The DVD player has been one of the hottest introductions in the consumer electronics industry. Following closely in its footsteps is a new product category, Home Theater in a Box or HTIB. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, HTIB is fast becoming a craze, with sales reaching $794 million in 2001 alone.
So what is HTIB? Tom Hannaher, audio expert at Cambridge SoundWorks, an audio manufacturer and retailer, describes it as a "box filled with everything a consumer would need to create a movie-theater experience in their home." Cambridge SoundWorks is a wholly owned subsidiary of Creative Technology Ltd.
Home Theater in a Box packages usually include a DVD player, five matching speakers for surround sound, a powered subwoofer, and accompanying wires for hook-up. "These components, when attached to the TV, create a home theater system that delivers 'movie-theater' sound quality. With more consumers looking to their homes as their entertainment havens, HTIB is catching on just like the DVD player," says Hannaher.
For consumers looking to purchase an HTIB system, Hannaher offers the following advice:
Buy a system that is matched to the room's size and acoustics; smaller, less powerful systems are going to get lost in a big room with high ceilings.
Make sure that the speakers are acoustically matched. HTIB systems are outfitted with five speakers - all of which should be closely matched in size and performance. For instance, huge left and right speakers with a tiny center speaker are apt to sound "off," especially when the action pans across the soundstage (as in a jet taking off - the sound goes from right to center to left, and should sound consistent all the way across).
Not all HTIB systems are equal. Look for high performance HTIB systems that are outfitted with top of the line speakers and components. An example of the type of features consumers should look for are found in the Cambridge SoundWorks MegaTheaterô 505 ($699.99). It includes the Cambridge SoundWorks AVS500 DVD/tuner console. This all-in-one console plays DVDs, music CDs, has an AM/FM tuner, and also provides inputs and outputs for a VCR and cable box, enabling the user to replace the traditional stack of separate components with one unit. This is matched with five high performance Newton Series MC50 speakers and a high performance subwoofer to create the accurate bass found in many movie and music soundtracks. Also included are all the wires required for hook-up.
Positioning of the speakers in an HTIB system is important. Where you place them in a room depends mostly on furniture layout, walls, windows, etc. The ideal placement would be to place the left and right main speakers at about ear level off to either side of a television that measures 27 inches or more. Place the center speaker directly on top of the TV and the rear speakers on the side walls, above the listener's head and directly across the room from one another. A powered subwoofer performs at its best when it is placed on the floor in a corner or against a wall. The subwoofer does not have to take up valuable floor space; behind or under a piece of furniture is just fine, provided it isn't placed in an enclosed cabinet.
A DVD player is essential to HTIB. DVD provides a superior picture quality, offering crystal-clear images with incredible realism. If a TV has S-video or component video inputs, the quality is even better. Higher quality units, like the MegaTheater 505, are equipped with progressive scan outputs, which provide the clearest, sharpest pictures possible on the new generation of High Definition and Enhanced Definition TVs.
Practically all DVDs are encoded with Dolby Digital surround sound, providing consumers with a "movie theater" experience in the comfort of their own living rooms.
Buy from a company that has a fairly liberal return policy. The only way to truly test out an audio system is in a living environment. The system will sound different in your living room as compared to the showroom.
Laura Tucker contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.projectors-projectors.com.
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