If you have an HD ready or full HD TV and love the advances in picture technology but have been slightly underwhelmed by the audio capabilities of the TV, then home cinema systems are something you should certainly consider. There are many different types on the market, so take your time and compare prices to get the best deals.
Home cinema surround sound systems usually include speakers and an amplifier. The simplest of home theatre systems will typically comprise a 2.1 set up, which means there will be two speakers and a subwoofer providing stereo sound with a considerable bass boost over standard TV speakers with the amplification usually built into the subwoofer. If you’re looking for surround sound, then you’ll need to choose from 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1.
This means additional satellite speakers will need to be positioned in front, to the side and behind your viewing area to reproduce audio effects. The primary factor which will affect your choice is the capabilities of the TV and other audio visual devices such as a DVD player or digital TV set top box when it comes to sound. Most respected brands will have various audio output configurations available, including optical digital signals for the crispest sound reproduction, but you’ll need to check your existing equipment before buying. Some home cinema systems included DVD or Blu-Ray players as part of the bundle to ensure compatibility and most will come with a remote control and be able to take multiple sources via the amplifier unit.
Performance and Extras
Most home cinemas surround sound systems will require that you install the speakers with wires running between them and the amplifier, which can be troublesome with the rear speakers. The good news is that certain kits come with Wireless speakers which have their power supply removing the need for endless wiring. As you may expect these are usually more expensive and will have a limited physical range.
The distinction between audio and home cinema speakers has become blurred in recent years. This is simply because the growth in popularity of home entertainment, or home theatre, systems has meant that the same audio and home cinema speakers are required to reproduce not only music but also dialogue, sound effects, etc. from DVD, Blu-ray and HDTV broadcasting. The multi channel audio from these sources can be decoded by a suitable receiver, amplified and directed to multiple speakers located around the listening space.
Audio and home cinema speakers can, therefore, be arranged in various configurations, depending on the sound that they are required to reproduce and the space available. The simplest configuration is known as a 2.1 channel configuration, where the music is contained on two front speakers and a “subwoofer”, responsible for reproducing low frequency, bass effects. These settings cannot reproduce the 5.1 channel surround sound that is standard for DVD and HDTV but attempts an approximation of it, using electronic processing.
To experience the full effects of surround sound, you’ll need at least five speakers, usually arranged as a centre speaker, left and right front speakers and left and right rear speakers. Of these, the centre speaker is the most important, because it carries the main dialogue from, say, a DVD movie and over 50% of the soundtrack, overall. Other important points to note about audio & home cinema speakers are that speakers placed close to a CRT (“Cathode Ray Tube”) TV should be video shielded to prevent interference and active, or powered, subwoofers produce deeper, rumbling bass than their passive counterparts.