Are home theater in a box systems worth it.

For christmas I bought a new 50" plasma HDTV. I am pretty knowledgeable about the video aspect of a home theater. The refresh rate, response time, contrast ratio, calibration. But when it comes to the sound part I have never been to knowledgable about it. I have been looking to expand and purchase one after the new year possibly and wanted to know if some of the ~$600 Home Theater in a Box systems were worth it

They are better than nothing- the speakers are likely the weakest element (but you could upgrade those later)


Some of them are perfectly fine, and in a small room much more than perfectly fine. I have a Yamaha HTiB for my Kansas City apartment. It’s in a small room, 12’ my 14’, and sounds great. It’s a Yamaha receiver, subwoofer and 5 speakers and cost me $499 from CostCo.

But I would NOT buy any HTiB that features any CD, DVD or BluRay player built into the main unit. I know it seems like a great deal, but the disc unit inevitably breaks while the receiver is still working, and they usually lack any way of using an external disc player as a replacement.

This advice goes triple for any HTiB unit with any sort of disc changer. The tray type changers are a disaster waiting to happen. The discs are lifted up from the tray via the modern technological miracle known as “sticky tape”. I swear. When the tape gets less sticky due to dust being transferred to the tape, a disc falls off and jams the mechanism. It is, without a doubt, the stupidest design for a piece of equipment in common use.

No, get a receiver/speakers system and a separate disc player. Get one with an auto-calibration system. 90% of getting good home theater sound is getting the levels and delays correct at the listening position. One with it’s own microphone to do the calibration will get it perfect and do a better job than a squadron of Golden Eared Audiophiles tweeking for a week.

Yeah, like the GEA squadron would even deign to listen to your home theater in a box. It would permanently damage their sensitive stapes or something.

Agree with gaffa - I’ve got a Cambridge Soundworks HTIB, and while I’m very happy with it, I’m beginning to regret the built in DVD. I wouldn’t mind upgrading to bluray, and it’s a non-trivial exercise with the unit I’ve got.

I have a HTIB that was given to me. It’s fine. More than fine, in fact. It’s a Panasonic unit, and the primary critique against it seems to have been that “it’s not looooooooud enough! whine whine”.


This unit will literally shake my house if turned up. It does not distort. It’s crystal clear all the way up the dial, and it will quite literally send all four of my cats scurrying for shelter under the bed, with poofy scaredy-cat tails.

I’m hardly hyper-sensitive to volume, either, folks. I play a 50-watt tube amp at breakup volumes several times a week, in a small room.

Good lord.

My system was a HTIB. Of course I bought it over ten years ago so I can’t recommend it these days. The general advice at that point was that they could be good deals as long as you checked to see who gave you both a good receiver and subwoofer. Those were the components that if they were terrible were a pain to replace. Then as long as you had decent speakers included the results could be good enough for most people.