What Is A Home Theater In A Box? And Is It Worth It?
do not know about you, but my den is the most lived in room in my house.
Gathering with family and friends to watch movies, catching up on the latest
Netflix series, and having a romantic night in typically all takes place in my
den. True, we could all gather at the theaters, but we do not always have the
time or money for such an outing – especially for as frequently as my family
likes to watch movies. Streaming or renting movies has become the norm for
Americans across the country. However, the speakers on your standard television
just do not quite cut it. That is where a home theater in a box comes in. But
what is a home theater in a box? After some intensive research and product
testing, I have come up with a list of key features that can make or break a
home theater in a box package.
What is a Home Theater In a Box?
So what is a home theater in a box? A home theater in a box is a system that contains most, if not all, of the components required for a theater-quality entertainment experience. It typically includes an A/V receiver and five or more surround sound speakers, and a subwoo. While various manufacturers will include different components, it is important to make sure the one you select includes the items you need.
From simple setups to much more advanced spreads, home theater in a box packages can help give turn your living room into your own personal miniature theater. Compact in design, a home theater in a box come with a range of features. Tailored to your specific needs, these features can help enhance your standard television’s sound output. If you have ever had to deal with the poor audio quality of a television’s built-in speakers. then a home theater in a box can truly help you.
Is a Home Theater In a Box System Worth it?
Is a home theater in a box worth the investment? Depending on your needs, space, and budget, a home theater in the box may be worth the investment. While this is a deeply personal question, I have found that the moderately priced home theaters in a box that include 5 wireless speakers, a subwoofer, and other necessary components is a worthy investment for small to medium-sized rooms.
a home theater in a box sounds like something you may be interested in, fancy
ads and sales pitches can make any system sound appealing. This is not always
the case. Below, I will take you through the most important features for a home
theater in a box, as well as the benefits of such a package. Additionally, I
will help point out the differences between investing in a home theater in a
box as compared to the individual components. To get you started, I will also
include some of the best mid-range home theaters in a box. Finally, I will
answer some of the most frequently asked questions related to a home theater in
Home theater in a box systems come with a range of features. However, some of the most important features you should expect include inputs/outputs, an A/V receiver, subwoofer, speaker set, remote control, and the necessary wires for connecting to your device. Optional features may also include a DVD player, Blu-ray player, Bluetooth technology, Wi-Fi enabled, or multi-room audio capabilities. Let us take an in-depth look at these features.
Home Theater in a Box Standard Components
- A/V Receiver: A home theater in a box will almost always include an A/V receiver. This component receives the incoming signals from your devices and processes them. In order to produce the required soundwave, your receiver must include a digital-to-analog converter or DAC. When reviewing specifications, you will want to look at the resolution (bits) and sampling rate (kHz) of the home theater in a box system to best evaluate the receiver conversion capability.
- Amplifier: The audio inputs received by your receiver are then sent to your speakers through an amplifier. The amplifier is almost always built into the A/V receiver. The quality of the included amplifier is an important feature. A multi-channel amplifier with plenty of available power for each channel is ideal. This ensures that the amplifier is able to provide enough power to the connected speakers. In addition, the larger the room, the more amplifier power you will likely need. This specification will typically be listed in watts per channel.
- Subwoofer: A subwoofer reproduces the lower-frequencies sounds. Those deep bass sounds will sound muddied without a proper subwoofer. The amplifier itself typically provides just an audio signal for the sub. The subwoofer itself will usually contain a built-in amplifier. A normal amplifier used to power many different speakers will not accurately replicate these very low tones when conveying them to your speakers.
- Speakers: Home theater in a box systems will include speakers. These speakers may be wired or wireless depending on the brand. Most systems will include a minimum of five speakers, referred to as a “5.1” system. Some lower-priced options will only come with two speakers. These “2.1” systems are most commonly generic, house brands, such as those from Best Buy or Walmart. Higher-end systems, however, will come with seven speakers. A “7.1” system will cost you more than the 2.1 and 5.1 systems. Regardless of the number of speakers that comes with each home theater in a box system, the majority are called “satellite” speakers. These are small, compact speakers meant to be placed throughout to room to give you that surround sound effect. Unobtrusive, these small speakers are easy to mount or place on shelves around the room. In some kits, tower speakers may also be included. These are thinner, floor-standing style speakers.
- Inputs/Outputs: RCA cables are often used with older televisions and technologies. HDMI cables, on the other hand, are the most common connections for modern technologies. Depending on your devices, you may want a home theater in a box that features HDMI-only or a combination of HDMI and RCA inputs and outputs. This will allow you to scale up your technology without having to upgrade your home theater in a box as well.
- Remote Control: A remote control that gives you full control over your home theater in a box system should be included. These can range from complicated to relatively simple to control.
