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What is a Home Theatre? – High Quality Entertainment!

Do you enjoy watching movies in the comfort of your own home? If you do, you might just want to consider having an audio-visual system, that is capable of giving you an immersive experience. Well, in any case, you’re in luck, because if you’re trying to find out what is a Home Theatre, you’ve come to the right place!

Just take a trip down to your nearest department store, and you will find a wide range of home entertainment systems with various designs and specifications. The variety of products available may just confuse you further. Hence, in today’s article, we will go through all the basic system components that you need to know!

Home Theatre – What About It?

Also known as “home cinema”, a home theatre is basically an audio-visual system, designed for home entertainment. It aims to recreate the experience of watching a movie in a real cinema, but by using consumer-grade electrical audio and video equipment, that can be very conveniently set up in a room or the backyard of a private home.

LG System

A typical home theatre system / Photo by LG전자 / CC BY 2.0

Technological advancements in sound and video playback systems, have allowed consumers to experience higher-resolution screen images and enhanced sound fidelity. Furthermore, many of the more higher-end “Blu-ray” players in 2016, are capable of “streaming” movies and TV shows over the Internet using subscription services such as Netflix.

A typical home cinema system uses either a video projector or a large flat-screen high-resolution HDTV system. A movie (or any video) is played on a DVD player or Blu-ray player, with the audio processed by a multi-channel power amplifier, which powers two speakers (for stereo sound) or five or more speaker cabinets (for 5.1 surround sound systems).

Home Theatre Setup

A possible home theatre setup / Photo by Tobias Akerboom / CC BY 2.0

Regardless of whether consumers choose to have a stereo set-up or a 5.1 channel surround system, most home theatre systems will at least have one low-frequency subwoofer speaker cabinet, in order to amplify low-frequency sound effects from movie soundtracks and to also reproduce the lower notes from musical soundtracks.

Here are the topics that we’ll be discussing further:

  • System components
  • Types of systems
  • Outdoor theatre

System Components

In this section, we will go through all the basic components that every complete home theatre system should have. Here they are:

  1. Video Content – Today, home theatre users who have “Smart” Blu-ray players may watch DVDs of TV shows, or even recordings of live sports events and music concerts. Many “Smart” players also allow “Streaming” of TV shows and movies over the internet.
  2. Video or Audio Input Devices – Most systems accept media formats such as Blu-ray discs, DVDs and even video game consoles. Some systems include a HTPC (Home Theater PC) with a media center software application which acts as the main library for video and music content.
  3. Audio and Video Processing Devices – Input signals are either processed by a standalone AV receiver or a preamplifier and sound processor for complex surround sound formats such as Dolby Pro-Logic. At this stage, the user selects the source input (DVD, Blu-ray player, streaming video, etc.) before it is forwarded to the output stage.

    Design Flow

    Design flow options for home theatres in the 2000s / Photo by Beao / CC BY-SA 3.0

  4. Audio Output – Systems typically consist of preamplifiers, power amplifiers (both may be integrated into a single AV receiver unit) and two or more loudspeakers. Most systems have multi-channel surround sound power amplifier and six or more speakers (for 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound capability).
  5. Video Output – Currently, flatscreen HDTV is the popular choice. However, some users may use 3D TVs, LCD, plasma TV, and OLED. A video projector may also be used together with a portable, temporary screen, or one that is permanently mounted on a wall.
  6. Seating and Atmosphere – This only applies to higher-end home theaters that are often acoustically treated to prevent sound from “leaking” out of the room and to balance the sound within the room. Some luxury home cinemas even have padded chairs (like the ones used in commercial cinemas).

Types of Systems

In the world of home entertainment systems, there are generally two types of design concepts:

  • “Theatre-In-A-Box”
  • Dedicated room

“Theatre-In-A-Box” 

The vast majority of consumers prefer to buy the HTIB (Home Theatre in a Box) package which includes all of the components (e.g., multichannel amp, Blu-ray player, speakers etc.) from a single manufacturer, with the exception of a TV or projector. HTIB systems also typically include a surround sound amplifier, five speakers, a subwoofer cabinet, cables and a remote.

