The critical elements of an ultimate high definition entertainment system, and the off-the-shelf gear that helps achieve it in your living room.

Hey, we can’t all afford to rush out and buy the best system available. After all, the ‘best’ system would cost you, literally, millions of dollars. Like the one where the subwoofers are custom jobs, built below the floor with brick and mortar enclosures!

But that’s no reason to ignore them. However, we will confine ourselves here to “off the shelf” quality items, rather than insanely expensive installations. Assembling a system along these lines will give you something as close to the ultimate high definition sound system as anything to which anyone could reasonably aspire. And accompanying it will be better video than you’re likely to see anywhere outside an IMAX venue.

Big numbers usually mean better numbers

Before getting into too many details, let us give you a quick rule of thumb: bigger is usually better.

The rule is not perfect, but it is a good rough guide. In general, a heavier item is a better item. A more powerful receiver is a better receiver. A more efficient loudspeaker is a louder loudspeaker. The more pixels in your display, the finer the detail that you can see. And so on.

So the ultimate high definition system would have the following characteristics:

  • Lots of picture resolution: 1920 x 1080 pixels in practice
  • The very best video processing
  • An excellent contrast ratio for good solid black levels (5000:1 or higher)
  • A large picture (127 cm or 50 inches or bigger)
  • Lots of power from the home theatre receiver (at a minimum, 100 watts per channel, but preferably more)
  • Support for all the new high definition sound standards from Blu-ray (Dolby Digital Plus, DTS HD, Dolby True HD, DTS HD Master Audio)
  • Efficient loudspeakers, with plenty of power handling capability, so they can be really, really loud when required
  • A mighty subwoofer than can plumb the depths, yet produce monstrous amounts of clean bass
  • Seven identical full-range (ie. they also produce plenty of bass) loudspeakers in the correct positions around the room, each of them the same distance from the couch
  • HDMI connections between all the sources, the receiver and the display