Balancing the Budget
One of the questions we are frequently asked is, how much money should I spend on the various home theater components?  The quick answer used to be, divide your budget more or less equally between audio and video.  The reasoning was based on the premise that it doesn’t make sense to spend $5,000 on a new TV if your total budget is $6,000.  This would only leave $1,000 to purchase a DVD player, AV receiver, and speakers, which would not result in a balanced system.  In my opinion this simple rule no longer applies.  Does a new Blu-ray player count as an audio or video device?  What about cables, speaker wire and power conditioners?  And what about the all important room itself?

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Part of the planning process is establishing a realistic budget.  There is no right or wrong amount and each person will have their own idea of what is reasonable for their situation whether its $1,000, $10,000 or $100,000.  Once you decide on an approximate budget for your home theater project it only makes sense to sit down and make a rough list of the components you plan to buy and figure out how much money you can allocate for each.  Doing so will help keep the overall project in balance and help capture many of the often overlooked miscellaneous items.  For example:

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In this example we have allocated twice as much money for audio as we plan to spend on video and the room improvements along with miscellaneous items have contributed to a significant portion of our $15,000 budget.  We also plan to do all the work (no major remodeling) and calibrate the system our self. 

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If our budget is approximately $15,000 then we are in a good position to proceed.  If however, our budget is only $12,000 then we need to do a little trimming and prioritizing.  We might decide to hold off on the second sub and the two new recliners for now; we can always add them later when some extra money becomes available.  If on the other hand we have $20,000 to spend, we might decide to upgrade our receiver, move up to a 60″ TV (or projector and screen :), add two rear channel speakers, and have the system professionally calibrated.  Bottom line – coming up with a realistic budget that covers the entire project is an important part of the planning process.

Final Review

As we have said from the beginning, the overall planning process is critical to the ultimate success of your home theater project.  At this point you should know:
•    Your basic goals for your home theater and the types of source material you plan to enjoy the most (movies, TV, sports, music, gaming, etc.)
•    The room environment (open multi-media family room or dedicated viewing room) and how well you will be able to control direct and ambient light
•    Location of your home theater (including whether or not you are remodeling an existing space or starting new construction)
•    The size and shape of your home theater (hopefully optimized for sound quality)
•    The amount of professional help you will need (remodeling, builder, installer)
•    The type of video display you plan to use (flat panel TV or projector) and how big the screen will be
•    The main seating location and layout
•    The number of speakers you plan to use (5.1, 7.2, 11.4) and where they will be located
•    Approximately how much money you plan to spend

Next: Building a Home Theater Part 2: AV Receivers and Sources

In Part 2 of our Building a Home Theater series we will introduce you to the all-important AV Receiver (including how to build your own high-end/high-power receiver from off the shelf components), look at some source material hardware (DVD players, etc.) and discuss various equipment rack options.

Editor’s note: Part 2 is online now!!

Until then, thanks for reading!

Lee Garbutt (aka RoboTech)
Case, Cooling and Power Supply Editor

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