Home Theater-in-a-Box or High-end Separates?

Compare the difference in an all-in-one unit or separate components.

Related To:

  1. Designing
  2. Home Theater

create an eye popping, ear enveloping home theater

From the latest big screen televisions to the various sound systems on the market, host Corey Greenberg demonstrates how to create an eye-popping, ear-enveloping home theater.

There are many options for putting together a home theater, but they all must include some type of audio-video receiver, which ties together the sound system, television monitor and other components. The receiver pulls in video and audio information, processes it and then sends a picture to the TV and sound to the appropriate speakers. The picture and sound can come from several different sources:

- Cable, which offers analog and digital TV content, as well as video-on-demand features.
- Satellite, which provides all digital television programming via a dish attached to your house.
- Broadband, which is basically high-speed internet.
- Or your video may come from a DVD or videotape player.

If this is the buyer's first home theater or if they're on a tight budget, Corey recommends a home theater in a box system – literally a single branded system in one box that includes five mini-speakers, a good woofer, an AV receiver, usually with a built-in DVD player, all under one roof. Boxed sets are easy to assemble, the sound quality is good to very good and it includes everything needed for a home theater except for the television.

Home theaters in a box cost anywhere from $100 at the low end to $1,000 for an upgraded system. Besides being cost effective, home-theater-in-a-box systems are easy to hook up. They have color-coordinated cables, which means the red cable plugs into the red jack, the white to the white and the yellow to the yellow.

A couple of the disadvantages of the home-theater-in-a-box system is that the sound isn't as high quality as a full-blown separate home theater and because it's a single branded system, it's a lot more difficult to mix and match components later on than it would be with a separate system.

To step up from a box system, buy all the components separately, without spending more than $1,000. For the best performance, get a surround-sound processor that acts as the control center for the whole system and a separate multi-channel amplifier, which will deliver power to all of the speakers.

System Extras:
- Equip a home theater with extras, such as a high-end processor that includes a video scaler. This increases the apparent lines of resolution for standard definition content to look more like HDTV.
- One can buy a DVD player with a DVD burner – or personal video recorder – known as a PVR that records broadcast, cable or satellite content to a hard drive instead of a tape or DVD.
- It's even possible to add a digital media server to store and play back music once it's digitally converted and stored on a hard drive.
- There are video-conferencing capabilities and wireless connections to personal computers, so users can enjoy digital photo slide shows and MP3 music in a home theater.

Remember to start with the basics first; more options can always be added later.

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