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$6,500 Recommended Home Theater System - Great Looks & Performance

by March 27, 2012
$6000 Home Theater System - Great Looks & Performance

$6000 Home Theater System - Great Looks & Performance

Putting together a complete home theater system from soup to nuts can be a daunting task. Just how much should one budget?  What are the best products for the price? And what is right for your needs?  These are common questions you may have or should have when assembling a home theater system. We can't always give you the right answer, but we can throw in and at least give some decent recommendations based on our knowledge of what's got excellent "bang for the buck" qualities as well as what we've determined simply performs in accordance with what we want our readers to expect.

We set forth to put together a complete system on a budget of around $6,500 (including the Display) with the following goals in mind:

  • The ability to play cleanly at high output levels (this system is going to be used for partying as well as home theater and music)

  • Making sure the system was reasonably priced

  • Incorporate "classy" looking products for high WAF (this means slim, attractive speakers that all visually match).

The Loudspeaker System

A few loudspeaker brands that immediately came to mind were Paradigm, Aperion Audio, Infinity and EMP Tek.  All of these brands produce very good speakers dollar for dollar.  You can't really go wrong with any of them.  We selected the EMP Tek Impression Series as the primary speaker system to feature in this article since we just recently reviewed their entire series and found them to be good performers for the dollar.  Alternatives are given for each selection for your consideration as well.  If cosmetics aren't an issue and you want to save some coin, consider the Infinity Primus series of speakers.   They may not produce quite as much sound pressure level (SPL) output as the EMP Tek system, but they offer incredible performance on the cheap. 

The EMP Tek system will play LOUDLY and cleanly, perfect for partying. They have a laid back sound character making them an ideal pick for lively room environments to reduce your chances of experiencing listening fatigue.  The EMP Tek Impression series utilizes all of the same drivers for each speaker type to ensure a more seamless blend.  Although their subwoofers don't play down as deep or as loud as some similarly priced competitors, we integrated them in this system guide to keep the look of the system consistent.  Used as a pair, they produced some impressive output to really add solid bottom end to the system that would satisfy all but the most critical bassaholics.  Bassaholics will definitely want to consider the fabulous subs from SVS, HSU/Outlaw or Rythmik Audio if they don't mind having bigger, heavier and not so visually pleasing boxes occupy your listening space.

EMP impression towersEMP Tek E55Ti Floorstanding Tower Speakers ($795/pr)

Read the Review
When it comes to tower speakers that look great and actually sound good, EMP Tek offers some of the best budget solutions from what we’ve tested. The E55Ti ($795/pr) is a significant upgrade over the older E5Ti ($500/pr) which we feel is worth the price difference. The E55Ti’s just have a much bigger and more effortless sound to them and their tall stature just makes for a great visual impression.  These speakers play loud and clean, but they don't go super deep. We recommend running them full-range even when paired with powered subwoofers in a home theater configuration.

E56CI HeroEMP Tek E56Ci Center Channel Speaker ($450/ea)

Product Preview
EMP Tek’s original center channel E5Ci ($220) is a standard horizontally oriented MTM featuring dual 5 1/4” mid drivers and a 1” soft dome tweeter. It just doesn’t have the output capabilities to keep up with the E55Ti towers which is why they recently introduced the E56Ci ($450/ea) matching center channel. The E56Ci center channel is a 5 driver, 3-way rear ported speaker. It boasts dual 5-1/4” poly matrix midrange drivers nestled with their 1” silk dome tweeter. An additional 6-1/2” polypropylene woofer is located at each end of the cabinet to extend bass response which EMP Tek rates at 50Hz (-3dB). 

EMP impression EW55i surroundsEMP Tek E55Wi Surround Speakers ($499/pr)

Product Preview
I’ve been waiting for EMP Tek to release an on-wall surround speaker since they launched the brand a number of years ago.  The E55Wi ($499/pr) has two sets of 5-1/4” mid drivers with phase plugs and 1” silk dome tweeters located on two baffles 90 degrees apart.  The drivers are all in-phase meaning it’s a bi-pole type surround speaker.  The goal is to provide a wide surround field.  EMP Tek chose to make all the drivers in phase because most people installing their speakers are only doing 5.1 systems.  Consumers using these speakers in a 7.1 configuration may wish to consider ordering the set from EMP Tek with the front tweeters wired out of phase (dipole) to create a more diffuse soundfield.

