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Friday
Dec152017

Podcast #822: Ultimate Home Theater in a Box for 2017

Each year we design a Home Theater setup that is considerably better than a typical home theater in a box. We have seen complete setups for less than $500 from manufacturers like Sony and Panasonic that quite frankly do not sound good. While our system costs more than a name brand HTIB your satisfaction will be dramatically more. Plus we include EVERYTHING you need to actually setup a home theater. Minimum components for our system are a HDTV, Blu-ray Player, Receiver, and 7.1 speakers.

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Ultimate Home Theater in a Box for 2017

Each year we design a Home Theater setup that is considerably better than a typical home theater in a box. We have seen complete setups for less than $500 from manufacturers like Sony and Panasonic that quite frankly do not sound good. While our system costs more than a name brand HTIB your satisfaction will be dramatically more. Plus we include EVERYTHING you need to actually setup a home theater.  Minimum components for our system are a HDTV, Blu-ray Player, Receiver, and 7.1 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.  We are defining a system that can had by anyone who is serious about home theater. These systems will look and sound great by anyone’s definition!


Braden

LG Electronics 65UJ7700 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2017 Model) ($1047)

I was tempted to go with the TCL 65C807 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV because of my love for all things TCL and Roku, but the LG is a hair cheaper right now ($50) and packs a little more future-proofing inside. The LG has WebOS 3.5 for the smarts. I’ve never used it, but it sounds like it could work. It is full 4k, and supports all three HDR specs, HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. It has local dimming for those awesome, inky blacks, it supports wide color gamut and has LG technologies for True Color Accuracy and Ultra Luminance. I really wanted to go with a bigger TV, but this one packs quite a punch at only $1047.


Denon AVR-S730H 7.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Receiver ($429)

This year’s theme is bang for the buck, and you can’t make your dollar go any further than the receiver both Ara and I chose as our entry model for this year’s Receiver Buying Guide. At the time we did the guide, the unit was on sale for $349. It is now running for $429, but still an excellent value. It has built-in HEOS wireless technology, Bluetooth, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Audyssey MultEQ, Dolby Vision compatible, HDR, and you can control it with Amazon Alexa voice commands.  You also get full 4K Ultra HD, HDCP 2.2, HDR, BT.2020, Wide Color Gamut and 4:4:4 Pure Color sub-sampling. HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) via future firmware update. Every feature you need to match the capability of the LG TV.


LG 4K Ultra HD 3D Blu-ray Player with HDR ($149)

Do you really need a Blu-ray player? Perhaps not. I haven’t used one in years. But others swear by the quality you can only get on physical media. And if you’re looking for good 4k content, that may be even more true. And besides, Ara and I agreed we needed one in the setup, so I had to include one. This LG unit is great for the occasional 4k Blu-ray movie night. It isn’t videophile grade gear, but it’s going to do a perfect job with 4K content, can probably hold its own on upscaling 1080p discs and supports HDR. What’s not to love?


Polk Audio TSi 300 7.1 Home Theater Speaker System ($1009)

Speakers caused me the most consternation this year. I didn’t know if I should go with speakers for Dolby Atmos, or just a classic 7.1, or maybe a 5.1 that could be upgraded to either, … too many options. So I took the cheap way out. The Polk TSi 300 system is an excellent value for a full 7.1 setup. It gives you flexibility to move some speakers around if you want to try some of the 3D audio formats. And, with tower speakers for the fronts, the setup looks legit in your home theater. The speakers aren’t going to win any awards or change the way you perceive reality, but they will look great, sound great and absolutely compliment the Denon and LG.


Summary

Add $200 for a few cables and a remote and we’re looking at an all-in cost of $2834. My total cost for a system back in 2015 that was a very similar 7.1 setup with a 65” TV was $1000 more expensive at $3960, and that was a 1080p TV, not 4K (granted the 2015 speakers were superior, thus explaining some of the cost difference).


Ara

My theme this year is bang for the buck. I want to be able to get someone started in this hobby with a good system that doesn’t break the bank. I am not getting the largest TV or best of anything. What my system will be is way better than any HTIB set you can buy and will make you happy every time you sit down to watch something.


Sony KD55X720E 55-Inch 4k Ultra HD Smart LED TV (2017 Model) $698

I went with the Sony off of my TV buying guide. It checks all the boxes: HDR, Wide Color Gamut and a Smart TV to boot. But what really makes this TV special is that it does a great job with non-HDR content. This TV will serve you well now and when you are ready to upgrade in size you can move it out to a game room or man cave.


Denon AVRS730H 7.2 Channel 165W AV Receiver with Built-in HEOS wireless technology $429

This receiver is my entry receiver from this year’s buying guide. But there is nothing entry about it's set of features. The main thing here is that it supports 4K HDR as well as all the new object based audio codecs. This is a great entry receiver to hold you over for a few years until you are ready for an upgrade.


Sony UBP-X800 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player $198

There is not a whole lot to say about this player. Of course it supports 4K HDR and wide color. This player makes whole A/V chain 4K HDR compliant. Other features include Netflix, Amazon Prime, and youtube. There is even support for high res audio. Bottom line, this player can play just about every disc, audio, and video format available. We have come a very long way!!


RSL CG3 7.1 Speaker System $1319

RSL (Rogersound Labs) has been building speakers since the early 70s. The CG3 line of speakers are small and thus perfect for the starter system. With CG3s it should be easy to convince the spouse that putting seven small(er) speakers in the family room will not interfere with the home decor. RSL speakers include their patented Compression Guide which reduces cabinet resonance. That means the sound coming out of your speakers are coming from the drivers and not sound wave reflections off the cabinet. This results in tight bass across all frequencies. If you are a music lover you know that many HTIB speakers are setup for movie watching. You won’t have to compromise with these speakers because RSL speakers are designed to sound good with music first. The speakers themselves cost more than the rest of my system combined but they are also the one thing that will last you through multiple TV and Receiver upgrades. We have talked with their founder, Joe Rogers, and you won't meet anyone more passionate about building high performance speakers that the common person can buy.


Summary

I did not include a set top box this year since the TV and UHD player have you covered for just about any smart TV app you want. The total cost for my Ultimate Home Theater in a Box is... $2644. Throw in another $106 for cables and incidentals and you have a grand total of $2750. About $250 less than my first 720p DLP that I purchased all those years ago. Yes you can buy a traditional HTIB system for 1/10 this cost. But it won’t have a TV or a UHD player. And the speakers will, quite frankly, sound like trash. My system is designed to get you up and running right out of the gate and will only need minimal upgrades over the next five to ten years.


 

 

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