Big Home Theater Sound for under $1000

Big Home Theater Sound for under $1000

Big flat screen HD TVs are the pretty much the norm, but a lot of people are still running sound through the TV speakers. There is a whole other world of true immersion waiting for those looking for that big theater experience at home, minus the sticky floors. Some people gravitate toward the the all-in-one ‘system-in-a-box’ solution for 5.1 theater sound, but those go for a one-size-fits-all approach and sometimes skimp on the receiver audio quality to add video features or package in wimpy subwoofers. To get the best at this price, you have to buy components seperately. This isn’t really a big deal though, you just have to open more boxes. We are going for top sound quality for the budget, and our audio system ended up sounding a lot better than expected. We tested it in an 18×24 theater room (with our 120″ HD screen) and it really filled the room nicely. The bass was over the top for stuff like explosions and bass drops in the sound track without annoying boomyness or distortion, and it’s just kind of funny looking at the little box it comes out of. The mids and highs were really good too, voices sounded natural and the titanium tweeters did a good job on things like glass breaking and chimes. Let’s just say we weren’t expecting this setup to sound as good as it does. We have heard systems that come in $10,000 per speaker, and while these are different in a different leage, we were still impressed with the Energys. These things have 5 star reviews everywhere, so it was kind of to be expected.

The Speakers

The Energy 5.1 Take Classic Home Theater System has 4 satellite speakers, a center channel, and a 200 watt ported 8″ subwoofer (60 watt RMS). The subwoofer has a patented Ribbed Elliptical Surround system to get high efficiency with ultra-low distortion. The satellite speakers will handle up to 200 watts with 20-100 watts RMS recommended. They are wall mountable with a gloss black piano finish. If any of this jargon is confusing, no worries, just follow the list of recommendations and you will have the right specs across the board. It’s a secret so don’t tell anyone, but Klipsch makes these speakers. These are the same guys that make speakers for 50% of the new movie theaters in North America, so they know what they’re doing. These “sound like they should be at least $2000” speakers cost about $395 for the set.

The Receiver

Denon AVR S500BT Receiver

Denon receivers are known for precision builds with discrete amps that pack a punch. The great thing about the Denon AVR-S500BT is that you not only get a healthy 90 watts RMS per channel (200 watts max) but you also get bluetooth to stream music from your mobile device, and 4K pass-through compatiblility for futureproofing (when you get one of those new Ultra HD TVs your’re ready to go). It is a 5.2 system which is fantastic because if you ever want to add another subwoofer, you can. It includes decoding for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD for flawless audio playback from your favorite Blu-rays. A big feature on this one is Audyssey, which allows you to hold an included mini-microphone where you will sit in the room for first time setup, and it will use the signal through the mic to calibrate the system levels to peak performance for speaker distances, nice! Ultimately it sounds really clean, with no hiss, and  good separation through discrete amps. What?! It’s only $250.

The official Denon AVR-S500BT video shows off some features


The Wire

The wire included with components is always a joke, so get the real stuff to open up the potential of your system. Don’t get expensive Monster Cable or similar nonsense, you are just paying for the name. Just get fairly priced oxygen-free copper in 16AWG (16-gauge) for runs under 50 ft (most cases) and 14AWG for runs over 50ft. Unless you are in a very small room, you should get 100ft or it could put you in a very bad mood when your last speaker wire is 5 feet short and you have to run out and get more at an overpriced Radio Shack (we did this). We recommend Monoprice 100ft 16AWG Enhanced Loud Oxygen-Free Copper Speaker Wire Cable for a perfect low cost, high quality copper cable.


If you haven’t ever set up a new speaker system before, or maybe if it has just been awhile, remember that new fresh-out-of-the-box speakers don’t always sound that great. The new materials are rigid and have to be broken in to loosen up and play at their best. Our system sounded substantially more flat until after the break-in period which for us was about 4 days, and then it really opened up… with a little help. To help our system break-in we played a combination of either white noise (mid-high) or brown noise (low-mid) from a laptop for about 8 hours a day (set it up before you go to work if you like). These sounds hit just about every frequency, which make them great for a complete workout and break-in of the speaker. You can find these for playback at SimplyNoise. Give a system a couple weeks for it to really shine if you only use it occasionally.