Hot Trends in Home Theater - Page 2

New technology and pricing make the ultimate media room an inviting proposition

To make 3D work, you need to buy a 3D-ready display, along with a 3D Blu-ray player, high-capacity HDMI cables and—joy—3D glasses. "You might find that for Super Bowl parties, people will be renting 12 pairs of 3D glasses," McMaster says. "This might seem weird, but just like it was silly to clip a cell phone to your belt years ago, it'll change."

In the 1950s and '60s, TVs were bulky and in the way. Thankfully, there are solutions for those who don't like the look of a big black box hanging on their crisp white or minimal-looking walls.

Nexus 21 (tvlift.com) offers lifting mechanisms that allow you to build your flat-screen television into a piece of furniture, the floor, or the ceiling.

Mirror TVs, which are basically a two-way mirror with an LCD screen behind it, are another option. When the LCD is activated, you see the display. When it's turned off, you see your reflection. Many come framed so they take on the appearance of a beautiful decorator mirror, which looks great hanging over a sideboard or modern console. Seura (seura.com), Nu Vision (nuvision.com), and Philips (philips.com) are three manufacturers that produce mirror TVs.

Sound

Speaker placement is an integral part in any home-theater room-design process. A home theater needs at least a 5.1 system (five full-range speakers and one subwoofer) to create theater-like sound. In these systems, each speaker plays a unique role, emitting dialog, background music, sound effects, or base from different points in the room. There really is an art and science to the set up, but here are the basic elements to creating surround sound:

  • Center speaker: Installed just above or just below your television, these speakers carry dialog.
  • Front left and right speakers: Should be placed on opposite sides of your television and equidistant from the center speaker. They should also be the same distance from your central viewing spot.
  • Surround speakers: Best located on the sidewalls of the room, just behind your main seating position. They can be installed above, in the ceiling; or if you have a 6.1 or 7.1-channel system, the backup speakers should be mounted on the back wall, two or three feet above ear level from where you sit.
  • Sub-woofer: This provides the bass you're after, so experiment with the placement in the room to find out where it sounds best, usually near a wall or close to a corner.

Speakers today have come a long way, particularly for those who want theirs to be heard and not seen—a critical element for modern homeowners who don't want gadgets and electronics getting in the way of their home's overall appeal. There are models at every price point, starting at $99 for budget speakers, and several thousand dollars for you audiophiles out there.

orb speakers

If maintaining the minimalist look is important, Onsia manufactures in-wall speakers that are actually installed behind drywall. No wires or speaker boxes are visible, and they are a relatively simple retrofit for many homes, with prices starting near $150 (at Lowes).

As an alternative to built-ins, Orb Audio (orbaudio.com) offers small, round speakers that look very modern and fill a room with sound, starting at around $239 per pair. Hermary recommends BG Radia speakers for MCM homes, which can be adjusted to best fill a room with great sound. They're a bit pricey, however, with their latest in-wall speakers starting at $1,000 apiece.

A current trend in home theaters is digital room correction. This calibrates a sound system to the exact room of installation, since no two rooms are alike.

"In simple terms, it is electronic equalization of the loudspeaker and room modes done through a calibration process where the acoustic response of each loudspeaker is measured with a microphone at the listening seats," says Dr. Sean Olive, director of benchmarking and acoustics for Harman International, an audio products manufacturer.

Some equipment comes with software and instructions that allow the homeowner to make the calibration, while higher-end manufacturers oftentimes send out an audio expert to the home.

"It really makes a difference," Olive says. "Although some people are quite satisfied with fairly low fidelity (like ipods and MP3 players), we are finding that now that the recession is over, high-end sales are taking off. Measuring sound is a fairly scientific process, and people like accurate sound."

An A/V receiver is required for optimal sound. The receiver has two functions: it amplifies the sound so it can be fed to your speakers, and it allows you to select the audio and video you wish to watch. You can use it to switch from a DVD to cable or dish with a touch of a button.