From Engineering on June 19, 2008 in Electrical
Nowadays, bulky TVs that take up a lot of space are quickly being replaced with flat screens and projectors. Even people who don’t watch a lot of TV are investing in new home theater systems to make movie nights more special or to upgrade to sleeker equipment. In addition, the trend of installing home theater systems is increasing in today’s economy, when more and more people choose to entertain themselves at home rather than spend money on nights out that quickly add up in cost.
Home theater systems are certainly popular, but not everyone has one. Some people are intimidated by all the tricky wires and most of all, the cost. To break things down, here are some easy answers about the technology.
What does a home theater system consist of?
Home theaters require the following basic parts:
- An audio/video (a/v) receiver to amplify your sound and distribute your video image. Consider the receiver as a bridge between your parts and the TV and speakers.
- A TV. These days, high definition, flat screen TVs are popular, as opposed to the bigger boxes. Flat screens are wider and have either LCD or plasma screens. Plasma TVs are typically more expensive, though the pricing between the two is beginning to even out. Plasmas are known to have fuller, richer color, though one argument against them is that they reflect glare more so than an LCD screen.
- Speakers are essential to projecting sound, especially the ever-popular “surround sound.” A common configuration is the 5.1. This number stands for the number of speakers it includes. A 5.1 system has a front left speaker, a center speaker, a front right speaker, a surround right, a surround left, and a subwoofer. The subwoofer is the “.1” in the 5.1 equation.
- A DVD player, for movies. Blue Ray is one of today’s most popular high definition DVD players.
- Finally, for those who watch cable TV, a cable box is a must, also available in high definition.
When it comes to price, flat screens typically start at around $1200 and go up to $10,000 and higher. Average sizes are 42 to 50 inches to 60 to 65 inches at the larger end.
Another alternative is to purchase a projector instead of a TV. Projectors require all the same equipment, with the addition of a screen. Usually, the starting cost of a decent high definition projector is significantly less than that of a plasma or LCD TV. Remember, these aren’t the same projectors you watched documentaries on in school. Today’s projectors display images at high resolution. The quality of your projector screen can also impact the image you see.
One final word of advice with a standard home theater system? Invest in a universal remote control. Otherwise everything from your receiver to your cable box to your DVD player will require a different remote, and navigating them all is time consuming as well as confusing. A universal remote, on the other hand, can be programmed to control everything. Just remember to get your hands on it before anyone else in the house!