Whether it’s playing games or watching a movie, a high-quality home theater can enhance your experience in many ways. You’ll have the same experience of movie halls at your home. You’ll no longer need to line up for a ticket or security check at the cinemas. If you’re into gaming, amplifying the gaming sound and pictures on TV immerses you into an intuitive playing experience. It is an experience that you’d want to repeat over and over.
Other benefits of installing home theater systems in your place include increasing the property’s value. Home theaters are increasingly becoming a popular trend in transformed basements and extra garage space. However, it is essential to note that you’ll only have an intuitive experience with your home theater if you settle for quality, functionality, and modern designs with innovative technologies.
What are some of the factors that you need to consider before buying your next home entertainment system?
Here is a formidable buying guide to help you make the best buying decision for your next home theater.
1. Budget and Space
Your available space and budget are what will help you zero down to the right home theater. As you’re renovating part of your basement or garage, keep in mind that a powerful home theater will occupy a bigger space. The size of your room can also limit you to a smaller home theater with fewer speakers. Besides reducing the number, you can also go for smaller sizes like a bookshelf. Remember, you’ll still need enough room for your television, gaming console, and floor standing speakers.
The budget will vary greatly from one buyer to another. Prominent brands will cost more than generic. However, it is important to note that superior brands are durable and of high quality. They’ll likely last for ages to reflect your money’s value. Other factors that will affect your next home theater price include shipping costs if you’re importing. Thus, you’d like a supplier who subsidizes the shipping and delivery costs.
Many home theater brands in the market suit different budgets, needs, and preferences; hence you have a great variety. Even so, don’t fall for unreasonably cheap home theaters with poor sound quality. A significant investment means a system with hassle-free maintenance for ages to come.
2. What Connectivity Options to Look for?
The number of connectivity options will depend on the type of A/V receiver that you choose. Most modern receivers come with amazing connectivity features to give you quality entertainment with all your home gadgets. Some of the current connectivity features to watch out for include:
HDMI is essential connectivity if you want to have a real cinema experience with your home theater. Be on the lookout for modern HDMI connectivity that allows Audio Return Channel (ARC), Ethernet over HDMI, and 3D video. Older home theater models will only feature HDMI 3.1 ports, which means you may need a separate S/PDIF for audio connectivity. At this point, you don’t need so many auxiliary connections that will complicate your entertainment experience.
HDMI connectivity with ARC enhances flexibility with upstream data. Choose a system that comes with at least three HDMI ports, giving you the freedom to connect multiple devices at once. You’ll have enough space for your gaming console, laptop, and even DVD player.
• Built-In Bluetooth Connectivity
You might also want to have a wireless connection for all your digital devices, including mobile phones and tablets. A modern home theater with built-in Bluetooth connectivity allows your system to communicate and exchange entertainment information within a certain frequency. You’ll need to be within a radius of about 10 meters for better audio quality.
Innovative Bluetooth technology can work on your system in two main ways. The wireless audio reception allows transmission from digital gadgets to a receiver with wired speakers. Beep transmission allows acoustic wireless connections within the system. Some of the advantages of wireless connectivity include nearly endless applications that don’t limit your entertainment scope.
• Video Conversion and 4K Upscaling
Do you have some old-school clips or movies that you want to project in high-quality 4K resolution? Getting a home theater with video conversion and 4K upscaling connectivity sounds like the best plan. This connectivity upscales a lower resolution into higher to look better on your UHD TV or HDTV. The new video might not have the same quality as videos recorded with modern technology but will give you a better experience.
Video conversion and 4K upscaling is a premium feature that you wouldn’t want to miss in your new cinema space. Say goodbye to composite and component video signals with this connectivity.
• HDMI and 3D Pass-Through
Finally, you can also opt for HDMI and 3D pass-through connectivity, especially if you want to experience high-quality videos beyond the typical 1080p signal. As the name suggests, this connectivity passes on the streams to your television without processing them. Thus, you cannot convert a 2D video to 3D unless you buy a separate Blu-ray player for the TV.
