How Much Money Should I Spend on My Home Theater?
Nearly every AV site has buying guides. We have a few here, here, and here. These guides are meant to take a lot of the guesswork out of shopping. If you are not well-versed in AV and home theater, the amount of money you can spend on gear is pretty scary. You’ve got soundbars that cost a few hundred to speakers that can cost the same as a mansion. Where do you draw the line? While we can’t give you an exact dollar amount, we can talk about how you can figure out what is the right amount for you. Let’s discuss.
Stop Looking at Price Tags
Before you even leave the house (or start your online search), you need to stop worrying about price. When you begin your home theater journey, worrying about how much money everything costs will distract far too much. Yes, you’ll hear speakers and systems that are way out of your actual budget. But who cares? At this point, you are trying to get a frame of reference. Step one isn’t to pick a budget and stick to it. Step one is to experience as much gear as humanly possible.
Think of it as test-driving cars. You may test drive something far too expensive just to understand what the “gold standard” feels like. Then, when you test drive a car within your budget, you can compare. Sure, the ride isn’t as smooth or the interior as refined, but it is close. Maybe close enough for you. Maybe not and you keep looking. Without trying out the high-end, how will you know how the products you can actually afford measure up?
Figure Out What You Actually Need
It is easy to get caught up in the hype. Why have five speakers when you can have seven? Two subwoofers? What about four! If you listen to many on the Internet, they’ll have you believe that more (and bigger) is always better. It just isn’t so.
Talk to experts, read as many articles as you can, and, most of all, view all advice with a hefty amount of skepticism. If they are speaking in absolutes, they are probably wrong. Every room is unique and requires some compromises. Figure out what will actually fit in your space, what you can reasonably change (moving furniture, adding room treatments, etc.), and make a list. Of course, you can do all this while you shop.
Find Your “Good Enough” System
When you started this process, you probably had a number in mind. After listening to a lot of gear, making a list of what you actually need, and getting some prices, you probably realize that number was completely unreasonable. You may think that you’ll need to compromise a lot on quality because of budget.
All hobbies are expensive. I can’t think of a single one that doesn’t cost a lot in money, time, or both. Home theater is no different. If you’ve shopped extensively for home theater gear, you’ll know that buying the cheapest is money wasted. But you’ll also discover that the breakpoint of diminishing returns isn’t nearly as high up as some would have you believe.
What you’ll find is that the expensive stuff usually sounds pretty great. But you can spend money on home theater gear that costs much less that sounds nearly as (if not just as) good. That’s when you start asking about prices and making lists.
Spend What You Need To Spend
In the end, you want to have a home theater that you feel was worth the money. That may mean spending more than you wanted, or it could mean that you found some great deals. Either way, don’t cheapen your home theater experience by skimping. Buy the home theater you deserve. If it means you have to buy it in stages (front speakers first, then surrounds, then subwoofers or some combination), so be it.
If you start off with a budget and refuse to experience anything above or below it, you risk spending the wrong amount for the wrong performance. By experiencing everything, you will spend the right amount of money on a home theater that you will love. It will take some time but you will be happy with the result. And that is what really matters.