Once you have invested in a big-screen HD television, you know that you are only half done creating the ultimate home theater experience for your man cave. Now is the time to bring in quality audio to take your lair from "meh" to "magnificent." A surround sound system, for example, can enhance your enjoyment of watching Scarface and create such a realistic viewing environment that you swear Pacino is talking to you.
Here is great audio gear to put in your man cave, including different ways to implement surround sound to complement your HDTV:
1. bar speakers
A huge benefit of bar speakers is that they won't take up a lot of space. While flat HDTVs look amazing, they don't give you a lot of it extra room for speakers, so soundbars, another term for bar speakers, are so much better than built-in speakers. Soundbars are typically long and thin, so you can put them under your TV relatively easily. Also, they usually just require one cable, so you won't have to worry about a bunch of messy wires to ruin the minimalistic look of your man zone.
So, which bar speaker should you get? We are partial to the Polk Audio Omni SB1 Soundbar with subwoofer. This mighty 3.1-channel soundbar-and-subwoofer package delivers a roaring good time right inside your pad. The 3-speaker array features the clear, crisp sounds you want for movies and music. It connects easily to your home's network router with the click of a button. You can also play iTunes or other online music services from your smartphone, tablet, Mac, or PC.
2. home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems
This all-in-one package gives you the cinema theater experience you've been dreaming about for months now. There are so many options on the market too that you can customize your HTIB to your man cave; the systems vary by the number of speakers and whether they come with a subwoofer or an amplifier/controller. Usually, the home-theater-in-a-box systems come with speaker cables and remote control so you won't need to buy accessories - just plug in the audio tech and you're good to go!
HTIBs are particularly great for man caves because they suit smaller rooms. The systems are compact, so they don't look too bulky. Also, you never worry about whether the amp suits the speakers because every piece is designed to work together. Easy. We're all about the Onkyo 7.1-Channel THY I/X PLUS Home Theater Speaker System. It features seven two-way speakers and a full-size subwoofer (that's the ".1" in the name). As the speakers are sealed, you can position them virtually anywhere, and the package is an affordable way to get the renowned THX multiplex sound.
A receiver-based system can give you more power (we can almost hear Tim "The Toolman Man" Taylor grunting). While lower-end models likely won't offer you better acoustic quality than an HTIB, if you go up to a mid- or top-line model then you will get more power (not to mention more options). If you have a bigger size of a man cave, you will enjoy this option without feeling the sound is too large for the room.
A newer receiver will do just fine at decoding the latest surround codecs, including Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD. If your chosen receiver is THX-certified, then you will find it works best with THX-certified speakers. Some receivers, such as the Yamaha RX-V379BL 5.1-Channel Network AV Receiver, are Bluetooth compatible. We're partial to the RX-V379 because it offers a lot of features at a budget-friendly price. It delivers solid audio, is 4K and 3D pass-through, 100 watts per channel, and has four HDMI inputs. The built-in Bluetooth music streaming is great! Unless you have a massive home theater, it is likely all you need for your audio system.
Another audio option is to go with separates. It is similar to a receiver system, except that the receiver's functions are divided into a multi-channel amplifier and a surround preamp-processor or pre-processor (usually simply called "pre-pro"). As you are separating out the features, you can get a really powerful amp and get speakers that take more demand on them than, say, an HTIB. On the other hand, the separates approach suits a large room best, so if your lair isn't huge, then you might go for another of the option we've listed instead.
A big advantage of pre-pros is that they aren't stuck close to power-sucking amp parts and, therefore, can often perform better than would the parts in a receiver that are designed to perform similar functions. A great choice is the Emotiva UMC-200 7.1 Home Theater Preamp/Sound Processor. Enjoy audiophile quality sound, highly-responsive video, customizable setup, and the amazing EmoQ Gen 2 multi-channel automatic room correction that adjusts your room's acoustics to provide the best sound possible. The UMC-200 meets all of the latest HD standards, including DTS-HD Master Audio.
BONUS: check out this must-have audio accessory!
Plantronics Bluetooth Headphones
Sometimes you want to jam to your favorite tunes with headphones. You'll want a lightweight pair that is comfortable and Bluetooth compatible. Oh and the sound - you want excellent sound.
If you're nodding, then you will want the Plantronics BackBeat Sense Bluetooth Headphones. They are perfect for wireless enjoyment of music, movies, and even calls.
You can go seamlessly from watching a movie on your tablet to receiving a call via your smartphone.
A particularly cool feature of the Plantronics headphones is that you can adjust them to hear more or less of the world around you. Control your experience in every way! Plus, your music and answer-call controls are easily within reach. If you can't get enough of Bluetooth, check out our portable wireless speakers post too!
Set up an audiophile's dream in your man cave when you incorporate the best audio equipment shown here. Whether you choose to have a Home-Theater-In-A-Box, receiver, bar speakers, or a combination of separates, you can truly customize your audio gear to your room. You'd better pick up the Plantronics headphones though, or you might wake up your family or neighbors at night - and we won't want to be held accountable!