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Learn how to get even more entertainment from your home theater.
Online is by far the richest—and most rapidly evolving—source for video and audio. Connect your home theater to the Internet, and you'll probably find anything that's available on disc or TV, in some form. Plus, there's a nearly infinite supply of content that's available only online. And right how, premium streaming services are your only source of native UHD 4K content.
First, you'll need a broadband connection from your Internet provider. It should be able to provide a consistent download speed of at least 1 to 2 megabits per second (Mbps) for normal video, 5 Mbps for high-definition video, and 25 Mbps for Ultra HD. These are minimums: keep in mind that other people in your household being online, for instance, will eat into your available download speed.
Next, you'll need one home theater component that can connect to the Internet, either through wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi®:
If you have an existing home theater setup but no components that can connect to the Internet, you can add a dedicated streaming player (also known as a DMA, for digital media adapter). Some of the better-known examples include:
Some DMAs are dongles that plug directly into an HDMI port on your TV. Examples include:
Some streaming services also have dedicated dongles. Not all of the dongles support Dolby Audio™; check the specs before you buy.
All DMAs need AC power; most include an external power supply that plugs into an AC wall outlet.
DMA boxes generally can connect to the Internet via Ethernet directly through a broadband modem or through a router to your home network, or through Wi-Fi. DMA sticks rely on Wi-Fi.
Connect to the Internet directly through a broadband modem or through a router to your home network.
You name it; it's probably available online. Major streaming services offer movies, TV shows, homemade videos, sports, and more. You'll often see these services referred to as OTT (over the top) services, as they piggyback on your ISP bandwidth (and count as data).
Here are a few of these services, some of which offer streaming content with Dolby Atmos or Dolby Audio:
Some of these require subscriptions. Although most content right now is standard definition (SD) and stereo, high definition (HD) with surround sound is rapidly becoming more available. Netflix and Amazon now offer some movies in Dolby Atmos, and Netflix is beginning to offer UHD. Count on increased availability of these advanced formats.
You'll access these services through portals built into your connected component; you'll see the logo on your TV screen. Not all components provide all services, so look at the manufacturer's specification sheet before you buy.
Also, some components are better hubs for audio. We recommend a Blu-ray Disc player and/or a stand-alone DMA. These connect directly to your audio system and are designed to use onscreen access and navigation effectively.
With a few exceptions, the TV itself is not a good hub for multichannel audio. The sound has to be routed back to your home theater system; advanced surround formats are not currently available; and the results may be unpredictable.
It's popular right now to declare that optical discs—DVD and Blu-ray—are passé, if not dead.
No doubt the future lies in streaming. But discs are still very much a presence. And they have some advantages. Take a look.
Future Blu-ray standards will add UHD capability. A Blu-ray Disc player will also play all your DVDs and CDs. Some, called universal players, will also play Super Audio CDs (SACDs) and DVD-Audio (DVD-A) discs.
Check out Blu-ray players and Internet-enabled Blu-ray players with music, movies, and TV series.
Cable and satellite services give you the widest range of HD programming. Other widely available advantages include:
HD quality varies. Services often use very aggressive compression in order to carry the maximum number of channels. This can degrade the signal and even cause pixelation.
Somewhat surprisingly, over-the-air digital TV broadcasts may offer better HD quality than cable or satellite feeds. If you were able to receive analog TV through an antenna in the past, you are able to get digital TV now.
Advantages and considerations:
Games become even more involving when you play them on a home theater system. Just connect your game player to the receiver, and select it as you would any other source. And consider game consoles and game titles with Dolby sound for outstanding audio quality.
Even if you don't play games, consider a video game console. The most advanced offer considerable additional capabilities:
Many newer HD video cameras will connect directly to your system through an HDMI® connection.
Similarly, many newer digital still cameras have HDMI outputs, so you can view your photographs on the TV screen. (Increasingly, these cameras have video capability, sometimes very advanced, as well.)
Many receivers include docks for popular players. New players and many smartphones and tablets can also connect via HDMI or USB. Smartphones and tablets with Dolby Audio can let you play downloaded movies and videos on your home theater in full surround sound. Some also include Dolby Atmos capability.
Canceling your cable or satellite TV service may be a viable and money-saving option, depending on your viewing priorities and your location. Ideally, you'll need the following:
Of course, if your cable or satellite company is also your ISP, cancel only the TV service.
A wired connection has these advantages:
But wireless connections have their own advantages:
If you use Wi-Fi, be sure to set up Wi-Fi security so that nearby computers can't "borrow" your bandwidth. Your Internet provider should be able to help.
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