Home Technology Blog

4 Home Theater Upgrades to Make Now (If You Haven't Already)

May 17, 2013 | Comments


Tired of living with ancient A/V gear? These 4 upgrades will put you back in the home entertainment game

It's amazing how quickly time passes. For many of us, it's been years since we bought a new TV or stereo, let alone a home theater setup with a big-screen TV and surround-sound speaker system.

If domestic entertainment has taken a backseat to vacations, tuition, new cars, and home improvement projects, maybe it's time to start thinking about updating that antiquated stack of audio/video gear. Here are four upgrades that will put you back in the home entertainment game.

1. Big-Screen, Flat-Panel TV

If your cable box is connected to a bulky rear-projection or (God forbid) tube TV, stop what you're doing and work on upgrading your TV. You'll be amazed at the size and caliber of TV that has become mainstream in recent years. We're talking super sleek, high-definition LCD televisions with features like 3D (glasses included) and 50-plus-inch screens that display wonderfully detailed images - a far cry from the less refined flat-panel sets that dominated the market eight or ten years ago.

If you're ready to take it to the next level, you'll discover the brave new world of smart TVs. Think of a smart TV as a big-screen computer that brings the Internet to your living room, provides wireless access to your home network so you can view photos and watch home movies, and puts a wealth of programming at your fingertips - from YouTube, to the endless supply of on-demand TV shows and movies from streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, to music subscription services like Pandora.

Some high-end TVs even let you ignore the remote in favor of using hand gestures or spoken commands to change channels and adjust volume. All this and we haven't even mentioned the new Ultra HD TVs that deliver images with four times more detail than today's already awesome "1080p" TVs.

2. Blu-ray Disc Player

Yes, we know, your DVD player works just fine. Even so, it's time to retire it to the bedroom to make room for a Blu-ray player to go with your new big-screen TV. (Don't worry, it also plays DVD.)

At more than 50 million households strong, Blu-ray is the new standard for home entertainment. More to the point, you can buy a super-slim 3D player with built-in Wi-Fi that delivers the same HD-quality you enjoy from cable and satellite TV.

3. Surround-Sound Receiver

Don't forget about sound. If you yearn for a jaw-dropping home theater experience, you need an up-to-date A/V receiver. You can start with a basic model or seek out a more advanced unit that offers more power, built-in Wi-Fi for streaming music, and a mind-boggling array of features, including state-of-the-art Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio processing, both of which deliver movie-theater-quality surround sound.

Many receivers also automatically analyze room acoustics and adjust system parameters for optimal sound - all you have to do is sit back and push a button. Today's receivers are also equipped with HDMI jacks, which greatly simplify system hookup. Instead of running separate cables for video and the six or more surround-sound audio channels, everything is carried over one HDMI cable. Can you say "goodbye rat's nest"?

4. Surround-Sound Speakers

Speakers are the last piece of this home-theater puzzle. While you could go with an all-in-one soundbar or a cheap "home theater in a box" package, the experience will be far more exhilarating if you choose a matched set of high-quality home theater speakers.

At minimum, look into a "5.1" system, which comprises left, center and right main speakers for the front of the room, left and right surround speakers for the rear, and a powered subwoofer that will have you holding on for dear life when the Navy Seals storm bin Laden's compound in Zero Dark Thirty.

To learn more about home entertainment upgrade possibilities, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA member home technology professionals in your area.