<< Home Improvement Articles
How to Get the Most Out of Your Home Theater Without Spending a Fortune
By Steve Faber
So youve scraped and saved, now youve finally gotten together
a semi- respectable home theater system. You want even more, but the idea
of spending another few thousand on new front speakers doesnt cut it.
What can you do?
There are ways to get the most out of what you have without breaking the
bank. There are several areas you can look at to ensure your theater is set
up correctly and performing at its best.
Cables and Interconnects Its imperative the signals are transferred
from your source components to your speakers, going through various components
along the way, with the least amount of degradation. Make sure your audio,
video and speaker cables are all of good quality and that none are old and
corroded. You can use contact enhancer to be sure the connection is really
good. If you need any quality cables, check here:
http://1touchmovie.com/blockbuster/BetterCables.html Make sure to use the
highest level of A/V connection your system supports. i.e. if you can use
a component or DVI video connection from your DVD to your display device
then do it.
Calibration Your video display will definitely not look its best without
proper calibration. Manufacturers have a dismal record when it comes to
calibrating sets at the factory. Most are TVs designed to look their best
on the showroom floor, not in your home theater. In fact, a CRT based rear
projection TV can have its life dramatically shortened by improper calibration.
The contrast is invariably set too high to make the set stand out in the
showroom environment. This sells more TVs but causes premature tube wear.
(That sells more TVs too, I guess) Proper video calibration will correct
the problem. I have used Joe Kanes Digital Video Essentials for years
and the Video Essentials laser disc before that. It is a great tool to help
you get the best out of your home theater. Pick one up here:
Acoustic Improvements These encompass a whole host of different things,
from acoustically treating the interior of the room, to quieting down your
projector. Whenever you lower your noise floor, you effectively increase
your dynamic range. In addition, acoustic treatments can dramatically improve
dialogue intelligibility, bass response and imaging.
One of the best in the bang for the buck category is to put a
1 or 2 thick, acoustic panel on the two side walls of the theater
to reduce the first reflection. The first reflection is the sound
that leaves the front speaker and takes a longer path to your ears by bouncing
off the side wall on the way. Since it takes a longer path, it takes more
time and arrives later than the direct sound that went straight from the
speakers to your ears. The net effect is a loss of dialog intelligibility.
To find the correct placement for the acoustic material, sit at the listening
position, place a small mirror on the side wall and move it until you can
see the front speaker. When you can, that is the spot to center the acoustic
Another, even cheaper, tweak is to optimize your subwoofer placement. For
years people have been told Bass is non-directional. You can put your
sub anywhere. That is, simply, BS. While low bass is fairly
non-directional, the tonal quality and amount of bass is tremendously affected
by subwoofer placement. A simple trick is to place the sub at the listening
position (at ear height), then move around the room (at sub height) until
you find the place with the best bass quality. If possible, thats where
you put the sub.
You can build a hush box around your projector to minimize noise from it.
Make sure you use adequate ventilation to maintain proper cooling. That cannot
be emphasized enough. As a partial measure, without having to build a whole
box, you can place acoustic absorption material on the ceiling above the
projector. If your projector is close to the ceiling, this will kill the
noise that normally bounces off the ceiling and into the listening room.
I hope this gets you started down the path to even more enjoyment from your
home theater and saves you some money at the same time.
Steve Faber has almost 15 years in the custom installation industry. He is
a CEDIA certified designer and Installer 2 with certifications from both
the ISF and THX. His experience spans many facets of the industry, from the
trenches as an installer and control systems programmer, and system designer,
to a business unit director for a specialty importer of high end audio video
equipment, a sales rep for a large, regional consumer electronics distributor,
and principal of a $1.5M+ custom installation firm. He currently is senior
sales engineer for Digital Cinema Design in Redmond, WA. He is on the web