Things About Home Theater You May Not Know

Home theater tips that cut through misconceptions and confusion

Luxury Home Theater
Luxury Home Theater. Getty Images - EricVega - Collection E+

Whether you call it home theater or home cinema, it is a popular home entertainment option around the world, but what exactly is it? Home theater is a home entertainment option that provides the consumer with an exciting viewing and listening experience. Home theater refers to a setup of audio and video equipment in your home that tries to duplicate the movie theater experience. 

However, there is a lot of hype and confusion as to what you really need to enjoy home theater. The following tips will help cut through the hype and misconceptions.

Home Theater Doesn't Have to be Expensive

Salesperson Assists Woman Shopping For TV
Salesperson Assists Woman Shopping For TV. Gety Images - Westend61 - 597070801

Home Theater has taken on a significant role in our home entertainment landscape, but when times get tough it is perceived that a home theater system is a luxury that may no longer be affordable.

On the other hand, when you consider the cost of taking the family out to dinner and a night at the movies, buying a home theater system may be just the right, affordable, family entertainment solution during economic doldrums. Here are additional references that provide guidance on how you can put together a home theater system on your financial terms.

Home Theater on a Budget

Planning a Home Theater

Common Home Theater Mistakes

Home Theater The Easy and Inexpensive Way

An LED TV Is Not a Different Type of TV

Samsung UN32N5300 1080p LED/LCD Smart TV
Samsung UN32N5300 1080p LED/LCD Smart TV.

Image courtesy of Amazon 

There has been a lot of hype and confusion surrounding the introduction of "LED" Televisions. Even many marketing reps and sales pros that should know better are falsely explaining what an LED TV is to their customers. To set the record straight, the LED designation refers to the LCD TV's backlight system, not the chips that produce the image content. LED TVs are still LCD TVs. It is just that they use LED backlights rather than the fluorescent-type backlights use in older LCD TVs.

An OLED TV Is A Different Type of TV

LG OLED TV
LG OLED TV. LG Electronics

Although LED/LCD TVs are the most common type available (Plasma TVs were discontinued in 2015), you may have heard of a type of TV with the labeled OLED. OLED is a type of TV technology that does not require a backlight like LCD TVs have — each pixel is "self-emissive". As a result, OLED TVs can be made extremely thin and display absolute black, making colors look richer.

On the downside, OLED TVs are more expensive than an equivalent LED/LCD TVs when comparing the same screen size and feature set, but every year, the gap narrows somewhat.

For more details on OLED TV technology, and who makes them, refer to our companion article: OLED TV Basics.

720p is also High Definition.

Video Resolution Chart
Video Resolution Chart. Wikimedia Commons

Many consumers are led to believe that 1080p is the only high definition resolution. However, although 1080p and 4K are the high resolutions that are most widely available for consumers, 720p and 1080i are also high-resolution formats, as is 1080i.  However, it turns out that not all high definition resolutions are created equal.

Blu-ray Disc Players Also Play DVDs, CDs, and More...

Samsung BD-H6500 Blu-ray Disc Player
Samsung BD-H6500 Blu-ray Disc Player. Image provided by Amazon

Many consumers are confused on what a Blu-ray Disc player really is and what you play on it. It turns out that Blu-ray Disc players make a great all-in-one source for home entertainment content. All Blu-ray Disc players can play DVDs and CDs, and many players can play audio/video files from USB flash drives, stream movies and TV shows from the internet, and some can even access media files from your PC.

You Can Access TV Programs and Movies from the Internet

LG Smart TV
LG Smart TV. LG Electronics

The internet is now an integral part of the home theater experience but is also causing confusion for consumers as to how to add the internet to their home theater, what content is available for access, and if it is worth the effort. Check out some basic tips that will get you started in enjoying the benefits of accessing content from the internet, and a home network, on your TV and home theater system.

