I wrote this article originally for the HDTVetc magazine for the August 2003 issue, and it was later published on the HDTV Magazine in 2006. Consumers still go through the same struggle at national-chain stores today. I updated the article to include current HD equipment and technologies. Its tutorial substance and analysis are still applicable today, and are intended to help consumers in making the right purchasing decisions. Enjoy the reading. The following topics are covered in this segment: H/DTV and NTSC TV Systems, What are they? The First Effort of the DTV Transition Quality HDTV, or Quantity DTV, or Both? Backward Compatibility with Legacy Analog TV for Digital Broadcast Satellite/Cable, and the DTV Transition Tuner Integration The Effect DVD had for DTV The Rush for Knowledge You have been hearing about HDTV and decided to start looking for one. A friend of yours reminds you that the general knowledge about buying regular TVs from the CRT analog era is not sufficient to select a digital product today, so you quickly review what you read about widescreen, black bars, digital tuners and resolution, and hope things would clear out at the store. You get into the typical nationwide consumer electronic store most people go to, and suddenly see several dozens of HDTV demo sets staring back at you. A salesperson is approaching you, the person's face is familiar; the salesperson is the one that sold you the new dishwasher two weeks ago; now the person is selling HDTVs with authority. At that point you start feeling worried, but you hang in there. Obviously this store is not a quality dedicated A/V retail place. Many consumers make their purchases based on the uninformed advice of untrained staff from typical nationwide consumer electronic chains. In the near past, a typical store could only have one of those HDTVs actually displaying HD, the only one that had an HD tuner; the rest were showing the same image from a video distribution loop not suitable for HD quality. Today perhaps the whole store feed is all HD, and the sets that are staring at you show the same picture, but with different colors, contrast, image enhancements, blacks, whites, etc. because no one bothered to set them correctly. So you start wondering why HDTV is not consistently perfect as is being preached, is that what HDTV is about? The sales person turns toward you and, in the middle of your consumer panic attack, tells you: "trust me, buy this TV, it would look much better at home once connected to an HD tuner". Would you buy a car without test-driving it? Millions of people went through similar experiences since HDTV was introduced in November 1998. Fortunately, some improvement is gradually seen in the stores, especially in dedicated A/V retail stores, which should take more time to help consumers understand the concepts behind each display technology, and not just quickly sell the HDTV inventory with the red tags, as most national consumer electronic chains do. Most consumers love red tag savings, and many leave the stores wallet-happy with a product they do not understand. Perhaps many of those do not actually want to understand because the HDTV technology has been introduced with a complexity level they refuse to deal with to just get a TV. To illustrate the complexity of an HDTV purchase decision you might want to read Is HDTV Complex Enough? The objective of the article you are reading is to help you make your purchase with more confidence, but first allow me to cover the following basic subjects about HDTV: H/DTV and NTSC TV Systems, What are they? You might already know of the US plan to replace our current analog interlaced TV system (NTSC) dated from the 1940's by a digital DTV system, by February 17, 2009. Curiously enough the idea started as "analog" HDTV until General Instruments proposed an all-digital system in 1990. The DTV standard is composed of 18 digital formats grouped into two levels of quality, as approved by the ATSC (American Television Systems Committee) in 1995: 1) SD: Standard Definition, with 480i/p (i:interlaced, p:progressive) viewable horizontal lines of vertical resolution (rows counted from top to bottom), each line with up to 704 total pixels of horizontal resolution (counted from left to right), and with an aspect ratio (relation of width to height in units) of 4x3 (as regular TV), or widescreen 16x9. 2) HD: High Definition, with 720p and 1080i/p viewable horizontal lines of vertical resolution (rows counted from top to bottom), each line with respectively 1280 (for 720p) or 1920 (for 1080i/p) total pixels of horizontal resolution (counted from left to right), and only in widescreen 16x9 aspect ratio. Note that, because is not complex enough, the horizontal lines (rows) are expressed as "vertical" resolution (480, 720, 1080), and the vertical columns made of the aligned pixels on the horizontal lines are expressed as "horizontal" resolution (704, 1280, 1920). DTV was 15 years in the making before it went on the air in November 1998. HDTV is the quality part of DTV, but its implementation is not mandatory, SD is. I will use the term DTV only when addressing the digital TV system in general. Later in 2000, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), allegedly to help confused consumers, created another resolution level in between: ED (enhanced definition). This promoted the 480p SD format to ED level, leaving only the 480i format in the SD level. It also granted any TV the right to be labeled HDTV if capable to display only 810i lines of vertical resolution within the displayed image, rather than 1080i. One can argue how much this intervention from the CEA helped consumers more than helped manufacturers getting rid of mediocre sets. But that was back when CRT based DTV sets were the strength of the market; now most DTV sets are fixed pixel displays and their resolution is clearly specified as a pixel count in both directions. Our current NTSC over-the-air (OTA) TV system is 480i analog interlaced (actually 525i with 480i viewable horizontal lines of vertical resolution). The regular channels of digital satellite and digital cable could be compared to digital SD of broadcast DTV, but they are also transmitting dozens of channels in HDTV. To facilitate the transition, broadcasters were given one extra channel slot from the FCC for the simultaneous broadcasting of the analog and digital versions of their programming. It is a large investment for TV stations to build a DTV facility with new cameras, production, equipment, etc. When DTV is fully implemented, broadcasters have to return one of the two channels, analog over-the-air broadcasting will stop, and current analog TVs, VCRs, TiVos with analog tuners would stop "tuning" as well (but they will still work as display devices if fed with a 480i analog signal from a converter, VHS tape, DVD player, etc). This date was originally set for January 2007 but has been