I only just started as a home entertainment staff writer at Tom's Guide at the end of 2023, but I’m already thinking about how to upgrade my living room to the nines this coming 2024.
In the coming year, I’m looking to outfit my living room with all the latest and greatest home theater tech, including some of the best TVs, best projectors, and best soundbars that will make my home theater an instant must-visit for my friends and family.
Despite chasing after the most premium home theater equipment, I don’t want to break the bank, either, and I’m hoping the still-ongoing holiday sales season ensures prices are at their lowest as we enter into 2024.
So what gear am I shopping for? Here’s a look into my dream living room.
TV vs Projector
One major contention going into 2024 will be the ditching of TVs over projectors as the technology becomes ever more streamlined and advanced. Projectors, though offering the best screen size at optimal prices, aren’t for everyone and thus will require a bit of research to really ensure they meet your expectations.
Projectors primarily come in two different forms, ultra short throw (UST) or standard throw. The former is usually the better option for general entertainment purposes, as these projectors are built with TV-adjacent specs to make them better for watching movies and shows.
Even with a ton of space to leverage the full potential of a 100” or even 120” 4K projector, the real problem lies with the room’s ambient lighting. Is your room full of natural light and windows? And, maybe even more importantly, are you willing to have your entertainment space essentially a dungeon steeped in darkness?
Ambient lighting will cause major issues for projectors, making darker environments harder to see clearly. Some projectors might still work in this condition, depending on contrast levels and brightness potentials, like Awol’s LTV-3500 Pro, which leverages 3500 lumens for incredible picture quality even in the brightest rooms.
Even so, while projectors might not be for everyone, I’m of the mind they are the difference between a simple living room and a full-fledged theater room. With a projector, you get far better leeway in screen size and gaming on a projector at or over 100 inches is hard to pass up.
Soundbar vs sound system
Whether you want a full-body sound that gets really under your bones or a relatively affordable offshoot that does the job just as good depends on how much you’re willing to spend. You’ll have to look at your total budget and see just how much you can shell out to make your dream entertainment room a reality.
Some of the best soundbars can cost well over $1,000, but the vast majority are generally $200 and under. A sound system or speaker system will typically be much more, depending on the brand, but they will offer exciting features, like surround sound, improved audio quality, and Dolby Atmos support.
There are some soundbars that offer software-based surround sound offshoots, like virtual surround sound. This is a type of mode on the device that mimics surround sound to the best of its abilities typically found in either the 2.1 surround or digital sound projection variety. While offering crisper and fuller sounds, they aren’t normally the best substitute for actual surround sound systems.
Speaker systems likewise come with their own myriad of baggage, main among them being an incredibly high asking price. These speakers can also be a bit more complex in the setup stage and may require additional technologies, like an AV control system or receiver.
I’m not one to pull any spending on my dream setup, which is why I’m definitely going with a full-fledged speaker system that gives me the best possible audio immersion on the market.
I want my living room to become the world of Pandora when watching Avatar and I want to feel the cold vacuum of space when revisiting Interstellar. These following home entertainment picks are my spaceship to these many other worlds.
My dream setup
As someone who generally likes projectors over TVs, it’s hard for me to pass up on the same tool that is used in actual theaters around the globe as my main home entertainment system. In the same vain, feng shui will always be held high over functionality, which is why I'm skipping a full throw model in favor of a UST projector from Epson.
As its name implies, the Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS800B Projector sports some of the most epic technology imaginable to deliver astounding picture quality. It's got 4,000 lumens for incredible ambient light coverage, as well as a contrast ratio of over 2,500,000:1, allowing for fuller darks and blacks in movies I love like The Batman, The Lighthouse, and Event Horizon.
The EpiqVision Ultra is also relatively affordable at least in terms of 4K projectors with its price situated around $3,000. It's also an avid gaming companion thanks to its 16.7ms input lag, and comes in either white or black so it can fit perfectly in my living space.
Epsilon EpiqVision LS800 UST Projector: $3,403 @ Amazon
The EpiqVision LS800 takes screen size to a whole new level with nearly 150" of usable real estate in tandem with one of the most jaw dropping 4K image displays imaginable. Although it's a projector, the LS800 still sports exceptional sound quality designed by audio masters at Yamaha. With 4,000 lumens of brightness, Epsilon's EpiqVision also stands tall against well-lit environments, so you won't have to remain cooped up in a dungeon to watch all of your favorite content. It can handle heavy gaming, too, and allows for up to 120Hz signals at 1080p if you're trying to hit that fps sweet spot.
Despite its 2.1 audio system made in partnership with Yamaha, the EpiqVision Ultra won't truly become my main home entertainment system without a punchy sound setup that will drop me right into the action. With loads of options to choose from, it can be a bit tricky finding the best soundbar or speakers that are right for me, but I think Klipsch has me covered with its Reference Cinema System.
This speaker system offers the most bombastic surround sound on the market with multiple speakers and a subwoofer. The 5.1 surround sound is made all the better thanks to Klipsch's proprietary Tractrix Horn technology and aluminum Tweeters, populating the room with unblemished, fuller, and punchier sounds you really feel.
The Klipsch Reference Cinema System stands out with its gold on black accents, gifting it subtlety with a dash of flare. Dolby Atmos technology also helps the speakers deliver multidimensional sounds for the most immersive movie-watching and video gaming experiences I could only dream of. Luckily, you can get this awesome sound system at under $400.
Klipsch Reference 5.1 Home Theater System Bundle: $1,799 @ Amazon
The Klipsch Reference system is a full-body sounding audio solution that turns your living space into an IMAX theater room. Though the price is certainly high, the entire kit comes equipped with a Dolby Atmos speaker with 2 grilles, a Denon 7.2-channel av receiver, and several additional speakers, like the R-52C and R-41M, for the ultimate surround sound experience. The 12" copper-spun front-firing woofer allows for the most optimal audio range and gifts sounds, whether the be music or effects in movies, that natural oomph for realistic, dynamic immersion.
Klipsch's audio system in tandem with the Epson EpiqVision will be a duo that makes every movie, show, or video game come to life with boisterous immersion, reshaping my apartment into the entertainment universe I've longed for.
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Ryan Epps is a Staff Writer under the TV/AV section at Tom's Guide focusing on TVs and projectors. When not researching PHOLEDs and writing about the next major innovation in the projector space, he's consuming random anime from the 90's, playing Dark Souls 3 again, or reading yet another Haruki Murakami novel.