Budget speakers for your home theatre

Having a dedicated room to watch movies, listen to music, play a video game or simply put your feet up is a hot new trend. So if you have some space to spare and some cash to blow...

india Updated: Sep 25, 2010 18:44 IST
Pranav Dixit
Pranav Dixit
Hindustan Times

In our opinion, the only thing worse than watching a bad movie is what happens before the movie – working through the traffic to reach the multiplex, finding a parking spot and coughing up an obscene amount in parking fees and ticket prices. But watching a movie at home, even with your latest 5.1 surround sound speaker system and giant, high-definition 60-inch plasma TV, doesn’t come anywhere close to the real experience.

So if you have some space to spare and some cash to blow (and you want to keep up with the Jaiprakashes), it may be worth your time and money to invest in the latest trend – a dedicated entertainment space, right inside your house. Unlike a ‘home theatre’ set-up where you hook a DVD player to a plasma screen and a surround-sound audio system in your living room, a dedicated entertainment space goes much beyond. You install a high end audio system and a gigantic plasma TV of course, but you also look at things like making the room acoustically perfect, putting in the right kind of flooring and using the right kind of furniture and lighting to give you the most of the experience any time you want to watch a movie, listen to music or even play a video game.

“It is not just a soundproofed mini theatre in your home,” says Vivek Naik of the Mumbai-based N’Sounds Acoustics & Audio Consultancy. “It is a space that can be modified as per your requirement – a themed personal lounge, bar counter / game room and a place for family to bond and enjoy themselves together.”

Home theatreIt’s showtime

“Dedicated entertainment spaces are in high demand,” says Leena Deshpande, a Pune-based architect. “In fact, they are now an essential in any high-end home. Most of my clients enquire about some kind of space where they can relax, catch a movie or put on some music and sit back with a drink. You can’t really do that in, say, the living room or the bedroom.”

Movie buff Chaitanya Joshi always had one dream – to have his very own AV setup for a mind-blowing movie-watching experience. So when he discovered some high-end AV brands at great prices on a chance trip to Dubai, he snapped them up and lost no time in converting a large basement in his bungalow in Pune into a personalised entertainment zone.

“I am a social person; I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a lot of friends coming over,” says Joshi. “So my basement is a very social space for everyone to get together, enjoy a movie or play a game. The most exciting times are during cricket and soccer finals and Formula 1 races.”

It’s not surprising that Joshi’s friends keep wanting to visit. Here’s what his den currently boasts: A Bose 5.1 audio system, a high-end Denon Pro amplifier, an Optoma HD projector with DLP technology (specially designed for watching movies), a karaoke system and a Sony PlayStation 2 console for video games. He also has wooden flooring, pillows and mattresses, LED rope lighting, air-conditioning and a dedicated inverter for this space.

The centrepiece? An enormous screen that covers an entire 10 foot wall of the room and is four feet in height! “It makes even the biggest plasma look puny in comparison!” laughs Joshi. “Now, the only thing I don’t have is reclining chairs and a popcorn machine!” How much does all this cost? Depending on the kind of stuff you put in, anywhere between R 3 lakh for a decent, basic rig to R 10 lakh for a mid- to high-end setup.

That sounds right
Joshi is an electronics and telecommunications engineer who specialises in audio systems, so he knows his way around this stuff. If you don’t, he suggests, you should hire a professional to make sure you get things right – because there’s lots of things to take care of: the acoustics of the room (most important), the kind of fabrics that are used (cushions, curtains, etc) and also the kind of lighting.

Acoustics, of course, are the most important. “We start right at the beginning, even before the house is built in a lot of cases,” says Sandeep Desai who runs Sun Acoustics and Audio, an acoustics consulting agency. “We coordinate with the architect and the interior designer to make sure that the space doesn’t lose its domestic character – it’s not a theatre, after all!”

“Usually, people think acoustics is just about soundproofing,” adds Naik. “But this is not completely correct. While soundproofing ensures that external sound doesn’t penetrate the room (and vice versa) acoustics is how the sound behaves inside the space. We customise the space to make sure that your music sounds the best it can while while still maintaining the aesthetics of the space.”

An acoustically perfect room is ideal, but not many of us have the luxury of constructing one from scratch. But you can, to an extent, adapt an existing room to serve the purpose of a dedicated entertainment space.

Gold class
Picture this: You’re home from work. All you want to do is draw the curtains, dim the lights, switch on the air-conditioning, sink into a recliner, pour a drink and let music wash over you. If you have the bucks, you can have all this happen at the touch of a button. Welcome to the automated entertainment space.

“Automation is catching up fast among the well-heeled,” says Pawan Sahjwani who runs The Den, a designer audio boutique in Mumbai that specialises in high-end audio-video and automation solutions. An automated home entertainment space is a decidedly futuristic experience. “You walk in and press a button… and that’s about all you do,” says Sahjwani. Then, your TV comes on and is auto-tuned to your favourite channel; your sound system automatically equalises to give you great sound; your lighting is brightened or dimmed depending on the time of the day and what you’re playing (soft, dim lights for a mellow, soulful number, for instance); the curtains are opened or drawn depending on the amount of daylight streaming in from the windows; and the air-conditioner is adjusted to maintain a comfortable temperature within the room.

Such a system is luxurious, of course, but imagine how easy it makes life for those people who don’t want to bother with manually adjusting settings for everything from the TV to the AC every time they want to watch a movie. “We even provide reclining chairs and advise you on what gadgets to install in your entertainment space,” says Sahjwani. “And we work in coordination with the interior designer should you want such an area in a new house.” The cost? “It can vary,” grins Sahjwani. “But the most expensive place I’ve designed yet was R 1.5 crore.” We think we’ll stick to our iPods for now.

Budget Speakers

Paradigm cinema 70
A system that fits even in the smallest living room, this comes with five palm-sized, two-way satellite speakers, a compact 90-watt powered subwoofer and an optional dedicated centre speaker.

Cabasse alcyone
These speakers from Cabasse are priced at the higher end of the budget spectrum but they’re absolutely worth it. Plus, the unique shape will make them stand out in your living room.

Denon DHT-1311XP
The 5.1 speaker system has two-way front and centre speakers, two full-range surround sound speakers and a 100W subwoofer in an 8-inch subwoofer driver for deep bass. Supports all Blu-Ray players and high-def gaming consoles.

Power tip
Everyone wants to save cash, but for a good home theatre system, experts recommend going in for the very best speakers that you can afford. Bad speakers can kill the experience.

Fundamental formulae
When you’re designing your dedicated entertainment space, keep in mind the number of people who are likely to use it. That’s because too many people in the room will affect the quality of the sound.
Choose brick over ceramic when it comes to the walls. Brick absorbs sound much better than ceramic does.
Avoid glass as much as possible. Glass reflects soundwaves and makes them go haywire.

First Published: Sep 25, 2010 16:02 IST