extended to February 17, 2009. Once DTV is implemented, the FCC will auction that spectrum of airwaves. Most OTA terrestrial TV stations are already broadcasting DTV in SD and HD widescreen, and consumers are buying HDTV sets at accelerated pace every year. The First Effort of the DTV Transition Just a look back at CEA's 2003 statistics, on the first 5 years of HDTV approximately 6 million DTVs (of which only 300,000 where integrated with DTV tuners) and 400,000 tuner set-top-boxes (STBs), were sold between 1999 and 2003. By the end of 2007, the HDTV count was 8 times fold, and about 50% of households have digital TV sets, according to the CEA. Back in 1998/9 it was not unusual for first generation HDTV monitors to cost $10,000, and HD STB tuners to cost from $700 to $3,000. It was expensive for early adopters. By the end of 2007, a huge variety in technologies and TV sets was available for every viewing environment. DTV sets are much better in quality, and sell for a small fraction of the price they sold back in 1998. Quality HDTV, or Quantity DTV, or Both? We all love the incredible video quality of HD, however, since HD is not mandated within the DTV plan, it allows a broadcasting station to use the allotted 6 MHz space (for the HD channel), to multicast instead several sub-channels of lower SD quality, as it is actually happening on many stations across the US. When sharing the same 6MHz total bandwidth, SD sub-channels rob about 2-3 Mbps each from the needed bandwidth of an HD channel that by itself should broadcast at 19.4 Mbps (if the station also multicasts an HD sub-channel). The parallel broadcast forces further compression of the 19.4 Mbps HD signal to a lower bit rate to make room for the SD sub-channel, compromising HD quality. In many cases, more than one SD sub-channel is multicast together with the HD sub-channel. When the reduced HD bit rate compresses the signal beyond acceptable limits, it renders a lower quality image with noticeable artifacts, especially on fast moving images in sports, which are more evident, and unacceptable, on large screens (more on it later). It might also be possible that the TV station desires to share some of the bandwidth for data-casting interactive services, or for mobile DTV applications for hand-held portable devices (because there will be no analog broadcasting to those portable devices as well). For more information, check the articles I wrote on the "Mobile DTV" series, where I analyze the potential impact of mobile applications on the quality of an HD channel when robbing from its bandwidth. We all hope that HD will reign, and HD quality will prevail over the digital-quantity business models, and you have to encourage DTV broadcasters to do so, besides, most consumers bought an HDTV not a SDTV. Backward Compatibility with Legacy Analog TV for Digital Broadcast When the DTV broadcast is fully implemented in February 17, 2009, there would be backward compatibility with your current analog equipment, but there is a catch, in order for you to watch DTV terrestrial digital channels on your current analog TV you would need a digital over-the-air STB tuner connected to it. Your current analog TV would display an analog interlaced 480i version of the digital image. There is no need to rush for the replacement of an analog TV that might be in good working condition if you just want to continue watching similar quality TV, but you would have to buy a STB digital tuner for broadcast DTV. This applies also to your analog VCR, DVD recorder, TiVo, etc., if you want them to have broadcast tuning independence. A few years ago, DTV STB tuners were relatively expensive, in the $400-$1000 price range, imagine buying a $400 digital tuner for a $30 analog VCR, but they are gradually coming down in price. The US government has approved a subsidy coupon program to help people purchase DTV tuners to facilitate the analog-to-digital transition so existing analog TV sets can continue to be used for broadcast digital DTV. For that purpose, Congress approved a fund of $1.5 billion dollars, with an initial allocation of $990 million dollars to subsidize up to two $40 coupons per household. The coupons became available in January 2008 and can be requested by consumers until March 2009, to use them toward the purchase of two DTV tuners. The two coupons cannot be used together to purchase only one DTV tuner, neither they can be used to buy another type of OTA tuner/DVR STBs, satellite STBs with broadcast DTV tuners into them, or cable STBs. The tuners offered by this program are expected to cost in the $50-$70 range each; the consumer would have to pay the difference after applying the $40 coupon. According to the plan, the tuners would become available by mid February 2008 through the national chains of Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. Although the subsidized tuners are designed to tune digital SD and HD channels, they cannot output the tuned signal other than 480i analog resolution to an analog TV. In other words, the subsidized tuners would not perform as typical HD tuners passing resolutions of 480p, 720p, or 1080i to HDTV devices for HD viewing. Their functionality is just to downconvert because their purpose is backward compatibility to analog TVs, but their price is lower than typical ATSC HDTV tuners with variable output resolutions and digital outputs. Satellite/Cable, and the DTV Transition If you are a satellite subscriber you already have the satellite STB you need for their digital SD/HD services. Additionally, most satellite boxes also have a terrestrial ATSC tuner if you want to get free local channels using a VHF/UHF antenna. However, DirecTV introduced a new model in late 2007 without antenna input; the local channels would have to be viewed from the satellite feed, a service they have already for most major cities. If you are a cable subscriber, when the cable company decides to disable the analog feed to your household and supply only the digital feed, you would need a digital-to-analog cable STB to view the digital channels on each analog TV in your house, similar to the approach of the coupon program for broadcast DTV above, but you would have to lease or buy the cable STB, no coupons. Cable companies were authorized by the FCC in late 2007 to continue their analog feed service for another 5 years (up to 2012) if they prefer, but they are not obliged to do so. Cable STBs do not have DTV digital terrestrial tuners into them so you cannot use their STB connected to a UHF/VHF antenna to receive free local channels. Cable companies face at least two alternatives on the analog-to-digital transition between 2007 and 2012: a) If their subscriber base is mostly digital, a cable company might have the incentive to make a large up front investment to acquire enough digital STBs to convert all the remaining analog subscribers as soon as possible to digital tier services, who