Home Theater Guide

What it's all about | The Source of it all | Video Considerations | Audio Considerations | Putting it all together | Noise & Light Control

Audio Considerations

AMPLIFIERS

How many watts has it got, man. The system power amplifier takes the very low power output from the processor and boosts it up to a level that can drive the system loudspeakers. What that level actually is - people have argued for years about that. The power requirements are determined mainly by 3 factors:

All other factors being equal (room and speakers), doubling the power will increase the sound level by 3db (db or decibel is a measure of sound level). 3 db is a noticeable but small increase in sound level. Most people will feel that a sound level is twice as loud when increased by 10 db. What all of this means, is that if you have 100 watts of power, and want the sound to be twice as loud, you need 1000 watts to get there. The difference therefore, between a 100 watt amp and a 120 watt amp is insignificant, if 100 won't get the job done, you will need 200 - 300 to see any meaningful increase.

On other than fairly high end systems, the processor and amplifier (as well as an FM tuner) is usually combined into one unit, the Audio/Video Receiver. The quality of the best A/V Receivers is suitable for all but the very best ($$$) systems.

SPEAKER SYSTEMS

A typical home theater (or music surround) system consists of 6 (sometimes more) separate speakers - 3 across the front, 2 in back and one or more subwoofers. Newer systems have up to 9 speakers. The price range here is huge, a few of the cheapest systems are almost useless, many low end systems however, sound fairly good (when compared to some of the small, cheap speakers in some lower end TVs). Speakers systems are somewhat like the amps discussed above, sometimes spending twice as much only buys a small increase in performance. How much you spend is really based on how critical a listener you are, and how loud you like it . Complete 6 piece systems are available from many manufacturers, or with some knowledge a very good system can be "pieced" together.

We recommend a subwoofer for most systems, the sound and feel of the low bass they produce really helps "put you there" in movies and music. Small in-wall type speakers and a hidden sub can produce very good sound and be almost invisible in most rooms.