Home Theater Guide

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

Putting It All Together


THE GREAT COMPROMISE

The objective of any Home Theater System is to recreate the movie theater experience in the home. Most of us, however, do not have an unlimited budget for a theater system. Often the room we plan to use is less than perfect. It is the rule rather than the exception, that a few compromises will be made to accommodate each individual project. The challenge here is to minimize the impact of the compromise. Frequently, informed choices during the design stage can go a long way toward this end.

BANG FOR THE BUCK

How much to spend on the audio vs. video portion of the project is a good place to start. If you are into Hi-Fi audio (a critical listener), you may need to spend a good deal more for the audio than the average person might. We would be glad to let you spend as much as you want, but the truth is, most people are just not going to hear a whole lot of difference, once a certain threshold is reached. To most people, the latest mega-dollar, super trick sound system, just does not sound that much different then than a good system costing much less. One thing that anyone can see is a huge super clear image. Put a 75 to 100 inch high definition image in front of most people, and their jaws hit the floor. The best way to go about it, in our opinion, is to forget the hype, and just look and listen for yourself.

It is also very important to use the best source possible (particularly for video). Spending $200.00 more to get DVD (as opposed to VHS) will impact most systems dramatically, while the same $200.00 somewhere else, might make very little difference. Buying the best video display and audio system available is really a waste, if you only intend to use std. VHS tape and non High Def. cable or broadcast to provide the image and sound, you simply will not get the quality that the equipment is capable of. Although if you intend to upgrade the source later it could be reasonable choice.

SYSTEM SET UP

Once you have made plunge on the A/V gear, some time spent on proper set up (locations of the display and speakers, as well as audio and video system calibration) will let you get the most for the money you just spent. You can see and hear the difference. Most TVs come from the factory with the contrast (which controls total light output) set too high, and the color too blue. This may sound strange (that a factory would intentionally adjust a set for a less than the best image quality), but they have found that a brighter (and more blue) image will make the set stand out, or at least not fade into the background, when it is next to the other 200 sets at the appliance superstore. The fact is, however, that once in your home, that same set will have a clearer and more natural image with these controls adjusted. The same thing can happen with audio systems as well, one system will get our attention if it is played louder than another, even if after careful listening, we find the other (lower volume level) system sounds clearer and more natural. So, often we can correct with proper set up, what marketing pressures have forced manufacturers to do to maximize sales.