would have to lease one digital STB for each analog TV. That would release the bandwidth occupied by the analog broadcast channels on the cable feed, which could be used for additional digital channels, and receive an increased revenue if those are premium, VOD, PPV, etc. paid services. b) If the subscriber's base is mostly analog, a cable company might prefer to keep the existing mix of analog and digital STBs, and maintain the analog tier as long as needed until 2012. Since the cable feed bandwidth allocation for the analog broadcast channels must continue with this alternative, the company would have to postpone the potential growth of digital channels and services, but there will not be a need for an up front large investment for expensive digital STBs because there is no forced conversion. This option seems economical for both the company and the subscriber, because a subscriber would not be forced to lease a digital STB for each analog TVs that might be currently connected to the wall coax without a STB, as many non-primary TVs are in most households. While the up front investment of a large number of digital STBs could be expensive to a cable company, there could be a partial offset with the potential revenue received from additional digital pay services such as VOD, PPV, or premium channels. Additionally, the number of digital STBs required for a full digital conversion of the cable feed might be further reduced when considering the growing base of integrated HDTVs with CableCARD tuners expected to increase in 2008 and 2009. However, since the integrated CableCARD tuners within HDTV sets are only unidirectional, there might still be a cable subscriber's base that would still require the bi-directional capabilities of cable HD-STBs for VOD, PPV, and cable supplied programming guide. Each cable company would have to balance those factors until 2012. Tuner Integration In 2002 the FCC issued a "mandatory" plan to gradually integrate digital broadcast tuners into DTV monitors and other tuning devices, such HD DVRs. The plan has been already implemented in 2007 for all the sets larger than 13", and all DTVs on sale today are mandated to include digital terrestrial tuners (except for some industrial/professional models). In most cases they also include a cable on-the-clear tuner for non-premium unscrambled channels, or even include a CableCARD tuner for premium channels and services. As mentioned above, the CableCARD tuners are unidirectional only, and lack the bi-directional features of Video-on-Demand, Impulse Pay-per-View, and cable-company supplied programming guide, for which a separate set-top-box from the cable company would still be needed until integrated TV sets are designed to have bi-directional capabilities on their integrated CableCARD tuners. Industry analysts commented for years that economies of scale would bring down the price of digital tuners to the level of today's very low price analog NTSC tuners within TVs, but the reality is that STBs for ATSC terrestrial, or for cable, satellite, DVRs, etc. (not the down-converting government-coupon STBs) still have a high price, considering that comparatively, large HDTVs came down from the $5,000-$10,000 in 98/99 to more accessible prices below $1000. More on this subject is covered further down. The Effect DVD had for DTV Most of the 6 million people that bought HDTVs on the first 5 years of the transition (98-03) did so NOT to view HD, but rather to enjoy playing widescreen DVDs at 480p. Even now in 2008, after Hi-Def DVD has been already introduced in early 2006, regular DVDs are still a favorite content for DTV, because they certainly display quite well as progressive 480p, or upscaled to 720p or 1080i/p to the native resolution of the digital set (by either the DVD player or the TV set). The same DVD played on an analog TV would only show the image as a 480i interlaced scanning. In addition, an HDTV has the capability to show widescreen DVDs in anamorphic format displaying all the original vertical resolution stored on the disc, while 4x3 analog TVs would show the same DVD letterboxing the image between larger top/bottom bars in order to maintain the wider aspect ratio of the movie, and with less vertical resolution for the image itself.
Most consumers are quick to upgrade to the latest computers, cell phones and music players as technology gets more sophisticated-but when it comes to televisions and DVD players, many viewers are still stuck in the last century. "The analog TV system we have in the U. S. is more than 50 years old," explains Andy Parsons, spokesman for the Blu-ray Disc Association, which is working to bring high-definition home entertainment into the mainstream. "In the next year or two, people are going to see some exciting products that will make living rooms feel like movie theaters." What's driving this change? In a word, content. TV broadcasters are offering more high-definition programming via satellite and cable. And, movie studios are preparing to release their movies on high-capacity discs, such as Blu-ray discs, making it possible to buy, rent and view Hollywood favorites in high-definition. People who get to see a true HDTV setup showing the latest Hollywood blockbuster at their local electronics stores can see the difference in quality immediately. "HDTV will catch on when people see that they can buy movies and games in the new format," says Parsons. Movie discs using the Blu-ray format are expected to appear in stores beginning in June. Shoppers can expect to find favorite titles such as "Crash" and the "Terminator" series available, with more and more high-definition discs coming to stores throughout the summer. The improvement in quality, Parsons says, is comparable to what viewers noticed when they switched from VHS tapes to DVDs. "When you watch a video tape today, you really notice how poor the picture is compared to your DVDs-and you don't have the menus and all of the added features that you do with DVDs," he explains. "The shift to HDTV and high-definition discs will be just as dramatic." Shoppers can expect to see discs and players with competing formats, Parsons says, and they'll need to consider what they're getting for their money. For instance, he explains, they should ask questions about the breadth of games, movies and other products available, so they don't get stuck with a format with no future. Blu-ray Disc, for example, is partnering with major movie studios, music publishers and game developers, and plans to deliver the industry's broadest range of home entertainment content. In addition, the players will play all of your existing standard-definition DVDs. Today, it might be hard to imagine what impact the new high-definition discs and TVs will have on our home entertainment viewing. However, Parsons says, "In a few years it will be hard to remember that we once thought DVDs were the coolest movie format around."
