Complete Beginners Guide to Home Theatres in India

Introduction

Cost-Benefit analysis suggests that if you love to watch movies with your friends and family, you should invest in home theatre in India because in a 2-3 year ownership period, a mid-range home theatre in India costs the same as going out for movies twice a month with your family.

Home theatre in India starts from as low as Rs. 5,000 (super low-budget) and you can buy a very good entry level home theatre in Rs. 50,000, which is the approximate annual amount a family (or friends) of 5 spends watching movies in multiplexes.

Now that you have decided to begin your search about how to enjoy movies sitting comfortably at your home, the very first question that comes to your mind is, “Should I invest in an expensive home theatre in India?” The simple answer is a big yes.

Gizmo Guru will accompany you in your decision-making journey, by the end of which you should be able to make up your mind on whether it makes sense to set up you own home theatre, especially in India.

This beginners guide will answer your home theatre related questions like – is there any cost-benefit as compared to watching movies in multiplexes, how to begin search, what are the options for setting up home theatre in India and how to proceed to set up a perfect home theatre suiting your budget and taste.

Further, if you decide to set up a home theatre, this guide will help you choose whether to go for sound bars, home—theatre-in-a-box (HTIB) or build it up component-wise.

Why Should You Buy a Home Theatre in India?

Every year, thousands of movies are being produced the world over. 5001 movies were released in 2019 worldwide! India alone releases close to 2000 movies every year. India is a multilingual country and is the largest film producer in the world. India’s film industry is the second oldest film industry in the world.

India has approximately 9,600 cinema screens out of which 2,950 are multiplex screens. We Indians love our cinema!

If movies are your first love, getting a home theatre set up in your home makes a lot of sense. You can enjoy your favorite movie at home–

  • with your family and friends
  • with your favorite snacks
  • without wasting time driving/ ‘cabbing’ to the mall, parking, taking the winding route inside the mall to the top floor
  • without having to spend on unhealthy meal options (read stale popcorn and soggy nachos)
  • without sitting for hours in a cramped seat flanked by 6 people on either side, wishing the movie ends because the giant cola you just gulped, coupled with freezing air conditioning is making you want to rush to the loo

On a more serious note, theatres are likely breeding grounds for all kinds of germs, virus & bacteria. Plus, nobody in the family wants to take the blame for not remembering to carry a hand sanitizer to a theatre!

On technical grounds also it makes sense to upgrade from just a TV set to a home theatre. TV manufacturers focus more (and rightly so) on giving an immersive visual experience. TVs are becoming slimmer, which means TVs are compromising on sound quality by having to put tinier speakers within a shrinking real estate. This is fine because TV should be able to give you the perfect visual experience, sound is its secondary function.

All these issues can be easily dealt with if you set up a home theatre at your home.

Know more about why it makes sense to invest in a home theatre.

Cost of Home Theatre in India: Cost-Benefit Analysis

Let us say you are a movie buff (you would not be here reading this otherwise!) and you & your family does not miss even a single big release. Which means, you watch at least 2-3 movies a month on an average, around 24-30 movies a year.

Quit watching low-quality pirated DVDs! – Now, some will say,” I can also watch all latest released movies by renting pirated DVDs.” Yes, you can watch pirated DVDs but a lot of these DVD shops are closing because of strict government crackdown and easy content availability from subscription based Netflix, Amazon Prime Videos, Disney Hot Star, ALTBalaji, VOOT, Zee and many more. The pirated DVD video quality is bad, the sound is mono and you can barely make out the dialogues. We should also give the artists their due by shunning piracy. For someone who is satisfied with pirated quality, spending money on a home theatre in India is not an option worth evaluating.

Do not download pirated stuff! – Then there would be others saying, “I download movies online through torrents and VPN “. Well, online piracy has been going on for a long time, but it is illegal and there are strict punishments in case one is caught. Digital proof can be easily established. High rated VPNs like ExpressVPN, NORDVPN cost Rs. 7,000-Rs.8,000 annually. Plus, torrent releases of latest flicks are poor cam copies with hard-coded subs that take the fun out of watching those sci-fi movies. Additionally, lot of high quality special effects and surround sound movies in Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Marathi and other regional languages are never available on torrent sites.