- Wires: All wires needed to connect your home theater in a box components should be included in your package.
- DVD/Blu-ray: Having your DVD or Blu-ray player built into your home theater in a box further compacts your set up. This means fewer wires and less mess. It also means you do not need to buy separate devices, which helps cut down on your home theater costs.
- Bluetooth Technology: Bluetooth technology allows you to wirelessly connect to more than just your speakers. It can allow you to connect your phone, or other Bluetooth devices, to your home theater in a box.
- Wi-Fi: For those who like to stream videos, an integrated Wi-Fi capability is essential.
- Multi-Room Audio: High-end systems may include a multi-room audio capability. Multi-room audio is typically indicated by the A/V receiver having “Zone 2” speaker outputs (more on A/V receivers including pre-outs in our guide). Zone 2 speaker outputs allow you to connect your main receiver to speakers throughout the home through speaker cables. Some higher-end units will allow you to wireless connect extra speakers to use as a separate zone from your main system. From one single box, you can control sounds throughout your home.
The Benefits of a Home Theater in a Box
There are plenty of benefits associated with a home theater in a box system. Because they contain the components you need for a full system, these packages offer streamlined and compact solutions to your home theater needs. Designed for functionality without having to take up a lot of space, you can fit a home theater in a box into almost any space without compromising your décor. Most home theaters in a box are easy to install and operate. Because these are complete solutions, you can rest assured that each component will work flawlessly with the others that come with it, taking the mystery out of set up.
Home Theater in a Box vs.
A home theater in a box solution is typically cheaper. Because there are various components included with each home theater in a box system, prices may range from $200 to $2,000. However, building your own home theater system from individual components can start at $1,000 and quickly go beyond $3,000.
Amount of Space Used – Space can also be a major decision point. As pointed out, the home theater in a box system is designed to be compact and unobtrusive. However, to buy each component separately can mean sacrificing much more space to accommodate each feature.
Simplicity – Furthermore, a home theater in a box helps simplify the surround sound experience. As a plug-and-play device, a home theater in a box is made up of components that are designed to work together. Individual components, however, may take a bit more time, effort and research to ensure each piece works well with the others and does what you want it to do.
Highly-Recommended Home Theater in a Box Systems
Home theater in a box systemsare available from almost every home electronics manufacturer. From well-known brands, like Sony and Bose, to box stores, such as Best Buy and Costco, and unknown brands – these all-in-one products can be found all over the world. Some of my favorites, however, can be found online. I always recommend that you check out your local electronics store to listen to a system before you buy it. I want to note that user reviews are extremely important when you buy an electronic device online, but nothing beats an in-person evaluation of the sound potential of a specific home theater in a box system.
Great Budget Option!
The Yamaha YHT-4930UBL 5.1-Channel Home Theater in a Box System (click for current price) is one of the best sellers on Amazon. Designed to include a compressed music enhancer for wireless music streaming, the Yamaha YHT-4930UBL is optimized for all input and output styles. Five compact wireless speakers help spread sound throughout the room. A 100-watt subwoofer adds rich low-end tones to enhance your listening experience. With 145 watts and 1 kHz output, this home theater in a box includes High-Definition Copy Protection (HDCP) 2.2 support, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma that supports 4K UltraHD. Developed for rooms that range between small and large, this is a great option for those looking for an all-in-one device that is easy to set up. And it comes at a very reasonable price!
Great Higher-End Option!
The Klipsch Reference 5.1 Home Theater System (click for current price) comes highly recommended by many on Amazon. Two Dolby Atmos floorstanding speakers are included in this home theater in a box system from Klipsch, as well as all-digital powered subwoofer and amplifier. Together with center channel speaker and bookshelf home speaker, Klipsch has everything you need to spread sound throughout your living room or home theater!
Very High-End Option!
I more so included this option to demonstrate how expensive some of these home theater in a box system can get. The Klipsch RP-8060FA 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos Home Theater System is a complete and total monster of a system! Klipsch is one of the very top brands when it comes to speakers. You’ll likely have issues finding ANY Klipsch speaker that is laking quality. They have some of the most high-end speakers on the consumer market. Click the link to see a price that will hurt your soul a little.
Is A Home Theater In A Box Better Than Individual Components? While a home theater in a box system is going to be cheaper than buying the individual components, the quality will not be as great. Buying the individual components allows you to create your own network of devices. However, individual component assemblies will take up much more room and cost significantly more. Additionally, thanks to advances in technology, all of the speakers and subwoofers – more on the differences between the two in our guide – included in a home theater in a box system will offer better sound than that of the average television.
