Home Theater Accessories and
Now that you have the basics of your home theater you may wan to consider
some of the accessories that can expand your system.
Since we live in the couch potato society remotes have become a vital part of our
lives. Most of the equipment you buy for your home theater system will it's own remote
control. The problem is that remotes seem to multiply faster than rabbits. By the time you
have the TV, sound system, one or two VCRs and DVD hooked up you have a formidable number
of remotes by your side. One poplar answer to this is the universal remote.
There are two main types of universal remotes. The growing in popularity is the
learning remote. With this type of universal you place the remote in 'learn' mode and aim
the remotes from your system into it's infra red (IR) sensor. You then press the function
buttons and the universal learns how to emulate the functions. There are now many types
sold in electronic stores and they are currently the best way to go.
The other and more popular type of universal remote comes with a rather thick booklet
that contains codes. Even if you can't find your make and model in the list try others
from the same manufacturers. Often a manufacturer will use the same IR frequencies in most
of their devices. The main draw back to this type of universal is the list becomes out of
date pretty fast. Ask the manufacturer if updates to the list are available or buy the
universal after most if not all the rest of the system is complete.
I prefer a learning remote were the signals for many remotes can be learned by the
universal remote. For a review of the one I bought check out My
One thing than many people, new to home theater, overlook is the importance of cables.
With more and more devices being added to our home entertainment shelves, we have to hook
together more things using a tangle of wires that look like a group of octopi having a
gang fight. Many tend to overlook the importance of the cables used to connect their
components. This is a big mistake. It is not uncommon for a person to spend thousands on
top of the line components and then use cables that they either pulled out of a draw or
spent a few bucks at the local hardware store. Many components provide
cables. This is often a cheap marketing device to look good. They are
rarely the quality you want.
First, not all cables are created equally. You might see two cables sitting side by
side on a shelf, one costing three dollars while the other costs twenty. They may look the
same but there is actually a reason for the difference in price. To understand the
difference you don't need a degree in electrical engineering but you do need to understand
some of the basic principles behind the requirements for connecting audio-visual
equipment. Rule one: longer is NOT better. The shorter the cable the better the
transmission of the signal. most of your equipment will be next to or on top of each
other. Arrange your equipment so there is a simple path or flow from one piece to the
next. For example, don't put your DVD decoder off to one side and the VHS between the DVD
player and the receiver. The signal has to flow from the DVD player to the decoder then to
the receiver so place the DVD player above the decoder and the decoder above the receiver.
This will minimize the distance between the input jack and the corresponding output jack.
Actually measure the distance. Do not buy a 12 foot cable when there is only is only 18
inches of distance between the jacks. Allow some give in the cable. You do not want them
so tight that there is stress on the cables. Label the cables. Get some small labels, one
inch by three inches, and write one them something meaningful. You will not remember
elaborate codes later on. For example, the cable that connects the right front output from
the decoder to the right front input of the receiver should be labeled something like
this: Decoder: RF: Out and on the other end of the cable: Receiver: RF: In.
Remember to use permanent ink not pencil. A small point that will be appreciated later
down the road. Most cables are color coded at the ends. Red for right, white for left and
yellow for video. Use the colors, they will almost always match the color of the jacks
they go into.
Next, the quality of the cable should be considered. Here, thicker is better. The cable
with the largest cross section will transmit more signal with less loss. This holds true
if a low resistance material is used for the cable. Choosing the right cable in this case
is a bit easier since there is a brand name of cables that are certified as being among
the best around. Whenever possible go for the higher end
cables available in most electronic stores. Many
store clerks will try to push a name brand like Monster on you. The same
quality can be found at a fraction of the cost with the gold tipped line at
Radio Shack. They are
thicker, made of better material and have corrosion resistant gold tipped plugs. They are
a bit more in price than the bargain, generic cables but you are getting a much greater transmission for the added cost.
Again, what use is having a $3,000 TV, $1,000 worth of sound equipment etc. if you are
using two dollar cables that degrade the signal and lessen the quality of the picture and
sound. You worked hard to afford your system, don't try to go cheap on the cabling.
It is also important to use cables that are certified for the function you are using
them for. I came across this personally when I upgraded my DVD player. My old player had
an optical bitstream connector. The new one had a digital coax. There was a delay in
shipping the digital coax cable so I used a spare Monster audio cable. The sound came
through and it sounded okay, but when I got the digitally certified cable and installed
it, the difference was incredible. The signal was clearer, the separation much better and
the overall quality was greatly improved. The other worked but the right cable for the
right function made a startling difference.
Now that you have the basics of your home theater you may wan to consider some of the
accessories that can expand your system.
For information specific to DVD audio and video cables use the link to the left for