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Big Screen Dreams

Installing a home theater system may seem like a Hollywood dream, but by planning ahead you can install a system that will grow and improve as you add new pieces of equipment. In fact, you may already have some of the important components for a home theater, which means that all you have to do now is plan and budget for what you'd like to add.

The first components to consider are your television and VCR. Both of these units need to have hi-fi sound. To determine if they are mono or hi-fi, check the back of these devices for two audio outputs. If you only see one (mono) audio output, you will need to purchase a new unit to obtain theater sound. Your television should be at least 27 inches diagonally. Also check your current television, or any potential new purchases, for video inputs. Most modern television models will include composite video inputs, but to get the best picture quality, especially when using a DVD player, make sure your television has S-video or component video inputs. These inputs provide a finer resolution for the image and will make your movie experience more visually appealing.

If you are going to purchase a television, measure your room first and select a television that is in proportion to your room. While shopping, you will encounter three types of televisions on the market: Direct view, rear projection and front projection.

Direct view televisions contain a picture tube, and offer a good picture, but they are generally not larger than 40 inches in diagonal. Direct view televisions are typically priced for under $1,000. Most large screen televisions are rear projection televisions. The maximum size of the screens on these televisions is about 80-inches, and they start at $1,000. Front projection televisions use a video projector and a separate screen. The average price for these televisions is $3,000.

The next component to examine in your system is your receiver. All of your other components will plug into the receiver and it will process sound signals and send them to the correct speakers. The two sound systems you will be choosing from are the Dolby Pro-Logic System and Dolby Digital Sound. If you don't have, or don't plan to buy a DVD player, you can get a receiver that works on the Dolby Pro-Logic System, which will be cheaper than the receivers compatible with Dolby Digital Sound. A Dolby Digital Sound receiver can read all sound signals, whether mono, stereo, Pro-Logic or Dolby Digital. A Pro-Logic system sends out stereo sound to one set of speakers and dialogue and special effects to other speakers. The Dolby Digital Sound will send specific, unique signals to each speaker in the room, including a subwoofer, should you have one.

The final components are your speakers. They should be placed as follows: two in the front of the theater, one on the left and one on the right; a center speaker, two surround sound speakers in the rear and a subwoofer. Be sure the front speakers are at an equal height and evenly spaced. The center channel should be on top of or below the television. The speakers in the rear of the room should be elevated; either on speaker stands or mounted on the wall.

Sources used in this article include and

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