To beat online piracy and to provide comfortable home viewing, a lot of new movie releases are going to happen on online streaming platforms. Now you will be able to watch first-day-first-shows right in your homes and on your own home theatres.

Coming back to cost analysis of home theatre in India.

Let us say you watch 25 movies in a year. The table below gives you a cost comparison

Per TripYearly (25 movies)
Cab/ Self Drive to & froRs. 200-300Rs. 5,000 – 7,500
ParkingRs. 30-50Rs. 750 – 1,250
Tickets: Rs. 200 per pax (2-5 pax)2 pax- Rs. 400
5 pax- Rs. 1000
2 pax – Rs. 10,000
5 pax – Rs. 25,000
Meals: Rs. 200 per pax (2-5 pax)2 pax- Rs. 400
5 pax- Rs. 1000
2 pax – Rs. 10,000
5 pax – Rs. 25,000
 Total Cost Rs. 25,750 – Rs. 58,750
 
Time taken to commute1-2 hours25 – 50 hours
Down-time from contracted cough/cold/fluCan’t be quantifiedCan’t be quantified
(Table Description: How Much Does it Cost to Watch Movies in Cinema Halls in India)

The hard cost of watching movies in multiplexes ranges from Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 60,000 annually and the time wasted is up to 50 hours. Note- this is a basic cost assessment just to show what kind of expenses are involved here.

Home theatre in India starts from as low as Rs. 5,000 (super low-budget) and you can buy a very good entry level home theatre in Rs. 50,000. Typical trouble-free life of electronics is 2-4 years. You can sell your old system through OLX, Quikr & ebay and upgrade to a more powerful one. So, in all-in-all, it does make sense to set up home theatre in India.

Of course, high end home theatre in India cost anything between Rs. 2 lacs to Rs.10 lacs (1 lac=100,000) and people do spend such amounts. These people get a high watching movie and for them, getting a mind blowingly superb home theatre is like investing in their happiness.

You can start with a smaller budget and then move on to better systems if you see value in investing in a home theatre system.

Types of Home Theatre Depending on Your Requirement

There are four broad types and approaches you can take to set up a home theatre in India.

Denon Soundbar
Sound Bar. Courtesy: Denon

SOUND BARS: a sound bar is a long single unit hardware containing within it several speakers and amplifier. Some sound bars have an external sub-woofer also.

Sound bars work best when space is an issue but do not give true immersive audio experience. Sound bars are the easiest system to set up. Sound bars come in various price ranges to suit varied budgets.

Home Theatre in a Box (HTIB)
Home Theatre in a Box (HTIB) Courtesy: Creative

HOME THEATRE IN A BOX (HTIB): home-theatre-in-a-box system consists of all the components, except TV, sold as one unit, hence the name. HTIB has speakers with built-in amplifier in the subwoofer unit and sometimes also has a blu-ray player bundled-in. The speakers could be 2.1, 4.1, 5.1 or 7.1.

HTIB is a pre-built system, relatively easier to set up. One single brand makes and sells the HTIB as a package. You can assemble and set up everything yourselves and this HTIB makes sense if you don’t have time or inclination to individually buy and set up all the home theatre components.

HTIBs come in all price ranges. Some companies make HTIBs to be used with computers, but the ones meant to be used with TVs/projectors are more expensive. The low budget ones are not of high audio quality. High-end and expensive HTIBs provide wireless home theatre options also. Bose is a perfect example of high-end HTIB.

Separate Component Systems of Home Theatre
Home Theatre System with TV, loudspeakers, Blu-ray player and AV Receiver

SEPARATE COMPONENTS: this type allows for you to customize your theatre depending on your budget, space and tastes. Gizmo Guru recommends you to consider going for this kind of set up if you are willing to go up the price-quality ladder.