This connectivity doesn’t support audio processing as HDMI linkages don’t allow the transfer of HD audio. In that case, getting optical audio compatible with Digital Theater Systems (DTS) and Dolby Digital (DD) sounds like a good plan. However, it is essential to note that you’ll need higher bandwidth for a better experience with 3D signals.
3. How Does the Home Theater Work?
The term “home theater” is a broad name that can include varying devices that work differently. However, you need a less-complicated system, and you can easily tell how it works, especially if you’re considering future superior upgrades. A typical home theater will perform well based on four main components: an AV receiver, high-quality speakers, a media device like DVD players or gaming consoles, and a watching device like a TV set.
These are just the basic components for a home theater to work, but you can customize your system as much as you want. It all depends on how far you’re willing to go with the budget and aesthetic preferences. Even so, the more customization you do, the more likely you’ll enjoy your home-theater moments.
4. Inbox Content and Wires
Before carrying your home theater system home, you’d want to know what else comes in the box. Watch out for brands that give you extra wires, especially if you’re going to place the speakers in different spots. Connection wires from the manufacturer will likely be of high quality compared to what you might buy separately. Other important components that shouldn’t miss in the box include instruction guides, warranty information, and remote control. Not all home theaters will come with batteries for the remote.
5. Buyer Reviews and Recommendations
Before investing your hard-earned money in a home theater, you would want to see what other customers have to say about a particular brand. Most customer reviews are authentic and will point out the flaws and strengths of a specific system that you didn’t even know exists to help you make a sound buying decision. A brand that received numerous positive customer reviews is worth a trial. Other essential information that you can access in customer and expert reviews includes general performance, tweaks to enhance your experience, and servicing or repair points.
Besides buyer and expert reviews, you can also seek direct recommendations from friends, relatives, or even your neighbor. If the neighbor’s bass hardly allows you to sleep, then that is what you’d also want to experience in your home. The best thing about direct recommendations is that you’re buying a system that you’ve already experienced. You also go to the store knowing what exact features to look out for.
You can access buyer reviews on various online community forums, including websites and social media. Some brands also encourage buyers to leave reviews on their websites.
6. Ease of Set Up
Most high-quality home theaters are expensive but will reflect their value in the long haul. In that case, the last thing that you want is to spend again on setting it up. It can be frustrating when you have to call a technician every time you want to try new devices or do simple upgrades. Some suppliers will go ahead offer free installation services as part of after-sale services, which is good. But what do you do in case you want to change the system’s position? You might want to move from a smaller garage to a larger basement that allows you to customize lighting options without natural light interference.
The lesser the number of wires needed in the connection, the easier the set up process will be. Watch out for systems that come with a simple manual guide that indicates how to connect each speaker. Most manual guides will be available in multiple languages, so that shouldn’t pose any problem. Some manufacturers will also give digital manual guides, downloadable from their official websites.
However, if you’re buying a sophisticated home theater, hiring professional installation services when making any changes sounds like the best plan. The last thing you want is to short-circuit some speakers, which means acquiring another set at additional costs. Other home theater components that may require professional installation services include streaming devices and surround-sound systems.
7. A High-Quality Television
Your home theater experience will not be complete without a high-quality television. Besides watching movies, sometimes you also want to stream your favorite music videos. That means you’d like a TV set with internet capabilities and a system that supports most digital apps. You can download and install different music and movie streaming applications. The benefits of streaming live from partner apps include high-definition motion pictures, and you’ll always be ahead before most episodes are available on other platforms.
The screen size is a purely aesthetic choice. Even so, going for a larger screen, say 65-inches and above, will give you a real cinema hall experience when watching movies. Other features to watch out for include image resolution power and input/output ports. For instance, USB and HDMI ports are vital and will be an added advantage to your overall experience. You can also consider upgrading the audio capabilities, but that will cost more.
