Table of contents
TLDR; These large complicated hard to use and expensive systems are not worth the bother, go to the Smaller, cheaper and easier options that are better than a soundbar section at the bottom of this post for the best compromise options. Or if you are sure you want a “real” home theater in the living room, then read on.
I have designed, purchased, set up and lived with 2 home theaters in the living room. I had different spaces, brands, suppliers and installers and the results are very different, so the comparisons are useful.
The comparison confirms what you would expect. More space and more money spent results in a better home theater.
The bigger, more expensive system that I am happy with (pictured above) uses Yamaha and Canton from Inventive AV. The smaller cheaper one that I was not happy with uses Maranze and XTZ from Discovery Hifi, both in Bangkok.
85” Sony 8K, Yamaha and Canton system
Total cost in 2021: ฿1,248,873
|85” Sony Z8H 8K TV
|Yamaha MX-A5200 Amplifier
|Yamaha CX-A5200 Processor
|Canton 5.4 speakers with reference 5s
|2 SVS SB3000 Subwoofers
|Kimber speaker cables
|Custom TV cabinet
|Minor components and cables
For watching TV: 9/10
For listening to music: 7/10
Ease of use: 7/10
77” Sony OLED, Maranz and XTZ system
Total cost in 2020: ฿537,090
|77” Sony A9G OLED
|Marantz SR-7015 receiver
|XTZ 5.1.4 speakers and sub with M6s
|Minor components and cables
For watching TV: 7/10
For listening to music: 6/10
Ease of use: 6/10
Suppliers and installers
Main Supplier and installer for Canton speakers – Inventive AV
Inventive are the Thailand importer for Canton speakers and the main supplier and installer of my wonderful home theater. The sales process was good with sound advice, responsive answers to questions and different options given. They were flexible to work with the components that I had already purchased and the layout I had in mind.
I did ask if we were safe to plug every component in the system into powerboards all going into one double power socket on one electrical circuit. This was beyond their knowledge to calculate and they could not give a good answer. Although their hunch that it would be fine turned out to be correct.
The installers were not employed directly by Inventive AV but they were sourced and organized through them and they were only okayish. They tried to squeeze a 2 day job into 1 day and left it unfinished leaving me to try to fix the problems myself. On the first visit they did no cable management, had not gotten the amp’s bridge feature working and the rear speaker cables were not compatible with the speaker stands (both chosen and supplied by Inventive AV).
They did return and got things mostly right after I complained. It’s unusual that installation was not free, it normally is when it’s provided by the supplier that you buy most things from and I could have gotten that if I bargained for it.
Inventive AV also sell and install the very well regarded and good value Emotiva amplifiers and SVS subwoofers. So they are well positioned to do a whole home theater.
Main Supplier and installer with XTZ speakers – Discovery Hifi
Discovery Hifi are the Thai importers of XTZ, they also got the Marantz receiver for me. They have a shop in Crystal Design Center but it is not always open.
The owner Kitkun is lovely to deal with. He is thoughtful, gives good advice and answers questions promptly. They did double bill me for one small item on the invoice but let’s assume that was by accident.
Installation was free and that was still overpriced! Again the supplier did not do the install, they provided the installers, Homedigital HDT. They were unprepared and came late which meant the install took 3 days when it should have taken 1 or 2. Being unprepared they improvised and made a few mistakes that I then had to fix later. However you could use Discovery Hifi and not have Homedigital HDT do the install.
Main Supplier and installer of Klipsch speakers – H3 Digital
I wish I used H3 Digital and recommend you consider them. H3 digital are Brits in Phuket with a much greater focus on system planning, design, engineering, installation and calibration than any of the Thai options I dealt with. And they do their own installations.
H3 Digital mostly use Klipsch speakers, which are very popular in the USA. They also use Sonos which is the best option for an easier to use home theater that still sounds good. They can also work with other brands if you have that preference.
The price they quoted for all their expertise and care added about ฿50,000 over the price of the components, which is well worth it.
