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$5,000 5.2 Channel Recommended Home Theater System

by May 27, 2014

If you spend any time at all on our forums, you’ll run into a few (thousand) posts along the lines of “Help, I have $XXXX to spend on a home theater, and don’t know what to buy.” To those people we say “have no fear, the Audioholics are here!” Today we’ll put together a 5.2 system at the $5,000 price point; certainly that’s a fair amount of dough to work with, though not enough to fritter money away on things like fancy hardwood veneers and exotic looking cables. Simply put, we’re out to build a system that delivers big on sound, while remaining acceptable in terms of WAF.

Loudspeakers: EMPTek R55Ti Towers, R56Ci Center, R55Wi Surrounds

MSRP: $1,535 (5.0 System) | EMPTek E55Ti Floorstanding Speaker Review

In our humble opinion, EMPTek’s Impression series offers a remarkable bang for the buck. For a hair over $1,500, you can put together a 5.0 setup that will look and sound like they cost twice that. Starting with the exterior, these aren’t your average black boxes that you usually get at this price; EMPTek’s Impression line features gracefully curved cabinets finished in a simulated high gloss red burl or black ash that’s reasonably convincing at a distance. Meanwhile, one look at a grill-less R55Ti will give you a good idea of what these speakers can do: with a pair of 5.25” midrange drivers and triple 6.5” woofers to cover the low end, dynamics are off the charts. Of course these speakers do more than just get loud, they sound great doing it. In our formal review, the only average sub-score received was in the bass extension department, merely suggesting that this setup should be used with a subwoofer to fill in the bottom octaves.

EMPTek System

On the technical side, the R55Ti, R56Ci, and R55Wi are all of average sensitivity, with ratings between 87 and 88dB with 2.83V at 1 meter. They’re also all specified to be 6 ohm speakers, which taken together with the sensitivity ratings indicate they shouldn’t require massive amplification to deliver big output.

Subwoofers: SVS PB2000 x2

MSRP: $1,499 (pair) | PB2000 / SB2000 Video Review

We actually have two subwoofers to recommend for this system: the choice depends on the size of your space as well as how large of a subwoofer you’re willing to tolerate. For larger spaces (say 3,000 cubic feet and up), we’d recommend a pair of SVS PB2000’s; conversely, if your room is relatively small, or you just don’t like the idea of looking a large subwoofer every day, a pair of relatively compact SB2000s would be the better choice. In either case, you’ll need to prepare yourself for seat shaking low end output; even the petite SB2000 is rated to deliver output down to 19Hz (-3dB) while the PB2000 extends marginally deeper, down to 17Hz (-3dB). Output capabilities are also sure to satisfy all but the most ardent of bass-heads, with a single PB2000 delivering greater 110dB or more from 32Hz on up, measured at 2 meters distance, outdoors. Of course adding a second subwoofer to the mix will provide a boost in output, as well as the potential for more consistent bass response among your seats.

SVS 2000 Series Subwoofers

Alternative: SVS SB2000 x2

A/V Receiver: Denon AVR-X4100W

MSRP: $1,499 | Denon AVR-X4000 Review

Given our decision to go with multiple subwoofers, the choice of A/V receiver became pretty easy as the Denon AVR-X4100W has something relatively unique at this price point: Audyssey’s SubEQ. This particular feature allows the Denon to automatically set up and equalize a pair of subwoofers independently, allowing for superior results than trying to treat them as a single speaker. Of course that’s not all the X4100W has in its bag of tricks. The AVR-X4100W is rated to deliver 125W of power into 8 ohms (20Hz-20kHz, 0.08% THD, 2ch driven), boasts a total of 7 HDMI inputs as well as 3 outputs, integrated WiFi and Bluetooth for wireless networking, and offers 3D support as well as video scaling up to 4K resolution. The Denon also offers Audyssey’s top of the line MultEQ XT 32 auto-calibration system for squeezing the best sound out of your speakers, not to mention a network jack which allows users to stream audio. For those seeking greater power output, you can also add an external amplifier as the X4100W features a full complement of preamplifier outputs.

Denon AVR-X4000

Blu-ray Player: OPPO BDP-103

MSRP: $499 | OPPO BDP-103 Review

We’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: OPPO’s BDP-103 delivers a heck of a lot for not much coin. The BDP-103 is of course a Blu-ray player with the ability to upscale content to 4K, but that just scratches the surface. It can also play SACDs and DVD-A discs, allowing your theater to become a multi-channel music system. In addition, the BDP-103 features a network input for streaming A/V content, including Netflix, Vudu, and Pandora. Long story short: the OPPO has the capacity to be a one stop shop for all your media playback needs.


Cables: Blue Jeans Cables (~$155)

Blue Jeans is our go to cable vendor for a simple reason: they offer high quality products at affordable prices, and unlike so many other cable companies, they hold the BS. They offer raw 12AWG speaker wire starting at $0.52/foot, though they also sell terminated cables for a bit extra. Blue Jeans also sells no-nonsense interconnects (including balanced XLR cables) and subwoofer cables. Prices will of course vary based on the lengths that you need; however, the total seen above is based on the following:

  •     100’ of Belden 5000UE speaker wire: $52.00
  •     1x3’ + 1x8’ Belden Series-FE HDMI cables: $41.25
  •     2x15’ Belden LC-1 subwoofer cables: $60.50
Blue Jeans Cable

Surge Protection: Panamax SP8-AV

MSRP: $70

The Panamax SP8-AV is a fairly basic device. It offers 1125 joules of surge protection for 8 outlets, as well as a modicum of EMI/RFI noise rejection. In the event of a catastrophic surge, the SP8-AV's circuitry will disconnect your equipment from the line, helping to ensure its safety. Considering the modest price tag, we consider it cheap insurance to keep your equipment reasonably safe. Take our word for it when we say it’s never fun to see pricey components fry.



Loudspeakers    EMPTek Impression Series  
 Subwoofers  SVS PB-2000 x2
or SB-2000 x2
$1,499 /
 A/V Receiver
Denon AVR-X4100W
 Blu-ray Player
 Cabling  Blue Jeans Cable
 Surge Protection
 Panamax SP8-AV
     Total w/ PB-2000's   
 Total w/ SB-2000's


For $5,000 and some change, it’s clearly possible to build a very impressive 5.2 system. The secret sauce here is the high value EMPTek line, which delivers performance and aesthetics that defies their price point. Add in a pair of good quality subwoofers from SVS and a Denon receiver to make the most of them, and you’ve got the core of an excellent home theater system. Now all you need is a display and some popcorn to enjoy movies and music in all their multi-channel glory.

When you're ready to step up to 7.2, simply add a pair of EMP R5bi bookshelf speakers ($225/pr) to the back channels.  Then you can really take advantage of newer 7.1 discrete Blu-ray recordings or use the fabulous post processing of PLiix Music and Movie modes for your two-channel and multi-channel sources.


About the author:
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Steve Munz is a “different” addition to Audioholics’ stable of contributors in that he is neither an engineer like Gene, nor has he worked in the industry like Cliff. In fact, Steve’s day job is network administration and accounting.

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