RBH TK-615RBH Sound TK-615 In-Ceiling Speaker ($389/pr)

Product Info

EMP Tek currently doesn’t offer in-wall / in-ceiling type speakers so we turned to parent company RBH Sound.  The TK series is a fine solution.  It offers solid performance at a budget price which makes it a good match for the rest of the EMP Tek speaker package we put together.  The TK-615 ($389/pr) is an 8 ohm two-way speaker sporting a 6½-inch fiberglass woofer and a ¾-inch aluminum dome tweeter and a 50Hz to 20kHz frequency response +-3 dB with 90dB / 1 watt sensitivity rating.

EMP ES1010i subwooferEMP Tek ES1010i Subwoofer ($399/ea on sale)


The EMP Tek ES1010i subwoofer is a compact dual 10” ported sub with 250 watt amplifier combining beautiful aesthetics with competent performance. NO, this sub won’t win any output or extension wars. If that is your primary goal, then look elsewhere, but also realize you will likely be getting a large pedestrian black box with little to no WAF at this price point (and even possibly higher). The ES1010i does deliver solid bass performance at a modest price without requiring a forklift to move it or without occupying too much precious floor space since it’s taller than it is deep. It blends perfectly with their matching E5Tti or E55Ti towers, but can also work extremely well with small satellite speakers due to its rather extended upper frequency response.  We recommend two ES1010i subwoofers for this system to yield more output and smoother bass across the entire listening area. 

Bassaholics craving LOUDER and deeper bass may want to consider the following SVS and Rythmik Audio alternatives which aren't quite as elegant looking and also take up a larger footprint, but their performance per dollar is hard to beat.  Two of either of these subs in this system would produce gut wrenching bass response.


These days, $1k will get you a 7.1 Networking A/V receiver loaded with the latest HD audio and video decoding options as well as music streaming services such as Pandora.com, Internet Radio, etc. from all the major brands.  We are big fans of Yamaha, Denon and Marantz since they are time tested designs that we have a lot of experience reviewing.  We recently did a review of the Yamaha RX-A1010 A/V receiver and were impressed with it's performance, hence why it's successor is the primary selection in this system configuration.  Those that prefer Audyssey over Yamaha's YPAO will want to consider alternative suggestions from Denon and Marantz.  For Blu-ray, its Oppo is a jack of all trades and master of them as well.  We really love their BDP-103 for its performance capabilities, features and firmware support updates.  When powering such a nice system as this, you want to be sure to protect it.  We look no further than APC AV and Panamax.  Both companies offer UL certified power protection which ensures they actually do meet established standards for surge suppression.  

Yamaha RX-A1040 A/V Receiver ($1,099)

Read the Review (Prior Model)

yamaha RX-A1010Yamaha has once again put forth a solid offering in the highly competitive $1k price category with their new RX-A1040 Aventage 7.1 Channel Networking A/V receiver. The performance and feature set of the RX-A1040 should make Yamaha and its owners proud of this middle child A/V receiver. Over the last couple of years, Yamaha has been paying close attention to reviewer and customer feedback on their receivers as is evident by the improved sound and build quality that birthed the Aventage lineup. Take time to set this baby up the right way, pair it with a good speaker system, and you will enjoy the fruits of your labor. Don’t doubt for a minute that you can’t have a good two-channel and multi-channel experience with the RX-A1040 because it's quite a musical receiver too. At this price point you have a lot of options from competitor products but the Yamaha RX-A1040 should be at the top of the list for your consideration especially if you want to take advantage of all of the latest network streaming music options.

Oppo BDP-103 3D Universal Blu-ray Player ($499)


Oppo BDP-93The BDP-103 is one of the best Blu-ray players out there, regardless of price.  It plays every current A/V media (i.e. SACD, DVD-A, Blu-ray, DVD, CD) and supports full resolution HD audio out via HDMI and its own 7.1 analog outputs.  It features networking streaming support for Netflix, Pandora, Flickr, Vudu, etc and Oppo routinely updates firmware to expand feature base or resolve and system bugs or interoperability issues with new Blu-ray discs.  We cannot recommend this player highly enough.  It's that good!

