- Home cinema of all configurations and for all budgets
- TV or video projector?
- Like at home cinema
- The surround effect
- Four criteria of choice for a home theater
- TV screen: the minimum size
- Connect a home theater to a video source
- Find the right arrangement for your home theater
- Placement of a 5.1 set
Who has not dreamed of having a real home theater? In a dedicated room, a living room, or even a bedroom, it is now possible thanks to the new generation of home theater systems.
Home cinema of all configurations and for all budgets
As computers, audio and video have evolved a lot in recent years. Due to technological advances and the miniaturization of electronic components, manufacturers have diversified their multimedia equipment offerings, particularly in home theater. Long expensive and reserved for purists, these systems are now widely democratized. Contrary to popular belief, having a huge living room or a dedicated room to create a home theater is no longer essential: there are solutions adapted to all configurations of housing and all budgets.
TV or video projector?
A few years ago, a home theater set necessarily included a video projector. This is no longer true today with the new generations of TVs with larger and larger slabs that deliver excellent image quality. The advantage is that you can watch them even in daylight, when you need a complete black or at least a semi-dim light to enjoy a video projector. Connected TVs (or Smart TVs) offer many features that are usually lacking in projectors: wireless connection, recording, Internet access, video on demand, catch-up TV, access to online services such as Netflix, YouTube, etc.
We now find screens 50 '' (127 cm) very fine that deliver a resolution UHD (ultra HD) 4k to about 700 €. They offer access to a multitude of services: VOD, Netflix, YouTube, etc.
Like at home cinema
The installation and use of a video projector is more restrictive. To access the same content as a TV screen, it must be connected to many devices such as the box, a TNT receiver, a computer, a network hard drive, etc. Apart from the "short focal length" models that can be placed on the floor a few tens of centimeters from the projection surface, it is generally necessary to provide a support for fixing it to the wall or the ceiling. In return, we benefit from a very large image (up to 4 m diagonal for consumer models) with an ultra-realistic natural rendering.
Question budget, we find today as well large TV screens as video projectors at reasonable prices for impeccable image quality. Full HD, with or without connected functions... so many elements to take into account before making his choice and transform his living room into a small projection room.
- The price / quality ratio of the projectors improves with Full HD models from 2 to 2.6 m diagonally, around 700 €.
- Some projectors allow you to connect wirelessly to an audio system and stream video content over the local network. Their "short focal length" lens allows a placement on the ground only 60 cm from a projection surface and to obtain an image diagonal of 2.50 m.
- A video projector requires a large projection area which can be either a screen, or simply a white wall or covered with a specific paint. Motorized screens can be hidden in the ceiling (Oray or Kimex), and deploy with a remote control.
- You can also use the surface of a white wall or cover it with a special home theater paint (from 75 € the kit of 2 x 1 l in GSB). When properly applied, it offers viewing comfort close to that of a projection screen.
The surround effect
A home theater set restores a surround sound enveloping that allows you to perceive all the special effects of the original soundtrack and immerse yourself in a film, a concert or a video game. The so-called 5.1 models are the most widespread. They consist of a multichannel amplifier connected to the television / video projector, a subwoofer and five speakers: a central channel to restore the voices, two side for the stereo effect, and two at the back for the surround effect. There are also 7.1 systems with two additional speakers placed on each side in the center of the listening area.
Depending on the model, the amplifier (or the system unit) can integrate a DVD / Blu-Ray player or a USB input. Easier to install, less cumbersome and cheaper, 2.1 systems consist of only two side speakers and a subwoofer (subwoofer). Very trendy, they come in the form of a sound bar, self-amplified speakers or even home theater microchannels. Equipped with a technology called "virtual surround", they are able to virtually restore the sound spatialization of 5.1 sets. In practice, the surround effect is much less effective than with a system with speakers in the back. Another trend is sound bars and multiroom amplifiers (Sonos, Yamaha MusicCast...) that make it possible to design a wireless home theater system. Once the soundbar or amplifier is connected to the network, they communicate wirelessly via radio or infrared waves with the subwoofer and speakers. An ideal solution to avoid the passage of cables.
- The mid-range 2.1 home theater solutions stand out for their extreme simplicity. It only takes a few minutes to connect the mini-soundbar to the subwoofer that comes with it and to a TV via an optical / DVI (no HDMI) input.