Is A Home Theater In A Box Good For All Types Of Audible Media? A home theater in a box can be linked to more than just a television. In fact, they can also be linked to your compact disc (CD) player, record player or turntable. However, home theater in a box packages are typically best for standard media use. Because of their construction and compact nature, CD or vinyl use is not recommended as the sound produced may not capture the subtle nuances of these types of audible media. If you are more of an audiophile, then I suggest reading this article on studio monitors.
Is A Sound Bar System The Same As A Home Theater In A Box? No. While these products are similar, a soundbar is different from a home theater in a box. Both are used for enhancing the sound. A soundbar contains an array of speakers within a single bar that is typically positioned under a television and projects sound towards you. A home theater in a box, however, will contain an array of separate speakers that are meant to be situated throughout the room to create a surround sound effect. That’s not to say that a soundbar isn’t a good solution for audio. Soundbar technology has improved drastically over the years, and some of the soundbars out there can produce some amazing sound quality that will surprise you!
Is Home-Theater-In-A-Box Really Worth It?
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Building a home theater system can be quite exhausting. You have to choose the right speaker layout, find the speakers you like, look for the matching AV receiver, buy the connection cables (HDMI, audio cables, etc.), buy the speaker wire, plan and execute the wiring, and finally connect everything.
This process requires a lot of research and can be very confusing from time to time. Especially the part when you have to find the right receiver for your surround sound system.
Luckily, there’s an easier way. If you opt for a home theater in a box, you won’t have to spend hours looking for the right receiver – the receiver will be included in the package.
This article is designed to explain the purpose of a home theater in a box (HTIB), discuss the upsides and downsides of HTIBs, and analyze the scenarios in which buying an HTIB is a smart choice. After a short introduction, you can find our selection of best home theaters in a box.
Table of Contents
- What is a Home Theater in a Box or HTIB?
- What are the Advantages of Home Theaters in a Box?
- What are the Disadvantages of Home Theaters in a Box?
- So, Are They Worth It?
- Best Cheap Home Theater in a Box – Pioneer HTP-071
- Best Budget Home Theater in a Box – Yamaha YHT-4950U
- Best Deal Under $1000 – Onkyo TX-SR373 + Polk
- Best Home Theater in a Box Under $1,500 – Sony STR-DH790 + Sony Blu-ray player + 5.1.2 Sony speaker system
- Best Wireless Home Theater System in a Box – Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra
- Q: What components do you need for a home theater system?
- Q: Do home theater systems need an amplifier?
- Q: What is the difference between a soundbar-based and a traditional home theater system?
- Q: Are home theater systems good for music?
- Q: Are wired home theater systems better than wireless?
- Q: How do wireless speakers in a home theater system get power?
- Q: What is the best home theater system?
What is a Home Theater in a Box or HTIB?
Home theater in a box or HTIB, as the name implies, is a bundle containing everything you need for setting up your home theater system. At least it used to be. Earlier, it used to contain absolutely everything, including video sources like DVD or Blu-ray players.
Most of today’s HTIBs contain a set of speakers (usually a 5.1 speaker system) and a matching AV receiver with a remote. In some cases, you will also get all the necessary speaker wire and all the video and audio cables for the initial setup. But you must remember that they don’t all come with wires and cables. If you find this important, make sure to check if the wires and cables are included.
Recommended Reading :
- How to Choose a High-End Integrated Amplifier?
- How do I Choose an Amp for My Speakers?
- What’s the Purpose of a Surround Sound Amplifier?
There’s also one special kind of home theater in a box that doesn’t look the same as those old-school HTIBs. We are talking about wireless home theater systems. These systems usually don’t come with a receiver because there’s no need for one. Instead of a receiver, they usually come with a large central unit (center speaker or a soundbar that replaces three front channels in a home theater system) and this unit serves as a hub or a receiver, if you will. These systems are pricier than the old-school HTIBs and are usually priced over $1,000. The most reputable manufacturers in this section of the HTIB market are SONOS, Nakamichi, JBL, Enclave Audio, Samsung, Sony, Polk, Bose, Klipsch, etc. Our selection of best home theaters in a box also includes one wireless system. If you want more suggestions, you should read our article about the best wireless surround sound systems.
What are the Advantages of Home Theaters in a Box?
The two biggest and most important advantages of HTIBs are convenience and cost-effectiveness. They are convenient because you don’t have to buy each piece of equipment separately – everything comes packed in one box as a bundle. Also, they are convenient because they are fairly easy to install. However, the job of hiding the cables and speaker wire is still there and cannot be eliminated.
Home theaters in a box are also fairly affordable. Why? Well, because most of these systems are entry-level systems and don’t include high-end components. Most, but not all. You can also find a pretty great and quite large HTIB with a powerful and versatile AV receiver. You just have to look harder.
