Things About Home Theater You May Not Know

Tips that cut through the misconceptions and confusion

Whether you call it home theater or home cinema, it's a popular entertainment option, but what is it? Home theater refers to a setup of audio and video equipment in your home that duplicates the movie theater experience. However, there's a lot of hype and confusion as to what you need to enjoy it. The following tips can help cut through the hype and misconceptions.

Salesperson Assists Woman Shopping For TV
Westend61 /  Getty Images

Home Theater Doesn't Have to Be Expensive

Home theater has a significant role in our current entertainment landscape. Still, when times are tough, many believe it's a luxury that may not be affordable. However, 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 an affordable family entertainment solution during economic doldrums.

An LED TV Isn't a Different Type of TV

There's a lot of hype and confusion surrounding LED televisions. Some marketing reps and sales pros that should know better falsely explain what an LED TV is to their customers.

To set the record straight, the LED designation refers to the TV's backlight system, not the chips that produce the image content. LED TVs are still LCD TVs. They just use LED backlights rather than the fluorescent-type backlights used in older LCD TVs.

Samsung UN32N5300 1080p LED/LCD Smart TV
Amazon

An OLED TV Is a Different Type of TV

Although LED/LCD TVs are the most common type available (plasma TVs were discontinued in 2015), you may have heard of OLED TVs. OLED is a type of technology that doesn't require a backlight—each pixel is self-emissive. As a result, OLED TVs are thin and display absolute black, making colors look richer.

LG OLED TV
LG Electronics

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

Don't confuse OLED TVs with QLED TVs. QLED TVs are LCD TVs that use Quantum Dot technology to enhance color performance. QLED is a label used by Samsung and TCL. The LED part stands for the backlights.

720p Is Also High-Definition

Although 1080p and 4K are the high-definition resolutions available for consumers (8K is still out of most people's price range), 720p and 1080i are also high-resolution formats. These are cheaper than 1080p and 4K and are older technologies with less visual quality.

Video Resolution Chart
Wikimedia Commons

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

A Blu-ray Disc player makes a great all-in-one source for home entertainment content. All Blu-ray Disc players play DVDs and CDs. Many play audio/video files from USB flash drives, and stream movies and TV shows from the internet. Some can access media files from your PC.

Samsung BD-H6500 Blu-ray Disc Player
Amazon

Access TV Programs and Movies From the Internet

The internet is an integral part of the home theater experience. However, it also causes confusion for consumers who want to know how to add the internet to their home theater, what content is available for access, and if it's worth the effort.

LG Smart TV
LG Electronics

Check out some basic tips to enjoy the benefits of accessing content from the internet, and a home network, on your TV and home theater system.

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

Have you shopped for a DVD recorder recently and found slim-pickings on store shelves? While DVD recorders thrive 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. It's 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.

Magnavox DVD Recorder
Amazon

While most consumer electronics manufacturers have abandoned DVD recorders, you can still find them refurbished or used.

Your Smartphone Can be Part of Your Home Theater

You can include your smartphone as part of your home theater system. One interesting way to use an iPhone or Android is as a remote control for home theater components and home automation systems.

Pioneer Remote App
Pioneer Electronics

Check out the interesting remote control and related apps you may be able to take advantage of.

Other ways to use your smartphone with your home theater setup are with Bluetooth and AirPlay. These allow you to stream music directly to a compatible home theater receiver.

If you have a DLNA or Miracast-enabled TV or Blu-ray Disc player, you can share select audio and video content stored on your smartphone with your TV. You can also route it through a Blu-ray Disc player to your TV.

Wireless Speakers Aren't Really Wireless

Are you hesitant about jumping into a home theater because of all those speakers and wires? Running long and unsightly speaker wires all over the place can be annoying. You might consider a home theater system that touts wireless speakers as a way to solve this problem.

Axiim Q Wireless Home Theater System
Axiim Audio

Don't get automatically sucked in by the term wireless. Before you buy, check out the requirements and options for wireless speakers and understand the different wireless connectivity options.

5.1 Channels Are Enough (Most of the Time)

5.1 channels are the standard in home theater. Most DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies contain 5.1 channel soundtracks. However, once you get into the $500 range and up, there's an increasing emphasis by manufacturers for delivering 7.1 channel equipped receivers. Although 7.1 channel receivers are not required, these receivers provide additional setup options.

Onkyo 5.1 Channel Receiver with Diagram
Onkyo and Harman Kardon

Even if you don't use the full 7.1 channel capability in your home theater setup, 7.1 channel receivers can be used in a 5.1 channel-only system. This frees up the remaining two channels for other uses such as Bi-amping, or to run a two-channel stereo 2nd Zone system. Another option is to 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's a Difference Between a Stereo and Home Theater Receiver

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

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

Stereo receivers are designed for music listening within a two-channel environment. Unlike home theater receivers, stereo receivers don't provide surround sound decoding and typically don't provide surround sound processing.

Stereo receivers only provide connections for left and right channel speakers. In some cases, an output for a subwoofer is also provided. No connections are provided for a center channel and the side or rear speakers required for a true surround sound listening experience.

Another difference is that stereo receivers don't provide the video processing and upscaling features common on many home theater receivers.

You can use a stereo receiver to provide better sound for TV viewing. However, for an immersive sound listening experience, consider a home theater receiver (also referred to as an AV or surround sound receiver).

Use Alexa and Google Home to Control Your TV

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

Using Alexa with a TV
Amazon

Use your voice in combination with Alexa or Google Home-enabled smart devices to control the functions of smart TVs and other home theater gear, such as media streamers, home theater receivers, and more.

3D Isn't Bad

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

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

In light of the current state of 3D, before you take the plunge, there are things you should know to get the best 3D viewing experience. It's possible to have a good, as well as comfortable, 3D viewing experience with the right setup and well-produced content.