Home Audio

Finally a theater that serves beer!

Everybody loves the experience of going to the movies. There's sure to be a genre of film that appeals to each and everyone, leaving few without the experience of going to see at least one movie in their lives. Because of the broad appeal of movies, almost every consumer electronics technology aimed at recreating the cinema experience at home has been a success.

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The first TVs were such a success that by the 1950s the fledgling film industry adopted new standards in film aspect ratio. The fear was that someday everyone would watch TV instead of going to the movies. From VHS to DVD and the uncertain, but hotly contested, future of high resolution video formats, it's clear that the Home Theater moniker covers a lot of area in consumer electronics.

These days you have only to walk into any of the big box consumer electronics stores and you'll see that the term "Home Theater" has some imprecise definitions, depending on who you talk to. Home Theater is foremost a surround sound component-based audio system designed for playing back DVDs. In fact, Home Theater has all but taken over the home audio market. People no longer look for two channel stereo receivers; there are inexpensive multi-channel Home Theater receivers that can sound as good without breaking a sweat.

The five, seven and even eight channel receivers have not forgotten that their purpose will often be to playback music. Most receivers can be set to a stereo mode so you can playback CDs with all the impact of your favorite two channel audio system. The die hard two-channel audio purists would take exception to a few extra processes being added to their signal path and the addition of a few extra amps.

What is Home Theater?

Video displays with a widescreen aspect ratio and high definition are a secondary, but important consideration for a true Home Theater system. The display device is an obvious way to add visual dimension to your Home Theater, but without a decent surround system immersing your audience in the movie, you're still only watching TV.

A surround sound audio system's ability to envelope the listener should run the gamut of acoustic effects from subtle to corpulent. Subtlety is creating acoustical reflections around the audience like echoing voices in a chamber or delicate gusts of wind rustling leaves all around you. The subtle effects require perfect separation between left/right and front/rear speakers, speaker volume, timing and timbre of the speaker system.

Conversely the more in-your-face side of the home theater experience is the one that seems to get the most attention in system demonstrations. The strong rumble of bass and the blast of some full spectrum front speakers are perfect for grabbing attention from across the store. You want powerful bass from a subwoofer and the speakers should project loudly. The speaker's ability to really ring out when the soundtrack gets heavy is reliant upon the amplifiers being used in your receiver. Amps in the receiver are what provide the speaker with the power to make noise. All of these conditions together make Home Theater.