It used to be that Home Theater was only for the very rich. The complexity of cables and wires, the size of components, TV’s, amplifiers, receivers and speakers made setup a daunting experience usually requiring a professional. The cost of course was prohibitive as well – even more so depending on the size and resolution of the screen, the number and power of the speakers and the complexity of the installation. But as both the price and size of electronics has dropped, the quality of a home entertainment experience has become something that everyone can enjoy. Innovation in speaker design in particular has meant that a “home theater” like experience is possible in almost any size room. The addition of new technologies such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have enabled us to manage and control our music and movie libraries right from our smartphones directly to our TV’s and speakers wirelessly. All of this is not to say that if you have the financial where-with-all, you can still outfit your living room in a very high-end fashion. Here are some things to consider when building a home entertainment system.
Size of the room
The variety of TV and speaker sizes make it possible to outfit just about any size room with a good entertainment system. So think about the size of the room when choosing your TV and sound system.
Distance from the TV
Toshiba tells us that the “industry standard” for viewing distance is determined by multiplying the TV screen size by 1.2 for minimum distance and 1.9 for maximum distance and then divide the result by 12. Using this formula, the best distance for a 55” set would be 5.45 or about 5.5 feet.
Your first decision is TV versus receiver. Which device will be the hub for all of your input devices which can include, a Blu-ray player, your cable box, Roku, Apple TV, X-box and Amazon Fire TV among others? The plus for connecting to a receiver is that you may be able to limit the number of remotes. If your primary entertainment is movies you may choose to connect devices directly to your TV. If you enjoy music equally or even more so, connecting to the receiver may be the logical choice.
HDMI, optical, analog – most TV’s now use HDMI as a standard. You’ll need a single cable. Beware of expensive HDMI cables as they are no better than a less expensive cable. Optical and analog are alternate and older technologies, but may come in handy if you’re adding a turntable or older TV to your list of components. What you pay for a speaker cable can make a difference in the sounds you hear.
Surround Sound Options/Outputs
Depending on the size of the room, you have a variety of different configurations of speakers to choose from. On the high end, companies like Bang and Olufsen and Bose offer “relatively” easy to install speaker systems that plug directly into their main components, wall speakers and sub woofers so there is no splicing and curling of speaker wires. If you’re outfitting a smaller room, your best bet could be a sound bar and a separate sub-woofer. Sound bars have become very popular in recent years because they do a nice job of simulating surround when used in smaller rooms.
Depending on the type of device, each will have its own settings. Your Blu-ray player has its own factory settings. A Roku, Apple or Amazon TV will have settings for picture resolution and sound.
Here’s where the latest technological advances come in. Companies like Sonos and LG have been rethinking the size and number of speakers. They’ve also eliminated wires by using smaller WiFi enabled speakers. This means you can easily set up speakers in every room of you house if you so choose.
Depending on the components you’ve chosen, you can integrate them using a programmable remote. While this can be tricky to set up, the result is a single remote that is capable of sequencing through your different components with a single click. One click to watch a movie on Blu-Ray, another to turn on your Apple or Amazon TV and connect to your music library, another to simply watch TV in surround.
The bottom line is that home entrainment is getting easier to configure. That is not to say it is easy. There is huge demand for simplifying this experience. This is a challenge that that biggest companies in the world, Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, have all taken up.