Home Theater Buying Guide for Consumers

 

Home Theater

Home Theater

By Anne Ahira

Over the past few years the popularity of home theaters has exploded in the States as new television technologies like Plasma and LCD sets have finally become affordable for the average family. But buying a home theater can be a frustrating experience.

Not only do you have to locate the right television, but you also have to find a compatible sound system.

In this article we are going to discuss a few of the basics in the home theater buying guide.

 

 

Sound

Yes, we know. It is customary to start with the set. But the simple truth is the sound is easily the most neglected element of the home theater. Consumers will often drop thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line sets only to later install cheap sound systems that do little to enhance the overall experience.

Why do they do this? Well, sound systems are a relatively new addition to television viewers. For years, most have been content to simply watch traditional sets with their inferior sound quality. But when it comes to home theaters, the only thing that actually transforms a television set into a home theater is a set of speakers.

And trust us, once you install a quality sound system, you will never want to watch television the old way again. The truth is that that speakers and sound quality are one of the main reasons that people enjoy the movies so much.

Yes, of course, there are many others–the popcorn, the big screen, the dark, etc–but speakers are part of what transforms movie going into an actual experience, which mean that you are doing more than just watching.

What you will need

The home theater buying guide tells us that every home theater needs speakers, a subwoofer, an amplifier and a receiver. This combination will help you reproduce that once inimitable cinematic experience in your very own living room. So, let us take a moment to describe each of these devices individually.

Speakers

All of the sound comes directly through the speakers, so it is essential that you purchase the highest quality set that you can find. It is also important that you select a matching set, since the sound quality will be more even and natural than if you simply mix and match or use old speakers.

The number of speakers should also be a consideration. Do you want two large speakers, or a series of smaller speakers arranged around the room? Of course, this decision often depends on the amount of space and whether your living room is large or small.

Subwoofer

Crash! Boom! Bang! All of those big explosions you hear in your favorite movies and video games…where do you thing they come from? That’s right! The subwoofer is the device that produces all of the low bass sounds, which makes it essential to the home theater experience. In fact, the subwoofer may be the single most important, yet neglected piece of audio equipment in the whole sound system.

How is it neglected? Well, many packaged sound systems include the subwoofer as part of another speaker. That means that the speaker will be half regular speaker and half subwoofer.

While there is really nothing wrong with this arrangement, the home theater buying guide tells us that it is always preferable to purchase a package that includes a standalone subwoofer, since they require a lot of power to produce those big KABOOMS!

Receiver

This little known device combines the amplifier with the video, AM/FM tuner, as well as all of the surround sound functions in one unit that acts as the center or the brain of the home theater.

The actual job of the box is to direct the different signals from the video display to all of the speakers. When it comes to receivers, it is imperative that you find one with a lot of high-definition connections, i.e., inputs and outputs. You will also need a good amplifier for the speakers.

The Set

Now that you have sorted out the sound issues, it is time to move on to the focus of any home theater, the television. Over the past few years there has only one question on the minds and lips of consumers who are interested in installing a new home theater system: Plasma or LCD? These two relatively new technologies have revolutionized the industry and sent customer scrambling for the best deals.

Why are they better than traditional sets? To begin with, most Plasma and LCD sets can be mounted on the wall, which saves homeowners valuable space. And at only fifty or sixty pounds, the average Plasma or LCD weighs only about a quarter of a traditional set. Then there’s the picture quality. These two new technologies blow traditional sets out of the water as they offer a wider range of contrast, color, and higher resolutions.

But probably the best thing about Plasma and LCD sets is their price. While it is true that when they first came on the scene, they went for five, even ten thousand dollars, but as the technology has improved and competition has increased, the price has fallen dramatically. Nowadays, it is possible to purchase a high quality set for only a couple thousand dollars.

What should you look for?

The home theater buying guide tells us that most Plasma and LCD sets are separated by their different levels of resolution. The middle of the road models will have a resolution of 720p (pixels), while the top-of-the-line models boast a resolution of 1080p.

The difference between these sets when it comes to picture quality is significant, especially when viewing high definition television. Unfortunately, however, the price difference between the sets is also significant, though the 1080p set have come down a bit in recent months.

So, which should you choose Plasma or LCD? This is sure to become a question for the ages, or at least our age, since it is extremely difficult to answer. The best advice that we can give is to say that both are similar and that price is currently the only significant discrepancy.

The home theater buying guide informs us that LCD sets are presently more expensive than Plasma sets, especially when it comes to big screen models.


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