corner of the room; in this theater, subwoofers are mounted on the front wall.


The “point one” in a 5.1-channel system, the subwoofer is a dedicated speaker that supplements music and surround effects with deep bass energy. A subwoofer can be placed almost anywhere in the room, but up front is usually best; some theaters use multiple subwoofers to help even the bass response.

Back Surround Speakers

Better A/V receivers typically have seven amplifiers on board. These are available to drive two extra channels, discretely encoded on some soundtracks but more often derived from existing information in a 5.1-channel mix. While back surrounds can enhance the surround experience and may be beneficial in extending the surround field in deep rooms with multiple rows of seating, our view remains that they aren’t required for a satisfying home theater experience.

Front Height/Width Speakers

Along with facilities for back surround speakers, some modern AV receivers provide up to nine channels of amplification or the line-level outputs required to drive extra speaker pairs that would be placed up front on the wall above the primary left/right speakers or to the far left and right of the primary speakers, with the intent of expanding the height and width of the front soundstage. Few, if any, soundtracks are mixed to take full advantage of these, and as with back surrounds, they’re optional.

Remote Control

The best way to operate a home theater system is with an activity-based universal remote control that replaces the four or five remotes supplied with your components with a single wand or tablet labeled with one-touch buttons to “Watch a Movie” or “Watch TV.” An RF (radio frequency) model may be required to communicate with equipment hidden in a closet or a rack behind the seating area and is generally desirable for more reliable operation.


Home theaters and media rooms benefit from careful placement of lighting both to create mood and to ensure a good viewing environment. Dedicated theater rooms with front projectors require total darkness for the best viewing experience.

A home theater system offers many benefits.

They also require lighting for entry and egress that is ideally controllable from the viewing seats via remote control or other means; dimmable sconces are popular. Multipurpose rooms with flat panels may require overhead lighting when you’re watching daily, but spots and recessed cans should be dimmable and placed where they won’t directly wash out the screen.

Acoustic Treatments

The need for acoustic treatments varies from room to room, but almost all rooms benefit from wall or ceiling treatments and furnishings that help control reflections.


Theater seating can be anything from a cozy couch to several dedicated home theater seats that offer cup holders or reclining features. Viewing comfort and design considerations are the only overriding concerns.

The Benefits of Having a Home Movie Theater

Besides impressing your friends (and becoming the most popular house in the neighborhood), there are lots of fantastic benefits to having your very own home movie theater:

  • Control: From pausing your movie to use the restroom to tweaking the volume levels, when you have your home theater, you completely control the entire movie-watching experience.
  • Stress Relief: Enjoy watching movies in your theater room to decompress or relieve some stress and experience a temporary escape from the world without leaving your home.
  • Save Money: While there will be some upfront costs, you’ll save a ton of money on movie tickets and snacks over time.
  • Resale Value: If you ever plan to sell your home, a personal home movie theater may increase your property’s resale value and help you sell your home faster.
  • Customization: From the décor to the furniture, you can customize your home movie theater any way you choose and add your personal touches.

Why Do You Need An Integrator?

A professional integrator can help you put together a good home theater setup.

Now that we have covered the components of a home theater, let’s discuss why you want expert help with your installation. Let’s begin with your display. Whether you use a projector or a large-screen TV, producing the best images needs tweaking multiple settings. These include brightness, contrast, inputs, black levels, and more. Your average big box store installer might need to gain the experience or training to create the ideal viewing experience, but a professional integrator such as Custom Integrator does.

This principle is also true for your sound system. If you want the best sound quality, your speakers must be linked to existing audio components and properly placed within your home theater. If any new wiring is needed, good luck finding someone at your local Best Buy who’ll know what you need.

Speaking of wiring, quality components are vital in any home theater installation. A lousy installation could lead to significant damage to your equipment.

The greatest advantage of hiring an expert like us is our extensive experience with smart home automation. To maximize the benefits home automation offers, every device in your home has to work seamlessly. We stand by to show you what an expert home theater designer can do.