If you haven’t figured this out by now, I’ve turned stretching a dollar into a competitive sport. I’m always looking for a great value, and trying to keep my budget trim and fit. That’s why this next series will be all about how you can setup a bachelor’s man cave and ditch cable while you’re at it. What’s to boot, I’m going to show you how to keep it under $400 for everything you need.
Not too far in the future, you’ll be playing your favorite video game, or watching your favorite movie, and wondering why you didn’t decide to do this sooner.
Building your Home Theater System
As with any project worth doing, the first thing you want to do is plan out your needs and a few of your desires. When planning my upgrade I wanted a near theater experience with an eye towards upgrading and expansions, leaving me with an HTPC as the only solid solution. A quick trip to craigslist netted me a small form faction dual core pc, and a spare hard drive completed the build, all in all costing me $50. If you’ve got the need, a Blu-ray player and dedicated sound and graphics cards can round out your build nicely
My next acquisition was in the A/V department and left me debating purchases for a full week. While I wanted a large TV, my living room is cramped enough as it is and couldn’t really accommodate another piece of furniture like a media center. With that in mind I was left staring at the mysterious and powerful realm of projectors. This arena can get a bit pricey if you’re driving down to Best Buy, but I found that the University in my area sells surplus equipment through a recycling company. For $45 I was able to pick up a working projector unit and get a brand new bulb for $60 through Amazon. Sure it’s not a “1080p Internet Connected, Fortune Telling, and Life Improving!” TV, but it gets the job done for a lot cheaper.
Next up, for those of you keep track, is obviously sound and once again my cramped living room leaves me with little to work with. Keeping that in mind I began to scour the internet, lamenting all the 5.1 systems I would never be able to buy. Then I stumbled into a relatively new area in home audio: The Sound Bar. These things are designed for the apartment in need, measuring in between 30″ and 40″ and packing a sizable punch. Watching for sales I was able to snatch up a Sony HT-CT150 Sound Bar for a mere $180, a steal considering this thing does independent Audio and Video mixing, consolidating 3 HDMI signals for output across a single HDMI out, a godsend when working with a projector. Good receivers and components are worth the investment; you can find the best av receivers for sale online here.
Selecting your Services – Time to Ditch Cable!
So we’ve got our PC, projector, and sound system to boot leaving us with selecting our services. Now while Netflix is a great source of movies, and some good television, you might want to consider adding a few others to your mix. Hulu, while rocky in the beginning, has really fleshed out providing a competent free service, or for the impatient, Hulu Plus which generally guarantees next day availability of popular programming. Amazon Prime also offers a growing online collection of movies and television programming, but comes with the added bonus of free 2-day shipping on many purchases throughout the site. Between all three services you can get by with paying as little as $24 a month to keep a massive digital library of on-demand programming. Of course you can get away with much cheaper, as more and more stations begin to move content onto a digital platform.Photo by Stephen Bowler
Tallying these three simple things together brings us just under budget at $359 on first months cost. Now at this point there are some home theater accessories you might want to consider purchasing. I myself find that a wireless keyboard with built in track pad is a necessity, and also had to purchase a slightly longer HDMI cable than normally available. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a dinner date with nostalgia.