This system can be built over a one or two years in a phased manner as well. i.e. you can buy an AV receiver and two speakers, then three more speakers, a sub-woofer and finally upgrade your TV to a projector and screen.

A slightly higher zeal level in building this kind of system is when you buy separate pre-amplifier and power amplifier instead of an integrated AV Receiver

Home Theater in luxury home with large leather chairs
Home Theater in luxury home with large leather chairs

CUSTOM BUILT HOME THEATRE: this type is the complete package. There is a dedicated room, hall or basement for the set up. This dedicated space gets converted to a cinema-hall-in-a-house with sound proofing, recliners, projector system and complete Dolby surround sound stage.

This is done by experts and requires big budgets. This type of home theatre in India is very popular with people having the requisite space and financial support.

The above options focus on the audio part. The video part is taken care of by your existing TV set or a projector-screen combo. Setting up the audio part takes care of 80% of home theatre’s immersive experience. The video part is also important and can be upgraded later.

What Constitutes a Home Theatre

Typical questions in mind are-

  1. Should I buy a Bose home theatre in India?
  2. Is Sony home theatre better than Yamaha home theatre in India?

All these questions arise when someone is getting initiated to the home theatre realm. But before answering these questions, it is important to understand what constitutes a home theatre. Once basics are cleared, the above questions will turn into more meaningful ones like-

  1. Should I invest in a good AV Receiver first or good speakers first?
  2. What is the appropriate sub-woofer size for my room?

Home Theatre is a combination of both video and audio experience in a comfortable seating place. The absolute real magic in a home theatre is created by audio or the sound stage, which brings the drama alive. Primarily the components of a home theatre are-

  1. Video – a TV, projector & screen
  2. Source – the hardware playing the content
  3. Processing– an AVR (AV Receiver or audio-visual receiver) that processes the source signal and transmits it
  4. Sound– Speaker system consisting of 2.1, 5.1, 7.1, 9.2, 11.2 configurations and their various sub-configurations. We will come to the details later

Home Theatre Components

Let us now focus on each of the components in detail:

TVs and Projectors

TVs: Larger the TV, better the visual experience. The resolution matters too. 1080p is the minimum required resolution to genuinely enjoy the experience. In mid-2020, 4k content is appearing more and more in movies, streaming devices and even in Youtube. Your existing full HD 1080p TV is sufficient for the time being. Later, you can upgrade to an Ultra High Definition (UHD) 4K LED/ OLED TV or you can look at good projector systems.

Best brands are Sony, Samsung, Phillips and Panasonic. A whole host of other TV brands are also available in the market like LG, Sharp, TCL, Toshiba, Onida, Hisense, etc. Now a number of brands are beginning to offer value-for-money options like Xiaomi, Realmi and VU. It depends on the budget and picture quality that you are looking for.

If you are looking for a 3D experience then projectors are a better choice as compared to TVs.

PROJECTORS: If you already own a 40-inch full HD TV that is more than 5 years old and are looking for an upgrade, you can upgrade to a projector and screen set up. Just make sure you have appropriate space for it. Typical viewing distance is around 1.5 times the screen’s diagonal size for e.g. to view a 100 inch projector screen, the viewing distance should be around 150 inches or 12.5 feet. Projectors have now become affordable and are increasingly being used in home setups also.

LED Projector
LED Projector, Courtesy: Benq

Broadly you will see the following projector technologies being used- Digital Light Processing (DLP), Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), Light Emitting Diode (LED), Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) and Laser Based. Each has its own merits, demerits and price points.

Technical points to look for while buying a projector for home theatre are brightness (in ANSI lumens), native resolution and contrast ratio. The higher these numbers, the better the projector. What are the ideal numbers for these three properties?

For a projector to be able to deliver an enjoyable home theatre experience, the minimum brightness should be 1000 ANSI lumens, native resolution should be 1920×1080 and contrast ratio should be 5000:1 or more.

