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Building The Basic Home Theater Part Two: Setting a Budget for Gear Print E-mail
Friday, 01 July 2005
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Building The Basic Home Theater Part Two: Setting a Budget for Gear
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The $10,000 System
When stepping up to a $10,000 system, the performance and quality of the components that you’ll be able to add to your system will increase significantly. You may be able to find a receiver or AV preamp with HDMI switching and you’ll be able to put better speakers in your theater with a better-performing subwoofer. Oftentimes, the subs that come with pre-packaged 5.1 speaker systems are decent, but they aren’t the highest of performers and the difference a good sub can make to your system is immediately noticeable.

$10,000 Plasma Display-Based System
50-Inch Plasma Display
$4,500 to $6,000
Five Channel Speaker System $1,500 to $2,500
AV Receiver $1,000 to $2,000
10 to 13-Inch powered Subwoofer $500 to $1,000
Two Video Game Systems $300 to $500
DVD or Universal Player $1,000
HDMI, Speaker and Other AV Cables $600
Universal Remote $100 to $400
System Range $9,500 to $14,000

Moving up to a bigger plasma like a 50-inch with a $10,000 budget will still require you to make some compromises to keep the budget in check. If you do your homework, you can find a 50-inch plasma for under $5,000, but even at $4,500, that is nearly half of the budget for the remainder of the system. A higher-end receiver will still probably be in order rather than separates to keep the budget in line. More money can be dedicated to speakers and cables, as well to get a big lift in performance from the $5,000 system.

$10,000 Rear-Projection-Based System
50- to 60-Inch rear Projection Display
$2,500 to $3,500
Five Channel Speaker System $1,500 to $2,500
AV Preamp $2,000 to $3,000
10 to 13-Inch powered Subwoofer $500 to $1,000
5 Channel Amplifier $2,000 to $3,000
DVD or Universal Player $1,000
HDMI, Speaker and Other AV Cables $600
Universal Remote $100 to $400
Next Generation Video Game System $400
Satellite Radio Tuner $200
System Range $10,800 to $15,600

Even with $5,000 tacked on to the budget, you are still looking at the same model TVs as in the previous budget. You might spend a little more to get a 70-inch rear-projection TV, but unless you wear glasses so thick you can see the future or have a living room that resembles an auditorium, a 51- or 60-inch projection TV is likely going to do you just fine. With the financial room to play, you can start looking at having an outboard video scaler in the loop, a next generation video game system when they finally hit the streets, better speakers and maybe a satellite radio tuner or an Internet music server.

$10,000 Projector-Based System
Three-Chip LCD or DLP Projector
$3,500 to $5,000
Projection Screen $1,000
Video Scaler $1,000 to $2,000
5.1 Channel Speaker System $1,000 to $1,500
High-end AV Receiver $2,500 to $3,500
DVD or Universal Player $1,000
HDMI, Speaker and Other AV Cables $600
System Range $10,600 to $14,600

To get a pop in performance over the entry-level video projectors and still keep things in the $10,000 range, compromises in speakers need to be made and extra toys such as a video game system or satellite radio tuner need to be skipped. An outboard video scaler will help the level of performance and will get you closer to the high-end video experience without having to back a truck up to the local savings and loan.
The $25,000 system
All of us would love to have a $25,000 shopping spree down at the local electronics store and at first it may seem like this is plenty of money to buy an absolutely amazing system with cash to spare. However, when you get into the upper echelon of audio and video performance, you’d be surprised how quickly you can burn through the money. For any size theater, regardless of budget, I recommend looking at your own tastes and figuring out what the primary use of your theater will be. Some people want to have the ability to watch movies in surround sound and occasionally listen to surround sound music, but ultimately their hearts are set on two-channel stereo music, so they will want to put an emphasis on their main speakers. Others may be so new school they don’t have much desire to listen to stereo music and want to have the latest video display technology.

$25,000 Video Projector-Based System
HD-ILA or DLP Video Projector
$6,000 to $10,000
Screen (pull down or motorized) $800 to $2,500
Outboard Video Scaler $1,000 to $2,000
Five Channel Speaker System $4,000
Subwoofer $1,000
AV Preamp $4,500
Five-Channel Amplifier $3,500
DVD or Universal Player $1,000
Cables $1,000 to $2,000
AC Power Conditioner $2,000
System Range $24,800 to $32,500

At this price point, you get to the point where you don’t really have to make any excuses about anything in your system. A top DLP or D-ILA projector on one of the best new screen materials will make a picture that will have you transfixed when watching sports, movies or even Skin-a-max. This system has a heavy investment in electronics and speakers, which is good for the audiophile who wants to keep that level of sound reproduction in his system. One element I might make a sacrifice for is to add $500 for a basic acoustical plan from one of a handful of acoustic gurus around the country. I might also pop for a $1,000 set-up by William Phelps on a D-ILA projector, which results in even better contrast.

$25,000 Plasma Display-Based System
60-Inch Plasma Set
HDMI switching video scaler $2,000
Five Channel Speaker System $4,000 to $6,000
Subwoofer $1,000 to $1,500
AV Preamp $3,000 to $5,000
Five-Channel Amplifier $2,500
DVD or Universal Player $1,000
Cables $2,000
AC Power Conditioner $2,000
Xbox or Playstation $300
45-inch HDMI cable from HD PVR to Plasma $1,000
ISF Trained Calibration $500
System Range $26,800 to $29,300

This permutation of the $25,000 theater has a specific focus on video and should come with a professional calibration. These new, longer HDMI connections also are a really cool add-on that allows you to make your video playback system really sing, even if your gear is across the room.

$35,000 Technology-Lover System
HD-ILA or DLP Rear Projection Set
Home Theater PC/DVR $2,000
Multiroom Music Server $1,300
Touch Screen Remote $5,000
HD-TiVo $700
5 Channel Speaker System $3,000
Subwoofer $700
Active Seating System (like D-Box) $5,500
DVD or Universal Player $1,000
Cables $2,000
AC Power Conditioner $2,000
High End Home Theater Receiver $3,000
Xbox or Playstation $300
Programmable Lighting Control $1,200
ISF Trained Calibration $500
Acoustical Design and treatments $3,000
Middle Atlantic Rack with custom cabinet $4,000
System Range $36,700

This system is for the client who wants to do the most trick, computer-based feats, paired with full RS232 control like the systems you see featured in RHT – many of which cost more than 10 times what this one does. I have seen HD recorder cards installed into home theater PCs that can really perform some feats. In this system, there is room for a music server that can be expanded to up to 32 zones around your home. We left $5,000 for an entry level touch screen and basic programming. There is nothing nicer than having a killer remote that does everything you want with your system every time without EVER complaining. We added lighting control, which is really nice to have in a great theater room. There is even a Dbox chair that allows you to download pre-programmed, tactile information, so that when you are in the “hot seat,” you really are in for an E-ticket ride. Lastly, with all of this high-end gear and seating, as we are blowing the $25,000 budget (would you respect any salesman that didn’t try to sell you up?), we have a custom cabinet with a metal rack and some custom shelves. This makes organizing your gear so much easier and cleaner-looking.


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