How to build an entry level Home Theater and Gaming System [Part 1]

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This guide is for people who would like to enjoy watching movies and playing games in Full HD and Dolby 5.1 without wanting to spend a lot of money on the gear. The setup which we are gonna propose can be bought at one go, or incrementally, depending on your budget.

The guide is divided into steps you need to perform to setup the system. From buying and optimal setup to calibrating and using the system efficiently. This is the first part of the series which focuses on purchasing the gear.

Screen

Thanks to drastic reductions in LCD TV pricing over the last year, Full HD TVs are more affordable now than ever. Since we are anyways gonna complement our system with a powerful Home Theater system, what we are looking for is a TV with primarily a good quality screen. We do not care about its speakers.

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LG’s 32LG53FR and Samsung’s LA32B530P7R are pretty good options here. The Samsung one will be unnecessarily expensive, so buy it only if you are too conscious about the brand. Sony is not recommended for the same reason. But its basically upto you and what your budget can afford.

The above two models should be available under INR 40k. Try to buy them during festive seasons. I have seen (and bought) the LG 32LG53FR for INR 35k during the Republic Day sale at Home Town (eZone).

Sound

Sound plays a critical role in the overall home theater experience. However, good quality speakers don’t just do the trick. You need to place them properly and calibrate them according to your room and seating position to be in the acoustic sweet spot. This will be explained in later parts.

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Onkyo’s HT-S3100 and Sony’s DAV-DZ570 are good choices here. Note that component systems (the ones like the Onkyo above) are always better than all in ones (ones with the DVD player in built, like the Sony one above), as they offer greater flexibility and are generally more powerful. However, some people dig the looks of all in ones and can go for them.

While Sony’s prices are usually fixed, you can get good deals on Onkyo products during festive seasons. The HT-S3100 has went down to as much as INR 16k during promotional schemes. Although it might be too high compared to its US price, it is pretty damn cheap compared to its usual INR 22k price in India.

A notable option here is the Logitech Z5500 Digital speaker system. This is a beloved gaming speaker system in the market which packs a lot of punch. It’s THX certified, so expect the purest sound output. However, input options are limited when compared to other component Home Theater Systems. See it for yourself:

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Logitech Z5500 Digital

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Onkyo HT SR3100

Gaming Console

Xbox 360 and the PS3 are the only two worthy choices here. While Nintendo Wii is a great gaming console, I see it as a gadget which should be bought in addition to at least one of the above two.

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While PS3 offers a Blu Ray drive, DTS decoding and in built WiFi, the Xbox 360 boasts of some great titles, downloadable content (DLC) and awesome after sales service.

The Xbox 360 Arcade retails for INR 17k in India. The price of the last gen PS3 shown above has been reduced to INR 20k after the launch of the PS3 slim which retails for INR 24k announcement of PS3 slim which will retail for INR 24k.

Cables & Accessories

Although the above gear will have the basic stuff you will need to set them up, it will be a good idea to buy the following cables and accessories to take your experience to the next level:

As stated above, you can buy these components in one go, or incrementally, depending on your budget. The next part in the series will tell you how to setup these components for optimal use.

(HT Setup Image courtesy Trek5200)

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Comments

20 Responses to this post

  1. Chandu says:

    When you are saying home theater, why go for 360 arcade(which don't have a BD and in built hdd and wireless controller with same price of ps3(fat)). But, if you already have it better build on that.

    • Setu says:

      Good point. However, you will get to know the reason behind this in later parts where we tell you how to stream movies off your PC to your TV via your console.

      Blu Rays are great, but they are still very costly in India and involve the pain of changing the disc every time you want to watch another movie. Moreover, Blu Ray library is still building up in India.

  2. slackerninja says:

    Dude, the Slim isn't out here yet. It will be from end-Nov/beginning-December.

  3. [...] level Home Theater & Gaming System, we tell you how to setup the components you purchased in part 1 for optimal [...]

