Tech Tuesday – Build a Home Cinema for under $5000
For todays Tech Tuesday, Ted S. is back with a great article on how to build a great home cinema for under 5000 bucks, read on…
I’ve been asked many times by people who are interested in building a home theater, how much would it cost to build a true home theater? Well the answer depends on how much you’re willing to spend, if you want professional home theater specialists to come and build one for you and want top of the line products, you must be willing to spend anywhere from $30,000 to well over $100,000.
Now if you’re willing to install everything yourself and settle for consumer priced products, you can actually build one for less than $5,000. I’ll list the items you’ll need to get started and also give some recommendations. Of course I understand some people might not have enough room to build a home theater or some might not have the budget to do so; for this article I will assume you have room to build one and that you have some extra cash to throw around.
- The projector The reason for building a true home theater is to get that cinematic look and feel at your place and the most important item you’ll need is the projector. Just like regular TVs, front projectors are available at different prices. There are high end projectors that will cost you anywhere from $10,000 to over $100,000, yes people do spend that kind of money on a projector; but those people are super rich and they can afford to spend that kind of cash. For the rest of us, there are a bunch of great projectors that we can purchase for less than $2,000. Brands like Epson, Panasonic, Optoma and BenQ have been producing some great consumer priced projectors the last few years. I would suggest you do some research online before making a purchase but the one I highly recommend is the Epson PowerLite Cinema 8350. It’s one of the best 1080p HD projectors out there and you can find one online for less than $1,000. I’ve used it for close to two years and just recently upgrade to its big brother, the Epson PowerLite 8700. Before I bought the Epson, I’ve been using the Panasonic PT-AE series, I had the 2000U and 3000U and there were amazing projectors. Currently Panasonic only sell their 3D model, PT-AE7000U but if you do some research, you can still find the previous model, 4000U for less than $2,000.Speaking of 3D, I have yet to upgrade to a 3D projector so I can’t make any recommendations but again I would suggest you do some research and find out which one you should buy if you want one. I’ve read that you can’t go wrong with either the Epson 5010 or Panasonic AE7000U. Those two projectors are priced at around $2400 each.
- The screen – The next item you’ll need is the screen, some people uses their wall to project the picture, which is fine as long as the wall is white and smooth. But I do recommend you either paint over that wall with non-reflective white color or get a real projector screen. Just like the projector, screen comes with different prices and sizes. It depends on how much room you have; most people would start the screen size at 100 inches, which is what I have, while some have as big as 200 inches. Now before you decide to go with the biggest screen you can fit in your room, you have think about the projector. Most consumer priced projectors shouldn’t project on a screen larger than 200 inches, you can go bigger but the picture will suffer. You’ll lose the richness of the color and the picture might look fuzzy if you go too big. My recommendation is to go no bigger than 150 inches. Of course if you can afford one of those super expensive projectors, then by all means project it on as big of a screen as you like.
Another thing to know is what kind of screen aspect ratio you want. You want to go with a standard 16×9 or do you prefer to go with the cinemascope widescreen set up, 2.35:1 or 2.40:1? For my set up I use the unorthodox screen ratio of 2.20:1, I love watching 70mm films so I decided to stick with this aspect ratio for my screen and use a video processor to adjust the 2.35:1, 2.40:1 or 1.85:1 films to fit the screen; I’ll go through the video processor later in this article. You can find some good prices on projector screen; I bought mine for about $130. Or if you want to save some money, just paint your wall to the aspect ratio you prefer.
- A/V receiver and speakers – I’ve decided to bundle these two items together because well they’re connected. First you want a good A/V receiver to process the surround sound from movies and TV shows and of course you’ll need the speakers to receive the sound so you can hear it. There are a couple of options to consider when getting the receiver and speakers. You can buy the all in one home theater package or get a receiver and buy the speakers separately. Since you’re on a budget, I recommend you buy the all in one package. Here are some good ones to look at:
Now if you want to build out your sound system, you’ll need to spend at least $300 on a good A/V receiver and about $1,000 for speakers. Whichever option you go with, I’m pretty sure you can find some good ones out there. The brands I recommend for A/V receiver are Onkyo, Denon and Yamaha. For speakers, Polk and Cambridge Audio are some good brands. They’re low in prices but perform quite well. Just FYI, these products I’ve mentioned are available in the States, I’m not sure if they’re available anywhere else in the world.
- Video processor – As mentioned earlier, if you decided to set up your screen in cinemascope widescreen, you’re going to need a video processor to adjust different aspect ratios of the content you’re watching. I’ve already written an article about this, so please go here to read more about it. Just FYI though, this thing will cost you some money so it might break your $5,000 budget if you want to purchase this item.
- Blu-ray/DVD player and Cable or Satellite box – Last but certainly not least, you’re going to need something to project on the screen once you set up everything. Of course today BD players are so cheap you can find one for less than $200. I assume most people have a DVD player and cable or satellite box at their home.
Well that’s it, I haven’t done the actual math but I think if you follow my recommendations, you can definitely get a true home theater at your house for less than $5,000. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section, I’m super geeky when it comes to this stuff so I’d love to help people out any possible way I can.