By Mac Houston
A home theater system is an exciting entertainment option that provides the consumer with an immersive viewing and listening experience. Your home theater system can be something as simple as a 27-inch TV and a home theater-in-a-box system, or a sophisticated custom-built system with video projector and in-wall speakers. Nonetheless, there is a lot to consider in-between. Here are the items you need for a well-balanced Home Theater System:
The Room: The first place to start is the room in which you intend to place your home theater system. The size of the room will determine the size and type of video display device (TV or projector) that would be best to utilize. However, whether your room is large or small, additional questions to consider include… How much ambient light is present? Is the room carpeted or not carpeted? What type of wall construction do you have? Will you be placing your home theater system components in free space, or will you be housing your components in a cabinet or closet and installing your speakers in the wall or ceiling? Where will you be sitting in relation to the screen image?
Before embarking on purchasing your actual home theater system components, especially for a medium-to-high end system, it might be a good idea to consult with a home theater installer to come onsite and assess your room and address the above questions. The installer can make useful suggestions on components or installation concepts that will work best in your room environment, keeping in mind your own specific home theater system budgetary considerations.
The Video Display Device is the first actual component to consider for your home theater system. After all, the idea of home theater is to bring the movie theater experience into your house. The most important element of this experience is the visual experience of viewing a large image on a screen. The actual size of the room will help determine the size of screen that can be accommodated. From there, you need to decide what type of video display device might be most appropriate.
In addition, at this point in time, with the increase in the amount of available HDTV programming sources, as well as HD source components, consider a fully integrated HDTV (ATSC tuner built-in), HD-compatible Television (requires an external ATSC tuner), or a Video projector, in lieu of a typical analog television. HDTVs, HD-compatible Televisions, and video projectors will deliver the most from new HD sources, however will also work with your older analog components, such as a VCR.
You likewise now have the choice of incorporating 3D viewing into your home theater system. However, you will need a 3D-enabled TV and other supporting components to do this.
The next essential element of the movie theater experience is Audio Reproduction. The method this is implemented in a home theater system is with either an AV receiver or Preamp/Amp combination.
An AV Receiver usually combines the functions of three components: (A) A radio tuner for AM/FM and, in some situations, HD (High Definition Radio), Internet Radio, or XM and/or Sirius Satellite Radio. (B) A Preamplifier that switches and controls which audio and video source is selected (such as a DVD player, VCR, CD player, etc…) and processes the incoming stereo or surround sound signals and distributes them to the correct amplifier channels and the subwoofer output. The preamp in an AV receiver can likewise route video signals coming from source components (such as a DVD player) and direct the video signal to the television. (C) A built-in Multi-channel amplifier (5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 channels) that delivers the surround sound signals and power to the speaker system.
The Home Theater, AV, Surround Sound Receiver or Separate Preamp and Amplifier Receiver is the heart of a home theater system and provides most, if not all of the inputs and outputs that you hook up, including your television, into. A Receiver provides an simple and cost-effective method of centralizing your your home theater system.
However, in many higher-end home theater system installations, the functions of a Receiver are often provided by separate components: Preamp/Processor, Tuner, and either a single multi-channel amplifier or even separate amplifiers for each channel. Such a setup provides more flexibility in switching out and/or enhancing the separate aspects of the home theater system as well as isolating any interference that is caused by having all these functions combined in a signal chassis and sharing the same power supply. For the average consumer, nonetheless, a good Receiver will function just fine.
The next components to consider for your home theater system are the Loudspeakers. Just as the size and type of room dictates the type of video display device you need, the same factors likewise affect the speakers you need for your home theater. Two key points to remember: (A) Before you buy, listen to several types of speaker setups. (B) Consider buying the same brand and related model speakers for your home theater. This will ensure that you will have a better acoustical match between both the speakers and the room.
