How about bringing the cinema to your living room? This is the promise that a good home theater installation can hold, if you choose the right televisions, soundbars and accessories. Here are our tips.
The world of home cinema is a world of high standards, where many technologies coexist to provide the best possible experience. The ultimate goal is to achieve the best feeling of immersion in the content consumed. To achieve this goal, you have to turn to quality devices that often come at a high price. This selection dedicated to home cinema only includes devices with excellent value for money in order to offer you a set at the most affordable price possible.
Image: with a TV or projector
Whenever you want to embark on the creation of a home theater at home, it is the image that is going to be the most important point to consider. There are two options to equip yourself: either with a television, or with a projector.
The best televisions for a home theater
To enjoy the best possible immersion, large televisions should be preferred. A 55 inch diagonal is a good base, but 65 inches or more is even better. And when it comes to screen technology, it is better to turn to OLED panels rather than LCD. Indeed, OLED screens benefit from much deeper contrasts, blacks being absolute. This is the technology to favor in choosing a quality television, but other models with LCD or QLED panels can do the trick, especially since they are more affordable.
In an ideal home theater setup, the LG OLED55CX television sets the benchmark. It offers one of the best image qualities that can be found in this price bracket: the image is precise and the colorimetry is correct. We also appreciate its design with fine borders: hung on a wall, the LG OLED55CX television is very sober, with no visible logo. Finally, this television is compatible with everything you would expect from a good high-end television: HDR10, Dolby Vision and HDMI 2.1. Be careful, however, it is at the end of its life and its successor the C1 should arrive quickly on our shelves.
If your budget is more limited, we highly recommend the Hisense 65U7QF. Not only does this TV offer a 65-inch diagonal, but its picture quality is excellent in SDR and quite good in HDR. It lacks some refinements like HDMI 2.1, but difficult to be choosy at this price.
The best projectors for a home theater
If you only use your home theater for watching movies and series, then you might not want to see a black monolith looming large in your living room all day. And that is understandable.
This is where the spotlight comes in. They are able to offer very large diagonals of images discreetly, hung on a wall or on the ceiling. On the other hand, the quality of the image will depend on the projection surface as well as the quantity of light in the room.
LG HU70L is one of the most affordable 4K models on the market. The image quality is generally good and the device is very quiet. We also appreciate its low input lag which allows us to play and the excellent WebOS operating system. To ensure the best possible contrasts from a video projector, consider investing in a projection screen to hang on the wall and unroll. Depending on the configuration of the room in which the home cinema is located, it is also advisable to suspend your projector from the ceiling or place it on a shelf.
The simplest projectors to install remain those with ultra short throw. You just need to place them a few centimeters from the surface where the image will be projected. The projection screen is always recommended, but no longer need support to put them down. However, this comfort comes at a high price. Even if it means investing, we recommend the Samsung The Premiere LSP7 capable of projecting 120 inches with only 60 cm of distance. The presence of an antenna socket and the integration of Tizen also make it very plug & play.
For a broader overview of the projectors, head to our dedicated guide.
Immersive sound with a sound bar
Soundbars will never do better than a 7.1 home theater kit, but they are much more practical. A sound bar can slip elegantly under a television, without having a multitude of cables to conceal along the walls. Above all, the good recent soundbars now benefit from compatibility with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa voice assistants, to stream music quickly without having to take out your smartphone. You can also pair a soundbar with a subwoofer, to add even more depth to the bass.
For us, the benchmark of the moment is the Sonos Arc. Imposing, it carries no less than 11 class D amplifiers (5 for the Sonos Beam), 8 elliptical woofers (4 for the Sonos Beam) and 3 silk dome tweeters. This allows the soundbar to offer native compatibility with Dolby Atmos tracks. On the other hand, to really enjoy the bass you will have to buy the optional subwoofer. In any case, we appreciate the great sound quality and ease of use that is difficult to match.
The Sonos Beam soundbar is an excellent alternative, at a reasonable price. It provides a very good sound reproduction and surprisingly powerful considering the size. The Sonos Beam also has HDMI ARC and optical ports which give the user the choice. The choice is also left on the voice assistant, since Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are integrated into this sound bar. Sonos obliges, the system is rather closed. Here too, the subwoofer can be added for more punchy bass. The popular Sonos One, on the other hand, can be paired with the Beam, to enhance the surround effect.