TVs – Powerbuy or main supplier, not Sony
I bought the first TV directly from Sony. Delivery men dropped the box of at my house and I had to install it myself, which is difficult given it’s very big and heavy. So the second time I purchased from Powerbuy because they offer free installation, anywhere in Thailand. This was well worth getting since the TV weighs 68 kg and is impossible for an individual to hold at both ends. The prices are the same everywhere.
The reason I did not get the TV from the main supplier is because I wanted it right away so I could watch TV during the time it took to plan and order the audio components. If you don’t mind waiting then feel free to get the TV through the main supplier. You will get the same TV for the same price but the supplier will install it, make sure all the other components are compatible with it, and be responsible if there are any problems.
Processor, amp, receiver and minor components – Piyanas or main supplier
I bought the Marantz receiver, Yamaha processor and amp and any cables that did not come from the main supplier from Piyanas. They are a good outfit, I have never had a problem with them and they have provided both support and replacement when I have had problems with products I bought from them.
Having said that you don’t need to use them for any of the initial set up and components, the main supplier and installer is quite happy to source everything for you and save you some bother. They might even choose better components for you than what you would have chosen yourself, and it means if anything does not work or is not compatible, it’s the main supplier’s responsibility to resolve it.
So I would recommend getting everything through the main supplier but when their job is done and you are responsible for your system, then look to Piyanas for any additions or upgrades. Piyanas would also be happy to be your main supplier and do the install; while they have the audio side covered I am not sure how strong they are with the TV component, they mostly do sound systems not home theaters.
Custom TV cabinet – Hulta
I got this awesome TV cabinet from Hulta in Bangkok. All the design was done over Line chat and it was delivered so I never had to visit their shop. We started out with their own TV cabinet design and then modified it for my needs. Their original design had a narrow AV equipment shelf made for things like blu-ray players, set top boxes and Nvidia shields. And it was not child safe.
I got them to heighten the shelf for my serious AV equipment, remove the sharp corners for child safety and make it exactly as long as I needed but no longer since the subs and left and right towers had to go on the floor beside it on a stage with limited width.
All this for ฿25,000 was great value and 2 years later I am still very happy with it. H3 Digital can also make custom furniture.
TVs: Sony Z8H 8K and A9G OLED
I do recommend Sony, mostly for the Google TV software and the overall quality. The Z8H has a nice picture but I much prefer the OLED, whose picture is simply beautiful.
With both TVs the automatic brightness adjustment based on room light does not work most of the time. With the Z8H sometimes the google voice assistant comes up and interrupts what you are watching at random times when no one called for it.
After 2 years with an 8K TV I have never watched anything in 8K. But I am looking forward to it!
Yamaha CX-A5200 Processor and MX-A5200 Amplifier
For the Yamaha/Canton home theater in the living room I have a separate processor and amplifier (as opposed to an AV receiver that does both). Using 2 boxes instead of one allows the manufacturer to use larger and higher quality components, and space them out for better heat management.
There have been some ease of use problems. For example I could not figure out why there was no sound coming through the subwoofers. During setup the Yamaha processor asks you if your left and right speakers are large or small. I answered large, without giving it much thought. It turns out that makes it send no sound to the woofers!
The amp bridging was tricky to set up. Also the processor’s remote was draining its batteries every couple of weeks and had to be replaced. And the replacement did the same!
Good things about the processor and amp is how great the system sounds and the fact that one single sound mode is good for everything, it’s set and forget. Another cool thing is the chain of triggers whereby just turning on the TV with my TV remote, also turns on the processor and amp. I had to set that up myself, the installers did not know about it.
Marantz SR-7015 AV receiver
This was easy to set up and it looks cool. On the other hand it needs high quality input and constant settings changes to sound good. You will have to manually change the sound mode depending on the source in order to get decent sound. This makes it a non-starter for me and I can not recommend Marantz.
Canton and XTZ speakers
I chose XTZ because I needed an all wall-mounted option and XTZ made speakers and a sub that fit perfectly in my jigsaw puzzle sound stage. They get good reviews and they look cool in a masculine way. I find the sound is just okay.
The Cantons look more elegant and they sound better. While I am pleased with them for TV I am underwhelmed with how they sound for music. I will try KEF speakers if I do another home theater.
