DIY Network

Home Theater In A Box Or High-End Separates?

Compare the difference in an all-in-one unit or separate components.

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create an eye popping, ear enveloping home theater

From the latest big-screen televisions to the various sound systems on the market, host Corey Greenberg demonstrates how to create an eye-popping, ear-enveloping home theater.

There are many options for putting together a home theater, but they all must include some type of audio-video receiver, which ties together the sound system, television monitor and other components. The receiver pulls in video and audio information, processes it and then sends a picture to the TV and sound to the appropriate speakers. The picture and sound can come from several different sources:

- Cable, which offers analog and digital TV content, as well as video-on-demand features.
- Satellite, which provides all digital television programming via a dish attached to your house.
- Broadband, which is basically high-speed internet.
- Or your video may come from a DVD or videotape player.

If this is the buyer's first home theater or if they're on a tight budget, Corey recommends a home theater in a box system -- literally a single branded system in one box that includes five mini-speakers, a good woofer, an AV receiver, usually with a built-in DVD player, all under one roof. Boxed sets are easy to assemble, the sound quality is good to very good and it includes everything needed for a home theater except for the television.

Home theaters in a box cost anywhere from $100 at the low end to $1,000 for an upgraded system. Besides being cost effective, home-theater-in-a-box systems are easy to hook up. They have color-coordinated cables, which means the red cable plugs into the red jack, the white to the white and the yellow to the yellow.

A couple of the disadvantages of the home-theater-in-a-box system is that the sound isn't as high quality as a full-blown separate home theater and because it's a single branded system, it's a lot more difficult to mix and match components later on than it would be with a separate system.

To step up from a box system, buy all the components separately, without spending more than $1,000. For the best performance, get a surround-sound processor that acts as the control center for the whole system and a separate multi-channel amplifier, which will deliver power to all of the speakers.

System Extras:
- Equip a home theater with extras, such as a high-end processor that includes a video scaler. This increases the apparent lines of resolution for standard definition content to look more like HDTV.
- One can buy a DVD player with a DVD burner -- or personal video recorder -- known as a PVR that records broadcast, cable or satellite content to a hard drive instead of a tape or DVD.
- It's even possible to add a digital media server to store and play back music once it's digitally converted and stored on a hard drive.
- There are video-conferencing capabilities and wireless connections to personal computers, so users can enjoy digital photo slide shows and MP3 music in a home theater.

Remember to start with the basics first; more options can always be added later.