Create a Family-Friendly Home Theater in 5 Steps

Family of four enjoying popcorn in home theaterBy Kelly Schwarze

If Friday nights are usually spent in bed watching the 13-inch screen of your laptop, it’s time to take your movie marathons to the next level and create a home theater that will have all your friends and family members knocking down your door for a season pass. You can create a theater in your living room that will not only be just as thrilling as watching the latest chart toppers, but also provide plenty of opportunities to entertain your favorite people. Grab some popcorn and start imagining your new home theater with these five pieces.

1. HD TV

Home theater television and post-modern media cabinet

Whether you’re a high resolution purist who wants the crispest display or you’re working within budget constraints, high definition televisions are accessible to all lifestyles. The crème de la crème of television quality is 4K resolution, also known as ultra-high definition, which has 3,840 pixels along the horizontal line of the display. The tech industry rounded that number up to 4,000, which is where the term “4K” comes from.

While this technology is becoming more common, 4K TVs will still come up at the bigger end of most budgets. Many mid-range 4K television brands are priced starting at about $1,500. If keeping within a certain price tag is more important than the TV’s resolution, make your decision based on the features you’ll be paying most attention to. Make sure the picture displays true blacks and vibrant colors. Ultra-high resolution isn’t something most people will miss, but a display with bad coloring will definitely be noticeable.

2. Media Streaming Device

Apple tv box and controller

Burned from decades of high monthly premiums, many cable and satellite subscribers are cutting the cords of pricey entertainment packages and opting for a la carte streaming options to access just the shows and channels they care about.

Most TVs sold today bill themselves as “smart TVs,” meaning once you plug them to an Ethernet cord, they’re connected to the internet. Smart TVs will likely have a handful of apps you’re already familiar with, such as Netflix, but if you’re looking for even more viewing options without the cable prices, opt for a media streaming device.

Gadgets like the Apple TV and Roku and gaming consoles like the PlayStation 4 offer access to what seems like endless sources of movies, TV shows and even workouts. Connect the device to your TV and sync your accounts for services like Pandora, Hulu Plus, and HBO Now. Additional fees might be required for each “channel” on the streaming device, but trust us, it’s a lot cheaper than the cable bills of months past.

3. Stereo System

Turntable illustrating home theater stereo system

If the living room is going to be your apartment’s entertainment destination, you also need music options for the nights where you want to create an ambiance rather than watch a blockbuster. Turntables have seen a resurgence for years now as a must-have piece of music equipment for any audiophile. Plus, many record players now have USB ports so that the music can be streamed and saved to a computer. Collecting records by favorite artists somehow makes the experience of listening to vinyl even more satisfying.

4. Speakers

Speakers hanging in home theater

While many TVs have decent sound in their own right, they’re pretty similar to a laptop — you don’t notice how bad the sound is until someone plugs in external speakers. You can’t go for the movie theater effect with a sound that’s tinny, warped or constantly has you going “Huh?”

Once upon a time, the only major external speaker options were large, bulky rectangles that took up a third of the living room. Today, surround sound speaker options are discreet. Audio bars, which are long horizontal rectangles meant to sit at the base of a TV, are an affordable option, and far from the eyesores that once had you running from the audio department of any electronics store.

5. Safe Cables and Power Cords

Coax cables in home theater

Now that you’ve invested in the gadgets that will make your home movie theater dreams a reality, it’s time to ensure the less glamorous aspects of this dream room are accounted for. Even when buying within a strict budget, home theater equipment isn’t cheap.

To get the highest quality audio visual and protect your gadgets in case of power surges, don’t scrimp on products like coaxial cables and surge protectors. Install your home theater with coaxial cables made for indoor use. Look for labeling of RG6 and gauge sizes between 12-18. You don’t want an electrical storm or any other power break to fry this valuable equipment, so invest in a surge protector. Avoid plugging any gadget directly into a wall outlet. Insert the surge protector into a wall outlet and then plug all other gadgets into the protector.

Whether you’re a movie buff or just looking for a great place to catch up on your favorite TV shows, having your own home theatre makes all the difference. Use these tips to create the perfect setup for your next binge-watching night.

Kelly Schwarze is a tech nerd who likes to write about making technology easy to use. Kelly gives advice on home entertainment, from setting up your TV to choosing the best coax cable to connect your components. To see a selection of coax cables, visit The Home Depot.