Please enable JS


Title picture for custom home theater article.

Custom Home Theater - Design and Installation

By Matt Pecharich | April 2nd, 2020/Home Audio and Video

So, you’re thinking of building a theater room in your home. While one of the first things that comes to mind is the cost, there are plenty of other questions that come with undertaking a project like a custom home theater. Our consultants are specially trained to understand and help with designing home media entertainment of this level. Here are a few frequently asked questions before we get down to the Big Three.

Custom Home Theater Installation: FAQ

Screen and projector or big TV for a home theater room?

If you’re constrained to a small area for your theater, an 85 inch or larger TV may work fine. However, if you want the full experience we always suggest a screen and projector. There’s not much difference in cost either way.

Can I turn an existing room into a home theater room?

Absolutely, we do it all the time. Not everyone builds a custom home with a specific room for a home theater. If you have a room in mind, one of our consultants would be happy to help.

Do windows and ambient light affect a theater room?

Yes, and no. Nicer screens are designed to refract light away from the viewing position, but a TV would certainly be affected. Of course, we always suggest black out curtains regardless.

What kind of speakers are best for a home theater?

Either traditional tower/bookshelf speakers or flush mounted in-ceilings and in-wall speakers work fine. It really comes down to several factors, which we go over more in detail later in the article.

What size room is best for a home theater?

Without getting into complicated acoustic measurements, a normal sized room with regular ceiling height will work fine for most people. Optimally you want more depth than width, such as a 20x13 room or similar. You do not want tall ceilings or hard/solid floors.

How much does a custom home theater cost?

With installation, look to start around the $8-10k mark for a simple home theater with quality components and reliability. This includes screen, projector, reciever/amplifier, five speakers and a subwoofer for a basic 5.1 surround sound. This does not include furniture.

Custom Home Theaters: The Big Three

There are three main and most important components to NOT cut costs on when it comes to building your custom home theater. These components can make or break the experience. Our suggestion is always if you’re going to do it, do it right the first time.

There’s nothing worse than spending thousands of dollars and a month later wishing you spent a thousand more.

The Picture: Screen and Projector/TV

Obviously the first and most important component is the display you’ll be watching. There are many options to choose from. Of course most TVs nowadays are going to be 4k UHD or better, so depending on your ambient light situation you could pick up a nice 85 inch TV for $4000+ (about where Sony’s 950 series starts out). The problem is if you want anything bigger, the cost jumps astronomically for a TV, and you’re much better off with a screen/projector combo.

Not all screens are made alike and can be customized with borders, LED lighting, etc.. Some are optimized for 4k UHD projectors, deeper black levels, rooms with high ambient light, and more. There are even acoustically transparent screens (like the picture above) so you can hide in-wall speakers behind the screen to put them at ear level. 

The relationship between the screen, projector, and the room is the most crucial. There is a lot to take into consideration. Projectors have set ranges they perform best at based on screen size, placement, and distance from the screen. Mount the projector too high, low, far, or close and you lose quality, brightness, sharpness, or contrast.

The two major brands of projectors we install are Epson and Sony. Epson being the more affordable option, their Pro-Cinema series comes with an extra bulb and a mount. The downside being their more affordable 4k UHD projectors are not a true 4k, but a “4k E-Shift”. This is basically two 1920x1080 sections projecting to make a total 3840x2160. They range anywhere from about $2000 to $4000 in cost.

If you want a true, solid 4k UHD picture then for around $5000 (less if on sale) Sony comes to the plate with their VPL-VW295ES. This projector delivers a solid 4096x2160 HDR picture with no funny business. 

Of course, our experts can always design a combo to optimize both the room and your budget.

The Sound: Custom Home Theater Speakers

The second most important component of your custom home theater is going to be the speakers you use for the experience. Depending on the room, screen type, or just personal preference, you can use a combination of any of the speakers we describe here.

Flush Mount In-Ceiling Speakers

The BIGGEST thing to keep in mind, and where we see some customers complain about the quality of their surround sound, is that you want most (or all) of the speakers directed at the seating area. This isn’t just for a theater room, but any room. A lot of people opt for flush mounted in-ceiling speakers. 

You can find decent ones for less than $100 a piece, but as shown below, there’s a difference in speakers designed for audio and speakers designed for home theater.