Home theater systems in a box are usually very compact. That’s kind of expected when you know that they are usually so affordable. The included speakers are small, which makes them perfect for space-limited areas.
So, to sum up, the biggest advantages of HTIBS are convenience, price, and compactness.
What are the Disadvantages of Home Theaters in a Box?
More often than not, convenience comes at a price. In most cases, that literally means that you have to pay a higher price. But not in this case. In this case, you have to sacrifice some quality. HTIBs are not bad for the price but you can’t expect high-end performance from an entry-level unit. If you consider everything we’ve said in the previous section, it is perfectly understandable that you can’t get the best possible performance from a compact and cheap system.
Also, these systems are made for movies and optimized for surround sound performance, while the music reproduction is of secondary importance. Again, not all HTIBs are like that. Some are really amazing and sound like they are designed for music. But they are also much more expensive than average.
Another disadvantage, closely related to their size and quality, is their performance in large rooms. Affordable home theater systems in a box are simply not designed for large rooms. They are compact and not very loud.
Finally, HTIBs are a bad option if you’re planning on upgrading your system in the future. The receiver that comes with the system is the optimal choice for the included speaker system. So, if you try to replace the included speakers with something bigger, you may find out that the receiver is not powerful enough for those new speakers. Also, if you try to add more speakers to your systems (expand from 5.1 to 7.2 or 7.2.4), you may find out that the included receiver is not that versatile and that the number of speaker outputs matches the number of speakers in the included speaker system.
To sum up, most HTIBs deliver average performance and are not the best choice for music or for large rooms. Also, buying an HTIB is not a smart choice if you want to upgrade your system in the future.
So, Are They Worth It?
Considering all the pros and cons we listed in the previous two sections, there’re certain scenarios when buying a home theater system in a box is a viable option and it is actually worth it.
If you are dealing with some serious budget limitations but are still looking for a way into the world of surround sound, then buying a home theater in a box is the perfect solution. Also, if you’re not a very techie person and you don’t want to spend hours or rather days looking for the perfect AV receiver for the speakers you like, buying an HTIB is a convenient and cost-effective solution. Basically, home theaters in a box are worth it in any scenario that includes budget, space, and time limitations.
HTIBs are not the best choice if you are looking for a high-end home theater system that’s great for both music and movies. Or when looking for a large and powerful surround sound system for your entertainment center. Or when trying to make a future-proof system suitable for future upgrades.
Now that you are familiar with home theaters in a box and are aware of their advantages and disadvantages, let’s move onto our selection of best home theaters in a box. You will find here the best options for different budgets as well as one wireless home theater system for those looking for the most convenient solution.
Best Cheap Home Theater in a Box – Pioneer HTP-071
Looking for a cheap and compact system under $400? Try Pioneer HTP-071. It’s an elegant system perfect for smaller rooms. The system includes the Pioneer AV receiver with a remote, AM/FM radio antennas, and a 5. 1 speaker system (passive 6.3in subwoofer, 4 satellites, and a center channel). It also comes with a cheap and thin speaker wire, but it’s recommended to buy higher-quality wire.
The receiver is a little bit outdated and lacks some of the latest features but it’s good enough if you’re just looking for an entry-level solution. It definitely sounds way better than your TV speakers.
The receiver has 4 HDMI inputs and one HDMI output (without ARC feature). Also, you have two composite video inputs, one optical output, one coax output, and 4 analog RCA inputs. As far as speaker outputs are concerned, there are 6 poor-quality spring-clip terminals. The subwoofer is passive and it also has to be connected to one of the terminals. The unit is compatible with 6-16Ω speakers. The output is 50 W per channel (8Ω loads, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.06% THD). The unit decodes Dolby and DTS 5.1 formats as well as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio.
Small and compact speakers can’t really get very loud but are perfectly suitable for a 10x10ft or 15x15ft room. The sound is clean and engaging. The bass tends to sound distorted at high volumes but you can fine-tune the output to make it more enjoyable.
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Best Budget Home Theater in a Box – Yamaha YHT-4950U
Yamaha YHT-4950U is the perfect budget-friendly option. If your limit is set around $500, this is your go-to HTIB. It includes Yamaha’s RX-V385 receiver with a remote, 5.1 speaker system (powered sub, 4 satellites, one center channel), AM/FM antennas, YPAO mic for sound optimization, and all the necessary speaker wire.
The included receiver is not crazy versatile, but it should be good enough for most users. You have 4 HDMI inputs, one HDMI output with ARC support, one TOSLINK input, two coaxial inputs, two RCA inputs, and three composite video inputs. All HDMI inputs allow 4K/60p pass-through and are HDCP 2.2 compliant. They all also support HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, and BT.2020. The receiver features Bluetooth connectivity (BT 2. 1 + EDR) but doesn’t support wi-fi, multiroom, or multi-zone connectivity.
