Home Theater

Why Does Home Theater Have to be So Complicated?

Home theater can be so frustrating! All you wanted was a new TV and maybe to update your sound. But now you find out about AV receivers, Atmos, that soundbars apparently suck? But you didn’t want a million speakers placed all over your room. Why does home theater have to be so complicated? Spoiler alert: It doesn’t! Let’s discuss.

Do You Really Need All of the Things

Like anything, home theater has a range. You can be super hardcore and have a dedicated room that has been painted black and has a huge screen and all of the speakers. You can have many subwoofers, all of which are way too big for the room. Multiple rows of home theater seats, multiple side surround speakers, and tons of amplification are all possible. Home theater definitely seems very complicated.

But do you really need that?

Let’s talk about cars. There are cars for every type of owner. There are big cars for people with families (or people that just like big cars). Sports cars for people that like to go fast. Trucks for people that like to be asked to help people they just met move. Luxury cars, compact cars, electric cars…the list goes on. There might even be a car out there that can do everything I just listed. It won’t be cheap, it won’t be for everyone, but it exists.

When you shop for cars, do you try to buy all of the things or do you choose the right one for you? The latter of course! The same is true with home theater!

We chose this

Knowing What You Need vs. What You Want is Hard

Home theater is definitely complicated in one way – it is difficult to know what you actually need. You know you want the best that you can afford. But is that what will actually sound best in your room?

The dirty little secret of home theater is this: A basic 5.1 system with some thoughtful purchases gets you 90% of the way to the “best” home theater you can have. Think of any hobby you know a lot about. You know that the “enthusiasts” argue about stuff that makes very little real-world difference. Home theater is the same. Time-aligning speakers, Dirac vs Audyssey, real vs. fake 4k…it’s all minutia.

Here’s what you need to know:

How is 5.1 Enough?

With all the new audio formats, how can we possibly say that 5.1 can be enough? Especially when we so strongly advocate for dual subwoofers and Atmos speakers. Well, it is a matter of impact. The difference between having a single subwoofer versus no subwoofer is huge. The difference between having surround speakers versus just stereo is also huge. We’d argue that getting that second subwoofer is also a fairly big improvement, but it really isn’t as noticeable. Surround back speakers often aren’t a big improvement nor are Atmos speakers.

Yes, people love their Atmos speakers. Yes, people swear by their surround back speakers. But that doesn’t make them necessary. They just make the surround sound experience more accurate and convincing.

Take Away

We’re not saying you shouldn’t invest in a home theater system that has all the bells and whistles and is so complicated that you’ll need a professional to install it. If that’s what you want, go for it. But we’ve seen many rooms that have had so many speakers shoehorned into them because the owner thought they were needed. They simply aren’t. A 5.1 (or 5.2, we aren’t going to let that second subwoofer go) system is more than enough for most people. They just want more volume, better sound quality, and surround sound. If you are on a budget, or aren’t looking for an overly complicated home theater install, 5.1 is a great way to go. We’ll leave a couple of buying guides below to get you started.

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