However, a more practical answer is – it depends on room lighting, the quality of content you are playing and budget. Always choose a reliable company with service centre availability in India.

Top brands include Benq, Epson, Sony and LG. Chinese brands like Xiaomi, XGIMI, JMGO also offer great options but as of mid-2020, have not established physical presence in India for projectors.

Then there are a bunch of cheaper options in the sub-Rs. 15,000 range. All of these are Chinese brands but the quality of projection is not that great. You are better -off upgrading to a good LED HD TV instead of buying the cheap Chinese projectors for your home theatre in India.

Content Players

Content player or the source and the medium you are using to play content is also an important part of a fantastic home theatre experience. Content, source and their medium of playback could be a set-top box, streaming devices such as Amazon FireStick, Google Chrome, etc., Blu-Ray players

Content TypeSourceHow to Play
Streamed ContentSet-top-box (Tata Sky, Dish TV)Give input to AV Receiver
Dongles (Amazon FireStick, Google Chromecast, Apple TV) Give input to AV Receiver or Blu-ray player
Built-in Apps (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify)Playback with AV Receiver or Blu-ray player
Stored ContentDVDs or Blu-ray DiscsThrough DVD or Blu-ray players
Network Attached Storage (NAS)Through Blu-ray player or AV Receiver
Hard Drive or pen driveThrough Blu-ray player or AV Receiver
(Table Description: Types of Content and How to Play Them)

Whatever be the source, both the AV Receivers and Blu-ray players can play the content. For the ultimate wow-factor however, Blu-ray players add that extra rich and wholesome viewing and listening experience.

Popular Blu-ray player companies include Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and Oppo. If your AV Receiver or Blu-ray player has in-built media streaming apps like Netflix, then you can save money by not buying external media players like Amazon Fire Stick, Google Chromecast, Apple Fire TV, etc.

However, if you are just starting out your home theatre journey, no need to invest in a Blu-ray player right away in the beginning itself. It is better to set up speakers and amplifiers first. Blu-ray player is the icing on the cake!

AV Receivers

AV Receiver Courtesy: Marantz
AV Receiver Courtesy: Marantz

An Audio Video receiver is the brain and brawn of your entire home theatre system. It receives input signals coming from the AV source of your choice, processes & amplifies them and sends the output video signal to TV/ projector and audio signal to speakers.

Components of an AV Receiver are – audio/video inputs i.e. various input ports, preamplifier, signal decoders, power amplifiers and output ports. Is AVR worth the money it costs? Totally yes. Apart from the basic input-processing- output, an AVR-

  • Amplifies the audio signal in balanced proportion and sends it to all the connected speakers based on your sitting location in a room. It automates the process of calibrating sound coming out of a speaker based on where the audience in seated
  • Let’s you customize audio modes like surround, stereo, Dolby, Dolby Surround, Dolby Atmos, among many others
  • Has the ability to play different music in different zones (or rooms). It can totally rock your house parties
  • Can also act as a substitute for your stereo audio amplifier. So apart from movies, you can also enjoy your favorite music with different modes like jazz, rock, classical, vocal, direct, etc.
  • Has amazing connectivity options wireless & Bluetooth connectivity, app control, voice control integration that makes it so much easier to monitor and control the entire system

For the requirements of your home theatre in India, a minimum 5.1 channel AV Receiver is a must and all AVR brands are now offering 5.1 channel entry level AV Receivers. To increase the wow factor, you can also go for 7.2, 9.2 or 11.2 channel amplifiers.

The Global AV Receiver market is USD 2.2 billion with bulk of sales in Europe followed by the US. In Asia, more units get sold in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand than in India. Sadly, home theatre in India is not a focus market for any of the major AV Receiver brands. Though a lot of brands are available in India, the popular ones are Sony, NAD, D+M Group (Sound United) selling as Marantz and Denon, Yamaha, Onkyo (Pioneer) and Harman Kardon. A lot of high-end AV receiver brands are also available like Anthem, Rotel, Pyle, Cambridge Audio and Arcam.

