By Grant Clauser
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Everyone loves watching a great movie on a big screen with a kickass speaker system, but few would complain about losing the sticky floors, uncomfortable seats, and kids with smartphones (unless they're your own kids). Our A/V team spends thousands of hours each year to find the best-looking and -sounding home theater equipment. Whether you have a dedicated theater room planned or are thinking of upgrading your weeknight living room movie night, we have recommendations covering whatever space and budget you have.
The best home theater projector
If your room is large enough (you can check using this calculator) and you want the best picture quality, we heartily recommend the Sony VPL-HW40ES. After testing five leading models in the same price range, our projector guru Geoff Morrison concluded that the Sony offers the best combination of performance and price. It's easy to install, has accurate colors, and creates very little noise (which is great if you have a small room and the projector is mounted above your head).
The best home theater screen
A good home theater screen should reflect the right amount of the projector's light back at you and accurately reproduce colors, but shouldn't create hot spots, shimmer, or blind you. That's not always an easy task, as our home theater screen tester Chris Heinonen discovered when he tested 10 screens in his home theater. He also found out that price isn't necessarily a predictor of performance and concluded that the bargain-priced 100-inch Silver Ticket screen was the smartest option for most home theaters.
The best dedicated home theater AV receiver
The AV receiver is the hardest-working component in a home theater. If you're planning on a 7.1 surround system or you want to power a second zone of stereo speakers, we think the Denon AVR-S730H is the best home theater receiver for you. Compared with the other models we tested, the Denon was extremely easy to set up and use. It offers great sound quality even at high volumes, and has tons of streaming features. It also has six HDMI inputs, and one HDMI output.
The best dedicated room home theater speakers
A great-sounding home theater doesn't need the biggest or the loudest speakers, just the best ones for your room and budget. We set out to find the best 5.1 home theater speaker system without going over $2,000, and eventually settled on the ELAC Debut system. They have a smooth, natural balance and deftly handle quiet scenes and outbursts of action. You can also calibrate the subwoofer to your room's shape, an uncommon feature for subs in this price range.
The best projector mount
Selecting a ceiling mount for your projector can be complicated, though you may get lucky the first time. The problem is that one best mounting kit doesn't really exist because there's no industry-wide standard for mounting patterns. That being said, our personal favorite projector mount is the Omnimount PJT40. It's the closest we've found to a true universal mount, having used it to mount multiple projectors. The Omnimount is a cinch to install, and you can easily make fine adjustments.