Atmos overhead speakers
Overhead speakers don’t help much at all. The vast majority of sound sources do not have a height channel and if they do there is only meaningful sound coming from them for a few moments during the whole film or TV series. During those few moments it can be really nice, rainfall or helicopter flyovers do make you feel like you are enveloped in sound, briefly.
The overhead speakers are no bother unless you need to change the room your system is in, their only downside is price. If you are looking for ways to save from the total cost then forgo the height channels. The Canton hight channels in my system were ฿40,000.
Smaller, cheaper and easier options that are better than a soundbar
I have set up a couple of home theaters in the living room and my verdict is that it is not worth the bother. I don’t mind the cost, I mind that the systems are so finicky, buggy, unintuitive, and inscrutable when there are problems. Also if you have a small space they can not fit.
Serious home theater systems are made for enthusiasts who enjoy tinkering. I have enough hobbies and I think home theater tech should be cool; instead it’s fussy, stuffy and annoying.
Having said that, don’t just get a soundbar, they don’t sound good enough. Here are a few good compromise options that you can install yourself, take less space, are cheaper and easier to use than a full home theater but still sound better than a soundbar.
KEF LS50 Wireless II and KC62 Sub
Total cost in 2023: ฿171,900
|KEF LS50 Wireless II speakers
|KEF KC62 Sub
|Minor components and cables
These sound really good for TV and AMAZING for music. These sound better for music than the Canton system detailed above which cost 5 times as much. They are compact and beautiful with multiple colors available. They are all powered so they need electricity but not speaker cables (the sub can be wired or wireless).
The only knock on the KEFs is that they are not always easy to use or reliable; they will stop working for mysterious reasons and you will have to reset them, which is tricky because the app is not great.
The official S2 floor stands come in at ฿21,900 but you only want them if there is no surface to the left and right of the TV where you can put the LS50s. For example in the image above you could just put the speakers on the TV cabinet and not bother with the stands. Being small, wireless and unidirectional the KC62 sub really can go anywhere on the floor, and it sounds wonderful.
Sonos Arc, Sub and pair of Era 300s
Total cost in 2023: ฿130,600
|Sonos Arc soundbar
|Pair of Sonos Era 300
|Minor components and cables
I have multiple Sonos speakers and they all sound good and are easy enough to use. My only gripe is that the local shop I bought them from had imported them from Singapore so they came with the wrong power plug. When i complained they sent me an adaptor. This is unusual given that the type of plug used in Thailand is the same as in the USA, so is the most common and popular in the world.
On Sonos’ website these are sold as a package called “Premium Immersive Set With Arc”, however on the website of a Thai Sonos importer they are called “7.1.4 Set with Arc, Sub and Era 300 Pair”. So make sure the components match what is listed in the table above. As always with Sonos you get no discount for buying the package compared to buying each item individually.
Sonos make a cheaper option for every component in this system with the bargain basement version coming in at only ฿69,600. If you need to save then switch out the Era 300s with Era 100s for a ฿20,000 savings or One SLs (as pictured above) for a ฿26,000 saving. Do not downgrade the sub or the soundbar, you will be disappointed with the sound and disappointed with yourself.
The good thing about the Sonos system is that it’s modular. You could start with just the soundbar and then add the sub and surrounds as budget allows for it. Or you could start with the cheap One SLs and then upgrade to the best Era 300s and move the One SLs into other rooms for music.
Sonos and others make floor stands and wall mounts for the Era 300s (or 100s or One SLs) but with limited availability in Thailand you might have to privately import them. Total cost could be anything from ฿40,000 to privately import the best official floor stands or as low as ฿2,000 for a pair of locally available wall mounts.
Sony HT-A9 and SASW3 sub
Total cost in 2023: ฿ 81,980
|Sony SASW3 sub
|Minor components and cables
I have no personal experience with these but they look like a good option if you can get them with a good subwoofer which appears to be impossible in Thailand. I list the SASW3 sub because that is the only one that Sony sell in Thailand. But everyone agrees it’s a cheap and nasty piece of junk. In other markets Sony sells the HT-A9 with the SASW5 sub, which is well reviewed.
You can’t connect multiple subs to the HT-A9 and you can’t connect subs from other brands. So for the lack of good sub options I can not recommend this system.