When building your home theater system, there are several things that you need to consider, budget being the biggest factor.
Home theaters can be expensive to set up, but all things considered, the cost is ultimately worth it in the long run. Even a “budget” home theater is not really cheap as the initial investments can be quite high depending on your budget.
So, how much does a home theater cost? A proper home theater system could cost you as low as $500 for a very basic set up and as high as $100,000 for advanced setups. However, the average budget for a good beginner home theater set up is about $2000, give or take.
Most people can only afford to build a home theater with a budget of between $2000 and $35000. However, in this article am going to focus more on the mid-range home theater systems with TVs, projectors, Receivers and speakers.
Contents and Quick Navigation
What you need for a home theater build
For a basic set up:
- Media sources– These include Blu-ray players, DVD players, VCR player, Apple Tv, Roku, Fire Stick, Gaming console, etc.
- Display devices– Projector and screen or TV.
- AV receiver– This is the brain of a home theater system and this where you connect most of your home theater components. It will also act as the hub for your home theater to control volume, switch between devices, and so on.
- Surround sound speakers– You can start with a 5.1 surround sound system which will include 3 fronts speakers (center, left and right), 2 surround speakers (left and right), and one sub-woofer.
- Cables to connect all your devices together. These cables will include HDMI, VGA, Optical cables and RCA cables.
We will go into the details of these components later in this article to help you make your budget.
For an upgrade:
To upgrade your home theater, you will need all the above components and other upgrades to improve your experience that include the following;
- Acoustic conditioning– This will help manage your home theater’s sound characteristics that include crossover, reverberation, and echo for cleaner audio.
- Soundproofing– This is great if you have the budget for it. If you have close neighbors, you will be able to turn up your volume without interfering with them.
- Great seats– If you want better seating for a cinema-like experience, it would be great to invest in better seating other than just using your couch which is also a good option. You can also use beanbags, second-hand cinema seats, recliners, or anything depending on your budget.
- Light management– If you are going to be using your living room as your home theater room, you will need to invest in blinds or blackout curtains. This will apply to any other room you are planning to use with ambient light from the windows.
- Popcorn machine– This will take your home theater to the next level, giving you a near cinema-like experience. There is also the option of buying microwave popcorn bags. This will come in handy, especially if you have guests around.
You should also keep in mind that some of these extra upgrade components will not only drive the cost up but will also eat up more space.
Below are estimates for some of the products you may need
So, let us look at the price range of each of these components in a bit of detail.
For display devices, you can either use a television or a front-facing projector.
When you are beginning your home theater build there is a high chance that you already own a TV. Depending on what you are looking for and what kind of TV you have, you may need an upgrade or not. Giving a concise answer for an upgrade or not can be quite difficult.
But here is what you should consider;
For the TV size, I would recommend at least 50 inches but you can go as high as 85 inches. The size of the Tv is measured diagonally from one corner of the TV’s screen to the other.
Most people complain later on about not going big enough when it comes to TVs. So, if you are planning to use a Tv as your main display device for the foreseeable future get one that is at least 50 or 65 inches. The bigger the better.
TV technology has changed a lot over recent times as we now have a TV that can offer 8k resolution (7680 by 4320 pixels). These TVs are way expensive, to say the least.
However, you do not really need an 8K Tv, for now, but the lowest you should go for is a TV that offers 1080p resolution. I would actually recommend going for a 4K tv with HDR if your budget can allow it. 4K has become the new normal and people are slowly moving away from 1080p TVs, so, it’s great to stay ahead of the curve.
|50” basic 4K TV||$300 to $500|
|65” mid-range 4K TV||$900 to $2000|
|80” high-end 4K TV||Upwards of $2500|
|65” high-end 8K TV||Upwards of $3500|
You can always go bigger and better when you are using a front-facing projector as your display device.
Upgrading from a TV to a projector could a great idea, especially if you want a bigger display. And just like in the case of a TV, you will also need to consider the resolution. I would still recommend getting a 4K (4096 by 2160 pixels) projector.
A projector can cost you anywhere between $50 and $5000. Any projector that costs less than $500 is considered cheap.
Projector prices are affected by several factors, some of them being;
- Lamp type
You should get a projector that on the lower side, has a 1080p resolution. For the brightness, this will depend on how your room is lit. Projector brightness is measured in lumens (light output) and you should get one with at least 1000 lumens for a very dark room and about 2000 lumens for a room with more ambient light.
You should also make sure that the projector can fit in your room. For this, I would use a projector that incorporates a physical lens shift and zoom lenses.
