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Can't afford a home theatre system?

Ankur Jain | July 19, 2006

For many of us, watching our favourite movie blockbusters on television is a no-no.

For one, the screen size is small. Next, the audio quality is not great either; after all 4" (size of your television speaker) can't produce what we love -- the DOLBY sound effect, right? Hence, watching the same films in a theatre which has a DOLBY is a must.

But, if you love to watch the movie of your choice at home, then the home theatre system is your answer.

A combination of various electronic components, it is designed to recreate the experience of watching a movie in a theatre, where you get more immersed in the experience than while watching it at home on an ordinary television set.

To see how home theatres do this, let's take a look at the original model -- the movie theatre. When it comes to the picture and sound, the theatre can offer an amazing experience that your television can't emulate. That's usually why people will pay more to go to the movies, even though renting a DVD/VCD is cheaper.

The DOLBY effect

One of the biggest reasons is the sound experience. When seeing a movie in a multiplex, you'll hear the music, sound effects and dialogue not just from the screen, but all around you.

In this surround sound system, you hear different parts of the soundtrack coming from different places. When somebody on the left side of the screen says something, you hear it more from the left speaker.

And in a movie like Star Wars, you hear a rumbling swoosh travel from the front of the theatre to the rear as a spaceship flies toward the camera and off the screen. You are more involved in the experience of watching a film because the world of the movie is all around you.

The second chief component of the theatre experience is the large size of the movie screen. In a theatre, the screen takes up most of your field of view, which makes it very easy to lose yourself in the movie. After all, you're sitting in the dark with only one thing to look at, and everything you're looking at seems much bigger than life.

The basic idea of a home theatre is to recreate these elements with home equipment. However, there is one factor you may consider before picking up one on your next shopping trip to the electronics store -- the price.

A good home theatre system by Sony is approximately Rs 30,000. The most expensive ones run into a couple of lakhs. These however, come without a projector/television screen. A 45" size projector would cost you Rs 70,000!

Expensive right? Well, you have yet another option, which also seeks to recreate the theatre experience. You could go for a home theater-in-a-box system.

What's a home theatre-in-a-box system?

These are quite popular amongst mainstream consumers because they are a great introduction to the fun of home theatre.


First: Home theatre-in-a-box systems contain most (or all) of the components needed for a basic home theatre system, including all speakers, a surround sound receiver and sometimes a DVD/CD player. This can then be connected to your television set.

Second: They are reasonably priced. Complete branded systems start as low as Rs 7,000, but can go as high Rs 100,000 or more. They are available at any consumer electronics retail store. 

Third: Home theatre-in-a-box systems are compact. These systems are designed so as not to overwhelm a room, unlike the home theatre system, which occupies more space. The central DVD/receiver units are sometimes not much larger than a DVD player, although some systems do include separate DVD player/receiver components. However, the speakers that are included are very compact, the five or six satellite speakers are small enough to be mounted unobtrusively in room corners or shelves. You can connect it to your television set.

However, there are several cautionary points to be made when considering a home theater-in-a-box.


First: These are not high-end systems. Home theatre-in-a-box systems have a tendency to cut corners on speaker construction and quality, when compared to their separate unit cousins. However, with advances in both compact speaker and compact subwoofer technology, some of these "budget" systems will surprise you as to how good they can sound.

Second: Home theatre-in-a-box systems are designed to optimise sound for home theatre use more than for music listening. If you are a serious listener to music from CD or DVD-Audio, you might not be happy with the performance of most home theatre-in-a-box systems, but some of the higher end models from Sony, Bose or any good manufacturer would definitely satisfy your ears.  But for these you need to make a deep hole in your pocket.

So if you haven't yet splurged your company bonus or have received an increment, then you can definitely think of investing in a good home theatre-in-a-box system.

Most sets in the market include amplifiers, woofers and a set for multiple speakers (main speakers and satellite speakers, usually more than four speakers). These only amplify the volume and add the sound effects.

You can connect it to your DVD/VCD/CD/Mp3 player and television set. The option is to hike up your budget to go for a deal, which includes these components too. We list a few options in the market.

~ I-Ball
Price: Less than 7,000
It comes with a cordless remote.

~ Philips
Price: Less than Rs 7,000

Put in another Rs 7,000, and you can affor a set which comes with a television and DVD player like the Philips Powerhouse Home Theatre System.

~ You also have some Chinese brands that are pretty decent. They can be bought online (like the ones given below) or at places like Heera Pana in Mumbai and Palika Bazar in Delhi. Here are some good deals online.

~ Web sites like ebay have lots of deals all the ti me, starting at Rs 2,000 onwards.

The bottom-line: Before buying your set make an informed choice by exploring all the options. 

Do you own a home theatre-in-a-box system? What is the brand/model, how much did it cost and is it good value for money? Share your experiences

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Read what others have to say:

Number of User Comments: 23

Sub: Looking for an amp

I am planning to buy a Bose accoustimass 5 system from Bangalore, could anyone tell me which stereo amplifier would be compatible with it? I ...

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Sub: Home theater

I have a Bose compact Speaker Home theater System supported by a Denon Amplifier. For the pocture I either use a Samcung Rear Projection 54" ...

Posted by Maninder

Sub: A Reasonably good Home Theatre System

For my Living Room of approx 300 sft, the following configuration has worked out fairly well. 1) Sony DVD Player (5-DVD Changer) 2) Sony DE-597 ...

Posted by Kishor Shinde

Sub: 5.1 Channel home theatre

I have 5.1 Channel Home Theatre costing 3000/- Company (Frontech). This is very good Home Theater in less amount but its front speaker does not ...

Posted by Talmiz Ahmad

Sub: Home Theatre

Go to Big Bazaar of any city. There are good offers of Home theatre or else if u live in Mumbai visit Hypercity too. You ...

Posted by Shreesh


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