home theater

Tips and Solutions

The giant balloons in the Thanksgiving Day Parade cry out to be seen on a big screen. The roar of a football game shouts surround sound. Classic holiday movies demand to be seen anew in high definition. And home videos and digital slide shows of gatherings past signal family members to come to the sofa.

The holidays and home theater were made for each other. After all, when the eating's done, it's then that sports nuts and movie connoisseurs get down to some serious holiday viewing. Unless you're a video equipment enthusiast, though, creating a crowd pleasing system can be as elusive as putting together the perfect black truffle soufflé.

Setting up a home theater isn't difficult once you understand how each component contributes to the big picture. Here's grandma's recipe for what you need – or what someone you know deserves.

One TV Screen

There seem to be as many flat screen choices as boxes in the cereal aisle. Don't despair. Your first choice should be a known brand featuring "Full HD" resolution, meaning if you counted the number of picture elements, you'd find 1920 pixels across and 1080 pixels down. The bigger the screen, the more you'll appreciate the lifelike quality of high definition programs. So, a 40-inch model (measured diagonally) is an entry point, but a 50-incher is even better.

LCD and plasma technologies have become such strong performers that you can't go wrong with either type of TV. One example is the Samsung LN40A650, a 40-inch LCD model. Another is the Panasonic TH-50PZ85U Viera 50-inch plasma HDTV. Both come with built-in stands for placement on furniture, but the stand can be removed if you'd prefer an optional wall mount.

Samsung LN40A650
Samsung LN40A650

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1 year ago
Tips and Solutions

An external sound system completes a home theater, and turning one on yields unexpected pleasures. Recently, I stumbled upon a new TV series on HBO and a romantic drama on Blu-ray Disc both designed to indulge the ears.

The series, True Blood, features a waitress who can hear what people are thinking. As she works her way past tables, thoughts cascade toward her from every direction. And the audience hears the cacophony, too, brilliantly steered from multiple speakers at the sides of the TV and near the sofa.

The movie, August Rush, on Blu-ray and also available on DVD, features a humdinger of an opener: a child prodigy deciphers the musical nature of wind rustling the field in which he's standing. As the wind shifts, the sound washes over the audience from various directions. The powerful effect is all but lost on viewers relying on the TV's internal speakers alone. The same is true for the restaurant sounds in True Blood.


Sony STR-DG820 7.1-Channel Home Theater Receiver

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1 year ago
Tips and Solutions

Having been generally unimpressed by home 3D TV products that have come and gone over the last dozen years, I was more than a little skeptical when the chatter from this year's Consumer Electronics Show was mainly about 3D TV. So, I wasn't expecting much when I visited the Samsung Experience at Columbus Circle in early April to check out a range of  3D TV products.

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2 years ago
Tips and Solutions

B&H recently took the wraps off a quartet of premium-equipped demo rooms where the store's A/V and computer experts can help you plan a custom home theater or a multi-room audio and video system.


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3 years ago
Tips and Solutions

The most compelling technology story of 2009 was actually a marketing story. Samsung nearly single-handedly managed to re-label an emerging category of LCD TVs as LED TVs. The campaign was Initially received by tech-knowledgeable consumers and Samsung’s competitors as unorthodox at best, misleading at worst. After all, Samsung was still selling LCD TVs no matter whether florescent- or LED-backlit. But as the year unfolded the outrage subsided and competitors started adopting the same terminology as a brilliant marketing strategy.

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4 years ago
Tips and Solutions

Surround Sound

At the heart of the receiver is the surround-sound processor. The most basic surround processors use a Dolby Pro Logic II decoder. Pro Logic II is a "matrix" system that takes an encoded two-channel stereo signal and converts it to a five-channel full bandwidth (range) playback (Left/Center/Right/Left Surround/Right Surround),resulting in a surround experience. Most TV shows are encoded in Dolby Pro Logic II, as are the majority of VHS videos. You can also play DVDs through a Pro Logic II only-receiver because DVD players can synthesize a Pro Logic II signal that mimics a surround soundtrack. The newer Dolby Pro Logic IIx adds the ability of converting stereo or 5.1-channel surround sound for seamless 6.1 or 7.1 playback.

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4 years ago
Tips and Solutions

The "5.1" reference that appears at the start of many primetime shows is the networks' advisory to switch on your home theater's speaker system. When you do, you'll enjoy the program the way it was meant to be heard. A show broadcast in Dolby Digital 5.1 can deliver audio to five full-range speakers (front left, center, front right, surround left, and surround right) plus a low frequency effects channel (designated by the ".1") to the subwoofer.

To increase your awareness of what you're missing if you happen to be watching a TV that doesn't include an external sound system, we've listed some of the ways a program's sound director enhances the show by steering audio to discrete speakers in your home theater.

Yamaha HTR-6140BL 5.1-Channel Digital Home Theater Receiver

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4 years ago
Buying Guide

February is the best time for families and friends to gather around the electronic hearth, and it's not just because it's cold outside. This is the month that the four big networks broadcast their top crowd pleasers starting with the Super Bowl and culminating with the Academy Awards. Viewers can enhance these spectacles with certain types of audio/video gear. So here, in chronological order, is our list of not-to-be-missed programs matched to the appropriate hardware that exploits each showstopper for all it's worth.

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4 years ago
Tips and Solutions

Each year since 1976 new products in various categories of consumer electronics are selected as especially innovative. The products are judged by a panel of independent industrial designers, independent engineers, and members of the trade press. Categories include audio accessories, audio components, digital imaging, home networking, home theater accessories, personal electronics, video components, video accessories, and more.

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4 years ago