Home Cinema

Home Cinema System

I am halfway through purchasing all the equipment required for my whiz bang home cinema system. I thought I would share with you the home cinema equipment that I have bought, what I think of it, and what stuff I intend to buy next!

Video Projector Home Cinema

Firstly I'll point out that this home cinema system is based around my Video Projector. A completely impulse buy that I am incredibly happy with. I have the Benq Pe5120 Home Cinema Video Projector. I bought it around a year ago for 700 pounds, but it is in the shops for around 450 pounds now (that's technology for you). It is a DLP video projector, which in my opinion gives a better picture than the LCD projectors, especially in day light.

For a good website on video projectors take a look at Projector Point . They offer a good selection of Home Cinema Projectors, stocking only good quality and good value projectors

I chose the PE5120 based on price, a few reviews, and the good selection of video inputs on the back. I ultimately want to be able to switch to the best video quality which is RGB component, but also wanted the flexibility that you get from S-video and Composite. The PE5120 had the added advantage of a computer monitor digital input (for gaming I guess)

To get myself started I simply hooked the video projector up to my Xbox, bought the Xbox DVD player adaptor and away I went. First of all I projected the image onto a bare wall but I quickly moved on to making my own screen using a massive bit of plywood (from any DIY store) which was white on one side.

Improving the Home Cinema

Once I moved house, the massive bit of wood (2 metres by 1.5 metres) simply wasn't practical anymore. It just would not fit into the new house. So for Christmas I got a pull down video projector screen. The projector screen is a "Sapphire", and was reasonably cheap (£100) and of good build quality. This device attaches to the wall, using some hefty rawl plugs, and you simply pull it down when every you want to watch a movie. To retract the video screen requires a bit of twitching of the canvas, and up it goes, discretely out of the way.

The sound now longer comes out of the TV, but is piped through a mini-stereo system, using some long phono leads.

Home Cinema Surround Sound System

This is want I want to purchase next, but it is proving to be a bit difficult. My issue is that I have spent TOO long looking over specifications on the web, reading too may conflicting reviews, and am basically at a bit of a loss. My biggest issue is 'specification creep', I started off thinking that a nice all in one home cinema surround sound system would do fine, one of the ones that you can buy for 1-2 hundred from Dixons. However my thinking then moved on to the stand alone AV receivers, with separate speakers: These boxes of tricks are great, especially if you want to continually expand your system. They have a vast array of input available, with digital coaxial, optical inputs, S-video, the lot, and then just as many outputs available. This means that I could pipe all my equipment (TV, stereo, DAB radio, Xbox, DVD player and Freeview box [not that I have all of these yet]) through the one box, giving high quality sound output!

AV receivers

The choice of AV receivers is just bewildering! The price range is from sub-100 pounds up to several thousand, and apart from some subjective reviews it is difficult to tell them apart.

A number of things that I have identified that I want are:

  • Sufficient inputs for future upgrades
  • At least 100Watts per channel
  • Surround sound 6.1, DTS, Pro-logic 2
  • Banana plug speaker connectors
  • Optical in (for Xbox)
  • Coaxial digital in (For DVD player)
  • At least 3 stereo inputs
  • Costs below 200 pounds
  • From this least of requirements I have identified the PIONEER VSX515 . On paper it meets all the specifications, and it seems to get reasonable reviews. So that is on my wish list now.

    Home Cinema Speaker Sets

    There is no point in having a decent AV receiver if you don't have decent speakers to go with them. But again the choice is over whelming. I don't have the cash, or the musical ear to go for some specialist set separate speakers, so I have decided to choose a pre-packaged set. At the moment my favourite is the Eltax Avante 5.1 system, coming in at 150pounds. I also like the look of the Tannoy 5.1FX set, however the Eltax ones have the tall speakers for the front, which would frame my video projector screen quite nicely. It seems reasonable to me to spend about as much on the speakers as I do on the AV receiver. But that is just a personal opinion. In the future I will probably upgrade the speakers one at a time, with the centre speaker and the base being the most important.

    DVD Home Cinema

    At the moment I just use my Xbox to play DVD's on. This is fine except it sometimes seems to struggle with some movies (screen keeps freezing) and it only supports S-video output. My video projector takes RGB component and I might as well use it! Therefore I'd like to get myself a new DVD player. Again I'm not going for top of the range here, just something that has the RGB component out, some decent reviews and of course, surround sound to plug into my AV receiver!

    So far most DVD's look the same, Toshiba, Sony and Phillips all do good system at around 50-80 pounds. I think I need to do a bit of research, or just pick one at random!

    Freeview Boxes.

    I can't believe that this simple box is causing me such difficulty!! I have read tonnes of reviews and I cant find a single box that people generally seem to like. All I want is one with 2 scart outputs, one to go to the TV and one that I will convert to composite to go to the video projector. However every single box seems to have issues, either it crashes lots, the picture quality is rubbish, or the sound is erratic. I think the main problem is that manufacturers release the freeview box with Beta style software and then upgrade the system through the airwaves. This does mean that when a box is first released it has many issues with it, which the public pick up on and complain about on the Internet. However once these issues have been fixed, well the complaints are still out there on the web, and the product is already tainted with some bad reviews.

    Still, I'll find one, I did like the look of the Wharfedale freeview boxed (sold exclusive to Argos), but that is out of stock and is only a rebadged Vestel system anyway (just need to find out what else Vestel have rebadged themselves to be).

    Total Projected Spend on Home Cinema

  • Video Projector - £700
  • Video Projector Screen - £100
  • AV receiver - £200
  • Speakers - £150
  • DVD player - £60
  • Freeview Box - £40
  • Total Cost of Home Cinema System - £1200

    So there you have it. 1200 pounds for a complete home cinema entertainment system. Bargain!

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    "Sure your already further on than when you wrote this article. I just bought an Onkyo system from Richer sounds for £299. It's decent quality comes with the speakers and is reasonably future proof. I have also invested in a Vu+ Duo, don't know if you know much about these but it is a Satellite box that can be paired up with a motorised dish that can pick up loads of different satellite channels and can be customer modified. Gives a 720p output or 1080i great picture quality, even on the standard defination channels. Hope your going well"


    "hi im only young and still in school my big bro has handed down his prjecor and iv got a free view box but i dunno how to connect to the projector. if thers only phono leads that go in to the back can u buy a phono and scart lead as 1. thanks"