Creating the perfect home theater setup — home theater essentials

Friends sitting in a living room watching a movie with a Bose Soundbar

Many things make a home sweet, but few add as much richness as a home theater system. Not only does it provide cinema-quality audio and video, a home theater system can also serve as the hub through which all media — movies, music, games, podcasts, and more — thrives, thanks to Wi-Fi® and Bluetooth® connections with any capable device. A well-designed and equipped home theater setup also brings together the people behind the devices, adding the group-viewing vibe of the cinema.

The technology of today’s home theater systems makes setup easier than ever, with few to no wires dangling and tangling between each component. In fact, with a Bose home theater system, very few cables are needed at all. The same goes for the hardware, as fewer components are needed in a Bose system to create that cinematic viewing experience.

Here’s a guide to achieving success with your own high-quality home theater setup.

Visuals and display

Recreating the theater experience at home starts with the right type of TV. That's because film studios are creating more movies in 4K and 8K formats, and at 60 frames per second — nearly triple the traditional rate of 24 frames per second. That means you'll want a TV capable of showing them at their best. You might think screen size matters most in this, but that's no longer the case with today's flat-screen TVs. Far more important to capturing the theater experience are features like contrast ratio, image processing, and color accuracy. Indeed, a large TV may look terrible with poor image processing technology.

“Pixel pitch” — the density of pixels — is another element that makes a big difference in what you see. The pixel pitch you want depends on the distance from the TV to your main viewing position. The basic formula is to equate 1 millimeter of pitch to 8 feet of distance. This means the closer the TV, the lower the pitch you want, and vice versa. That said, the average home entertainment space suits a 1 – 1.5 mm pitch.

It's also important to understand the different types of TVs, which greatly affect image quality — and price. Here are the three most common:

  • LED: These TVs are composed of a liquid crystal display backed by clusters of light-emitting diodes that display the image on the screen. This is the cheapest option
  • QLED: These TVs mark the next level up from LED, thanks to a quantum dot layer that allows them to produce a wider range of colors
  • OLED: In these TVs, the individual pixels create and illuminate their own colors and light, rather than depending on a backlight. This translates into the richest and most precise colors and contrast possible — and the biggest price tag.

Flat screen or projector?

To get an authentic theater experience at home, you might think you need a projector, but that’s not necessarily the case. Choosing between a flat screen and projector comes down more to the use case and room size.

Home theater projectors provide the largest picture possible, significantly bigger than most TVs. So, they only really make sense if you have a wall space or screen that large to project on. You also need a direct projection path between the screen and projector, which is usually best installed in the ceiling.

It's important to recognize that the gap between projectors and flat screens is narrowing with each new iteration of television technology. By and large, unless you purchase a high-quality projector, a decent television will probably look better, as the HDR displays more vibrant colors and deeper contrasts. Getting a similar-quality image on a projector also requires the removal of ambient light, which is why movie theaters turn off all the lights before a show. Flat screens, on the other hand, are not affected as much by room brightness.

The audio experience

While televisions have improved leaps and bounds in image quality over the past decades, they’ve gone the opposite direction in sound. That's because as TVs flattened and widened, they took up the space once dedicated to speakers, shrinking them dramatically and shifting them to the bottom or back side of the TV, where they weakly fire in those directions. The larger the room the TV is in, the worse the sound gets, as the speakers simply can't fill the space and reach multiple people in different positions.

The solution is to shift sound duties to other pieces of equipment, ideally a sound system or soundbar. In the era of Dolby Atmos® and spatial audio — ever more integrated into movies, music, and games — you'll want a speaker system that’s capable of rendering the audio mix, otherwise you may be missing out on a key part of the cinema experience.

Level up with a soundbar

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar connected to a flat-screen TV on a media console

Perhaps the easiest way to match the quality of sound with the quality of video on the screen — and possibly exceed it — is to connect a soundbar. What is a soundbar? These devices, usually rectangular in shape, connect with a simple HDMI cable and sit below the TV, either mounted on the wall or atop an entertainment center. Inside are a range of transducers firing sound in multiple directions, creating an immersive, surround-sound-like experience. More than that, wireless soundbars support Atmos signals, and even when your media hasn't been mixed that way, the TrueSpace technology inside creates a similar effect.

As when selecting a TV, it’s important to match the soundbar to room size. The Bose Smart Soundbar 600, the smallest model, contains five transducers that can easily fill the small-to-midsize living room. The latest model, the Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar, jumps that up to nine, while also adding an artificial intelligence (AI) Dialogue Mode that enhances vocal clarity, so you won’t miss a syllable. Bose SimpleSync technology lets you expand the soundscape further by linking the soundbar with one other portable Bose Bluetooth speaker, or a pair of headphones — Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Headphones, for example — when quiet is needed in the house.

