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Biggest Bang-for-Buck Home Theater Hacks

We all love to save money. So when we look at our home theaters and think, “Hmm… I wonder what would make this better?” we’d like to keep it reasonable. It’s very easy to spend a ridiculous amount of money on this hobby. So we’ve put together some of our biggest “bang-for-buck” home theater hacks. We’ve tried to list them in order of least to most expensive but it will depend highly on what you already have. We are assuming a room with a 5.1 system and an older receiver.

Reorganize Room (Cost: Free)

The easiest thing to do is to reorganize your room. Moving your couch a little closer to your display will make it look bigger and can seriously affect the sound you hear. While you’re at it, double-check your speaker placement and subwoofer settings. Recalibrate your system by running your room correction again or just use your trusty SPL meter to double-check your settings. We’d even suggest running through all the menus of your devices and making sure that everything is set up optimally.

Improve Your Image (Cost: Low)

It’s not hard to increase your image quality on the cheap. If you haven’t already, do an Internet search on your display and check out recommended settings. You’ll find that just a few changes can make a big difference in your picture accuracy. To improve contrast, invest in some blackout curtains or shades for your room. Light control can make all the difference. The next step would be to either add some bias lighting or paint the wall behind your display a darker color. Many home theater enthusiasts would suggest black, but any dark color will do.

Room Treatments (Cost: Varies)

Bang-for-buck, you can do little to improve the sound in your home theater that will make more of an upgrade than adding room treatments. We are mostly referring to sound absorbers, but you could look into diffusion as well. The thing about sound absorbers is that they are dead simple to DIY (there are lots of plans out there) and the materials aren’t that expensive. If you are looking for something fancy, you could check out printed panels that can double as art for your theater!

Second Subwoofer (Cost: Room Dependent)

Subwoofers have come down a lot in price in recent years. You can get a lot of bass for not a lot of money. But if you want EVEN bass, you need two subwoofers that are optimally placed. This is one of those hacks that is very high in the bang-for-buck department for your home theater. The difference between one subwoofer and two is dramatic. Suddenly, there isn’t just one good seat in your room, all the seats are pretty good. And your seat? It’s fantastic!

Digital Room Correction

If you are rocking an older receiver, you probably don’t have the best room correction available to you. Audyssey, YPAO, Dirac, and Anthem Room Correction can make a big difference in your room. Upgrade your home theater receiver to something newer to get these benefits. If you are pinching pennies, head over to for deals on B-stock. Don’t worry, they are authorized resellers of all their gear and it all has full manufacturer’s warranties.

Speaker Upgrade (Cost: If you have to ask…)

When most people think of upgrading their home theaters, they think of speakers. We think all of the above should be done first. You’ll find that a second sub, correct placement, and room treatments can have you believing you upgraded your speakers. But, if you still want better speakers, there are lots of options out there. Just make sure you get your room treated and your equipment properly set up before you start shopping.

Immersive Audio (Cost: Varies)

Dolby Atmos has taken the home theater world by storm. Everything has an Atmos label on it. This immersive audio format is one of three on the market (DTS:X and Auro-3D are the other two). These formats require speakers on or in your ceiling (there are other options but they aren’t as effective). Our experience has been that immersive audio has been very hit or miss for people. Some love it, others aren’t that impressed. That’s why we put it last on our bang-for-buck home theater hacks list. Do everything else first. Then try overhead speakers.

What about you? What upgrade do you think made the biggest difference in your home theater? Let us know!

1 Comment on Biggest Bang-for-Buck Home Theater Hacks

  1. Bry

    None of this is “cheap”. Most of this I didn’t even understand. How about an article for a setup that is actually inexpensive, as in “I’m poor but would still like to enjoy movies.” The fact that you assume I have a receiver says everything right there. Buying one of those already means the setup isn’t “cheap”. Just buying a soundbar, subwoofer and a basic set of surround speakers will set me back $500 minimum. Very misleading headline. I guess some fortunate people have a very different idea of what’s cheap.

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