Bose is also a very popular aspirational brand and it sells integrated home theatre in India i.e. an HTIB, as a complete package of a console (receiver), surround speakers, sub-woofer and complete wiring in case of non-wireless option.

For Beginners- Consider a 5.1 channel AV Receiver. Go for home theatre in India brands that have sales and service network near you. You can look at entry level models of popular brands like Sony, Yamaha, Denon and Marantz. Almost all entry level AVR’s now come 4K ready. Audition these systems before buying. In mid-2020 price range starts from Rs. 25,000 and goes upto Rs. 40,000.

For Second Time Buyers- you should look at mid to high level models with at least 7.2 configuration going all the way to 11.2 channels. Now movies with Dolby Atmos are available. Take your home theatre to the next level by going for two additional Atmos speakers. For home theatre in India, 7.2 channel AVR’s start from Rs. 43,000 and go upto Rs. 70,000.

For the Fanatics- Since you have owned a high-end AVR for some time now and have the right speaker configurations worked out, go for that high power 9.2 or 11.2 channel AVRs from your favourite brand. Prices start from Rs. 70,000 and go all the way upto Rs. 3,00,000

Home Theatre Nirvana Stage– go for that extra wow factor with premium AVRs of high-end brands like Anthem, Rotel and Arcam. Availability of latest models in India and serviceability issues are a bigger challenge here.

These are expensive equipment and are sensitive to power fluctuations. Unfortunately India’s power quality varies in both voltage and frequency, even in large cities. You have to protect your equipment from such fluctuations by installing full sine wave online UPS or a high wattage power stabilizer at the minimum.

Speaker System for Home Theatre

Home Theatre Floor Standing Speakers
Home Theatre Floor Standing Speakers

Speakers are a very vital component for that rich home theatre experience. In case you want to use speakers for music listening pleasure alongwith home theatre purpose, choose your speakers first on the basis of your listening taste, and then try to find the right combination of AV Receiver to go with them.

The more the number of speakers in your home theatre, the better is the experience.

In home theatre nomenclature channels mean the number of speakers. How? In case you are listening to stereo music, you require 2 speakers- a left and a right one. For home theatre, you need to add more speakers around you and go beyond stereo.

  • 5.1 channel system means it has 5 speakers and 1 powered sub-woofer
  • 5.2.2 channel system is a Dolby Atmos configuration with 5 speakers, 2 powered sub-woofers and 2 Dolby Atmos speakers

Big Speakers or Small Speakers?

The front right and left speakers are the most important ones to invest in. Big speakers mean towers or floorstanding speakers. Small ones mean bookshelves or in-wall ones. Generally, larger the better but it depends on your personal preference.

Home Theatre Speaker Configurations

Depending on personal preference, home theatres come in various speaker (or channel) configurations. Note, this section talks about speakers with the assumption that they are being powered by suitable amplifier. The number on left of the first dot (or decimal) indicates the channels or speakers and the number on the right of the first dot indicates the number of powered sub-woofers. Sometimes a second dot appears (for e.g. x.x.2). This indicates the number of surround or Dolby Atmos speakers. Let us get into the details.

2.0 Home Theatre Speaker Configuration

2.0 Configuration: This is a very basic speaker system comprising of two speakers, front left and front right. This is really not a home theatre configuration but a stereo sound set up. But it is surely a first upgrade from your weak TV speakers

2.1 Home Theatre Speaker Configuration

2.1 Configuration: Now we have added a sub-woofer to the equation. You now begin to catch those low-frequency punches in music and movies. A sub-woofer adds weight to the audio experience

5.1 Home Theatre Speaker Configuration

5.1 Configuration: This is the minimum configuration to qualify as a 100% home theatre comprising of five channels-front left, front right, rear left, rear right, centre channel and a sub-woofer. The advantage of centre channel is that dialogues become super clear and you don’t miss out on them amidst all the movie ambience

7.1 Home Theatre Speaker Configuration

7.1 Configuration: Upping the game from 5.1, we add a surround left and surround right at ear-height to add spaciousness and ambient sounds