If you just acquired a new HD television, a television complete and equipped with the right HDMI connectors for attaching a DVD or Blue Ray disk player with HDMI interface, you will definitely need a the right kind of HDMI cable to make the connection. Other wise you won’t be able to use the high definition capability of either your television or your disk player and cable or satellite box. You need to pay attention to the component outputs as well as inputs so you can plug in the HDMI cable and connect your television. In every instance where you use electronic devices, home or office, you must have the proper cables for them to work properly. Most of the time electronic devices such as televisions will not work properly or to their full potential if you don’t use the right cable connectors. There are however do many different options out there, so many cables to choose from, so you will need to be prepared and know which one to choose so you won’t waste your time and money. With so many different cables out there and electronic equipment sales men and women making a living off commission the buyer ought to be careful when selecting HDMI cables. These types of cables can be very expensive, and consumers buy ones they don’t really need or can’t really use, very often. The two most popular types of HD cables are HDMI cables and DVI cables. Although, they are similar in many ways they have many subtle differences that you need to have in mind. HDMI cables as well as DVI cables are not cheap. Be careful know the differences and don’t waste your money. The DVI cable was released in the late 1990’s and DVI stands for Digital Visual Interface. The DVI is capable of carrying uncompressed digital video to a display, a monitor. The first use of the DVI cable was associated with connecting the personal computer with a monitor. Over the past years however, their use expanded and they are now used to for connecting televisions as well. There are also different types of DVI cables as well. For instance there is the DVI-D, D for digital, refers to digital cable, DVI-A is for analog television and the last one is DVI-I the one that accommodates for both digital and analog interfaces. DVI cables in general are considered relatively outdated in comparison to the more recent and in high demand HDMI cable. HDMI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface. The HDMI cable is relatively newer than the DVI, it as introduced in 2002 and came out as high definition televisions did. The HDMI cable is an all-digital, no analog, video interface cable that can transmit uncompressed streams of data. That means that any HDMI cable even if it a Cheap HDMI Cables, can carry both audio and video signals. Both cables will work fine in getting the image to your television screen The HDMI is to considered better because of the two because of the fact that it is all digital.
Too often the weakest link in a portable audio setup is the headphones Many portable music enthusiasts spend a great deal of money trying to improve on the quality of their music by buying the highest quality CD players, MP3 players, stereos, and speakers. Then they spend most of their time listening to their portable audio devices through the cheap headphones that came with the devices or something they picked up at the local discount store. Good headphones should be the primary concern in most cases where portable audio quality is a primary consideration. The cost of headphones The good news is that great quality from headphones is much less expensive than getting great quality from the other audio components. A good set of headphones will often provide you with a better sound experience than a very expensive set of speakers. So if you're going to spend for the best audio quality, the primary concern should be on purchasing great headphones. Many people make the mistake of not even buying headphones at all. Almost all portable audio devices now come with their own little headphones. In most cases these are not even brand name headphones, but rather mass manufactured headphones that have a market value between $1 and $10. Even when they are brand name headphones, they are often at the bottom of that brand's product line. Using these headphones greatly compromises the sound quality of the music you listen to on a daily basis. So as long as you're going to invest in a portable audio player with all of the features you want, invest in a good set of headphones as well. Headphones and location Primarily we use headphones so that we can listen to music wherever we go without rudely imposing our music preferences on those around us. Think about the various places where you listen to music and where you would like to listen to music. How much better does great sounding music make you feel about each of those places? If you're going to take your music with you, make it great. These are not your grandpa's headphones Headphones were once big metal, wood, and then plastic speaker systems that hung on giant headgear on top of your ears. Over time they got smaller, became more comfortable, and provided better sound. This trend in headphones continues today. While earpieces have been available for a few decades now, the moderately priced earpieces we have now provide sound quality that only the best speaker systems of the past could compete with today. But that doesn't mean you should settle. If you can have the sound of a concert hall, why settle for the sound of bad headphones? Take a little time and spend a little money to make sure you get a great sound experience from your portable audio devices with a great set of headphones.
