How to start first small home theater project

Compnewbie01

Senior member
Aug 8, 2005
589
0
81
#1
I have been interested in making a home theater for my apartment but am having trouble figuring out the basics. The area is quite small at 10X16 and I cannot put excessive holes in the walls due to it being a rental. This complicates wire management as I don't want several wires going across the room.

I will likely have a small sofa or recliners at one end of the room (spanning the 10ft wall) with a coffee table. I'd like to try out a projector and my initial searching shows that $500 can buy a pretty decent one. My idea is to put the projector on the bottom of the coffee table and maybe run a rug to the screen wall to conceal a power/HDMI cord. This would give the projector approximately 10ft from the screen wall which I imagine is alright for an 8-9 foot screen size. Ideally, I would just project onto the wall, but would consider a basic screen as long as it doesn't require more than 2 nails to hang so that I can easily patch it upon moving.

So the sound system portion is where I am struggling the most. It seems a lot of enthusiasts swear against sound bars but this would be the easiest thing. Are there good sound systems that don't require full surround? I could place a small cabinet under the screen/wall to house the receiver/amp and any media devices and just have a 2-3 speaker setup (2 side speakers + center). Would this work? Is a sub-woofer necessary? This way I would only need to run 1 or 2 easily concealable wires for the projector. Any more speakers (such as behind/next to sofa) will make this difficult and a sub-woofer might be problematic for an apartment.

An overall budget for this project will be $800-1000. If I drop about $500 on the projector, is $300-400 enough for fairly decent speakers/sound? I am not an enthusiast but want something a little better than a standard TV speaker.
 

mdram

Golden Member
Jan 2, 2014
1,473
14
106
#2
a 3.1 setup can be all you. i have yet to add any side/rear speakers
a sub enhances things sooooo much. my wife was skeptical, but once i installed it she was very surprised.

BUT, in an apartment a decent sub may tick off the neighbors.

soundbars typicall have small speakers, in the 3" range.
a decent front stage will have 6" or large speakers
there is a noticeable difference.

add in a good avr will allow switching hdmi sources, integrating radio, media, bluray/dvd, external streaming boxes. its just a better way to go imho

the cost will be higher than a soundbar.
but if/when you want to change parts you dont have to replace the entire thing
you can also space the L/R out further than the soundbar allow.
 

Compnewbie01

Senior member
Aug 8, 2005
589
0
81
#3
Does 3.1 mean 3 speakers + 1 sub-woofer? Maybe just buying a smaller sub-woofer could work and not cause too many vibrations. If it means anything I'm on the top floor of a 2-story and the floors are carpeted which should dampen things somewhat. Is my $800-1000 price point appropriate if I plan ~$500 for the projector and $500 for the AVR + speakers + wires?
 
Jul 6, 2009
138
0
81
#4
I think you should look around for some used gear, and if you can add a couple hundred to your AVR/speaker budget it will really open up your options. With a bit of searching and waiting you can probably find a lightly used, fairly recent mid-range AVR for about $200-350, and a good set of used bookshelf speakers with 5 or 6 inch drivers for $150-400/pair.

A good pair of 5-6" bookshelf speakers will be far more enjoyable than a surround set of 3" satellites and a cheap subwoofer. You can add a subwoofer and other speakers later. Bookshelf speakers can also be easily shifted to surround duty if you upgrade to or add floorstanders later.
 

mdram

Golden Member
Jan 2, 2014
1,473
14
106
#5
Does 3.1 mean 3 speakers + 1 sub-woofer? Maybe just buying a smaller sub-woofer could work and not cause too many vibrations. If it means anything I'm on the top floor of a 2-story and the floors are carpeted which should dampen things somewhat. Is my $800-1000 price point appropriate if I plan ~$500 for the projector and $500 for the AVR + speakers + wires?
avr - 200-300
front l/r 200+
front center 150+
sub - 200 is a good starter sub, but you can get them cheaper, just less output

your downstairs neighbor will hate a decent sub
 

Compnewbie01

Senior member
Aug 8, 2005
589
0
81
#6
Here is a quick layout of how I imagine the room being:

https://ibb.co/jsg1f8

And here are a few components I picked out:

Projector: https://www.amazon.com/Optoma-HD143...UTF8&qid=1528785610&sr=8-3&keywords=optoma+hd