When it comes to speaker outputs, there’s one subwoofer pre-out and five 5-way binding posts (which is a much better option than spring-loaded terminals). The advertised power output is 70W per channel (2 8Ω channels, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.09% THD).
The unit can decode DD and DTS 5.1, as well as DD+, DTS-HD MA, and Dolby True HD.
Each satellite has one full-range 2.75” driver. The center channel also has one 2.75” driver. The subwoofer is active and has an 8” front-firing bass driver with a side-firing bass reflex port.
The sound output is accurate and engaging. The subwoofer delivers just the right amount of bass and complements the rest of the systems. The bass can be overpowering at high volumes but you can easily fine-tune the bass response.
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Best Deal Under $1000 – Onkyo TX-SR373 + Polk
If you can afford to spend $1000 on a home theater system, this Onkyo/Polk bundle will blow you away. The bundle includes Onkyo’s TX-SR373 AV receiver (remote included), Polk’s 5.1 speaker system (two Polk floorstanders, two Polk bookshelf speakers, one center channel, and one powered subwoofer), and AM/FM antennas.
The included receiver is not extremely versatile but the available number of inputs should be good enough for most users. You have 4 HDMI 2.0 inputs and one HDMI output with ARC functionality. All these ports support 4K UHD video pass-through. Aside from HDMI ports, you have three composite video inputs. There are also two digital audio inputs (optical and coaxial) and 3 RCA inputs. The unit also features Bluetooth 3.0 for wireless streaming from any Bluetooth-enabled phone/tablet/PC/laptop.
The receiver supports 5.2 surround sound speaker configuration. It has 2 subwoofer pre-outputs and 5 speaker terminals. 2 of those five terminals are 5-way binding posts (FL and FR) and three are poor-quality spring-loaded terminals (C, SR, SL). The advertised output is 70W per channel but the manual says that the output is 100 W/ch (8Ω speaker, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0. 09% THD).
The receiver decodes basic 5.1 surround sound formats as well as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD MA.
The included 5.1 speaker system by Polk is truly impressive and you can hardly get anything better at this price point. Two floorstanding speakers have a 2-way design and feature two 6.5” woofers and one 1” tweeter. Their impedance is 6Ω and the peak power input is 150W. The center channel houses two 5.25’’ woofers and one 1” tweeter. The peak power input is 100W. Two included bookshelf speakers also feature two-way design and have a single 6.5” woofer and one 1” tweeter. The subwoofer is active. It has a 10” front-firing bass driver and can handle 100W (peak).
Polk’s speakers and Onkyo’s AV receiver are a perfect match. The sound output is loud, accurate, dynamic, and very engaging. The subwoofer perfectly matches the speakers. The bass is fast, punchy, and clean.
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Best Home Theater in a Box Under $1,500 – Sony STR-DH790 + Sony Blu-ray player + 5. 1.2 Sony speaker system
Along with previously reviewed Yamaha/Polk HTIB, this Sony bundle is one of our favorites under $1500. The bundle includes Sony’s 7.2 AV receiver, Sony Blu-ray player, and a 5.1.2 speaker system (two floorstanders, two bookshelf speakers, two Atmos modules, and one center channel). You will also get a remote for the receiver and an FM antenna (AM antenna is not included since the unit doesn’t have an AM tuner). Speaker wire and HDMI cables don’t come with the system.
The included receiver has 4 HDMI 2.0 inputs and one output with ARC support. You also have one TOSLINK input, one coaxial input, and 4 RCA inputs. Furthermore, the unit supports wireless streaming via Bluetooth.
As far as outputs are concerned, this system has two subwoofer pre-outputs and 7 speaker terminals. Two of those seven (FL and FR) are 5-way binding posts, and the rest of them are spring-loaded terminals. The last two terminals are assignable and can be used for bi-amping, as surround speakers, or as height speakers. The advertised output is 90 W/ch (two 6Ω speakers, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 0.09% THD).
The included speaker bundle is really impressive. You have two 3-way floorstanding speakers. Each speaker houses two 5” woofers, one 1” main tweeter, and one 0.75” super-tweeter. The max input is 145W and the impedance is 6Ω. Each bookshelf speaker has the same tweeter arrangement (main and super-tweeter) and one 5in woofer. The center channel houses two 4in woofers and a single 1in tweeter. The included Atmos modules can be wall-mounted or simply placed atop your floorstanding speakers. The included subwoofer is active. It has a 10” front-firing bass driver, it can handle 115W continuously, and can go down to 28Hz.
The sound quality is amazing. It’s loud and accurate. The soundstage is huge and the overall experience is highly immersive.
