Whether it’s your first time setting up a home theater or you’ve had one for many years, there are some clear do’s and don’ts, so you can avoid long-term problems and maximize your enjoyment.
What are the most common home theater mistakes and how to avoid them?
- Placing all of your trust in salespeople and reviews, instead of consulting with experts.
- Not strategically buying your equipment; buying what’s new and trendy.
- Price shopping, instead of getting the equipment that you know you’ll enjoy most.
- Setting equipment wherever, instead of optimizing the location based on your space.
- Having an unorganized mess of cables, instead of planning and organizing your cables, hookups, and storage.
- Assuming your equipment is protected, instead of investing in protective equipment and accessories.
- Expecting your equipment to last a long time on its own, instead of taking proper care of every component.
- Not taking time to get to know the in’s and out’s of your equipment, because you’re too eager to enjoy it.
- Over or underpowering your system, instead of analyzing and adjusting your sound properly.
- Thinking a home theater is complete with a great sound system alone, instead of considering furniture, lighting, and decor.
- “Winging it” on the installation, instead of making sure your installation is professional-grade.
- Making purchases based on present wants and needs, instead of considering future needs and purchases.
When you’re ready to get your home theater in top condition and at a professional level, make sure to avoid these common mistakes. Here’s what you can do to maximize your home theater and enhance the enjoyment of your setup for years to come.
Common Home Theater Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Do: Consult with home theater experts before buying.
Don’t: Place all your trust in salesmen and reviews.
It’s easy to get stuck in the trap of only trusting salesmen or reviews when buying home theater equipment. You are usually so excited to get your new equipment that you forget that it takes time to make the best decision and consulting with experts pays off.
These days, reviews are very telling of how equipment will function and last, but there’s nothing like trying out equipment in person. Buying online may be easy and while it seems like you are making a good decision based on reviews, it may end up being the wrong one for you. One person may prefer a certain sound, whereas you prefer something different. Reviews are helpful, but they don’t tell all.
If you have friends who are big home theater gurus, you should definitely talk with them about every detail of your home theater and your plans for your purchases. They will give great advice and provide intel that you may have not even thought of without them. On the contrary, salespeople are focused on getting you to purchase the same day that you come in, so even if they do provide good advice, the best decisions are made with the help of multiple people.
Do: Buy your home theater equipment strategically.
Don’t: Buy equipment because it’s new and trendy.
Buying home theater equipment, from your TV to your speakers and everything in between, is a major purchase, and it should be planned optimally. All of your home theater equipment needs to fit your space well. Everything from your room’s lighting to its size and shape will affect the type of equipment you invest in.
You don’t want to purchase new and trendy speakers that aren’t the right size for your home theater room (more on that in our do’s and don’t guide), and you don’t want to purchase a massive TV that is too big for your space. If you have a room with a lot of light, consider a curved TV. If you have a small space, you may not even need to invest in surround sound. Every detail of the room will affect your purchases, so get to know your room first, before deciding which equipment to look into.
Do: Get the equipment and accessories that you will enjoy most.
Don’t: Price shop.
While it’s great and necessary to work within a budget, home theater equipment is a long-term commitment. It’s not ideal to invest in cheap, short-life equipment that you won’t get much enjoyment out of, just so you can have all your equipment now. Investing in better equipment may take more money and more time to make all of your purchases, but your equipment will be more enjoyable and will last longer.
If you know that you will love and enjoy a surround sound system for your large home theater room that maxes out your budget, consider purchasing it now and adding more to your home theater later. You will love having this one addition in your home theater, and you will have more time to think about your next purchase. Who knows, there may even be awesome upgrades that make the wait well worth it.
Do: Optimize the location of your equipment in your unique home theater space.
Don’t: Just set equipment wherever.
When it comes to the location of your speakers and TV, there’s no such thing as the standard placement. What looks and sounds good in one room size and type of room may not look and sound good in yours. So don’t just set up your speakers, TV, and other components in one area, because that’s how you’ve seen it done. Test out different locations for each component to see how you like it.
Is your TV too close to your seating? Is your subwoofer in the right spot for your room shape? Is there a better arrangement for your furniture that will also achieve a better sound? Do your components need to be spaced out more to create a wider sound for your large room? Just remember that where you put your components directly affects your experience, so don’t be afraid to test out your options. Also, don’t be afraid to make adjustments every now and then, especially as you make new purchases.
Do: Plan and organize your cables, hookups, and storage.
Don’t: Have an unorganized cable mess.
As we explored in our comprehensive tutorial, your home theater needs to be planned out and organized properly, or you risk having a complete mess on your hands. There are so many cables, hookups, and wires that can easily get out of hand. You will want to invest in a power strip, surge protector, or power conditioner that fits all of your components’ plugins in one (or two) organized power sources, instead of using multiple small or medium-sized power strips.
Not only do you need to have a plan for a well-organized system, but you also need to make sure that the space that all of your equipment is stored is optimal for all of the heat that every component will produce. Open shelving is optimal, and enclosed storage should be avoided. Your storage space needs to be well-ventilated, and you may want to add a fan. Make sure none of your components are baking in the heat, or you could create serious problems.
Do: Invest in protective equipment and accessories.
Don’t: Assume your equipment is protected.
When you purchase home theater equipment, you’re likely going to be spending a good amount of money. You will expect your equipment to last for a long time, because it is well-made and expensive. However, it is a common mistake to not make room in your budget for well-made protective equipment and accessories.
One of the most common threats to your equipment’s lifetime is weather that causes power outages and lightning strikes. If your equipment isn’t properly protected, a storm can completely ruin your expensive equipment. Surge protectors are a common way to protect your equipment, but not all surge protectors are created equally. Find out what the best home theater surge protectors are.
