Buying Home Theater Equipment for Music, Movies, or Games – How Should It Affect Your Choices
Imagine, if you will, a world where there are people interested in buying equipment for a home theater. They own a TV but now they want to upgrade to some sort of stereo or surround sound system. But they don’t know where to start. So they go to this place called the World Wide Web and find a community that is knowledgeable about home theater. And they ask for advice by saying they want to buy some home theater equipment and they will use it for XX% movies, XX% games, and XX% music.
That world is here. You are living in it.
This type of post happens multiple times a day. People want a system but don’t know where to start. So they ask for advice and they list how they will use the system. But should it really matter when buying your home theater equipment if you are using it for mostly music, mostly movies, or mostly games? Let’s discuss.
Why People List Their Usage
There are two possible reasons why people list how they will use their home theater equipment. The first is the most reasonable. They see other people listing their usages so they do the same. If other people did it, it must mean something to the “experts,” right?
The second is to send a message. Usually, the message is, “I’m not an audiophile so don’t recommend expensive stuff.” They do this by indicating they don’t listen to music with their system. They associate “audiophiles” with people that listen to music. Fair enough. That is often the case.
But is this necessary? Does how you use your home theater equipment mean you would buy different gear for music vs. movies vs. games?
The simple answer is no. As we’ve said before, a speaker that is good for movies is also good for games and music. Even more important than how you’ll use your home theater gear is your room. Sure, Atmos or DTX:X might max out at 7.4.6 speakers (or more with certain processors), but your room will determine how many you can actually fit. There are plenty of times that you may have the desire and the money for a certain number of speakers, but not the space. But, let’s look at each type of home theater equipment and see how using them for music, movies, or games will change what you would buy.
As we’ve mentioned, a good speaker is a good speaker. If it is suitable for one use, it is good for all of them. The only way your use will change in how you buy your speakers is in the number. If you only want to listen to music, you’ll only need two speakers (and some subwoofers, more on that below). If you want surround sound but can’t install height or overhead speakers for Atmos or DTS:X, then you’ll max out at seven (or nine if you add front wides). Again, the number of speakers is more likely to be dictated by the size and shape of your room than anything else.
While we often recommend two subwoofers, it doesn’t matter what you use them for. No, some subwoofer designs are not better for music. You always want a subwoofer (or two) because your main speakers can’t play low enough on their own (and other reasons). Every audio system needs the ability to recreate all the sounds that humans can hear. You won’t be able to do that without a subwoofer.
Once you determine the number of speakers you’ll buy, the receiver model will pretty much take care of itself. Your best bet is to look over our AV Reciever Upgrade Checklist. By the time you get a receiver that can do all the things you want it to do, using it for different content won’t be a problem. We will mention that you don’t really need to search for a stereo receiver. Any surround receiver will do stereo just fine. If you are a gamer, make sure the AV receiver you purchase can pass through all the HDMI 2.1 gaming features. For those just using their system for movies, this is not a concern.
When buying home theater equipment, the display really doesn’t care if it is showing images from a movie, a game, or static art from a music file. That said, if you are a gamer, and you own a recent generation Playstation or Xbox console, you may want one that is compatible with the high-framerate features of HDMI 2.1. Otherwise, just get the one with the best image.
It makes some sense that using your home theater equipment for movies versus music versus games might make a difference in what you buy. But, for once, the solution is simple. Buy the best gear you can. If it sounds great for one, it’ll sound great for all!