“What? — Home Theater Sickness?”, you ask… “My home theater can make me sick?” It can if you get it all hooked up and it does not look or sound like you thought it would or should. If you have dumped a lot of dollars into the latest and greatest equipment but you end up with a home theater system that leaves you with a great deal of buyer’s remorse and a definite sick feeling in your stomach you’ll have “Home Theater Sickness” or “HTS”.
Properly researching your components is an essential part of the home theater selection process and is essential preventative medicine in the battle to prevent Home Theater Sickness. All too often new home theater enthusiasts jump into the scene with little or no advance preparation other than seeing what’s on sale at Best Buy, Circuit City or the local department store. Such a hasty decision can adversely affect your desired home theater experience and help the spread of Home Theater Sickness. However there are some steps that you can take to assure the results you get at home are much closer to what you desire.
You should first read, read and read some more on what video displays, digital surround audio systems and playback devices are currently available for home theaters. Fortunately there are many web sites dedicated to home theater audio and video systems where you will find preventative medicine for Home Theater Sickness. Do a Google search for home theater systems advice for helpful information. Reading a LOT of info will help lessen the chances that what you buy is not what you were expecting.
Only after reading up on the available video and audio devices you should take a “field trip” to your local electronics store. The big electronics chains such as Best Buy and Circuit City are good places to do field research however there are factors of which you should be aware of there as well. First off — finding a knowledgeable salesperson to assist you can be a chore in itself — so try to find one who seems to be well informed by asking a few questions using terms you have learned from your reading (and reading) and use him/her as an assistant. Be polite and inquisitive yet keep in mind that the salesperson is working on commission and may try to “up-sell” you along the way. Stay focused on your goal of researching the components in which you are interested from your reading and do not be swayed by a young salesperson whose previous job may have been working at McDonald’s flipping burgers.
When checking out big screen TVs it would be a good idea to take along a favorite DVD with which you are very familiar and see how it looks on your selected models. Politely ask the salesperson to connect a DVD player straight to the TV so as to bypass any signal issues as TVs in electronics stores are usually fed signals from a central point such as a DVD player distributed (often poorly) throughout the store. Also you should adjust the display brightness, contrast and color to your personal preferences as they are often set to emphasize chroma (color), luminance (brightness) or detail (sharpness). Use the TV’s remote as that is how you will interface with your new set and you should determine if the remote and image control menus are easy to navigate.
Another basic tip is to make sure the video display (TV) you are getting is a trusted brand name. Trusted brands such as JVC, Sony, RCA, Panasonic and Toshiba have stricter manufacturing quality control practices that will reduce the chance of getting a poorly produced set off the production line.
With regard to digital surround sound there are as many numerous factors to consider. Number one — avoid off-brand systems boasting huge power. That power is usually via the PMPO rating system which is a deceiving way of rating poorly powered systems and those units usually have a high degree of Total Harmonic Distortion (THD). Stick with total RMS power measurements and only consider units with a published THD of .1 or preferably less — .05 is a very good THD rating.
A/V receivers should have component or HDMI inputs (if your TV or DVD is so equipped and it probably should be) and video switching should be present. Other basic needs for an A/V receiver is both optical and coaxial digital inputs for future component connection flexibility. Yamaha, Sony are my favorite manufacturers of receivers. Klipsch, Bose and Athena are excellent brands of speakers.
Then you should consider the amount of clean power (referring to RMS and THD) available. Your powered subwoofer should have the most power of all your speakers — nearly twice as much as your surround speakers. Remember that a system’s loudness is determined by the audio perception level ratio wherein a doubling of power equals one unit of perceived increase in loudness. Therefore a 200 watt system is only perceived as being a bit louder than a 100 watt system. In most cases a system with 100 to 150 watts will be fine for all but the largest of rooms.
There are many more factors to consider when selecting a home theater system with which you will be satisfied and happy — unfortunately they are too numerous to list in this article — that’s why entire websites are dedicated to demystifying the many factors related to home theater systems. Again I urge you to read, read and read some more as the more you educate yourself the more likely you will make an informed purchase. Do yourself a favor and seek knowledge — it will save you time, money and hopefully help prevent the spread of Home Theater Sickness.