If you have decided to make the leap and set up a home theater, here are some starter tips for setting up a home theater the right way.
Tip 1: Investigate and choose the HDTV technology that you wish to use for your home theater. The main choices are plasma, LCD and LED. Projectors are used for high-end home theater installations. Plasma can produce some of the best colors and has great contrast, but a plasma screen consumes a lot of electricity — much more than LCD or LED. LCD and LED are very similar. The difference is in the type of backlighting that they use. Choose the HDTV that looks best to you.
Tip 2: Choose the largest video display that will fit in your chosen home theater room, given the distance to the seating area. The general rule is that the ideal viewing distance to the seating position directly in front of the screen should be 2 to 3 times the horizontal size of the HDTV screen. For example, the display on my 52 inch Sony HDTV is 46 inches. That means that the viewer directly in front of the screen should be seated anywhere between 92 inches (7 feet, 8 inches) and 138 inches (11 feet, 6 inches) from the screen. In my home theater the center viewer is almost exactly 10 feet from the screen. Make sure that you size the HDTV screen properly for your room. If the screen is too large, you may see distortions, halos and other display anomalies that are not perceptible at the proper distance. With HDTVs, bigger is not always better. If the screen is too small, you will lose the movie theater effect that you are trying to achieve.
Tip 3: Choose a good quality home theater amplifier that at a minimum uses Surround Sound 5.1 (5 channels plus 1 subwoofer channel). It isn’t always wise to buy the cheapest amplifier that you can find. Sound quality is half of the home theater experience. There are a lot of good brand names for amplifiers. My personal favorites are Yamaha, Denon, Onkyo and Pioneer. Today, you can pick up a very nice home theater amplifier for less than $500.
Tip 4: Purchase a good speaker system and position the speakers properly. The front left and right channels should be just next to the sides of the display, and not several feet away. The center channel should be located just above or below the display. Ideally, all three front speakers should be identical (regardless of what the sales rep tells you) and oriented the same way (vertical or horizontal). Improper placement and orientation of the front speakers can cause standing waves (a topic too deep for this article) that cancel out certain sounds. If you include a subwoofer, it should never be located in a corner. That causes the sound to ‘boom’, which does not sound natural. A subwoofer should always be installed somewhere near the center of a wall at floor level. If a subwoofer is installed properly, the sound will fill the room and you should not be able to tell where is it coming from.
Tip 5: Use HDMI cables to connect all of your home theater components. This assures the least amount of wires and a simpler installation. using HDMI cables eliminated the need for multiple video cables and separate audio cable. In some situations you may need HDMI cables to assure that your Blu-ray movies and high definition cable television is displayed using the highest definition and best quality.
Tip 6: Plan the seating properly. Viewers should be sitting directly in front of the screen, just like in a movie theater. With some types of HDTV displays, colors shift and look different when viewed from from an angle. Most HDTVs are getting better with viewing angles, but nothing beats a seat directly in front of the screen.
Top 7: Make sure that there isn’t any back-lighting or front-lighting problems with windows. Put blinds or drapes on the windows. Use a dimmer for lighting to determine the best light level. When using a projector you want to make the room as dark as is possible. Plasma displays also tend to look better in darker rooms. However, LCD and LED displays look very good with simple dimmed room lighting.
Tip 8: Consider Blu-ray 3D when selecting your components. You may or may not like 3D, but it really does not cost more to include a 3D capable HDTV and Blu-ray player in your selections. There are already some sporting events and a growing number of Blu-ray 3D movies available. 3D can be a very entertaining with the proper 3D movie. There are different types of 3D viewing technology that will depend on the type of HDTV that you choose. Make sure that you understand how 3D works with your HDTV and which type of 3D glasses you may need. You only need 3D glasses when viewing 3D movies. When you aren’t viewing 3D movies, the HDTV works exactly the same as a non-3D TV.
Tip 9: If you are not familiar with the the sound and video configurations offered with the home theater components, consider having a professional home theater installer set up your components. The image quality on many HDTVs looks pretty bad fresh out of the box. The color balance, contrast, brightness and other features must be balanced to your room and the ambient room lighting. Likewise, the sound system should be balanced for the “sweet spot” (the ideal viewing location) in the room using a sound pressure meter. These tune up adjustments can make a big difference when it comes to optimizing the home theater experience.
We hope that these tips for setting up a home theater were useful. 😀