No matter which surround-sound setup you choose, the open floor plan and hard surfaces of MCM homes provide significant challenges to creating great sound.
"It's a challenge all the time because you're dealing with a lot of acoustical issues, but a lot of manufacturers recognize that most modern homes are lousy for acoustics," points out David Hermary.
Hermary's most common approach to solving this problem is using high-density fiberglass insulation panels, which are placed on the walls and on the ceiling. "It's generally something that is not used in a formal environment, but there can be ways to build it into the wall," Hermary says. Auralex (auralex.com) and Accoustical Solutions (accousticalsolutions.com) are two manufacturers of sound panels.
Today's smart-home technologies are changing the way we interact with all of our gadgets. New systems allow us to turn on television, movies, thermostat, lights, and window coverings from one central control panel or remote control.
Gone are the days of endless switches, dimmers, and remotes—your entire room or home can be integrated into one system that controls multiple devices and has the ability to create pre-set 'scenes.' You can have as many or as few controls as you like, with as many or as few options at each station as is suitable to your needs.
Smart home control systems can be scaled to any size dwelling and almost any budget. The Control4 HC 300 controller lets you automate many home systems starting at just $699.
Energy savings is pushing homeowners to adopt automation technologies. BlueBolt, for example, is an energy management system that allows for monitoring and timing the lights, TIVO, DVR, and other electronics in your home. PDA-enabled, the BlueBolt is equipped so each element can be turned off or on remotely. For approximately $2,000, homeowners can install a basic system from Lutron that lets you control all the lights in an average size dwelling with one remote.
Blu-ray is the new DVD, so every media buff should consider making it a vital part of his or her upgraded home entertainment center. It's also smart to purchase a player with the capability to access online video and audio services, such as Netflix for movies or Pandora for Internet radio.
Another option is to look for systems that are integrated into your gaming system, so you have fewer electronics to corral within a console. TiVo and other digital video recorders are today's VCR, and they easily record your favorite television shows.
Gain access to a lot of media through the Apple TV digital media receiver. With this gadget, iTunes syncs wirelessly to your television, so your entire iTunes music collection can be played through your media room speakers.
The system lets you create mixes, visit Internet radio stations, and browse and purchase music and videos at the iTunes store. In addition, the receiver allows you to access movies, podcasts, and YouTube videos on demand.
Before investing in a home-theater system, do your research to find out what's new, what's coming out, and which electronics will work best for your home. A trip to your local electronics and home-theater stores will help you match your needs with your lifestyle and budget, and help ensure that what you buy today will still be entertaining you for a few years to come.
Philips 9000 LED Series 3D TV
Energy-efficient and with an ultra-slim screen, the Full-HD, 3D-ready 9000, with a dark brushed-aluminum frame that makes an assured design statement in any modern home, was created with cosmopolitan living in mind. The display has Amblight Spectra 3 that identifies dominant colors onscreen and projects perfectly matched ambient lighting onto the wall behind it to create a cool effect. philips.com
BG Radia Speakers
BG Radia new planar ribbon surround speakers can be used for in-wall or in-ceiling applications. By carefully adjusting mounting angles and studying how the adjacent speakers interact as they form a series of coherent sound waves, both speakers have very wide dispersion to fill the room. Prices start at $1,000 each.bgradia.com