But there is still a bare minimum you need to pay to enjoy a decent Home Theatre experience.
NOTE: This post is a suggestion for HT, for good music, it will cost you more. Also if you are willing to go 2nd hand prices are better and help to stretch out the budget.
A decent Blu Ray player is now within reach, and if you don’t mind a slow loading time, or half decent video scaling, then Philips, LG, Sony etc all offer players under 300 and in some cases <200.
There are amps with internal decoding, HDMI switching etc which cost <$500. What you need:
- lossless decoding of TruHD and DTS-MA
- I suggest paying for an auto-setup and Audyssey is the current leader in technology, and paying for Multi EQ XT is worth it IMO
- at least 3 HDMI inputs
- 5 channels is ok, but 7 is nice but not needed
- pre-outs are nice
Denon, Onkyo, Yamaha, Pioneer, Marantz etc all have offerings in this range.
This is where you should spend the most you can, especially on the subwoofer and centre. Get things from the same range for equal voicing, but you can scrimp on the rears and get something cheaper or re-cycle old stuff you have at home.
The cheap and small stuff will make you regret that purchase, so see how much you can stretch. There are other threads on satellites vs bookshelves, subwoofers etc and these threads will give you and idea on how much and what is out there.
IMO, I would set aside 5-800 for the front 3. Another 1k or so for the subwoofer and leave 2-400 on the rears.
Wharfedale, Mission, Morduant Short, Monitor Audio, Energy, even KEF and possibly B/W etc etc will have something in that range.
This is the kind of money you set aside and these speakers will last a few upgrades or if you are satisfied, stay with you and last 10 years.
Then leave aside 100-200 for cables and the like.
That means a High Definition system will cost, after adding things up, around 3-4k for something you won’t take back to the shop or regret after 6 months.
If your budget falls short of this, don’t fret, it ok, what are your options:
- use a 2 channel system first
- as mentioned, get 2nd hand
- lower your expectations, listen and use DVDs instead
- HITBs are pretty ok and can provide some HT experience too and they can be had for <1k
- spend a lot of time in a friend’s home with a nice HT system J
If you don’t intend to upgrade for years, get the best stuff you can afford, so you don’t end up with something you regret and need to sell off in a couple of months.