Smart System

A Samsung 3D BluRay Home Theatre System which features online smart features such as Netflix and YouTube / Photo by Hrbrhauntr / CC BY-SA 4.0

You can also buy individual components. However, you must be knowledgeable of sound and video system design, and understand how factors such as speaker impedance and power handling, will affect the system’s overall performance. That being said, HTIB systems are often more cost-effective and suitable for many consumers with simple needs.

Dedicated Room

Some home theatre enthusiasts build dedicated rooms for their theatre systems. These types of high-end entertainment spaces are often designed with advanced acoustical engineering methods such as “room-in-a-room” construction, which isolates sound and lays the foundation for an ideal listening environment.

Dedicated Room

A dedicated room with acoustic treatment, professional equipment and speaker placing / Photo by Geoff Sloan / CC BY 2.0

There are even enthusiasts who will go as far as attempting to completely recreate an actual cinema, but on a smaller scale. A room of this type will usually have a projector enclosed in its own projection booth, specialized furniture, curtains in front of the projection screen, movie posters, and a popcorn or vending machine with snacks.

Outdoor Theatre

It is possible for home theatre systems to be set up in an outdoor area of a private property. Depending on the space and resources available, it may just be a basic system with a temporary foldable screen, a video projector and a couple of speakers, or it could be a permanent set up with a huge screen and dedicated audio components mounted in a weather-proof cabinet.

Outdoor Home Cinema

Photo by jason gessner / CC BY-SA 2.0

Some specialist manufacturers are now marketing systems with inflatable movie screens and purpose-built AV systems. There are also mobile drive-in theatres that are designed to play movies in public open spaces. These systems often require a powerful projector, a laptop or DVD player, outdoor speakers or an FM transmitter to broadcast the audio to other car radios.

We have come to the end of this post. How do you normally watch your favourite movies at home? Do you think you need a home theatre as well?

Let me know your thoughts down below, and do share this article!

Farhan

When I'm not rocking out to great music, I'd prefer to be sleeping on a field on a windy day =)

6 Comments

  1. Very informative page this is well done i think your site is brilliant
    Alot of content is good for the reader especially in reviews the more opinion the better helps the viewer decide whats worth paying for and whats going to be a waste of money
    It took me so long to decide which home theatre would be best
    Very professional

    • Hi Chez!

      Yeah, a lot of times, consumers find the wide range of audio products to be very confusing. I was once in that same position myself. I’m happy to know that this article has helped to clarify the details for you. Do come back for more!

      Thanks!

  2. Hi Farhan

    Love the conversational writing style. Your enthusiasm really comes across!
    Very informative and full of great content and images.
    I particularly like the way you have structured the article with an intro, an overview and then discussing the components in more detail.
    The flow chart also makes the information really easy to understand.
    I learnt something and would.like a home theatre of my own.

    Great page!
    Best
    Bruce

    • Hey Bruce!

      Glad you enjoyed reading the article, and at the same time learnt some new things about audio. Feel free to read the other related articles, or ask questions if you have any. I would try my best to help!

      Cheers!

  3. A home theater? I never knew I could connect my BluRay to my VHS and PS3 console using a power amplifier and receiver. When you have all of these connected in one living room, how is the overall sound quality? Would you only need one set of stereos?

    I do like the audio input devices that allow music and video sharing on the big screen. Even though I prefer the dedicated room, since it is similar to a movie cinema, I probably can’t afford it.

    • Hey there!

      Its really difficult to make a judgement on sound quality when there aren’t enough details to be objectively observed. On the other hand, “sound quality” can also be very subjective, as people tend to have varying tastes when it comes to music. Having one set of stereo speakers are fine if you are not planning to have a surround sound set up.

      Thanks for your comments!

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