Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

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We once roamed the vast forums of Corona Coming Attractions. Some of us had been around from The Before Times, in the Days of Excelsior, while others of us had only recently begun our trek. When our home became filled with much evil, including the villainous Cannot-Post-in-This-Browser and the dreaded Cannot-Log-In, we flounced away most huffily to this new home away from home. We follow the flag of Jubboiter and talk about movies, life, the universe, and everything, often in a most vulgar fashion. All are welcome here, so long as they do not take offense to our particular idiom.
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Master Skywalker
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Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

Post by Master Skywalker » September 21st, 2016, 1:15 pm

I've been meaning to start a thread about this for awhile, and finally decided to set aside some time to do it. Some of you may know that I'm an electronics/technology ubergeek and have spent decades honing my knowledge on the subject. I've always tried to indulge my passion for home entertainment to one degree or another, but over a year ago, I finally put together my home theater. We built our house about four years ago, and finished our basement last year, which gave me the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream. It's a mixed-use basement, so I had to make it work within the space I had. A dedicated home theater space would have allowed me to really set everything up how I wanted, but I'm very happy with the end result.

I've advised a few CAers (is that the term for us?) like Jedi Magnum on components in the past, and would like to share my knowledge with all of you. So if anyone is planning on setting up a basement home theater, or wants to upgrade the TV in the family room, or just isn't sure which cables to get for a project, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to help! :) We can also use this topic just to shoot the breeze on electronics in general, particularly from a media consumption/presentation standpoint.

Let me begin by saying that I heavily research everything I buy beforehand, and always look for deals. I built my home theater on a budget, and one of the best things nowadays is that you don't have to break the bank to afford high-quality home theater gear.

Here's a list of my components, with some details about each of them:

Projector: BenQ HT1085ST
This is the short-throw version of the Wirecutter's top pick in 2015 for best projector in the $1000 range, and is widely lauded by every major electronics review site. It outperforms projectors that cost twice as much, and you'd need to spend $3000 or more to see a significant improvement in picture quality. It's a 1080p, 3D DLP projector, and is absolutely AMAZING. Although I calibrated it, the out-of-the-box color accuracy and sharpness are superb, and one of its strongest features is its brightness. Even with the lights turned up halfway or more, the picture is clear, whereas many other projectors in its range appear washed-out.

Surround Speakers: Pioneer SP-PK52FS
I bought these separately, though they can be purchased as a package. The 5.1 system actually consists of the following pieces: a pair of SP-FS52 floor-standing speakers for the front left and right; a pair of SP-BS22 bookshelf speakers for the rear left and right; the SP-C22 center-channel speaker; and the SW-8MK2, a 100-watt powered subwoofer. We can discuss why I went with a 5.1 arrangement over a 7.1 later, but suffice to say, I can add another pair of the SP-BS22s for the side soundstage to easily make it a 7.1 setup in the future. This system is considered the best budget surround-sound speaker system, and was designed by Andrew Jones, the legendary audio engineer. It can crank out some seriously impactful audio, and the center speaker provides some of the clearest dialogue in the industry. All of the components are big and beefy, including the rear surrounds, so look elsewhere if you want tiny satellites (that produce equally tiny sound).

Projection Screen: Elite Screens Spectrum Series 125-inch Electric Drop-down Projection Screen
I debated whether I should install a fixed screen or a motorized one, but a friend convinced me to go with a motorized screen for one simple reason: I have a 3-year-old, and she has crayons. lol This is a 1.1 gain screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio, ideal for virtually all modern TV shows and many films, as well. I could have gone as large as 150" but that would have required buying the acoustically-transparent version of this screen, and that screen type is prone to light-bleed.

HDTV: Samsung UN65H6350AFXZA
This is a 65" 1080p TV with excellent PQ and a thin profile that allows it to hide behind my screen. I was interested in getting an UHD set, but the prices at this screen size were still a bit too expensive when I was shopping last year, and I wasn't too concerned since there still isn't that much UHD material available to watch, anyway.

A/V Receiver: Denon AVR-S900W
The "brains" of my entire home theater. Denon is one of the most respected brands in home audio, and this receiver hit all the specs I needed for my setup. It's a 7.2 channel receiver with eight HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs (a must with my projector and TV), ARC, 4K UHD pass-through, AirPlay, Bluetooth, plus Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio in addition to the other standard audio decoders. The build quality is fantastic and it powers my surround system like a champ.