For those who have not yet settled on which high definition disc to invest in, this article will help bring several issues to light. First of all, the potential video and audio quality remain alike between both formats, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray. The difference lies in the laser that reads the disc; where the former uses the identical red laser used to read DVDs, the latter employs a blue laser that reads only Blu-Ray. Both lasers can decode an identical amount of information, called the bitrate. A bitrate can be labeled as the amount of "bits" decoded per second. Generally, the higher the bitrate the higher the quality of video/audio. So a bitrate of, say, 30mbs (megabytes per second) should be preferable to a meager 10mbs. The average hi-def picture, with its superior clarity and contrast, can maintain a bitrate between 15mbs-35mbs; compare this with an ordinary DVD, which averages 2mbs-7mbs. With its ability to store and transmit at a higher bitrate, hi-def media easily trumps the quality of DVD. This higher bitrate allows for less compression, and thus can retain most of the clarity from the original master print of a movie; whereas a DVD will look blown-up and fuzzy. But the differences between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray begin with how they can be played. HD-DVD players have the advantage of backward compatibility, as it can playback DVDs. Blu-Ray players cannot, due to their unique laser, which completely isolates it from older generation technology. But the advantages of Blu-Ray lay in its inherent differences. Blu-Ray players come equipped with Java software, which some believe to allow more interactivity with the user. This gives it the ability to have fancier menus and in-depth bonus options, such as picture-in-picture display. At the moment, bugs and slow performance have hindered some confidence in its support of Java, where Bill Gates complained that it was not user friendly enough to be used in PCs. Counter this with HD-DVD, which uses Microsoft's own HDi Interactive Format. It allows anyone to author simple content, where Java requires a more intimate knowledge of scripting. If all the information so far sounds redundant, it is. The only thing that can make or break a hi-def entertainment center does not stem from the format at all. In fact, it all depends on what you choose to display it on. Be weary of interlaced televisions. Rather than playing back video at 1080p (progressive), the user gets short-changed with 1080i (interlaced). Progressive scan means that the picture gets scanned upon each frame; this results in a properly displayed picture, like a solid photograph, with no aberrations. Interlacing occurs when no progressive scan exists in the television, and so the picture gets displayed as a series of individual lines rather than as a single, uniform "photograph." In short, the fine edges in a progressively scanned movie may otherwise appear to be jagged, or even fuzzy, on an interlaced display. The only reason to get invested in the so-called format war would be to avoid a costly personal investment if "your" format ever loses. Blu-Ray may be considered to be the superior technology, as its unique blue laser, while radically different and incapable of DVD playback, allows for exciting future developments. HD-DVD, largely compatible and user-friendly, is considered by some to be a static technology. Lately, however, Toshiba released its plan to market the format as cheaper, practical alternative to Blu-Ray. And, in the event that you still cannot make up your mind, there exists a combo Blu-Ray/HD-DVD/DVD computer drive that sells for less than $300.
This flat screen television, the Hitachi Plasma Half Life 55-HDM71, performs sharply and smoothly. With its high resolution of 1366 x 768, this plasma flat TV can't be beat. There is 20% more picture on this 55" screen than there is on a standard 50" screen. The 10 bit image processing on Hitachi Plasma Half Life 55-HDM71 brings a vibrant picture with 1.07-billion color capability and great contrast, which makes it perform like a smaller television. Aside from the screen capabilities, this Hitachi plasma flat TV also includes extension modes, full serial control, and a 20-watt audio amplifier. On top of this, there is picture-in-picture and split-screen image control for home theater and commercial use. Additionally, there is the option of including a swivel table top stand, wall mount bracket, and black or silver side mount speakers. Along with the Hitachi plasma monitors' normal technology and seamless integration, it makes for a great flat tv. The single drawback to the Hitachi Plasma Half Life 55-HDM71 is that it ships with "black enhancement on." This means when you are watching the TV, there will be no detail in the dark scenes, but it is resolved easily enough. If you turn off the back enhance, and change the colors settings a bit, it will solve the problem. There are several things that can be done to extend the life of the display. Along with screen savers that employ orbiting, inverting and wiping to refresh the screen, there are also many other options to maximize the life on this plasma TV.
: With over 500 models of home theater speakers available through a generous number of high and low-end brands, many consumers rely on salesperson to lead them in the right direction. Consumers with only a limited budget will undoubtedly flock to the cheapest option available to suit there needs. This however, nearly always results in a less than ideal sound system that fails to meet the expectations or needs of the owner. It is therefore a good idea to educate one’s self on the best brands, speaker styles and specifications that will fit a home’s needs before making a choice. A home theater speaker system is typically made up of a front speaker, left and right speaker, a center-channel speaker, a pair of surrounds, and a subwoofer. A home owner may mix-and-match components but help from a professional is advised to make sure the speakers are all compatible. These speaker types come in varying sizes, sound output and design. The following are the types of styles in which these speakers may be found: Floor-Standing speakers are the largest home theater speakers available. They can be shifted around the theater area or be moved to another home. Bookshelf or Cabinet speakers stand independently, just like floor standing speakers, but are smaller and can be placed on or in entertainment centers or shelving to save space. In-Wall speakers require no floor space, and can disappear if matching the walls. Their quality is usually very good, but they need professional installation and wiring. On-Wall speakers are recommended for use with a flat-panel television.
They provide exceptional sound as well as a pleasing aesthetic component. Home theater owners or designers must determine the listening requirements and preferences for a specific room in order to create a quality home theater space. Room size and layout are important factors as this will dictate the speaker configuration. Logistics like electrical outlet placement, room size, and useable room space strongly affect the type of equipment that can and should be put in the room.
Home theater speakers are available in many sizes. However not all sizes are meant for all rooms. Large speakers are not advantageous for small rooms because they will need to be played at a much lower volume. This may cause distortion to the audio.
Lower quality small speakers used in large spaces may produce a tinny or thin sound if they are unable to produce enough sound at a decent output level. Speakers of similar size may differ greatly in their sound output or reproduce different levels of sound unequally so it is very important to listen to various speaker brands and sizes and compare them before buying. Speakers are available in a variety of encasement types - natural or laminated wood, metal, and occasionally plastic, but often preferences may be limited by brand or model. Speakers are as varied as tennis shoes so make sure you try on several and know how they fit into your home theater before making a purchase.
