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Five Easy Steps to Building the Perfect Home Theater

You got rid of your old tube TV and clunky speakers, and now you're ready to build the ultimate home theater system. But where do you start? While the decision depends on your physical space and budget, you should be able to build an entertainment system without spending a fortune or knocking down walls in your home. Here's all you'll need to do to create a setup that your friends and family will love—a feat that can easily be accomplished within the weekend.

Compare screen size with room size

Size matters, but it's important not to get carried away. Resist being tempted by the bragging rights that come with an oversized screen. Some guidelines to keep in mind: A 50-inch diagonal TV is ideally viewed from between 6-10 feet, while a 70-inch TV is best viewed from between 8.5-14.5 feet. Sitting too close to an oversized screen means that your head will have to move more than your eyes to follow the action.

Tailor display and resolution to your viewing needs

Your TV choices today will essentially be between edge-lit HDTVs, which use arrays of LEDs along the edges to create a thinner, lighter TV, or backlit HDTVs, which use an array of LEDs directly behind the panel that allow for a more evenly illuminated and enhanced picture. Opt for high-quality 1080p resolution, since the prices have dropped in recent months on these sets. If you're impressed by high resolution, though, you may want to consider 4K models, also known as ultra high def or Ultra HD. For a more immersive experience, check out the new curved HDTVs, which offer better clarity, an improved viewing angle and reduced reflections. Most new HDTVs will have Internet connection capabilities, which let you surf the Web and watch shows on subscription services like Netflix or on free sites like YouTube.

Find the right audio receiver for your HDTV and its components

A receiver is the key to movie theater-quality surround sound entertainment at home. Finding the right one for you can be a challenge, since there are limitless options when it comes to receiver features that can add up to a hefty price tag. Start by taking an inventory of the various devices that you have or plan to purchase. These may include a cable box, video game console, Blu-ray/DVD player and portable music players. A good rule of thumb is to get the latest receiver with the most advanced input/output connectors.

Ensure a smooth speaker setup

This is important, especially if you want a surround-sound system. Make sure that your receiver has a built-in surround-sound decoder, which offers a simple and direct setup that saves you from wrestling with extra cables. Match the power output of your receiver to what your speakers can safely handle by checking the specs on both.

Match cables to A/V needs

You'll need HDMI cables to connect the various components of your home theater. These cables come in a wide range of prices and can cost even more than your receiver. Many are gold-plated and have all sorts of clever designs to ensure maximum signal transfer without interference.