Picture showing the difference between regular in-ceiling speakers for audio and in-ceilings for home theater installations.

Basic home theater with 5 Klipsch directional in-ceiling speakers, a 10" Klipsch subwoofer, 100" screen, and Epson projector.

Unless you’re going to lay on the floor in front of your screen, you want to make sure to have the CORRECT in-ceiling speakers. Directional in-ceilings are designed to pivot in the basket so they can be aimed at the seating position. So if you’re doing anything in the ceiling, you want directionals.

Flush Mount In-Wall Speakers

In-wall speakers are still popular, especially with acoustically transparent screens, but not always cost efficient or doable depending on the room. The room has to be in the correct location in the home, or the home has to be built and the room designed with them in mind. Reason being, we have to get wires down the wall to the speaker and there’s a lot of factors that can prevent it.

We can’t get wires down exterior walls from the attic 90% of the time, unless a customer wants to start cutting holes in the drywall. If it’s a two story home and the room is on the first story, it’s practically impossible to do it or even do in-ceilings without tearing into drywall. It doesn’t raise the price astronomically, we have contractors we work with who can come in to patch and match paint, but it definitely adds to the cost.

Traditional Tower/Bookshelf/On-Wall Speakers

Picture of a custom home theater using traditional tower and on-wall speakers.

Home theater using traditional Klipsch on-walls and their Heritage La Scala line of speakers.

We would be amiss to say that this isn’t still our favorite type of setup in terms of an actual theater “feel” to a room. You can certainly get the same amount of depth and quality from nicer in-wall or in-ceiling speakers, and if you’re doing Dolby Atmos we definitely suggest in-ceilings for the Atmos portion. But nothing beats the feel and ambience of traditional towers and on-wall surrounds.

Like we said, you can always mix and match and it won’t hurt the quality. Some rooms are actually better for mixing since on-wall speakers follow the same constraints in-wall speakers do; we have to get wires to them. You could do traditional towers and a center up front and use in-ceilings for your surrounds and rears. We have a lot of customers that do this and are extremely happy with the result.


Picture of 3000 series SVS subwoofers.

SVS 3000 Series Subwoofers

The most essential speaker to complete the overall effect of sound in a theater room. It’s what annoys the neighbors but makes the kids jump out of their seats. You may be able to hear the rest of the speakers, but you feel the subwoofer.

Most subwoofers are self powered with their own built in amplifier and can come in the most popular sizes of 8, 10, 12, or 15 inches. Most customers are happy with a single 10 or 12 inch model, but some opt for two subwoofers. Positioning depends on room size and what is acoustically optimal for it. One spot in the room may make the subwoofer twice as loud as another spot. 

For some of the best subwoofers money can buy, check out the brand we carry called SVS. We have been extremely impressed with both price and performance compared to a lot of other brands.

The Brains: A/V Receiver 

The heart of your entire theater room. Your choice of an A/V receiver can make a HUGE difference in quality and your experience. Different brands have different costs, advantages, better processing and parts, you name it.

A receiver is what controls everything from powering your speakers, to fine tuning the sound to the room, and switching between video sources like a cable box, DVD player, Roku, etc.. It is essential that corners are not cut on this component as it controls the entire room. 

Of course you want to pick one that fits your needs and your speaker setup OR one that would allow you to add more speakers later on down the road. If your budget only allows for a 7.1 surround sound now, but you may want to do Dolby Atmos later, get a receiver that is capable of it. 

The receiver and all video sources can be located in the same room or hidden in a closet elsewhere if a customer desires. Of course, we offer a remote that can be programmed to control everything if we hide the equipment. Even if you keep the components in the room, nobody likes to juggle 10 remotes.

We carry Yamaha, Marantz, Anthem, and McIntosh A/V receivers and separates. So from budget friendly to high end audiophile, we can design it!

Expertly Trained to Design and Install Custom Home Theaters

We’ve been doing this for over 40 years in East Texas. Our consultants are expertly trained to help design your custom home theater to fit both needs and budget. On top of that, our technicians have weekly training sessions to stay sharp and ensure every install expresses our desire to be the best in the business.

As always, consultations within Tyler and the surrounding areas are free. So give us a call if you’re looking to design a new custom home theater or upgrade an existing one!


Recent posts