APC J35B Power Conditioner ($399)

We like APC AV products because of their no nonsense design and the fact they submit all of their products to regulatory bodies like UL to get them certified.  The J35B is a real bargain as it not only does surge suppression and line filtering but also has battery backup.  At $399 this is one heck of a product and should easily accommodate all of your needs in this system.

Samsung 55" UN55H7150 LED 3D Display Display ($1,899)

Video Review (prior model)

We're reluctant to recommend a specific model number because display companies refresh their TVs so frequently that any model we list here will likely be obsolete by the time you're reading this article.  Suffice it to say, we are big fans of Samsung LED backlit displays. For around $1899 you can certainly get a nice television from Samsung or their competitors. If this model is obsolete by the time you read this, chose the company's replacement model - chances are the performance is the same and you'll get some additional networking features or software.

Cables & Accessories

Canare 4S11We heavily rely on our friends at Blue Jeans cables for all of our cabling needs and you should too.  Their products are well engineered and they don't hype them with bogus psuedo-science or high prices.  Instead they give you the very best performance required for all of your applications.

Blue Jeans Cable

Buy Now

Blue Jeans BJC Series-1 HDMI Cables (2 meter) x 3:       $29.25/ea

Blue Jeans 14/4 AWG Speaker Cable (100ft):                  $1.35/ft

Blue Jeans Gold Plated Banana Connectors x 7               $3.50/pair

Auralex MoPads on E55Ci CenterOptional Accessories: 

Auralex MoPad ($39.95/pair)

Read the Review

If you are placing your center channel on a cabinet shelf, we highly recommend physically isolating it to reduce unwanted resonances.  We have had great luck with Auralex MoPad's and you will too.  Simply place a set directly under your center channel speaker and you're good to go.  It also angles the speaker slightly down towards the listening area which is very useful if the speaker is considerably above seated ear level position.

Universal Remote RF20Universal Remote RF20 ($79.95)

Watch the Video Review

Remote controls are funny. You don't realize how important they are until you use a really good one... that's not yours... then you get remote envy. It's not pretty. One of the solutions is Universal Remote's RF20. Now there are several things that make this remote stand out, but the most visual thing is that it has a backlit LCD screen that can be customized to control up to 10 different devices. This remote comes pre-programmed to operate virtually all brands of equipment. It can also do macros, which is like having the remote issue a bunch of commands to your gear in a row so that it turns itself on properly and starts playing a DVD, for example.

System Break Down

EMP Tek E55Ti Towers x 2 $795/pair
EMP Tek E56Ci Center x 1 $450/ea
EMP Tek E55WI On-wall Surround speaker x 2 $499/pair
EMP Tek ES1010i Powered Subwoofer x 2 $499/ea
RBH Sound TK-615 In-Ceiling x 2 $389/pair
Subtotal Speakers


Yamaha RX-A1040 A/V Receiver $1,099
Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player $499
APC J35 Power Conditioner $399
Samsung 55” UN55H7150 LED TV $1,899
Total Cost $3,896
Subtotal Electronics

Cables & Accessories

Blue Jeans BJC Series-1 HDMI Cables (2 meter) x 3 $29.25/ea
Blue Jeans 14/4 AWG Speaker Cable (100ft) $1.35/ft
Blue Jeans Gold Plated Banana Connectors x 7 $3.50/pair
Auralex Mo-Pads Isolation Pads $39.95/pair
Universal Remote RF20
 Subtotal  $367.15



The retail cost of this entire system is higher than the $6k figure we themed this article on but EMP Tek usually runs 20% off sales on package deals and you can always find better street prices on the electronics.  There should be no reason why this entire setup cannot be put together for around $6,500.


This system, if properly placed and set up, should provide years of top notch performance. The EMP Tek speaker system looks and sounds great, plays loud and blends in well with virtually any room decor. The Yamaha A/V receiver delivers plenty of power and is loaded with all the latest networking features you will need to stream your music and video services. The Oppo Blu-ray player provides great video and audio performance with unmatched dependability. This home theater package will be a big hit with anyone serious about getting a good home theater experience as well as blending into a modern room decor. The alternatives provided all deliver great options too, especially if you want more bass performance (subwoofer options) and have the floor space to accommodate larger subwoofers. We hope if you select this system for your home theater needs, you will share your experiences on our forums for the benefit of other readers.  Enjoy and happy listening!


About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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