Speakers: https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882290202
https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1J70R68382

AVR: https://www.amazon.com/Yamaha-RX-V3...id=1528785781&sr=1-3&keywords=yamaha+receiver

I chose these based on reviews and some very basic research. The total comes to about $1000 but I could chip away from the projector because I am not sure if I need one as expensive. Any ideas?
 

snoopy7548

Diamond Member
Jan 1, 2005
3,464
477
136
#7
I would move the couch closer to the screen - 96" at 16' will seem really small. I'd aim for closer to a 10-12' seating distance , which would allow you to put in rear speakers and have a 5.1 system. Have you used this throw distance calculator for your projector?

http://www.projectorcentral.com/Optoma-HD143X-projection-calculator-pro.htm

Are you sure you want the projector on the coffee table? The fans in those can be loud, and light bleed from the top/vents may be annoying in a dark room. If ceiling-mounting isn't an option, and you move the couch forward, you'd have space to mount it on a shelf behind you. Or maybe you could mount the projector under the coffee table...
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
42,805
273
126
#8
I have been interested in making a home theater for my apartment but am having trouble figuring out the basics. The area is quite small at 10X16 and I cannot put excessive holes in the walls due to it being a rental. This complicates wire management as I don't want several wires going across the room.

I will likely have a small sofa or recliners at one end of the room (spanning the 10ft wall) with a coffee table. I'd like to try out a projector and my initial searching shows that $500 can buy a pretty decent one. My idea is to put the projector on the bottom of the coffee table and maybe run a rug to the screen wall to conceal a power/HDMI cord. This would give the projector approximately 10ft from the screen wall which I imagine is alright for an 8-9 foot screen size. Ideally, I would just project onto the wall, but would consider a basic screen as long as it doesn't require more than 2 nails to hang so that I can easily patch it upon moving.

So the sound system portion is where I am struggling the most. It seems a lot of enthusiasts swear against sound bars but this would be the easiest thing. Are there good sound systems that don't require full surround? I could place a small cabinet under the screen/wall to house the receiver/amp and any media devices and just have a 2-3 speaker setup (2 side speakers + center). Would this work? Is a sub-woofer necessary? This way I would only need to run 1 or 2 easily concealable wires for the projector. Any more speakers (such as behind/next to sofa) will make this difficult and a sub-woofer might be problematic for an apartment.

An overall budget for this project will be $800-1000. If I drop about $500 on the projector, is $300-400 enough for fairly decent speakers/sound? I am not an enthusiast but want something a little better than a standard TV speaker.
OK, so to clarify:

1. You want a small starter home theather
2. You live in an apartment
3. You want a projector & a separate sound system
4. Your budget is $800 to $1000

You have multiple options. Thoughts & questions:

1. Subwoofer: Do you have any neighbors who would be annoyed by a subwoofer? Bass sound travels (as do the vibrations). I ended up putting transducers (bass shakers - they vibrate, but don't make noise, so you get the "feel" of a sub without actually having one) into my couch instead.

2. Projector: Are you open to other projector options? My portable unit is the Aaxa P300 Neo. Currently $295 shipped. 720p & 420 lumens. Doesn't sound like much, but it's awesome to use (no bulb, turns on quick, super tiny, great picture). I'll be back in town this weekend & will have to remember to snap some pictures for you.

https://www.amazon.com/AAXA-P300-Neo-Video-Projector/dp/B074QK249C

3. Sound: Zillions of options for audio. For starters, soundbars have gotten better. They also have flat soundbars that have built-in slim subwoofers for more boost without actually having a big separate box. ZVOX has some interesting models, and their AccuVoice technology is pretty decent for clearing up vocal dialog from movies & TV shows:

https://zvox.com/collections/all-products

If you can have a dedicated subwoofer, Vizio makes a really nice soundbar + wireless subwoofer system for $180 that sounds surprisingly great for the price & size. Has DTS Virtual:X, which kind of emulates a theater system. Can be wall-mounted, and the sub can be placed anywhere in the room (it's wireless):

