I was given the challenge of building a good home theater for under $1,000. In addition, the premise was that I had received a $1,000 gift card from Amazon and needed to build a complete, 5.1 home theater system that met my previous definition for what a home theater is and offered some kick ass quality.
Building a home theater for under $1,000 while making it a solid performer, is indeed a challenge that requires a considerable amount of thought, bargain hunting and a little compromise. The compromise comes in the form of a smaller display and a lack of Blu-Ray. For many this won’t be seen as a compromise however.
I started by locating an acceptable display that met my requirements for being a real home theater, that meant a screen size of at least 36 inches. In order for the system to be future proof, it needed to be HD and have HDMI capability. This is a pretty tall order if I wanted to spend $1,000 on the TV alone and have a quality display.
I found the Sharp Aquos LC37D44U 37-Inch 720p LCD HDTV that has 2 HDMI ports and a brilliant picture. At 37 inches, the lack of 1080P is unnoticeable and this TV is a bargain at the moment. Cost: $570.99
Now I needed the heart of the sound system and it was clear this years models were out, I needed a refurbished unit from last year. I found a number of Sherwood and Sony receivers that fit my budget but I wanted good sound I could build on, not a system that would be stretched right out of the box. I decided on the Yamaha HTR-5840 XM-Ready 6.1-Channel A/V Surround Receiver. This receiver claims 100 watts per channel, a mark I find extremely suspect and would guess the real specification if tested would be closer to 60 watts, but that is more than enough to drive a well thought out home theater system. It decodes all of the standard Dolby and DTS formats currently available on DVD.
The compromise here is a lack of HDMI switching and no HD audio support but that can be remedied using the 6 channel analog inputs when it is time to upgrade to Blu-Ray. Cost: $129.12
To make the most of the Yamaha receiver I knew it would be best to stick with bookshelf style speakers and I wanted a package that included the sub so that the entire system would remain consistent wherever the sound panned during a movie. I expected this to be a tough search but to my amazement, the Polk Audio RM10 Speaker System fit my budget thanks to a great sale. These speakers offer a considerable upgrade from your home theater in a box speakers or your budget brands. Cost: $211.36
The DVD was going to be easy as the prices for very good upscaling players have dropped substantially. I did want HDMI and 1080i support at the minimum, 1080p wasn’t a consideration since the display is 720p. What I found is the Samsung DVD-1080P8 1080p Upconverting DVD Player, a solid performer at a great price. Cost: $35
Now I just needed my cables and speaker wire. As I have mentioned before, you don’t have to spend much for a good HDMI cable and to prove my point I selected the Premium HDMI – HDMI Male to Male Gold Plated v1.3 Certified Category 2 – 6 ft / 2M for PS3 HDTV LCD TV Blue-Ray cable. Despite the lengthy name and PS3, Blu-Ray claim, it is a simple HDMI cable that is 1080p capable and it more than enough to provide a perfect picture. Cost: $1
Since the Yamaha receiver doesn’t support HDMI I need a optical, digital cable, again, I don’t need anything fancy, an optical cable is an optical cable and any one will do. The 2 pc 6′ Digital Audio Optical Optic Fiber Toslink Cable was the perfect answer. Cost: $4.15
Now I just needed speaker wire and following my own advice, it had to be 12 gauge, oxygen free. The product I chose is the Acoustic Research PR221 Speaker Wire 12 AWG Oxy Free Copper, 50 ft spool. Acoustic Research makes good speaker wire without breaking the bank and 50 feet of wire will easily cover most home systems. Cost: $30.53
The final cost of my home theater came to $982.15 and gives me a solid performing home theater for under $1,000. The products and prices on Amazon change often but I am confident that you can go there any day of the week and build a similar system for under $1,000.
One consideration I didn’t address is the value of a projector if you have the right room. A projector system is the bargain way to get a big image for a low price and should be considered if it can work for you.My next challenge will be to see what kind of system I would put together if money were no object. I am looking forward to this one.