“Dirty” power is another common threat, and the best way to combat this is through the use of a power conditioner. A power conditioner also acts as a surge protector, and it is a higher-end alternative to simply a surge protector alone. Here are the best power conditioners for home theater.
Do: Take proper care of your equipment.
Don’t: Expect your equipment to last a long time without maintenance and care.
While equipment does take care of itself to some degree, there will always be a need for regular maintenance and proper care. But you can easily make the mistake of relying on the manufacturers to make equipment that takes care of itself.
Make sure to power down components before making connections, so that your equipment’s loads don’t damage each other. Be sure to keep your equipment clean at all times. Dust and grime can easily build up and damage your investments. Additionally, if you experience a problem with your equipment at any time, be sure to get it checked out by a professional before it becomes a big problem and/or damages other equipment. All equipment comes with a warranty of some type, so make sure to look into it when the need arises.
Do: Get to know the in’s and out’s of your equipment.
Don’t: Forego getting to know your equipment, because you’re too ready to enjoy it.
A lot of times, people do not pay attention to manuals when setting up equipment, furniture, etc. They like the challenge of figuring it out on their own, and this goes for home theater equipment too, which can be a big problem. When you don’t get to know the in’s and out’s of your equipment, you may set it up improperly, and you may not optimize it correctly. There may be parts of it that you should know about that you don’t, and you may not even be using it correctly.
Reading manuals is a great way to get to know every feature of each of your home theater components, and you may find things out about your equipment that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Don’t think you know everything off the bat. Figure out every little detail about your investment, so that you can be sure to own the equipment and not let it own you.
Do: Analyze and adjust your sound properly for your space.
Don’t: Over or under power your system.
When it comes to the sound in your home theater room, don’t rely on automatic or standard settings. Your individual room has its own unique sound needs, and it’s best to optimize your sound for your room. There are test/setup DVDs that you can buy to optimize your sound and video together, and a lot of receivers have programs to optimize your equipment with your room.
While it may take some time to get the sound right, it’s best to take a good chunk of time toward making sure each of your components is giving off the right sound for the space. You don’t want a subwoofer that is overtaking the sound, and you don’t want to turn your surround sound speakers up too high that they blow out quickly, something that can also happen to soundbars as well (our explanation why). Make sure you’re optimizing the overall sound, not just one component. Sit in different areas of the room to hear different experiences, and make sure you are happy with the sound in all areas.
Do: Consider updating and upgrading your furniture, lighting, and decor.
Don’t: Think that a home theater is complete with great sound alone.
When you love a great sound, it’s easy to get caught up in the sound equipment, because it is your top priority. But believe it or not, a great sound isn’t everything you need for the best home theater, in fact, if you’ve read our full tutorial, you’d know there are many ways to improve an entertainment system. Everything in the room will add or subtract to your listening and watching experience, not just the sound.
Take a look at your home theater room’s lighting, furniture, and decor. Is there a theme you want to include in your room? Do your chairs need cupholders? Could you use a dimmer on your lights? Do you need room darkening curtains or window shades to offset the light that your windows bring in? Is a sofa upgrade in your future? What could you do to upgrade your home theater, beyond your sound and TV? Don’t forget to keep these things in mind, because they can make a big difference in your overall enjoyment.
Do: Take the installation process seriously.
Don’t: Forget to ask for professional help if you need it.
Home theater equipment installation should be taken very seriously. You should make sure that you are performing your installation at a professional level, or you should be asking for help. There’s a specific process that you need to follow, and you need to make sure you’re properly connecting your cables and equipment. You’ll need a handful of tools to complete the process to the highest degree, and you have to make sure everything sounds right together. Each component needs to be in the optimal location, too.
If you haven’t set up a home theater before and you have big dreams for yours, you’re going to want to get professional help. A proper setup process gives you peace of mind and makes your equipment optimized as a whole from the beginning. Make sure to keep the installation process in your budget, if you need a professional to make your room great. It’s worth it in the long run.
Do: Consider future purchases.
Don’t: Just buy for the present.
Technology is constantly changing and advancing, and so are our wants and needs. What you want today may be different than what you want in a few years. When you’re investing in home theater equipment, you’re going to want to optimize your purchases beyond the present. For example, if you want to purchase a soundbar, you want to make sure it is going to work optimally with future TV purchases. Otherwise, you’re probably going to be spending another several hundred dollars on a soundbar with your next TV.
Overall, your equipment needs to work with future technology. Higher grade technology is always going to work with older technology, but older technology will not always work optimally with higher grade technology. If you buy a soundbar that can work with a 4K TV that you don’t have currently but may buy in the future, it is a good purchase. It saves you money to spend more on a better product now than to buy another component of the same type in a few years.
What do you need for a home theater? There are many different components in a home theater system, and if you want to go all out for your home theater, you need to make room in your budget for:
- A display – TVs, projectors, and projector screens
- A receiver
- Speakers – Integrated speaker systems, sound bars, and surround systems
- Media devices – Cable boxes, gaming systems, smart TV devices, Blu-ray and DVD players, computers, etc.
- Remote controls – Infrared, radio-frequency, internet protocol and RS-232
Learn more about different options for each of the necessary home theater components.
What is considered a small home theater room? A small room for a home theater is typically under 1,000 cubic feet. While a room that is 8 ft tall x 10 ft wide x 12 ft deep fits one of L.W. Sepmeyer’s “golden room” ratios optimally, it may not fit everyone comfortably, and you may be sitting too close to the screen. Learn more about home theater dimensions and how much room is needed for optimal enjoyment.