The advent of home theater systems has introduced the Subwoofer to many consumers. A subwoofer is a specialized speaker that only reproduces the extreme low frequencies present in movies or music. There are a number of types of subwoofers you can utilize in a home theater system and, once again, the size and type of room and problems such as whether the room is carpeted or not will help you determine which subwoofer is right for you. Once again, you need to perform listening tests.
At a minimum, you need some type of Source Component like a DVD player for your home theater system. Two things to consider in a DVD player: Progressive Scan and Up-scaling capability. This will ensure that you get the best possible image from your DVDs, particularly if you are viewing them on an HDTV.
Since all DVD players can play CDs, you may not need a CD player. However, having a separate CD-only player in a home theater system is quite common, particularly if it is a high-end unit providing better CD audio performance.
Additionally, if you decide to buy a Blu-ray Disc player to access true high definition source content, in lieu of, or in addition to, a DVD player, you can additionally utilize it to play standard DVDs and, in many cases, audio CDs as well.
In addition, you may additionally want to include a DVD recorder or DVD recorder/VCR combination in lieu of your old VCR. However, you can still utilize your old VCR ( particularly if it is a Hi-Fi Stereo unit) with your home theater system – but, keep in mind VHS delivers very poor image quality in comparison to DVD, and although DVD is much better than VHS, Blu-ray actually delivers a true high definition image. The differences are especially more noticeable as screen sizes get larger.
Also, you need to decide how you will receive your primary television programming: Antenna, Cable, or Satellite. If you opt to subscribe to a Cable or Satellite Service, you might also consider combining that service with a DVR. DVRs provide a way to record your TV programs on a Hard Drive, rather than disc or tape.
Finally, another new home theater source option is the Web. If you have high-speed Internet access, you can stream both music and movies, without having to buy a DVD or Blu-ray Disc. An increasing number of Blu-ray Disc players and TVs have the capability to hook up to the Internet for this purpose, though there are likewise external boxes, referred to as Network Media Players or Media Streamers, that provide this option as well, and they are very affordable.
Surge Protectors are the unsung heroes of a home theater system. Although they are not foolproof, providing your system with some sort of surge protection is a good idea. You never know when you might have a sudden power outage, or even a brown out that might possibly affect your system.
Likewise, if you want a more comprehensive way of safeguarding against power surges, as well as being able to monitor your power, and in some cases regulate your power, you might consider a Line Conditioner.
You can’t have a home theater system unless everything is connected. Whether you buy basic connection cables and speaker wire or the really high-end stuff, the main things to consider are utilizing the right type, right length, and connecting everything correctly. Some connections are color-coded; make sure the colors on the cable ends match the connections on your components to makes things a lot easier.
In terms of speaker cable, the gauge of the cable can be a factor, depending on the distance the speakers are from the amplifier or AV receiver. I use 16 or 14 gauge speaker wire myself. 18 gauge is very thin and should not be used for longer distances.
Universal Remote Control: One of the most confusing parts of a home theater system is not all the components and connections, but actually managing and controlling it. Each component in a home theater system comes with its own remote, leading to a collection that can number half-a-dozen or more. One solution is to opt for a sophisticated, though simpler to use, universal remote that can control most of the functions of each of your components. After the initial hurdle of programming the remote for your system, such a device will enable everybody in the family to use the home theater system without frustration.
You have a fancy home theater system, now you need some comfortable furniture that will make you want to allocate time with your home theater. Your furniture can be of the conventional sofa and chair variety, or you can opt for specialized home theater furniture that includes features such as built-in cup holders and overstuffed padding.
There you have it, the basic elements of a home theater system. There is no home theater system that is exactly like another; everybody has different rooms, budgets, brand preferences, and decorative tastes when it comes to their home theater. The key thing is to keep the basic elements of a well-balanced home theater in mind, while assembling it according to your own desires and tastes.
Although putting together a basic home theater system is not as complicated as it seems on the surface and may be a nice weekend project for most consumers, when installing a high-end custom home theater, make sure you enlist the aide of a professional home theater installer.
All Star Audio Video is your number one choice for home theater home improvement in Houston.
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