Part 3: How to Build the Best Home Theater for $30,000—Or “That Budget Sucks”

Part 3 of 10: Dealers

If you're just joining, check out Part 1 in the series to get up to speed.

Part of this series title—“That Budget Sucks”—was inspired by the dozens of answered (and unanswered) emails I got that boiled down to “That budget sucks. We can’t help you.” 

My third stop on the hunt to find the best home theater that $30,000 could buy was asking AV dealers how they would build one.

Our dealers span America from Thousand Oaks, California, to Chappaqua, New York. Four out of seven companies CEO’s answered the questions themselves.

“The price is a bit low for what I have been is not that it is a bad number, it is just not quite what I have been dealing with for a long time. The higher numbers are fun, but the more you have to spend, the more options you have. Honestly, a $30K theater is more difficult to achieve, despite what people may say. At some point, whether you are using Lumiere, Wilson, or CAT, it is the best you can do with current technology. At $30K, you are quite limited and have to become much more creative to get the best value for the money. The “best” is always subjective to how you achieve the “it’s good enough” level. That holds true whether you are spending $3K or $3M…” —Seth Bowen, CEO of Perfect Control

I knew I was in trouble when I started asking people on social media and they laughed at the budget, but I didn’t expect that getting answers out of dealers would be a problem.

At one point I received a phone call from a well-respected CEO (who wanted to remain anonymous) that said he couldn’t tell me any specific brands and products because, “If I choose Crestron, Savant will hate me and visa versa”. He stated that since the quality of products in the AV world changes so rapidly, he didn’t want to name names for fear of burning bridges.

Dealers came up with unique systems. One choose to spend 16% of the budget on cabling, while another spent only .05%. One spent 63% of their budget on video alone.

Tom Farinola of Atlantic Home Entertainment and Stereo called after he received my questions. Instead of doing the best overall home theater, he argued, I needed to choose a specific aspect of home theater. In a later email he gave these four different aspects to focus on:

A ) Visually the most amazing system for a single room like a Great Room or Family Room (TV or Projector)
B ) Speaker Quality, what is the the best system for in-walls or in-ceiling speakers including sub-woofers for a single room
C ) Speaker Quality, what is the best speaker system period in-walls or box speakers for a single room
D ) Audio equipment, AVR or Pre-pro / multi-channel amplifiers for a single room

Five dealers commented back with estimated budgets for the theater they would build. The six dealers in alphabetical order are:





Home Tech South Florida


1 Sonance LCR1 for the center channel speaker = $1,250

2 Sonance LCR2 for the front right and left speakers $2500 = $5,000

2 Sonance SUR1 for rear speakers $1250 = $2,500

2 Sonance SUR1 for high rear speakers $1250 = $2,500


Sunfire HRS12 Subwoofer = $1,100



Marantz SR7010 Receiver = $2,350

Audio Total: $14,700



Epson Home Cinema 3500 Projector = $1,850

Projector Screen:

Vutech Screen 133 inch = $2,000

Video Total: $3,850



Samsung Blu-ray Player = $200

Apple TV = $185

Sources Total: $385



RTI XP3 Processor = $650

5 port Network Switch = $250

iPad License (for RTI) = $225

iPad Mini = $250

Custom iPad Programming = $2,000

I love using RTI, it is the most cost efficient, and completely customizable unlike Control 4 or élan which all look the same. Clients wants unique and custom products not something their neighbors have which looks 90% the same.

Control Total: $3,375


Interconnects + Power Conditioning:

Wires = $1,500

Power Surge = $350

Interconnects Total: $1,850

Total: $26,910



Magnolia Design Center


Bowers & Wilkins CM10S2, front = $4,000

Bowers & Wilkins CMC2S2, center = $1,250

Bowers & Wilkins CM6S2, rear = $2,000

Bowers & Wilkins CCM685 4 in, ceiling = $1,200


Rel S5 Subwoofer = $2500


Marantz 2 Channel Amp = $600


Marantz 7200 Surround Receiver = $2,200

Audio Total: $13,750



Sony 4k Projector = $8,000

Projector Screen:

Stewart Filmscreen Cima 120" = $1,800

Video Total: $9,800



Oppo 103D BD Player =$600

Sources Total: $600



ProControl Single room = $600

Control Total: $600


Interconnects + Power Conditioning:

Furman Elite 15DMI Surge/Conditioner = $600

AudioQuest Cabling = $5,000

Interconnects Total: $5,600

Total: $27,550



Multimedia Resource Group


Totem Acoustic Tribe III On-Wall Speakers = $5,670

Totem Acoustic Kin Side In-Wall Speaker = $1,500

Totem Acoustic TAC-4 In-Ceiling Speakers = $850


Totem Acoustic Double-8 In-Wall Subwoofer = $2,200



Anthem MRX-1120 Surround Sound Receiver = $3,499

Audio Total: $13,719



Samsung 85” JU7100 Series 4K LED TV = $6,999

Projector Screen:

Sanus VLL5 Wall-mount bracket = $119

Cine-Living Acoustically Transparent Fabric = $750

Video Total: $7,868



Kaleidescape Strato 4K Movie Player (supports up to 100 4K Ultra HD movies, 200 Blu-rays, or 900 DVD’s) = $4,495

TiVo Bolt = $299 

Sources Total: $4,794



Crestron MC3 Control Processor = $1,600

Crestron HR-150 Handheld Remote = $350

Pakedge SE-8-EP 8-Port Gigabit Megaswitch Switch = $170

Control Total: $2,120


Interconnects + Power Conditioning:

HDMI cables, speaker wire, and interconnects = $200

Torus Power TOT = $1,299

Interconnects Total: $1,499

Total: $30,000



Ultra Media


Totem Acoustic Tribe Side/Center = $5,400

Totem Acoustic Kin In-Wall Speaker = $2,625


REL S/5 = $2,600



11.2 Channel Dolby Atmos DTR-70.6 = $2,800

Acoustic Treatment: 

Primacoustic Panel Room Kit (room size dependent) = $1,200

Audio Total: $14,625



3D Sony ES 1080p projector = $2,000

SnapAV projector mount = $450

Projector Screen:

110” Screen Innovations Filmscreen = $3,100

Video Total: $5,650



Kaleidescape Alto 6-TB = $3,295

Apple TV = $200

Roku 4 = $130 

Sources Total: $3,625



RTI XP-3 Remote Control Processor= $500

RTI T2x Remote = $900

SnapAV 8 port Gigabit Network Switch = $100 

Control Total: $1,400


Interconnects + Power Conditioning:

Furman Elite 20 PFi = $1,200

Episode Surge 8 Outlet Stand Alone AVR UPS = $150 

AudioQuest cables = $2,500

SnapAV Binary HDBaseT Extender = $500

Materials (cables, wires, etc) = $350

Interconnects Total: $4,700

Total: $30,000



Wilshire Media Systems


Bowers & Wilkins 684S2 Floorstanding Speaker’s = $1,150

Bowers & Wilkins CMCS2 Center Speaker = $700

Bowers & Wilkins CCM683 Ceiling Speaker;s = $850


JL E112 12” = $1,900



Anthem MRX-520 5.1 Surround = $1,399.99

Audio Total: $5,999.99



Sony 4K = $9,999.99

Projector Screen:

Stewart Filmscreen 120” Cabaret = $5,690

Stewart Filmscreen LED System = $1,453

Stewart Filmscreen E-Node = $1,717

Projector Accessories:

Chief 4" Ceiling Plate = $42.99

Chief 6" Fixed Pipe = $17.99


Chief Universal RPA Mount = $205.99

Video Total: $19,126.96



DirecTV receiver = OFE

Oppo BD-103 Blu-ray player = $499.99

Sources Total: $499.99



Savant HST-Savanti Host Controller = $1,500

Savant Remote = $800

Apple Time Capsule = $199.99

Control Total: $2,499.99


Interconnects + Power Conditioning:

AudioQuest = $1,105

Furman Elite-15 DMI = $559.99

Interconnects Total: $1,664.99

Total: $29,791.92



Who do you think built the best system? Vote below, and tweet or email me ( your comments! We will do a follow-up post analyzing the results, so stay tuned for that.

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