Shopping for TVs and Home Theaters
If you’re thinking about updating your entertainment system or starting a home theater, it can feel a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of choices out there: TVs, projectors, speakers, lighting and more. It can be daunting, but professionals say the new technology they’re seeing is fun—and cost effective.
“Right now, the TV and Electronics industry is in a pretty exciting place!” Tim Suess, President of Suess Electronics in Appleton, says. “TVs are getting bigger and cheaper every year, and thanks to automation systems, they’re way easier to use. Sound has come such a long way too. With cool tech like Dolby Atmos, audio soundtracks feel incredibly real!”
“The current audio/video industry is a unique blend of old and new,” Dave Vatland, owner of Sound World in Appleton, agrees. “Streaming has taken over every part of our lives, and our business is now geared towards that world: from small, integrated speakers to whole-home distributed audio. A large majority of our clients now have some form of streaming based components in their homes. At the same time, turntables are making a huge comeback. The younger generations have really connected with the vintage, throwback feel of vinyl and it definitely seems to be here to stay; we sell more turntables right now than CD and DVD players combined!”
A Shift in Technology
Seuss says the change in home entertainment from back in the day to now has been immense.
“Technology has let us create systems that are not only way better in performance but also super easy to use,” he says. “Now you don’t have to juggle three remotes to get things working. It just takes one remote, a touchscreen, or your smartphone does the trick. And with LED lighting, the design possibilities are endless!”
“Right now, the entertainment industry is extremely fast-paced and constantly changing; it’s been that way for a while now, but more notably in the past 5-10 years,” Vatland agrees.
“The difference is in how we source our entertainment, whether that’s movies, music, games, and even our workout regimens. Streaming platforms have changed the industry completely. There’s no longer a need for rack systems full of equipment or coffee tables full of remotes; one device usually does it all. Digital advancements have made the audio/video world much simpler, more intuitive and accessible to everyone. Everything you could possibly need is streamlined and at your fingertips.”
What’s On The Market Now
- OLED TVs utilize Organic LED panels, which produce incredible inky blacks, making them ideally suited for cinematic experiences in dimly lit rooms.
- Mini LED technology uses smaller, yet equally bright LED chips, enabling increased LED density and superior light control. This technology is particularly beneficial for larger screen TVs and applications in brighter rooms.
- Ultra Short Throw systems give you a movie theater experience without having to mount a projector on the ceiling. These projectors use laser light technology and sit right on a TV stand mere inches away from the screen, yet can deliver images up to 150 inches in size. Depending on the screen type, they can be an excellent choice for either a family room or a dedicated home theater.
- Outdoor TVs are specifically designed for outside use and fall into two main categories: Full Sun and Shade TVs. Full Sun TVs incorporate cooling technologies that allow them to deliver brighter images without overheating, making them suitable for viewing in direct sunlight. Shade TVs are equipped to handle a wide range of temperatures and moisture levels, but they are not optimized for viewing in direct sunlight.
“Acoustic panels can work great, but we typically only recommend them to customers who have a difficult space with obvious sound issues,” Vatland explains. “We also use them with clients who have dedicated two-channel listening spaces, which are traditionally more open-feeling. Most of these rooms are lacking in things that would otherwise create natural sound absorption (furniture, knickknacks and textiles such as rugs or curtains) so acoustic panels can make a big difference.
“Calibration, on the other hand, is something that can be beneficial for any viewing or listening space. We work with a few different companies that can tune any room with amazingly accurate pinpoints; hundreds, sometimes even thousands of them! We like the theaters and media rooms we create to be more lively and exciting, so making sure we calibrate each room is very important.”
Shopping Advice: Take Your Time
Whether you’re looking for a basic or high-performance TV, the biggest factor in your decision will probably be screen size. Consider how many people in your family typically watch at once and where you’re going to put your new set. Then pick the largest screen size that will fit comfortably into that space — and your budget. The sweet spot today, considering price, performance and the typical living room, is between 55 and 65 inches.
Vatland says that taking your time and thinking about your space and needs is vital when it comes to shopping for TVs and, potentially, a home theater.
“Once you have some ideas, we can help with the smaller details and create an environment that you’ll love,” he says. “A dedicated theater isn’t going to be the best option for everyone, and we want to be sure that what we’re proposing is a good match for each homeowner.
“We actually plan and implement just as many recreation and sports venues in people’s homes as we do surround-sound theater or media rooms. Whether it’s cheering for your favorite team with friends on a Sunday afternoon, or curling up on the couch with your family and settling in for a long movie, the things that bring you the most joy should be what you focus your space around.”
“In a world where we tend to toss things when they break, (we’re) different,” Seuss adds. “We don’t just design and install your entertainment systems; we’re here for you if things need fixing. This means your system lasts longer, and you get support throughout its life.”
On the Horizon
“Something really wonderful that has come out of all these changes to our industry is how much more accessible music and entertainment is for everyone,” Vatland says. “SONOS, for example, has made it possible to have different zones throughout your entire home (over 30 if you wanted!), and each one can be curated to someone different in your family. The ability to have all of your favorite artists in one place, and be able to share that with each other, has created a lot more music lovers out there & we’re very excited to be a part of it.”