What Type of Home Cinema System to Buy

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What Type of Home Cinema System to Buy

A good home cinema system brings the full cinema experience into your home, complete with surround-sound audio and a high-definition screen that was only science fiction when we were growing up. A bad one only looks good until you turn it on, and excels only in the features you don’t actually use. So how can you pick the right type of system for you? There are five chief factors that you have to balance:

1. Video quality and screen size

How big a screen can your room really accommodate? Will it be big enough that you’ll need full 1080p? Are you ready to make the leap to 4k? The bigger your screen is, the more high definition is important to your viewing experience.

Home Cinema Screen Size

2. Sound quality

Good sound quality means clear dialogue even at lower volumes (important if you watch whilst the kids are asleep), powerful, bass-y music and theatre-grade sound effects. It can make for a truly immersive experience.

3. Ease of set-up

The ultimate ease of set up is provided by all-in-one systems, or components all of the same brand that work best together. Even systems assembled for disparate brands can work very well together, though. Others will require a few days of cursing and looking things up in trouble shooting guides. On the other extreme are bespoke-installed systems that involve electricians and contractors.

4. Ease of use

How simple is it to operate once it is totally set up? How often will you have to consult a manual, and just how many remotes will be cluttering up the coffee table or getting lost down the couch?

5. Cost

If you can devote the cost of a new car to the project and hire professional installers, you’re practically guaranteed a system that is amazing in all respects. Most of us, however, have to make a few compromises. Think about what is most important to you, and the way you enjoy movies, music and television. OK, but what type of system should I actually buy? No short cuts! That all depends on which of the above categories you put the most priority on. Here are a few examples, and where they fit on the priority grid:

6. All-in-one systems

All in One HiFi

These are the simplest systems, scoring well on ease of use, ease of setup, and often on cost. The video and audio quality vary highly, depending on the model, though. These types of home cinema system contain everything you need in a single purchase – with the possible exception of a telly. At the very least, you’ll get speakers, cables, an amplifier which can switch between different A/V sources, and a set-up guide. A DVD or Blu-ray player may be part of the amplifier, or a separate component. You may get between 2 and 8 speakers, depending on whether you opt for surround sound, and which type.

7. Separate component systems

The other route is to assemble your dream system out of the perfect high end components – or from whatever is on sale at the moment and the few bits you already have. These are harder to set up, and generally more complex to use, but depending on how much you spend they can give you truly excellent quality. Another advantage is that separates are very easy to upgrade incrementally. A new screen this year, new speakers next, and a new surround-sound amp the year after that. A high-end separate system will be expensive, but will also give you exactly the features and performance you need and nothing you don’t.

bose soundbar

8. Sound bars

This is really a separate component, but it can be paired with a decent telly to provide a very minimalist home cinema system. It is essentially a long rectangular box containing several fairly small speakers, and an amplifier with some computer processing capability (often Dolby 2.1 or better). These systems use that processing capacity to provide ‘virtual’ surround sound, which can provide some of the experience of rear-speaker systems. Frankly, the sound quality is never going to be as good, but they are inexpensive, easy to install and extremely easy to use.


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