There are a number of things that you should consider before purchasing home theater speakers. Depending upon the brand you purchase and the components that make up the rest of your system, you might find that you experience unwanted distortion or that the speakers you choose simply can’t handle the volumes at which you set your surround sound system. Take the time to talk to employees at the home theater equipment store and, if possible, listen to demo speakers that have been set up in-store so that you can get a feel for any distortion that might occur. There are a lot of speaker systems out there, ranging from the PSB Image Series to the various Dali Ikon lines. To help you in making the right decision, make sure that you keep the following considerations in mind. Distortion One of the most common causes of audio distortion is having the volume set too high or having too much power coming through the speaker cables. Different speakers can have different amounts of distortion, so it’s important that you choose a brand that will have as little distortion as possible. This is definitely one situation in which you want to talk to a professional. Provide them with as much information about your home theater system as you can, including the type of receiver and amplifier that you’re using and how you plan to have the speakers mounted, so that they can better match you with something that will meet your needs. Placement Requirements Not all speakers are going to be mounted the same way, or even be the same size. You’re going to have to consider the space that’s available to you as well as the types that you want to include in your home theater system. You’ll need to choose from among tower speakers, in-wall speakers, wall-mounted speakers, and even in-cabinet speakers in order to decide how you want your speakers to appear. Tower speakers will require floor space or at least something to set them on, whereas wall-mounted speakers will need to have enough support within the walls to keep them from pulling out their mountings. In-wall speakers are unobtrusive, but require alterations to the walls that can be inconvenient if you decide to remove them later, while in-cabinet speakers are built in to you entertainment center or other audio cabinet but are limited on where they can be placed. Of course, a combination of different types can be used as well to help you get the most out of your speaker arrangement. Volume Limitations Just as some speakers will start generating distortions at higher volumes, others can also be seriously damaged if you try to turn the volume up to a higher level than they are designed to handle. Home theater speakers that can handle higher volumes may cost a bit more, but that cost is worth it if you plan on having music, movies, or other audio playing at higher levels. If you don’t want to have your audio system turned up very high, you might be better off with standard speakers. Bass/Treble It is important to remember that specialized speakers such as woofers and tweeters are also available and can be used to customize your audio experience to your preferences. Be sure to get assistance in designing your home theater system’s speaker arrangement so that you can bring out exactly the sounds that you most want. Many audio professionals can help you to find the perfect balance that will take your surround sound audio to the next level and make sure that you’re finished with the end result. ~Ben Anton, 2008
On wish lists around the country, home electronics have bypassed traditional favorites like clothes, lingerie, and jewelry as the most coveted items. But whether you're buying home electronics for yourself and your family, or as a gift, the burning question is always: Where do I find hot deals? After all, why pay premium prices for LCD flat screen TVs, an iPod, a digital camera, or a cell phone when you can get hot deals at a fraction of the cost? While it's true that the prices for all home electronics are trending downward, it pays to shop around for the best possible prices before you make a purchase. LCD Flat Screen TVs: Although LCD flat screen TVs for home entertainment systems are massive and relatively expensive, portable LCD flat screen TVs are ultimately affordable - especially when you can find hot deals and discount prices. For example, a seven-inch LCD flat screen TV with a full channel VHF/UHF receiver, built-in speakers, 1440 x 234 resolution and an active matrix display, a detachable and mountable stand, and A/V input jacks might list for $249.99. You can, however, find it for $144.29, a savings of over 42 percent. iPod: Every family needs at least one iPod, and although the iPod Shuffle lists for $179.99, there are places where you can get hot deals and purchase an iPod shuffle for $109.43, or a discount of 39 percent. Likewise, you can save over 27 percent on an iPod Nano, and pay only $289.77. If you're willing to buy a refurbished model, you can get it even cheaper. Digital Camera: Let's face it: film cameras are so twentieth century. There's no need to bother with bulky camera equipment and film and developing costs when you can snap all the pictures you want with a digital camera. And, there's truly a digital camera for every budget, with prices ranging from $100 to $10,000 and more. But when you look for hot deals, you can get a lot more camera for your money. If your budget is $150, for example, you can probably find a digital camera that retails for $299, but that is discounted almost 50 percent. Again, if you are willing to buy a refurbished digital camera, the savings can be even greater. Cell Phone: Everyone in the family needs a cell phone, so it only makes sense to look for hot deals on cell phones. If you buy every family member the same cell phone (or the same cell phone in a variety of colors), you can usually find a calling plan that is extremely cost effective. There's no question that hot deals on home electronics - and even electronics that double as a car accessory - are out there. Your best bet is to look for an online discount source. Because online stores don't have to pay the overhead that brick-and-mortar stores have to pay, they usually offer lower prices. Online stores also move a lot of inventory, so their hot deals usually surpass those of even the electronics megastores. Always comparison shop, but remember that for the best hot deals, let your mouse do the clicking.