Home Theater PC: Core i5 laptop
This is simply an unassuming personal laptop that I repurposed to use as my media server/media center. Contrary to what many think, you don't need an extremely powerful PC to run the popular media players nowadays. In fact, many HTPC builds are being done with Intel NUCs or Android boxes. That said, this is probably the first thing I'm going to upgrade in the near future, as I'd like to build a gaming rig that doubles as my HTPC.

Gaming Consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
The PS4 is my main Blu-Ray player, and currently my most-used console. I also own a Wii, PS2, and GameCube, all of which are currently in storage. I might get an Xbox One once Project Scorpio launches next year, but I'd have to whittle down my already huge backlog to really justify it.

Remote: Logitech Harmony Elite universal remote control
This beauty is my most recent purchase. I had a Harmony Smart Control previously, which I moved to our family room. The Elite has IR, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi built-in, can control up to 15 devices, including home automation devices, and comes with the Harmony Hub that allows me to control everything on my media rack even when the door is closed. The color LED touchscreen lets me quickly see all of my Activities and Devices, and every button is customizable.

Home Theater Software: Kodi and Plex
Last but definitely not least are the twin hearts of my theater, Kodi and Plex. I use both because Kodi is more powerful but cannot be accessed on my iOS devices without jailbreaking, whereas Plex has an outstanding iOS app that enables me to view all of my media outside of my home. Kodi is used as my primary media center, and the sheer number of add-ons available for it makes it THE killer app.

I'll wrap this up by noting that all of my components are wired to my network by Ethernet, which ensures the fastest, most stable Internet connection. There are a couple more components I've left out, and I won't get into cables in this post, but hopefully this was helpful to those of you who are interested in this topic.

Let me know if you have any questions. I'll try to take some pics, if there's enough interest. :)
On December 15, 2017, the Greatest Saga Ever continues!
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Dalty
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Re: Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

Post by Dalty » September 21st, 2016, 2:34 pm

Tomorrow I move into a house with a giant basement. This is definitely in my plans!

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Re: Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

Post by neglet » September 21st, 2016, 10:03 pm

Dalty wrote:Tomorrow I move into a house with a giant basement. This is definitely in my plans!
Yes, because babies/toddlers mix so well with expensive/fragile A/V equipment!

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Re: Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

Post by Dalty » September 22nd, 2016, 2:49 am

The baby / toddler will not be in my man-cave!!!!!! (Says the man with no parenting experience who is totally blasé about the ease of all this....)

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Re: Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

Post by Master Skywalker » September 22nd, 2016, 8:04 am

Dalty wrote:The baby / toddler will not be in my man-cave!!!!!! (Says the man with no parenting experience who is totally blasé about the ease of all this....)
You just have to teach them not to go near "daddy's things" and that their play area is in a different spot. They'll learn. My daughter was 2 when we finished our basement and has never once touched my speakers or the screen when it's down, and the TV is mounted too high on the wall for her to reach.

I'm excited for you, Dalty! Let me know if you need any advice as you begin planning what you want to do.
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Re: Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

Post by Jubbers » September 22nd, 2016, 5:18 pm

You just have to teach them not to go near "daddy's things" and that their play area is in a different spot. They'll learn.

Unless you end up with a Jubboiter. Then there will be nowhere to hide.

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Re: Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

Post by Dalty » September 23rd, 2016, 5:15 am

Then they are her things anyway, as all things are Jubboiter's!!

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Re: Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

Post by Master Skywalker » September 27th, 2016, 10:20 am

I've got $60 in Best Buy credit and rewards certificates that need to be used in the next couple weeks. Trying to decide on what to spend it on. I've been considering an Apple TV 4, mainly to put in our family room so I can move the Apple TV 3 currently there to the home theater, but I'm also very interested in Nvidia's powerful Shield TV, which can serve as a standalone Plex Media Server (and can run Kodi).

The Apple TV 3 would be largely redundant in the home theater, as I already have all its apps on my consoles and media center, but the one thing it has that would be very convenient is AirPlay.
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Re: Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

Post by Dalty » September 27th, 2016, 12:50 pm

I have never seen the point of AppleTV - do you rate it?

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Re: Master Skywalker's Home Theater Corner

Post by Master Skywalker » September 27th, 2016, 1:00 pm

Dalty wrote:I have never seen the point of AppleTV - do you rate it?
If you're invested in the Apple ecosystem and have family members who want something with a straightforward UI, it's good to have. My wife is actually pretty tech-savvy, but when she's trying to play one of our daughter's shows or just wants to find something to watch, she prefers the Apple TV's ease of use.

The new Apple TV can run Plex, as well, so that will open up more streaming options in the family room when we want to watch something that isn't being offered on Netflix or Hulu.
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