Home theater, by our very loose definition, is an enveloping audio and video experience. That typically requires a big screen and surround sound—it’s that simple. A big screen can be anything in excess of 30 inches. Anything under that really isn’t capable of enveloping you in an image. A big screen should also be a widescreen, which is the more rectangular shape that many high-definition televisions (HDTVs) come in today. These models will also let you view more widescreen movies without those annoying black bars scrunching the viewing area.
The good news: You don’t need a projector that weighs 800 pounds to do the trick. You can have a lightweight projector, a sexy flat-panel display, a rear-projection set or a regular old TV.
The surround-sound aspect of home theater is a bit more involved. In reality, it’s just a way of surrounding you with sound. To do that, there are usually five or more speakers. In a basic five-speaker system, three speakers are in the front, with two of those three on either side of the screen and a center-channel speaker placed above, below or behind the screen. These are often called the front speakers or LCRs (left, center, right), and they convey most of the audio in a movie. Two surround speakers are positioned to the sides or rear of the seating area to provide ambient sounds like the hum of a spaceship or crickets chirping in the night. The typical five-speaker setup is called 5.1. You can have three surround speakers in what’s called a 6.1-channel setup, or even four in a 7.1-channel configuration.
The .1 stands for a subwoofer, which conveys only low-bass sounds. Subwoofers are great to have if you like to feel the impact of special effects in action movies or low bass in music.
There you go! Home theater is that simple. Okay, there are a few more things you’ll need, like a surround-sound processor and a DVD player—and maybe even some cool extras like a digital video recorder (DVR), amplifiers, a media server and perhaps a video game console. You can decide all of that as you go along.
However, the key pieces in a home theater aren’t the components in the equipment rack or the speakers on the walls. The most important ingredients is who comes in and sits down and fires up a movie or a favorite TV show, watches the big game or plays one, listens to some great music or perhaps even sings along. The most important ingredients are you and the others who will use this home entertainment haven—and your main goals should be to relax, escape and have some fun.
We think the Dude would agree.
By Steven Castle, senior editor for Electronic House magazine.To see more articles from the editors of Electronic House magazine about the connected home visit www.electronichouse.com.
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