The least I would recommend spending on a projector is $300 but even in this price range, you will notice a quality difference with projectors that have better specs.
|$300 to $500||Basic/cheap projector The least I would recommend spending on a projector is $300.|
|$600 to $1500||Mid-range projector If you can afford it, I would recommend spending at least $600 on a projector.|
|Upwards of $2500||High-end projectors will cost more and if you have ever owned one and upgrade to this price range you will see a big difference in picture quality.|
If you are investing in any of the projectors above, it is worth investing in a projector screen.
However, using a white painted wall would still suffice but the picture quality will not be as good as screens reflect light better.
With that said, when starting, you can focus on DIY screen options before investing in a proper projector screen.
How much does a projector screen cost?
A great screen should be 120 inches but depending on your room size, you can work out the maximum screen size that can fit.
Here is what you should consider;
- Brightness gain, especially for a room with lots of light.
- The aspect ratio– 16:9 is the standard.
- Whether the screen is fixed, has a mechanical opening or pull-down.
- The material used to make the screen.
This is an investment that should last long even with an upgrade in your projector. Below is a price breakdown;
|About $100||Entry-level screen This screen will not offer you the best quality but is a great place to start|
|$150 to $600||Mid-range screen model. For an average investment of $250, you should be able to get a fairly good screen|
|Upwards of $1500||High-end screens. In this price range, you should get a good-sized screen that will offer you great image quality and even acoustic transparency.|
TV vs Projector
|Pros||Great brightness Sharp contrast Easy installation Available in smart and Ultra HD models Great resolution Color accurate||Lightweight May be portable Versatile Convenient Vast sizes Retro and Kitschy Less expensive|
|Cons||Can cost more than projectors Poor sound quality Heavy Less versatile Inconvenient||Inferior resolution Has no sound Hard to find Ultra HD projectors Can be noisy during operation Contrast issues caused by light Space consuming Lamp Bulbs are expensive to replace ($400)|
The AV receiver is the central hub/brain for your home theater system. With that said, it would make a lot of sense if you invested in a high-quality receiver as it can make or break your experience. The receiver should be able to handle all devices and should be well-responsive.
I would not recommend buying a receiver that costs less than $300. But even at this price range I would take my time and research the highest quality at this price point. Shop around until you find one that can meet your needs and one that you will be happy with.
If your budget allows you, invest in a receiver that goes for anything between $600 and $2000 for a fully functional control center.
For a more customizable setup, have a budget of around $3000 for a separate processor/Preamp and multi-channel amplifier.
Adverts can sometimes be misleading, so, take your time and compare various receivers on the market. Don’t just focus on the price, pay attention to the quality.
Surround Sound Speakers
Money spent on high-quality speakers is always worth it because even during an upgrade you will only need to add more speakers other than buying all your speakers from scratch.
This is another area that you should invest heavily in if you want a better home theater experience.
Focus on the quality of the speakers other than the number of speakers. You can start with only the front speaker/2.1 channel set-up (left, right and one sub-woofer) and upgrade from there. However, if you have a bigger budget, I would recommend starting with a 5.1 channel set up (5 speakers and one sub-woofer).
With about $150 you can set up an entry-level 5.1 channel speaker system. However, at this price, I would recommend getting a 2.1 channel speaker system for better quality sound and add more speakers later on.
For a 5.1 channel system, have at least $400. This is what I would consider a mid-range product and will improve the sound quality.
At upwards of $2000, things get interesting and the quality gets better even for true audiophiles. This price range will offer you high-end products from industry leaders such as Klipsch. However, even at this price range do not just pay for the brand but pay attention to the sound quality.
You can always spend more than what you originally budgeted for.
It is also great to buy individual speakers as you build your own system. By doing this you can mix tower speakers for the front speakers, bookshelf speakers for the surround left and right, ceiling speakers, back surround speakers, subwoofers, and even add more channels along the way. But even when you are doing this ensure that you match the timbre and ideally buy speakers from the same brand.
Most people do not pay close attention to the cables they buy and end up buying low quality products.
I would recommend investing in gold-plated cables if possible as they have the least resistance and give the best image quality. Even fancy Ultra HDMI products will go for around $15.
Speaker wires are a bit different. You can speaker wires from electronic stores or online but you should know the different kinds that are there and how much you may pay for them.
|Copper cables||It Will cost between $25/100ft to upwards of $50/100ft for higher quality wires. Copper wires are widely used in speaker wiring and they provide great sound with moderate resistance|
|Silver cables||Cost around $200/meter or more. Have less resistance than copper wires, therefore, producing a cleaner sound. Most sold by specialist electronic companies|
|Gold wires||Are the most expensive wires you can buy. I would not focus so much on gold cables as the price can get so high. Have the cleanest sound.|
The cost of speaker wires will also depend on the gauge or thickness of the wire. Thicker wires/lower gauge wires are better when running for longer distances but are more expensive.
