Now let’s let our heads go and get ourselves a dream system

If you have plenty of money to spend on your high definition system, the selection of equipment may seem easier. But sometimes it can be even harder, thanks to the wealth of wonderful options that open up with a large budget. We’ll make some suggestions here that ought to keep you on track.
Even if you don’t (yet) have that kind of budget, this chapter can help you keep in mind an eventual end-point while you’re building from modest foundations.

The picture

A high-end system is going to take the ‘cinema’ part of ‘home cinema’ seriously, so you would expect to see a projector with a high quality screen. With current technology, even though some extremely large TVs are becoming available, a projector remains the only way to deliver the necessary picture scale. These days, with full high definition projectors and HDTV and Blu-ray sources, such a large image can look just about as good as it does at a real cinema.

Most people need to back this up with a good ‘direct view’ TV: an LCD or plasma TV. This beats a projector for watching regular standard definition TV and such everyday items as the evening news, or for the kids’ viewing.

Think about a big TV, perhaps even a 165 cm or 178 cm (65 or 70 inch) model, in these circumstances. This would match in scale the kind of sound system you would want and keep the kids happy for picture size. For the really big feature movie evenings you could have a projection screen automatically lower in front of the plasma and the full HD projector lower on a ceiling mount. This provides the best of both worlds.

The sound

For your high definition sound you will be planning around the full capabilities of Blu-ray. So think 7.1 channels, with high quality speakers driven by plenty of power.

As a starting point, choose the speakers that please you (see ‘The Audition’) and work from there. Usually this will consist of a pair of superb stereo loudspeakers, with solid, tonally-similar performers providing the centre channel, surround and surround back sound. The are many options open to you here.

Do not skimp on the subwoofer. Look for both power and extension – the ability of the subwoofer to delve deep below the sounds that we can hear, in order to deliver the sounds that we can feel. Two subwoofers can make the bass sound ‘cleaner’ and add massively to the power with which it is produced.

Power source

A high-powered home theatre receiver comes into play next. Aside from sheer performance, look for features providing for triggering and control of other equipment. Some models can be set up to automatically switch on your projector, lower its screen – even dim the lights and close the automatic drapes – under the control of remote.

Some of the higher end home theatre receivers and amplifiers now include extra amplifier channels – even more than the usual seven – which can be employed to drive speakers in additional zones.

When it comes to HD sources, the options are many. A HD PVR is a must for recording, as is a Blu-ray player for playback of high definition movies. Or you could combine the two functions in a Blu-ray recorder, which offers the bonus ability of being able to save your favourite recordings to disc. For more program variety, think high defnition games consoles and HD programming from Pay TV with a Foxtel IQ2.

Finally, a touchscreen learning remote will simplify control of your HD system… and banish a clutch of control handsets from the coffee table. Program it yourself or have a professional do it for you and integrate control of lights and blinds in your room at the same time.

Shopping checklist

  • Full HD front projection system with 100 inch screen for movie nights and special events
  • Massive full HD flat panel TV for everyday viewing
  • Large floorstanding surround sound speaker system, with up to two subwoofers
  • High-powered home theatre receiver supporting high resolution surround sound formats
  • Blu-ray recorder for the ultimate in HD recording and archiving
  • Touchscreen learning remote