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Home Theatre: Saving Money on a New System

A good home theater system can cost anywhere between $1,000 to over $30,000 depending on the quality of the equipment and the size of your home theater design. The difficult economy we are in has most households making tough decisions about what they want and what they can reasonably afford. Building a family home theater is being put on the back burner in many homes until additional income is available for such "extras." But a home theater doesn't have to break the bank. There are resources and ways to keep the cost of a quality system at a reasonable level.

Below are some suggestions for how to save money on a new entertainment system.

1. Search the Web. There are several web sites available online that compare systems and costs. Some will also provide unbiased reviews of products at various price points. Use these to help you decide which brands are in your budget.

2. Install the theater system yourself. Custom installation is needed for some theater designs but many can be easily done yourself with some careful planning. The wiring, cables and connections can be relatively easy to figure out if you follow the instructions.

3. Buy a floor model. A floor model is a piece of equipment that has been on display on the show floor of the electronics store but which is otherwise in perfect condition. This is a great way to get a quality product at a lower price. Talk to your retailer about models they may be looking to get rid of to make room for newer versions.

4. Consider second hand systems. Many audio/video enthusiasts will replace their home theater components every year or two and sell their relatively new systems for a low cost. Consumers must be diligent about doing their research of the product if they buy second hand as there will typically be no warranty remaining on these pieces.

5. Pace yourself. You can save some money by purchasing your home theater components over a period of time. By waiting and buying your television, then speakers, then receivers as you have money and as potential deals or prices drop can help you save 10-15%.

6. Consider a smaller television. It is hard to resist buying the biggest TV on the showroom floor. However, you can save considerable money buy purchasing a smaller screen. Even a few inches smaller can save you a couple of hundred dollars. Remember, those big TVs do not work in every family room anyway.

7. Buy fewer speakers. Two good quality loudspeakers at the front of your TV will cost less than five or more speakers; even poorer quality speakers and a subwoofer may cost more. Speakers are easy to add to your system as the funds allow.

8. Consider a comprehensive warranty. For such a large purchase, it is usually worth it to have a solid warranty that covers you for 1-2 years so that you can be sure that your investment will last and that the retailer or manufacturer backs it up. Should problems arise, this may actually save you money.

~Ben Anton, 2008

 


Flat Panel Screens: Camouflaging Your TV

For many families, the television has become the focal point for the activity in the family room or home theater room. This means it tends to take up a large portion of the room and is what much of the furniture and lighting is developed around. But that looks all together unnatural when the television is turned off.

There are a number of ways to hide a flat panel television when it is not being used by incorporating the feature into the overall home theater room design. Some use a static image to display a piece of art or favorite family picture. Others use elaborate mounting unites and screens to cover the television when it is not in use. A professionally design theater system can incorporate any idea you have to make the room beautiful both when in use as well as when not.

Below are some display options available for home owners as they consider how they want their flat panel television to be concealed when not in use.

Screensaver Displays

Since many LCD TVs are simple displays like those used by computer users, they can be set to display art and photos when they are not in use. Using a screensaver however does require the television to be on so it is not recommended for long stretches of time. It is best for use during parties.

Customized Art Covers

Custom art overlay options are becoming more common. A specialized piece of art on a canvas can be made to be placed over the screen when homeowners are not using the TV. This is an inexpensive solution that does not require any new wiring or customized mounting.

Many homeowners choose to hang their flat panel televisions above a fireplace. For a traditional flare, a wooden frame can be installed around it, thus turning your television into a mantel piece. Professional installers can also design an automated system that slides a screen cover over the flat panel.

Moving Displays

Pop-up and flip-down displays are the ultimate convenience for home theater owners. At the touch of a button, the screen can be brought up from an inconspicuous piece of furniture or down from the ceiling. This technique is especially useful with flat panel televisions that need to be installed at the foot of the bed; the television can be placed on a motorized lifting mechanism that can move the television up while watching TV before bed and down before you turn off the lights.

Other Considerations

Most home theaters are not comprised of the TV alone. Mounted televisions prove more difficult to integrate into an entertainment system because all the necessary connections need to be run through walls. Wireless technology for these applications is improving but is not yet fool-proof.

Custom home theater installers can offer advice on how to arrange DVD players and receivers to match the subtle look of a hidden flat panel television.

Choosing the right option to hide a LCD TV into a room's design can be difficult. The size and shape of walls or the way they are built can limit the installation options. Place the television in the appropriate spot for viewing, and then start considering installation options.

~ Ben Anton, 2008

 


New Style Entertainment Centers for New Style TV's

Last year we had a new dilemma. Our old TV died, and we had to get a new one. In a way, with the new digital conversion to take place this year, this was good. But a new TV was not the dilemma, the dilemma was a new entertainment center. In the past, a new TV did not mean that you had to change the large pieces of furniture in your house, but with the new style flat TV, this time it was necessary.

Now, I love our new TV, and so do all the men in the house who have to carry it. Our old 27" TV must have weighed around 200 lbs., but our new and larger TV weighs less than 50 lbs, so change is good. But the TV would not fit into our entertainment center, so shopping for a new one and finding the perfect one for our family room was our quest.

When it comes to entertainment centers, people have different requirements. The main requirement of my old entertainment center was one that could completely shut away the television. But that was when we lived in our old house and we only had a living room. With a separate family room now, that was not such an important feature. The main feature I was interested in this time was one that saved space. Our old entertainment center was very deep to close away the TV and took up a lot of floor space. We definitely did not need this anymore, so I was happy for the extra room. Our family room is narrow, so I only wanted something to hold the TV and the extra components.

Shopping for entertainment centers was fun, and the variety was larger than I expected. The new style TV has spawned a new style of entertainment centers, and old styles are available also. The main styles available included:

  • Entertainment wall units, these are the style that take up an entire wall and often include cupboards and shelves, which are great for books or display.
  • Entertainment armoires, which is the style I previously owned. You can close off the TV with doors.
  • TV lift cabinets, a style of entertainment centers that I was not familiar with, but very cool! These are only for the new TV designs. The back 9 or 10 inches of the cabinet top opens and the TV lifts up from down below. Since the TV takes up so little room, the cupboards below are fully functional for storage.
  • Corner entertainment centers.
  • Last buy not least, basic TV stands. TV stand styles have changed drastically with flat panel televisions, and they are often very modern and chic. Most have plenty of room for components on shelves underneath, and many offer matching shelving or audio towers.
For our needs, the two best style of entertainment centers were the basic TV stand and the TV lift cabinet. Some of the lift cabinets were very nice, they looked like fine pieces of furniture and were offered in many styles. If our TV was in the living room, I would definitely go for this option. But we settled for a basic pine TV stand. It is the perfect size, does not take up any excess room, and has enough shelves underneath for components. It is also only about half the width of our previous entertainment center, so the room now seems bigger. Yes, we are very happy with our new entertainment center and TV, plus, it is nice not to worry about getting a digital conversion box!

 




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