- Despite its compact size, the 3-way speaker reproduces the sound in a powerful and precise way.
- This 5.1.2 set consists of a wireless subwoofer with built-in 150W amplifier and five mini-powered speakers.
- For optimal integration, each loudspeaker comes with a mounting frame to fix it very simply.
Four criteria of choice for a home theater
The choice of a home theater set depends on several criteria:
- the space and configuration of the room to place the various elements, the possibility of passing or not the procession of cables needed to connect them, and of course the budget.
- For the magic of the surround effect to work, it is imperative to position the elements correctly. Ideally, the side speakers should be far enough away from the screen, while the surround speakers (at the back) are elevated with dedicated feet, wall brackets, or furniture.
- If a room proves too small to place the items correctly, it is better to choose for example a soundbar 2.1 or 5.1 which will produce a much better effect. The cost of these different solutions varies from simple to triple.
- You can find entry level 2.1 / 5.1 systems at around € 250, but to enjoy a true movie buff experience, you have to turn to more expensive solutions (from 500 to over € 2,000).
TV screen: the minimum size
In the case of a new home theater system with a flat screen TV, the best way to enjoy it is to choose a minimum screen size between 50 and 55 '' (ie a screen of 127 to 140 cm diagonally). At the time of the very high definition, Full HD models, although delivering an already very qualitative resolution (1,080 pixels), tend gradually to disappear in favor of UHD 4K screens (Ultra High Definition 2160 pixels).
The latter offer an ever more contrasting and precise image. This new generation of televisions can now enjoy a large image with a slight decline (between 2 and 3 m only) without causing discomfort or visual fatigue whereas before it was advisable to to be placed at 4 m minimum.
In the case of an installation with a video projector, it should ideally be hanging on the ceiling and 3 to 4 m away from the wall or projection screen. But we can also place it on the ground.
4K projectors (digital image format with a definition greater than 4096 pixels wide) are still very expensive. The most common models deliver a Full HD resolution (1,080 pixels) that remains sufficient. They allow you to enjoy a very large image size, even in a small room.
Connect a home theater to a video source
The connections to be expected vary according to the connection of televisions, video projectors and home theater systems. As far as possible, it is advisable to use a HDMI connection for the video signal and an optical or coaxial audio cable for sound. If either or both devices do not have HDMI inputs, the video signal must go through a scart or DVI jack. Only the latest products compatible with the HDMI 1.4 standard are able to transmit audio and video signals. Before embarking, it is therefore necessary to check the connectors each device and favor quality cables from major brands (Audioquest, Cardas, Monster...).
- Connected via HDMI, this accessory allows to connect projector or TV to the local network to broadcast streaming.
Find the right arrangement for your home theater
Without a good layout, a true 5.1 home theater set can not produce the desired effect. Each manufacturer offers guides or diagrams to help position the elements correctly, but the characteristics of the part must also be ignored. For example, do not place a speaker too close to a glass surface to avoid creating vibrations.
Thecentral speaker must be placed under the screen in the axis of the image to render the dialogues in the most realistic and distinct way possible. In charge of broadcasting music and ambient noise, the two front speakers must be placed on each side of the screen at equidistance and as far apart as possible for optimal stereo reproduction (left and right). The subwoofer can be placed anywhere in the room, but do not stick it against a wall.
Finally, surround speakers which make it possible to obtain three-dimensional sound stage ofshould be installed at the back of the listening area without being too far away. The best is to place them on their feet or to fix them on the ceiling and orient them towards the listeners. Each installation is different, so do not hesitate to test, change the furniture of place until you get satisfaction.
Placement of a 5.1 set
This diagram shows how to optimally position the equipment of a 5.1 home theater system (one of the most interesting sound systems). When the configuration of the part does not allow this arrangement to be made, it is possible to use the system of multichannel amplifier compensation to vary the delay of the signal on each speaker. This function compensates for any difference in distance between the front and surround speakers.
The typical setup consists of: a center speaker, two main speakers (left and right), a subwoofer and two surround back speakers.
- Some sets allow you to design a home theater without pulling any cable.
- Not insignificant advantage: the multiroom system is as good for home theater as for music.