There Is a Reason You Can't Record Your Favorite TV Show on a DVD Recorder

Magnavox DVD Recorder
Magnavox DVD Recorder. Images provided by Amazon

Have you shopped for a DVD Recorder recently and have found slim-pickings on store shelves?  While DVD recorders thriving in other parts of the World and Blu-ray Disc recorders are available in Japan and other select markets, the U.S. is being left out of the video recording equation; and it is being left out on purpose due to restrictions imposed in the U.S. on what consumers are allowed to record and on what storage medium. For the full story, read The Case of the Disappearing DVD Recorder.

Wireless Speakers Aren't Really Wireless

Axiim Q Wireless Home Theater System
Axiim Q Wireless Home Theater System. Axiim Audio

"I would jump into home theater in a minute if it weren't for all those speakers and wires". Running those long and unsightly speaker wires all over the place can be annoying for many. As a result, consumers are attracted by increasingly promoted home theater systems that tout "wireless speakers" as a way to solve this problem. However, don't get automatically sucked in by the term "wireless". There some important things you need to know. Check out The Truth About Wireless Speakers for Home Theater and What is Wireless Home Theater?

5.1 channels is Enough - Most of the Time

Onkyo 5.1 Channel Receiver with Diagram
Onkyo 5.1 Channel Receiver with Diagram. Onkyo and Harman Kardon

5.1 channels have been the standard in home theater for quite some time. Most DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies contain 5.1 channel soundtracks. However, when buying a home theater receiver these days, once you get into the $500 range and up, there is an increasing emphasis by manufacturers for delivering 7.1 channel equipped receivers. Although 7.1 channel receivers are not required, they can provide additional setup options.

On the other hand, even if you don't need to use the full 7.1 channel capability in your home theater setup, 7.1 channel receivers can easily be used in a 5.1 channel-only system. This frees up the remaining two channels on some receivers for other uses such as Bi-amping, or to run a two-channel stereo 2nd Zone system. Of course, another option is to just leave the extra two channels turned off. Find out if a 5.1 or 7.1 channel home theater receiver is right for you.

There Is A Difference Between a Stereo and Home Theater Receiver

Yamaha R-N602 Stereo Receiver vs RX-A760 HT Receiver
Yamaha R-N602 Stereo Receiver vs RX-A760 HT Receiver. Yamaha

Although home theater receivers evolved out of the traditional stereo receiver of old, the two are not the same thing.

Stereo Receivers are designed for music listening within a two-channel listening environment. Unlike home theater receivers, stereo receivers do not provide surround sound decoding, and typically don't provide surround sound processing, and only provide connections for left and right channel speakers. However, in some cases, an output for a subwoofer is also provided.

What this means, is that no connections are provided for a center channel and side or rear speakers that are required for a true surround sound listening experience.

Another difference is that stereo receivers do not provide video processing and upscaling features that have become common on many home theater receivers.

Although you can use a stereo receiver to provide better sound for TV viewing, for a more immersive sound listening experience, consider a home theater receiver (may also be referred to as an AV or Surround Sound Receiver).

You Can Use Alexa and Google Home To Control Your TV

Using Alexa with a TV
Using Alexa with a TV. Image provided by Amazon

The popularity of products such as Google Home and Amazon Echo has opened up a whole way to interact with your entertainment, information, and household tasks.

Using your voice, in combination with Alexa or Google Home devices, you can control functions of many Smart TVs, as well as other home theater gear, such as media streamers, home theater receivers, and more.

3D Isn't Bad

3D TV
3D TV. Getty Images - DSGpro - E+

Depending on who you talk to, 3D is either the greatest thing to hit home theater since sliced bread or the biggest consumer electronics folly ever. On a sad note for those that are 3D fans, it looks like the folly folks are winning.

As of 2017, production of 3D TVs for the U.S. market has been discontinued. However, 3D for consumers does live on in the video projector product category — which is the best way to experience the 3D effect.

However, in light of the current state of 3D, before you plunge into 3D there are things that you need to know in order to get the best 3D viewing experience. Despite detractors, it is possible to have a good, as well as comfortable, 3D viewing experience with the right setup and well-produced 3D content. On the other hand, if 3D really isn't your cup of tea, that is OK too.