Home electronics has become a fascinating topic on the lips of consumers and technology fanatics across the globe. It seems that a good combination of equipment has become almost a rite of passage for some homeowners and in many circles of friends. While electronics that deal with such important factors as lighting, heating and communicating are all incredible and somewhat of a necessity, the real eye-poppers have always been part of the home entertainment scene. HD technology has created a huge new surge of components and sound systems are constantly being reworked, reimagined, and reinvented. To complement these technological pieces, a good home entertainment system needs to have a clear and functioning video display unit. But with so many available technologies out there to choose from, what is the best of the lot? The “best” is really in the eye of the beholder, and also in the desired needs of the consumer. Everything from big screen entertainment systems to projector screens can be purchased to enhance a home entertainment system. However, preferences are given to certain devices for various reasons. Some may give sharper pictures, others may be easier to work, and yet others may simply be easier to keep maintained. Choosing the proper mix of all these qualities will help you find the perfect type of video display to make part of your system. Let’s start by discussing big screen technology. Home theaters are often judged not only by the quality of the equipment that makes them up, but on the size of the screen that is the focal point of the whole home theater. Televisions come in all shapes and sizes these days, but the widescreen television sets are by far the kings of the set. The only problem that big screen televisions have faced is in picture quality. Sometimes the picture would not be as sharp as if it were viewed on a smaller screen, especially from certain angles. With HD technology leading the way now, that problem has been solved. Big screen televisions now almost always give crisp, clear images, but the differences lie in the types of screens. Plasma television sets are definitely the playboys of the big screen televisions. With their sleek designs and sexy appeal, any home theatre will be looking its best with one of these. However, while style and picture quality are top-notch, there are some technical problems that tend to come up with plasmas. Mainly, these include connectivity, of which there are often limited choices or amounts. So for those who plan to have numerous output cables attached to a television, it may be better to stay away from plasmas, unless an outside electronic box is purchased to wire multiple connections as an intermediary. The other problem with plasma televisions are the price. While a big screen television of the same size, although boxy in appearance, may cost a pretty penny, buying the same size plasma will apply a noticeable increase in the price tag. Increasingly popular video display equipment is projector screen technology. This brings a real cinema appeal to your home theatre. These can often give the clearest image possible with current technology, but you need to know exactly what will work best with the conditions of your home theater. There are various color screens that could be purchased, white and grey being the primary. White is perfect for a theatre in a windowless room, while grey should be used if there is ambient lighting or sunlight that could affect the image quality on a white screen. Some downsides to the projector screen technology is that many models run loud and hot, which could be distracting and lead towards poor maintenance quality. Besides the types of video display equipment available, the technology employed by each is also important to look at. Many people like LCD screens, while many more prefer CRM technology. Perhaps the best resolution you can get is 1080 p, which is rare among plasma screens, but readily available in other forms of video display equipment. You simply need to find the conditions that meet you theater best, ask the right questions when you’re about to purchase the product, and of course have in your mind the picture of your ideal home theatre system. -Ben Anton, 2007
When creating a home theater, it can help to heed some sound advice: Working with the right materials can do a lot to improve the overall acoustic integrity of the system. For example, medium density fiberboard (MDF) is widely used in the manufacture of furniture, cabinets, door parts, mouldings, millwork and laminate flooring. MDF is a composite panel product consisting of recycled wood fibers combined with a synthetic bonding system and joined together under heat and pressure. Additives may be introduced during manufacturing to impart additional characteristics. The surface of MDF is flat, smooth, uniform, dense and free of knots and grain patterns, all of which make finishing operations easier and more consistent, especially for demanding uses such as direct printing and thin laminates. The homogeneous density profile of MDF allows intricate and precise machining and finishing for high end architectural products. Hitting The Right Notes MDF is an extremely versatile building material. As a dense, rigid, acoustically inert product, MDF has no peers when it comes to creating speaker cabinets capable of delivering high-fidelity and high-energy audio. A properly designed MDF speaker cabinet will focus the maximum "acoustic energy" at the listeners, while keeping vibration transition to a minimum. When building a home theater, it's important to use materials that will bring out the system's sound quality. In some cases, designers have used MDF for wall panels with special fabric coverings to control acoustic reflections in the room. MDF is considered a smart choice for home audiophiles who like higher sound pressure levels. You can really add punch to a sound system with "tactile transducers" under the home theater floor. These are piston-driven devices, connected to the base channel, that can shake the whole room. Such installations are invariably coordinated with double layers of MDF. The Composite Panel Association brings together 39 North American producers of particleboard, medium density fiberboard and other compatible products.
Over the years, I have grown really attached to my home theater system. I must say, of all the rooms in the house, my own little movie theater is the one I could not live without. I am absolutely in love with my home theater system and, if you are anything like me, I am sure you will love yours too. I found, when I was initially building my system, that there was so much information to absorb. Every product out there seemed better than the next, and I found myself unsure about which to buy. Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for a new home theater projector. There are two main types of projectors on the market; DLP and LCD. DLP stands for digital light processing. It was invented by Texas Instruments, and utilizes a microscopic array of over 2 million mirrors. DLP has a higher contrast than LCD, but there are some unfavorable consumer reports that note something called the "rainbow effect". The "rainbow effect" is noticeable when looking from one side of the screen to the other, and is characterized by a sudden burst of color. LCD stands for liquid crystal display. These projectors have three distinct glass LCD panels inside; one for each component of the video signal (red, green, and blue). While DLP chips reflect light, the LCD panels allow light to pass through them. LCD projectors produce brighter images, and they are known for having excellent color saturation. In the end, you will be hard-pressed to notice a great difference between the two types of projection systems. When shopping for a new projector, keep your particular needs in the forefront of your thoughts. As I mentioned above, it is really easy to lose yourself in the minutiae of each particular system. Connectivity is a definitely something to be mindful of. Make sure that you are able to connect all of your components, including your gaming system. Nothing beats playing Halo in real-life size! Contract ratio is another important factor; the higher the ratio, the better the picture will be. The brightness of your projector is another thing to consider. Light output is measured in ANSI (American National Standards Institute) lumens. You will want to avoid a projector that produces anything shy of 1000 lumens. As you are likely aware, the projection resolution is extremely important. This refers to the number of pixels that can be displayed on the screen. Go for something that is no less than 1024x768, as this will allow you to fully appreciate the depth and quality of HDTV. In the end, you should buy the projector that is in line with your needs and your budget. Soprano's is coming on right now! Time to go!