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Best Wireless Home Theater System in a Box – Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra
As discussed in the introduction, wireless home theater systems are, in a way, home theaters in a box. That’s why we decided to recommend one such system. Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra is the largest system from the Nakamichi Shockwafe line. Shockwafe Ultra is maybe not the most versatile or the smartest system in its class but, in our opinion, it’s the best-sounding and creates the best movie-watching experience. If you are looking for the smartest and most convenient system, try some of the SONOS systems.
The system includes a large soundbar, two wireless 10in subwoofers, 4 satellites (surround and rear surround speakers), and a remote. You will also get all the necessary power and speaker cables, as well as some audio cables and HDMI cables. Finally, you will get all the necessary mounting equipment.
The soundbar is quite wide (45.5in) and it’s supposed to replace all three front channels (FL, C, FR). It houses six 2.5” drivers arranged in three channels. Also, there are two smaller 1” drivers on the left and right ends (they are supposed to widen the soundstage). The soundbar serves as a hub (it basically does one part of the AV receiver’s job). It has 3 HDMI 2.0 inputs, one HDMI output with ARC support. All HDMI inputs support 4K/60p video pass-through and are compliant with HDCP 2.2. Aside from HDMI inputs, you have one optical, one coaxial, one 3.5mm input, and a USB port.
Each wireless subwoofer has one 10” down-firing bass driver and a rear-firing bass reflex port. On the rear panel of each sub, you have one pairing button and speaker outputs for two speakers (you are supposed to connect two satellites to each subwoofer).
Each satellite has two drivers – one 3” woofer and one 1in tweeter.
Like similar wireless systems, Shockwafe Ultra features different DSP sound modes designed for different types of content (Music, Movie, Night mode, Entertainment, Clear Voice, Pure Direct, Stereo). All the common Dolby and DTS surround sound formats are supported. That includes object-based sound formats (Atmos and DTS:X).
If you want to stream audio wirelessly, you have Bluetooth 4.1 with aptX.
Shockwafe Ultra delivers close-to-flawless performance. It’s dynamic, precise, and incredibly engaging.
The biggest downsides are the lack of wi-fi connectivity, the lack of app, and the lack of auto-calibration tool.
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This concludes our selection of best home theaters in a box. If you are still looking for some answers, you may find them in our FAQs section.
Q: What components do you need for a home theater system?
A: First of all, you need a room. Ideally, you will have a dedicated room (or basement) for your home theater system but since we are not all that lucky, with a little bit of effort, you can turn your living room into a great entertainment center.
Second, you need audio and video equipment – you need a video output device (TV or a projector with a screen), video source devices (Blu-ray player, DVD player, cable box, etc.), speaker system, and naturally, you need an AV receiver as a hub that connects the rest of the equipment together.
Third, you need cables – audio cables, HDMI cables, and speaker wire.
Finally, you need a plan and a lot of patience.
Q: Do home theater systems need an amplifier?
A: In order for the speakers to work, some sort of amplification is required. That being said, you don’t always need external amplification (you don’t need a dedicated AV receiver). In some cases, especially when it comes to wireless home theater systems, each speaker in a home theater system has a built-in amp. They don’t need an external amplification but they need to be plugged-in to work. Rarely, wireless surround sound speakers have built-in amplification and are battery-operated (like in the case of JBL 5.1 soundbar-based system).
Q: What is the difference between a soundbar-based and a traditional home theater system?
A: The most obvious difference is in the speaker configuration. Most soundbar-based systems come with fewer speakers than traditional systems. So, instead of a center, front right, and front left speaker, you get only one soundbar. The soundbar will usually have multiple drivers arranged in three (or more) channels.
Another important difference is that most soundbar-based systems are wireless (they come with wireless subwoofers and sometimes even wireless surround speakers) while most (but not all) traditional systems are wired and require an AV receiver.
When it comes to performance, most movie enthusiasts and audiophiles will argue that traditional wired systems with dedicated speakers for each channel deliver much better separation, better soundstage, and more immersive experience. This is very noticeable when comparing soundbars that are supposed to simulate height effects and traditional home theater systems with dedicated height channels.
Q: Are home theater systems good for music?
A: It depends. If you choose the right receiver for music and the right speaker system, then absolutely yes. If you, on the other hand, buy a cheap home theater in a box, the chances are you will hardly get a great music reproduction since most of these systems are optimized for movies.
Q: Are wired home theater systems better than wireless?
A: If you compare two same-priced systems, one wired and the other wireless, there’s a great chance you will get better performance from a wired system, especially if you have a good AV receiver paired with those speakers.
Another advantage of wired systems is their reliability. Some wireless systems are incredibly reliable and rarely lose connection but only one hiccup is sufficient to completely ruin the whole movie-watching experience.
