Urban Upgrade 1 – Buying a home theatre system

I had an opportunity to design and install a complete media system for a friend who lives in a nice downtown apartment.

We chronicled the whole process for you.

Before you begin, you need to establish your expectations, understand the limitations and potential of your room, and of course establish a budget.

For this project we had a target of around $7,000.

One of the biggest mistakes I think people make in designing their own media systems is not allowing enough budget for a truly balanced system. Case in point, the family I know who bought a beautiful Sony 1080 42” HDTV and decided against adding a home theatre system to it, instead opting for the built in speakers in the TV telling me “the salesman said they were very good”! Well the salesman was WRONG! And my friends are missing half the experience of HDTV by short-changing their sound system.

This case does exemplify where we do make a mistake; we think that our investment in the TV is the major cost in a great system. In fact it is the largest single item. We look in the flyer and see a nice 48” plasma TV for $2,000 and decide we can afford that!  But to build a balanced system I would say you should always plan to spend at least 2 times the cost of your TV on components, cables and fittings. To really be safe, and if your credit card can stomach it, if you can build a system where the HDTV is 1/3 the overall cost you will have a truly killer system! So quickly that $2,000 on the TV can add up to $4 or $5k!

In a lot of cases you can save a few dollars by re-cycling older stereo systems. Today’s 5.1 and 7.1 surround-sound systems are spectacular and often a good set of stereo speakers will fit in nicely as your right and left front channels, an old subwoofer will likely still be a good addition, so you could conceivably get away with purchasing new rear and center channel (a very important component) speakers.

Steve Dotto is Canada’s most respected geek. For over 15 years, as host and executive producer of Dotto Tech, a nationally syndicated TV show, Steve has entertained and educated millions of Canadians on all aspects of technology. Steve has a passion for understanding the social impact of technology. His DVD Cybersafe with Steve Dotto , teaches parents and caregivers about the opportunities, dangers and challenges of social networking.