Welcome to the Rabbit Hole – When Your Home Theater Planning Gets Out of Hand


When we start our journey toward our first home theater, we have a plan in mind. We know what we need and we have a pretty clear idea of what we want. We may have even scouted out something at our local store that seemed to fit the bill. But then we go online and find out that there is a lot more to this home theater thing than we thought. Next thing we know we have spreadsheets and comparison charts. We are wondering if we can add speakers to our ceilings. Where does it end? You’ve fallen down the “rabbit hole” of home theater planning. We can help.

What Is the Home Theater Planning Rabbit Hole?

All you wanted was a simple surround sound system. Or maybe all you wanted was to be able to understand what was being said on your television better. But once you dipped your toe into the murky waters of the home theater, you found out there was a lot more out there. Soundbar? Pshaw! A stereo system will sound much better. But if you are going to get a stereo system, you should probably get a subwoofer as you’ll miss the lowest notes if you don’t. And if you are going to get all that, might as well add a couple of surround speakers for the full experience.

Why stop there? What about dual subwoofers, 7.1 systems, Dolby Atmos, and more! Shouldn’t you at least consider them as well?

If that sounds like what happened to you as you shopped, you’ve slipped into the home theater planning rabbit hole. It starts with a simple need and slides into a bunch of stuff that the Internet says you want.

Honesty is the Best Policy

You started with a need. You probably also had a budget in mind. But your research has led you into a number of conclusions that sound like, “If I’m going to do X, I might as well do Y for just a little more money.” The problem is that your budget has now ballooned to many times what you thought you needed and you’re not sure you can do it all.

We’re here to tell you that you don’t need it all. You probably don’t need most of it. Go back to that initial plan and compare it to where you are now. Certainly, some of the early “upgrades” you decided on came from learning more about home theater. You thought you wanted a soundbar, or maybe a cheap set of computer speakers, but now you know that they probably won’t sound the way you want in your massive, open-concept living room.

At some point, you slipped down the rabbit hole of home theater planning and it will probably be obvious to you where it happened. Be honest with yourself and back your plan up to that point and really think about what you need.

The Internet is Full of Experts

The Internet is full of people that are very confident they know what you need, even if they know nothing about you. Their confidence is very insidious in that it makes you question your knowledge. They are so sure that one speaker will be lightyears better than another that you might even question your own experiences – even if you demoed them side by side.

You need to be careful who you listen to online. They may sound confident, but that doesn’t mean they are correct. People that speak in absolutes are not to be trusted. If someone gives you advice without either qualifying that advice or, at the very least, asking about your specific room and setup, view that advice with extreme suspicion.

Look For Differing Opinions

Many locations online (and in person) will become myopic about certain “knowledge.” A certain type of advice or speaker brand will be either shouted down or deleted. If you find yourself making all your decisions based on one location, you open yourself up to their particular biases. Look elsewhere for contradictory advice. It may not be out there but, if it is, you’ll want to know why someone disagrees.

You’ll have to synergize all this information into your own beliefs. At the end of this process, you’ll have a system that is in your home that you will be using. If it sounds good to you, ultimately that is all that matters.

Almost Never Buy Sight Unseen or Ear Unheard

The problem with planning your home theater system from the bottom of the rabbit hole is that you end up with products that are nearly impossible to find locally. Many are online-only brands and others are so rare as to be found only in a couple of places on the globe. Sure, the people that have them may love them, but that doesn’t mean you will as well.

You must either be very confident you’ll like a product to buy it without hearing or seeing it first, or you must be ready to pay the consequences. Sometimes those consequences will be to pay the full return shipping costs (along with restocking fees). Sometimes it is to try to recoup your money on the used market while shopping for something different.

Take Away

I’ve been down at the bottom of the home theater planning rabbit hole many times in my life. My first system was 7.1 and I nearly immediately realized that the surround back speakers were doing more harm than good. I started shopping for a two-channel amp for some overhead Atmos speakers and almost bought a massive seven-channel amp. Why? Because if three channels were only a couple of hundred dollars more than two and five was only a couple of hundred dollars more than three, then why not seven? All I needed was two channels of amplification and I eventually crawled my way out of that rabbit hole. You can too.





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