Creating your own home theater has never been easier! The challenge is to do this without breaking the bank. Surprisingly, a few simple tricks can do just that.

One common mistake when building a home theater is underestimating or overspending a project’s budget. But by knowing which items you can skip, which ones you can reuse, and what budget to buy, you can save a few dollars without sacrificing the quality of your experience.

In this quick guide, you’ll learn how to build a home theater on the cheap.

Don’t buy everything at once!

how to make a cheap home theater

Before you get started, this is the most important piece of advice you’ll need. With the way technology is being updated these days, you won’t find cutting-edge, future-proof products in every category at the same time. So if you try to buy all the parts together, you will end up compromising and possibly needing an upgrade sooner than you thought.

Instead, buy break-in components now and get cheaper options for everything else — or skip them altogether. Even for these important ingredients, do your research on how long they will last and spend accordingly.

We will tell you about some of these aspects in this article, but no matter what, do not buy everything at once. Bet on purchases so that at every stage you can acquire the most promising components with the best value for money.

Buy a good TV and forget about Smart OS

Buy a cheap 4K HDR TV for a budget home theater

Ideally, you want a TV that supports 4K and HDR. Although it will be a smart TV, it’s fine if you don’t like the operating system or interface. Either way, you’ll get a Blu-ray player or some sort of media center that does everything a smart TV does, and probably does better.

Check out our recommendations for some of the most affordable 4K HDR TVs you can buy. The size is up to you, but for a home theater setup, you’ll be watching at least 55 inches. Don’t worry about distance, as in home theater the rule of thumb is to be as big as you can afford.

The projector is not worth the cost

Good projectors cost more than good home theater TVs

Instead of TVs, you can also use a projector, but this ends up increasing costs. Because the projector doesn’t have a backlight, you’ll have to spend on extras like blackout curtains and a projection screen like the Homegear 120HD.

Also, at the time of writing, good 4K HDR projectors are much more expensive than similarly sized TVs. And if you want to buy a big TV anyway, any reason to buy a projector has diminished anyway.

Consider using an old PC

Chances are you have an old PC or laptop lying around somewhere, or you know someone who does. You can use this to create a great PC media center. This will be the cheapest way to get a good home theater system.

Even if you have to add a few things, reconfiguring your old computer will be cheaper and will result in a better multimedia box than any gadget you buy. Yes, even the Raspberry Pi. While we’re big fans, there are some things Home Cinema can’t do.

The flexibility that a proper computer gives you can’t be compared to what you’ll get, even with something like Roku or Chromecast A PC can do all the tasks that a streaming device can do, but doesn’t work the other way around.

More importantly, the PC keeps your options open for the future. You can add a 4K Blu-ray drive or a better sound card. You can upgrade the processor or add a graphics card to turn it into a game console, etc.

If you don’t have an old PC, buy the Sony UBP-X700. This is a fantastic 4K Blu-ray player with support for all your favorite streaming services.

Start with cheap speakers

Buy cheap speakers for a budget home theater

Don’t buy speakers with a «bigger is better» philosophy. The speakers talk about how you set them up and the quality of the components they use.

You must buy the right speakers for your room. If you have a small living room, a 9.1 channel setting is overkill. Depending on whether you will be placing your satellite speakers at the back or on the side, you will need to choose speakers that provide good bi-pole or di-pole output.

This may sound like a lot of jargon, but the bottom line is that you need to buy what’s right for you, which isn’t necessarily the fancy 7.1 Bose speaker you’ve seen from your friend.

The home theater system is set to 5.1 by default (i.e. five satellite speakers and one subwoofer). Before purchasing anything, determine where you will place each speaker, how the wiring will work, and other details. Having done this, buy the Monoprice 108247 Surround Sound System.

If you’re building a new home theater and want to keep the cost low, this is a smart buy. Remember that you can always update columns later.

Universal remote: old Android and cheap options

Get a cheap universal remote or turn an old Android phone into one

With every HTPC, you will need a good remote control to control all the devices connected to it. This requires a universal remote. Your best bet is the Logitech Harmony 650, but if you’re looking to save a few bucks, you have a few other options.

If you have an old Android smartphone or tablet, you can turn it into a remote control for your PC. There are many apps in the Play Store that make it easy to set up all the gadgets on your Android device. The only problem would be if your Android doesn’t have an infrared (IR) blaster.

Instead of repurposing your Android, you can buy a cheap universal remote for just a few dollars.

It’s not just technology

Technical material is only one part of your home theater. You’ll also need a good closet for things, a nice sofa or chair to sit back and watch, and maybe a mini-fridge for cold brews. All of these costs add up, so don’t forget about them.

The good news is that this is one of the areas where you will find a lot of freebies or sales. Check out local property listings, garage sales and person-to-person online marketplaces. You will often find items in good condition at a low price.

You’ll also save major money if you regularly check the Craigslist Free Stuff section for your region.

The only place to go bust: the recipient

Yamaha RX-V485 - the best budget AV receiver

The receiver is the most underestimated and most important part of your home theater. In this one aspect, while you can save some money, we would advise against it.

Think of the receiver as the processor of a PC, engine, or car, or a burger. If you get it wrong, everything will be destroyed. If you understand this correctly, other compromises are tolerable.

For most people, the best budget receiver is the Yamaha RX-V485.

Take your home media center to the next level

In our opinion, a screen, receiver, media player or PC, speakers and a universal remote control are essential elements in any home theater setup. But, hey, this is something we unanimously agree on. Some of us say that a home theater is incomplete without a good chair or sofa, others believe that it is not a home theater if it does not support 3D.

While your initial cost will be relatively cheap, keep upgrading the room in small increments over time. Before you know it, you might even be getting an IMAX experience in your living room.

Image Credit: Bread Makers/Shutterstock

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