Home Cinema Systems Buying Guide

How to choose a Home Cinema System

The vitals

Thanks to dramatic innovations in home entertainment technology, home cinema systems can give you an audio-visual experience like nothing else. Whether you fancy a pre-packaged solution or prefer a sophisticated set-up with full customisation, there’s a lot to consider.


Purchasing a home cinema is a serious investment; in order to get a good quality system with all the features you’re after, you’re going to have to spend some money.

Prices start from a modest £100 and go all the way up to a whopping £3,500.

There might be hidden costs like service fees, delivery charges, installation costs, taxes and any essential cables and accessories. A good rule of thumb is to add 20 to 25% to the total purchase price.

A home cinema system is a convenient and, in the long term, surprisingly affordable way to bring the big screen into your living room.

What you’ll need


Make sure you have a good space in which to install your system. The size of your room determines everything – from the size of the video display, to how many speakers you have, to your furniture arrangement. Think about the natural light of the room, flooring, walls, unit space and size.


Make sure you think about the type of screen you want to watch films, TV or play video games on. Generally, your best options are:

  • Video projector and screen combination
  • 3D TV
  • Flat panel LCD or plasma
  • Rear-projection
  • 35 or 36-inch traditional CRT

If you’re after the true ‘in-cinema’ experience of being enveloped in rich, high-quality sound, you’ll need to carefully consider the kind of audio reproduction equipment you want.

An AV receiver is the most common, as it combines the functionality of three things: a radio tuner for AM/FM, HD radio, internet radio and satellite radio; a preamplifier that manages sound from the system’s various audio and video sources; and a multi-channel amplifier that transmits sound to the speakers.

A preamp/amp combination receiver doesn’t have a radio transmitter. It still controls the sound from every audio and video device and sends it out to the speakers. This is a good option if you don’t usually listen to music, or are more into gaming and watching films.


The size of your room will determine the size and number speakers you need. It’s generally better to match speaker brands if you’re buying several for better performance. Choose a subwoofer for a richer listening experience, as these reproduce extremely low frequencies. Most audio receivers have a settings menu that makes it easy to input the size and location of your speakers and to test the output level of each one, so you can fine-tune the audio.


Look for a DVD player with progressive scan and upscaling capabilities. You might also want to include a Blu-ray player for HD, a CD player for extra disc space, a DVD recorder and internet-ready TV.

Universal remote control

Instead of having a different controller for every component of your home cinema system, you’ll be able to manage everything from a single device. You’ll need to programme each individual home cinema device into your remote.

Surge protector

With so many different components connected in a single place, you’ll want reliable protection against power surges. Though no surge protector is totally foolproof, it’s good to have some protection installed.

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