Nowadays, you can watch a movie at home like you are inside the movie theater. A big-screen HDTV, blu-ray player, and surround-sound speakers, can turn your living room into a film-watching haven.
Let’s start with the TV because it is the most important part of your home theater.
There are three different kinds of HDTV’s: LCD, LED and Plasma. The three technologies are vastly different—particularly in how the screen is lit. In plasma HDTV’s, the phosphors that create the image on the screen light up themselves and don’t need any backlighting.
For LCD HDTV’s, the liquid crystal screen does not illuminate, thus requiring a separate light source. This is where the difference between “regular” LCD screens (also known as CCFL-backlit LCD) and LED-backlit LCD screens (also known as LED-LCD, or just LED screens) come in.
Traditional LCD HDTVs use cold cathode fluorescent lights (CCFLs) to illuminate the screen. CCFLs are similar to the fluorescent lights you might see in your lamps and overhead light fixtures. They use a charged gas to produce light. LED-LCD screens, like their name implies, use light emitting diodes (LEDs) to illuminate the display.
Whatever HDTV you decide to get, make sure it’s the best for you and the lighting in your home.
The next component needed for you home theater is a blu-ray player, but not any old blu-ray will do. If you are a movie lover like me you will want to take advantage of your HDTV.
The best players are the ones that have internet and allow you instantly stream movies, TV shows, videos, and more from online sources. Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and Pandora, are a few of your choices. With that many options there’s always something on. Make sure the blu-ray player has built-in Wi-Fi because this will keep you from buying extra wires and connections and having to run wires all around your home.
Now, last but not least is your surround-sound.
There are two main sources for home theater surround-sound formats: Dolby Laboratories and Digital Theater Systems (DTS). When you’re choosing a receiver, you should decide two things: whether you want (DTS) support and how many speakers you want to use for your surround-sound setup. The most common options are 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 surround—so named for the number of channels. The “.1” indicates a channel for a subwoofer. The subwoofer is important because it gives a bass boost and creates a rumbling effect for certain special effect sounds, such as explosions and trains.
5.1 (5 speakers + subwoofer)
A 5.1 surround-sound setup includes left, center and right front speakers. It also has left and right surround speakers.
6.1 (6 speakers + subwoofer)
A 6.1 setup takes all the speakers from 5.1 and adds a rear channel to it. Splitting the one additional channel into left and right rear speakers.
7.1 (7 speakers + subwoofer)
A 7.1 combination has separate channels for the left and right rear speakers—rather than splitting one channel and directing it to two speakers.
For a proper surround-sound system, you need two to three speakers in front of you and two to three speakers to your sides or behind you. The audio signal is split into multiple channels so that different sound information comes out of the various speakers.
The most prominent sounds come out of the front speakers. When someone, or something, is making noise on the left side of the screen, you hear it more from a speaker to the left of the screen. When something is happening on the right, you hear it more from a speaker to the right of the screen.
The third speaker sits in the center, just under or above the screen. This center speaker is very important because it anchors the sound coming from the left and right speakers. It plays all the dialogue and front sound effects so that they seem to be coming from the center of your television screen instead of the sides.
The speakers behind you fill in various sorts of background noise in the movie: dogs barking, rushing water, and the sound of a plane overhead. They also work with the speakers in front of you to give the sensation of movement. A sound starts from the front and then moves behind you.
The sound system is what really makes a home theater experience complete. So kick back, relax, and pop some popcorn because the next big-budget movie you watch will be in the comfort of your own home.