Home Improvements - Home Entertainment Centres

Home Entertainment Centres

In the space of just a few years, audio, video and home entertainment systems have advanced to such an extent that they are opening up new worlds for some of us and rapidly becoming unrecognisable to others. DVD, MiniDisc, Digital Television, wide screen viewing, plasma screens, flat screens, surround sound systems, A/V control systems, they are all products of an on-going revolution. Developments are taking place at an ever-increasing rate, so there are more goodies out there to spoil yourself with than ever before. In order to get the most from all this new gadgetry, it is important to find reliable professionals who can inform you in a clear and concise way and help you choose the system that is best for your home, your requirements-and your budget.

New technologies have taken audio-visual equipment through the roof in terms of quality, range, possibilities and price, so if you have the money, you can create an entire entertainment centre of your own. From sleek and sexy television screens that hang on the living room wall to entire home cinema systems, the 21st century is coming to your home, and in few places outside the USA are they as popular as here on the Costa del Sol. The local television, satellite and hi-fi specialists work only with the best international suppliers and have built up a high degree of professionalism and expertise in the field.

What do you need?
For a proper home cinema system-that is, a TV system that also provides surround sound effects for the viewer-you can start at as little as 2,500 euros for an entry level system that you would put in a living room or bedroom, and go all the way to several hundred thousand euros for top-of-the-range equipment that is fitted in made-to-design home cinema rooms, complete with sound-proofing. Although the quality and effects therefore vary enormously, most home cinema systems are made up of a combination of audio and visual equipment, such as a television (wide screen, plasma screen or projector with sheet screen), a DVD player (possibly in conjunction with a CD player), an audio decoder, a 5-in-1 speaker system (front left & right, front centre, rear left & right and sub-woofer), an amplifier and a radio tuner.

What do you get?
Nowadays, audio and video equipment are integrated to produce a complete sound-and-vision experience that seems to envelope one. Together with hugely improved resolution and sound quality, this makes the movie experience that much more realistic and impressive-like being in a cinema. Anyone who doubts the awesome sound of a really good installation and the powerful effect it has on you, should visit a showroom for a demonstration, but the main lesson to be learned from this is to stick with quality, even at the expense of specifications. Before you set out to buy any equipment, there are 2 things that you have to bear in mind: 1) How much money have you got to spend on the entire system, and 2) Given your budget, which is the best option for you.

As a rule, there are three levels to choose from:

  • Entry Level: A (relatively) low cost system of this kind is often referred to as 'Cinema in a Box' and would normally comprise of a DVD and Dolby digital receiver in one with 5 speakers plus a sub-woofer. The 5 speakers are required as follows: centre for voice, front left and right for stereo, rear left and right for surround-sound effects and a sub-woofer for the base rumble. A system like this would be accompanied by a good flat screen or wide screen television which, like the audio equipment, would belong to main brands such as Sony or Philips.
  • Sexy Sound: The next level will take you into the realm of Bose, Denon, Linn, Nakamuchi and Bang & Olufsen. The more specialised equipment would include a separate amplifier, Dolby digital decoder and speaker system that upgrades capability and quality. Sleek and sexy, these chrome beauties add to the attractiveness of any room, so it is not surprising to find that they are often coupled with plasma screens, mounted on the wall. A budget of between €15,000 and €45,000 will buy you not only excellence of sound and vision, but also designer gadgets that are a delight to behold.
  • The Big League: This category outgrows the 'normal' applications of a television or audio system; its state-of-the-art equipment replicates the complete sound and vision experience of a cinema within your own home. It does have to be accommodated in a dedicated room, with proper acoustics, sound insulation and wiring, so special attention has to be paid to the carpets, the walls, the plugs etc. The companies who supply this kind of equipment will provide a complete service that starts with consultation and ends with a fully-integrated-and customised-home cinema system. Price? Let's say it starts cautiously at €50,000 and after that, the sky is the limit…

Audio and video have really come far together, but the integration of technologies doesn't stop here. As a new generation of software is at the basis of this entire technological revolution, a single A/V touch panel, linked to a central home computer, will allow you to operate and preset your home's security system, closed circuit cameras, sprinklers, intercom TV and radio channels, outdoor lighting and even the coffee maker or oven. The 21st century is here and it has brought us the Home Entertainment System.

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