Designing a Home Theater on a Budget

Last month I discussed how to protect your home with steps to improve security and a quick tutorial on surveillance systems. This month as the title says I’ll be talking about one of the most enjoyable products I work with…Home Theaters and specifically designing systems that maximize performance while still meeting a budget. I like to say that we (at Madrona Digital) specialize in systems 5k-500k and within that range many things are possible. For the purpose of this article I’m going to walk through the building of a ‘reasonable’ 25k system that is a current iteration of what I want to put in my own house.


Questions to ask:

What’s most important – Audio/Video, and how important is each?

 -          High impact dynamic range that can rock a concert or blow me away is very important, having a nice big image with proper color is important…I’d like an ultra-wide screen for the most cinematic experience…and think 3D is cool but hate having to wear glasses


What’s my total budget – including build costs, room treatments, furniture and of course equipment and installation/calibration/programming?

-          Approximately 25k seems reasonable 15 for equipment 5 for build/furniture/ 5 for install/misc. parts. + 10% other tbd/overage.


How big is the room and how many people do I want to share with?

-          Room is 15x20, I’d like at least 6 seats…but 8 would be preferred.


Do you have a style or design for the room in mind?

-          I’m wanting a fairly stealth install, I want stuff hidden…but it is a dedicated room so I want it to feel like a theater. I also would like a modern look maybe with some sconces, cove lighting and a riser for the second row of seats.


Are there accessories/products/brands/features you’ve seen/listened to that you like and would like to include in the theater?

-          Yes, I’m partial to Yamaha AV receivers and have had great luck with Sunfire Subwoofers…I also know I do not like single chip DLP projectors as the rainbow effect gives me headaches. I’d like to include some kind of snack bar/concessions area (maybe a kitchenette/wet-bar) with a popcorn machine as well as some Movie posters that can be highlighted with spot lighting. I also want a large easy to use remote with hard buttons as I’m a perennial channel surfer…but if I can also have control with an iPad or android device that would be great too.


These are just a few of the questions I would ask a customer when designing a Theater. There are usually many more as well.


The system below features all of today’s newest capabilities including an ultra-wide perforated screen, 3D video (with video scaling and up-conversion), Audio and Video Streaming Services (Pandora, Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, etc.), the best Cable DVR interface and top notch audio and video performance from any optical disc (CD/DVD/Blu-Ray/DVD-Audio and SACD), plus all the accoutrements to make the room look and feel like a real Home Theater!


The List: Turn-Key Price $27,650 + tax

Video: JVC DLA-RS35 Projector MSRP: 3500

Projection Screen: Dalite 139” 2.35:1 Perforated Screen MSRP: 2500

Speakers: Revel W552 (3), W560 (4) MSRP: 2750

Subwoofers: Sunfire HRS10 (2) MSRP: 1800

AV Receiver/Pre-Amp: Yamaha RXA-2010 MSRP: 1600

Sources: Yamaha BDA1010 Blu-Ray Player MSRP: 500,

            Yamaha YDS-12BL iPod Dock MSRP: 100

TiVo Premier MSRP: 100

XBOX360 MSRP: 300

AppleTV 3 MSRP: 100

Control System: RTI T2Cs+ & RTI XP6/ZM24 MSRP: 1450 (+ iPad, Approx 500)

Lighting Control: Lutron Radio Ra2 and Serena Motorized Black Out Shades Estimated 3000

Surge/Power Conditioning/Battery Backup: Panamax MX5102 MSRP 650

Room Treatments: Custom Package by Kinetic’s Estimated 1000

Seating: 2 Rows of 3 Theater Seats by Mira (Black Leather) Estimated 2000

Rack: Sanus CFR2127 55” Pre-configured Rolling Rack MSRP 800

MISC. Cabling/Install Parts/Construction materials: Estimated 2000

Installation/Calibration/Programming/Build: Estimated 3000


For those of you who desire a higher level of performance including fully engineered state of the art custom designed rooms, or for those on an even more modest budget check out a few of my other sample systems at different price points below.