Home theater setup

How to build a home theater in 4 easy steps

Bring cinema to your living room.


John-Michael Bond

Dot Recs

Posted on Mar 28, 2022   Updated on Apr 11, 2022, 2:15 pm CDT

Upgrade your entertainment setup can be stressful if you’re not sure how to build a home theater. Thankfully the days of running wires all around your home and messing with a million components are gone. If so easy to build your own home theater, it can be done in four easy steps. Let us show you how.

How to build a home theater step 1: Pick your TV 

The foundation of any home theater is a great TV set. You might be tempted to buy a projector, but the best projectors cost thousands of dollars and don’t really provide any serious advantage over a great 4K TV. With 4K Ultra HD, you’ll almost never need to go to the theater again.

These Ultra HD models offer stunning true-to-life color, picture sharpness, and HDR dynamic range for a few hundred dollars. Here are our two favorite models at different price points.

Best 4K TV: Samsung 65-inch Crystal UHD AU8000 Series

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Price: $647.99

Samsung’s 65-inch Crystal UHD TV offers a jaw-dropping picture that is sure to turn any movie night into an event. This model comes with built-in streaming capabilities, Alexa Voice Assistant, and Samsung’s Crystal Processor for the best 4K picture around.

Samsung’s Crystal UHD TV can play Netflix, HBO Max, Prime, and other major services right out of the box. Users can also connect all their devices with the sets of 3 HDMI inputs, perfect for console gamers. A few years ago a set like this would be over $1,000. Today you can get it for under $700.

Runner up: TCL 65-Inch Class-4 Series 4K UHD HDR Smart TV

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Price: $449.99

It may be our runner-up, but don’t be fooled. TCL’s Class-4 Series of Ultra HD 4K TVs are incredible. In fact, this writer uses this set at home. Features beautiful 4K UHD resolution and powerful High Dynamic Range for lifelike detail.

The picture is perfect, but TCL’s biggest selling point is its built-in Roku functionality. While most TVs come with streaming apps now, they’re often limited. Even the Samsung we recommend above. Meanwhile, this model has access to the full Roku channel library. Save a little and get the ultimate streaming device. It’s a win-win.

How to build a home theater step 2: Pick a soundbar 

You might be tempted to look into a full stereo set up when building a home theater. But unless you’re also a vinyl collector, most people don’t need something so large and expensive. Soundbars have come a long way since they were first introduced, and new features like Dolby Atmos have changed the game. Here are our two favorite soundbars for building a home theater.

Best soundbar: Vizio M-Series 5.1.2 Premium Sound Bar with Dolby Atmos

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PRICE: $473.38

If you’re looking to quickly build a home theater complete with surround sound, look no further than Vizio’s M-Series. With 11 high-performance speakers and Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound, the M-Series delivers a 3D movie experience.

Atmos uses 2 up-firing speakers to bounce sound off the ceiling, to create an atmospheric experience. This set also includes two satellite speakers and a subwoofer to fully deliver movie theater-quality sound.

With a top sound level of 103dzB, this beast gets loud, but never at the expense of sound quality. Add in audio inputs and Bluetooth for music, and this set is a dream.

Runner up: Bose Smart Soundbar 900 Dolby Atmos

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PRICE: $899

Bose is one of the leading names in audio thanks to their groundbreaking technology. Clean engineering and sleek designs make them a beautiful addition to any minimalist home setup, but the star is the sound quality.

Bose’s TrueSpace spatial processing adjusts the sound to your room, giving you an ideal experience.

This model also includes built-in Alexa and Google Assistants and the ability to play music over Bluetooth. The only issue is the price. If money is no object, you’ll clearly be able to tell the difference. But when building on a budget, amazing sound can be had for less.

How to build a home theater step 3: Pick your streaming device (and do I need one?)

You’ll notice already that most modern TVs come with streaming services built-in. Depending on what services you watch, the built-in streaming apps on your TV may be just fine.

But if you use niche services like Shudder or love free movies you might want to get a secondary streamer. Here are the two best ones.

Best 4K streaming device: Roku Streaming Stick 4K

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PRICE: $37.97

The best streaming device around is the amazing Roku Streaming Stick 4K. This wonderful device hides easily behind your TV out of site, offers thousands of streaming channels, and a long-range remote.

Stream 4K pictures with beautiful HDR10+ and Dolby Vision for a picture that will leave you stunned. Best of all, you can use it to control your TV, adjust volume, and power it on without changing inputs.

Runner up: Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max

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PRICE: $54.99

Amazon’s Fire Stick 4K Max is probably the most powerful streaming device on the market. With support for Wi-Fi 6, Doly Vision, HDR, HDR10+, and Dolby Atmos audio, this little wonder can deliver a true home theater experience with the right setup.

It’s almost perfect. If you’re deeply involved in the Amazon ecosystem of products, we highly suggest picking one up. But Roku edges it out by a small margin. That’s because Roku offers more free streaming channels and options. But head to head these devices are almost equal.

How to build a home theater step 4: Why you should own a Blu Ray player 

Physical media in this day and age? Are you kidding me? No dear reader, we are dead serious. Streaming is limited and as the media wars heat up, it can sometimes be difficult to find your favorite movies.

The only way to have a true home theater is with a Blu-Ray player that brings your favorite movies home to you. Here’s the one you should buy if you don’t have a gaming console that can play discs.

Best 4K Blu Ray Player: Panasonic 4K Blu Ray Player

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PRICE: $173

The best option for physical media on the market today is the Panasonic 4K Blue Ray player. You’ll be able to play any disc, from 4K UDH to Blu Ray to your classic DVDs with stunning clarity. Panasonic’s model supports three HDR formats; 4K/HDR formats- HDR10+, HDR10, and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). That gives you the ultimate clarity no matter what you’re watching.

Our favorite feature however is the upscaling. This takes your standard-def classic DVDs and enhances them for your modern set. It’s like watching your favorite movies in an entirely new way. When you’re splurging on a home theater, make sure to not skip this important set.

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*First Published: Mar 28, 2022, 9:37 am CDT