Your guide to perfect sound.
With TVs getting thinner, inbuilt speakers are getting smaller and tinnier. Itâ€™s all very well having a big screen, but do you have the sound to match it? Most of the emotion you feel when watching a movie comes from the sound. Martial arts movies, for example, will really make you cringe when you can actually hear Bruce Lee breaking bones with crystal clarity.
Now thereâ€™s home theatre and thereâ€™s home theatre. Systems range from $500 setups to well over $500,000 dollar setups. Boiling it down, there are really two categories of system, depending on how far you want to go. Both have their advantages, but itâ€™s a good idea to hear both styles in action.
All in one
â€śHome Theatre in a Boxâ€ť systems are the cheapest and easiest to get going. These are systems where everything comes out of one box. You have a DVD player which has an inbuilt amplifier to power the speakers. All your speakers generally connect to either this or the subwoofer.
These systems provide great bang for your buck but do make some compromises. Your DVD player/amp is only designed to power the speakers that come with it and likewise your speakers wonâ€™t run from any DVD player. Usually you canâ€™t connect many external devices such as game consoles or, say, a recorder to these, but manufacturers are smartening up, and a few select models do feature a couple of HDMI inputs, allowing modern devices to be rigged up easily. Often these will more than do the job, but if you really are serious about your sound, keep readingâ€¦
Pick and choose
â€śComponent systemsâ€ť are where you buy each part of the system as a stand alone. You can still buy these as a package, but if you ever want to mix and match speakers, Blu-Ray players or DVD recorders etc, you can do so as your heart desires. The key part of this system is the amplifier (Also known as a reciever). This is the brain of the system and you will see a whole heap of connections on the back. This means you can have lots of devices connected at any one time. There are also two types of receiver depending on if you wanted something that does surround sound or stereo for purists.
Once you have your amplifier, you will need some speakers. You can either get larger floor standing speakers, or smaller satellite speakers. Keep in mind itâ€™s easier to get big (and crisp) sound from a larger speaker. You can get very good smaller speakers but you need more technology (which equals money) to get the same kind of sound. A good indication of how good a speaker is - apart from obviously giving it a listen - is to pick it up. Weight is still a good indication of quality in the audio game.
Because floor-standing speakers usually have bigger drivers, providing good low frequency reproduction, you can get by without a subwoofer. A subwoofer is essential on smaller systems, as the speakers by themselves will only manage the high and mid-range frequencies. Try some smaller speakers with the subwoofer turned on and off and you will be amazed at the difference. A subwoofer will still add a lot if you have larger speakers. With speakers only, you will hear a car start up; but with a good subwoofer, you will feel the car start up as if you were standing next to it.
Joining the dots
All this gear isnâ€™t going to do much sitting on the shelf looking pretty. You also need to connect it all up. And no matter how good your gear is, itâ€™s only as good as the weakest link in the chain. In this case, this is usually the cables. Despite internet myths, cables definitely make a difference for sound quality. If you just spent $5000 on a system, itâ€™s worth a couple of hundred more to get the most out of it.