30 Apr 2013

Home theatre 101 - Getting the setup right

Find the gear that works for your space and budget, avoid costly mistakes, calibrate it for maximum entertainment, and enjoy!

The TV

You don’t just have to go for the biggest, higher-spec or most feature-packed offering. Look at your space. If you’re three feet from the screen, you don’t need a gargantuan screen. If you’re fifteen feet from the screen, you’re unlikely to see the difference between 720 and 1080. Look for something that gives you most bang-for-buck, and suits your need. Avoid doubling features like streaming capability if you already use another device for them. A 3D option is probably something to steer clear of. There’s not much 3D content produced, upscaling is far from perfect, and it’s an expensive extra.

The receiver

Make sure you’re paying for what you’ll use, and getting what you need. Plan your speaker layout first so you know what kind of surround outlets you’re looking for. Similarly, make sure you’ve got all the inputs you’ll need for consoles, media hubs and other devices. With all elements in your setup, you should stick to reputable brands, and do some research for known issues once you’ve narrowed down a couple of likely model options.

Speakers

If you’re going for surround (or just stereo) make sure your speaker pairs are at the same distance and angle relative to your sitting position. This goes for the space between right front and right rear speakers (and their left/centre counterparts) as well as front and back pairs. Try to also make sure they’re symmetrical as far as the shape of the room goes, because this can affect the sound a great deal. If you’re short on space (or cash) a soundbar that sits on top of the TV could be an option.

Extras

Make sure you’ve got all the power, cables and tools you’ll need before you get to the set-up. Have spares of each thing if you can. There is no meaningful difference between a HDMI cable you get online for eight dollars and one at the shop for 40+, no matter what the sales guy says.

The setup

Connect your receiver first, and mark out where you want your speakers. Run cables behind and under things as you go, because it’s a lot of trouble to do after you’re all done. Label or tag your cables – bread tags work well. Once you’ve got everything connected and working, fiddle with your speaker placement until you’re happy with how everything sounds. Test viewing angles, distances and high/low light situations. Then stick your favourite Blu-ray on and relax. Robert Tinning is Brennan IT’s Practice Manager of Hardware and Software Procurement .
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