Home Theater Systems - Price Guide

Choosing a System

Home theater systems

When you’re buying a home theater system, one of the choices you face is whether to buy a complete set of equipment or mix and match. Should you go for simplicity and compatibility, and buy everything from one manufacturer, or should you cherry-pick what you consider to be the best piece of equipment from each manufacturer?

The good news for people buying mid-range home theater systems is that compatibility usually isn’t too much of a problem. For example, a Toshiba TV will usually work perfectly well with a Nicam stereo sound system. However, you should always check out the compatibility of your equipment before you leave the store. If you can’t get a satisfactory answer about whether or not everything will work together, don’t buy.

At the high end of the home theater market, you start to run into problems with compatibility. A lot of expensive systems come as a package. (For this reason, they’re sometimes known as integrated systems.) The parts of these systems are specially designed to work with each other, and they won’t work as well with equipment from other manufacturers. Such integrated systems may also come with their own cables for linking the different pieces of equipment together.

Many cheap home theaters are also integrated systems, although they don’t have the high quality of more expensive models. Cheap integrated systems are also known as home theater in a box systems, for the obvious reason that everything is packaged in one box, ready to take home from the store. These systems can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, and usually represent a substantial discount when compared to buying all the parts individually. They’re usually easier to assemble than other kinds of system, which is great news for novice home theater owners.

However, a home theater in a box usually doesn’t have the quality that you get from choosing mid-range equipment separately. You should also be aware that boxed systems usually don’t include a display screen.

If you want to choose each piece of equipment individually, on its own merits, you should make an exception to this rule when you’re buying the speakers. Your surround sound system will work better if you buy the speakers from the same manufacturer. Speakers work as a team, and it’s important for your sound quality that they match as closely as possible. If you do want to buy your speakers from two or three different manufacturers, make sure that they are timbre matched – in other words, that the frequencies they produce are in sync.


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