Home Theaters on a Shoestring – Don’t have the discretionary income to spend as much on a dedicated home theater room as on a small cottage? Don’t despair. You can have a good home theater experience on a budget. First, if your present TV is less than 27 inches, consider some of the excellent LCD and DLP displays between 32 and 42 inches now available. Prices have dropped tremendously on flat screen displays. Never mind overpriced plasma displays. An all-in-one video system is the cheapest way to a bigger picture. Epson has an Instant HT System combining a front video projector with a DVD player, two main speakers, a subwoofer and an 80-inch screen. It’s not HDTV-capable but is $1400. .
Even a modest surround sound system makes smallish screens appear larger. Never use the speaker systems built into TVs – even the most basic pair of small speakers and an amplifier will vastly improve on the audio built into the most expensive TVs. The HTIB (Home Theater In a Box) systems have been much maligned but there are now several from major speaker makers offering very good sound for the money. Expect to spend at least $500. If you now use either a composite or S-Video cable between your tuner and/or DVD player, you will get an improved picture on any set by switching to a component cable – with three separate connectors at each end. Those with the latest HDTV displays should use the latest version of the combined digital audio & video HDMI cable. At the same time, if you’re using a standard analog stereo patch cable from your player to your receiver, switch to a digital coaxial or optical cable for better sound and perhaps even surround sound when you were previously limited to stereo. If you are using thin 22- gauge speaker wire, upgrade to at least 16 or even 14-gauge electric cord and make sure that the wires are cleanly stripped and tightly secured to the binding posts on both your receiver and speakers. Use a test CD to ascertain they are wired in proper phase. If you have artificial fiber carpeting, try suspending your speaker cables off the floor using black thread for improved sound.