How Much Does a Home Theater Cost? - dummies

How Much Does a Home Theater Cost?

By Danny Briere, Pat Hurley

The cost of a home theater can range from $199 to — well, the sky’s the limit. To estimate the cost of a home theater, first consider your needs. All you may require is an entry-level home-theater-in-a-box (without the video display) for under $200, but other people may want more.

Get an idea of what you can spend by referring to the table that follows. It’s organized by the roles that each group of audio/video (A/V) components plays in your home theater. (Audio sources are devices that provide audio-only playback in your system, whereas video sources provide movies or TV content.) The A/V system provides the control for your home theater (meaning it lets you select what you want to watch or listen to) and does all the heavy lifting in terms of sending surround-sound signals to your speaker system. The video display, of course, is what you watch (think TV).

The table also lists some optional components — gaming systems and home theater PCs (which let you use a PC as a high-quality audio source device, or video source device, or both).

Home Theater Budget Guide
Role Device Price Expectations
Audio sources Audio cassette player* $50 to $250
CD player/recorder* $50 to $600+
Turntable* $100 to $5,000+ (really!)
AM/FM tuner* $200 to $1,000
Satellite radio tuner $75 to $300
Video sources DVD player $50 to $1,200+
Blu-ray disc player $300+
VCR* $50 to $300
Personal video recorder* $0 to $700 ($0 “payment” when leased as part of a service)
Satellite TV receiver* $0 to $500
Computer/gaming Gaming console* $100 to $400
Home theater PC* $800+
A/V system** All-in-one systems $200 to $3,000+
A/V receiver $200 to $4,000
Controller/decoder $800 to $5,000+
Power amplifier $500+
Speakers Center, left, right, and surround speakers $150 to $10,000+
Additional surround-sound speakers* $100 to $5,000+
Subwoofer speakers $150 to $5,000+
Video display*** Up to 73-inch rear-projection TV $1,000 to $4,000
Up to 120-inch front-projection TV $1,000 to $15,000+
32- to 60-inch plasma or LCD flat-panel TV $500 to $10,000+
Portables Portable MP3 player* $50 to $350
Portable video player* $100 to $500
Car system Car PC* $800 to $2,000
Accessories Speaker and A/V interconnection cables $50 to $1,000+
Surge suppressor/power conditioner $20 to $1,500
Home media server* $1,000+
Internet media access devices* $100+

* Optional.

** You don’t need all of these parts, just an all-in-one system, an A/V receiver, or a controller/decoder and power amplifier combo.

*** You only need one of these displays.

Certainly, you don’t need all the gear listed above. You can buy an all-in-one home theater system and a smaller (but high-quality) flat-panel TV for not much more than $700. Of course, you can spend a lot more money, too. One thing is for sure: Pricing is competitive and is changing all the time.

Over time, components have been doing the integrating thing better and better. You can find really good DVD/VCR combos, for instance. Receivers can now control your video signals as well as audio ones. Personal video recorders are now a part of many digital cable and satellite set-top boxes. Also note that these prices are a snapshot in time — they are continually dropping, so don’t be surprised to find everything on this list available for even less money when you go shopping.