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Upgrade Your Home Theater on a Budget

The way we enjoy entertainment has always been in a constant state of change. Once, people carried thousand-dollar boomboxes through the streets to share their music with the world, but that all changed with the advent of headphones and small, portable music playback devices. There was a time when families sat around a radio, eagerly listening to serials and newscasts, but radio never again held that supremacy once televisions became commonplace. And not too long ago, it was a safe bet that huge crowds would flock to movie theaters for the next big release, but now, we’ve all experienced a life-changing event in the coronavirus pandemic, and the circumstances therein have pushed movie theaters out of the spotlight in favor of home entertainment.

Home Theater

Streaming content keeps getting bigger, badder, and more diverse; take Paramount+’s long awaited, live-action Halo series, which is expected by many to be the TV event of the year, or Disney+’s highly regarded Star Wars and Marvel series, such as The Mandalorian and WandaVision. And how could we forget the major motion picture releases that debuted on streaming platforms, like Dune and Don’t Look up, and the many more that will inevitably hit the small screen alongside with, or instead of, the big one?

Then, there are video games. It’s no secret that video games make up the largest media category by revenue, with a market valued in the hundreds of billions. As the new generation of game consoles are set to make a recovery from historic supply chain interruptions and land in the hands of eager gamers, and with hotly anticipated games like Elden Ring and Starfield poised to eat up sizeable chunks of our free time,  home media is stronger and more relevant than ever.

With such a huge industry focus on home media, it’s no wonder home theaters are more popular than they’ve been in years. According to Selby, one of the largest home theatre dealers in Australia, home entertainment has reached never before seen heights. Between the pandemic and streaming popularity, our homes have become the primary outlet for consuming media. Although not everyone who’s developed a renewed taste for the comfort and privacy of their own living room is rolling in dough, we all have the ability to upgrade our home entertainment setup, even if it’s just incrementally. So we’re going to detail all the ways you can improve your home entertainment rig, from the smallest and most budget-friendly improvements to the slightly costlier upgrades, to achieve the most immersive entertainment experience possible.

The Visual Side of Things

Your Screen

However, for the committed home theater builder, there is some advice to heed. The first is this: ignore smart TVs. As smart TVs age, their operating systems rarely receive proper updates, causing them to become sluggish.

The second piece of advice: don’t be so quick to hop on the OLED train. OLED TVs produce wonderful, deep, vivid images, but don’t age as well as LCD screens. If you’re comfortable with the comparatively shorter lifespan of OLED, then by all means, get your hands on one. If not, stick with LED and QLED screens.

Calibration

Even if you decide to keep your old TV screen, you can always spruce it up by diving into its picture settings. Adjust brightness to a comfortable level, make sure sharpness is set as low as possible, leave hue at 0%, and keep contrast pretty high.

Have you ever sat down to enjoy a movie or television show, but noticed something off about the picture – almost like what you were watching had been filmed on soap opera cameras? This is known as the soap opera effect, and it’s caused by your TV’s motion interpolation setting, which inserts artificial frames to increase the content’s frame rate. Do yourself a favor and switch it off!

HDMI Cables

Your cables matter. Throw out your Amazon Basics HDMI cables and invest in some high-end HDMIs that are made from quality materials and are shielded from interference. You’ll notice an increase in picture fidelity and connection consistency. Our friends at Selb

Outboard Playback Devices

By this, we mean anything that plugs into your TV to deliver video. If you want to really enjoy home entertainment the way you’re supposed to, it’s important that you’re using the right equipment. Whether it’s a game console or disc player, make sure it outputs at an appropriate resolution. Why have a 4K TV if you’re not seeing a 4K picture?

Internet Connection

Wi-fi might be convenient, but it’s far from ideal when you’re depending on the kind of consistent, fast data speeds needed for high-def streaming. If your streaming device features an ethernet port, use an ethernet cable to connect it to your modem or router. Thankfully, most game consoles and premium blu-ray players feature an ethernet port.

Projectors

This one is a splurge. Unless you’re willing to shell out the big bucks, you’ll have a hard time finding a projector which delivers satisfactory performance and doesn’t overheat.

Improving Your Audio Experience

Speakers and Amps

You’ve got a good TV, but even the best TVs aren’t known for their audio output. Instead, if you want audio fidelity to match your visual centerpiece, you’ll want to invest in an amplifier and set of speakers. An amplifier transforms your TV’s audio signal into something powerful enough to drive a set of speakers. If you’re going all out, the best match for your nice TV is a genuine hi-fi audio setup, if you don’t have one already.

Speaker Cables

Just like with your video connection, your audio quality is impacted by the quality of your audio connection, and cables play no small part in a reliable audio connection. At any rate, cables deteriorate as they get older, so swap them for a set of new ones and enjoy the difference.

Speaker Placement

The way sound bounces back and forth between surfaces has a huge impact on how you experience it. Take a few minutes to research proper speaker placement and adjust accordingly. At the very least, make sure your speakers aren’t backed up against a wall! This has a negative effect on audio quality.

Subwoofer

Starting in the 1980s, most professionally mixed and mastered audio has been prepared for audio systems with rich bass capabilities. That goes for music, film, television, and games. If you don’t have huge speakers – and most of us in apartments and smaller homes might not have space for huge speakers – it’s important to compensate with a subwoofer, a speaker designed to deliver low audio frequencies. Without proper bass, you won’t get the audio experience you’re meant to, which is essential for any home theater setup.

Add More Speakers

A great incremental improvement for home entertainment rigs is the addition of more speakers for surround sound. Surround sound is part of what makes a movie theater experience so engaging and immersive, and by adding some small rear speakers, you’ll be able to achieve something similar in your home, as long as your amplifier and equipment support surround sound!

Written by Mark Greene

Mark Greene is writer and life coach dedicated to helping men to perform at peak level. He shares dating advice, style tips and strategies for building wealth and success.