Home theater in a box

Home theater in a box

A "home theater in a box" (HTIB) is an integrated home theater package which "bundles" together a combination DVD player/ multi-channel amplifier (which includes a surround sound decoder, a radio tuner, and other features), speaker wires, connection cables, a remote control, a set of five or more surround sound speakers (or more rarely, just left and right speakers) and a low-frequency subwoofer.

They are manufactured by most makers of consumer electronics. At the lowest end of the price range are "2.1" units which include a combination DVD player/three channel amplifier with only the most basic features, a remote control, left and right speakers, and a small subwoofer speaker (under $100 US). Models in the middle price range include HTIBs made by RCA, Electrohome, Philips, Samsung, Panasonic and Sony (from $300 to $800 US). At the high end of the price range, Bose Lifestyle® HTIB systems can cost over $3000 US.

Market positioning

HTIBs are marketed as an "all-in-one" way for consumers to enjoy the surround sound experience of home cinema, even if they do not want to--or do not have the electronics "know-how"--to pick out all of the components and connecting cables individually. If a consumer were to buy all of the items individually, they would have to have a basic knowledge of electronics, so they could, for example, ensure that the speakers were of compatible impedance and power-handling for the amplifier. As well, the consumer would have to ensure that they purchased all of the different connection cables, which could include S-Video cables, optical connectors, speaker wire, and RCA connectors.

On the downside, most HTIBs lack the features and "tweakability" of home theater components which are sold separately. For example, while a standalone home theater amplifier may offer extensive equalization options, a HTIB amplifier may simply provide a few factory-set EQ presets. As well, while a standalone home theatre subwoofer may contain a range of sound-shaping circuitry, such as a crossover control, a phase inversion switch, and a parametric equalizer, a HTIB subwoofer system usually has its crossover point set at the factory, which means that the user cannot change it. In some cases, the factory preset crossover point on an HTIB subwoofer may cause it to sound too "boomy" in a room.


A typical HTIB generally consists of a central receiver unit which usually contains a DVD player (some systems separate the DVD player into a separate unit) and a radio tuner and a series of speakers for surround sound use, generally including a subwoofer. The least expensive systems usually have a passive subwoofer, which is amplified by the HTIB systems typically do not include a television set or monitor with which to display the visual material.

There are systems in this class that are sold without a DVD player and are designed to integrate with existing video setups where there is already one, such as a DVD recorder or a DVD/VCR combo unit. The speaker cabinets supplied with most systems in this class are generally fairly small compared to typical stereo speakers, and are meant for wall- or shelf-mounting in tight spaces. There are some systems in this class that are supplied with slim freestanding speakers that stand on the floor. This may be typical of higher-priced systems that are equipped with more powerful amplifiers or most of the "receiver-only" packages that do not come with a DVD player.

Some HTIBs use proprietary connectors between components, sometimes even combining several different wires into one connector, to reduce cable clutter and increase the ease of installation. However, this can impede interoperability between different audio/visual devices and makes upgrading certain parts impossible. This may also be used by manufacturers to limit what a consumer can do with a low-end model and encourage them to upgrade should they want more autonomy.

A few manufacturers, notably Sony, have implemented wireless connection technology for the surround speakers in this class of equipment. This technology may be available as standard with some of the high-priced models or may be supplied as an aftermarket kit that only works with selected models in the manufacturer's range. It usually manifests in a line-level feed over a proprietary wireless link to a separate power amplifier used for the surround-sound channels. This link-receiver and power amplifier can be built in to one of the surround speakers or housed in a black box that the surround speakers are connected to. Some higher-end HTIB models offer additional features such as 1080i video resolution upscaling, a 5-disc platter, and HDMI inputs.

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