Readers' Submissions

Creating an Entertainment System
That Is Right for You

by Thomas Kossler
(Berkley, MA - US)

Most consumers want help when it comes to creating an entertainment system that is right for them and their home. This article will provide some insight into the basics of planning for a home entertainment system. 

Where to Start

You will need a starting point which usually consists of the overall budget. What will the entertainment system cost and is it within my budget.  This is a very difficult question for two reasons:

First, there are for all practical purposes, no boundaries to the amount of money that may be spent on an entertainment system, from a 'Theater in a box' for a few hundred dollars, to custom theaters costing in excess of $500,000.  Needless to say, most of us would be looking to spend somewhere in between.

Second, is that everyone wants value for their money. Whenever, we ask a customer how much they would like to spend, more often than not, the answer does not include a dollar amount.

The important thing to keep in mind is balance; each component of the system should provide a similar level of performance.

Over the years, industry experts have tried to provide formulas to describe the relative cost of each component in a balanced system. The problem is that rarely do any two experts agree; and the technical advances in equipment performance insure that today’s ideal formulas are obsolete tomorrow.

With this in mind, then what should you do?  We offer the following guide to assist you in deciding what percent of your budget should be suitable for each component of your entertainment system:

Display (flat panel LCD, plasma, projector and screen):30%
Speakers (three in the front, two surrounds, and a subwoofer):40%
Electronics (receiver, DVD player, etc.):20%
Cables and Accessories:10%

Additional Considerations

In addition to your budget, one should consider the size of the major components. Size should be a primary consideration for the two sensory components – the display and the speakers.

The size of the display is proportionate to the distance from the display placement to the primary seating position. The speaker size is dependent on the overall volume of air in the room.

When sizing a display for a theater room, the key focus should be on creating for the audience a viewing experience that is “immersive”.  To achieve this in a 16:9 “HDTV format; the viewer must be seated in a position that is 1.5 to 2 times the display width away from the actual display.  However, if the room has multiple uses (e.g. family room) the distance from the display to the primary seating position now becomes 2 to 2.5 times the display width away (so the display does not dominate the room).  Please refer to the chart below:

TV viewing distance chart

Speaker sizing is somewhat more subjective; there are a number of design characteristics that are not related to the size that have an impact on the output of the speaker.  Therefore, for the purpose of this discussion, we will assume that we have well built speakers from a reputable manufacturer.

Each speaker has one or more drivers.  The following is in reference to the largest driver diameter; the room size is expressed in cubic feet – length x width x height.

Small room (less than 1800 cubic feet) – the driver diameter should be 4” – 4.5”

Medium room (1800 to 2500 cubic feet) – the driver diameter should be 5.25” – 6.5”

Large room (2500 to 5000 cubic feet) – there should be multiple drivers with a diameter of 6.5” to 8”

As always, this information is intended as a guide, not a rule.

Article submitted on October 6, 2008 by Thomas Kossler from Creative Entertainment Systems, Inc., a custom electronics integration company that specializes in dedicated home theater rooms and quality surround sound home entertainment system installations. For more information on services offered by Creative Entertainment Systems Inc., visit their website at, or call: 508-824-0212.

Editor's Update December 2012:
Detailed articles on how to go about designing a home theater that best fits your available space and budget appear under the Home Theater Design section of our sites; topics covered include room design basics, room audio and soundproofing, room lighting, home theater wiring, room seating, and overall room decor.

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