A home theatre system is a great addition to any house. They can add a lot of value and make the house feel better. If you plan on getting soundbars in general, you should know that they will cut your costs in half or less compared to a regular hi-fi system.
Sounds are important for movies, but it is also partially responsible for how much people enjoy music in their living rooms. The only thing that might be even more important than sound itself is sound quality. It can cost thousands of dollars to get high-quality speakers and amplifiers, so the goal here is to find something good enough without spending too much money. We’ll go through what components you need and give some examples of models from different price ranges – because there is no reason to get a super expensive sound system when you can buy something that satisfies your needs for less money.
Let’s start by describing the most important parts of a home theatre system:
The amplifier is perhaps the single most important component in a sound system. It amplifies the weak electric signals from the audio input and sends them to your speakers. The better an amplifier is, the more powerful your speakers will be. Without one, you wouldn’t even hear any noise coming out of your speakers – just that annoying hissing sound that comes with cheap radios or TVs without an external connection that boosts volume levels. Amplifiers need to be paired with appropriate speakers – they are not created equal. Micro-speakers (inside most smartphones and computers) need a lot less power than full-sized ones and will not be driven as hard by your amplifier.
A receiver is a thing that broadcasts sound from your antenna to speakers. It also has an AM/FM radio tuner, which gives you access to free music on the go (which is why some people still like it). The sound quality of such receivers is typically worse than any other component in a system – they are cheaper for a reason. Not only do they mostly lack noise-canceling functionality, but their amplifiers will also be less powerful. If you can afford to buy them separately, do so and pair them with a separate set of speakers to enjoy better sound quality and more volume. Receivers broadcast sound through the air, and it’s the thing that sits between your antenna and speakers in most cases. If you can’t find a receiver separately in good condition for low prices, go with buying an amplifier paired with speaker(s).
WiFi is another way to connect your home theatre components using the air instead of cables. It’s commonly found in receivers (if they weren’t bought separately), but there are also separate transmitters for sound, like Bluetooth adapters. Unfortunately, they cannot be relied upon when it comes to offering high-quality sound because they use lossy compression algorithms, which affect sound quality negatively. A few people might not notice this very much, but if you’re listening closely and playing around with EQ settings on your smartphone or computer, you will.
To transmit audio over the air, you need an amplifier to boost the signal from a speaker and a transmitter with its own built-in AM/FM tuner. You can buy it separately or as a set, but keep in mind that you will only be able to move around freely within the range of your WiFi network. Such systems are typically found among wireless speakers for smartphones, tablets, and computers. They look elegant because they lack cables, but the sound quality is often disappointing, as well as their price tags. If it’s worth getting one at all – that depends on what you’re using it for. Some people use them outside the house too, so they carry extra battery packs to power them up when needed. Wireless home theatres are convenient but not necessarily high quality.
Wireless speakers are perfect if you want to get rid of cables because they don’t need any extra hardware to connect them with your TV or other sound sources. You can buy them in sets and couple them with an amplifier which is either separate or comes built-in in the speaker set itself. This way, you only have one box sitting under or next to your TV for convenience – it’s also great if you plan on moving around your house listening to music. Beware that wireless speakers use lossy compression algorithms too when sending their signal through the air. They reduce the file size by throwing out crucial information that cannot be recovered later at the receiving end where speakers are connected. The thing that makes all modern wireless speakers sound “good enough” is called digital signal processing (DSP), and it’s also the thing that makes them so convenient.
WiFi, Bluetooth, and wireless speakers will be more common in the future, but AM/FM tuners currently offer better sound quality than most wireless systems. It’s a matter of getting used to this new technology since it does require pat ience at first. Some exceptions apply for Sonos Play:5, which uses WiFi instead of FM radio for its main connection. However, its lossy compression algorithm sounds very harsh compared to a decent old-fashioned amp paired with a separate set of speakers. As long as you keep your expectations realistic about what they can deliver sonically compared to wired solutions, you won’t be disappointed.
Finally, keep in mind that devices such as smartphones or laptops can be used for listening to music, too – what matters here is their auxiliary output, which boosts the audio signal from your device headphone jack! Look around on the internet for more information.