Home Cinema System Buyer’s Guide
Home cinema systems enable people to reproduce cinema quality audio and video within their own homes. At a basic level, home cinema systems are composed of a DVD player/recorder and a receiver which will decode and route the audio to the surround sound loudspeaker set.
This expert guide will define the types of home cinema systems on the market; the important specifications to bear in mind when reviewing a prospective home cinema system and give insight into the systems available within different budget ranges.
Available types of home cinema systems
There are three main types of home cinema systems that you can build or buy as a package.
- Basic home cinema system
To create a very basic home cinema system you need to be able to connect your HiFi to your television. To do this you will need to check that you have sufficient audio output connectors at the back of your television set and the proper cables to connect to your HiFi.
- Surround sound home cinema system
A surround sound home cinema system requires additional equipment including a receiver and a surround sound loudspeaker set. The most important piece of equipment is the receiver as it is responsible for decoding the surround sound and routing the audio to the various loudspeakers.
- High end home cinema system
A top quality sound and vision quality home cinema system is very expensive. Before selecting the loudspeaker set check that you are able to connect high end home cinema loudspeakers to your television, as you may have compatibility issues.
Below are some important specifications to take into consideration when selecting your home cinema system.
- Channel receiver
In order to reproduce surround sound you will need to check that the receiver is capable of decoding Dolby Digital or DTS surround sound formats. The receiver should be at least a 5.1 channel receiver.
- Receiver connectors
All your video and audio devices will be connected and controlled through the receiver. Ensure that your chosen receiver supports all your devices including DVD players; VHS players; iPods and game consoles.
- Loudspeaker set
Check the number of loudspeakers that are included in the home cinema package. To produce surround sound, you should have at least a 5 loudspeaker set. This will include a left; a left surround; a center; a right and a right surround loudspeaker.
- HD compatible
If your television supports high definition then ensure that your receiver does too. The receiver should also have at least one HDMI connector.
Entry level budget
Home cinema packages are quite expensive as they consist of a receiver/amplifier as well as a loudspeaker set. It is very uncommon to find a complete package for under $250.
The JVC TH-L1 is a great entry level home cinema system which can be bought for around $260. It comes with 5 surround sound speakers; a subwoofer and includes several connectors including two HDMI inputs; a USB port for connecting digital media; as well as iPod audio and video playback. It has also received an average score of 74% from expert reviews. Refer to www.testseek.com for further information.
Entry level home cinemas are generally compact and only support the minimum of home cinema requirements. In some cases these packages do not even include built in DVD players and usually have a limited number of connectors.
If you are prepared to spend a little extra on a good quality home cinema system then you can expect built-in DVD players, high definition compatibility and additional connectors. More importantly the audio quality should be superior to that of an entry level system.
The Samsung HT-X250 is a superb home cinema system available for around $430. This system comes with a receiver with a built in DVD player; 5 satellite loudspeakers; a subwoofer; an FM antenna; HDMI cable and can even support wireless speakers. It is easy to setup and the receiver even has a LCD display.
The award winning Samsung HT-X250 home cinema system has an excellent overall expert review score of 84%. Refer to www.testseek.com for further details on these reviews.
Serious hobbyists and professionals can spend in excess of $1000 for a high end home cinema system. These systems give true cinema quality audio and have every feature imaginable.
The highly recommended Denon S-302 home cinema system offers superior audio and picture quality; good connectivity and is a truly fantastic 2.1 system. It has all the features you could ever want including an Ethernet interface; Wireless support; and is a DLNA-certified network client which means that you can play music from your PC and MAC. You can even listen to internet radio or connect your iPod to the system. It has an HDMI output and has an additional two digital audio inputs, alongside the three analog audio inputs.
It isn’t necessary to buy and install the most expensive home cinema system if you are just looking for surround sound, however the lower priced packages may not offer all the additional connectors or features you required. So when shopping around, look at expert reviews like those available at www.testseek.com and compare the features and specifications of the different home cinema systems.
Disclaimer: This guide was written in late 2008 and the specific product recommendations may be outdated. However the basic discussions in this buyer's guide may still be of great value.
Written by; TestSeek staff