If you really want to invest in a real home cinema with all its satellite speakers, we invite you to consult the Numerama guide on this subject. However, we advise you to wait a bit for the massive arrival of HDMI 2.1 amplifiers capable of fully handling the latest consoles.
The content to enjoy it
Now that you have all the equipment to fully enjoy your movies and series, how do you get them to your screen? If you collect 4K / UHD Blu-Rays, the Sony UBP-X800M2 player is one of the models with good value for money. Offered at around 300 euros, it is compatible with many technologies such as HDR10, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. Connected via WiFi or Ethernet, the Sony UBP-X800M2 even natively offers access to Netflix.
The other way to enjoy 4K content is to read it using SVoD platforms: Netflix, as well as Amazon Prime, Disney + and OCS all offer 4K UHD content. Each of these services usually has an app that can be installed on newer televisions. On the other hand, it is better to be equipped with a fairly good connection to the Internet (at least 25 megabits according to Netflix) to enjoy it smoothly.
Some multimedia boxes are also 4K compatible. Just connect them to HDMI to enjoy a more complete experience than that provided by the TV. The Nvidia Shield TV and Apple TV 4K are the best references, but other Android TV box models exist.
The right cables for your home cinema
Cables are not to be overlooked when installing a home theater. The less good the cable, the more the quality of the rendering will potentially be degraded. Without going overboard, it is therefore necessary to favor quality equipment to avoid any synchronization problem between the different devices. For more convenience, HDMI ARC cables are almost essential: they allow you to control the sound from your TV remote control, even if the output is to a sound bar or speaker kit.
HDMI exists with different standards, the most recent being 2.1. The differences between the standards are in the bit rate: the higher the standard, the more the bit rate will be. To take full advantage of the capabilities of HDMI 2.0, it is essential to use an HDMI 2.0 or higher cable. Logic. Finally, several HDMI certifications exist to navigate this jungle of cables. HDMI Premium, for example, allows you to make the most of a 4K image at 60 images per second. The Ultra High Speed HMDI is compatible with 8K at 60 frames per second, and 4K at 120 frames per second.
On the audio part, do not neglect the quality of the audio cable either. Two technologies clash: coaxial (or RCA) and optical which are often both available on Blu-ray players. The optical cable has the advantage of not being disturbed by other frequencies emitted by other devices which are located nearby. The coaxial cable supports a greater distance without altering the signal. The latter is therefore to be preferred for lengths greater than five meters.
Choosing the right home cinema installation
Projector or TV: what advantages, what disadvantages
A television allows you to have a quality picture day and night, without having to pay attention to the light. On the other hand, the diagonal of the image is limited and the screen always thrones in the living room even if it is off. A projector has the advantage of projecting an image with a wider diagonal and discreetly. However, you have to think about a restrictive installation, which often includes a projection screen and an attachment support. Also, using a projector in the middle of the day with light is not very pleasant.
Sound bar or 5.1 speakers: where to turn?
The most immersive experience comes from 5.1 (or higher) home theater speakers, as the sound literally surrounds the user. However, installing a home cinema is not easy: you need a suitable room without too much furniture, where the many cables can be hidden. Soundbars have the advantage of being very easy to install, without restricting installation and with more discretion. The downside is less sound spatialization than on a speaker kit, but which remains much better than the speakers of a television set.
How to choose the size of your TV screen?
The higher the screen definition, the closer you can stand to it. To obtain the optimum minimum distance between the user and the television, multiply the screen diagonal by 1.5 or 2, depending on your preferences. For example, the optimum minimum setback distance for a 55-inch 4K TV is between approximately 2 meters and 2.80 meters.
How did we make this selection?
We have made this selection from products tested and approved by Frandroid, or by other specialist colleagues where applicable. Thus, all the products offered are of quality. However, we have tried to keep a selection of products at relatively affordable prices. The home theater world is demanding, and a complete installation of high-end devices can easily reach heights unattainable for the average person.