In a typical home theater setup, there should be six home theater speakers: two front speakers, two surround speakers, a center speaker and a subwoofer for the lowest frequency ranges. There are two ways to obtain all these speakers: buying each of them seperately, or buying a home theater speaker set. Home Theater Speaker Sets If you're low on budget, you should think about one of these. But remember: don't spare on speakers, they're very important. There are lots of cheap home theater speaker sets on the market, but you shouldn't buy one of them, because these are of poor quality. Usually, sets manufactured by well-know brands (Klipsch, Bose, for example) produce a decent sound. This way you'll still not spend as much as you would on separate speakers. If you're thinking about buying one of these sets, read our article on home theatres in a box. Going One By One So, you're serious about your future home theater, and want to spend a little more on the speakers? Buying speakers separately has many advantages: it's the best quality you can have, and another, often overlooked advantage is that you can don't have to buy the whole set at a time, so if you haven't got the money, you can still have high quality speakers in your setup. Your front speakers should be the strongest members in your home theater speaker setup. If you have a small room, choose bookshelf speakers. Larger rooms will require larger speakers; in this case, powerful floor-standing speakers is the choice to go with. I often hear that it is advisable to have the exact same speakers for surround and front. This is true, but it's not very practical: movie sound mixes don't use surround speakers as much as they use the front speakers. So, you can choose smaller and less-powerful speakers for your surround setup, it won't make significant differences anywhere except your wallet. The surround and front units were good, old-fashioned hi-fi speakers used for a home theater setup. The case is different with our center speaker. It's a special speaker with unique frequency response. If it's possible, have the center speaker from the same brand as the surround and front speakers. This unit is also often overlooked, but it's very important, because this speaker is used for voices and talking in a sound mix. The subwoofer is used to reproduce the lower frequencies. Sometimes, it's optional: the front speakers can be powerful enough to rock the house, and an additional subwoofer is not needed. However, in larger rooms, it's inevitable. Subwoofers require lots of power, and in most cases, they require their own power input (these are called "active subwoofers").
Going to the theatres is fast becoming out of fashion. Thanks to the advantages offered by latest technologies like DVD and satellite, folks are turning more and more to watching movies at home. Home theatres are fast gaining popularity as a good set offers one great advantage – You can watch your old favorite movies which are still on VHS tapes, something which you really enjoy. Moreover, the sound is a lot better with “surround sound” technology and so are the latest DVD players, which offer nice quality and can copy over VCR. The video display unit, however, plays a significant role in making or spoiling your entire experience. For most of us, the display unit is just a regular television, which produces sub-acceptable to fairly good images depending on the make and model of the unit, which ultimately results in people going for High Definition. Now let’s analyze what to look for in a good home theatre setup - Quality sound, VCR to DVD players, and possibly a new T. V. set. We shall consider all these as if the money would be spent from our own pocket and that we shall be viewing movies as much as an average family in the U. S. does, which is roughly 20 hours per week. The Logitech Z-640 6 Speaker Surround Sound System is being offered for a competent price of only $69 U. S. – Amazon price. Or if you are looking for decent performance, look at the Sony HT-DDW670 Home Theater in a Box System costing approximately $179 U. S. – Amazon price. Both of these will produce respectable sound without burning a hole in your pocket. Coming down to the player unit, the Panasonic DMR-ES40VS VHS/DVD Recorder is a great deal, with its performance and efficiency, at an approximate Amazon pricing of $210 U. S. It comes in two color sets - silver and black and perhaps the best feature of this unit is that it can convert old VHS tapes, which we all have around, to DVD readily. And now, enter the arena of display units, with HDTV sets which are available in a broad range in pricing and styling from the flat to the curved and from the small to the gigantic 50” Samsung HL-R5067W 50" HD-Ready DLP TV, costing approximately $1500 U. S.-Amazon price, which is hard to turn down. But if you want your images projected across a wall, expect to shell out anywhere ranging from $1100 U. S. to several thousand dollars, and for obvious reasons, they aren’t all that popular yet. So if you own a regular sized counsel that holds the T. V., the books and records, then you might probably be going to look for something in the 32”to 38” range, and these are readily available in the market, ranging in prices from seven or eight hundred all the way up to thousands. Choosing a fairly nice television, the SAMSUNG TX-R3080WH 30" Wide SlimFit HDTV w/ Built-In HD Tuner, costing approximately eight to nine hundred, is worth mentionable with good picture quality, excellent reputation and all.
If you go to your local home theater store, you may be confronted by a variety of “extreme” sounding names for cabling: Mega Cables, Monster Cables, Uber Cables… the proliferation of “boutique” cabling is always a source of controversy in home theater and audiophile circles. The question is, how much difference do they make, and are they worth it? Well despite the perils involved in even mentioning this topic, I’m going to attempt to add something to the discussion. The most important thing to recognize is that a cable cannot improve the sound of a home stereo system any more than an electrical wire can create extra electricity when you plug it into the wall. That’s actually a very good example, because when you’re listening to audio for instance, what we’re hearing is an electronic representation of acoustic sounds – that is to say, the actual sounds have not been captured and stuffed into a compact disc like fireflies in a child’s jar – they have been copied, imitated, and a representation stored on the disc as a series of numbers. These numbers are then read and translated into electronic signals, which are sent to the speakers in order to approximate the actual sounds. With that in mind, it makes sense that poor quality wires don’t physically change the sound – instead it’s like a game of ‘telephone’, in which the band tells the CD, the CD tells the player, the player tells the wires, and the wires tell the speakers, with something being lost at every step so that the message “Aunt Betty baked a pie” is altered to “Fat Eddy wants to cry” or what should be a great live recording sounds tinny, distant, or otherwise just plain wrong. A good cable will change the signal as little as possible, but all cables do damage your signal a bit – it’s simply a matter of degree. As far as which cables are the best? That’s up to you or your local audio guru to decide – much is up to personal preference, with the rest probably being left up to your budget to decide.