Surround Sound Buying Guide for Home Theaters


Surround-Sound Buying Guide

Surround-Sound Buying Guide

By Anne Ahira

As the technology has improved and prices have come down, more and more families are purchasing big screen high definition television sets.

This has lead to the rapid increase of what are commonly called home theaters.

What is a home theater? Well, really it is nothing more than a large screen television set that has been connected to a series of speakers.

In this article we are going to review a standard surround sound buying guide.


Since home theaters are fairly new, few consumers have much experience with surround sound systems. As you might expect, these shoppers tend to make a lot of rookie mistakes and often end up buying speaker packages that are either too expensive or ill-suited for their needs.

As with computers and other high-tech devices, the general rule is to only buy what you need and what you can afford. That is why we will begin by discussing budget.

Before you make any major purchases, especially when considering a product you don’t know much about, it is important that you decide exactly how much you are willing to spend before you visit the store. In the next few paragraphs we will discuss a few of the most basic packages that can be found in any surround sound buying guide.

$500 or Less

This most basic of packages will often include five small speakers and a subwoofer. There are also virtual-surround sound systems that have just two speakers that can be placed by the set and a subwoofer.

These packages are often ideal for small rooms, like the bedroom, that measure only a few hundred square feet. A basic package like this will not be adequate for a large family room or a den that opens up into other rooms or hallways.

The sound will simply get lost and will not provide users with a true home theater experience. However, many young couples make the mistake of purchasing much larger, more elaborate and expensive systems for their bedrooms when really a package like this one is all they need.

Before you buy

Make certain that the package includes a receiver or DVD player or changer that can control the surround sound system.

$1000 or less

This package is not much different from the previous one in that it is ideal for large size bedroom or small living rooms that are only a few hundred square feet. The surround sound buying guide for these packages will obviously offer more features and higher quality speakers.

There is also often a difference in size, power, and volume with these speakers. Generally speaking, they will include a receiver, a high-quality virtual-surround HTIB and a 5.1 speaker package.

Before you buy

Since this is a more substantial investment, you should closely examine all of the competing models. Since these packages are the most popular, middle of the road sound systems, there should be many attractive options to choose from.

$1,500 or less

If you are willing to spend thousands of dollars on a big screen high definition television, then it makes sense to purchase a quality surround sound system. These packages are designed for use in large living rooms that measure several hundred square feet.

And while it is true that they can be used in smaller rooms, it will most certainly be a waste, as smaller, less expensive speakers could likely do a respectable job. But if you want to truly get the most out of your home theater, a more powerful, higher quality sound system is necessary, especially in larger rooms.

What does this package include? The surround sound buying guide tells us that these systems often include a top-of-the-line HTIB that has a midline receiver, an HDMI DVD player, and a quality subwoofer.

Before you buy

This is a substantial investment, so it is important to do your homework before you visit the store. Make sure that the package includes everything you are looking for. And for this kind of money, it certainly should.

More than $1,500

What do we mean when we say more than $1,500? How much can surround sound cost? The answer is several thousand dollars. While you are scooping your jaw up off the floor, we will explain that these packages are highly exclusive and they are often only purchased by people who have specific needs.

For example, die-hard sports fans who want a transcendent experience will watching the big game, or video game lovers who need to hear every pop and ping while playing their favorite games.

The surround sound buying guide tells us that these packages are meant for large living rooms, but really they can be used just about anywhere. In fact, these speakers can even be installed all over the home to improve sound quality in a number of rooms. This is also known as zone speaker technology.

What does the package include? A surround sound system of this quality will offer a top HTIB that comes with a top-rung receiver, a HD DVD or a Blu-ray player, and then either a speaker package or select speakers and subwoofers from the company’s catalog.

Before you buy

When you are considering spending this kind of money, it is important to get exactly what you want. That is why it is probably a good idea to find a surround sound system that allows you to choose select speakers from the company catalog rather than simply purchasing a set package.

A few more tips

Never assume that a surround sound package includes a subwoofer. While it is true that these packages almost always have one, oftentimes in the less expensive packages the subwoofer will not be a standalone model.

This means that one of the speakers will be half speaker and half subwoofer. Now, there is nothing wrong with this, and some of these models do produce fine sound, but they are not as effective as the stand alone speakers. That is why it is always a good idea to find a package that includes a standalone subwoofer.

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