Home Theater Guide

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

The Source Of It All


Everything we see or hear on a Home Theater System comes from somewhere VCR, cable TV, Satellite System etc. Any device that provides a signal is a source. The source really has a bigger impact than almost anything else on the quality of the image we see or the sound we here. Here we will go through the various sources from the best, to the ... not so best.


High Definition TV is the best source available. It is available in many locations (Including Indianapolis In.) as an over the air broadcast, received by the old fashioned antenna. Most of the U.S. will be covered in the next year or two. There are a few (very few) cable companies who are talking about making high definition available to subscribers shortly, the vast majority are uncommitted. Most areas are probably are few years (at least) away from High Def cable. The small dish DBS (satellite) systems are probably the best bet for any kind of consistent High Def programming in the near term, with Direct TV broadcasting HDTV now. The HDTV audio will be Dolby Digital Surround.


Digital Video Disc systems are currently available, offering video quality better than anything short of HDTV. CD+ audio quality and compatibility with all current surround systems make it the best choice (at least for now) for watching pre-recorded movies and video. There are 4000 - 5000 (and counting) titles currently available on disc. Most DVD players also play standard music CDs.


Laser disc was the best source until DVD showed up. If you have one - its a decent system, if you don't have one - keep it that way.

DBS (Small Dish Satellite) Non-HDTV Systems

The best (non-HDTV) programming source that is not prerecorded. It offers better image and sound quality than standard broadcast or cable. It offers hundreds of channels and access to pay per view movies and other special programming (all for a price, of course). For sports fans its hard to beat, with 10s of sporting events showing 24 hours a day. Dolby Digital surround sound is also available in some cases.

Broadcast and Cable TV (Non-HDTV)

These sources offer decent performance if everything is set up right . Dolby Prologic surround is available if the program is broadcast in that format (the words Dolby Surround will appear during the intro).


Standard VHS format units provide acceptable performance (and decent performance on smaller displays). The convenience and sheer number of these devices in existence indicate that they will be around for a long time. A DVD image is 2 - 3 times clearer than standard VHS. SVHS (Super VHS) systems offer performance near that of DBS and can be recorded.