There’s more to a good home theater experience than your TV, soundbar, and game console/Blu-ray player/media streamer. There’s how those different devices connect to one another, and that usually means cables. Lots of cables, which can inevitably become huge tangles behind your entertainment center, collecting dust and making adjustments a frustrating endeavor. There’s also each device’s remote control, which you likely need to use every part of your home theater to its fullest.
Everything on this list is fairly inexpensive; the priciest (and arguably most useful) item is $100, while other items can be picked up for a lot less. Here’s what you need to for a clean, clutter-free home theater experience.
Properly Sized HDMI Cables
These days, most home entertainment devices come with HDMI cables, but they might not be the best for your setup. Obviously they’re useless if they’re too short, but if they’re too long, they dangle and add to the clutter behind your TV.
If the cables you already have offer too much slack, don’t be afraid to get shorter cables. You should, however, be afraid to buy them at a brick-and-mortal store. Physical retailers tend to charge exorbitant prices for HDMI cables, often several times as much as if you bought equivalent cables online. Sites like Monoprice and Amazon have inexpensive HDMI cables in varying shapes, sizes, and capacities, running anywhere from half a foot to over 50 feet long (don’t attempt to run an HDMI cable longer than 50 feet without using a repeater to enhance the signal), usually for only a few dollars each.
Get a tape measure and measure the distance between your TV’s HDMI ports and the devices you want to plug into them. Find the cable length that gives you some slack, but doesn’t leave you with dangling coils of wire when everything is plugged in.
Right Angle HDMI Adapters
Depending on your TV, your HDMI ports might face straight back, straight down, or straight sideways. Most HDMI cables are straight, which means they’ll stick out a few inches before the flexibility of the cables lets them bend. That can mean wires jutting out awkwardly, particularly for a TV on a wall mount or otherwise placed close to a wall.
You shouldn’t try to bend or kink these cables, as they can break. Plus there’s a simple solution. Right angle HDMI adapters (sometimes called port savers) plug into the HDMI port of your TV and bend at 90 degrees to provide access to that port at a different direction. If your HDMI cables are bunching up or bending awkwardly behind your TV, these adapters can help make them neat and flat.
If you have more than one device connected to your TV, you have more than one wire running from it. That means tangles. Add power cables for every device, and you have more tangles. To avoid knots of cables behind your TV, use cable ties.
Plastic zip ties that cinch closed or hook and loop fastener strips wrap around bundles of cables to prevent them from becoming loose or otherwise getting tangled. If your home theater components are close together, use these to keep them organized. Place a cable tie every foot or so on groups of cables that run near each other, turning them into a single, thick bundle. As each cable terminates at its device, let it run free while you secure the rest of the bundle as you run down the line. This will turn your big nest of wires into a big tree trunk, with individual branches running off to each device connected to your TV.
If you have fairly long cable runs, you can use a wrap or tubing to cover the bundle of cables. These don’t cinch the cables together securely like cable ties, but they wrap up the entire bundle to prevent individual cables from getting caught on anything, and make the entire length simpler to manage.
A Well-Designed Surge Protector
Take your dinky vertical power strip and throw it in the trash. It isn’t right for your home theater. Since so many devices have awkwardly shaped power bricks, don’t assume you can fit everything on a single row of outlets. This doesn’t mean you should daisy-chain power strips, though. Stick to one power strip per wall outlet. More than that, and you’re tempting both your circuit breakers and all reasonable fire safety.
A good power strip for your home theater is large enough to handle everything comfortably, with no stacking of additional power adapters. Look for a strip with several sideways-facing outlets spaced far apart from each other, like this Belkin 12-outlet power strip. The six outlets flanking the central row are arranged to handle the biggest power bricks without any wiggling to get everything else in place. It even has two USB ports for charging mobile devices or powering smaller media streamers, like the Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV. Other versions have coaxial plugs if you’re worried about lightning hitting your antenna, satellite dish, or (if it isn’t underground) cable link.
You don’t need to break the bank on a power strip, but getting a recognizable brand with a good reputation is important. Not only will it likely be better made than a power strip you get at a dollar store, but it will have its own equipment guarantee. The linked Belkin power strip is less than $30 on Amazon, and if it fails and your electronics get damaged by a power surge, its connected equipment warranty will cover up to $250,000 of lost devices.
A Universal Remote
Logitech’s Harmony Hub is one of the most economical and powerful universal remote devices available. It’s a small box you place near your TV to send infrared commands to your different devices. It emulates the remote of every TV, speaker, and video source you have in your home theater, letting you control everything with a single wand. It also supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and even many smart home devices. With the Harmony Hub, you can tuck the individual remotes for your various home theater components in a drawer and forget about them.
The Harmony Hub on its own lets you control your home theater using your phone or tablet through Logitech’s Harmony app. It also integrates with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can control your home theater with your voice if you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home. The Hub is available for $100, or you can get it bundled with a simple physical remote (that can control your home theater devices, through the Hub) in the $150 Harmony Companion package. You can even go all-out and get the $300 Harmony Elite, which includes the Hub and a high-end, touch screen-equipped remote.
Logitech Harmony products are easily the most expensive items here when compared with cable ties and adapters. If you want to turn all of your different remotes into a single unit, and add some very handy smartphone and smart home features, however, they’re a worthwhile investment.
If you get a good universal remote, you don’t need to juggle multiple wands to use your home theater. But this doesn’t mean you should throw them out, and no universal remote can replace game controllers. You want a good place to stash your remotes, and to keep your gamepads organized.
Get a charging stand for your preferred game systems, like this two-controller PS4 charger or this combination Joy-Con and Nintendo Switch Pro Controller charging dock (Xbox One gamepads use AA batteries, so you don’t need a charger to store them). When your controllers aren’t in use, stick them on the charger and you’ll know where they are.
For everything else, from old remotes to Xbox One controllers, simply get an appropriate box, basket, or drawer. If your home theater doesn’t have a cabinet for accessories, measure the clearance the TV stand’s shelves provide and shop for a container that’s half an inch shorter. You can use anything, from a glossy black box to a wicker basket, as long as it’s large enough to hold your remotes and stray controllers and thin enough to fit in your TV stand.