Subwoofers bring the bass

As miraculous as a wireless soundbar can sound, especially on first listen, there are limitations at the lowest end of the sound signal. That's because soundbars cover a wide range of frequencies from high to low but don't specialize in any single one. As a result, your soundbar might not be able to punch the bass notes, low voices, and sound effects in movies, music, and games as much as speakers do at the cinema. Indeed, that’s why subwoofers were invented and integrated into most cinemas by the end of the 1970s.

You’ll hear the difference, too, when you connect a Bose subwoofer, such as the Bose Bass Module 700, to your soundbar, especially when the explosion on the screen rattles your body with lifelike feel.

Surround speakers for larger home theaters

While wireless soundbars can certainly fill the average living room, they may struggle in larger home theaters. Plus, although they create a surround-sound-like effect, they are not the true surround sound you'd experience in a movie theater. To achieve that, you'll need to place physical speakers around and above you. Plus, simply based on transducer size, surround sound speakers can deliver a more complete sense of envelopment.

One long-standing check against surround sound speaker setup is that it requires more than simply plugging HDMI cables into the TV. Most also require a receiver to power the speakers, and often cables running between each component, including along walls and ceilings to transmit that power. Soundbars usually can't be paired with them, either, as they operate on a different system and the sound signals tend to conflict.

Here’s where Bose Surround Speakers stand out, as they solve both of these issues. Not only are they wireless — removing one of the biggest hassles of setting up a surround sound system — they also pair with the soundbar. This means they work with each other, not against. Nor do Bose Surround Speakers need a receiver to power them; all you have to do is plug the included adapters into a power source.

Seating and placements

Creating an immersive home theater takes more than just the right equipment. It requires placing that equipment in the right positions to get the most out of it — and the sound waves emanating. This starts with determining the best room for a home theater. The ideal room has high ceilings, ample space, full carpets, and few doors and windows; separation from areas of the house where quiet is preferred is also helpful. That’s why basements often make the best choice for a home theater.

Once you find the perfect spot for your home theater, you can calibrate the perfect sound using ADAPTiQ, if your Bose soundbar model has this feature. ADAPTiQ optimizes the sound of your system for the acoustics of your room. The contents of your room (i.e. surfaces, furniture, rugs, etc.) impact how sound is heard in the room. The calibration process measures the properties of your room and adjusts the sound of your system accordingly.

Couches, chairs, beanbags, and more.

Setting up your home theater seating depends on where you put the screen, which should be away from high-traffic areas and direct sunlight, and slightly above eye level from your primary seat position. From there, calculate the ideal viewing distance according to the size of screen — around 1.5 to 2.5 times the diagonal width of the screen — and pixel pitch.

Once those basic positions are determined, then you can install proper theater seating or a collection of couches, chairs, and bean bags. It also reveals the gaps for other cinematic accoutrements, including posters, a popcorn machine, a DVD library, and even red velvet curtains across the screen for the full effect.

Speaker, soundbar, and subwoofer locations.

Arctic White Bose Surround Speakers mounted to a wall next to a TV stand

If using a wireless soundbar, be sure to place that below the television, whether mounted or sitting flat, with a few inches’ gap so no part of the TV is obscured. That should ensure the sound coming from it seems to emanate from the TV, rather than elsewhere. The ideal spot for surround sound speakers is 1 to 2 feet above ear height, generally, and angled toward the viewer. If installing ceiling speakers, it's best to keep them slightly in front of your seat at about the same width as your left and right speakers. Figuring out where to place the subwoofer is somewhat trickier, as it depends on a number of factors, including room shape and furniture locations and type, so you’ll need to feel it out a bit. A good place to start is on the floor against the same wall as the television, ideally near the corner — about 6 to 12 inches away from the wall — for greater reflection through the room.

Everything in one

One more element that makes a home theater system great is when it's all in the family — in this case, the Bose family. These components are designed to work best with each other, rather than connecting to a hodgepodge of brands and devices at various levels of quality. Plus, Bose features like SimpleSync technology won't even work on other brands, limiting the system. That's why Bose home theater systems package the hardware all together in multiple configurations. That means it'll take less and hour to transform a silent room into a vibrant soundscape that earns a standing ovation when the curtain comes down.

Featured in this story

Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar tdt
Bose Smart Ultra Soundbar
2 Colors
2 Colors
Bose Smart Soundbar 600 tdt
Bose Smart Soundbar 600
1 Color
1 Colors
Bose Bass Module 700 tdt
Bose Bass Module 700
2 Colors
2 Colors
Bose Surround Speakers tdt
Bose Surround Speakers
2 Colors
2 Colors