How to Build a Cheap Home Theater
Have you dreamed about building your very own home cinema setup? How much does a home theater setup cost? It’s easier and cheaper than you might think.
All it takes is a bit of planning and some good old fashioned research. Although going to the movie theater can be fun, it can also be a bit inconvenient and downright expensive.
Queuing up in line for ages, paying extortionate rates for drinks and snacks, and then finding that someone else is sitting in your seat. Sound familiar? Well, with your home theater system you’ll never have to experience those problems again. Although it would cost thousands if you paid a professional, you can easily build your own for a fraction of the cost.
It may seem daunting at first, but by cutting a few unnecessary corners, a spot of DIY, and some careful planning, you’ll have your cheap home theater. A common mistake is under or over budgeting for your home project.
However, as long as you accurately calculate which components you can live without and which ones are essential, you can save a few bucks without skimping on the quality.
One of the first things you’ll need to think about is where you want your home theater, do you have a dedicated space big enough to accommodate a screen? What about the interior, do you want it to look and feel like a traditional movie theater or will you go for a more contemporary, chic design?
In this useful guide, we aim to take you through all of these questions and more. We’ll look at some super important factors you’ll need to consider to build your dream home theater. So if you’re ready to learn some awesome tips and tricks, sit back, grab some popcorn and read on!
How Can I Build a Home Theater?
Picking up a cheap projector can be super easy if you know where to look. Ask around amongst friends to see if they’re selling any. If you have no luck there, then your best bet is scouring eBay as there are hundreds if not thousands of projectors for sale on there, most of them at reasonable and budget-friendly rates.
You could also check out your local thrift stores, flea markets, and electronic outlet stores for other cheap options. If you’re a tech whiz it’s also possible to build your own from scratch, however, this should only be attempted if you’re extremely knowledgeable. It’s also important to make sure your chosen projector is powerful enough to screen with enough light in the room.
Want to make your home theater setup more realistic? Using a projector system will give your chosen space that awesome cinematic vibe.
This may sound too advanced, but in reality, you only need two cables. A CAT5 control wire will allow you to use the projector with an RF remote and an HDMI cable will bring the video content to the projector.
Pre-wiring your projector will mean you get high-speed internet for when you want to stream movies and watch your favorite shows on TV.
So you’ve got your projector, now you need a screen to go with it. Without projectorscreen, you’ll end up with inferior picture quality and your machine is being wasted. Even if you’ve got a perfectly spotless white wall, any defects or blemishes will be painfully visible. You want the best movie experience possible and unfortunately, a white wall just isn’t reflective enough to display crystal clear HD images.
So what type of projector screen do you go for? Freestanding, pull-down, or wall-mounted? Which size is best? When deciding what size to go for, it goes without saying that you’ll need to measure your chosen space but also check the manufacturer’s specifications. They’ll quite often state what’s called the usable area of the screen. This is the actual area that will have the image projected onto it.
This should give you a rough idea of how big your image is going to be. Keep in mind, however, that it’s always better to go with a smaller screen that’s high quality, rather than a bigger screen that’s much cheaper and lacking in quality.
The audio in your home theater will bounce around the walls, ceiling, and flooring and the key to accomplishing amazing sound is limiting that bounce. There are a few ways you can reduce the bounce. Carpeting the whole floor will drastically reduce it, as will curtains and other fabric materials on the walls.
If you’ve got sofas then they will absorb the sound better than anything harder. Adding soft cushions will help as well, not to mention they’ll be even more comfortable for you and your guests.
It’s also super important to control the ambient sound. Ambient sound is background noise. Even if you do have room for a dedicated movie space, outside sounds can ruin your viewing pleasure. Traffic, weather, noises from other rooms, or children playing are just a few examples.
Although having a dedicated setup is your first step, there are other things you can do to reduce those annoying ambient sounds. Soundproofing will be your best friend in this instance, using a special sound-minimizing wallboard will prove to be invaluable in combatting ambient noises.
Using solid doors will further soundproof your space and as we said earlier on, thick blackout curtains will make all the difference by blocking light and absorbing the sound.
So, you’ve got your home theater setup, you’ve chosen a projector and a screen, and your surround sound system is all sorted. All that’s left is to put it all together. To get the best sound quality, ideally, you need to place all the units of your speaker system as close to each other as possible. The more distance between each speaker the more signal loss you’ll suffer.
