Home Theater Systems

As I’ve researched and written about building my own home theater, a thought has occurred to me.  Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just buy a set of matched speakers that covers me for all channels?  It’s a tough call for me, because I really want the best speaker for the job and they each have specific tasks as part of the system as a whole.

On the positive side for buying as a set, is the ease of making one purchase and being done with your shopping.  In addition, they will all look like they belong together aesthetically.  And most importantly, they were designed to work together.  They will be matched perfectly for their timbre, or sonic balance.  This is very important, at least for the front three channels.  You can read more about matching speakers and timbre here.

What has me hesitant to buy as a package is mainly that I’m not sure any one company makes all the speaker types perfectly.  I have to say though, Klipsch is pretty damn close to achieving that.  The problem, even with their sets, is that I might want to upgrade on the subwoofer without upgrading the entire package.  Or I may want to keep the front and center matched, but have a different set of Atmos enabled surround speakers.

Following are some of my thoughts on several different home theater systems including two unbelievable Klipsch packages.  You really need to give those a look, because they are stunning.  However, there are several others that will make you very happy without breaking the bank.

Samsung HT-J5500W –  Normally, I would never recommend a Samsung for anything that doesn’t come with a screen.  They are so good with video and picture quality, but I’ve had very disappointing results with just about everything else they produce.  That being said, this set is easily the lowest priced of any decent package.  It comes with 1,000 watts on 5.1 channels and a 3D Blu-ray player.  It will also utilize WiFi to connect you to the internet for streaming various forms of entertainment.  Personally, I couldn’t use this because I need a receiver that can handle multiple sources.  But, if you’ve cut the cord on cable and consume all your media via streaming and Blu-ray, this system would work very nicely for you.

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Harman Kardon HKTS 30BQ –  Another 5.1 system, but with speakers only, is this Harman Kardon offering.  The HKTS 30BQ includes four satellites which can be used as either front or rear, plus a center loudspeaker and a 200 watt subwoofer.  The front and rear channels feature constant-directivity waveguides to help decrease their directivity at high frequencies.  The result is that they are able to produce a wider stereo sound across a large room.

The subwoofer has Bass-boost and phase controls that allow you to adjust low-frequency sounds.   You can mount the satellite speakers or set them up at ear level using the HTFS2 Floor Stands.  This is not an overly powerful collection, but Harman Kardon is a trusted brand and these speakers sound great for a very affordable price.

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Yamaha YHT-3920UBL –  Yamaha brings you a true home theater in a box with the YHT-3920UBL.  You get 5.1 channels and a Yamaha receiver to match.  A receiver which, while capable, is pretty basic.  There are four HDMI inputs, but only one is HDCP 2.2 capable for 4K Ultra HD pass through.  You also get support for HD Audio with CINEMA DSP, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS-HD Master Audio.  Setup is a breeze with the Yamaha app, but you can get better receivers for sure.

As for the speakers,  you are going to get a center and satellites each with a 2-1/2-inch mid-range woofer and 1/2-inch tweeter.  The YHT-3920 also comes with an 8-inch, 100-watt subwoofer.  Not quite the power I’m looking for, but they would sound fantastic in a smaller listening area.  I love Yamaha and would be more than happy to add this to my guest room.  For this price, I can afford to treat visitors to something special too!

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Klipsch Reference 5.1 Channel R-24F –  Okay, now we are playing with power.  You will not do much better than this 5.1 channel speaker set.  Of course, they are more expensive.  You will notice where that money goes though.  First of all, you will now have powerful floor standing speakers.  This is as close to achieving true movie theater sound as you’ll get without taking out a loan or pawning off that diamond ring.  If you’ve got the space for these towers and some extra cash in your pocket, I suggest you make the jump.

In addition to the R-24F fronts, you get the R-25C Center Speaker, the R12SW 12″ 400 Watt Powered Subwoofer and a pair of R-14S Surround Speakers.  If you don’t like the signature copper look of the Klipsch speakers, you can put the covers on.  They won’t stand out as much, but that may be what you are looking for.  Get these and prepare to fill your room with powerful surround sound.  You will love them for music and movies alike.

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Onkyo SKS-HT540 –  Need 7.1 channels out of the box?  Well, Onkyo has a couple of nice affordable options.  First up is the SKS-HT540 package.  Onkyo speakers are not the best selection if you are serious about listening to music.  However, if movies are your thing then they are more than adequate.

This speaker set combines seven large two-way, multidriver speakers and a 10-inch, 230 watt subwoofer.  Both the speakers and sub are a bit larger than average, so you may need to take that in account depending on your space.  The subwoofer in particular measures 18.6 inches tall, 10.75 wide, and 17.75 deep, while weighing in at 25 pounds.  Another possible issue is that the speakers have spring-clip wire connectors instead of binding posts.  Binding posts are higher quality, but you may find the spring clips easier for your installation.

All in all, the Onkyo set is a quick and easy way to achieve cinema quality sound in your living room at very budget friendly price.

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Onkyo HT-S9800THX –  Another Onkyo 7.1 channel set, albeit much pricier, is the HT-S9800 THX certified stunner.  This is another “home theater in a box” as it also comes with a receiver.  With this package you will be able to experience Dolby Atmos and DTS:X as well as THX.

Per Onkyo,  the “THX Integrated System™ guarantees theater-quality sound in an affordable all-in-one package.  Certified systems are ideal for smaller spaces where the screen-to-seat viewing distance is about 6–8 ft. (2–3 m).  All components within the system are rigorously tested to meet THX standards, delivering the same distortion-free sound volume you experience in a commercial theater.”

With this Onkyo, you will get 115 watts per channel from the WiFi enabled receiver, two front speakers, two surround speakers, two surround back speakers, a center speaker, and a 125 watt subwoofer.  The receiver has six HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI inputs, so you are all set for 4K Ultra HD and HDR.  You are limited to 5.2.2 for Dolby Atmos, though.  If you want the full Atmos effect, you’ll need to upgrade the receiver and add another pair of speakers.  The HT-S9800THX will sound fantastic even without going all out, though.

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Klipsch RP-260F –  This is the ultimate 7.1 (5.2.2 if you prefer an Atmos set up) speaker package and includes a great receiver.  I have selected the package which comes with the Yamaha RX-A1060BL, but there are many different receiver options to choose from on Amazon.

From Klipsch, you get the outstanding RP-260F floor standing loudspeakers, four of the RP-250S Surround Speakers, the RP-440C Center Channel Speaker and the R-112SW 12-Inch powered subwoofer.  This set has the power to fill any room with cinematic brilliance.  If you love music too, Klipsch will not fail to deliver.

The bottom line is that this package is worth every penny and you will not regret the purchase.  If you do get them, it has the added bonus of making me unbelievably jealous!

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Happy hunting and enjoy the sound!


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