On the other hand, wired systems will never be as convenient as wireless and if that’s what you’re looking for, wireless is the way to go. Some renowned brands (like SONOS, Nakamichi, or JBL) make reliable, easy-to-use, and great performing wireless HTIBs.
Q: How do wireless speakers in a home theater system get power?
A: All wireless speakers in wireless home theater systems have built-in amplifiers. In most cases, they get the power from the electrical outlet. All the wireless subwoofers and most wireless surround speakers come with power cables and require an outlet (they have to be plugged in). In some cases (JBL Bar 5.1, for example), wireless surround speakers also have built-in batteries and don’t require an external power supply.
Q: What is the best home theater system?
A: It depends. The answer to this question is different for different budgets, different room sizes, and different preferences. If you are looking for some suggestions, check out our selection of best home theaters in a box.
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.
We connect the home theater to the TV via RCA, HDMI, COAXIAL, S-video
Modern household appliances have a wide range of functions and are often quite complex. For example, to figure out how to connect a home theater to a TV, sometimes you have to spend a lot of time and effort. In this article, we will try to analyze in detail what connection options exist.
Attention! All connection operations can be performed only when the equipment is disconnected from the network. Do not insert plugs into sockets, and if you have inserted them, be sure to remove them!
How to connect your home theater
The most difficult thing is to connect a home theater to the TV, which consists of three blocks: an AV receiver, a CD player and a DVD player. If all the speakers are also connected using wires, then you can easily get confused about which cable to insert into which slot.
As a rule, instructions in Russian are attached to the home theater. Were you able to figure it out? Follow the algorithm proposed by the manufacturer. If there is no guide on how to connect a home theater to a TV, read our article carefully. Let’s talk about the cables and their order of connection to the sockets.
By the way, there are several types of connectors:
- HDMI (may also be labeled as ARC),
- component (component, RGB),
- analog, which is called “tulips” or “bells”.
Which connectors to use
HDMI provides distortion-free audio and video transmission. The component port also allows you to get high quality picture and sound. A coaxial cable is a good option if you can’t use HDMI or RGB. SCART output on modern home theaters is rare, as are analog “tulips”.
If cables are already included with the DC, you don’t need to choose anything – use the existing products. If you need to buy the wires yourself, always give preference to connecting via HDMI connectors. We figured out the slots, let’s move on to connecting the home theater components into a single system.
It is important to understand that the main unit is the receiver. Playing devices should be connected to it. We are looking for OUT outputs on the back surfaces of the players. Found? Wonderful. We insert wires with suitable connectors there. If there is a color marking – we comply. Now you need to find the IN inputs on the back of the receiver. We connect the second ends of the wires there. Do not forget about color marking, if any.
Home theater players can now stream audio and video to the receiver. Do not insert the plug into the socket. Not yet. At all. The point is not only that the current can hit you yourself, but the equipment can also be damaged.
Now we send the signal to the speakers of the speaker system. To do this, you need to connect the speakers to special contacts on the back of the receiver. They can be clamp or threaded. We strictly observe the polarity and marking. If you connect the wires from the center speaker to the subwoofer terminals, it’s not good.
The next step is to connect a television receiver to the resulting TV stereo system. If you think that there is a big difference in how to connect a Samsung, LG or Sony home theater, we hasten to reassure you. There are no special differences.
Locate the VIDEO OUT port on the back of the receiver and connect it with an appropriate cable to the VIDEO IN jack on your TV. Connected? Fine. The plug cannot be plugged into the socket yet. You need to check if you figured out how to connect the speakers to the TV, and it to the home theater.
Have you made sure that the players are connected to the receiver, and from it the cable goes to the TV? Have you checked that all the wiring from the speakers is connected in the correct order? If everything is correct, you can connect your home theater and TV to the network. Insert a disc or use other media and enjoy your favorite movie or video clip in breathtakingly realistic sound.
The most advanced models are made in a monoblock form factor – the drive of such combines is able to read any disc (CD, DVD and Blu-Ray). In this case, it is enough to connect the acoustics to the AV receiver and throw the cable to the TV.
Wireless connection – if not for one “but”
Some models have the option of wirelessly connecting Bluetooth rear speakers or a subwoofer, and sometimes other components. Very convenient – no need to pull long cables, hide them in a plinth or box. But there is also a downside. “Blue tooth” can jam in an apartment or country house Wi-Fi.
How to connect a TV to a home theater
In elementary school mathematics, they taught that the sum does not change from the rearrangement of terms. But modern technology operates on more complex principles. Answers questions like to connect a home theater to a TV , and how to make the reverse connection, not the same at all. Let’s figure out what the difference is.