You’ll need good quality cables as well, how many you need will depend on how much space you have. They can work out quite expensive if you have to buy lots of them. A cheap alternative is to make your own. Only attempt this though if you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, it’s probably safer to use store-bought cables.
Your home theater project is nearly complete, what next? There are some other things you may want to consider to help make your viewing experience even better.
An equalizer can bump up the quality of the sound in your home theater system. They’re ideal to use if there appear to be minor issues with your speakers to help balance out the sound. If you want the projector out of the way you could always build a shelf for it to sit on, although you may want to paint and design it so that it looks aesthetically pleasing.
To get the best possible theater experience, you need wide frequency responses – the wider the response, the better your sound will be.
Top Ten Tips for Building Cheap Home Theater Systems
Pick the Right Location for your Home Theatre Systems
Your first step to creating your shiny new home theater system is choosing a suitable space. Ideally, it should be around 20 feet by 13 feet and it should be completely separate from the rest of your house so that other members of your household aren’t interrupted or disturbed by any loud-sounding explosions or music. A spare bedroom or basement would make the perfect dedicated space.
Another reason why you should have a dedicated space is so that you get a true, authentic home theater experience. If you have children, then communal or family rooms aren’t suitable as the kids will be running around making a lot of noise, plus the lighting will be difficult to get right.
Whichever room you decide on, it needs to be long enough so that your viewers can sit back far enough away from the screen. If you have a projector this is particularly important. Generally, a projector needs an approximately 14-foot throw distance to be able to cast a 150-inch picture. However, if you don’t have access to an area that’s long enough, you can buy short throw projectors as well.
Choosing Comfortable Seating
Next is deciding what seating you’re going to have in your home theater. Do you want a typical look or do you want to go for a more modern take on it? If you want a traditional look you can buy vintage chairs from vintage shops or online places such as eBay. Or if you’re aiming for a contemporary feel you could choose leather or faux suede recliners for ultimate luxury.
Theater chairs are available in so many styles and price ranges, so it’s completely dependent on your budget and vision. Generally, home theaters have two rows of four seats. For better viewing, you can have the second row on a platform in true cinematic style. Whatever you choose, they must be comfortable so you’re able to sit through the whole movie or TV show that you’re watching.
Choosing Appropriate Materials
There are numerous options when it comes to choosing projectors, TVs, and speakers. If you want a real traditional feel to your setup then you might want to consider a projector. Whereas if you’re going for a more contemporary style, an HDTV is an excellent choice.
For the best quality sound, it’s a good idea to invest in a surround sound system. If you do go for surround sound then you’ll need to purchase a receiver that connects to your system. If you’re limited on space then a soundbar is a great option and you don’t need to use a receiver.
Setting up your home theater is perfectly doable and can be done on pretty much any budget. The basic parts you’ll need can be purchased from building material or DIY stores. Once your home theater has been insulated and framed it’s simply a case of pre-wiring the system and organizing the technology that you’ll be using.
Don’t Buy All Parts at Once
Technology is updating and improving all of the time, so it’s important not to buy all the parts at the same time. If you do that, you’ll highly likely find that certain parts become out of date rather quickly. You’ll end up compromising on quality and then have to shell out more money on upgrades in a year or two.
It’s advisable to buy the parts that are essential first and get cheaper alternatives for everything else. Even when you’re purchasing those important parts, make sure you do your research and find out how long they will last.
Just remember not to get carried away by buying everything at once, spread your purchases out so you can buy parts that are long-lasting and future-proof.
Buy a Suitable TV
Some home theater systems don’t need a projector and screen to be enjoyable. Quite often a TV is more than suitable. Realistically, you’d need a TV that supports 4K and HDR. Because it’ll be a smart TV, you’ll be getting a blu-ray player as well which will give you ultra HD quality.
The size of the TV you buy is completely up to you and how much space you have to spare. However, for your home theater system, you’d need a minimum of 55 inches. Generally, it’s advisable to get a TV as big as you can afford.
Consider Re-purposing an Old PC
If you’re looking for a super cheap way to build your home theater system, then why not consider repurposing an old PC. If you’ve got one lying around gathering dust, then this is the perfect opportunity to give it a new lease of life.
You may have to add additional pieces but even then, repurposing an old PC is way cheaper than buying brand new equipment. It will also serve you just as good, if not better than any other gadgets that are available to buy.
