1. Making It Too Complicated
This is by far the biggest mistake most people make when setting up a home theater.
Remember that this is something that will be used on a regular basis.
Also, you probably are not going to be the only one using the home theater. You want to make it easy enough to for anyone else that might be using it. You don’t want to be the only one that can get a movie started playing,
One way to make things easier for everyone is by using a good universal remote.
2. Going For All In One Solutions
Visit any big box electronics store and they will offer you an entire home theater in one box.
These are rarely the best options available and are usually geared towards the budget shopper. That is not bad if budget makes it necessary, but you need to be aware that manufacturers typically only do this type of bundling with their low level or base models.
Instead, you would be better off getting a better receiver and just two speakers than you would be with a full surround sound all in one.
3. Room Positioning
Don’t forget about your surroundings. Two things you want to consider when setting up the room is avoiding distractions for viewers and maximizing the screen viewing for anyone in the room.
When you’re setting up your home theater and positioning the components, make sure to arrange them to avoid distractions.
You need to consider things like where the door is relative to the screen and the seating. If people have to constantly walk between the seats and the screen to enter and exit, or even just to get through the room, then the experience for viewers can go from fun to annoying. This is especially true of basement home theater setups when the basement is being used for other purposes as well.
It is important to ensure that the screen can be easily viewed.
The primary two factors you want to consider are height and distance from the primary viewing spot.
Height is easy. Just put the center of the screen around eye level to someone in the main viewing spot. That would usually be the seats right in front of the screen. If you have a large projection screen, you can make it a little higher, but not too much. It’s no fun getting a sore neck watching a movie.
Distance is dependent on the size of the screen, the resolution, and the space you have available. If you have less space then it might not be a great idea to get that giant projection screen. It can be unpleasant to watch a movie if you have to turn your head to follow the action! Go for something a little smaller.
There are some other factors to consider as well. Most people make sure the seating is arranged to make for perfect screen viewing. But they ignore the fact that not everyone might be in the home theater seats.
If you have a bar or games in your room and the screen is just part of a larger setup, you want to make sure that the screen is positioned in a location that everyone can enjoy viewing even if they aren’t sitting directly in front of it.
4. Not Having Good Seating
In order to fully enjoy a home theater experience, you need to be comfortable.
Couch vs. Chair
One of the biggest decisions to make is couch vs. chair for your home theater setup.
A home theater chair like these really adds to the high end feel of your setup. It has one purpose and serves that purpose very well…making you feel like you are in a movie theater.
But what if that isn’t the primary purpose for your home theater? If you’re more likely to have family movie nights or a bunch of people over to watch Sunday Football, then home theater chairs take up a lot of space per person and could leave some guests without decent seating for the game.
One way you can get the best of both worlds is to have a couch in front and then put movie chairs on a riser behind the couch. Now you have two rows of seating and everyone has a clear view.
5. Forgetting About The Room Light
Whether you have a TV or a projector, a brightly lit room is no good for a home theater.
You want to make sure you have a space where the light is under control. There is a reason they darken the movie theater right before the movie starts. Having an environment with controlled lighting will make any screen look a lot better.
You can fix the too much light problem fairly easily and inexpensively with a simple set of blackout shades like these. They are easy to install and can be pulled up when you want to get some natural light in the space.
6. Making Your TV Too Bright
If you look at TVs in the store, they all seem so bright and bold.
That’s because they have the brightness and contrast turned way up! They have to do that because the store is too bright for normal TV viewing.
But that is not how you should be watching TV. At least not in a room that has the proper amount of ambient light (see #5).
There is no one size fits all but most TVs will look their best in a darker room with the brightness around 50%.
7. Bad Sound
Everyone wants stunning visuals but often the sounds quality is overlooked.
Sure, speakers are expensive. But think about that when you are budgeting for the entire system. An amazing screen or projector will be considerably less impressive if the system sounds bad.
You should also take the time to learn where to place the speakers. I can’t possibly cover every sound setup scenario here, but do a little online research and find out what you need to be doing.
Cables get their own category because there are a lot of mistakes make with them.
Buying Too Expensive
If you’re buying your HDMI cables in a retail store, then you’re overpaying, sometimes 5 or 10 times more than you need to. When it comes to digital signal, the cable either works or it doesn’t. All the fancy marketing you see on that $50 HDMI cable…meaningless.
I get all my cables from a site called monoprice.com. They have high quality cables at prices that are not inflated.
This may not seem like a big deal until the first time there’s something wrong with one of the components and you need to replace the cable.
If you don’t have them organized well, it could take forever to identify the correct cable, much less get it out of the tangled mess you have behind your components.
You need to do two things here. First, take a white sticker and label each end of every cable with the component that it’s plugged into. Second, take a cue from professional audio and video people and get yourself a roll of gaffers tape. It’s strong like duct tape, but will peel off without leaving and residue.
Not Having Enough
Count how many of each kind of cable you need, the double it. Cables can fail over time. Some might not work properly right away. You don’t want to get everything set up, pull the last HDMI cable out of the bag from the store and have it fail. Then you can’t watch anything until you get a new cable.
Always have extras.
Not Using The Right Ones
Many components come with multiple options for connecting them to your display. Figure out which is the highest quality option you have available and use that one. No sense in spending all that money on nice equipment and getting lower quality to save $10 on a cable.
9. Not Learning How Your Components Work
Read the manual!
I know, you don’t want to take the time to learn how things work so you set it up “good enough” and start watching your favorite movie.
The problem with this approach is that you soon find yourself doing things the “wrong” way because you were too lazy.
This could mean hooking it up incorrectly or with the wrong connection and getting lower quality. It could mean not properly securing or mounting the TV or organizing cables. Very often it means not taking the time to set up your universal remote with the macro commands.
Sure you may not mind turning everything on separately each time, but just like #1, wait until someone else wants to use it.
Not learning out things work can also prevent you from getting the most out of your components.
If you want a better way to control all of your components, then check out our breakdown of the Best Universal Remotes.
10. Not Protecting Your Equipment
There are two primary things you can do to protect your investment when it comes to a home theater setup.
First is protecting the equipment itself. One of the most important things here is to get a good surge protector.
The second thing you can do is make sure that the equipment is covered in some way. This can be in the form of a warranty or insurance. I can’t give a blanket answer as to which one is best, so you need to check it out yourself.
Many times the store will try and sell you an extended warranty, which can be useful. However, your homeowners insurance or renters insurance may already cover these components. So you might be paying extra for nothing. Look into this yourself with your own insurance and see what they cover and what type of damage is covered before getting any extended warranty plans.
11. Trying To DIY A Complicated Setup
There’s nothing wrong with setting up your own home theater. But be realistic about your skill level.
If you want a high end custom setup, go find a professional!