Sound System Basics

New HDTV’s produce spectacular pictures but the sound of the built in speakers range from poor to awful. They may be good enough for watching the news but for a satisfying movie experience you will need something better. Here are some options.

Combine your TV with your stereo:
Do you have a good stereo system in the same room as your TV? Why not combine the two? Just about any stereo will sound far better than your TVs built in speakers and if you have good speakers the sound will be excellent. You won’t get surround sound but the improvement in sound quality will be huge at very little extra expense. Any audio source you want to hook up to an older stereo receiver will need to have analog audio outs (not always available on modern TVs or Blu-ray players) I can help you with hookup to all your sources and speaker placement etc.

Sound bars:
A sound bar reproduces all 5.1 channels of a surround sound mix from a single speaker under your TV and usually a separate bass module. Some sound bars have built in amplifiers so all you have to do is hook up your TV, Cable box and DVD player. Some sound bars like the better models from Yamaha are designed to simulate surround sound from a single speaker and do a pretty good job of it. They certainly won’t match the performance of a good component surround system but the advantage is that you don’t need a room full of speakers for good sound, and usually lower cost. Prices range from about $300-$2,000. Be sure to listen and compare before you buy.

Home theatre in a box systems:
These pre-packages systems usually give you 5 small speakers and a bass module and some sort of amplifier in one box for a low price. Some of the more expensive ones can be decent but many of the lower priced ones are not. Be sure to listen before you buy.

Component systems:
A carefully selected component system will give by far the best performance. Select your speakers and receiver based on your budget and what sounds best for you. You can go with a full 5.1 or 7.1 channel system with a subwoofer that really reproduces movie soundtracks the way the filmmakers intended, and provides a cinematic experience that rivals the best movie theaters. A good component home theater will cost about $2,000.00 and up (not counting the TV) but when you consider how much pleasure it will bring your family (and how much you will save on movie tickets) it is well worth it. Your systems speakers will affect the sound quality more than any other component so if budget is limited it makes sense to spend most of your money on speakers.