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BTRMBYS/

They also have a really nifty 5.1 system, where all of the front speakers are in the soundbar (left, center, right) & also has a wireless sub, except that the two rear speakers hook into the sub, so you don't have to run any wires across the room! $200 for the 36" version:

https://www.amazon.com/VIZIO-SmartCast-Wireless-Soundbar-System/dp/B0727XPHKF/

$400 for the 44" version: (bigger sub, longer soundbar, deeper bass)

https://www.amazon.com/VIZIO-SB4451-C0-SmartCast-Sound-System/dp/B01GES2QOY

If you're not in any rush, Vizio has a Dolby Atmos soundbar system coming out later this summer. Pricing not announced, but I am VERY interested in the 46" 5.1.4 system for my basement: (assuming the pricing isn't insane)

https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/4/10/17217342/vizio-sound-bar-dolby-atmos-chromecast

If you just need something cheap & basic for now, check out Micca. They have a pretty decent bookshelf pair for $90:

https://www.amazon.com/Micca-MB42X-Bookshelf-Speakers-Tweeter/dp/B00E7H8GG2/

There are a bunch of amplifier options available as well. I have my friend setup on a $25 Lepai digital amp & it works great with the Micca bookshelves:

https://www.amazon.com/LP-2020A-Tripath-Class-T-Amplifier-Supply/dp/B00C2P61FO/

That's 20 watts of clean power, which is equivalent to most 100-watt stereo amps, haha. Micca also has their own spiffy amp for $100 (50 watts @ 4-ohms), which has both analog & digital optical inputs: (plus USB, if you're using a computer as your video source)

https://www.amazon.com/Micca-OriGain-Compact-Integrated-Amplifier/dp/B01LXV4O6B/

ELAC also has some great speakers that punch higher than their pay-grade for $280 a pair, if you want to try something other than the usual Pioneer etc. brands:

https://www.amazon.com/ELAC-Debut-Bookshelf-Speakers-Black/dp/B07B4Q5587/
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
42,805
273
126
#9
One other option, check out the XGIMI H1. Currently on sale for $800 shipped with Amazon coupon:

https://www.amazon.com/XGIMI-Projector-Bluetooth-Screenless-Immersive/dp/B01MQYBQV5/

This is a 1080p LED projector with a built-in Harmon Kardon speaker (equivalent to a sound bar, in terms of quality & loudness). Super super super easy setup & might be a perfect fit for your situation. I've installed a ton of them since I got my first one in back in December of 2016:

https://forums.anandtech.com/forums/audio-video-home-theater.38/

That projector would fit the initial need for a projector & sound, and then down the road you could add a nice 5.1 setup (or throw in that crazy Vizio Dolby Atmos system coming out in the next couple of months!). I'll see if I can grab one this weekend & get some pics along with the Aaxa P300 Neo.
 

Kaido

Elite Member & Kitchen Overlord
Feb 14, 2004
42,805
273
126
#10
This would give the projector approximately 10ft from the screen wall which I imagine is alright for an 8-9 foot screen size. Ideally, I would just project onto the wall, but would consider a basic screen as long as it doesn't require more than 2 nails to hang so that I can easily patch it upon moving.
You might consider going with an 8-foot pull-up (not pull-down) screen: ($200)

https://www.amazon.com/Elite-Screens-F100NWH-ezCinema-Projection/dp/B0009OAP2U/

Basically a long tube you put on the floor. Swing out the legs, pop the lid back & pull it straight up. Accordion jack in the back (like a scissor lift). Super easy. I have a similar one for doing presentations & the occasional indoor movie party at random locations. Works great, no installation required, and also works great on deck & patios if you want to watch something outside!
 

Compnewbie01

Senior member
Aug 8, 2005
589
0
81
#11
Thank you for the suggestions Kaido. For the projector, I don't know if the 420 lumens is enough because I can close shades to dim the room, but there is still a fair amount of light that enters.

The soundbar idea sounds good because it would definitely be easier, but it seemed like a general consensus was that they are inferior to actual speakers. However, I'm not an audiophile and I've been using my 50" TVs built-in sound for the last eight years and it was perfectly fine. The sub-woofer is probably not worth adding right now but having the option down the road would be nice. I definitely want something I can build from in the future if I get a bigger place where vibrations are not a concern.

I'll keep that screen you posted in mind. I want to try the wall first and see if it works alright and then order a screen if I'm not completely happy with it.
 

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