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Learn about room acoustics, cables, furniture, stands, and accessories.
Room acoustics can affect your sound almost as much as your component choices can, and the decor of the room you choose for a home theater affects the acoustics.
A quick acoustical test: clap your hands. Do you hear "ringing" afterward? That means your room is "live," reflecting too much sound, which can spoil the surround effects.
You can do a few things to help:
If you're lucky enough to have a room dedicated to your home theater, you have a lot more control:
Consider specialized room-tuning components, such as wall diffusers and bass absorbers. Although most are not visually attractive, they can work wonders for your sound.
These include all the cables you use to connect one component to another. Look for:
Be aware that video cables and audio interconnects are not interchangeable, even though they may look alike.
Speaker cable is essentially the same type of wire used for lamps, toasters, and other appliances. Your home theater retailer typically will offer several choices.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you buy:
Some interconnects and speaker cables cost many dollars per foot. Others are inexpensive: 12 AWG lamp cord, which is plenty thick, sells for pennies a foot.
Is expensive cabling worth the cost? Use common sense. You don't need a $275 HDMI cable to connect a $150 Blu-ray™ player and a $900 HDTV.
The same goes for your other connections.
HDMI 1.4, the latest version, adds 3D and other capabilities too. But you likely won't need new cables. If the cable specification says "High-Speed HDMI," it will work with HDMI 1.4.
One exception: HDMI 1.4 supports Ethernet. If you want to use this capability and have equipment that supports it, you'll need a cable that specifies "High-Speed HDMI with Ethernet." The physical connector will look the same as for the non-Ethernet cable.
Although any good set of sturdy shelves may do, using furniture designed for A/V equipment has some advantages:
We do not recommend placing speakers on any furniture that also holds any of your home theater components. The vibrations can affect the sound and shorten component life. Sometimes this placement is unavoidable, particularly with the center-channel speaker. Placing your speakers on stands is a good alternative.
When choosing speaker stands, look for stands that are:
See the Speaker Setup Guide for best placement of surround speakers.
This is an excellent alternative to buying furniture for your TV display—if your room can accommodate it. Many center-channel speakers can also be mounted on a wall.
Wall mounts are frequently an ideal solution for placing the surround speakers, particularly if you have a 7.1-channel system, with speakers behind the seating area.
Add some final touches to complete your home theater system.
To avoid having a table full of remote controls, consider using a universal remote. Play with it in a store, if possible, to make sure it really is easy to use. Designs differ.
Use surge protection. Be sure the surge protector is rated for the wattage of your components.
Better yet, look at a power conditioner, which includes surge protection. These units also include filtering to reduce or eliminate electrical interference. Some common sources of interference include:
All of these can add "noise" to your power line and affect your sound and picture.
Prices for power conditioners range from slightly more than the cost of a surge protector to thousands of dollars, with (usually) corresponding filtration power and control features.
Note that a power conditioner may not eliminate all electrical problems.
Headphones can be very useful if you're watching or listening while someone else is reading, for instance. Only a few models have real hi-fi performance, so shop carefully.
If the headphones have Dolby® Headphone technology, you can get the full surround experience.
The better-quality wired headphones will have superior sound, but the cord is inconvenient for home listening.
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