Home Theater on the Cheap

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Create a mogul-worthy viewing experience on an extra’s budget
As the costs of family
entertainment and the gasoline to get there continue to rise, stay-at-home
solutions become valuable investments. Setting up a home theater creates a
range of options for everyone in the household, from screening room to sports
arena to gaming pavilion. It doesn't have to cost a bundle, either...just mind
the

Create a mogul-worthy viewing experience on an extra’s budget

As the costs of family

entertainment and the gasoline to get there continue to rise, stay-at-home

solutions become valuable investments. Setting up a home theater creates a

range of options for everyone in the household, from screening room to sports

arena to gaming pavilion. It doesn't have to cost a bundle, either...just mind

the basics and shop wisely, and you’ll be able to replicate a mogul-worthy experience

on an extra’s budget. Following is the script that can lead to a successful

production in a home of any size.

style='font-family:Arial'>Set design:

As with any home improvement, assess the space you have before investing in new

components, changing up finishes and rearranging the furniture. The comfortable

distances between the placement of your screen, speakers and seating depend on

the size of the room, and in turn determine how much power, screen surface area

and sound stuff are needed to provide an ideal experience. Bottom line, great

home theater doesn’t require a giant screen and a zillion speakers.

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style='font-family:Arial'>Screen dreams: Investing in a new television is usually the starting point for home

theater endeavors, and the 2009 switch to digital TV transmission will likely

lead to great deals on sets of all sizes. Make sure you’re purchasing a size

and format that’ll work well with the space you’re in.

style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  A screen that’s too grand and too close for

comfort can actually destroy the experience. The ideal viewing distance from a

television is usually two to two-and-a-half times the width of its screen. This

ratio may vary depending on the type of television you select (HDTV-enabled

units may allow closer seating depending on their size, for example), so follow

the viewing specs provided by the manufacturer, including those for lateral

placement of seating.

style='font-family:Arial'>Be surrounded by sound:

style='font-family:Arial'> Generally speaking, the quality of your home

theater’s sound should equal that of your picture purchase. Another audio rule

of thumb is that all sound components come from the same manufacturer in order

to ensure system compatibility, easily accomplished thanks to the all-in-one

audio packages available at retailers. If you have a small-to-medium room with

class=GramE>fixed seating, shop for a system providing 5.1 Surround─it’s

the standard format match for DTS and Dolby Digital surround sound, as found

with DVDs and HDTV. A 5.1 Surround system incorporates five main speakers and a

subwoofer, and is controlled via a 5.1-channel receiver connected to your

digital source components (Blu-ray disc player, set-top box, etc.).

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style='font-family:Arial'>Receive the best: A receiver is the centerpiece of your home theater’s audio system,

connecting all source components and powering the speakers. Make sure the one

you buy has enough inputs to accommodate all of your components, and video

output to match the video input of your TV (an HDTV, for example, will call for

HDMI, a.k.a. High Definition Multimedia Interface). If you think you may be upgrading

or expanding your home theater over time, purchase a receiver that will

accommodate those changes. Going with a 6.1- or 7.1-channel system will work

with your 5.1 Surround speaker system today and give you wiggle room for later additions.

style='font-family:Arial'>Make quality connections:

style='font-family:Arial'> One low-cost, high-impact home theater investment is

cabling. You’ll get better picture and sound, extended life and reduced

interference when you replace component-accompanying cables with more

heavy-duty varieties.

style='font-family:Arial'>Boxed set bargains: The home-theater-in-a-box is a budget-savvy option that can yield great

quality and trim down the guesswork when you’re working with a limited home

theater budget. Most of these come with all the speakers you’ll need, a surround

sound receiver, and such components as DVD/CD players and recorders.

style='font-family:Arial'>Furnishing for fun: No need to spend big on new furnishings or room redesigns, because you

probably already have most of what you’ll need both for comfort and optimal

acoustics. Fabric-upholstered couches and chairs are ideal, and you can easily

enhance the sound-absorption qualities of floors, windows and even walls with

minor adjustments (i.e., a generous area rug on a tiled or hardwood floor, and

insulating curtains or blinds trimming windows).

style='font-family:Arial'>Sound investments: Further prevent unwanted sound reflections by adding acoustic seals

around doors and windows─they’ll keep outside sounds from sneaking in and

prevent action movie antics from escaping to disturb the neighbors.

style='font-family:Arial'>Lights, camera, action:

style='font-family:Arial'> Finally, remember that strategic lighting in your

theater space adds to viewing comfort and enhances safety. Dimmable lamps can

be posted around the room, including one situated behind a larger-size viewing

screen for eye-easing fill around its picture. Avoid placements that will lead

to on-screen reflections, and make sure all windows have treatments that

adequately block natural light when needed.

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show’s podcast or sign-up for Tom’s free weeklye-newsletter, visit the program’s website.


Tom's latest book,

href="http://www.myhomemymoneypit.com/">My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to

Every Home Improvement Adventure, is available in bookstores everywhere

and online.

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