While home theater systems can be purchased at a wide range of price points and variances in quality, the basic components of the systems are the same.

Television. A large screen television is generally required for home theater viewing, although size is much a matter of budget and the size of the room. A good rule for proper sizing is to choose a television that is one-third the primary viewing distance from the screen. So, if the seating is 9 feet from the screen, a 36-inch television would be ideal.

Speakers. At minimum, five speakers are required to take full advantage of the sound qualities in a home theater system. Full-size speakers are available in bookshelf, floor, and in-wall units.

In addition, all home theater setups include a subwoofer, which is a speaker that produces deep bass tones. This is especially important to get the most out of audio special effects in films, such as explosions. More advanced speaker configurations can contain up to seven speakers, along with the subwoofer. To accentuate the vibrations of many movie effects, placing the subwoofer directly on the floor or against a wall is recommended.

Receiver. The center of the home theater system, the receiver takes in signals from all the input devices connected to it—DVD player, satellite dish, gaming system, Blu-ray player, MP3 player—and decodes and amplifies the signals. Before making a receiver purchase, look at all the equipment you will want to connect to the device, and make sure to shop for a receiver with the appropriate number and type of inputs and outputs. Front-panel inputs will make it easier to connect devices that you only use occasionally, such as a camcorder.