So, I'm your average guy. Except I have a degree in Film and TV Production, so, of course, I enjoy watching TV and films.
I bought a 16:9 video camera a while back, and I was shocked at how great it looked. And then I plugged it into the firewire port on my dell laptop and used the software that came with my computer to make a video... I used to sell systems that did this back in the early 90's for over $50,000...
I began to wonder what was now possible in the home theater market...
I'm not some audiophile, and I don't like to spend a bunch of money on "name" brand stuff... But, I like good sound, and great picture quality.
I wanted a theater in my basement that I just finished. I talked to a bunch of "theater" stores, and they all wanted a TON of money to do a 130" system in my basement. And I figured it really can't be that hard to do one for a reasonable budget. The local Best buy and Circuit city had no clue...
So I made of a budget of say, $2,000.00.
I put in my system about 3 months ago (selling stuff on ebay to support my "habit"), and I've been saving up for my screen. Which I got yesterday, and put together and installed.
Researching for this project, I found that it is hard to figure out what you need. Luckily we had a home show (homearama) here in town right when I was ready to start buying, so I checked out the $80,000 dollar systems all the way down to the $5,000 dollar systems and used the knowledge I gained to put in my own theater.
I just installed my screen last night, and other than doing some final adjustment of the color, I am simply amazed.
But, I figured this would be a good place to put down what I figured out, and learned from all my research. If you have a room where you can control the sunlight (we use blinds during the day). This is an amazing system for the money. And very easy to install.
First off you need a good projector. These are VERY difficult to judge because hardly anyone has them installed so that you can see what they look like. I was lucky enough to see a Mitsubishi HC 1500 about 2 years ago at a home theater showroom here in Cincinnati, (which since went out of business). It is a 720p DLP projector (meaning it doesn't have the "latest and greatest" resolution of 1080p.) But, most broadcast is filmed in 720 still because the 1080 camera equipment is SOOO expensive... They broadcast the 720 signal at 1080 resolution. So it isn't as crisp as it could be, but it is MUCH better than a 480 projector. And it is DLP (digital light processing) so the color is AMAZING. Lamp life is about 2,000 hours on high quality mode, so you will need to budget a bulb every 3 years or so, projection tv's are the same. (I did read that some people see “rainbows” with this type of projector, but no one in my family, or any of my friends, has this issue)
Also, you want 16:9 aspect ratio native. This makes sure that it is the largest size possible without black bars around the image. The other thing you want is and HDMI input on your projector, if you want to set it up like mine.
I got my Mitsubishi HC1500 projector from Amazon for under $800 shipped.
The next critical component is the receiver. I wanted a receiver that upconverted. Which means it takes HDMI inputs, and component and increases the resolution to 1080. So even 480 from tv looks good (although it is 4:3 aspect ratio). The biggest reason I wanted to go with an upconverting receiver is because if you are like me and enjoy playing the wii with your kids, the quality of the upconversion is amazing. Your Mii will jump off the screen in clarity. Now, when I bowl in my private bowling alley in my basement, my youngest daughter (who beats me consistantly) her Mii character is actually larger than she is!
I picked the Onkyo 606 7.1 receiver from Circuit city with a coupon for $400. It has 4 HDMI inputs and a couple of component inputs (all of those inputs are upconverted to 1080p if you use the HDMI output on the receiver.)
Next with a projector you don't have a TV tuner. And half the fun is being able to watch TV in high def. I'm not a NASCAR fan, but WOW, in high def even I will sit down and watch a while! I didn't want to pay for the satellite companies HD channels at an additional $15 a month... Here is a great workaround, I picked up a Panasonic DMR-EZ48V VHS and DVD recorder with digital tuner (open box buy for $200 at circuit city). Plugged into my home antenna (a Wineguard 2002 omni directional antenna mounted on my roof) I get free HDTV from about 25 different channels. Just run the HDMI cable out of the dvd recorder into your receiver, and all video and audio is connected with one cable. (another tip is to buy your cables off ebay, they are MUCH cheaper than buying them at your local big box store for a pretty penny...) After I started watching in HDTV, I ended up switching to Direct TV with a HD receiver in my basement, and also upstairs… So, I could have gone with a cheaper DVD player. But, I like being able to record. I wish I had gone with a HD DVR... We use our DVR upstairs so much that when we go to the theater downstairs we always miss being able to pause and rewind...
