Ten Upgrades for People “Serious” About Home Theater (Part 1)
Of all my hobbies, AV is one of the most “enthusiastic” (think zealot) I belong to. Our brethren will spend an obscene amount for the most marginal upgrades. But what if you want to take your home theater to the next level? Well, fear not. In this series, “Ten Upgrades For People Serious About Home Theater (Part 1), we will give you the ultimate upgrades! Yes, there will be some tongue in cheek humor, as some of my choices are designed to be over the top. But I will also give you some great options to wow your buddies. Let’s discuss
Upgrade One – Display
So let’s face it, if you want to wow, one of the easiest ways is to have a kick-ass display. You could get a 65″ OLED and sit 6′ away as I do. But we want to impress. And nothing says impressive quite like spending an obscene amount of money on bleeding-edge technology.
Reasonable Display Option
I present you the JVC DLA-NZ9, coming in at $26K. It offers 8K resolution, 3D capabilities, and 3000 lumens. So let’s get this right out there, $26k is a lot for a projector. But the JVC will get you the best black levels out there. Yes, you still need a light-controlled room. And its HDR won’t touch an OLED or good LED for nits, but it’s probably the best HDR you can get in a projector right now.
What if you want a direct-view panel? Well, an 88″ OLED will impress. At $25K, the LG Signature OLED will give you the BEST HDR performance and allow you to watch TV with a curtain open. And a super bright OLED will impress, especially in HDR or Dolby Vision.
Over The Top Choice
But what if you want to really wow your buddies? One word…rollable! That’s right, for a cool $100k, you can get a 65″ (wow?) OLED that rolls up and down! Nothing says “Wow,” like a small screen that is super expensive and has a niche feature that you will probably break.
Upgrade Two: Speakers
Next to a massive screen, having incredible sound is the next upgrade you should focus on.
Reasonable Speaker Choice
First, forget that you only sit 8′ from your speakers and that bookshelves will quickly make your ear bleed. You want a set of speakers that look loud! Well, look no further than the Tekton Matrix LS series. Featuring all the tweeters (15 per speaker), they look impressive and are incredibly sensitive (about their looks). Yes, they are $20k a pair, but if you like the look of the Tekton, they offer some very reasonable speakers that compete with mainstream brands.
Over The Top Choice
So I am not going to lie. There are so many options for wildly overpriced speakers that I had difficulty narrowing it down. But, nothing says over the top like KEF MUON speakers. At over $300k a pair, they cost as much as my house and are just about as tall as me. Better yet, they are custom-made and limited to 100 pairs of speakers. They are not just speakers; they are investments! Plus, I will need to use the boxes they come in as a house when my wife divorces me for mortgaging the house to get them!
Upgrade Three – Subwoofer
Subwoofers are a must for any home theater, and a vibration that shakes your sofa and punches you in the chest is always a wow factor. I can’t tell you how often my kid’s friends are surprised by the bass in my home theater. They never see the two unassuming black boxes sitting in the corner and behind them. But they sure feel em!
Reasonable Subwoofer Choice
We are actually very lucky when it comes to subwoofers nowadays. Back in the ‘90s, when I started my journey, powered subs weren’t really a thing. And any offerings that we did have were wildly expensive, small, and underpowered. Not today.
While my SVS PB-1000 and Monoprice M10 V2 10” subs are more than enough for my 13×21’ room if I wanted to wow my buddies, I would go with a pair of Monoprice M215 dual 15” THX certified subs. At $2500 per, they are not wildly expensive but visually imposing. They are called Monoliths for a reason. These bad boys hit down to 16Hz and are 216 lbs a pop. So once you get them in place, they probably aren’t moving!
