We Know: All About Home Theaters

What is a home theater?

A home theater is an arrangement of sophisticated electronic equipment that is designed to create theatrical quality images and sound in your home. It's usually part of an audio/video home entertainment center.

What are the components of a home theater?

There are many different parts that make up a home theater. You can either purchase each component separately or bundled together in an all-in-one unit. Buying each component by itself allows you to have the freedom to pick out the items that suit your needs. When a receiver and DVD player are built in one unit, for example, there can be a problem. Should one aspect of the unit malfunction, the entire product would need to be replaced.

Buying component parts together, however, can help insure compatibility. It also may be easier to warranty an all-in-one system than getting separate warranties on individual components.

The individual components of a home theater include:

  • DVD Player: An electronic device that plays DVD movies.
  • TV: Home theaters usually include a large screen TV and/or a high definition TV or a projection system.  Be sure the TV has plenty of outputs on the back to hook up your devices, like DVD players and VCRs.
  • Receiver: A device that acts as the hub for the rest of your equipment. Sound level and output is controlled through the receiver.
  • Speakers: You can purchase speakers as a set. A set typically consists of a front or middle speaker, right and left front speakers, right and left rear speakers and a powered subwoofer.

What should I consider when buying a large television?

The television is usually the center of any home theater system. If you're interested in a large screen, conventional  television (CRT or cathode ray tube) sets are typically 40 inches or less. In large sizes, they tend to be heavy and bulky.  Plasma screens run bigger, but are considerably more expensive. A projection TV system offers larger screens at more affordable prices.

What are some features of a home theater?

When purchasing a home theater receiver, you'll want to look for the following things:

  • Power: Home theater systems have wattage ranging from 300-1000.
  • Sound: Numbering like 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 refer to the number of channels (speakers) the system has. 5.1 and up is usually best. Look for markings that indicate the receiver is Dolby Digital and DTS compatible. Dolby Digital is a sound format used in movie theaters and encoded onto DVDs. DTS means Digital Theater Systems and is another sound format that provides sharp sound quality.
  • Optical: The word "optical" refers to digital. Having digital outputs on your receiver will make picture and audio quality better.
  • HDTV Compatibility: With high-definition televisions on the rise, it's a good idea to have a receiver that can decode digital signals in case you ever purchase such a TV.
  • THX: A good receiver will have this insignia somewhere on the box. It means that the receiver can play movies that utilize THX technology which was created by Lucasfilm Ltd.

What are a few brands that make home theaters?

Popular brands that manufacture home theater systems include Sony, JVC, Yamaha, Samsung and Philips.

How much do home theaters cost?

Home theaters vary in price. Low-end models that are usually all-in-one and include a basic television can cost around from $150 to around $300. Higher end models can be priced from $1000 to several thousand depending on whether or not a plasma television is incorporated. The more cutting edge the technology, the higher the cost.

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