Home Theater Audio System – Buyer’s Guide

by Jane on February 14, 2018

Projectors and flat screen TV’s – finding better audio for your home theater experience.

Pretty much the most glaring weakness of all projectors is the lack of strength (loudness) of their internal speakers. Some are ridiculously weak. Others may be a bit louder, maybe, good enough for students to strain to hear parts of a presentation in a small classroom.

Truthfully, if you plan to create a great home theater experience, no projector will provide stunning audio to go along with a great video. The same can also be said about the audio flat TVs provide. We understand the frustration this brings.

You pay good money for a great picture but where is the audio? Some people think excluding quality speakers from projectors and flat TVs is done on purpose to force the consumer to spend extra money on external audio sources. We understand and sympathize with these thoughts. However, the truth is not so nefarious.

Why the internal speakers suck

You know yourself, small sells, everyone wants small display profiles.

Everything is getting smaller because that’s what people want. Small is what sells today. TVs are made ultra thin, projectors are made portable, small enough to hold in one hand. But the problem with this, powerful speakers can’t be fit into these small display profiles. So audio is sacrificed.

External Sound Solutions

You may already have a high quality audio system in your home to connect to your projector. Many people do, if you do then you are set. However, if you don’t, you might want to think about buying some type of system to upgrade the sound over those poor internal speakers. Even a somewhat cheap system will greatly outperform the internal speakers of a projector or flat TV.

The right (wrong) audio match for home movies

First, we will cover the wrong way to buy. As we mentioned, even a cheap audio system can provide better sound quality compared to weak internal speakers. For the most part this is true, however, we wouldn’t recommend buying the cheapest (generic) speakers you can find.

One year my father went around town to the dollar store and other cheap outlets searching speakers for his flat screen TV. More than once he brought home absolute generic junk. Speakers that didn’t even work or maybe he couldn’t figure out how to make them work. I think by his third try he finally got something that worked and he was satisfied with. He was easily impressed, we were not. Granted, the sound was better than what his TV provided but he could have gotten a lot better.

As he was wasting his time and money, we asked him why not just buy a brand name name soundbar? Considering how much time he wasted driving around from store to store and not being able to return one of his faulty purchases, he could have researched and ordered it online. Doing it this was, in the end, would not have cost him much more and he would have ended up with higher quality audio + minus the frustration.

Soundbar or Full Home Audio System

If you truly want a quality audio system to match the high quality video from your projector or flat screen TV, don’t do what my father did (described above).

Depending on how big and powerful of a set-up you want and how much money you are willing to spend there are two basic choices, either a soundbar or a complete home audio package. We will try to lead you in the right direction by describing the pro’s and con’s of each of these choices.

Why (why not) buy a Soundbar?

Biggest advantages of a soundbar: Easy to set-up, affordable and less wires compared to traditional speaker systems. These also take up a lot less space and can be wall-mounted.
Biggest disadvantage: Audio. Unless buying one of the top soundbars the vast majority of soundbars do not provide the same audio quality as a speaker system. With that said, even inexpensive soundbars will provide audio a step above internal speakers of a projector and flat screen TV.

If you need more detailed information visit our soundbar buyer’s guide. If you need a couple recommendations, the following list is our opinion on what we feel are the best buys at different price points:

  • On a budget: Yamaha Yas-107BL and Samsung HW-M360/ZA 2.1
  • A bit more money: Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1Ch 400W and Vizio 5.1 Home Theater Sound Bar
  • More expensive: Sonos PLAYBAR TV Soundbar Bundle and Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch DTS:X
  • Most expensive: Sonos 5.1 Home Theater System

Full home audio system (speakers)

Advantage: Superior Audio quality. Unmatched visceral sounds for action movies and sound effects. Hearing the crack of the bat in baseball or a half ton tackle in football is completely awesome for sports. Movie soundtracks as they were meant to be heard. The sound is immersive.

Disadvantages:  These systems are not cheap. Price is definitely the biggest obstacles for most people. Another disadvantage is size. Typically, these systems consist of 3-9 speakers, a receiver and a subwoofer. So if you do not have the room to spare a full audio system is not the best choice for you.

We are big fans of Bose, although both are fairly pricey, Bose LifeStyle 600 and 650 models in our opinion are great choices for home theater audio.

However, there are many quality home audio systems costing less money than these Bose audio systems. A few suggestions to check out:

Polk Audio RM705 5.1 Home Theater System
Polk Audio TSi400 5.1 Home Theater Speaker Package
Onkyo SKS-HT993THX 7.1 Ch. THX Home Theater Speaker System
Orb Audio Mini 5.1 White Home Theater Speaker System
Orb Audio Mini 5.1 Plus

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