Sure, you can go out and buy a home-heater-in-a-box (HTiB) system for a couple hundred bucks and it will provide "everything you need for a home theater experience." Most HTiBs include five small speakers and a bass module (or subwoofer) with built-in amplification that powers the whole shebang.
Or you could opt for a sound bar - a long, slender enclosure with multiple speakers that sits under the TV and sometimes includes a separate bass module. Digital processing is used to create a virtual surround-sound effect.
Either of these budget solutions can provide decent sound when dollars and space are limited. You'll get some semblance of surround sound (if you're sitting in the right spot) and bass that goes boom without the shake, rattle and roll. (Sound bars and HTiBs aren't capable of producing the sort of gut-wrenching bass you experience in a top-flight theater.)
Bottom line: You get what you pay for, and when it comes to modestly priced all-in-one home theater systems, modest performance is all you can reasonably expect.
So the question becomes: What kind of home theater experience are you looking for? Will mediocrity suffice or would you like to "go out to the movies" without leaving home?
Who You Gonna Call?
With the help of a home technology professional who specializes in audio/video entertainment and home theater installation, it is possible to rival the experience of watching The Bourne Legacy at New York's Ziegfeld Theatre: Apocalyptic bass, surround sound that pulls you into the action and a stunning, larger-than-life image.
If you want to go all out, you can even create a personalized environment, complete with an art deco (or other) motif, velvet seating, a candy counter and a popcorn machine. Or perhaps you prefer a more casual, multipurpose space that doubles as a theater. If you can imagine it, the pros can build it.
Here are some of the benefits of professional home theater design and installation:
- Audio and video components are selected to match the size and characteristics of your room as well as household preferences (for example, does gaming or Internet streaming figure into the plan?)
- A state-of-the-art, high-definition picture
- Three-dimensional "you are there" sound that brings the story to life with amazing detail and clarity
- Lifelike bass that can be rich and nuanced or thrillingly thunderous - whatever the soundtrack calls for
- Acoustic room treatment to eliminate echoes and ensure the best possible sound
- Soundproofing so you can watch Bourne Legacy without waking the kids
Finally, working with a professional makes possible a multitude of options that run the gamut, from concealing speakers in the walls, ceiling and floor, to mounting TVs or video screens and projectors on motorized mechanisms that retract into the wall or ceiling, to creating a custom home theater with special seating, automated lighting, motorized window shades and many other accoutrements.
Best of all, a professional will program your system so watching Ice Age on family movie night is a simple matter of hitting the Movie button on the remote. All you have to do is grab your drink and snack, sit back and relax.
To learn more about home theater options, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.