Over The Top Choice
Do you want over the top? Well, Eminent Technology offers the TRW-17 rotary subwoofer. Sure, it’s $25K and requires professional installation. But hear me out. First off, it’s rotary! That’s right, five spinning blades could take off your hand! Secondly, it has a frequency response from 1-30Hz. Who cares about a smooth room transition? Not me! And lastly, did I mention your whole room becomes the enclosure? That right! You must have a redesigned side room or attic to become an infinite baffle enclosure.
But wait, what is better than one TRW-17 rotary subwoofer that takes up a whole room or attic? Two TRW-17 rotary subwoofers! You can only call yourself an enthusiast if you have dual subwoofers! Better get out a second mortgage for that second attic! Who cares if it looks stupid? D-U-A-L subwoofers!
Upgrade Four – AV Pre-Processor
If you want to consider yourself a serious AV enthusiast, you need the BEST AV processor available. Yes, I know that separate components don’t offer any real benefit, but they look cool. And my editor has told me many times that choosing something for aesthetics is perfectly reasonable. As long as you know it’s form over function, and you are ok with paying extra for it.
Reasonable PrePro Choice
So for this one, I will point you to the Marantz AV10. At $7000, it’s not cheap, but it’s not ridiculous for a flagship PrePro. It has HDMI 2.1, all the sound formats you would need or want, plus 15.4 channels and Dirac Live room correction.
And yes, I have had separates in my system and loved them. No, there was no need for them, but going back to my comments about aesthetics, I liked the way they looked.
Over The Top Choice
There is only one choice for the OTT person: the Trinov Altitude 32 AV Pre-Processor. Starting at a meager $29K, the Altitude 32 offers Dolby Atmos in a 24.2.10 configuration, HDMI 2.0 (who needs next-gen consoles), and Roon support! That’s right, for $29k, you get Roon!
But wait, it gets better. You need professional installation and a specially trained Trinov installer for room correction. But what if you change something and want to update your setup? Trinov has a remote option that allows you to let a stranger have remote access to your system to fix it! Talk about ease of installation!
Thankfully Trinov was considerate enough to know that a true AV enthusiast like me can’t settle for internal amplifiers. So for $29k, I get to pick out my own amplifiers cause integrated amps are for chumps!
Upgrade Five – External Amplifiers
I don’t want to spend a lot of time here. Everyone knows that external amplifiers make a world of difference and are needed in 99% of setups. So should you spend a boatload on amplifiers that will power high-efficiency speakers 6′ away from you and require a couple of watts? Yup, cause it’s what a true enthusiast would do!
Editors Note:Remember Andrew said he would be tongue-in-cheek here. We all know we don’t need amplifiers in most setups, but they look cool!
Reasonable Amplifier Choice
So if you want to drive all 15 to 32 channels easily, you want the ATI AT54X Class D amplifier ($2400 ea). The AT54X can drive all four channels to 500wpc for serious headroom. Plus, if you want to add a lot of extra headroom for those KEF MUONS, you can bridge them into a single channel for 2.5x more power!
Over The Top Choice
But if you want to drive all 32 channels to maximum potential, you need the McIntosh MC1.25KW monoblock amplifier. At a mere $13.5k each, the MC1.25KW boasts 1200W in a single channel. But is this overkill? Nope – headroom! Plus. all those blue VU meters stacked to the ceiling and across a wall! That’s the wow factor right there!
Plus, you can have a dedicated room for your subwoofer and 32 amplifiers. Maybe that rotary subwoofer can push all that heat into some ducts so you can heat your whole house! Audiophile heat is so much better and cleaner! Trust me; I am a professional!
So in this first part, I was going to go for insane, over-the-top types of components and gear. But the more my editor and I reread it, we realized that there is some “end-game” type of upgrades that will wow the heck out of anyone and are not totally unreasonable. So while my “reasonable” choices are still pricey, they aren’t unobtainable for the true enthusiast.
In the next part of Ten Upgrades for People Serious About Home Theater (Part 2), we will discuss the rest of the things a true enthusiast will need to add the final touches to the ultimate home theater! And yes, I will go over the top for all my choices!