We love movies. But we hate going to movie theaters, with all the talking and texting and sticky floors. Like many other movie lovers, our 21st century sanctuary is the modern home theater, with its moderately-priced flat-panel TVs, surround-sound receivers and satellite speakers. For many film snobs, our budgets play a huge role in what we’re able to piece together. And for the most part, we’re able to live with the results.
But what if money wasn’t an issue? What if you could build the home theater of your dreams? This, then, just might be the result: the most mind-blowing high-end home theater system that money can buy.
Out of the (Gilded) Gate: This is Stupid Expensive!
Yes, the ultimate high-end home theater system is undeniably and ridiculously expensive, almost embarrassingly so. You’ll need to make room for several zeros after the number you scribble in your checkbook, but it’s a necessary expense for the equipment, consultants, furniture and remodeling that you’re going to need to pay for to achieve this kind of awe-inspiring system.
Front projector or flat-screen HDTV? Well, that depends on how much space you have. If you have the room and don’t need to tear down a wall in your spacious, beautifully-designed home, you can get the Runco VideoExtreme VX-33 three-DLP-chip front-projection system ($49,995). The VX-33 can give you a whole lot more 1080p visual real estate than even the largest flat-panel HDTVs. The list of features is hard to wrap your mind around. All you need is a screen to project it on.
If, however, you don’t have the space for your own personal theater, a big-screen flat-panel HDTV is still the way to go. Runco’s PlasmaWall XP-103DHD (about $45,000) is a 103-inch monster of a 1080p HDTV that is, according to the company, the world’s largest plasma display. You want a plasma technology for your flat-screen, not LCD. That way you can get a truer black and avoid annoying artifacts that pop up in action scenes caused by the refresh rate of pixels in LCD panels.
The Blu-Ray Player
Blu-ray is dead, you say? Not so fast — especially if you want the very best movie experience possible. If you’ve ever seen the Blu-ray version of Planet Earth then you know what we mean. Image and audio quality actually vary quite a bit among high-end Blu-ray players and you may not need to spend $16,900 for Goldmund’s Eidos 20 BD Blu-ray player, even if does come with something called “AC-Curator” for Swiss-watch precision audio and visual stability. But you will. Because this is your dream system.
The Preamp/Amplifier Combo
While most of us in the real world get decent audio with a simple amplifier, which is also called a receiver, in the dream world, you’re going to want some extra muscle. That’s where the preamp comes in. Also called the processor, the preamp receives and processes audio signals before sending them to the amplifier (and video signals before sending them to a projector or HDTV). The two-stage process is normally handled by an amplifier. But you’re going to want to separate these processes because amplifiers work best when they’re cool and not overheated by doing double-duty to create the type of earth-shattering symphonic sound you’re going to be producing.
Audiophiles swear by Anthem’s AVM 50v preamp ($5,000) and its MCA 50 amplifier ($2,000), which combined provide eight HDMI inputs and 225 continuous watts per channel for all 7.1 channels.
Like the tires on a half-million dollar Lamborghini, your speakers are the only part of your dream home theater audio system that metaphorically touch the road. So you need them to be great. We’re talking $30,000 great from companies such as Escalante Design or Wilson Audio. But worry not, because what you’ll get are a set of seven satellite speakers — one center, two sides and four surround speakers — and a powered subwoofer that provide such high dynamic range that they’ll sound just as good on “1” as they will on “10,” just not as loud. The effect, according to Alex Brinkman of Music Lover, is “visceral.”
A Word on Room Acoustics
No dream home theater system would be complete without hiring a professional consultant to analyze and improve the acoustic performance of the actual room where you plan to set up all this top-of-the-line equipment. Acoustic tiles, sound diffusers and even rugs can be used to shape the sound of a room. A good consultant will even take into account the aesthetic qualities of the room, much like an interior designer, to make sure it helps produce the best sound possible. What’s an extra four to ten grand at this point?
So there you have it. The greatest, most mind-blowing collection of audio and video components ever gathered into one room. The total bill for the home theater system of your dreams? About $160,000. Sound a little over the top? That’s why they call it a dream system.
“The Ultimate Home Theater,” PCWorld, May 27, 2010.
“World’s Most Expensive Blu-ray Player 2011,” Exploredia, May 6, 2011.
Anthem, “AVM 50v.”
Anthem, “MCA 50.”
Runco, “PlasmaWall XP-103DHD.”
Runco, “VideoXtreme VX-33 Projector.”