I picked up a component cable for my wii for $6.00 (ebay)
HDMI cable 6 foot for $6.00 (ebay)
HDMI cable to run to my projector 50 foot for $50.00 (ebay)
All shipped directly to my house.
Now you need sound. The onkyo 606 is a 7.1 surround sound, which is only available if you have a blue ray disk, but it also "simulates" 7.1 so that all speakers play, and sound great.
I didn't want to spend an arm and a leg on speakers that would just hide inside the wall, so I did a bunch of research and the best value for my money was Acoustic audio's 7.1 surround speakers available on ebay for $160. for the HT-87.
Wow, was I impressed, they sound AMAZING. (and not only because they were relatively cheap) I'd put them next to my father in laws, Bose AM series! in sound quality.
Plus they were very easy to install with the furnished cardboard cutout piece, Just mark it on your drywall and cut it out, and the speakers go right in. The only thing I did was throw away the cheap speaker wire they came with and put in some beefy speaker wire instead.
After seeing the quality of these acoustic audio speakers, I decided that I would try out their powered subwoofer. Since they had great range, and at the cost they just couldn't be beat price wise. So I picked up a 12" down firing 500 watt home theater sub for $129 shipped. WOW, is it amazing, it really rattles the windows, I have it turned down to 1/4 power and it still shakes the floor! (I got my speakers off ebay seller name thedeepdiscount or www.thedeepdiscount.com
) they arrived in 2 days and shipping was only $9.99!
I can't say enough about how amazing my theater sounds. And even on my dark colored wall the projector looks amazing. I put in my new screen (from ebay, seller “shoppingdeals”) last night, easy to install and looks great. They made it custom for me for only $260 shipped. With black felt boarder, and easily stretchable and high quality.
I got my projector mount from ebay as well, from seller name kramerica_incorporated, it is an excellent mount, and came with every type of hardware to install it in any situation. For $50 shipped!
The only drawback to a projector is that if you have windows shining on the wall where the projector will shine, it will wash out and not be watch able. So make sure you have an area where you can control the lighting. I put in can lights on dimmers in my area so that I can turn off the lights above the screen, but still have lighting over the seats to be able to see all those little buttons on the three remote controls!
A couple of years ago, when I did my framing layout for my basement, I figured I would have 5.1 surround sound, so I did have to go back and run an HDMI cable, as well as two speaker wires for the extra 2 rear speakers. But, after a bit of elbow grease, and a small hole cut into the drywall, I had all the cables run. I also put in dynamat extreme on my ductwork, and furnace. My HVAC system is so quiet now you don't even hear it kick on or off... My next "upgrade" will be to buy Dynamic Control dynabox's for all my in wall speakers to keep the sound in the basement.
I have my projector about 17 feet from the wall, and I am projecting it 10 feet across which is 120 inches wide! Since they figure screen size by diagonal, it ends up being a 130 inch TV…
You should see how big your Wii characters are on it!
But, it is a fun way to spend the evening, and with the cost of gas, and the ticket prices today. I'd rather set up my own theater in my basement and rent old movies from the library to entertain my kids, or "take" them bowling at home!
With the cost of a standard HDTV today, you can get this amazing system for less money than their largest set type TV, and you will be thrilled with the picture quality, sound, and everyone will want to watch movies and TV at your house.
With all the work it took to figure out what was needed, I wanted to put it all down so others could save all this trouble and know exactly what they need if they want to have a home theater.
Mitsubishi HC 1500 $760.00
Onkyo 606 receiver $400.00
DVD player with upconverting $150.00
Acoustic Audio HT-87 7.1 in-wall speakers $160.00
Acoustic Audio 12” 500watt sub $130.00
Custom 130” Fixed Theater screen $260.00
Projector ceiling mount $50.00
HDMI cables $56.00
Speaker wire $30.00