Why and how to connect an LG, Samsung or Sony TV to a home theater? Let’s explain on the fingers. Do you want to enjoy high-quality sound when watching movies not only from digital media, but also from television? It’s easy, you just need to output the audio from the TV-receiver to the DC speakers.
Why output sound to the speaker system at all? Modern TV models are made in a flat format. In such a form factor, it is physically impossible to install full-fledged powerful speakers that can cover the entire range of frequencies audible to the human ear.
Do you think that it makes no sense to output TV sound to powerful home theater acoustics, since mono audio is broadcast on the air? Not quite right. The receiver in any case will improve the sound quality, remove unnecessary noise.
You can feel the difference if you receive a satellite or cable TV signal. These networks broadcast very high quality stereo sound. Excellent home theater acoustics will help you fully appreciate the benefits of high-quality audio.
How to do it
Remember how to connect your home theater to your TV? There was a paragraph: “Find the VIDEO OUT connector on the back of the receiver and connect it with an appropriate cable to the VIDEO IN jack of the television receiver.” Now we need to send an audio signal in the opposite direction from the TV to the DC.
HDMI – best option
We carefully look at what outputs the TV is equipped with. Is there an HDMI OUT? Fine. Now we are looking for an HDMI IN slot on the back of the home theater receiver. Found? Great. This protocol provides the best data transfer available today. Do not forget that the port can also be marked as ARC.
The next step is to set up the TV by activating the item in the TV settings menu. It could be something like playing audio/voice for acoustic system. The playing audio/voice for dynamic checkbox must be unchecked. Now you can enjoy realistic sound from satellite or cable TV.
Optics is a great option
If the output described above is not found, we are looking for a socket on the TV receiver for connecting an optical cable. This connector can be labeled as OPTICAL OUT or DIGITAL AUDIO OUT. Found one? Not bad. Now we are looking for the OPTICAL IN or DIGITAL AUDIO IN input on the home theater. Eat? Perfect.
We connect these “outs” and “ins” with the appropriate wire. Do not forget to adjust the TV settings as needed. Your TV will now play surround sound for movies or music videos broadcast on TV. The fiber optic cable is not affected by electromagnetic radiation, so you can not be afraid of sound and picture distortion.
Coaxial cable connection
The third option, how to connect a TV through a home theater to a 5.1 or 5.1.2 speaker system, is also not very difficult. To do this, you need to find the COAXIAL ASSIGNABLE OUT or DIGITAL AUDIO OUT slot on the TV receiver. See this one? Fine.
Now we are looking for the COAXIAL ASSIGNABLE IN or DIGITAL AUDIO IN input on the rear panel of the home theater. Were you able to find it? Perfect. It remains to connect these contacts using the appropriate cable, configure the audio playback settings. Now when you turn on the TV, it will play sound through powerful speakers, and not through weak regular speakers.
How to connect a TV through analog home theater jacks
What should I do if I couldn’t find any of the slots described above? This happens extremely rarely, but it is possible. For example, a TV may have outputs of one of the types, but a home theater will not have such inputs. What to do? Read on.
If paired digital ports could not be found, you will have to use the sockets for analog interfaces. This type of connection will not allow you to get the perfect sound, but if there is no other way, you will have to use it.
Composite RCA – First fallback
The first analog format in line is RCA, which is popularly called “tulips” or “bells”. Composite cord usually has three male ends colored yellow, red and white. We only need the second and third. Analog video is transmitted through the yellow wire – we don’t need it.
We will look on the TV for an AUDIO OUT port with a pair of red and white females. Is there such a thing? Fine. On the home theater, you need to find the AUDIO IN slot. Managed? This means that you will still hear a satellite or cable TV program in surround sound.
When connecting this cable, you need to follow only one very simple rule – observe the marking. Connected? Now you need to remember to adjust the TV settings so that the sound is reproduced by the speakers of the speaker system, and not by the speakers.
If it was not possible to connect the TV Samsung, LG or Sony to the home theater due to the fact that these models do not have composite contacts, there are two more options left. One of them is to use the 3.5 mm miniJack slot for headphones. On many television receivers you can find such a socket.
For this connection, you will need a special cord. There should be a miniJack tip on one end, a pair of RCA tulips on the other. Of course, the sound quality when using this interface will not be up to par. The option should be used only as a “backup plan itself”.
Another version of the “collective farm” in high technology is the connection through the SCART port and the already familiar “bells”. On some TVs, you can still find the output of the SCART interface. Home theaters do not install such an input, but the good old RCA is easy and often.
To connect such a “non-pair”, you will need a special cable, on one end of which a SCART connector is mounted, and on the other – a pair of RCA “tulips”. In this case, the sound quality will also not be ideal, but if you do not have the perfect ear for a musician, you will be satisfied.
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