A quality home theater setup must include two things to create a truly amazing private venue: the right screen and the right sound system. A perfect pairing of the two will transform the act of simply watching a Blu-Ray disc into a fully immersive experience that may be smaller in scope than what your local cinema has to offer, but is no less capable of serving up Hollywood’s best for you, your family and your friends.
This article will explore the home sound system side of the equation. Of course, you’ll still have to select your home theater’s visual focal point from a sea of options that currently includes curved screens and 3D capability, but for now, let’s close our eyes and focus on music, dialog, sound effects and all of the rest of that unique sensory movie magic.
And let’s do it for less than $1,000.
While you can spend far more than that on what you determine to be the best sound system for home use, you can also spend less while achieving quite admirable results. After all, the best home sound system is the one that makes you happy and works for you—including your wallet.
Home Theater Sound System Basics
Before you decide on a particular set, you need to determine what you’re looking for. Some people are happy with the noise that comes out of the TV itself, but if you’re reading this article on home sound systems, it’s probably because that single-direction source isn’t cutting it for you anymore. You want something more.
To create the best home sound system for you, start by identifying your needs. Do you want full surround sound? Bass you can really feel? Unobtrusive speakers that still manage to blast crystal-clear audio? All of that is available in a budget-friendly price range.
First, let’s identify some components key to an ear-pleasing sound system:
Speakers: These are the workhorses of the best home sound systems. They can be arranged to focus sound on specific parts of the room, and can be placed in front of, behind and to the sides of the viewer. Proper placement of quality speakers is at the heart of the endeavor, since it puts you at the heart of the auditory action. Speakers can be small enough to fit on a bookshelf or can be larger, floorstanding models. The variation in size also highlights the reality that these speakers physically take up space, so you’ll need to make sure you have room for them where you’ll be watching and listening.
Subwoofer: This item can add another dimension to your sound system, as well as to your sensory experience. With a solid subwoofer in place, you’ll introduce your bones to the good times your ears have been having all this time. Be sure to read the specifications of any speakers you’re buying, ask questions, and plan to get only the components that will give you the results you’re looking for.
The speakers and subwoofer can create a dramatic soundscape on their own. Many people find that they’re happy with a simple setup that brings them the closest to cinema-quality sound without having to buy a ticket and endure sticky, popcorn-littered floors.
Keep in mind that after you’ve built your less-than-$1,000 sound system, you need to consider these items.
Receiver: This device coordinates your sound sources and audio speakers, making sure everything is connected and synched. It can also protect your speakers from blowing out by driving them just right. That being said, thanks to the emergence of WiSA technology, not all systems need a receiver. The Klipsch Reference Premiere HD Wireless speakers, for example, use an HD Control Center, which coordinates the audio and creates its own distinct wireless network.
Cables/Wire: The debates that rage on about which cables best carry the finest sound will not be settled anytime soon, and certainly not here. Just know that you’ll need wire to connect everything in your sound system. We recommend only using as much wire as necessary to get from one point to another. You can ignore this if you’re going with a wireless system, which only requires you to plug the speakers into power outlets.
Surge Protector: Any financial investment is worth protecting. Consider buying a surge protector and plugging everything from your sound system into it. As with your speakers, don’t skimp on this if you decide to go this route. A quality purchase can protect your home theater system from frying, which is a great thing once you tally up the TV cost, too.
What to Look for in Home Theater Sound System Components
When it comes to sound systems for home theaters, you get what you pay for. Lower-quality materials in a $50 product won’t have the capacity for dishing out thumping bass or floating the delicate nuances in your favorite music or movies. You want your teeth—not your speaker housing—to rattle.
A $1,000 system, on the other hand, is going to deliver more because it can handle more. Klipsch speakers are based on four primary principles that deliver the best home sound system possible.
- High efficiency delivers accurate transmission of sounds both loud and soft.
- Low distortion preserves detail and clarity at any volume and frequency.
- Controlled directivity ensures the sound goes exactly where you want it to go.
- Flat frequency response gives you only what was recorded as it was recorded.
These principles come from Klipsch founder Paul W. Klipsch, who developed his horn technology for speakers in the 1940s with a goal of replicating the thrill of a live orchestral concert at home. His design has only improved in the decades since, continuing a legacy of transporting listeners out of their everyday lives.
What Sound Systems Are Available for Less Than $1,000?
Klipsch offers a sound system for just about every level of music or movie enthusiast, price point and living space. Since this is a guide to options that cost less than a grand, the following choices reflect the goal of designing a worthy sound system while sticking to triple digits after the dollar sign.
Two Klipsch Reference Premiere floorstanding speakers at $499 each can make a large room sound like a theater, filling the space with high highs, low bass and everything in between. This isn’t technically surround sound in the traditional five-speaker sense, but an excellent pair of floorstanding speakers can achieve a similar surround sound effect with just two speakers. Don’t believe us? Just ask the Wall Street Journal who tested the Klipsch Heresy speakers versus a lesser-grade surround system.
A true five-speaker set, such as the Klipsch Quintet for $549.99, can be strategically arranged to create a web of sound that catches you in the middle. This package includes four small speakers and a center channel, which is designed for sound intended to come straight at you—like much of the dialog in a movie. Balancing five speakers can be a challenge if they’re put piecemealed together, so getting a perfectly matched unit from the get-go will likely prevent a tech-based headache and provide the desired sound with minimal fuss. Add the Reference R-10SW subwoofer ($349 each) for a complete 5.1 surround sound system.
For a smaller space, consider a pair of R-15PM powered monitor speakers ($499 per pair), coupled with a Reference R-12SW subwoofer ($449 each). This audio system will give you the basic left and right that makes such a difference in audio tracks, rounding it all out with plenty of bass.
Similarly, a pair of powerful R-14S surround speakers ($279 for two) can serve as the first building blocks of an epic sound system, because despite talk above about the potential stress of assembling a full sound system out of distinct pieces, remember that you really don’t have to do everything all at once. If your budget will allow for a small investment now, followed by a small upgrade at some point in the future, you can plan out a strategy to work your way up to the home theater of your dreams. This might mean starting with two speakers at first, then adding two more, then bringing in something to deliver solid bass. Then adding two more speakers.
On the other hand, if you decide that you want to turn up the volume on your budget from the outset, you can certainly find an in-home sound system that will give you your money’s worth of audio amazement. The Palladium® system is a luxury speaker system that comes in at just under $32,000, proving that there’s a speaker set for every budget.
Choose whichever setup you want. They’re your ears. Just remember that the best sound systems for home theaters reflect their owners’ preferences and tastes. If you prefer Westerns that send bullets ricocheting around the room or sci-fi epics powered by deeply thrumming rocket engines, your system should reflect that.
One final tip: build a little bit of wiggle room into your $1,000 sound system budget so you can buy a copy of a film that really shows off your speakers. Maybe a little popcorn, too.
Then, all that will be left is to dim the lights, settle back and press play.
Have you constructed a quality home theater system for under $1000? Let us know in the comments below!
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