Home Theater 101:How To Create a Movie Theater Experience at Home

This is a great time of year to have your own home theater. Not only are there lots of big TV events like the Super Bowl and Academy Awards, but for many of us it's a good time of the year to stay indoors and watch a movie. Big screen TVs are more affordable than ever and you can add a sound system for a few bucks more. Here are some suggestions for creating your own home theater.

Polk Audio RM705 5.1 Home Theater System Polk Audio RM705 5.1 Home Theater System Home Theater Components You Should Consider

Of course, the only thing you really need for a home theater is a big screen TV but one thing you should also consider is a good sound system which could be as simple as adding a subwoofer for a couple of hundred dollars or some satellite speakers. Most home theater system packages include a Blu-ray player and possibly an Audio Video Receiver (AVR). Buying individual components will usually get you better quality devices but there are lots of Home-Theater-In-A-Box (HTIB) products that typically include a set of speakers, a Blu-ray player and even an AVR.

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The flatter and thinner TVs get the more challenging it has become for manufacturers to build good speakers into their TVs. Studies have shown that better audio even makes the picture look better. The easiest way to add better audio is with a subwoofer which is basically a big box that sits low to the floor and adds the ‘rumble’ from the audio track. We recommend getting a powered subwoofer with its own amplifier. A wireless subwoofer will make for one less pair of wires to run. Soundbars, that mount under your TV are another cost effective way to beef up the audio quality of your flat panel TV. They are basically a set of speakers that use audio delay, bounce, or other techniques to simulate surround sound. At this year's CES we saw soundbars with thin profiles, Bluetooth connectivity for playing audio from mobile devices and even NFC for instant pairing with Bluetooth devices. Some soundbars come with their own wireless subwoofers.

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Top-rated, large screen Plasma TVs Top rated LCD TVs with fast refresh Top-rated 1080p front projectors What's the Best Big Screen TV for Your Home Theater?

Rear projection TV used to offer the most screen real estate for the money but their large cabinets and a picture quality unable to compete with those on LCD and Plasma TVs have seen them fade from market. For big screen home viewing, your choices are pretty much Plasma or LCD. Front projection TVs offer an attractive alternative with 100-inch-plus screen sizes for about the same price as a higher-end TV but can create challenges with placement, wiring and even fan noise. If you want to avoid seeing a streak following a football across the screen a fast refresh rate is very important (> 120Hz) for viewing fast action video like football and hockey. This problem is much more pronounced on larger size screen TVs (>55-inch). Plasma TVs are more immune to this problem because their effective refresh rate is very high however, Plasma TVs often have a problem with glare because they are made out of glass. Plasma TVs have always offered deeper blacks and they used to have a better viewing angle than LCD TVs but the newer LCD TVs now have very wide viewing angles.

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Pioneer Elite SC-61 Wide Range of Audio Video Receivers

AVRs can range in price from a couple of hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars. A receiver incorporates tuners and amplifiers in one device. All signals from satellite, cable, antenna, Internet or other sources come into the AVR which distributes the correct signals to your TV, speakers and other components. For this reason AVRs need to support all the latest video and audio standards like DTS, Dolby Digital, DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital TrueHD and THX Select2. Many AVRs now include support for Bluetooth, DLNA, iPhones, iPods, Airplay, USB, Internet, Satellite radio and other connectivity options. Some new AVRs can also be controlled through apps on your smartphone or tablet. Along with more input and output connections like lots of HDMI ports, you'll also be looking for the most power in Watts. We like 50-150 watts per channel although you can get by with less power in a smaller room. Some of the latest AVRs also support 4K upscaling that could help future-proof your purchase and allow you to get the most out of that 4K UHD you might be shopping for next year.

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Sony BDP-S590 Look For Blu-Ray Players With Fast Load Times

Blu-ray players have become very affordable with quality players like Sony BDP-S590 selling for around $150. Try and get a Blu-ray player that supports the latest ‘Profile’ which is 2.0 which supports Internet connectivity. We recommend you look for a Blu-ray player that supports the latest HDMI standard 1.4(a or b) which supports 3D movies.This standard also includes an Ethernet channel which requires an expensive cable but is something you'll probably never use. HDMI 2.0 is under development and will add more support for 4K but we don't think it's any reason to delay a purchase. We also like wireless (Wi-Fi) connectivity on a ‘connected’ Blu-ray player since it means you don't have to run a cable to your TV—although some would argue that you might get a more reliable streaming connection with a fast Ethernet cable connection. We also look for Blu-ray players with fast load times since it can be very annoying to wait for the disc to load.

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You’re probably not going to get audiophile-caliber components in an HTIB but you will get a set of components and all the wiring you need to create a decent home theater. Most lower-priced HTIB systems will be 5.1 channel surround sound systems (five speakers and one subwoofer) which is adequate for most programming and doesn’t require the set of rear speakers included in the newer 7.1 channel standard. Some HTIB systems also offer wireless rear speakers like the Sony BDVN790W Blu-ray system.

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