8. Amplifier Capabilities
An amplifier, popularly know as the A/V (Audio/Visual) receiver, is the heart of your home theater. It processes digital signals from multiple input sources into high-quality video and soundtracks. What are some of the amplifier capabilities that will give you the best home theater experience? Watch out for the following:
• Speaker Inputs
Your amplifier will have several outputs at the back, but the most prominent ones will be the speakers’. The number of these output ports doesn’t have to be the same as that of speakers. A high-quality amplifier can have up to six speaker inputs, but you only have two. In that case, you’d want an amplifier with speaker inputs labeled “ Front Left” and “Front Right” for a better audio experience.
You’ll not have a full home theater experience with limited bass. In that case, you’d want an amplifier with “Pre-Out” connections. Pre-Out means you can enjoy a loud natural bass because the signal passes without amplification. Modern manufacturers may also label these outputs as “Subwoofer,” meaning this is where you’d want to connect your powered sub-unit for audio bass frequencies.
• An Intuitive Front Display
You’d want an intuitive LED front display because this is where most of your controls are. The volume knobs and devices for choosing active devices are standard in nearly all amplifiers. They cannot miss. However, you’d want to go for an amplifier that has additional ports for an enhanced music experience. For instance, watch out for an RCA input or a USB port. These ports are vital for plugging in your smartphone to enjoy your Spotify or Amazon playlists. You can also plug in an iPod to listen to your saved albums.
• Equalization Controls
How sophisticated do you want your amplifier to be? You can easily adjust the treble, mid, and bass on the diodes at the front. These equalizer control features are standard in nearly all amplifiers. What about ab amplifier that allows you to tweak the equalization controls from the comfort of your seat? Besides a remote-powered amplifier, you can also opt for an option that allows smartphone app control. This will enhance a luxurious home-theater experience as you sit and control sound outputs like a boss.
• Signal Quality
Most amplifiers have a design that enables them to pump extraordinary power output. However, that doesn’t mean that the signal will automatically be of high quality. You want clean signals that enhance a surround-sound system to give you an immersive experience when watching thriller movies. In that case, watch out for amplifiers with a higher Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) and a higher Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) for improved signal quality.
You might also want an amplifier with an ohm output within your speakers for better signal quality. Moreover, the right ohm range will also ensure that your amplifier system doesn’t overheat.
• Speaker Efficiency
Lastly, you might also want an amplifier that enhances speaker efficiency for high-quality audio output. However, that will largely depend on the quality of your speakers. You can ask your supplier to help you measure speaker efficiency before choosing an amplifier. You can measure your speaker’s efficiency by putting the microphone one meter away, then run a single Watt of power. This trick will help you measure the sound pressure level (SPL) to see whether it meets the THX standard. Your speaker’s SPL should fall above 105 decibels. Such a speaker will sound great even with a lower volume.
9. How Good is the Sound Quality of Home Theater Systems?
No matter how bright, vivid, or larger your system is, you won’t have a luxurious experience if the audio quality is poor. By high-quality audio, we mean a surround-sound system that comprises an A/V receiver, at least one subwoofer, and several speakers. You want a home theater that gives you deep natural sound with loud bass. The number of speakers will vary accordingly with brand, system type, and size.
Watching movies will be more fun and realistic with a surround-sound system. This system divide’s the movie’s audio soundtrack into multiple discreet channels delivered through the appropriate speakers. These can be the bass or subwoofer speakers. You wouldn’t want to miss this effect which makes you feel at the epicenter of onscreen action. Your home theater experience should not be in any way different from that of a real cinema hall, especially if you put a significant investment towards it.
Another factor that may affect your sound quality includes the design of the speakers. Most experts argue that different speaker designs are for cosmetics rather than audio quality. Even so, if you audition bookshelves and stand-on-the-floor speakers, you’ll realize that the latter gives you a better surround-sound system. You can still try them out yourself to see what appeals mote to your ears because the difference may not be that big.
The Bottom Line
Install a high-quality home theater in your basement to have complete control over the remote when watching movies. Remember, actual cinema halls never pause the movie to allow you to visit the bathrooms or grab a pack of popcorns. A private home theater means freedom with limitless boundaries, including how loud you want the speakers to sound. Most importantly, you’ll always have the front row tickets for you and the family. When buying your next home theater, don’t forget to settle for a high-quality brand with a limited lifetime warranty.
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