Finalizing a Basement Home Theater

I am installing a home theater in the basement (17x15 feet) with a budget of $10,000 to $20,000. I am considering two rows of seating with the second row close to the back wall. I have finalized a few things, but I'm still debating between projection (2D versus 3D) and a large LED-LCD TV. Also, I'm trying to decide between 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound. Here are my top product candidates with the best prices I have found:

In terms of projectors, I'm looking at the Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 9700 UB (2D, $3,100) and 5010 (3D, $3,000) on an Elite screen (120 inches, $500). Or should I get a Sharp 80-inch LED LCD ($4,300)? The most likely A/V receiver is the Marantz SR7005 ($1,500), which is not THX-certified; is that okay? I've decided on the Definitive Technology Mythos STS SuperTower system ($4,000 for 5.1, $4,500 for 7.1). Finally, do you think the Universal MX-880 remote is better than Logitech Harmony universal remotes?

Chandrasekhar R. Vasamreddy

First of all, I would not place the second row of seats close to the back wall, because this degrades the sound for people in those seats. Try to position the second row a few feet from the back wall.

The choice between 2D and 3D depends on whether or not you enjoy 3D—many people don't. The Epson 9700 UB (reviewed here) is an excellent 2D projector, and I presume the 5010 is also excellent at both 2D and 3D, though we haven't reviewed it yet; in fact, we just got one for review, so look for that in a few months. Also, the 5010 does not come with any active glasses you need for 3D, and they cost $99 each.

If you have complete control of the ambient light in the theater and dark, neutral-colored walls, ceiling, and floor, I generally recommend projection over any LED LCD TV, because you can have a bigger screen and a truly cinematic experience. As for the Sharp 80-incher specifically, we haven't reviewed it, so I can't say for sure how well it performs. However, I can say that it uses full-array LED backlighting, but it does not offer local dimming, which means the contrast is not likely to be all that great.

The Marantz SR7005 (reviewed here) is a superb AVR. In my view, THX certification is not necessary; it does assure a certain level of performance, but a product can certainly perform well without it, which the SR7005 clearly does.

The Def Tech Mythos STS SuperTower speaker system (reviewed here) is also excellent, though it has subwoofers integrated into the main towers. I prefer separate subs so they can be placed in the best locations for low frequencies, which are not always the same as the best locations for the main speakers. On the other hand, separate subs typically have a lower spouse-acceptance factor, which might or might not be a concern in your case.

In deciding between 5.1 and 7.1, I'd probably go with 7.1 if you can afford it. There aren't many Blu-ray movies with native 7.1 soundtracks at this point, but their numbers are likely to grow in the future, and you'll be ready for them. If you can swing it, I'd even add two more Gems for the front-height channels of Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz, which the Marantz SR7005 provides.

If you want to go really crazy—and your budget and spouse allow it—you could also add two more SuperTowers for the front-width channels of DSX. The Marantz AVR has 11 speaker outputs, so you can connect front-height and front-width speakers along with back-surround speakers, but it has only seven channels of amplification, so you must choose between the back-surround, front-height, and front-width speakers depending on what you want at any given moment.

As for the remote, I definitely prefer the Logitech Harmony remotes over all other universal remotes I've tried. I haven't used the MX-880 specifically, but I have used other remotes from Universal, and I found them much more difficult to program than the Harmony models. This isn't a big problem if you have an installer program it for you.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to

hifiguy's picture

Scott, I am surprised that you like the Logitech remotes so much, especially over URC. Logitech lacks discrete power codes for most devices and uses a help wizard when devices get out of sync or fail to respond. With a "custom programed" URC remote, all devices can be discretely controlled via RF routing and discrete power and other commands can be configured SPECIFICALLY for the user. While I agree that Logitech is an end-user's go to, if you can splurge on custom installation, the URC MX-series is certainly a superior controller.

JudgeSmails's picture

Absolutely URC over Logitech. The investment will be significantly higher, but the end functionality will be far superior.

mikegwest's picture

URC remotes are sold with the expectation that they will be professionally installed. You can't really downgrade them because of the difficulty of an end-user to do it by themselves. Judging the user experience of a properly programmed URC remote versus a Harmony, without question, would end with the URC on top.

A guy in Saskatoon's picture

If you're still in the building stage, don't forget that if you want to use Def Tech SuperTowers that you'll want to place a receptacle (plug-in) for each of the speakers at the front of the room roughly behind of where you intend to place the speakers. This allows for a cleaner look in your theater (less long wire runs along thr floor) because each of the SuperTowers must be plugged-in.

albert26's picture

It is so difficult ,,to believe any harmony product ,,could even
get close to any single URC,, Best Remote for the last 11 years,,,
Trust me , they never brake ,unless your'e Dog bite's it or the
Miami Dolphins loose a game, & Smash // plz call ur A/V guy.
Also. why an Elite screen,plz ck VuTec & Stewart, a little more ,goe's a long way. Marantz , not bad ,but a perfect step-up would be a Rotel,if extra budget allows,,,,Speakers/always 1 great
subwoofer or 2 maybe ,,need more info,,try Downfiring if no carpet.
Monitor Audio// there's positively better speakers than // Still
boring Brand name/get over it,, Sandy Gross is gone / or go listen at Best Buy///were all Smarter than a 5th grader.I hope,,,,
Do Bi-pole-/Di-pole in rear,,if you can,,or Flushmount a good in ceiling,,7' spks ///5.1 is all you need ,there are 6 movies in 7.1
Toy Story III, loved it ,LOL
Speakers are personall, get good honest Advice
Good Luck

docrings's picture

I have run just about every remote in my past homes, and have one remote that is simple to setup, requires no professional involvement, and has a high wife-factor (and mother-in-law factor!)...its a Harmony remote.

I now have four for every different room in the house, and got them at various times for anywhere from $75 (refurb) to $150 new. The only "problem" I've ever had was a battery that needed to be replaced at the three year mark ($11). The first charging base had to be returned to charge a bit more reliably (early model), but that problem has been addressed by Logitech in the most recent models.

I love the "HELP" function, and walks through an EZ wizard of yes/no questions to solve what's not turned on, etc. Brilliant. Again, high WAF and child factor on the HELP key. Fixes it for you based upon your answers to the queries (e.g. "Is the TV on?", "Is the DVD player on?", etc.)

It fits well in the hand, and if I buy a new piece of gear, I can have the macro changed in under 10 minutes at home, with no phone call to a "pro" and get on their schedule to come to the house to program my fancy remote.

And, if someone loses it... no big deal for $150. Shees, I've seen refurbs for $75 or less ...just plug it into the computer and download the program you were using on the broken one, and "presto", back in business. I have a spare in the closet for just these sorts of emergencies. There is a way to use it in multiple rooms, but I like having one in each video area (Home Theater, Family Room, Basement Family Room, Billiards/Sports Bar area, etc.)

When I was using an expensive PRO-type remote pads: one they can be bulky, and two, I never wanted the kids to touch it... not so with the cheaper Harmony remotes.

I've experimented with iPads and Android phones, too, but its just not the whole package, yet, and those walk away from the room. But the Harmony line of remotes comes HIGHLY recommended for someone on a $10,000 budget! (And that's the point to his original question). He's better off putting that $1000 - $3000 into a projector, screen speakers or furniture, than a "PRO" remote with install costs.

I have never failed to custom program discrete power codes for my gear... if you have the original remote, you can program anything on the Harmony. If you cant' do it, their excellent customer service and database can get it to work for you. My projector requires a "double-off" button push to confirm, and the Harmony does that just fine from the power-off macro.

Doc Rings