A flat-panel TV and a bowl of popcorn do not a home theater make. Whether you are taking your media-room system up a notch or creating a room dedicated to home theater, there is always room for improvement. Here are some easy ways to instantly make your system, and experience, better.
1) Upgrade Your Sound System – The first order of business is upgrading your sound system. While most people see the immediate benefits of a big, high-def (or 4K Ultra HD) image, audio is given the short end of the sick more often than not. If you just have a TV, step up to a Sound Base (which goes under your TV), a Sound Bar (which goes below or in front of the TV), or a wireless system–many of which do not require a traditional receiver to act as hub.
For example, you can place your 32- to 55-inch TV on top of LG’s new LAB540W SoundPlate, which is less than four centimeters high. It has an external subwoofer and you can connect it via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Proving that today’s speakers are ever-evolving, it also has a built-in Blu-ray 3D player with LG Smart TV functionality, so now any TV can have the advantages of Internet-enabled apps and streaming video.
For the ultimate in surround sound, go with a full-on surround system, at least five speakers plus a subwoofer. Take a look at surround systems from Definitive Technology, Polk Audio, Klipsch, B&W, and Paradigm for great-sounding, not to mention beautiful, options.
2) Calibrate Your TV–Sets out of the box usually need a little fixing to get the best picture possible. That’s because manufacturers ramp up settings to make TVs look better under the harsh lights of a showroom floor. Calibration goes a long way toward making your home theater experience better by improving black levels and adjusting settings for the more natural lighting of a home environment. You can have a pro do this (your local big box store or, better yet, a CEDIA-certified installer) for a nominal fee. If you have the patience, you can do it yourself pretty easily with one of the various calibration discs on the market, like Digital Video Essentials from video guru Joe Kane. We’re awaiting any news of a 4K video calibration disc and will report back when we get the word.
3) Make Aesthetic Tweaks–If you have wires showing, hide them. You can get a nice piece of AV furniture that will help you with wire management, or you can mount your TV and run wires through the wall. Some even accommodate recent audio component form factors, like sound bars. Again, a pro can help you with this or you can do it yourself. Sanus, for example, has some great mounts that are designed to be less arduous to install for the homeowner.
4) Add Flare–While you may not need ’12 pieces of flare’ for your home theater, nothing makes friends and family ooh and ahhh like a little swagger. We like LED lighting for drama when the lights are off. In fact, a light behind the TV in a completely dark room can prevent eyestrain during long movies. In general, don’t be afraid to have fun in your home theater with decor, especially if you have a dedicated room.
5) Consider Room Acoustics–Whether you have a dedicated home theater or a multipurpose media room, making some tweaks to your room and/or speakers can give you drastically better sound. For one, if you have an AV receiver with an auto-room correction feature like Audyssey, use it. This will measure your room’s acoustics and adjust your speakers accordingly. Next, if you have a room with a lot of reflective services, treat it. For example, a modern room with concrete floors will have sound bouncing all over the place for unwanted acoustic reflections. Deaden the space with soft materials, like drapery, area rugs, and throw pillows. For a dedicated space, acoustic treatments are a godsend. You can have an installer come out and set these up at the appropriate spots, or you can do it yourself. Acoustic treatments, like those from Kinetics Noise Control can be covered with acoustic fabric that matches your room environment so they blend in to the aesthetics of the space.
Whether you need some oomph in your audio, a little more panache in the aesthetics department, or help with acoustics, these tweaks will have you well on your way to a more enjoyable home theater experience.