Setting up your home with a quality audio system is what will take your big screen from basic TV to immersive home theater. So what would you need to create amazing theater audio in your home?
- Speakers! While this may seem obvious, you do have a few options. Just like you probably want the biggest display screen your space can handle, the more speakers you bring in for surround sound, the better. You'll see designations of "5.1" and "7.1" most commonly, but what do they mean? Those numbers tell you the available channels in a recording (i.e. the soundtrack of your favorite movie), which corresponds to the number of speakers you need to best reproduce the sound. "5" and "7" are the channels, and ".1" is the subwoofer. To make your home theater great, start with 5 speakers and a subwoofer. Try 7 speakers if you want to really intesify the sound, or go all out and add even more! If you're limited on space, or just don't want speakers positioned all over the room, you may want to consider a "sound bar." With advances in audio technology, a streamlined single speaker (the sound bar), paired with a subwoofer, can create an effective, immersive surround sound experience. Same goes for small speakers, the latest small surround speakers pack as much punch as their large counterparts, without the worry of where you're going to fit them or how they'll look in your space.
- An A/V Receiver. Okay, what is a receiver, and why do I need it? Even more important than the actual speakers, a receiver is the key to a successful audio system. It acts as the "brain" of your theater system, decoding a DVD's surround sound format, driving the loudspeakers, and switching between video and audio components. Simply put, you need one, if you want to use all those speakers and enjoy the soundtrack of your video to its true potential.
- Placement. You know what they say, "Location, location, location!" This is definitely true within your home theater. For the best sound, ideally you will set up in a good-sized, rectangular, enclosed room. With today's popular open floor plans though, an enclosed room may not be an option, so consider heavier curtains and carpeting or rugs for better acoustics. Locations of the surround speakers and subwoofer are also key. Speakers should be about level with your ears when you're watching a movie, roughly at seated head height. For a basic 5.1 system, one speaker should go directly underneath your display screen, making the main sound seem to come from the center of the picture. Two more should be placed equally on either side of the screen. The last two speakers in a 5.1 system should be spaced equal distance to the right and left behind your seating area, at roughly the same height as the other speakers. Place the subwoofer on the floor to the side of the screen, near a wall. Avoid enclosing it in a cabinet or putting it behind your seating, which would distort or mask its effects. Space out any additional speakers equally and at a height consistent with the others.
- Installation. It's easy to find pre-boxed surround sound systems or total "home theaters in-a-box;" and using our previous 3 tips, you can probably set them up yourself, greatly improving the audio in your home theater. That said, consider calling in the experts. The audio specialists at BCG can easily configure your surround sound to optimize its capabilities, making the audio in your home the best it can be. Our experts can also design a system custom to your space, in lieu of a pre-fab system that's been designed to be general. Not only will bringing in a professional give you the best sound possible, an expert will be able to run all that unsightly speaker wire discretely or eliminate it from view altogether, without sacrificing ideal placements or giving up any sound quality; making your new theater look as good as it sounds.