Once you've decided which room to put your home theater system in, you'll need to identify the best location for each component of the home theater system. The main components are the DVD/CD/VCD player, display unit (TV, projector), speakers, and AV receiver. You may not find a separate AV receiver in some home theater in a box [HTIB] systems. If you want to understand each component of this system, read How To Buy a Home Theatre System.
- Factors the affect performance: The major factors that affect the theater experience in a room are:
- The size of the room
- Acoustics of the room
- Ambient light in the room
- Using a projection system or large screen television
- Location of the screen or TV
- Arrangement of the components
- Room Dimensions. First, know the dimensions of the room before you design the layout. A good layout is essential. Select a rectangular room with minimal doors and windows. Select the components according to the size of the room. (This will be explained in the following section). Then arrange the room with the proper acoustics, proper lighting and additional components so that it gives a good overall sound effect.
- Home theater acoustics. It is essential to put some sound absorbing components in the room. Using thick curtains for windows/doors, and placing pictures on the walls can do this job. You can think of making the room soundproof if you have a big budget. Ensure that the floor is covered since bare floors reflect sound and diminish the quality of the sound.
- Lighting of the room. Remember the lighting in a cinema hall? You can follow the same style in your home theater. You need not make it completely dark. Provide some dim light. It gives some ambient light to the room. You can use dimmer lights for this purpose. Do not place the TV or projector screen opposite any source of light, especially doors and windows.
- Use a TV or Projector?If your intention is to watch ordinary cable TV, satellite TV or VHS, then Television is better because when these images are displayed through the projector, the quality is often not as good as when you view it on a Television. In addition, video projectors usually do not have an RF connector like in a Television. Your cable or satellite receiver needs to have s-video, DVI or component connections to connect them to the projector.
Projectors are good for watching DVDs or DVD quality movies. Cable/satellite TV content that has high Definition [HD] signals is also good with a projector. The major drawback of a projector is limited lamp life. The cost of this lamp is comparatively high. A cost effective alternative to the projector is a Large sized rear-projection television.
- The right TV size. How will you choose the size of the TV or location of screen relative to the size of the room? A simple rule is to provide the minimum viewing distance from the TV. It is the minimum distance you must keep from the TV while watching it. This distance is at least two times the width of the TV screen.
- Arrangement of speakers. The 2.1, 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 speaker systems are popular. A 5.1 speaker system means that there are 5 speakers with a subwoofer. The number before the dot indicates the number of speakers and the 1 after the dot indicates the number of subwoofers in it. Among the above systems, 5.1 is the most popular today.
The commonly available multi-channel digital surround sound formats are Dolby digital and DTS. It is used for making the movie sound both on film and on DVD. Both these surround sound formats use a 5.1 channel system.
Now let us see how the speakers are arranged in a room. First, place the Television in a proper location considering the factors mentioned above. Then, keep the center speaker below or above the TV. Place the front speaker pair on either side of the TV. The other speaker pair is the rear speakers and they are kept behind you. If you have difficulty in wiring the rear speakers, buy wireless speakers. Place the sub woofer between the front speakers. You can adjust the phase control of the subwoofer to get the best sound effect in the room. Place the speakers in such a way that all of them face you or the audience.
Do not buy large, tall speakers for a small room (less than 100 square feet).
- Audience seating. Arrange the seats like an arc leaving the minimum distances mentioned above. You can reposition the seats or components in order to make the overall experience more comfortable. Special leather and fabric home theater seats are available.
- Get professional assistance. If you are installing a large scale home theater then it is better to get professional assistance. A technician will help you buy the components, arrange the room, set up the acoustics and arrange the other components, their connection etc. This may relieve you from headaches!
- Read the manuals carefully. Though you know about home theater (even if you are an expert!), you must read and understand the manuals of the components before you attempt to do anything.
Do not hesitate to consult a qualified technician in case of any doubt. The consultation cost is much less than the cost of damage to any component.