If you’re sitting in your living room watching sitcoms on a 19″ television, you are hopelessly behind the times—and depriving yourself of something truly exciting. This is the era of the home theater system, a complete audio/visual experience that can turn your living room into your own private movie theater.
Imagine your living room filled with dynamic, pulse-pounding sound that travels from front to rear to back again. Explosions shake the furniture with gut-thumping bass, spaceships zoom overhead, and even the quiet moments make you feel like you’re in the middle of the scene, not just watching a movie on a super-sharp bigscreen TV.
The best home theater systems pull you into the movie, offering both the viewing quality of the best movie theaters and the convenience of your own home. And, best of all, you watch what you want, when you want, and control it all from the comfort of your easy chair.
What Makes a Home Theater?
Home theater means different things to different people. To some, hooking up a hi-fi VCR to a 20″ stereo TV creates a home theater. To others, it’s a DVD player running through a surround-sound audio system and a projection TV. To still others, it’s a dedicated room with theater-style seating, huge front projection screen, and a popcorn machine in the lobby.
The reality is, home theater is whatever you want it to be—as long as it helps achieve one basic goal. That goal is to reproduce, as accurately as possible, the experience of watching a film in a movie theater. How you achieve this goal is at the heart of audio/video system design—and you can spend as much or as little as you want to achieve that goal.
What are the minimum requirements for a home theater system? Rational minds may vary when giving an answer, but in my mind a true home theater system should incorporate the following parts:
➤ Fairly large television or other video display
➤ Multiple-speaker surround-sound system
➤ High-quality video and audio sources
Naturally, there are lots of different choices for each of the basic parts of your home theater system, as well as many other components you can add to your system to increase your viewing and listening enjoyment.
For example, how do you define a “fairly large television”? If you’re currently watching a 19″ TV, a 27″ model would seem fairly large to you. Other folks, however, might say that you really need a 35″ or larger screen for home theater viewing; still others might spec a 45″ rear projection screen as the bare minimum.
For all parts of your system, what you end up with depends on your personal tastes, your personal budget, and the type of room you’re working with.
Surround sound is a technique that puts the listener in the middle of a three-dimensional sound field, typically through the use of both front and rear speakers. There are several different surround-sound systems available for home theater systems, including Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic, and DTS.