How to build a high-end home sound system

We're living in the halcyon days of home entertainment.

From 4K ultra-high-definition televisions to the mountain of cutting-edge devices that comprise the Internet of Things, the level of innovative technology bent to our collective needs means we now enjoy more entertainment options than ever before.

For anyone wanting to improve their home audio setup or perhaps build a cinema surround sound system from scratch, a proverbial oyster of top-end equipment is likewise more readily available.

Sure, the final bill could easily run into six figures, but with the right equipment and a little planning you can build a system good enough to rival any commercial cinema experience, right at home.

Don't worry if you only have a little knowledge of the sonic journey ahead of you. Here are some tips to keep in mind when building a home sound system:

1. Surround or stereo

While a surround sound system will recreate every nuance of audio in a great cinematic experience, great quality audio is also possible on a simple two-channel system with an additional subwoofer, known as 2.1 channels. Equipment can always be upgraded, so building over time is another option.

2. Channels

Decide how many channels you will need based on your media, such as a Blu-ray drive, gaming console or 4K streaming media player. Anywhere from 5.1 up to 9.1 channels is a good start for a home system, but it can go up to 22 for the full 4K experience.

3. Separate or together

Decide if you want to run a single AV receiver to handle all your inputs or separate video and audio processors and amps.

4. Features

Don't get stuck with features you don't use. If all your music and movies are on physical sources, don't opt for a wireless streaming feature on your receiver.


5. Loudspeakers

A great system is only as good as the speakers driving the sound, so spend as much as you can. You won't regret it.

6. Bass

When choosing a subwoofer to deliver the appropriate amount of bass, ask yourself the simple question: what would make Michael Bay proud?

7. Cables

Cheap cables sound cheap. Like your speakers, spend an amount commensurate with the system. If optical connections are available, use an optical cable.

8. Protection

Use this opportunity to invest in better surge protection. It might seem like a lot to spend $400 on a power board, but it makes sense when you're running a $12,000 amplifier.

9. Position, position, position

Place furniture in the middle of the room, never against a wall, so sound can move around you.

10. Calibrate

Once set up, calibrate the system to your room to ensure each speaker is set to the appropriate volume. You may only hear some speakers in a surround system during certain events on screen, like a thunderstorm or a gunshot, so don't set everything to maximum.

It's unlikely you'll find a Grail solution with an all-in-one package. However, if you choose your individual components with care, the perfect system for your living room or man cave is within reach.

Scroll through our gallery of outstanding audio equipment.