Another positive to repurposing a PC is the fact that it gives you more options for the future. You could add extras such as a Blu-ray player or buy an upgraded processor. If you wanted to turn it into a gaming console you could add a graphics card.
Buying A Cheap Speaker System – Home Theater Needs
Let’s face it, without good sound, a movie is rubbish. You want your home theater experience to be as authentic as possible and for that to happen you need amazing sound quality. Don’t dive into purchasing your satellite speakers thinking that the biggest equals the best. The sound quality of the speakers depends on where and how you set them up and how they’re made.
It’s important to buy the correct size speakers for your home theater system. If you’re able to have a dedicated theater setup then you’ll have more options when you come to choose your speakers. You’ll also have more room to position them to get the best sound experience.
However, if you’re planning to turn your living room into a home theater system then you may be limited. You probably won’t be able to have freestanding speakers in all corners of the room, particularly if you have small children. If so, in-wall or ceiling speakers are here to save the day. These speakers are available at most price points so you’re sure to find one to suit your budget.
If you really want the surround sound experience but just don’t have the space for multiple speakers, then you may want to consider a soundbar. A soundbar consists of multiple speaker’s channels into a single bar that can be easily fitted above or below your TV.
Generally, home theaters need a 5.1 surround sound system. This means there are five satellite speakers, one being a dedicated center channel speaker, and one subwoofer. A center channel speaker is handy because you can adjust the volume level of it without interfering with the other speakers.
Before you do purchase anything, make sure you know where you’ll position each speaker, how it will be wired up, and how much room you have.
With all of the different devices you’ll have hooked up, a universal remote is the best option. No one wants several different remotes that will inevitably get misplaced. A cheap and easy option is turning an old smartphone or tablet into a remote.
There are tons of apps on the Play Store that make it super easy to convert into a remote. If your Android doesn’t have an infrared blaster then that will be an issue, otherwise, another cheaper alternative is to buy a universal remote for a few bucks.
Cabinets and Accessories
So, you’ve got all of your technology sorted, the key parts are set up, now it’s time to furnish. Most importantly are your chairs or sofas. You can’t have a good movie experience without somewhere comfortable to relax in. A nice side table to pop the remote on will add a simple flair of style to your room.
A mini-fridge or a small snack station will bump up the cinema feeling, and if you want to go OTT, then a popcorn machine will make you feel like you’re at the movies. Blackout curtains can also make a difference to your movie experience.
They will shut out the light from any windows, giving a real cinematic mood and if you’re using a projector, the curtains will massively improve the picture quality. They’ll even help to improve your audio as well by controlling sonic reflections. Not only that they decrease outside noise such as traffic.
Just keep in mind that these costs will add up, so don’t forget to keep a record of how much you’re spending so you don’t go over your budget. Luckily, a lot of these items you’ll find in local garage sales, on eBay, and other online marketplaces. You can get items that are in great condition for rock bottom prices so it’s well worth shopping around for the best deals.
Invest in a Quality Receiver
Probably the most important but undervalued component of your setup is the receiver. Although you can save money on it, it’s not advisable. Think of the receiver like a car engine, if it’s not up to scratch then the whole thing will be a disaster.
It’s also worth investing in an audio visual rack as the receiver is the central point and therefore the most important aspect of your whole system. Components such as your DVD player, blu ray player and more will be operated from it.
You also need to ensure that the audio visual component rack is kept well ventilated. Electric components produce heat and can cause a lot of damage if it’s allowed to build up too much.
You can purchase metal racks that have a front and back open-air design. You could also make your own if you’re feeling creative, but it needs to be sturdy enough to hold those valuable components. Lastly, using a metal grid as a base will provide more ventilation.
Which Home Theater is Best?
Everyone has their tastes and styles and which one you choose is entirely up to you. Some people prefer the traditional cinema look whereas others may prefer a sleek, modern design. Think about whether you want a minimalist design with only a few accessories and furnishings for a cleaner look, or do you want to go all out and decorate and furnish until you’re blue in the face?
When it comes to your actual setup, think about what components you need. For exceptional audio quality, you may want to pick up a surround sound speaker system. You can buy a speaker package at a reasonable price. For ultra HD image quality, a Blu-ray player is a must-have.
You also need to decide if you want to use a projector and a projector screen or a smart TV. Both will give you amazing sound and image quality, it just all depends on your personal preference.