It’s a serious disease, one that affects a very large part of the population, and one that has devastating symptoms. It’s a deadly ailment and has almost no known cure. It’s called upgradeitis and even though it largely affects the male of the species, its deadly tentacles are also truly entrenched on the opposite side now.A four-month-old mobile phone and you are already itching and reading up on new ones. You’ve just installed a nice 42-inch flat screen TV and yet the 55-inch LED TV is making you swoon. Your laptop isn’t even a year old but the new ultra sleek and thin one is what you’re already eyeing. It’s a deadly disease that is brutal, merciless, self-defeating, ignores all counselling and defies all logic. Hi, I’m Rajiv and I’m a victim of upgradeitis.
I have a pretty good home theatre. A big room, nice seating, a large flat display, good speakers, an awesome receiver and I’ve just chucked it all and am starting the whole process from scratch. I want the perfect home theatre from every aspect and every angle; I’m poring over the latest reviews, I am talking to the top experts in each field, looking at specs like a man obsessed and basically home theatring myself to near death.
This really is quite a minefield as this involves a mix of almost every category (and not every aspect is tech-related). Room interiors (the experts say paint a room matte black and you’ll get the best picture, but who wants to watch movies in a dungeon?), room acoustics (too many conflicting views on fabric walls, sharp edges, effect of furniture and carpeting), room size (rectangular is best but what size of perfect), projection versus big flat screen, speaker choices and layout (5.1 or 7.1 and which speakers), receivers and amplification, projector screens (curved, with gain, aspect ratio). It’s an incredible array of decisions and conflicting opinions and it’s almost enough to want to give up. While I’ll keep updating you on my progress, here’s a primer on all my new learnings.
Projection technology has grown up
A projector-based home theatre doesn’t need a completely dark room any more. Projectors are super bright, and, when mated with high-gain screens, allow you can keep the light on. Imagine a set up with a 150-inch screen, a full HD broadcast cricket match, ten friends over and no need to be in a pitch-dark room. This is totally possible now.
Aspect ratios are a pain in the A$$
HD Movies are mostly in scope (cinema-scope). That’s usually called 2.35:1. But then some of them are not. Some are also in 16:9 and some in 4:3. Most HD television broadcast is 16:9. If you’re going with a flat screen TV, then you’re pretty much stuck with that and you’ll learn to live with it. If you’re going PJ, then this is a whole new can of worms. If you go with a scope screen, you’ll end up with a smaller screen and HDTV will look all boxy. Decisions, decisions....
Sound is big
There are really no two ways on this one. Satellite speakers, lifestyle speakers and other little thingies are great, but they just don’t compare to a good solid floor-standing speaker solution. I’ve tried demos and while those small little speakers have come a long way and are neat, clean and easy on the eye, they can’t match their big brothers when it comes to the ear. When you need your home theatre to roar and thunder and explode you need to think and hear big.
7.1 Vs 5.1
Yes, there is one more standard now in HT sound. Seven speakers and 1 subwoofer. Seven speakers mean two in the front, one in the centre, two on the side and two behind you thus perfectly replicating the amazing whizbang of true surround sound wizardry in a movie hall. Unfortunately, there are very few movies that are released that have true 7.1 sound. You’re better off spending more on a higher quality five-speakers set up then wasting time and money on this right now.
Subwoofer placement is another pain in the A$$
You’ll get most of your speakers in the right place as they have a logic to them. What you’ll definitely screw up with is your subwoofer. And this is critical. All your dialogues can get muffled, sound will be boomy and most actors will sound like they have a sore throat. Not nice. While nobody has really broken the science of subwoofer placement as it is very relative to room size and furniture, placing a subwoofer dead centre underneath your display can be best. A few inches here or there can give you perfection.
Plan your room before all else
Messy cables, light that shines directly on to the screen, speaker wire hanging in all places, too small a room and speakers that are too large (or vice versa), a room with direct sunlight streaming in from behind, the colour of the walls, a room also used as a gym or living room, too much bling, glass and chrome... all this can make the final effect of the home theatre underwhelming. You need to get your room planning in place much before you start thinking that you’re going to have a little IMAX theatre in your own house. I’ve just started my self-inflicted home theatre rebuild journey and will keep posting as I learn and build. It seems like it’s going to going to be a long and painful journey. But those are the exact symptoms of upgradeitis.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3. Follow Rajiv on Twitter at twitter.com/RajivMakhni
From HT Brunch, September 25
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