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Podcast #614: Ultimate Home Theater in a Box

There are so many Home Theater in a Box systems out there many of which cost less than $400. But seriously, what can you get for $400. A good center channel typically costs more than most HTIB systems on the market today. Each year we try to assemble a Home Theater in many boxes that we would be proud to show off in our homes. Our system will have at a minimum a HDTV, Blu-ray Player, Receiver, and 5.1 speakers.

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Ultimate Home Theater in a Box

There are so many Home Theater in a Box systems out there many of which cost less than $400. But seriously, what can you get for $400. A good center channel typically costs more than most HTIB systems on the market today. Each year we try to assemble a Home Theater in many boxes that we would be proud to show off in our homes. Our system will have at a minimum a HDTV, Blu-ray Player, Receiver, and 5.1 speakers.

For this feature we choose components that we either have direct experience with or have experience with a similar model made by the same manufacturer. In years past we would set a maximum price but this year we are not doing that. We are defining a system that can had by anyone who is serious about home theater. These system will look and sound great by anyone’s definition!



Sharp LC-80LE757 80-inch Aquos Quattron 1080p 240Hz Smart LED 3D HDTV ($3688)

It’s hard to pass up an 80” TV when you can have it for less than $4000. I was trying to keep the budget to under $6000 or so, but when you consider that an 80” TV is nearly front projection size, and it doesn’t suffer from ambient light issues or degrade at all during the day, the $3688 price is a great deal.  It has the exclusive Quattron color technology that delivers a billion more colors, so you get a more powerful picture with brighter yellows, deeper blues, and richer golds. And it has a 240Hz Refresh Rate with AquoMotion 480 that doubles the effective refresh rate so you can see sharper fast-action movies and sports. And it’s a smart TV, so need need to add an external streaming player for apps. For those who want to save a little, scale down to a 70” TV, the VIZIO E701i-A3 70-inch 1080p 120Hz Razor LED Smart HDTV is just as smart, but only costs $1498.


Denon AVR-X3000 7.2-Channel 4K Ultra HD Networking Receiver with AirPlay ($899)

It’s no secret Denon is my favorite receiver brand, and the X3000 made our Receiver Buying Guide for a reason. It packs a ton of features, quality and big sound into a very reasonable price. It has 7 HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs for multiple zone viewing. The X3000 comes with Audyssey’s Gold package so you can get your sound exactly the way you want it. The unit is Airplay and Windows 8 compatible and comes with Denon Remote app for mobile devices. The receiver's network functionality supports Internet radio services such as SiriusXM, Pandora, and Spotify. Like we said in the Buying Guide, there are many more features than we can’t list. It’s a very capable receiver and will last you for years.


Klipsch RF-42 II Reference Series 7.1 Home Theater System ($1494)

Going back to the trusty favorites, Klipsch has never let me down. They make incredibly high quality, supremely efficient speakers that sound great and are easy to listen to. The provide the detail you need for subtle soundtracks and effects in movies and the power you need for all the big explosions. Movies and music will sound just as they were intended to - no matter the room type or size - with the power, detail and emotion of Klipsch Reference II sound. This system includes: 1 RC-42 II Center Channel Speaker, 2 RF-42 II Tower Speakers, 2 RS-41 II Surround Speakers, 2 RB-41 II Bookshelf Speakers and 1 Klipsch SW-110 Subwoofer. This system gets you into 7.1 sound at a great price. There’s nothing keeping you from upgrading each of the parts over time, like the subwoofer or maybe a bigger center channel.


Samsung BD-F5900 3D Wi-Fi Blu-ray Disc Player ($98)

Unless you’re buying the OPPO, a Blu-ray player is a Blu-ray player. This Samsung unit ticks all the boxes for what you need in a solid performer, and it adds a couple uniques features as well. For example, S-Recommendation helps you find new things to watch, and Samsung Apps offer you new ways to entertain. It has a built-in web browser and Wi-Fi and allows you to stream from your other devices with AllShare. It supports 3D if that’s what you’re into and can up-convert your favorite DVDs to near Blu-ray quality. Of course it has all the standard apps as well, like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu and Pandora, so there’s no need for a secondary streaming player.


You can’t have a good home theater without a good universal remote, so throw in a Logitech Harmony 650 Remote Control for $60 to round out the package. Sure it isn’t the best in the Harmony line, but it controls everything in the package: TV, Receiver, Blu-ray player, Set Top (for Cable or Satellite), with one slot left for a device to be added later. You have to provide your own batteries, but pick up a few rechargeables and you’re all set.

Figure around $200 for miscellaneous cables and connectors, and the package is complete.


