Essential home theater accessories

Home Theater Accessories

Your TV may be the centerpiece of your living room, but a 50-inch plasma sitting on an upside-down milk crate doesn’t make a home theater. Face it: You’re going to need a few accessories before popping the popcorn. The nuances of selecting the perfect speakers and receiver could fill volumes (we’ve done it) but for all the goodies that don’t have anything to do with home audio, you’ll find them here. Buying a new TV this weekend? Make sure you’re set with these essential home theater accessories, unless you want to spend the rest of the afternoon running back and forth to Best Buy instead of watching Avatar on your new big screen.

Antenna

If you don’t subscribe to cable or satellite TV service, then you’ll need an HDTV antenna to pull in your local HDTV stations. HDTV antennae can be as simple as a souped up pair of “rabbit ears,” or as advanced as an amplified roof-top rig. What you need to pull in all of your local stations will depend on factors like your proximity to local transmitter towers and the topography of the land in your area (hills, tall buildings etc.). For some help determining what kind of antenna you need, visit AntennaWeb, a website sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association and the National Association of Broadcasters.

Surge protection

You don’t have to live in Tornado Alley to need a surge protector. Power spikes, brownouts and failures can happen anywhere and anytime. Your new TV needs to be protected from these dangerous events by a quality surge protector. Go beyond the everyday, $20 power strips and look for surge protectors that offer insurance for the devices that are connected to them. This is generally a good indicator of a high-quality surge protector. Do you need a $1,000 surge protector? Probably not, but the more expensive your gear, the better the surge protector should be (the better the insurance). You can buy piece of mind right?

Cables

You’ll want to make sure that you have all the cables you need to connect your various devices to your new TV. You also need to make sure the cables are of good quality and the right length for your installation plans.

This is where a little research will come in handy: First, determine what the best available connection is for each of your devices — we’re providing a list of the most common connection types below. Then measure the distance from each device to your TV. If you’ll be wall mounting your TV, you may want to take into consideration the additional length needed to pull the cable through the wall. This process can be simplified if you will be using an A/V receiver as the control center for your entertainment system.

HDMI: HDMI is a single cable solution for digital audio and video. Modern cable/satellite boxes, DVD players, Blu-ray disc players and game consoles support this connection, thus it is the most commonly used. If your HDMI cables will need to be longer than 20 feet, plan on purchasing a higher gauge cable to prevent signal drop-out. Also look for version 1.4a.

Cables

Component video: Component video connections can be identified by red, blue and green RCA connections on the back of a device. If HDMI isn’t available, component video is the next best thing. This connection doesn’t support audio, though. So a pair of stereo audio cables needs to be included with each component video connection. Or an optical digital audio connection.

Composite video: Composite video connections are identified by a single yellow RCA connection, usually along with red and white stereo audio connections. This is the least ideal of the three video connections we’ve mentioned, but sometimes the only option for older devices like VCRs. S-video (identified by a round connector with a number of small holes for pins) offers a slight step up, but isn’t as common.

Optical digital audio: Many TVs provide a digital audio output for connection to an A/V receiver or soundbar. If you need to send your TV’s audio signal to another device, make sure to get an optical digital audio cable to make that connection.

Wireless video, audio and Internet

Don’t feel like dealing with running so many wires? There are some great wireless HDMI solutions available that can simplify your setup and keep it clean without punching any holes in the wall.

Setting your TV up with wireless Internet access can be as simple as a USB stick, and some even have Wi-Fi built right in. These solutions make for convenient and inexpensive alternatives to running Ethernet cable across the house. For instance, the recently reviewed Samsung PN51D800, Philips 40PLF4706/F7 and Sony KDL-55NX720 all offer wireless Internet connectivity built right in.

TV stands, wall mounts and entertainment furniture

TV Stands:

Adding a new TV stand to your entertainment system will not only help showcase your beautiful new TV, but it can help store and organize all the components and cables in your system. Some TV stands even offer motorized mounts that will store your TV out of sight when not in use. Before choosing a new TV stand, make sure it will support your TV’s size and weight and will place the TV at a comfortable viewing height. Also ensure that the stand offers enough storage space and ventilation for your other components.

Wall mounts:

Wall mounting your TV not only gives you that cool “floating picture” look, but can help save valuable floor space as well. Make sure the wall mount you choose can support the weight and size of your TV and will work with your wall type. Many wall mounts allow the TV to be angled up, down, left and right to increase viewing location options or improve picture quality when mounted well above eye level.

Entertainment furniture:

If you plan on wall mounting your TV, you may need some entertainment furniture to store all of your electronics and media. Entertainment furniture can be as stylish as it is functional. Just be sure it has enough storage space for all of your gear while allowing adequate ventilation.

Logitech-Harmony-1100Universal remote

A universal remote could be one of the most convenient entertainment accessories you ever buy. As your system grows, so will your collection of remotes. A quality universal remote will help make controlling your gear simple and intuitive. You’ll also save a few bucks in batteries each year. Check out our remote control reviews and learn how to program a remote control.

Cleaning accessories

Dust and dirt are the nemesis of electronics. Not only will a dirty TV look bad, but dust build-up can cause some electronics to overheat and, possibly, fail. Screen cleaners and alcohol-free electronics wipes are ideal for keeping your gear looking and performing their absolute best

[Images courtesy of ShippeeVilaxLogitech]

What do you think of our list of the essential home theater accessories? Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.

Product Review

Samsung’s Space Monitor is here to save you from your cluttered desk

High-concept monitors can sometimes over-complicate your life, but at CES 2019, we saw one that fixes the problem it attempts to solve. Your messy, gross, cluttered desk.
Home Theater

Banish the bunny ears (and monthly bills) with these excellent HD antennas

When transitioning away from cable and satellite, finding the best HDTV antenna for your area can be touch. To help, we've compiled our picks of the best indoor HDTV antennas you can buy.
Deals

Take a look at the best 4K television deals for January 2019

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.
Gaming

Having problems with your Xbox One console? We have the solutions

The Xbox One has evolved over the years, but so have its problems. Thankfully, we have solutions for some of the console's most enduring problems, whether you're experiencing issues with connectivity or your discs.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Outdoors

Snooze soundly anywhere you lay your head with the best sleeping bags

A proper sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a camping or backpacking trip. Here are our picks for the best sleeping bags on the market to help you choose the correct bag for any type of outdoor adventure.
Mobile

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.
Mobile

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Smart Home

Speed up cooking with one of the best pressure cookers on the market

Not all pressure cookers are created equally. You have to choose between stovetop cookers, multicookers, canners, and even microwave cookers. Our pressure cooking buyer's guide includes our picks for the best in each category.
Mobile

Unleash your inner artist with the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro

The best drawing apps for the iPad Pro turn Apple's robust tablet into a canvas worthy of a true artist. Here are 20 of our current favorites, whether you're looking to keep things simple or take your art to the next level.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Home Theater

Wireless headphones are finally awesome, and these are our favorites

With sleek form factors, prime audio quality, and the freedom of untethered listening, there has never been a better time to pick up a pair of wireless headphones. These are the best ones currently available.