Home Movie Theater - Essential System Elements

What to get for the ultimate experience

Home movie theater

Money and space set a limit on the kind of home movie theater we buy, but there’s nothing wrong with a little dreaming.

Here we describe the essential elements of the ultimate theater system.

1. The ultimate home movie theater would surely have the biggest possible screen. However, it’s not all about size; it’s a trade-off between size and picture quality. If you want a huge screen, you’ve probably opted for a projection system (see our page on projectors for more information) or a very large plasma display. However, if you try to watch an old VCR tape on your giant screen, you will have problems. A VHS picture is too low-resolution to look good on a big screen, and you will actually be able to see the lines that make up the picture. However, your dream home theater will have a way around this problem. It’ll have an inbuilt video processor (sometimes called an image scaler) that will make the image look much better. (It can’t create a resolution that isn’t in the original image, but it can make it look a whole lot better.) Panasonic, Mitsubishi and Toshiba all make models that fit the bill.

2. The speakers in the ultimate home theater will create surround sound that makes you think you’re right there in the middle of the movie. Having said that, there are plenty of contenders for the title of “ultimate home theater speaker set”. Ohm Acoustics (www.ohmspeakers.com) have a feature called 3-D stereo imaging. This means that if you’re listening to (for example) an orchestral CD, you’ll be able to hear exactly where each performer was standing when the CD was recorded. In other words, it recreates the atmosphere of the performance hall. Speakers from Ohm Acoustics feature the Ohm CLS (Coherent Line Source) driver, which creates very high sound quality. However, that doesn’t mean that Ohm speakers are necessarily the best. Many high-end users swear by Meridian (www.meridian-audio.com), which maintain what they call “a pure digital audio link from the studio to the listening room”. In other words, there are no analog signals involved until the sound reaches the speakers, and this makes for very high quality sound.

3. When it comes to receivers, it’s hard to choose what would be part of the dream home movie theater. The great debate among enthusiasts is whether it’s better to have an A/V receiver as one piece of kit, or whether you should buy separate components that do the receiver’s job. Advocates of separates claim that you get greater flexibility and function by using different components. These components usually comprise:

* an A/V controller to perform the switching and decoding functions of a receiver. (See our page on receivers for more details of what a receiver does.)

* a radio tuner (although this might not be necessary if you can receive radio through your satellite system).

* a power amplifier, to create sound through the speakers.

However, if you prefer to have your A/V receiver as one unit, there are plenty of receivers suitable for inclusion in your dream home movie theater. One of the most desirable models on the market at the moment is the Harman Kardon 7500 AVR (audio/visual receiver). Harmon Kardon receivers are the only ones with LOGIC7, a proprietary technology that creates stunning surround sound. More information from the Harmon Kardon website, at www.harmankardon.com.

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