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Home Theater Design: How to Make Sure Equipment is Compatible


As if it weren’t bad enough having to shell out thousands for a hot home theater system, here’s the hidden catch so many often overlook. Sometimes it can be even tougher figuring out what equipment is compatible with other components when you are putting together your living room setup. Thankfully, in this short guide, we provide several handy tips for assembling a home theater that will make you feel like you’re at the movies without blowing a fuse during installation.

Blu-ray players need a receiver to match

That’s because these devices have high-resolution audio formats on them that can’t be decoded by just any old receiver. Look for the monikers Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio to make sure you’re getting the best sound. Other receivers will still allow you to listen to audio and music encoded in these formats – they just won’t play movie soundtracks back at the best high-resolution quality. To maximize your Blu-ray investment, we recommend upgrading your receiver.

Make sure that your receiver can handle your speakers

Every speaker will come with a published power rating. That rating will be measured in Watts, and will be either a “continuous” or “peak power” rating. The peak rating is how much power your speaker can handle without audibly distorting, but doesn’t necessarily mean that it can handle that amount of power continuously for sustained periods of time. Using the continuous wattage figure, opt for speakers whose power-handling capability is higher than your receiver’s power output. This way, you don’t have to worry about blowing your speakers if you are watching a movie with a particularly demanding soundtrack!

Hanging your plasma HDTV?

You need in-wall rated HDMI. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard complaints from homeowners who have hung their flat-panel TV, running HDMI cable through the wall to avoid ghastly wires marring their living room decor, only to find that when they try to watch a Blu-ray, little electrical blips appear onscreen, making the movie virtually unwatchable. What have they done wrong? Most likely they’ve installed HDMI cable that is not in-wall rated. In-wall HDMI cables are “shielded” from interference from other electrical wires in your wall, which can cause problems with on-screen images. Some cables even have protective dust covers. In fact, if you have a service like Best Buy’s Geek Squad come out to run the cable, they are actually forbidden to install HDMI cable that is not in-wall rated in your home because it is against building codes. Suffice it to say that a little homework up-front can save you some headaches later. Look for designations like “in-wall rated” in the product specifications.

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