To prevent your wires and cables from tangling in your home theater room, you will need to conceal them under the flooring. You can also purchase cord covers and cable concealments that go for around $20 each.
There is also the option of avoiding wires altogether by investing in speakers and other devices with wireless technologies such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity.
Custom home theater rooms
If you decide to build a dedicated home theater room other than just using your living room, the cost will be higher.
The advantage to having a dedicated room is that you can customize the room for a true cinema experience. A well-designed room can very quickly become your favorite chill spot.
Assuming that you do not have a finished room, you should expect to pay between $50 and $250/ft2 to build the room. The price will depend on the materials used, level of construction, and location.
|Carpeting||$2 to $12/ft|
|Recessed lighting||$100 to $500|
|Seating||$700 to $2000|
Here is what you will need;
1. A room design
The design of the home theater is something that many people overlook.
You can easily find a room with great equipment but have wrong placement and so on. To get everything right, you need to know how the speakers will interact with your room and this requires testing, taking measurements and designing for everything to fit perfectly.
A riser construction with multiple rows will cost anywhere between $2000 and $3500. This includes;
- Determining the acoustic needs and speaker placement.
- Determining the seating configuration.
- Determining the screen placement, choosing the right screen size and projector placement.
The cost to soundproof your home theater room will depend on the soundproofing materials used, the area to be the soundproofed, and whether you are going to get a pro to do it for you or if you plan on doing it yourself.
Soundproofing will involve adding more drywall, underlay, carpeting and more. For things like adding dampening and decoupling, the easiest and most effective way to do it is by adding more drywall.
- I would expect to spend at least $500 on the materials although it is difficult to put a price on adding more drywall. Other than what I have mentioned in this guide, several factors affect the cost of extra drywall.
- If you got the skills, soundproofing the home theater room yourself would be great. You will only need between $1000 and $1800 for the materials to fully soundproof the room.
- A professional team can easily charge you upwards of $1500 for the job depending on the job complexity and size of the room. This is not taking into account the soundproofing materials.
You can also add other soundproofing materials such as door linings, heavy curtains, A/C vent baffles, and many more.
Carpeting will not only help in soundproofing your room, but will also play a part in the reduction of soundwave reflections that cause echo. The average carpet price is about $5 per square foot for both your walls and the floor.
3. Acoustic conditioning
Acoustic treatment will do a great job in making sure that you do not miss those subtle emotional sound changes, you follow the dialogue and get nice booming sound effects when you are watching your movie. This will be great, especially if your home theater room is large and is achieved by the reduction of sound reflections.
For basic acoustic panels, you can spend as little as $500 to upwards of $10,000 depending on how far you are willing to take it and the size of the room.
4. Home theater seating
You would not have a great experience if your chair is uncomfortable.
To state the obvious, seating is going to depend on room size. If you are not using your living room as your home theater room, you can get away with just 4 to 6 seats.
Individual recliners are great and I would recommend getting then if you can as they will keep you, your family, and any guests comfortable. Comfort and style are crucial when it comes down to home theater sitting.
|$150 to $300 per seat||This is in an entry-level reclining seat|
|About $500 per seat||Mid-range recliners|
|About $700 per set||High-end recliners|
5. Lighting systems
Dimmable lights to a completely dark home theater can help add some flair and spice things up. However, you do not have to break the bank on lighting.
You should just have enough light for the room but not too much to prevent glare on your screen. A great idea would be to use remote controlled LED strips for walkways.
- I would recommend getting overhead lighting as opposed to a table or standing lamps that can reflect on the screen or cast shadows which may interfere with your viewing quality.
- LED bulbs and fixtures last longer, are energy efficient, and low maintenance. Philips LED dimmable bulbs go for about $25 for an 8 pack.
- For a relaxed setting, wall sconce lights work great for the ultimate home theater experience. Wall sconces go for as low as $40 per fixture and as high as $800 per fixture.
- It would also be a great idea to install dimmers that can be purchased for about $40 to $100 and installed them for yourself or spend about $150 for a professional install. To install dimmers by yourself you will need to have the electrical skills needed.
- You can also combine sconce lights, overhead lighting, and cove lighting to create an authentic cinematic atmosphere.
You can get a popcorn machine for between $100 and $200. There is also the option of getting a microwave and counter for a total of $500. Any of the two options would be great.
A refrigeration unit will set back about $500.
Before you begin your home theater build, have a plan of how you envision it, and budget for it. Use the estimates above to approximate your cost.
You can start small with just a few of the most important components such a display device, central hub, speakers and media devices then add more as time goes by. Only start with the equipment you need.