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How to get a perfect home theatre system

india Updated: Nov 20, 2010 16:05 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

One touch of the universal remote master button and the curtains draw, the lights dim, the screen rolls down, the Blu-ray player loads up, the projector fires up and all the equipment starts to blink. Within minutes, you’re transported to movie heaven with sound that explodes and a visual experience that pulls you right into the movie. Right – dream on! The perfect Home Theatre may very well be all that, but it’s a seriously difficult dream to execute.



The Home Theatre has always been on top of most aspirational lists. Unfortunately it takes a lot of sweat and blood, combination of the right equipment, configuring the room correctly and making sure you’re not scammed in the process. Some leave it to ‘Home Theatre specialists’ and end up paying an incredible amount of money for what may eventually be a very mediocre system. Let’s do some wheat and chaff processing and get rid of the serious myths and lies that pervade in this very dreamy category.



Home theatreNeeds

It’s all very well that you aspire to have one and have dreamt of it for the last 10 years. But do you really need one? Most people realise six months into building a Home Theatre that they’ve only averaged two or three movies there. It’s a slightly isolating experience if everybody in the family isn’t into your new toy. And having friends ‘over for a movie’ doesn’t really work as it’s an unsocial experience – everybody needs to sit down quietly and watch a movie for about two to three hours. So do a bit of real soul searching and think this one out.



Dedication

A Home Theatre in your bedroom is the stuff of nightmares. If you’re thinking big, you’ll need to execute bigger. Don’t think that a 42-inch TV in your bedroom, set up with some tinny speakers, is going to give you the whole bells and whistles experience. A bedroom, acoustically, physically and logically, is the worst place for an audio visual extravaganza. You need a room dedicated to this from the ground up.

Expensive?
Yes it is, if you’re leaving it completely in the hands of somebody else. If you can put some time into research and execution, there is no better time to put together a Home Theatre. Prices of high definition projectors, Blu-ray players, speakers and AV receivers are at an all time low. In fact it’s shocking what you can pull off with a fairly small budget.

HD Projector only?
No, HD flat panel TVs at 60 inches+ are a pretty good option now, price and performance wise. While a HD projector that gives you a 120-inch wide screen experience is a different ball game, you do have to consider the fact that maintenance of projectors is an arduous task. Bulb replacement, lighting, a dust-free environment, installation, access and clean power still makes running a projector a big deal. But if you’re up to all this, there’s nothing like a projector.

Hi-Tech Cables?
A classic lie that is akin to snake oil and Big Foot myths. There are people who spend almost as much on cables and connectors as they do on the equipment. And that makes them look pretty silly later. Do your research and don’t fall for all that mumbo jumbo about ‘advanced cables optimised for the audiophile’. There isn’t much rocket science in cable technology and in our country, you can get your own custom-built stuff at a fraction of the cost. Most real world audio experts say that inexpensive, good quality 12-gauge speaker cable found at most stores gives you perfect audio reproduction. So save your money and invest that in better speakers.

Speakers
This is where you need to spend both time and some money. Those dinky satellite and bookshelf systems are nice for smaller rooms, but if you’re looking for “holy cow, the earth moved!” sound, you need to go with bigger floor-standers. It’s fairly simple: speakers are all about moving air and to get true ‘theatre’ sound, you need to move more of it around. And while flat speaker technology is evolving, it is still imperfect and too expensive.

The Centre Speaker is the most important
Yes it is, as it’s the one that carries the dialogue. But unfortunately, most companies do too much jigging to the centre speaker to make it do that – effectively killing it of its audio properties. Your centre speaker must be the same as your two front speakers. Let the rest be handled by your AV receiver.

It really isn’t as formidable as it seems. A little bit of research, a little trust in your own eyes and ears and a little smelling of a con before you’re the victim is all that you need. That’s when you can stretch back on your leather lounge chair, hit that master button on your universal remote and sigh with pleasure when you see the curtains draw, the lights fade, the projector fire up...

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