A Step-By-Step Guide To Building The Perfect Home Cinema System

Owen Gough
Photo credit: David Burton

From Esquire

Public Service Announcement: getting a home-cinema system that gives your local £8-for-popcorn picturehouse a run for its money is simpler and way cheaper than you'd think.

With 4K TVs, cinema-grade projectors, bass-heavy sound systems and Blu-ray players (apparently some people are still buying them) now cheaper than ever, improving your movie-watching experience at home with even small upgrades is much easier. Even Martin Scorsese would approve (unless you're planning on a Marvel marathon).

And if you already have a pretty decent system, there are always a few minor upgrades you can make here or there to take it to the next level, from fiddling around with your TV settings to even just buying a new HDMI cable.

What You’ll Need To Make The Ultimate Home Cinema Set Up

You can obviously make quantum leaps by upgrading from a standard definition TV to a giant 80” 4K TV (though you should prepare to drop at least £8k for one of those), but there are just as many small gadgets that only cost a few quid that can significantly improve the quality.

However, there are some specific things that you’ll need to guarantee improvements. Below we are going to talk about:

The Best 4K TVs

The Best Cinema Projectors

The Best Surround-Sound Systems

The Best Blu-ray player

The Best HDMI cables

The Best 4K TV For Your Home Cinema

Before we dive in, there are a few things you need to know when it comes to choosing a 4K TV.

Photo credit: New York Times Co.

One of the most important parts of this process is working out what size you should aim for. There's a huge range, from 35 inches all the way up to a mega-sized, mansion-ready 100 inches.

Just as you’d expect, size matters. The bigger the screen, the more cinema-esque your set-up becomes. Space can be an issue though, as can the cost, so pick a screen size that fits and flatters your room.

Look for a TV that has image-enhancing features, such as HDR (high-dynamic range) that expands the colour palate that your TV can reproduce (there are various versions of this like HDR+, HDR10, or HDR 1000 so just pay attention to the HDR bit), improved refresh rate, and image upscaling to make that Game of Thrones rewatch look silky smooth.

We think that LG’s offering is a pretty great option for your first 4K TV, and this model has loads of features to improve your experience without blowing your budget straight away.

It has Image Mastering, which upscales content to make it look crisper, improved sound quality through an audio-processing software to make explosions pop, and Amazon Alexa built-in, so you can search for TV shows and movies without using the controller for when you're feeling extra lazy.

Philips has developed an impressive 4K TV here that improves your picture quality with HDR10+. HDR expands the amount of colour your TV can produce, making shows and movies pop with vibrancy and life. For its price, you can't go wrong with the Philips option.

Samsung is one of the best TV developers in the world, and its top-end TVs are always impressive, particularly the QLED models.

This 82" version is an absolute beast, and its HDR 1,000 capabilities will blow your mind on the colour front. What's more, there's a massive viewing angle means you can repurpose your front room as an arthouse cinema. Install a Tango Ice Blast machine and you'll earn your money back in no time.

The Best Cinema Projectors

Let’s move on from TVs for a second: the piece of tech that will truly transform your living room into a personal cinema is a 4K projector.

If you're a purist, nothing quite beats the glow of a cinema projector for that full, big-screen experience. The only downside is that you’re going to have to invest a bit with this one.

This Optoma projector is an absolute beast 4K HDR set-up that will transform your room into an ultimate movie hub.

It’s easy to set up and get going immediately, and it has some impressive image-processing features to upgrade movies and TV shows to be the very best they can be. Sports will look amazing too, even if they aren’t Ultra HD.

Like we said, these projectors don’t come cheap, but they offer a much crisper image than 4K TVs, which rely on the pixel technology of the screen itself, rather than a more-powerful lens.

A slightly cheaper option is this ViewSonic Ultra HD projector, which is usually discounted online.

The bonus with projectors is that you aren’t restricted by the space you have in your house. You can set it up to broadcast 4K images for gaming or movies anywhere between 40” all the way up to 300” (if you have a 300” blank, white space that is.)

The Best Sound Systems

Now we have the visual bit of the home cinema down, let’s talk about the audio. Bangs. Booms. That kind of thing.

Most modern TVs will actually have pretty solid speakers built into them, so you might feel like you don’t need an upgrade – but a dedicated, room-shaking speaker can be a game changer (especially when it comes to your relationship with your neighbours).

This Sony home cinema set-up is your one-stop shop for completing your home cinema set-up without spending on the individual items.

It has a Blu-Ray player, two pillar speakers that can be placed behind or to the side of the sitting area to create a dome of noise right into your ears, and then several smaller speakers you can place under the TV itself to blast noise towards you.

You get all this for under £300, which for our money is a pretty sensational deal. But if you’d rather take smaller steps to upgrade your set-up, you can go for this Bose 700 Soundbar.

It's Alexa voice-controlled, so you don’t even need to lift a finger to adjust the (exceptional) sound. Then there's the universal remote that can control both the device and your smart TV together, meaning that you won't be rummaging between cushions on a daily basis.

It's the sophisticated design that really shines, though, with a tempered glass top and a wrap-around metal grille for a sleek finish that should sink into any setup.

The Best Blu-Ray Player

We know most people don’t own DVDs and Blu-Rays anymore – streaming systems have made sure of that – but some people still like to actually own their media. Fair enough, we say! And if you’re one of them, you’re going to need an upgrade.

Most modern TVs are far too thin for an integrated CD tray, so you need something extra to plug in to play.

If you’re a gamer as well as a movie lover, the Xbox One is a wicked option for both jobs, though it does come at a cost.

The Xbox One X is built for 4K, and will play Blu-Rays no problem, even going some way to boost the performance of the image quality. The Xbox One will still do the job, though.

If you just want a dedicated Blu-Ray player, there aren’t many differences between options other than the price and the brand.

For the full 4K experience, this model from Panasonic is a great pick up for around £100 right now.

It upscales Blu-Ray discs to push out as much colour and quality as possible, improving your movies beyond the capabilities of a standard player. It’s also in a black finish, so it will sit stealthily and unnoticed below your TV.

If you’re on a budget, you can still pick up a non-4K Blu-Ray player and it will still be upgraded to fine detail if you have a 4K TV. The Blu-Ray player itself only processes the images, so it’s not vital to have a top-of-the-range device to put discs in.

This one for £34.99 will do the job for you without blowing the bank account.

The Best HDMI Cables

Finally, the unsung hero of improving your 4K home cinema experience: The humble HDMI cable.

If you have made the jump from an older HD TV into 4K UHD, you probably just used the same HDMI cable to plug into your console or Blu-Ray player, without even knowing that there are newer, improved cables that deliver data much faster than the old versions.

4K HDMI cables are way more efficient at delivering images to your TV screen from another device and will improve your movies by a country mile.

Luckily, HDMI cables are still super cheap – we’re talking under a tenner if you get one from Amazon.

This one is £7.99 right now, and you can find a dozen more on the site for around the same price.

Follow all of these steps, and you'll have the home cinema system you always dreamed of.

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