How to Buy a Home Theater System

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Are you a movie aficionado who drops a lot of money every month at the cinema? Maybe it’s time to consider building your own home theater. There are several compelling reasons to do it: the price of movie tickets is rising steadily, a bag of popcorn slathered in something akin to oily, melted plastic costs an arm and a leg, and the time  gap between theatre releases and DVD/Blu-ray releases  is steadily closing. 

Of course, if you relish the public  movie experience as it exists now—screaming kids, people talking on cellphones, sticky floors—that’s cool, too. Keep on keepin’ on. If you’re ready for something a little more personal and exclusive, though, here’s what you need to know about building an in-home system. Check out the following home theater buying guide for hints, tips and advice when shopping for hardware:

Go with an HD screen, but consider your viewing distance – Needless to say, you’re going to want an HD display for your movies. The question is, how big do you want that screen to be? “Bigger is better” seems like a philosophy you should subscribe to automatically, but that’s not necessarily the case. Only you can be the judge of what “works,” so go with your gut, but PC World’s home theatre buying guide reminds consumers of a general rule: “The diagonal screen size should not be larger than about half your seating distance. With a 42-inch TV, for example, you probably should not watch from closer than about 7 feet.” 

Multiple-disc carousels are good – Getting up and down to change discs can be a bit of a hassle. A multi-disc setup will cut down on the number of times you need to stand up to change the movie, which will keep you in a viewing mood. 

Start with three speakers – There’s little point in going nutty with your home theatre purchases at first, especially if you’re on a budget. Start by buying three speakers:  left, right, and center. If you like what you hear, you can add satellite speakers and sub-woofers later on. 

Make sure your AV receiver supports Dolby Digital decoding – For many movie-goers, sound quality makes the biggest difference between the public and home theatre experiences. Make sure your AV receivers can support Dolby Digital Recording, preferably Dolby Pro Logic II. Your home videos and regular music CDs will sound a lot cooler, too. 

Make sure you buy from a store with a good return policy – You’re probably going to engage in a lot of hemming, hawing, and experimentation before you finally settle on a theater setup that works best for your living room. Make sure your purchases all come from a store that has a decent exchange/return policy—not to mention patient, helpful sales clerks. 

Setting up a system is a big job, so for more information and home theater buying guides, check out:

How to Buy a Home Theater System at PC World

Things to Look Out For Before Buying a Home Theater System at Economic Times

Home Theater Buying Guide at How Stuff Works

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About author

Nadia Oxford

Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com's Guide to the Nintendo DS.

View all posts by Nadia Oxford

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