Setting out to build the best home theater can be a daunting prospect. High-end home theaters require a significant amount of forethought and planning. Even when budget is not an issue, you want to make sure you get the best for your money. After all, the goal is to build a home theater that family and friends will enjoy for years to come. It is a significant investment of time and money, but the payoff in entertainment factor can be high.
Many will leave this task up to a professional home theater designer/installer. Others will take more of a hands-on approach and get involved in planning the overall design, auditioning and selecting equipment, making furniture and fabric choices, and even doing the installation themselves or in conjunction with a local contractor. Here, we attempt to provide an overview of the state of the art in home theater equipment technology. In each section below, we present state of the art home theater equipment in a range of budget options, but always with a focus on getting the best value, and always assuming that you have money to spend to get the best equipment for your particular application.
For some inspiration on home theater design, see 30 Amazing Home Theater Setups You Have to See to Believe.
High-end Home Theater Speakers
Speakers are the foundation of any home theater system. Choice of speakers depends on the size of your room, your listening habits and preferences, and more. The state of the art in home theater is what’s known as an 11.2 channel setup. This involves 11 speakers and two subwoofers. The more channels, the more smoothly the sound moves around the listener. Read more about 11.2 channel setups here: 11.2 Receivers: Explain the Extra Channels. At a minimum, you’ll want to plan for a 5.1 channel setup, requiring six speakers – left and right front speakers, a center channel, and left and right surround speakers and a subwoofer. If you don’t have a large room, this setup might make sense. However, if you have a larger home theater room (say, one that’s more than 16′ deep, you’ll want to consider more channels for the most enjoyable experience.
Explore state-of-the-art high-end home theater speakers here.
- Main Speakers
- Center Channels
- Surround Speakers
- In-wall and On-wall speakers
High-end Home Theater Receivers and Amplifiers
The ultimate in high-end home theater equipment involves an 11.2 channel pre-amplifier and a dedicated amplifier for each speaker channel. Simpler yet still effective setups involve an 11.2 channel pre-amplifier and a single 11.2 channel amplifier, which is a single component housing 13 discrete amplifier sections, one for each of the speakers. An even simpler setup combines all these functions into an 11.2 channel home theater receiver, which serves the functions of pre-amp and amplifier in a single unit. Bear in mind that the more amplifier units, the more power outlets you’ll need. State-of-the-art home theater pre-amps and receivers act as the hub of the home theater system, allowing you to control the volume, switch among audio and video sources (such as BluRay player, turntable, gaming system, CD player, and streaming video or streaming music player), and customize the channel setup and surround processing depending on the source material and your listening preferences. Some also incorporate the function of Wi-fi network streaming music players. Many can be controlled using an app on your smartphone or tablet.
Explore state-of-the-art high-end home theater receivers and amplifiers options here.
High-end Home Theater Sources
A high-end home theater is a significant investment, and you’ll want to plan to use it to its fullest by incorporating as many types of media as possible. At minimum, you’ll want a video source and an audio source, but even here there are many options. Do you want to watch streaming movies? If you’re using a projector rather than a smart TV, you’ll need to plan for a streaming video source, such as a dedicated video streaming player or a multimedia PC connected to the internet. You you have a BluRay or DVD collection? You’ll need a BluRay player. Do you have a vinyl collection? You’ll want to incorporate a turntable and phono pre-amp. You may also want to incorporate gaming, either via a state-of-the-art gaming console or a gaming PC.
Explore state-of-the-art high-end home theater audio, video, and gaming options here.
- Streaming Video
- Streaming Music
- Multimedia PCs
- Gaming PCs
- BluRay Players
- Turntables and Phono Pre-amps
- Gaming Consoles
- SACD, DVD-A, and CD Players and Separates
High-end Home Theater Screens
If you are able to darken the room, and you want a screen larger than, say 80″ horizontal, you’ll want to use a home theater projector and a projector screen. If you’ve got a smaller room, you may want to consider a large widescreen smart TV as a way to simplify the setup. If you’re not able to darken the room, or don’t want to watch in a dark room all the time, you’ve got many options in the way of high-end widescreen smart TVs that can provide an enjoyable home theater experience.
Explore state-of-the-art high-end home theater projectors, screens, and smart TV options here.
- Widescreen TVs
- Projector Screens
High-end Home Theater Wiring
Planning for and selecting home theater wiring can be one of the most challenging aspects of the project. Here, we try to provide some guidance and narrow down the options when it comes to wiring for high-end home theaters.
Explore state-of-the-art high-end home theater wiring and power options here.
- Speaker Wire
- Power Cables
- Power Conditioning
- Planning for Power
High-end Home Theater Room Treatment and Lighting
Room treatment is an important part of getting the most out of your room’s acoustics, and it’s considered a critical part of any high-end home theater setup. While often overlooked, lighting is one of those important details that can put your home theater over the top.
Explore state-of-the-art high-end home theater room treatment and lighting options here.
- Ceiling Panels
- Acoustic Panels
- Floor Treatment
High-end Home Theater Seating and Furniture
You’re making a big investment in your home theater, and you’ll want it to be a comfortable experience once you’re ready to start watching your favorite movies. It’s important to plan for comfortable, functional home theater seating, designed to accommodate the number of people you expect to be entertaining in your home theater room. Any home theater setup involves a number of electronic components that will need to be housed in attractive, functional cabinets. If you’re not mounting speakers on or in the wall, you’ll need to consider speaker stands as well.
Explore state-of-the-art high-end home theater seating, audio cabinets, and speaker stands and mounts here.
- Component Racks
- Speaker Stands
- Speaker Mounts
Updated May 2017