Home Theatre Audio Buying Guide

A home theatre audio system brings concert hall quality acoustics right to your home. This home theatre audio buying guide offers tips and insights to help you make an informed decision.

Home Theatre Audio Systems 101

Whether you listen to pop, rock, classical, dance or country, a good home theatre audio system can bring your favourite music to life like never before. It will also bring theatre-like sound to your favourite movies, TV shows and video games. The encapsulating surround sound offers deep bass, powerful midrange, and crystal clear highs. The first thing to decide is whether you want to purchase separate components or buy an all-in-one system. The first option delivers optimal sound quality, while the latter wins out on price-point and ease-of-setup.  

Types of Home Theatre Audio Systems


Home Theatre In-A-Box Systems (HTIB)

As the name suggests, this type of home theatre audio system is sold as a single unit. A HTIB comes complete with all the necessary wiring and set-up instructions, making it a good choice for the novice or less technologically inclined. The quality and quantity of speakers that you get in your HTIB package varies according to cost, but a typical system will have five surround sound speakers and a subwoofer, plus a disk player or amplifier. 

Component Systems

With a component system, you purchase individual components separately. You can mix and match separate speakers (loudspeakers and a subwoofer), an audio/visual (A/V) receiver and a source component, such as a DVD or Blu-ray player. Purchasing the components of your home theatre audio system in this way can be more expensive. And without the step-by-step instructions of HTIB systems, connecting them together can also be a bit more challenging. That said, component systems tend to have more power than HTIB systems, making them a good choice for very large rooms or noisy settings.
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Sound Bars

A Sound Bar is a long, thin bar usually containing between two and five speaker units that offer virtual surround sound. Designed to be mounted on the wall below your TV, a sound bar home theatre audio system is a good choice if you want enhanced sound quality but don’t have a lot of space. Some models come with a Blu-ray or DVD player built into the system, a separate subwoofer, and wireless connectivity. Sound bars are simple to connect to your TV and cut down on the amount of wires that you’ll have in your living space. Note that most sound bars do not come with a power source.

Separates System

A separates home theatre audio system is constructed in the same way as a component system but with a separate preamplifier and power amplifier to replace the A/V receiver. It’s a bit more expensive, but this type of set-up will provide the best sound quality and the most flexibility when upgrading separate component parts.

Home Theatre Audio System Buying Tips:

  • From a budget standpoint, an HTIB or a Sound Bar system are good cost-effective choices
  • Compare warranties as some manufacturers offer 12 months and others offer 24 months
  • When shopping in-store listen to several types of speaker set ups before making your purchase
  •  There is no link between speaker size and quality — small speakers can produce sound that is comparable to large speakers
  • Consider the size of room in which you’ll use your audio system as a larger room will need a more powerful system



Home Theatre Audio System Features

Surround Sound +

This is what your home cinema experience is all about. Your loudspeakers and subwoofer work together in combination to create the quality and depth of sound and bass that will totally immerse you in movies or music. A 5.1 channel home theatre audio system is usually comprised of five speakers and a subwoofer to give a full surround sound experience. A 6.1 channel system adds one more speaker, and a 7.1 adds two; the more speakers you add the more complete the surround sound will be. A 2.1 channel system has only two speakers and a subwoofer, but can be calibrated to simulate multi-channel sound.

A/V Receiver +

A good A/V receiver will process and amplify the audio more smoothly to deliver a truer home theatre experience with optimal surround sound and sound quality. The receiver combines three key functions. First, it acts as a preamplifier to process sound signals and send them to the appropriate amplifier channel. It then routes the surround sound signals to the speaker system. Lastly, the A/V receiver also acts as a tuner for AM/FM and Internet radio.

A/V Connection Options +

The A/V receiver is the hub of your home theatre audio system, so understanding your connection options is helpful. As well as routing audio through your A/V receiver you can also route video. This allows you to easily switch between your DVD or Blu-Ray player, game console, and cable or satellite box.

Internet Access +

In some cases, HTIB systems that feature a Blu-ray player also provide internet connectivity and built-in Wi-Fi. This handy feature allows you to stream movies and TV shows from Netflix and Amazon. Some home theatre audio systems also incorporate a webcam, which lets you use the internet to make video calls to friends and family across the globe.

Controls +

The display panel that controls the features of your home theatre audio system will differ depending on brand and type. Certain models allow you to use your TV screen to control your system, which can be easier than using buttons on the front of a console. In most cases a remote control will be provided. The controls of your home theatre audio system also allow you to easily adjust your bass and treble equalizers (EQ).

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Home Theatre Audio System Maintenance Tips:

  • Keep dirt, dust and sand away from your home theatre audio system
  • Keep food and liquids away from your home theatre audio system
  • Don’t place or store speakers on metals as it could damage the electromagnet inside
  • Ensure that your system is wired up properly; incorrect connections can cause your speakers to blow
  • Keep your home theatre audio system out of direct sunlight: the internal electronics will function less effectively and will wear out quicker
  • Clean regularly with a duster, but do not use liquid cleaners
  • Use a vacuum cleaner occasionally to clean out dust

Did you know?

Static electricity can cause your home theatre audio system to burn out. Be sure to purchase anti-static sprays to ensure that your system stays safe.
You can mount your speakers onto the wall. This creates more living space and keeps them safe from horseplay.
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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