Future-Proofing Your Home Theater
The high-definition home theater market is booming, which means manufacturers will be providing more options for you. Does that mean your old equipment will become obsolete? Nah, not for some time. But if you care about future-proofing your home theater we have a few tips and tricks for you.
These are the must-haves in future-proofing. The 720p projector, a 16:9 screen (or space on the wall), HDMI or DVI cables/sources, and a 5.1 or better sound system.
Projectors of the Future
If you want HDTV quality video right now (and why wouldn’t you) you should definitely invest in a high-definition projector. By high-definition we mean at least 720p resolution. You will see a number of different native resolutions (WXGA, WXGA-H, XGA) which can produce a 720p signal. All of these resolutions will do the job, although WXGA or WXGA-H are preferable if you mostly watch HD (16:9) content on your projector, particularly if you are not fond of the ‘black bars.’ XGA is a native 4:3 resolution.
There will be native 1080p projectors coming soon, but they are likely to fall in the $8,000-10,000 range when they hit the market. 720p native projectors are a more comfortable $2,000, with rebates and incentives making them even less expensive. See our selection of 720p projectors here (select WXGA or WXGA-H resolution).
Quick Tip: If you plan to invest in a screen, the 16:9 aspect ratio is your best bet for future-proofing. HDTV signals broadcast in this native format, and HDTV is the future of television, as well as your best option for watching movies from HD media. If you won’t be purchasing a screen, make room for a 16:9 space on your wall.
Cables of the Future
One of the few “givens” in future-proofing your home theater is the dominance of HDMI or DVI connections as the primary HD connection type. In fact, HDMI is looking to be the connection of choice for consumer home theater. HDMI carries both HD audio and HD video, and seems to handle longer cable runs better than DVI. Both DVI and HDMI will produce the coveted digital to digital connection that makes HD look so good.
If you have an HD receiver (cable box) which has DVI and a display with HDMI, never fear. A simple HDMI/DVI converter can be purchased to make the connection. We sell the converters for about $29, so it won’t break the bank.
Quick Tip: If you are installing cables, run an HDMI or DVI cable whether you have a source with that kind of output or not. We offer a special cable that has both component and HDMI (or DVI) connections so that the transition is extra simple when the upgrade comes.
The Sound of the Future
HDTV sound has a minimum of 5.1 channels. That iccludes a center speaker, two left, two right, and a subwoofer. If you want the full HDTV experience, investing in a 5.1 system is a must. Good sound will make any image look better, and it will make your space feel more like a real theater. There are also 6.1 systems that include one more speaker opposite the center channel speaker (behind your head). Projector People offers a 6.1 system from Tannoy that is phenomenal for the price. We also offer an exclusive 30-day money-back guarantee if they don’t knock your socks off. They start at $599.00.
Quick Tip: It probably goes without saying, but we should mention that you will also need an HD receiver along with all of your components. You can either spend a few hundred dollars and get a receiver from a consumer electronics store, or you can ask your cable/satellite company for their HD box. There is typically a monthly charge ($5-15) just for the box itself, and there may also be an upgrade charge (if you don’t already have digital service) to factor in. There are far more HD channels than ever before, so there is a greater demand for the HD boxes. In same cases there may even be a waiting list. So the sooner you put in your request, the better. Even on your regular television, the HD images will look a little crisper.
Highly Recommended Extras
Some additional recommendations for future-proofing include a universal mount, up-converting DVD player, re-tensioning screen, and a USB programmable remote control.
Up-converting DVD Player
An up-converting DVD player will take your existing DVD library and maximize it for HD viewing. There are a number of options, including the popular Oppo, which sells for right around $200; a great deal less than it will cost you to replace your (most likely 480p) DVD library with high-definition versions (remember what a pain it was to purchase all your VHS tapes on DVD?).
Quick Tip: The $200 up-converting DVD player is a great option, even if you think you may upgrade in a year or two. Though many people have their opinion, there is no clear front-runner in the HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray competition.
Universal Projector Mount
The universal mount may save you the expense of a new mount if you should decide to get a new projector. They fit about 90% of current projector models (mostly those under 18 lbs.) and are very reasonably priced. We offer Universal mounts from both Chief and Peerless. Peerless also offers a telescoping bar which allows you to adjust the distance of the mount from the ceiling.
Nice to Have
Some cool stuff you might consider for your home theater.
USB Programmable Remote Control
A Harmony USB programmable remote isn’t really a future-proofing device, but it is futuristic. With the most advanced remote from Harmony you can operate all components from one easy-to-use remote control. And what’s even cooler, is that you can also train it to perform functions in one click. For example, if you want to watch a movie, you can simply push one button called “watch a movie” and the remote will turn on the projector, the DVD player, and switch sources on your receiver, all with one click, just like they did on the Jetsons.
The re-tensioning screen is a very cool option from Draper. After a few years use, tensioned screens will stretch slightly, making for a slightly droopier appearance. The re-tensioning screen (Draper Onyx) has wires inside of it which can be tightened when the stretching settles in. The screen can be adjusted just a couple times, but since the stretching takes awhile, this should keep your screen nice and taut for several years.
Summary Components of a Future Proof Home Theater
- Video Projector with native HD resolution ( at least 720p)
- 16:9 aspect ratio screen (or wall space)
- 5.1 or 6.1 surround sound system
- HDMI/DVI cables (run them even if you don’t need them just yet – stick with 720p minimum resolution)
- HD receiver from your cable or satellite company.
Highly Recommended Extras
- Chief or Peerless universal projector mount
- Up-converting DVD player (stop-gap while Blu-Ray and HD-DVD duke it out)
Nice to Have
- Harmony USB programmable remote control
- Re-tensioning screen (like the Draper Onyx)