5.1.2 Home Theatre Speaker Configuration

5.1.2 Configuration: In addition to the 5.1 configuration, we have added the Atmos speakers on top front overhead left and top front overhead right. Now you can distinctly place the aerial sounds like hovering helicopters and falling raindrops

7.2.4 Home Theatre Speaker Configuration

7.2.4 Configuration: Upping the game further, you have added another powered sub-woofer and two more Atmos speakers namely top rear overhead left and top rear overhead right. This is the real deal where you can create true 3D ambience with spatial placement of audio

For home theatres in India, choosing a configuration depends on budget, space and personal taste. If you are a beginner, a 5.1 or 7.1 system should work adequately. If you have budget and space as well, you should look at investing in a 5.1.2 or higher.

Powered Subwoofers

Adding sub-woofer is a definite option if you truly wish to relish your movies.

Powered Subwoofer Courtesy: SVS
Powered Subwoofer Courtesy: SVS

A powered sub-woofer adds that extra punch to audio. You not only listen, but ‘feel’ sound. A good sub-woofer literally gives a thump in your chest simply because it is capable of moving a lot of air in your room. You can hear low frequencies with a lot of clarity.

Normal speakers can go down to 50 Hz before they start ‘tearing up’ but sub-woofers can go even lower than human listening frequency of 20 Hz. Its the sub-woofer in your home theatre that is capable of giving goosebumps while watching an action or sci-fi flick.

Good sub-woofers for home theatre purpose are between 200-300 W power with built-in amplifier hence require a power plug. A good-sized sub is approximately 1 cubic foot. Sometimes a sub-woofer is part of a sound-bar or a HTIB. Good brands make them separately as well.

Sub-woofers are ported as well as sealed. Ported means it has a port or a hole for air outlet while there are no ports in sealed sub-woofers. SVS, Paradigm, Polk, Klipsch, Elac, Yamaha, JBL are some good brands. Typical price range starts from Rs.40,000 and goes up as quality and size increases, with a very good quality sub-woofer costing around Rs. 60,000.

Summary and Conclusion

Too much information making you confused? No problem. Let us summarise your home theatre search here. Although international home theatre companies are not focusing on the market of home theatres in India and best and latest equipment is not available in India at desired price points, there are still plenty of options that we Indians can choose from to build a home theatre system that meets our requirements.

Home Theatre Price in India: How to Choose Home Theatre
Best Home Theatre: Choose a Home Theatre System in India Based on your Budget and Enthusiasm Level
WHO SHOULD BUY SOUND BARSWHO SHOULD BUY HTIBsWHO SHOULD BUILD COMPONENT-WISE
– Excellent if space is a constraint
– Preferred when wiring is a hassle
– Those wishing to avoid spending time in evaluating and buying individual components
– Those wishing to try out entry level multi-channel systems before investing in more expensive home theatre systems
– Those wishing to upgrade complete system every 2-3 years
– Great choice if you are willing to handpick individual components
– Excellent if you wish to build a high-end system and wish to spread the cost over a few months
PROSPROSPROS
– Available in all price ranges
– Very compact configuration
– Hassle free. All components come straight out of the box
– Available in all price ranges
– The cost of full system is less than that of high-end HTIBs
– Better suited to hedge obsolescence
– Better suited if going for Dolby Atmos configurations
CONSCONSCONS
– At best virtual surround sound available
– Only some sound bars have sub-woofers
– Great sounding bars cost the same as premium quality mid-range home theatre speakers
– Selected options in 7.1 or Atmos configuration
– Generally entire system has to be upgraded
– Better quality speakers and sub-woofers available separately
– This is a DIY project. All components, wires, etc. have to be procured separately and assembled

You should therefore seriously consider upgrading to a home theatre in India because of cost and comfort advantages over multiplexes. Sound bars, HTIBs and component-wise build-up are the three options, each having its pros and cons. Choose your system depending on your space, budget and zeal.

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