From high-tech projectors to the latest apps, find out what's new in home cinema.
By John RihaMore in Home Improvement
Making Sound Decisions
Sound reproduction quality for home media continues to benefit from innovation and excellence. The trend is toward more compact, wireless systems that are increasingly affordable for the average audiophile and home theater buff.
Sound bars eschew the clutter and complexity of multi-speaker systems that typically have five to seven individual speakers placed around a media room. About 35 to 40 inches long and 5 to 6 inches high, sound bars present thin, sleek profiles that complement slim-profile TVs. They range from $200 to $2,000.
Bars include up to 40 individual speakers that offer a full dynamic range and are slightly angled to project sound around a room, re-creating the surround-sound experience. Although a separate subwoofer usually is recommended, sound bars are capable of producing rich, satisfying audio all on their own - although they work best in small to medium-size rooms. Most models include amplification, meaning speakers are internally powered and don't require a separate receiver/amplifier.
Befitting today's multi-faceted interconnectivity, sound bars offer a variety pack of possibilities that include:
Digital sound projectors are a subset of the sound bar. In a DSP, each speaker features its own amplifier, all electronically controlled to fire at various ranges and speeds that provide ultra-realistic sound reproduction.
Wireless subwoofers free your audio system from hardwired connections (obviously) and give your sound design more flexibility and convenience. While you still need to plug your wireless subwoofer into a wall outlet, you'll gain a lot of creative options for placement. You'll spend $200 to $400 for top brands.
A Last Good Word
Probably the most significant development continues to be the democratization of home theater brought on by affordable, large-screen, hi-def television sets that display content in combination with super-high quality audio. The HT experience is more accessible than ever. And even though it's easy to get hung up on native resolutions, nominal impedance and gamma tracking, the route to home theater satisfaction is more straightforward.
"Lots of folks write me and ask about various numbers and test results," says Robert Silva. "But I think it comes down to a fairly simple set of criteria. Go and look at systems and listen to the sound. If you like it - if it all seems good to you - then that's really the bottom line."