Total cost, not including shipping or tax, for a complete home theater with an 80” television and 7.1 surround sound comes out to $6439. I was shooting for a $6000 budget, and came pretty close. It’s difficult to fathom that a budget of $6000 can get you an 80” HDTV. If you need to scale back a bit, you can get the same system, but with a 70” HDTV for only $4249. That’s unreal. A 70” TV is gigantic, and the 7.1 surround sound will completely immerse you in the experience. Not a bad way to get into HDTV and Surround sound all at once without breaking the bank.



Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 65-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma TV $3200

Well this should be no surprise to anyone. I picked a plasma TV. I still think plasmas produce the best picture out there and for the price its hard to beat. My first HDTV cost me $4000 for a 50 inch DLP that was 720p. For $800 less I get 15 more inches on the diagonal and weighs the same. We were blown away by the picture when we saw it in a light controlled room. And that’s the Key, while it will produce a great picture during the daylight it really excels in darker rooms. So make sure you have window covering when watching movies during the day. If you are watching normal daytime fare it won’t be an issue. The TV is a Smart TV with all the apps, controls, and gimmicks that come with it. You can connected it to your network so your iRule or Roomie remotes can control it via Ethernet. But the main sale for me is the glorious picture! Get these before they are gone forever.


Yamaha RX-A2030 9.2-Channel Network Aventage Audio Video Receiver $1600

I was going to go with a receiver that was on our Receiver Buying Guide but then I figured I want to try everything. Having owned three Yamaha receivers and recommending hundreds more I decided to go with the Aventage line. Every aspect of this receiver is about sound. From the parts used to the vibration dampening mechanics this receiver is for those who want a high quality audio experience. It too has all the niceties of the other receivers on our list: 4K, iOS/Android app, Airplay, Auto calibration and a ton more. Being a 9.2 receiver you will be prepared for the future what ever that ends up being!


Aperion Audio Intimus speakers and Hsu VTF-3 MK4 subwoofer 7.1 Speaker System (Total Cost $1970)

For this system I am pairing the Intimus speakers with a HSU Research subwoofer. We’ll start with two Intimus 4T Tower speakers ($320 each), one Intimus 4C center channel ($160), and four Intimus 4B bookshelf speakers ($260/pair). Aperion is a fantastic speaker company out of Portland Oregon. They offer a free 30 day in home audition at no risk to you. The Intimus line sounds great and will match quite nicely with the Yamaha receiver. On the subwoofer side you know I am going to select the one that rocks my home theater, the VTF-3 MK4 ($650). Its a good sized subwoofer that packs a wallop!    


OPPO BDP-103 Universal Disc Player (SACD / DVD-Audio / 3D Blu-ray) $500

There are so many blu-ray players out there for less than $100 so why go with the $500 oppo. The main reason is video processing. The Oppo has Marvell's Kyoto-G2H video processor with the latest generation Qdeo technology will mean all the content whether blu-ray, DVD, or streamed video will look its best. Plus you can connect a cable or set top box to the Oppo and scale and process its video with the Kyoto-G2H. And that makes this the best choice out there for Blu-ray!


AppleTV $90

I know what you are asking, Why get an AppleTV when your Blu-ray player and TV already support the same content. For me its about flexibility. Airplay makes it easy to stream content from my iOS devices to my TV plus I have a lot of purchases in iTunes so my music, TV, and Movies are in Apple’s cloud and this device makes it easy to get to. If you are not into Apple you can swap out a Chromcast or Roku 3 for the same price. Well for the Chromcast you’ll get a rebate :-)


This is where we throw in everything else. But in this case there really isn’t much else left. Well maybe a cool remote control. A Harmony Remote would tie it all together nicely but if you have a tablet or smartphone you may want to consider a Roomie or iRule remote. Which ever route you choose we are allocating $200. this assume you already have a tablet or phone if you go that route.

The last thing to consider is cables, power strips, and connectors. We will allocate an additional $250 for these items as well.


In years past we would limit ourselves to a specific dollar amount but that would also limit our choices. This system, while not cheap, won’t break the bank and will be considered outstanding by anyone in the industry. Sure you can do better, but the additional cost may not produce a noticeably better experience. So without further ado… Ara’s ultimate home theater Christmas gift comes in at $7810 plus taxes. That is pretty insane for what you get. Consider Braden’s first 42 inch enhanced definition (DVD quality) plasma was $5000 and as stated earlier Ara’s 720P DLP was $4000. Enjoy!




Download Episode #614

Reader Comments (1)

I bought the OPPO after hearing about in when you had a contest to give one away. This is a great product. Netflix seems to have a better picture with this system and the Blu-Ray disks look better too.
I would like a recommendation for a more affordable receiver with 5.1 surround. I will never use the 7 or 9 versions.
Something around $400 would be great.

December 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJerry

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