  4. [...] Re: Suggest 32" LCD TV for around 35k You can get Full HD 32'' TVs in this budget. LG Jazz is a good choice. You can also checkout woikr's guide here: How to build an entry level Home Theater and Gaming System [Part 1] | woikr [...]

  5. [...] Re: Onkyo S3200 better than Logitech Z5500? Check out this guide: How to build an entry level Home Theater and Gaming System [Part 1] | woikr [...]

  6. satyen says:

    Hi recently I purchased a combination of Xbox 360 arcade, LG LED 42SL90 and Onkyo HTS3100. I have connected the Xbox 360 to tv through HDMI cable. How will I ensure that the xbox sound is played through the HTS? Is it possible to take the audio output from TV and passed on to the HTS receiver? If yes, how as HTS does not have a HDMI input.

    Please help.

    • Avinash says:

      Hi Satyen,
      It is possible to audio out from your TV to the HT, just plug your RCA cable from TV (Audio Out) to Onkyo, I have the same setup and am able to get audio trough Onkyo HT.

      Avi

      • Setu says:

        Yes. But that would be stereo and not 5.1 channels.

        • Avinash says:

          You are right Setu, but I believe Onkyo converts stereo to 5.1 coz I am getting sound from all the channels. Please correct me if I am wrong coz I am new to HT – HD – Game Console systems :)

          • Setu says:

            Yes. But that's usually emulated which is not exact 5.1. True stereo to 5.1 upconversion happens only when you play somethich encoded to 2.1 from a 5.1 source using Dolby or DTS encoders. For example, if you route stereo audio from Xbox 360 to a HT and select Neo 6 or ProLogic emulation, you will get pretty close experience to 5.1 when you play a game. This is even mentioned in the HT manual against these modes.

            Otherwise, true 5.1 experience is only possible when you connect to HT using optical or coaxial or HDMI.

    • Avinash says:

      After some googling I found that a TOSLINK cable (optical cable) can be connected from XBOX to the AV receiver (connectors should be purchased separately). Please see the below websites for more info, If anybody has tried this setup please let us know.

      http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/hooking-up-

      http://www.xbox.com/en-US/hardware/x/xbox360hdmia

      Regards,

      Avinash

      • Setu says:

        Yes. I use this setup and it works fine.

        • Avinash says:

          Thanks Setu, could you please let me know the exact model of the xbox connector, what will be the cost of it (with TOSLINK)and where did you purchase?

          Regards,

          Avinash

          • Setu says:

            I use the Xbox 360 HD VGA connector. It has a monitor like RGB cable which goes to my LCD TV's PC/RGB in connector and supports 1080p video. It also has a TOSLINK optical out. I use a monster THX certified optical cable which I bought from US to connect to my Onkyo HT.

            If you have a Xbox 360 with HDMI out which you directly use to connect to your TV, you might have to buy the Xbox 360 HDMI cable kit. It comes with a connector which has optical audio out port and lets you use the HDMI cable for video.

            Otherwise, you can buy the Xbox 360 HD RGB cable or HD component cable kit. Both have optical out ports for 5.1 digital audio.

            A good quality optical cable in India should cost around 800 to 1000 rupees. Please stay away from Bandridge cables. I had to get my bandridge optical cable replaced 5 times before I switched to monster. Cables are usually costly in retail stores. Try on eBay. Best bet is to ask any friend coming from the US to get a monster one.

          • Setu says:

            And I bought the Xbox 360 HD VGA cable from consoul.in gaming forum. These cables are pretty cheap over there.

    • Setu Garg says:

      Satyen,

      I hope your query has been answered?

  7. Siddarth says:

    Hey Setu,

    Great guide.

    I have some queries regarding this connectivity. Is it possible for you to mail me your contact details? or, you could just PM me on consoul.in, where my display name is flyingmachine.

    Thanks!

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