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Friday
Dec142018

Podcast #874: Ultimate Home Theater in a Box for 2018

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 an HDTV, a receiver, a means to get content (streaming box, etc) and speakers.

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Ultimate Home Theater in a Box for 2018

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 an HDTV, a receiver, a means to get content (streaming box, etc) and 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:

Our goal has always been to build the Ultimate Home Theater in a Box without breaking the bank. The ultimate home theater on a budget, if you will. It has been interesting to watch the prices of equipment fall over the years to where we are able to build really nice, really brag-worthy systems without having to take out a personal loan. All of the gear in my Ultimate Box might total up to less than the cost of any year I’ve built yet.

 

TV

TCL 65" 65R617 4K UHD Dolby Vision HDR Roku Smart LCD TV $999

It wouldn’t be a Braden TV list without a TCL on it. TCL's 6-Series delivers 4K HDR picture performance and the Roku TV smart platform in one. Dolby Vision for greater brightness and contrast, as well as a fuller palette of rich colors. TCL's Contrast Control Zone technology individually optimizes the image across up to 120 zones for better contrast. The 6-Series models’ iPQ Engine™ provides precise color replication while HDR Pro Gamma is supposed to improve HDR performance in any setting. It has an enhanced remote control with Voice Control and 3 HDMI 2.0a ports with HDCP 2.2 (1 ARC).

 

Receiver

Marantz SR6012 $949 (MSRP $1499)

9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD Network AV Surround Receiver with HEOS

I just bought this receiver for myself - will be putting it under the tree just for me. The deal was too good to pass up. And I need a new one anyway. And it features Dolby Atmos and DTS:X surround decoding, with the ability to drive overhead speakers. It is equipped with 9 channel amplification, rated at 110 watts per channel, so you can set up a 7.1.2 or 5.1.4 3D experience without an external amplifier; with an additional amp the set-up can expand to 7.1.4, because it has 11.2 channel processing support. It has the latest HDMI and HDCP 2.2 specifications on all 8 HDMI inputs. With 4K Ultra HD 60Hz video, 4:4:4 Pure Color sub-sampling, High Dynamic Range (HDR), 21:9 video, 3D, and BT.2020 and Dolby Vision pass-through on every input. And in addition, HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) pass-through is also supported for forthcoming HDR broadcasting contents, and eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) will be supported via a firmware update as well.

 

Speakers

Klipsch Black Reference Theater Pack 5.1 Surround Sound System $849

Sure, this is only 5.1 and the receiver will do 9, but it’s a great start with really great sounding speakers. You can add on as many additional satellite speakers, or Klipsch reference in wall or in ceiling speakers, as you have budget for them. Did I mention the subwoofer is wireless? Klipsch's exclusive Tractrix Horn Technology and aluminum tweeters deliver very clean and very natural sound. The down-firing wireless subwoofer is designed to deliver room-filling low frequencies without requiring too much floorspace. To complement the easy placement of the wireless subwoofer, each satellite speaker has a keyhole mount and a threaded insert for maximum mounting flexibility. The Reference Theater Pack brings the Klipsch cinematic sound into your home with an incredibly minimal footprint.

 

Other/Total/Summary

Yup. Looks and feels like me. TCL/Roku television, Marantz receiver (I’m typically Denon, but Marantz is a close sibling), and Klipsch speakers. All of that for a grand total of $2797.  That’s less than half the price of my first plasma. And all you need to hook it up is a bit of speaker wire and a single HDMI cable. Your phone can control the Roku TV and the Receiver, so no need for a universal remote. The TV has all your apps and the receiver can get audio from the apps via ARC for surround sound. Unless you want to connect a traditional cable or satellite box, or a Blu-ray player, everything you need is in the box.

Some years passed have had bigger TVs, some have had more speakers (7.1), some have had more accessories. But this system, for as basic as it seems, is really awesome. And very affordable. The 75” upgrade would add $1000 if you stick with TCL, but can be as little as $400 more if you choose a different brand (which may mean adding a streaming box as well). The 86” upgrade adds $2000 to the price, for a total of $4797. Also swaps TV brands to LG. Honestly, under $5000 for this system is unreal.

 

Ara:

This year I am striving for the lowest cost quality experience that I can assemble. I spent $3000 for my fist HDTV so my goal is to come in with a full system for less than that original HDTV. Other requirements will be 4K UHD, quality picture, and good sound. I am not including a blu-ray player as I feel streaming has come a long way and since this is geared towards the budget minded the quality will be just fine.

 

TV

LG 65" Class (64.5" Diag) 4K UHD LED LCD 65UK6090PUA  ($650 at Costco)

This TV is larger, better, and much cheaper than my original HDTV. It's 4K my first DLP was 720p. It supports HDR and wide color and is a smart TV. Even though this is a “budget” pick it will produce a picture that you will have no issues watching regardless of what you are watching.

 

Receiver

Sony STR-DN1080 7.2 Channel Home Theater AV Receiver ($450 Street Price)

For the receiver I went with my budget choice from the receiver buying guide. For the price this receiver is hard to beat! It's a 7.2 receiver that supports all the latest audio formats including Atmos and DTS:X. Throw in 4K UHD compatibility with support for HDR (HDR10, HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma), and Dolby Vision) and you have a reasonably priced receiver that will serve you well for many years to come. Other features include: Hi-Res compatible, 6 HDMI in and 2 out, Bluetooth Connectivity with NFC one touch, and Wifi, Airplay, and Chromecast compatibility.

 

Speakers

SVS Prime Satellite 5.1 System ($1000)

Even in my budget minded setup I spend a little more money on speakers than you would think. Sound is so important and bad speakers can ruin the experience. My original setup included a Yamaha home theater in a box that cost $1000 which included speakers that at most would have been about $150 of that total. These SVS speakers are high quality and include an excellent subwoofer (SB-1000) which is a 12 inch unit that goes as low as 24Hz!!

 

Other/Total/Summary

Set Top Box of your choice ($150) - AppleTV, FireTV, Roku, etc. You want a movie or TV service and all of these boxes have more or less the same experience.

Wires/Cables $100 - Gotta hook it all up!

Total Cost - $2350

For $2350 you will have a system that you can be proud to show off and use for years. At some point I would upgrade the receiver and TV but the speakers are something that will last for years. You may want to add more channels and maybe 3D audio but it would be just adding on not replacing.


 

 

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