When renovating your flat, there are so many things to consider: What theme do you want, what colour scheme will look good, what sort of lighting and furniture, and most importantly, your budget.
For couples who need to tighten their purse strings, everyday luxuries like that branded rainshower or full leather sofa might have to go, so that money can be better spent on necessities like a comfy mattress or a floor-to-ceiling wardrobe. Perhaps you might even have to banish the thought of owning the home entertainment system you’ve been dreaming of since you were a teen…or not?
But wait, hold on to that pipe dream, because it may not be as impossible as it seems.
As part of the Home Smart Home series by MoneySmart and Singtel, we visited a couple in their newly renovated resale flat that has an impressive home entertainment system. They shared with us tips and tricks on how they turned their vision into a reality — while still keeping costs down.
To get you started on your home entertainment journey, here are some key takeaways that Kenneth, 28, and Kay Yan, 27, shared with us:
1. Plan your setup to avoid cable eyesores
First things first, it’s always best to plan for a home entertainment system before you begin your renovation. Says Kenneth: “If you do not make provision for the cabling you might end up with wire casings showing, and it can be quite unsightly.”
Who knows, you might incur additional costs as well, as you might need to create additional power points or run additional wires to ensure everything is well-integrated.
2. Use acoustic panels to improve audio experience and aesthetics
Love savouring movie FX like cool explosions and flying spaceships? Or do you enjoy pretending that you are in a concert hall as your favourite singer performs live before you? Consider investing in an acoustic panel to help absorb unwanted echo to improve your audio experience. This acoustic panel, which also helps to conceal cables, makes your home look good too.
For Kenneth and Kay Yan, they built an acoustic panel made of rockwool (a soft material frequently used by the audio industry to absorb mid to high frequencies) and covered this in fabric. Even plush furnishings like their carpet, sofa and curtains help to absorb unwanted sound and improve the overall audio experience.
3. Subwoofers provide the sound bass that elevates the home entertainment experience
In Kenneth and Kay Yan’s case, they opted for a 5.1.4 system — 5 speakers for left, right, centre, left-rear and right-rear; 1 subwoofer; 4 ceiling speakers — to achieve an immersive surround sound experience.
Not everyone may have the budget to opt for such an advanced sound system, but if there’s one thing you cannot stint on, it’s the subwoofer, stresses Kenneth. This is integral for every home theatre system as it gives you the bass, the immersiveness. Without it, explosions, rumbling, the bassy impact… doesn’t sound real anymore.
4. A good wifi connection is important for a seamless experience
The wifi, a key supporting infrastructure, is integral for all the systems I have, notes Kenneth. As he is subscribed to the Singtel Fibre Broadband connection, all of his devices are seamlessly connected.
He says: “We are very happy with this plan. It is fast enough to do whatever we want, fast enough to integrate all our devices, fast enough to stream, and take advantage of Netflix, Singtel CAST… Plus there is no dropout — you know when you play a movie halfway, it pauses and loads — we have no such issues with my home theatre system.”
Even when accessing Singtel CAST on his mobile phone and casting a streaming movie on the service to his 65-inch Smart TV, Kenneth says he gets fantastic High Definition visuals, coupled with smooth transitions and no lag even when he fast-forwards through the movie.
In fact, Kenneth adds that to achieve harmony in a home theatre system, one needs to consider the quality of visuals, quality of audio, comfort of viewing and last but not least, the quality of the internet connection. So your experience will be fully immersive, with nothing bothering you.
5. Choose the right setup that fits your home
First and foremost, you need to look at your home, your layout, and decide how you will approach the space that you are planning the home entertainment system for, advises Kenneth.
For example, approaching a living room kind of setting is different from that of a study room. The former is quite spacious while the other is more intimate. Hence, the considerations are very different. In addition, the type of system — surround sound or 2.1; do you want ceiling speakers — needs to be decided on, as well as the functions you want the system to serve, such as for karaoke or for movies.
Even the equipment you need to buy can differ, based on your layout or setup. In a small space, you don’t need a very powerful speaker. If you are a big movie buff, you may not need to get expensive tower speakers as those are more for music enjoyment, says Kenneth. Instead what you need and could be more cost effective are 5 smaller speakers.
6. Larger TVs for larger rooms
Do you REALLY need a 65-inch TV in your 3-room flat? Is everyone squinting at your tiny 32-inch TV in your 5-room HDB?
The general rule of thumb is, get a larger TV for a larger room but be mindful of the screen to viewing distance ratio. If the screen is too small, you might end up cross-eyed; and if the screen is overly large, your eyes will be moving everywhere trying to track the action on the screen.
In Kenneth and Kay Yan’s case, they maximised their available space by getting a 65-inch TV, which is slightly larger than the recommended size (55-inch) for their viewing distance. However, the couple is still comfortable with the screen size as their living room is longish and they enjoy watching blockbuster movies on Singtel CAST in their home theatre.
Additional tips to save costs
Here are some things Kenneth and Kay Yan did to keep their costs down:
- If you can, amass your equipment over time. Kenneth bought his first pair of speakers back when he was in university and gradually saved up to buy the rest for his home.
- Do your own research. Rather than engage a hifi expert to help with his setup, Kenneth read up on speaker specifications, configuration and placement so he could do as much as he could himself.
- Be your own interior designer. If you are up for the challenge, design your own home and work with a contractor for your renovation to save costs. However, it can be time consuming. Kenneth and Kay Yan spent 2 hours in their half-renovated home with no aircon, no furniture and a lot of mosquitoes, just to pick the fabric for their acoustic wall.
- Don’t get fixated on aesthetics. There were cheaper and better value options for some of the equipment that Kenneth and Kay Yan got. For example, they could have gotten cheaper speakers that sounded equally good, but to fulfil their aesthetic vision, they chose wood-finish tower speakers that looked more luxurious. If your budget is tight, consider choosing function over form.
- And of course, Kenneth and Kay Yan save money in the long run as they can enjoy karaoke and movies in the comfort of their own home — instead of paying for entertainment outside. In addition, they can regularly host their friends at home instead of booking a venue outside.
Here’s Kenneth’s and Kay Yan’s cost breakdown:
Are you planning to set up your own home entertainment system? What are your own tips? Let us know in the comments below!